The first step was going smoothly for both sisters as they tackled the contact list. They recognized the ones their parents knew recently and the ones from their past. They had spread the list out between themselves and cross-referenced the ones their parents knew in the past. It was much easier that way. At least from the time their parents separated. Things were too much of a blur in those days. And the only thing they remembered was the night their parents argued and pulled them out of one another’s grasp. That was it. They had separated the contacts evenly to investigate for the coming weekend when their parents wanted to go to dinner with them on Saturday night. Just like that. Such a coincidence. Both parents claiming to want to meet their future son-in-law. They had to delay their mission until Sunday and hoped that their contacts would still be available.
Cyndi arrived with Jiro right on time. However, her father seemed distracted. He kept looking at the entrance.
“What’s wrong?” Cyndi asked, following his vision.
“Uh…I’m still waiting for a friend,” Her father finally admitted.
Cyndi ignored her father’s darting eyes. She exchanged a look with Jiro. Jiro just shrugged.
“Let’s order,” Cyndi said. She was still mad at her father for his strange behaviors lately. It was not like she would starve herself if he was going to wait for someone. Then something hit her. “You invited Cynthia?”
“What?!” Jiro exclaimed, shocked. “That’s impossible because…”
Cyndi had kicked him under the table. Her father was not supposed to know they were getting along—sort of, kind of, lately.
“Are you all right, young man?” Mr. Wang finally removed his eyes from the glass window.
Jiro was still biting down on his teeth. He managed a nod. That girl was stronger than he thought.
Mr. Wang turned to his precious daughter. It was almost like he saw people being kicked every single day, so he was used to it. “What did you just say, Princess?”
“We’re going to order,” Cyndi repeated, apparent annoyance on her face. She did not want to mention Cynthia anymore. If he didn’t pay attention when she mentioned her sister’s name, it was most likely it wasn’t Cynthia he was waiting for at all.
Her father checked his watch. She hated that. It was like he needed to think when she was hungry. Her hunger was suddenly second priority? Or the last? “Let’s wait a little more.”
“Who are you waiting for then?” She was still using the hostile tone.
“You’ll know in a bit.” His smile was secretive.
It reminded Cyndi too much of Cynthia. And that made her transfer the hostility to Cynthia as well. It was too annoying noticing these little details in recent days. The least her father could do was talk to her boyfriend. The one she just kicked not long ago. Like several minutes back. Then she turned to him in alarm. He looked like he was still in pain. His face was still wrinkled.
“Are you all right?” She reached a hand over and tapped him on the shoulder.
Jiro nodded automatically.
“She’s coming!” Her father exclaimed at that time. He was so oblivious to their existence.
“It’s really her?” Cyndi asked in disbelief. She wasn’t really looking in that direction. She only guessed it was still Cynthia. It would be too much of a miracle if it was her mother. But if her mother was coming, that would mean Cynthia was also coming.
“Who?” Her father asked, wrinkling his face.
Cyndi did not have her chance. Her father was practically flying to the door. If that was possible. They just had to pick a spot near the door. No, wait, her father did. She turned to see a lady a tad younger than her father. She was wearing a dress in various colors—dark colors.
“Poor taste,” Cyndi muttered under her breath, seeing how the dress did not match the lady at all.
“Huh?” Jiro asked in confusion. He had taken the time that her father was absent to reach down and rub his shin. It wasn’t bleeding. But it might as well be.
Mr. Wang soon returned with the lady. Cyndi took the hint to stand up and tugged Jiro up with her. Jiro knew it was a courtesy, but he was having a hard time. He managed to get up with Cyndi’s help.
“This is my daughter, Cyndi,” Mr. Wang began the introduction. “And her boyfriend…uh…”
“Jiro,” Cyndi mumbled, annoyed that he had not paid attention earlier.
Mr. Wang laughed. “That’s right.” Then he gestured toward the lady—in the horrendous dress. “This is Shirley.”
“Temple,” Cyndi muttered—only Jiro heard it to laugh (and soon had to cover it with a cough and an apology).
They finally sat down, and Cyndi hid her face in her menu.
“Hey, they have your favorite dish here, Princess,” Mr. Wang said excitedly.
“I’m too full already,” Cyndi snapped. She did not care. What happened to ‘meeting his future son-in-law day’?
“You said you wanted to order earlier,” Mr. Wang reminded her.
