The next day. 8am.
“Ready to go, sweetie?” Xiao You asked as she took up the key of her room, ready to leave.
“Yes, mommy,” Emily said as she stood up from the bed right after she is done wearing her shoes.
“Alright,” Xiao You said as she heads to the door.
She opened the door to see Xi Men is already in front of the room.
Xi Men, wearing a light grey polo shirt, is leaning against the wall with both hands in his dark blue jeans’ pocket, looked up suavely with a quick fling of his head to ensure his fringe stays at place and looked at her and a smile quickly formed on his face.
What a sight in the morning!
“Good morning,” Xi Men smiled as he stood up straight now instead of leaning against the wall.
“Good morning, Uncle Xi Men!” Emily said excitedly and Xi Men smiled at her and then returned his gaze to Xiao You awaiting her reply.
“Wow, hi, hello… umm, good morning,” Xiao You said, closed her eyes and lightly shook her head for a brief 2 seconds because her brain has been lagged for a couple of seconds now that she had started her greeting with ‘wow’, and not only that, she greets him with all the three standard words in one sentence; where one usually only uses one of them.
Xi Men laughed. “Yes, hi, hello, good morning. So cute of you to use all three greetings together,”
Xiao You laughed at her silliness for saying all of them together. “I’m sorry. It is morning and my brain is slow a bit,” she gently pressed the left temple of her head.
“Does that happen all the time to your mother?” Xi Men asked Emily.
“Sometimes,” Emily smiled.
Thank goodness Xiao You does have brain lagged at times in the morning, or else, how would Emily help to save the situation?
“Let’s go for breakfast,” Xi Men smiled as he took two steps back so that Emily and Xiao You can exit their room.
“Right, let’s go for breakfast,” Xiao You said, and then ushered Emily to step out from the room before she locked the door and closed it. “Have you been standing here for a long time?”
“A while, probably…” he looked up to the watch in his hand. “15 minutes?” as he extends his hand out for Emily to hold onto.
“15 minutes? That is quite a while…” Xiao You said, and then she turned and looked at Emily already holding his hand.
“I’ve waited clients or partners for hours. 15 minutes isn’t really long compared to that,” Xi Men smiled and then they turned to walk.
“Why didn’t you knock on the door so you can come in?” Xiao You asked. “Or go down to the hall for breakfast,”
“Nah, I wanted to wait for you to get ready,” Xi Men said. “And we can eat together,” he smiled and then looked at Emily. “So Emily, did you sleep well last night?”
“Oh yes! The bed is really comfortable! I don’t want to wake up this morning!” Emily said.
Xi Men laughed. “It’s the same with me too! The bed is too nice,”
“Mommy too!” Emily said.
“Hey,” Xiao You protested that her daughter bursts her bubble.
Emily and Xi Men laughed as they descended the stairs and then they make their way into the dining hall.
“Good morning Mr. Xi, Miss Yang!” Mr. Chen called.
“Good morning Mr. Chen,” both of them replied.
“Hi, Mr. Chen,” Emily called.
“Hello Emily,” Mr. Chen replied. “Did you sleep well last night?”
“Yes, Mr. Chen. Your bed is very comfortable,” Emily smiled.
“Yes we do, thank you Mr. Chen,” Xiao You smiled and at the same time patted Emily’s head.
“Great to know you sleep well. I’ll serve breakfast shortly, please have a seat,” Mr. Chen said. “Do you want coffee, tea or fruit juice?” as he looked at all of them sitting down.
“Fruit juice,” Emily replied, who is sitting next to Xiao You.
“Black coffee,” Xiao You and Xi Men said at the same time.
“Okay!” Mr. Chen said.
Xiao You and Xi Men stared at each other before awkwardly smiled at each other.
“Oh? Uncle Xi Men loves black coffee?” Emily asked.
Xi Men looked at Emily, “Yeah,”
“Oh! Such a coincidence. Mommy loves black coffee too!” Emily said.
