Chapter 6 – Dinner

Just as Darren predicted, Mr. and Mrs. Lai come through the door around 7:30 PM. Jacky and Wei Ru are still finishing up with preparing dinner. Brittney is already done with her dish and is waiting for it to be done cooking. Darren and Xiao Jie are still goofing around in the living room.
Brittney runs towards the front door as she sees Mr. and Mrs. Lai coming in.
“Mom, let me help you with that,” Brittney offered.
She takes the bag from Mrs. Lai and brings it into the kitchen. She grabs a plate from the dish dryer and starts to pull out the contents from the bag. Yes, it’s the last pieces of the cakes from the shop. Brittney had gone through this routine so many times that she knows all too well what to do each time.
Mrs. Lai walks up to Jacky and Wei Ru, watching them closely. She smiles and walks off to the living room while Mr. Lai goes down the hallway that leads into the bathroom and bedrooms.
“Mom! You’re back just in time to see the show,” Darren informed his mother.
“Mom! Sit here,” Xiao Jie said, pointing with her left hand.
Xiao Jie scoops to the right of the sofa to let Mrs. Lai sit in the middle.
Wei Ru and Xiao Jie have been friends for so long that Xiao Jie has become part of the family already.
Darren is about to object since he wants to sit next to Xiao Jie, but Mrs. Lai already sat down so he couldn’t do anything.
Xiao Jie launches into an “update” session so Mrs. Lai could be up to speed with everything that’s been going on today, which explains more why Jacky’s here and is still here. Mrs. Lai puts on her usual radar and scans the room every once awhile. Actually, the exact point is where Jacky and Wei Ru are.
“Looks like we’ll be seeing a lot of you in the next couple weeks, Young Master Chu,” Mrs. Lai said to Jacky as Xiao Jie’s done with her recap of the events.
“Looks that way,” Jacky said, turning to face Mrs. Lai and gives her a smile. “I hope you don’t mind.”
“Of course not. I’m glad you’re here.”
“Mom, of course you’re glad,” Darren said, grinning mischievously. “You’ll be having plenty of time to….”
Darren didn’t finish at all. He just wants to let it stay at that to create the mysterious effect that isn’t so mysterious since the majority of the people in the room know where he’s heading towards with his words.
At that time, Mr. Lai comes back from the back rooms and finally realizes that Jacky’s around.
“Young Master Chu!” Mr. Lai exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”
Mrs. Lai stands up and walks towards her husband, explaining briefly what is going on.
“Thanks for helping our Xiao Jie,” Mr. Lai said to Jacky after Mrs. Lai is done with her explanation. “She’s been quite busy with all those projects. Having you to fill in on this one, she can take a break.”
“No problem, sir,” Jacky said. “I’m glad that I could help.”
Mr. Lai smiles warmly at Jacky and then walks towards the living room with his wife.
“Dad! Guess what happened?” Xiao Jie asked cheerfully.
“What, Princess?” Mr. Lai asked back.
Mr. Lai just sat down in the middle where Mrs. Lai sat before. This time, Darren has to actually get up so Mrs. Lai could sit down. He goes into the kitchen instead of sitting down at a chair nearby. He gets a plate and scoops up a piece of cake left over that Brittney had lain out before and starts to munch on it.
“Ge!” Brittney yelled out in bewilderment. “We’re eating soon. Why are you spoiling your appetite with that?”
“This is not your first day knowing me, sis,” Darren said between munches. “My appetite is huge. I can take it.”
Brittney ignores him after that and starts to set the table. Darren hops on the counter and sits on the surface, dangling his feet in mid-air and starts to hum.
“Help Brittney set the table, will you?” Wei Ru commanded, sounding slightly annoyed.
“Why?” Darren asked, pretending not to notice her annoyance.
Although he’s saying that but he jumps back down anyway.
“Because she said so,” Jacky said, feeling playful.
“Ooooh…Got it, ge! I’m on it!” Darren said, laughing.
About five minutes later, Jacky and Wei Ru are done with all the dishes, plus dessert. They begin to approach the dining table to help Darren and Brittney.
Suddenly, Brittney’s face brightens up.
“I know that look!” Darren exclaimed, looking at Brittney intently. “What is it?”
“How about we move out to the garden and eat there tonight?” Brittney suggested.
“You think my blood is good for the mosquitoes?”
“Ge, in case you haven’t notice it, there’s a small glass house connecting back to the main house. We could eat there and watch the stars!”
Brittney looks all serious and somewhat annoyed when she said the first sentence, but her expression becomes dreamy and all bright smile that Jacky couldn’t help but smile. Interesting kid, he thought to himself.
“What?” Darren asked innocently. “The greenhouse where Pop keeps his precious plants?”
“No. We did some renovation after you left at the end of last summer. Didn’t you notice it at all the past few days you were home?”
“NO. I never go near the garden.”
“He only goes near ‘the kitchen’,” Jacky jumped in before Darren could reply to Brittney’s question.
Brittney laughs at Jacky’s comment.
“Thanks a lot, ge,” Darren said, giving Jacky a wounded look like he had been stabbed in the back. “I thought you would at least help me after all the support I gave you.”
“So, are we going to move out to the garden or not?” Wei Ru asked, attempting to rescue Jacky from the sticky situation. “Last call before Mom and Dad come in.”
“Let’s do it!” Brittney exclaimed with joy.
“I’m not carrying the table,” Darren whined.
“You’re so ignorant I don’t know if you live in this house or not! Of course there’s already a table in there, with chairs also,” Brittney informed him, rolling her eyes at Darren’s ignorance.
“Oh. Hold on. Let me go check it out,” Darren said, walking away from the scene.