“I want to throw up now.” She was still hiding her face behind her menu.
Jiro gave Mr. Wang and Shirley a nervous smile. Shirley was staring him up and down. Cyndi suddenly sensed something wrong. She took a peek at Shirley. Then she realized she needed to do something.
“I didn’t realize it’s better to read other people’s menu,” Cyndi mocked. She turned to Jiro. “Let me have yours then.”
Jiro looked confused. “Uh…”
“Princess…” That was Mr. Wang. He could see his daughter’s expression. It was his warning tone. So unlike him.
“Is she going to be my new mother?” Cyndi asked, not caring to disguise the words.
Jiro stopped looking at his menu. He used it to hide his face instead, pretending that he was too busy in the world of delicacies to care about their family business.
“Cyndi,” Her father warned—again. “That’s not how you talk to your elders.”
Cyndi ignored him, turning to Shirley. “So, how old are you exactly? 70?”
“What happened to meeting your future son-in-law day then?” Cyndi had gotten up from her seat.
Jiro had abandoned his menu altogether. He was tugging on Cyndi’s arm, trying to calm her down.
“I just want to have a meal together and introduce you to Shirley and I thought I would want to meet your boyfriend too, dear,” Mr. Wang explained, his voice returning to calmness. “Let’s not do it here. Yes, Shirley and I are together but…”
“I told you I have a boyfriend and you’re not telling me until now? How is that?”
“I don’t care.” She grabbed her handbag and marched out of the restaurant.
Jiro got up from his seat—finally. “Sorry, Uncle! I’ll try to talk to her.” He hobbled his way out of the restaurant, attempting to catch up to Cyndi—with people around him giving him pitiful stares.
Mr. Wang had gotten up also, but he knew he couldn’t chase his daughter down. Not there. He turned to Shirley and uttered some apologies. She seemed understanding.
Cynthia and Nic met her mother at a spot in the garden. Her mother preferred the open space. She and Nic had no problem with that. They could use some fresh air themselves. Especially Nic.
“You two wait here,” Her mother instructed after the initial introduction. “I’ll be right out.”
“Nic could go get the waiter,” Cynthia volunteered—and Nic nodded in agreement.
Her mother shook her head. “I’ll be back.”
Cynthia nodded. She turned to Nic again. “Relax. You look like you’re going to see the doctor. Dentist. Or more like you’re going to be executed soon.”
Nic scratched his head.
“Stop scratching your head,” Cynthia warned. “You might pull out your hair soon. Or worse, your scalp. I don’t want a scalp-less boyfriend.”
“I can’t help it,” Nic admitted, shivering.
“It’s not the weather, is it?” She was mocking him, not sympathizing with him. “Don’t worry, you’re just helping me by being here today. Like we’re going to get married in the future or something.”
“Oh…” Nic relaxed after that.
Though she saw the brief disappointed look on his face. It was like he thought otherwise. Or was the coming night averting her vision?
“We’re back,” Her mother announced at that time.
Cynthia knew her ears were definitely deceiving her because how could there be a “we” when her mother was alone. Then she saw it. She had turned toward her mother’s voice, ready to greet her back. Yet she was the one being surprised.
Nic got up on cue. “Hi.”
Cynthia did not need any reminding. She got up on her own but was too shocked to deliver her line of greetings.
“This is my daughter, Cynthia,” Her mother began. “And this is her boyfriend, Nicholas.”
Nic extended his hand to the guest. “Nic is fine.”
Cynthia had done her share of a polite handshake and an equally polite smile. Yet she was still numbed.
“This is Dr. Lu,” Her mother said, gesturing toward the guest. “We’re…”
“Dating?” Cynthia finally found her voice.
Her mother nodded, her face down. She was embarrassed.
“Should I call you Doctor or Uncle?” Cynthia was all business.
“Uncle is fine,” Mr. Lu—uh—Dr. Lu responded.
“Let’s order,” Her mother interrupted, recognizing Cynthia’s darting eyes. Her daughter was about to launch an investigation then and there. “We’ll talk more over dinner.”
Yes, we will, Cynthia thought. And Nic had placed a hand over hers under the table for reassurance. She sent him a smile, telling him she was all right. In fact, she was more energetic than ever. It was a good time to strike. She was not going to zone out on them. That would be the last thing she wanted to do.
© Friday, December 17th, 2010
Posted: Wednesday, February 9th, 2011