“Oh,” Xi Men could only reply.
Xiao You and Xi Men smiled at each other awkwardly again.
“Umm… did you watch the sunrise this morning?” Xiao You asked, trying to get out of the awkward situation.
“Umm… no I didn’t. Did you?” Xi Men said.
“No… I was too lazy to get up, remember?” she said.
Xi Men laughed. “By the time I opened my eyes, the sun is already up in the sky,” he then smiled. “I will have the chance to see sunrise here in any one of the days. It’s only our second day in Hualien,”
“Mr. Xi, this is your breakfast…” Mr. Chen came with a tray.
“Oh, thank you, thank you,” Xi Men smiled as he looked down on the breakfast tray.
All three of them looked at the tray.
So many things!
Must be for three of them… but isn’t that going to be too little for each person?
“Umm… that’s a lot… if it is only for me…” Xi Men mumbled.
“Good luck with that…” Xiao You mumbled back.
Reality sets in when Mr. Chen came with another two trays, apparently one for Xiao You and one for Emily. “These are all homemade breakfast. My wife makes them,” Mr. Chen smiled.
Their eyes almost popped out from the socket. Each person a tray!
Toasted garlic bread. Fruit jam sandwich. Packed three-layer sandwich with chicken floss meat in one layer and eggs in the other later. Fruits. Coffee. Milk. And bagels!!!
“Mommy… I cannot finish this…” Emily said with a slight tone of sadness because she didn’t want to waste food.
“Umm… you eat the sandwich first…” Xiao You pointed at the fruit jam sandwich, and then at packed sandwich, “This is packed, we can bring it with us so that we can eat it later in Taroko Gorge. So try to eat as much alright,”
“Okay…” Emily said.
“I still can’t snap out of it. This is a lot for a breakfast…” Xi Men said.
“I think they are worried you will be starved,” Xiao You laughed.
“Are you sure they will be worried about me instead of worrying about you?” Xi Men asked.
“Why would they?”
“Because you came all the way from Toronto, so they want to give you a good impression?”
Xiao You laughed. “Who knows maybe they didn’t want to give a bad impression to Mr. Xi… Men instead?” she intentionally dragged ‘Xi’ longer so that no one else heard or found out that his real surname is ‘Xi Men’ instead of ‘Xi’.
“No, no, no, I don’t want any special treatment here. I just want to be myself,” he said. “Shhhh…” he puts his finger on his lips.
“Oh,” Xiao You said. “Shhhh,” she imitates his finger pose.
“Mommy, Uncle Xi Men, what are you doing?” Emily asked as she munched on the sandwich.
Xiao You and Xi Men smiled.
“Nothing,” Xiao You smiled, “Eat breakfast,” she took up her cup of coffee and takes a sip.
Tarako National Park – Shakadang Trail.
“Wow, mommy! This is so beautiful!” Emily said as she stood at the bridge and looked down to the river and pointed at the crystal blue water.
“Emily, have you paid attention to this bridge first? Did you see all the lions along the bridge? They have different expressions,” Xiao You smiled.
Emily turned and looked at the stone lion statues next to her. “Eh, they are all different? So nice!” she looked at one after another’s lion statue along the bridge.
“Careful alright,” Xiao You smiled as she looked at Emily ran from seeing one stone lion to the other.
Xi Men took a deep breath as he enjoyed the clean air at the area. “Can’t believe this place is really in Taiwan. The lions are so unique. So nice… and the water at the river underneath is really blue, like it is painted…” he looked down to the river like what Emily did earlier.
“Nice, right. That is why I want to bring Emily here,”
“Great decision,” Xi Men smiled.
“Mommy, what is that?” Emily came to Xiao You and pointed at an entrance.
Xiao You and Xi Men looked towards where she pointed.
“Oh, it is the entrance to the trail,” Xiao You said.
“Can we go?” Emily asked.
“Definitely. Our cab driver asked us to go down the trail,” she smiled.
