He slowly walked out of the store with Elle on his back, her eyes moistening his shirt. He got into the lobby of the silver building, stepped into the elevator to get to his suite on the 36th floor. He entered his suite and placed her gently on the couch. She put her feet on the couch, and did not care how rude she was. He sat beside her and held her hand.
A few minutes later, there was a knock on his door. He did not answer the door and the visitor did not try again. When she stopped crying, he went toward the TV and slid the wall open. He took out two video game controllers and a video game console. He handed one of the controllers to her, and they played a fighting game; him against her. She won several rounds because he let her win. When he played seriously, he found out she was a strong challenger. Despite all her victories, he always saw an expressionless face. It was similar to the one he saw last night but it was not the same one, and he could not tell what she was thinking.
There was a knock at the door. JZ set the game on “Survival Mode” and went to the door. He looked through the peephole and saw The Guys holding up a familiar bra from its strap. He opened the door ajar and they cheerfully said, “Is this for your special lady friend?”
He shushed them and grabbed the bra away from them. “She’s upset because none of these clothes fit her,” he said quietly with a little anger in his voice as he grabbed the bag from the floor. “Damn One Word,” he thought.
“Then why did you buy them?” asked Big.
“I had to, so stop talking about it, and come in.”
“Hey Elle,” JZ said happily but not so loud to alarm her, “The Guys came to visit you.”
“Hey,” they both said.
Bigger looked at the TV and genuinely said, “The Survival Mode is ridiculously hard. How are you able to already defeat 30 of them?”
She did not respond and continued to expressionlessly play.
“When she’s done with Survival Mode, why don’t you guys take turns and play against her. You know how good she is when you see her get this far in Survival Mode,” said JZ. “I’ll make dinner.”
“Alright,” they both said.
“I wonder how serious he is when he says, ‘I’ll make dinner,’” Big said quietly with a chuckle.
“Me too,” agreed Bigger, chuckling along. “We’ve never seen him cook anything,” and they both laughed.
During the next half hour, Big and Bigger watched her play until she defeated her 100th opponent in the game and beat Survival Mode. The Guys cheered and told JZ how incredible she was. “Did your other girls play video games?”
JZ chuckled and said, “No, they played other games with me. Can one of you keep her busy and the other help me here?”
“I’ll play!” they both volunteered.
“You can go this time,” said Bigger, “I’ll go next time,” and patted his brother’s shoulder.
“So what do you need help with?” Bigger asked JZ.
“Take a seat,” JZ offered, and Bigger sat and waited for instructions.
“What I’m about to tell you needs to stay between you and me.”
“Alright. What’s so serious?”
“Look at her.”
He did. “So what?”
“One Word and I have concluded that she’s a very strange girl.”
Bigger had a look of concern. “How is she strange? Like an alien?”
JZ laughed. “No, not like an alien. More like a rare species of something,” trying to keep his voice down.
“A girl is really rare when she plays video games that good, and she doesn’t even show interest or enjoyment while playing, like the game is too easy for her. That’s ultra-rare.”
“I know. But that’s not the only thing I noticed that makes her ultra-rare. Look at the way she’s dressed.”
Bigger did. “She’s wearing your clothes.”
“She wears them so naturally. Don’t you think that’s strange?”
“When girls wear their guys’ clothes, it means they like them,” Bigger said smiling, proud of his own opinion. “If she’s wearing them naturally, that means she has warmed up to you.”
JZ sighed. “There’s no delicate way to say this. Earlier today, I realized that if she were a guy, that’s what she would wear. As a girl, she wears a tight blouse and short shorts, but if she was a guy, she would wear a dress shirt and basketball shorts, like she’s wearing right now. And since she’s so comfortable in those clothes, I think she may have been a guy before she became a girl.”
Bigger jerked his head to take another look at Elle and jerked his head back. “Why do you have to think about something like that?” he asked trying to keep his voice down, not knowing how to respond to what he just heard. He sighed a heavy sigh. “Maybe she’s a tomboy, not a guy undercover. Or, since it’s summer, she would rather wear clothes that are loose to feel cooler.”
