Hold that thought.
Knock, knock, knock.
“Come in, come in,” said One Word. “Let me introduce the two of you.” Elle saw a thin, young lady wearing trendy glasses, her hair in a neat bun, a vertically striped black and white pantsuit, and white pumps. “Elle, this is Hong. Hong, this is Elle.”
“Hi,” Hong said softly, hiding something. “It’s nice to meet you,” she said, her voice uneasy.
“Hi,” Elle responded quietly, not looking at her.
“The girls said that they’re extremely sorry.”
“Sorry is not necessary,” Elle responded quietly. “I’m not mad at them.”
She handed him Elle’s purse.
“She said she doesn’t want to see them, and doesn’t want them to get involved in her affair with JZ. She said it was for their protection. Right now, she isn’t getting what she wants from JZ, as you can see, so it’s best to give her this,” he said with sorrow.
She nodded in understanding. “I hope you feel better soon,” and quietly left.
He handed her the purse, but she didn’t take it. “Can’t,” she said and signaled she wanted to type something. He took the phone when she was done and read, “I can’t take or use anything that requires me to move my hands. This skirt is really short.”
He opened her purse and took out her music sheets and found one with English writing on the back, and put it in her hands. She moved the paper between her fingers until she could point to a line and said, “I am Yang Guifei.” She moved it again and pointed to a line and said, “Run, run, run.”
“You’re not Yang Guifei.”
“Don’t argue with the lyrics,” she replied with a slight smile, and he returned her smile.
JZ excitedly returned to One Word’s workroom and Elle glued her expressionless face back on. His basketball buddies followed. “I got good news, baby! You want to come with me to their concert tonight? You can make a big statement there.”
Elle did not respond.
JZ took out his phone and typed it, and replaced the paper with his phone in her hands. She glanced at it then dropped it. JZ picked it up and typed something else.
JZ’s basketball buddies were looking at one another then one asked, “What kind of relationship do the two of you have?”
“She’s just being stubborn and childish.”
She did not respond.
He put his phone in her hand again and she read, “The public thinks you’re a man because you dress like one, you sound like one, and you act like one. Prove to them that you are a lovely lady with a wonderfully girly voice by singing a song. My friends have agreed to let you open for them. All you have to do is pick a song, show up, and sing. Then you can enjoy the concert,” She dropped the phone again.
“Maybe you’ll feel more comfortable once I introduce you to them,” said JZ. “Come here guys. This is my girlfriend Elle. She’s from America and came to China a few years ago to teach English to first graders. Elle, this is Wen Gong, this is Liu Peng, and this is Tang Bi. Together, they form the band, Nine Hands!”
The three of them waved and smiled.
“She owes you three a handshake and greeting.”
“No problem. Let us know if you guys plan on coming tonight. We’ll head to a hotel and take an early nap.”
“What are you talking about? You’re all staying in the silver building. I’ll take you guys there,” said JZ.
“No, no, no, we can’t put you out of your way just for us,” said Gong.
“Yeah, we’ll be fine at a hotel,” added Peng.
JZ played along, “How can I let you three go to a hotel? No, no, no, you’re my guests!”
“We can’t distract you from you her,” Bi countered.
“Nonsense! There’s plenty of time for the two of us to spend together. You will stay in the silver building. After all, you were kind enough to let my girlfriend open tonight.”
“We were only returning the favor,” said Peng.
“You still remember that? It’s all the more reason to continue this friendship. You all will stay in the silver building.” He looked at them with eyebrows raised then said, “Had enough?”
“We have to be polite in front of the lady,” said Gong.
“Ok, let’s get going,” and the four of them left.
“Tse, he doesn’t think I know who Nine Hands are,” Elle said under her breath.
“You know them as a band, right? Not personally?” asked One Word.
She nodded her head. “I listened to their music before he became their friend.”
“What do you know about them?”
“Their parents named the band, ‘Nine Hands.’ It was because they played music so well it was like each of them had three hands,” she said and imitated playing the guitar then the drums, because she knew she used the incorrect ‘play.’
“Do you want to see what I’m working on?” asked One Word.
Elle nodded her head.
He went to her purse and took out the Chinese-English dictionary and found each character and wrote the translation on his whiteboard: “Hourglass.”
“Hey One Word,” came a familiar voice.
One Word turned his attention from his whiteboard to the doorframe.
“Can you babysit her for me? I’m going to go out for a bit.”
“I thought she was spending the entire day with you? You know, if she were an actual baby, you would have to take her with you like a responsible parent running errands.”
“I can’t take her where I’m going. So can you babysit her?”
“Why don’t you ask the girls to do it? Or The Guys?”
“You’re the only one I trust right now.”
“Why don’t you take them to Nine Hands? She said she listened to their music before you were their friend.”
“Is that what she said?” JZ said, sly and surprised at his angel without expression.
“What if she needs to go to the bathroom?”
JZ went over to Elle and scooped her limp body with his shirt under her, out of One Word’s workroom.
“Where are you taking her?”
“A place to solve that bathroom problem. Can you still babysit her? I can’t cuff her to anything in there.”
“If you’re taking her to the ladies room, I don’t want to be there.”
“I’m taking her to my bathroom.”
JZ walked in the maze, and into the room with a grand piano. He placed her on the piano seat and she fell to the side, with her head off the seat. He quickly removed a different piece of the false wall that revealed a door. He went in, made some noise, then returned to scoop up his angel, sat her on the toilet, and leaned her back.
He bent his neck, looked at her in the eyes, and quickly said, “I’ll be back by lunchtime,” then bent down and kissed her breast.