Back at the hospital, JZ was still on the bed almost falling asleep himself, until he felt Elle move and saw her eyes slowly open. She gently rubbed the hand that was still cupping the side of her face, then looked up at the man the hand belonged to. He was smiling down at her and she was smiling back. She snuggled closer to him and rested her hand against his body. He moved his hand from her face to her back, protecting her.
She moved back a bit, looking up at him and mouthed the words, “Sing me a song.” He was thinking of singing her the best love song he knew, but it was hard to decide which the best one was, so he decided to sing the song she wrote, Birdcage. He sang it quietly and she watched him with her big, soft, brown, vulnerable eyes. He felt he had to sing it quietly to not shock her in such an intimate moment. The lyrics were not as clear as she had sung but she was smiling, which was all that mattered to him at the moment.
CeeCee and Big were in the hallway trying to listen to JZ sing. The doctor was coming to check on Elle again, but CeeCee stopped him, and asked him with her sparkling eyes to give them a moment. JZ stopped singing but CeeCee stopped the doctor again with her sparkling eyes and said, “Not yet.” After a moment had passed, she allowed him to go in.
“Hello Miss Elle, I see you’re awake,” said the doctor, finding that JZ and his patient were still in an intimate position. JZ gently took his hand back, got off the bed, and lifted Elle to the center of the bed.
“Hello doctor,” mouthed Elle.
“Let me take that out of you,” he said.
Elle looked at CeeCee. “He’s going to take your feeding tube out,” she translated with a smile, glad that Elle was ok. Elle nodded her head and waited for the doctor to take it out.
“She doesn’t know Mandarin?” asked the doctor.
“She knows a little bit,” answered JZ.
“She looks Han. Is she Han or another ethnic group?” asked the doctor.
“We’re not entirely sure because we’ve never asked her,” answered JZ, a little annoyed. “Can you take the tube out now because she feels very uncomfortable with it in?”
“Of course,” he said and pulled out the tube without telling her how weird and nasty it felt. She coughed. “Is that better?” the doctor asked.
Elle looked at CeeCee and she translated. Then Elle looked at the doctor and nodded.
“How do you feel?” asked the doctor.
“Tell him I feel alright,” she said in a low, raspy voice.
“Do you feel any pain or anything different than usual?” the doctor asked.
Elle looked at CeeCee and she translated. “My chest hurts a lot, like somebody with a big fist punched me,” she said as she waved her hand over her chest.
“That’s from the CPR,” the doctor said, “you’re lucky you don’t have any cracked ribs. If you like, I can check it again for you.”
JZ extended his upper body and arms over Elle’s body to shield her from the examination, and told the doctor in a deep voice, “You don’t need to check.”
“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! No need to be so aggressive,” said the doctor with his palms facing JZ.
Elle looked at CeeCee, uncertain if JZ’s actions were justified. CeeCee translated.
“JZ is right. He doesn’t need to check me,” Elle said, scooting closer toward JZ with her hands over her chest.
“Can you walk?” asked the doctor.
Elle moved her legs up and down as if she were walking, then looked at the doctor for the next question.
“You need to eat, and drink water. They tell me you’re a vegetarian so if you do eat fish, stay away from fish with high levels of mercury. You also need to take vitamins and relax more.
Elle looked at CeeCee. She translated. “Tell him, I know,” and she looked away with a sad look.
“Do you have any questions for me?”
“Ask him if he can take this IV out of my arm or should I do it?” Elle asked and extended her arm.
“Of course, of course,” he said, and took the IV out.
“Ask him, who do I need to talk to, to work off my hospital bill because I can’t afford this treatment and care,” Elle said to CeeCee.
The doctor laughed.
JZ grabbed her arms, put his face close to hers, looked her in the eyes and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll pay for it.” His eyes and voice were congruently sincere.
Elle shook her head. “Tell him I don’t want him to pay my debt.”
“Stop being ridiculous,” he said.