“She did tell me earlier that she liked all the space that my clothes offered. I guess she could also be a tomboy, since she feels a little athletic to me.”
Bigger racked his head for another course, then something clicked in his head. “She feels athletic? You felt her body with your hands? I told you all the girls warm up to you!”
JZ grinned knowing he was about to brag. “I put my hands on her stomach and it’s flat but that’s probably because she was hungry. Her butt is soft and squishy. Everyone can see her sexy legs and thighs when she was wearing short shorts, and they’re really athletic.”
“I’m proud that you got somewhere but that’s slow for you. What I wanted to say earlier was, if she acts like a girl, then it’s better if you see her as a girl. You said she was upset when the clothes in the store didn’t fit her. That’s how all girls react in a situation like that. She looks like she had been crying, and it’s because of the clothes, right?”
“Yeah, she was crying because of the clothes. They were too small for her. Or when one part of a shirt fit, another part of wouldn’t. By the way, I liked what I saw when she tried them on. Anyway, her crying is normal girl behavior I guess, but what’s unusual was she didn’t want to go clothes shopping at the beginning. She said she had clothes at home, and I thought she was being polite. I tried being subtle but it didn’t work, so I told her the truth so she would go. I feel so bad that I made her go. If I didn’t make her go, she wouldn’t have to be so upset, adding to what happened to her last night.”
“Hmm…she probably didn’t want to go because she knew she wouldn’t fit in those clothes, and like you said, she was being polite. If only girls knew being polite with guys get them nowhere,” he chuckled. “Anyway, I was saying something to Big earlier that would apply to your predicament. When you said, ‘I’ll make dinner,’ we didn’t think you were making dinner yourself, especially not from scratch, and we have never seen you cook. The point of the story is to keep an open mind. I see that you are making something, although I don’t know what and if it’s edible. So I’m waiting to see how it turns out, or I can ask you what in the world you are making. You can wait and see if she’s a guy or was a guy, or if this is really bothering you, just ask her.”
“I can’t ask her. There’s no guy stupid enough to ask a girl that unless they’re having sex and the guy feels something that’s not supposed to be there. She definitely does not look like a guy. I sort of forced her to let me in the changing stall at the store so I can guarantee you 100% that she doesn’t have guy parts.”
“You’re going farther and farther, but you’re still slow for JZ. If she was a guy before but she’s not now, it’s ok for you to do stuff.”
“Thanks. I was considering tricking her into giving me a little more for my birthday, but since she’s been through so much already, I don’t think I will.”
“Are you making a decision like an adult? Considering her feelings and stuff?”
“I have to change my game plan for the strange one.”
“Do you see a long-term relationship with her?”
“I think it’s a little too early to tell. At first, I only liked her because she’s pretty and she didn’t want me, so I had to have her. But now, I see what she suffers and I feel the need to protect her. It’s like she’s one of the most unlucky persons in the world. Day after day, something happens to her ever since I wanted to find her. While she was asleep, I asked myself, ‘am I doing more harm to her by pursuing my desires for her?’ I wonder how her life was like before I chased her.”
“I think you do see a long-term relationship with her. Otherwise, you wouldn’t feel the need to protect her from everyone and everything that’s hurting her. Also, you show that you’re beginning to act like a mature adult by thinking beyond what you want, to what she wants.”
JZ considered Bigger’s words then said, “Can you bring a couple more chairs?”
JZ went to the living room, “Dinner is ready, guys.”
“Good, I’m tired of losing,” said Big, as he got up and went to the kitchen.
“Why don’t you go wash up, too, Elle?” he asked gently.
“I’m fat. I don’t want to eat,” she quietly said, without expression.
“You’re not fat,” he tried reassuring her. “Besides, if you don’t eat, The Guys won’t eat. Are you going to deny them dinner?”
She walked to the bathroom. JZ returned to the kitchen and set the table and heard Big say, “I played so many rounds with her and only won once! And I almost lost that round, too. You see all this sweat? It’s real! That girl can play!”