“Let’s go mommy! Let’s go, Uncle Xi Men,” Emily said, pulling both of them together.
Xi Men and Xiao You laughed as they let themselves willingly pulled by Emily. And then they walked down the trail.
“Careful, alright?” Xiao You smiled.
“Sure, mommy,” Emily said as she is fascinated with the view and she took photos with the camera.
Xiao You closed her eyes as she took a deep breath of the clean air in the gorge.
Xi Men looked at her and he inadvertently smiled. He lowered his head down before he lifted up his head and he looked at her again.
Xiao You looked at him and smiled. “What are you thinking?” she asked.
‘You,’ his mind said.
He smiled. “Nothing,” he said.
“Really?” Xiao You asked.
“Yeah. It is pretty refreshing here. Very different from Taipei,”
“Definitely,” Xiao You said.
“Allowing me to join you and Emily,” Xi Men said.
Xiao You smiled. “No problem,”
Xi Men smiled as he turned and looked at Emily who is fancying the view around and taking pictures of everywhere. “She is very pretty,”
“You are saying Emily?”
“Yeah. She looked like you,”
“And like her father too,” Xiao You smiled.
Xi Men smiled briefly at that. He wonders how Emily’s father looked like… though he knew it is not possible. “I assume… her father is of Chinese heritage? Since she doesn’t look like…”
“Yes,” she smiled. “He is of Chinese heritage,”
“I see,” he said. “Umm… what do you work as in Toronto?”
“Oh, I am a kindergarten teacher,” she smiled.
“Kindergarten? Work with kids? Isn’t that stressful?”
“Not really,” she smiled. “They are mischievous but that is because they are kids,”
“You must have love kids a lot to choose to work in kindergarten,”
“Well, that isn’t really the first choice. I chose kindergarten because it gives me time flexibility. The kindergarten starts and finishes at about the same time as school did. Don’t have to work late or OT… I needed that flexibility to take care of Emily,”
“Oh? Why so?”
“Emily only has me. I didn’t want to spend most of my time in office or doing other things that has no relation to her. So I want to spend as much time as I could with her. You know what is the best part? She was in my kindergarten since she was 3 years old until 6,” Xiao You smiled. “So I can take care of her and spend time with her there all the time,”
Xi Men smiled. “Sounds like a good plan,”
“That is why I picked kindergarten,”
“And initially I was planning to go and teach in an elementary school once Emily reached 7 years old, which is the age to start school, but I end up sticking to the kindergarten due to its flexibility,” she smiled. “So I am there until now,”
“Oh,” Xi Men said. “I don’t mean to be rude… but… did you further your studies in Toronto?”
“Oh yes I did. I was pregnant with Emily when I was studying,” she said.
“Early Childhood Education. That is my degree, which is why I can teach in kindergarten and also elementary school if I want to,”
“Oh wow…” Xi Men said. “That is nice. You really love kids, huh,”
She smiled. “Not in the beginning… but I came to love kids because of Emily,”
“Umm… I don’t know what to say,”
“It is okay. Point being, I love kids now,” she smiled.
He smiled too.
The next few hours were spent in Taroko National Park.
Their assigned cab driver is really friendly and really informative to furnish them so many things about Taroko National Park.
And Xi Men mingled extremely well with Emily the whole day, and takes care of Xiao You at the same time.
Suddenly it feels like they are a family.
Emily became a really happy child as she looked at the pig in the generous closure space at the B&B.
“Mommy! A pig!!!” Emily exclaimed. “So cute!”
Xiao You smiled at Emily’s reaction, and then she turned to look at the suave Xi Men standing next to her (Xiao You). “Kids nowadays don’t get to see animals as often as we use to last time,”
“I agree. But that’s a really cute pig,” Xi Men said.
Xiao You laughed at Xi Men this time. “Why do you have to make it sound like you have never seen a pig before?”
“Of course I have seen them. But the pig I saw was a pink one. This one comes with black patches,”
Xiao You laughed again.