She threw him an angry face, flung his arms off of her, turned in the opposite direction of him, and crossed her arms.
“Why are you fighting me?” he asked quietly.
“Ask him why he wants to pay for it,” Elle said in an angry tone.
JZ laughed at how ridiculous this conversation was. “Because I want to.”
“I don’t want you to. I can settle my debts by working. Let me work,” she said in English. CeeCee translated.
JZ threw his arms up in the air and said, “Fine!” and left the room.
Elle wiped whatever tears that stored in her eyes and asked CeeCee, “Can you ask the doctor where are my clothes and where is the Collection Department?”
“Her clothes are in the dresser, and the Collection Dept. is on the first floor by the elevators.”
“Will you come with me, CeeCee? To the Collection Dept.?”
“Of course I will.”
“Thanks. Can you tell the men that I want to change my clothes now so will they please get out?”
CeeCee chuckled and translated.
The doctor, CeeCee, and Big left the room, and closed the door behind them.
CeeCee said to Big, “Why don’t you go and find JZ and calm him down. You’re a smart guy, you’ll think of something. Or just let him talk and you listen. I’ll try to be as quick as I can.”
Big handed JZ’s keys to CeeCee, then texted JZ to find out where he was and left the hallway. A couple of minutes later, Elle came out. “Do you know if one of you brought my purse along?” Elle asked.
“I think it’s still at the studio where you left it.”
They went to find the Collection Dept. CeeCee asked, “Do you want to talk about what happened between you and JZ?”
“Why you won’t let JZ pay for your hospital bill.”
“It’s like he forgot what being poor was like.”
“You knew he was poor before he became famous and rich?”
“I knew it when I was still in America. I listened to his music every day, I watched all his music videos, and I watched his concerts on the internet. So yes, I knew he was poor before he became rich and famous.”
“Wow, but you’re so young. You were probably only 10, maybe 12 years old when he started becoming famous.”
“I wasn’t introduced to him and his music until I was in college. I fell in love with him and his quality of work when I saw ‘The Wandering Master.’ I thought it was quite strange that he could get his voice that high, but it shows his control of his voice, which is spectacular. I thought he was the sexiest and most talented man on Earth,” Elle said with a smile, reminiscing her college years like an old person reminiscing their youth.
“Getting back to my earlier point, I knew he was poor but since he found me in the café, he throws his money around like he forgot what being poor was like. The money is insignificant to him and significant to me, yes, that’s true. Yes, he can pay my hospital bill, but that means that I’ll be indebted to him instead of the hospital. When you’re poor you have to rely on your work ethic so you can prove to others that you’re trustworthy. He thinks he can solve everything with money, and that isn’t his only problem. He doesn’t let me do what I want to do or choose to do. I pay off my own debt to establish myself as a trustworthy person and to prove to myself that I can pass this period of lack of money. With the reputation he built me, I must work so much harder now prove my honest reputation to everyone.” Elle sighed.
“Aren’t you being too old-fashioned? Nobody works to pay off their debts anymore. Everyone takes money and credit and favors.”
“That’s one of the many old-fashioned things I value so much and intend to keep throughout my life. I won’t forget that I have to struggle and how hard I had to work to get to where I will be. I want to make my parents proud of me, not make them ashamed to have me. Would your parents be proud of you if they saw your reputation look like mines flashed all over TV as mine is right now?”
“No, they wouldn’t,” CeeCee said softly, understanding some of Elle’s struggles.
They arrived at the Collection Dept. and CeeCee began talking to the window clerk there. “Hi, this young lady was admitted earlier today,” she said and held up Elle’s wrist to show she was a patient there. “She isn’t able to pay her hospital bill, so she wants to work her debt off.”
The employee typed in Elle’s name and said, “What a lucky girl! Her bill was already paid by JZ.”
“Ask her if she could refund the money so I can work it off.”
CeeCee translated and the clerk laughed hysterically. “It doesn’t work that way.”