Elle returned with her faced washed, but it was still expressionless. She went to pull her chair out when JZ took a few big steps to pull it out for her. She accepted his chivalrous act and quietly thanked him.
They began eating the slightly steaming fried bean sprouts with carrots and cabbage and a mixture of stir fried veggies entangled in noodles.
“This is good, JZ,” Big said, very surprised that JZ cooked something edible.
“Thanks. My mom makes it way better. Do you like it Elle?”
“So Elle,” began Big, “how are you so good with that game?”
“I have two older brothers and one younger brother. I can play whatever electric game there is.”
The three guys looked stunned.
“You have two older brothers and one younger brother?” asked Bigger, looking at JZ, giving him the sign that there was a logical explanation why Elle was so good with video games. “Where do they live?”
“I didn’t completely understand your second sentence. What are electric games?” asked Big.
“Sorry,” she said, a little embarrassed, “I can play whatever games that use electricity, for example, games on the phone or on the computer.”
“Ohhhhhh,” the three guys exhaled in understanding.
“So her gaming ability was influenced by her brothers,” said Bigger to JZ, signaling a clearer explanation to why she was so good with video games. “Hey Elle, if you were influenced by your brothers in playing video games. Were you also influenced by your brothers in wearing guy’s clothes?”
“Sorry, I didn’t completely understand what you said. Can you type it on JZ’s phone, so it can translate for me?”
“Certainly,” said Bigger and received the phone from JZ. Then Bigger handed it to Elle.
She smiled. “No, they didn’t influence my choice of clothing. These clothes have a lot of space, so they’re very comfortable. I don’t like guy’s clothes in particular; I like comfortable clothes in general. In case you’re wondering, I’m wearing JZ’s clothes because I don’t have clean clothes here and I haven’t had a chance to return to my residence,” she typed and handed it to Bigger.
Bigger was sharing the phone with Big, and then he handed the phone to JZ to read, and gave him a look that said, “told you.”
“If your family is in America, why are you here?” asked JZ, and handed her his phone.
“I didn’t get what I wanted, so I took the opportunity to come here and teach,” she typed.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what didn’t you get?” JZ typed.
“The school that I applied to did not accept me, so I could not get a credential to teach students in America. The Chinese government does not require a teaching credential to teach English, since I am an American citizen, speak well, and I have a college degree, and I would be paid as the terms of the grant indicated. There were also some problems at home. Don’t ask about the problems at home,” she typed back.
“Are you getting what you want in China?” he typed back, afraid of what answer.
“I’m getting more than what I expected.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“There’s more bad than good, but I have to get the bad to also get the good.”
“Can I do anything to make it better for you?”
“I already told you. I’m waiting for you to prove it to me on Monday.”
“If I get all the staring and touching that I have for you tonight, and maybe tomorrow, I can restrain myself on Monday.”
She read it and typed something. When she handed it back, he held her hand then set the phone on the table, and kissed the back of her hand. Her face didn’t change and she tapped the phone. He read, “What you typed wasn’t romantic.”
He smiled and reread what he wrote. He got up and went to the fridge, while she took the phone and typed something. He put ice cream in two bowls and grabbed two spoons. He placed one bowl in front of her and one bowl in front of him. He fed her a spoon of ice cream and she smiled. He smiled. She tapped his phone and he read, “Don’t forget your other guests.” He chuckled and she slid her bowl to Big and handed him her spoon.
Big asked JZ in a girly voice, “Can you feed us a spoon, too?” and The Guys laughed.
JZ got Bigger a bowl of ice cream and a spoon then resumed feeding his angel. She was the only person he saw. She became a little embarrassed that The Guys were watching them. She turned her head away and some hair fell on her face. He gently pushed her hair back, and cupped her face with his hand. He caressed her soft, rosy cheek with his thumb and liked seeing her so shy and vulnerable when he touched her. He leaned in closer and closer, his lips closer and closer, and then, “SURPRISE!!” a large group of people shouted.