“Mr. Xi, Miss Yang, have you released a sky lantern before?”
Both Xi Men and Xiao You turned and looked at Mr. Chen approaching them.
“I did, but that was a long, long time ago,” Xiao You smiled, looking at Mr. Chen.
“Sky lantern?” Xi Men asked.
“Do you know what sky lantern is?” Xiao You asked, looking at Xi Men.
“Oh, yes. I know. Taiwan has an annual lantern festival where people releases sky lantern at that festival,” Xi Men said. “I still know that,” he smirked.
“Glad at least you knew,” she smiled.
“Well, you can release a sky lantern tonight if you want to,” Mr. Chen smiled.
“Ah?” Xi Men is surprised. “I thought one can only release it during the festival?”
“No, one can release sky lanterns all year long,” Xiao You smiled at Xi Men, and then she looked at Mr. Chen. “That would be lovely, my daughter has never seen that before,”
“Great. We can go out and buy it tonight when I send you out for dinner. Do you want to play firecrackers?” Mr. Chen asked. “I can buy along too,”
“Firecrackers?” Xi Men repeated.
Xiao You turned to look at Xi Men again, “I hope you also know what that is…?”
“Oh yes, I know,” he said, giving an unimpressed look at Xiao You.
“Emily has never played firecrackers before. Can you play it with Emily tonight?” Xiao You asked Xi Men. “I am afraid to light it up and can’t run away in time before it explodes,” she finds herself laughing sheepishly.
“Umm…” he looked at Xiao You, and he softly said to her. “I have never played before in my life,”
Xiao You gaped, “You what…?!”
“Why is it so surprising for you?” he frowned at her.
“Tell me you have at least seen someone lighting it up in front of you?” Xiao You asked.
“Umm… yes… that… yeah,” he said unconfidently.
“What’s with the tone?”
“My butler did it in front of me before… but I was standing so far away from it because they didn’t want me to get hurt… I don’t even know where he lit it…”
Xiao You rolled her eyes.
“So… do you want to play firecrackers tonight?” Mr. Chen smiled.
“Sure. Join us tonight, Mr. Chen,” Xiao You smiled at him.
“Alright. We’ll get them tonight,” Mr. Chen smiled. “We’ll play at 10pm?”
“Sure,” Xiao You smiled, and Xi Men smiled faintly.
“So… it is 4.30pm now. I will fetch you out for dinner at 7pm. So take a good rest in the meantime, and I’ll see you at 7pm,” Mr. Chen smiled.
“Sure, thank you Mr. Chen,” Xiao You smiled.
Mr. Chen then walked off.
“Is it easy to light up the firecrackers?” Xi Men asked.
Xiao You turned to look at Xi Men. “Nevermind, I can do it myself tonight. I’ll just run faster,”
“You can teach me,” Xi Men said. “I can always learn,”
“You have just said you stood so far away, not wanting to get hurt,”
“I was 6,” Xi Men said. “I am 30 now,”
“Yeah. Just teach me,” he said.
“I may not be a good teacher. That is why I asked Mr. Chen to join us,” she said.
“Oh,” Xi Men said.
“And about the sky lantern… have you ever release one before?” Xiao You asked.
Xi Men shook.
“No?” she asked.
“No… is it fun?”
“Yes! You should try it,”
“I’ll get that chance tonight,” he smiled.
“Oh, since we still have few hours to go, think of what you want to write on that sky lantern,” Xiao You smiled.
“What I want to write? What do you mean?” Xi Men asked.
“Your wishes,” she said.
“Sky lantern is also referred as a wish lantern. You write your wishes on the sky lantern, and hopefully they will come true,” she smiled.
“Mommy, where should I write? Here…? Or here?” Emily asked, pointing left and then she pointed to the right.
“Hmmm… anywhere you want, sweetie,” Xiao You smiled, patting her daughter’s head. “What are you wishing for?”
“I only wish for good health and good results,” Emily smiled. “And happiness for mommy!”