Elle did not need to know what the clerk actually said, since her laugh said it all: “Is this girl serious? How dumb can she be?”
“Thanks, have a nice day,” said CeeCee and they left the window.
“Let me text the guys and see if they’re still here,” said CeeCee. “After all, I have the keys to his car,” she said smiling and jingling JZ’s keys out of her purse. CeeCee texted them. Big replied, “We’re in the parking garage by the car waiting for you.”
“This may be a dumb question, but can she come?” CeeCee texted back.
A moment passed. “She can come if she wants.”
“They’re by the car in the parking garage waiting for us. Let’s go,” said CeeCee.
A moment passed until CeeCee said something. “You know, if he paid your hospital bill, he doesn’t want you to pay him back or see it as you owe him something.”
“It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t want the money back. The point is he doesn’t let me do what I want. He doesn’t let me make my own decisions. He’s not my father, not my brother, not my husband, and not my boyfriend. Even if he was my boyfriend or husband, he shouldn’t feel that he has total control over me. I don’t want a guy to order me around like I belong to him.”
“Traditionally and theoretically, husbands control their wives.”
“That’s one of the few things I intend on not accepting from a future husband.”
“She’s so ungrateful. I volunteer out of the kindness of my heart to pay her hospital bill and she rejects it like my money isn’t good,” said JZ angrily. “I don’t want the money back. It’s so small to me and so much for her. Wasn’t it was a very nice gesture?”
“Yes it was,” agreed Big. “Why don’t you figure out why she doesn’t want to accept your kindness?” he suggested.
JZ thought about it. “I don’t know why she doesn’t want to accept it. Why is she so strange? She doesn’t want something that’s already done for her but she wants to take the hard way and do everything herself.”
“It doesn’t look like she will change that about herself.”
“That’s her stubbornness for you.”
“The real question is, is that something you are willing to accept? Think about it. You don’t want a girl to change who you are, but you want a girl to change who she is. She won’t be happy if you make her change herself for you. If she’s not happy, you’re not happy. I saw you two on the bed, you were much happier because you saw that she was happy. So, if you don’t accept her as she is, ask her why she is the way she is. Maybe you’ll understand her perspective and therefore, accept her. If you look at her behavior on the outside, she’s not hurting anyone by wanting to work.”
“She’s hurting me. The more time she spends working, the less time she spends with me.”
“Right now, you’re her boss, not her boyfriend. As a boss, you’re not supposed to interfere with her life beyond work, unless she invites you.”
“How do I make her invite me?”
“I don’t know her well enough, so you should ask her. If you ask her, she’s most likely not going to say things she doesn’t want.”
“If she takes the hard way for everything she does, she’s going to make me as another hard way. That means that I need to do the opposite of what she says to make it easier.”
“Before you get too excited, is she the type of person who would lie?”
“Probably not, but she doesn’t tell me stuff.”
“You only know her for about a month. It takes time to trust people. Give her some time to warm up to you. All the girls do.”
He laughed, “Yeah, they all do.”
They both laughed.
“Hey guys!” said CeeCee loudly and waving her hand.
“Where do you want to go?” JZ asked Elle in a tone like he didn’t care.
“I want to go back to the studio to get my purse,” she replied.
“Fine. Let’s go,” JZ said in the same tone.
CeeCee unlocked the car and Big opened the door for CeeCee to sit in the backseat, and JZ did the same for Elle. JZ then sat in the driver’s seat and took the keys from her palm. He started the car and off they drove.
While he was driving, JZ tried to keep an eye on Elle by glancing at the rearview mirror, but all she did was look out of the window with a face that didn’t show what she was feeling or thinking. The silence was making CeeCee and Big extremely uncomfortable. “Hey JZ,” CeeCee said like she was saying a fun fact, “did you know that Elle listened to your music all the time when she was in America?”
Elle jerked her head in CeeCee’s direction and threw her an angry look that said, “That was supposed to be between us.”