While they’d been arguing, Wei Ru had went back to the kitchen area to get a picnic basket to store all plates, spoons, forks, and chopsticks and is done with the task at the moment.
“While you’re ‘checking it out’, bring this out,” Brittney said, handing him the basket.
“I’m not Superman!”
Brittney gives him her famous glare again.
“All right!” Darren yelled out, holding his hands up in surrender.
Darren walks off with the basket in his hand.
“Wait,” Wei Ru spoke up.
“What now?” Darren asked impatiently, turning back to face Wei Ru again.
“Key,” Wei Ru answered, handing him the key.
“What?!?!?” Darren asked, confused than ever.
“We lock the door since it connects to the garden to avoid intruders,” Wei Ru explained.
“Okay then.”
Darren continues on his way again while Jacky and Brittney help Wei Ru carry the food out to the glass house. They have to be very careful since the connecting door to the glass house is at the edge of the living room past the flower garden. Darren didn’t come back after bringing the basket outside. He sits at one of the chairs and enjoys the breeze blowing since he had open one of the windows of the glass house. The others just let him be and finish their tasks.
“By the way, where’s Sharon?” Jacky asked casually when they’re finished with the task.
“Business trip,” Wei Ru replied.
While Jacky’s exchanging words with Wei Ru, Brittney comes out to the living room to tell Mr. and Mrs. Lai that dinner’s ready. Xiao Jie jumps up from her seat and walks towards Jacky and Wei Ru.
“Hard work, Mr. Chu?” Xiao Jie asked with a smile.
“Hardly,” Jacky answered, turning to Xiao Jie.
“All right,” Mr. Lai said. “Let’s go eat everyone. No more small talks.” He scans the whole house with his radar eyes. “Where’s Darren?”
“Out there already relaxing away,” Brittney replied. “What else?”
Everyone heads out to the glass house. Wei Ru switches the living room light off after everyone’s already in the other room.
When Darren sees everyone piling in the room, he sits straight up. Actually, it’s more like he sees Xiao Jie walking his way so he decides to sit up and show some manners.
Mr. Lai sits at the head of the table and Mrs. Lai next to him. Jacky sits on the other side of Mr. Lai and Wei Ru next to him. Darren is already sitting in the chair next to Wei Ru and Xiao Jie’s next to him. Brittney’s sitting on the other side – next to Mrs. Lai and across the table from Wei Ru.
“Can we dig in now?” Darren asked, grinning eagerly.
“You’re such a pig,” Brittney commented.
Darren just smile at her since he doesn’t want to get in Mr. Lai’s hair.
Everyone waits for Mr. and Mrs. Lai to start first before they begin.
Although it’s just a simple dinner but everyone’s spirit seems to be high even at this time of the night. This is Jacky’s first family dinner since he moved out. They eat in silence for about five minutes, enjoying the dishes that the three “chefs” prepared. Darren – of course – speaks up first.
“Ge, you sure know how to cook. I’m impressed. I think I will call you ‘sifu’ now.”
“You want to learn how to cook?” Jacky asked, surprised.
“No. I’m sucking up so I could get free meals!” Darren replied, flashing out his charming brotherly smile that always works with his other sisters.
“Predictable,” Xiao Jie said passively.
“What?” Darren asked, turning to Xiao Jie.
Xiao Jie just lets out a sigh and goes back to eating.
Darren shrugs and goes back to eating too.
Jacky just smiles at them. He sneaks a glance at Wei Ru while he’s turning back to his rice bowl. He sees that she’s sort of shivering. He puts his rice bowl down and gets up to close the window that Darren had opened earlier.
“Ge, can you open it back up?” Darren asked, sounding more like a “command” than a general request. “I need fresh air.”
“Wei Ru’s cold,” Jacky said, looking towards Wei Ru.
Darren turns to his sister at that point. Then he turns back to Jacky, who’s still standing next to the window.
“You’re observant and she’s right next to me,” Darren commented.
“She’s next to me too,” Jacky said, smiling.
“All right. I give up. Go ahead and collect your points, ge.”
Jacky goes back to his seat and continues to eat again.
Mrs. Lai looks across towards Jacky. Jacky gives her a smile and she sends him an encouraging smile back.
“Mom, you’re giving him the go?” Darren asked after catching the little exchange between Jacky and his mother.
Mrs. Lai gives Darren a sharp look – meaning “Don’t spoil my plans.”
Darren shrugs and goes back to eating again.
Just then, the connecting door opens and Bryan walks in.
“Midnight party?” Bryan asked casually.
“You’re just in time,” Darren informed him.
Bryan grins mischievously when he sees that Jacky’s sitting next to Wei Ru. He goes to the other side of the table and sits next to Brittney. The others already knew of his coming in late so Wei Ru had set an extra set of plate, spoon, fork, and chopstick for him. He joins in and the foods disappear faster after that. He and Darren seem to be having the contest to see who empties the dishes first.
Brittney couldn’t stand the sight anymore, so she speaks up.
“You know, if you guys eat slower, you could taste the food better. Jacky ge ge’s cooking is good.”
“Jacky cooks?” Bryan asked, surprised mixed in with some shock, stopping his chopstick in mid-air in the process.
“You think that I made this?” Darren asked, pointing at a dish in front of him.
“I thought our Wei Ru thought up of a new way to prepare the lemon chicken or something.”
Darren shakes his head.
“Wow! My bro-in-law is soooo talented,” Bryan said with an approving look on his face.
Jacky and Wei Ru suddenly eats fiercely like they didn’t hear anything while Darren laughs. Mr. Lai gives Bryan and Darren a look.
© January 28th, 2007
Re-posted: Saturday, February 20th, 2010