Xiao You laughed. “I am happy already. You are my happiness,”
“Hee… I want more happiness for mommy!” Emily laughed.
“Hello, Mr. Chen,”
Xiao You turned her head and looked at Xi Men entered the living room of the B&B.
“Xiao You,” Xi Men called.
“Hey,” she smiled.
“Uncle Xi Men,” Emily called.
“Hi Emily,” Xi Men replied. “How long have you been in the living room?” he asked Xiao You.
“About 5 minutes,” Xiao You replied.
“Oh,” Xi Men said. “What is this?” he pointed at a huge, yellow paper laid on the table.
“This is the sky lantern,” Xiao You said.
“Oh?” Xi Men asked, and then looked at Emily holding a marker pen. “Doesn’t look like a lantern to me…”
“Wait til you see it inflated later with the heat from candle…” Xiao You rolled her eyes.
“Uncle Xi Men, write your wish!” Emily said. “Mommy and I are writing our wishes down too!”
“I thought wishes are made before blowing the birthday candles and are meant to keep secret,” he said.
“Well, that is not the case for sky lantern. So…” Xiao You passed a marker pen to him.
“Really? Everyone is going to read my wish,” Xi Men said, taking the marker pen from her hand.
“Paparazzi won’t go up to the sky to get your sky lantern,” Xiao You smirked.
Xi Men laughed as he pulled open the cap of the marker pen.
It wasn’t what he meant.
He just thought that… if he were to write his wish down… Xiao You will see and read what he actually wished for.
He really wished for it… but he knew it will never happen.
But it is a wish.
A wish that will never be granted.
He took a deep breath and swallowed the lump in his throat. “Where should I write?”
“Anywhere will do,” Xiao You smiled.
“We have a huge sky lantern. You can put a lot of wishes down. You can fill up the whole sky lantern,” Emily said.
“Wah, I hope you are not expecting me to write and fill up the entire sky lantern…” he said.
“How many wishes do you plan to write, Uncle Xi Men?” Emily asked.
“I could only think of one…” Xi Men replied.
“Only one?” Emily asked. “You only have one wish?”
“The most important one,” Xi Men smiled at Emily, and then he penned it down.
Emily and Xiao You looked at Xi Men writing it down.
There is a small smile on his face as he wrote.
“Happiness?” Emily asked as Xi Men finished his writing and lifted up the pen from the sky lantern.
“Yes,” Xi Men smiled.
“That is the same thing I wish for, for mommy,” Emily smiled as she turned to look at Xiao You.
Xiao You looked at Emily, and then turned to look at Xi Men, and smiled.
Xi Men smiled back.
“Hold here sweetie,” Xiao You said, directing Emily to hold the sky lantern right after Mr. Chen lights it up.
And in less than a minute,
“Getting hot, mommy…” Emily said, complaining as the heat from the candle lighted inside the sky lantern is filling up the lantern.
“Yeah… getting hot,” Xi Men said.
“I know…” Xiao You said.
“When the lantern begins to float, we will slowly release it,” Mr. Chen said.
Just right after Mr. Chen said, the sky lantern begins to float.
“Here, we are releasing it now,” Mr. Chen said.
Emily releases her hand, and then Xi Men, Xiao You as well as Mr. Chen lastly released their hands together.
The sky lantern floats up to the sky and slowly carried away by the wind.
“WOW!” Emily excitedly said as her eyes are fixed at the sky lantern. “It is very beautiful!”
Xiao You smiled as she looked at her daughter happily enjoyed the entire experience of writing her wish and releasing a sky lantern.
Xi Men looked at Xiao You and Emily, and that brings a smile to his face.
‘I wish for happiness: that is what I wrote on the sky lantern. But my definition of happiness is to be with Xiao You… for she is my happiness. But I know I will never get it. It will only remain as a wish. Just a wish that will never come true…’ he thought, as he turned and his eyes are fixed to the sky lantern that is flying away.