[Previously in 4/5]
[JZ exited his suite and saw a sliver of his clothes past the wall to the dead end and went there hoping to find Elle. “Hey Elle,” he said, sounding like he wanted to tell her something important but also exciting. “Let me introduce you to my parents.”
She shook her head furiously with an unapproving expression.
He nodded his head furiously with the excitement of winning persistence.
“You want me to meet your parents when I’m wearing your clothes and not wearing a bra?” she asked in an angry tone and trying to keep her voice down.]
“It’s not the ideal moment, but I still want you to meet them,” he answered with an awkward smile. JZ felt a poke on his back and he turned around. “Mom, dad,” he said as he led them a step closer to view Elle, “let me introduce you to Elle. She’s my newest songwriter, and before that, she was a published poet. Soon, she’ll be returning to teach English to first graders. Elle, this is my mom, Mrs. Li. This is my dad, Mr. Zhong.”
“Hello,” she friendly greeted the aged woman with black streaks in her silver hair wearing a plum pantsuit, and the balding aged man in a light gray suit, white shirt, and plum tie, with a smile.
Ignoring what JZ said, “Why are your arms crossed like that?” his mother fired in an icy tone.
“Because she’s cold,” JZ quickly answered.
“She doesn’t look cold.”
“It’s probably a nervous habit.”
“Why isn’t she answering my question?” still staring at Elle.
“Because she came here recently, so she doesn’t know a lot of Mandarin.”
“She doesn’t know much Mandarin and you hired her as a songwriter.”
“She makes up for it in the English she does know. She’s college-educated.”
“She looks Chinese. What kind of minority is she?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t asked her yet.”
“Why is she dressed like a bad egg?” still staring at Elle.
“Because her clothes got dirty so I let her borrow mines.”
“Did she know her clothes were going to get dirty?”
“Why did you make our family look bad by not buying her clothes?”
“She insisted on returning to her apartment to change into her own clothes, but she has been very busy so she hasn’t had a chance yet.”
“That’s all the more reason to buy her clothes. I’ve taught you this. And I know she has been busy with you; that’s the kind you like, so she’s a bad egg.”
“Mom, she’s not a bad egg; she’s a really hardworking-”
“Who is this? Her lover?” looking at Elle’s companion.
JZ turned to the person and saw New Guy; New Guy turned around to face the interrogator, then both JZ and New Guy simultaneously waved their hands in front of their chests, continuously shook their heads and repeatedly said “no.” Elle seeing this strange occurrence, also shook her head and said, “no,” though not very convincingly. JZ’s mother does not look very convinced, either.
“I’m just an intern and nothing more, Lady Li,” New Guy said, not desiring to be in the middle of this. “Please excuse me,” he said and trodded to the suite trying not to look like he was fleeing for his life.
“I don’t know why you are chasing after these whores to make us look bad. Go marry a good girl from a good family or I will find one for you,” staring her son down, even though she was a head shorter than him.
“Mom, Elle is not a whore and she is a very good girl. She’s making me a better man.”
“She is making you a better man by practicing, right?”
“No, she and I are not together yet.”
“I saw you carrying her into an ambulance and I saw you carrying her into your car on TV. You wouldn’t carry an ordinary girl like that.”
“The relationship between me and her is a little complicated and I want to make it less complicated the next time I see you and dad.”
“Oh, now there’s going to be a ‘next time.’ Do you plan on marrying her?”
“I don’t know right now but I would consider it when I know more about her.”
“Can she give us a grandson? How will she nurse with fake breasts?”
JZ looked at Elle’s chest. Elle gave him a look that said, “Why are you looking at me there in front of your parents?” He looked back at his mother and said in an appeasing tone, “I don’t know if she can give you a grandson, and I don’t think her breasts are fake.”
“She’s small but her breasts are big. She’s going against nature.”
“That may be in her genes. I haven’t met her parents yet.”
“Why are you defending her like you’re defending her life? Maybe you consider her life more important than your parents’. We’ll stay to sing ‘happy birthday’ to you and see you cut the cake, and then we’re leaving.”
“No, don’t leave so early. You must spend the night in my suite. My bed is much better than any bed you’ll lay on at any hotel.”
“You want us to stay in your suite, the one with all the drunk and noisy people?”
“I can tell them to leave.”
“You’re going to make us look bad by telling your guests – who planned this party for you, who had to travel far to celebrate your birthday – to leave. Where are your manners? I knew this whore was a bad child with her fake breasts, shady background, and trashy reputation.”
JZ was speechless. One Word then came and said enthusiastically, “We’re going to start singing ‘happy birthday’ to the birthday boy!” pretending like he did not hear anything.
JZ tightly embraced Elle when his parents began reentering the suite. His mother felt that her son was not following her, looked back and saw him kiss the whore on the head. She glared at Elle, then proceeded into the suite as planned. Elle stepped back to looked at the suite’s door, but his parents were already in the suite. As they walked back to the suite, he held her scar-filled hand and added another one on her life line.
Once they were in, JZ led Elle to the cake and everyone began to sing “happy birthday.” After they finished, he blew off the candles that made the number 36, faced Elle, held her in his arms and gave her a slow and passionate kiss on the lips with cheering and clapping in the background. The boisterous noises quickly ceased as they watched the anticipated kiss continue moments after it was supposed to end. He said everything he wanted in that kiss, “I will protect you with all my strength.” When he was done, he saw her big, brown, soft, vulnerable, joyful, and tender eyes that kept on evolving. Her cheeks were red, not in shyness, but in passion. Her smile finally showed him that she accepted his affection and wanted more of it. He bent down to kiss her again, but loud applause stopped him.
He laughed it off and stole a glance at his offended parents, especially his mother. He cut two generous slices of cake and placed it on the plates Elle had held. With a spoon tucked under each slice, JZ and Elle each handed one plate to his parents with both their hands and smiling. For Elle, it was a peace-offering; for JZ, it was a statement of defiance.
JZ then led Elle back to the cake and resumed cutting the cake and handing them out. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves except for JZ’s parents. When everyone received a slice of cake, Elle took the last slice and fed him a spoonful. He took the two dining chairs and placed them face-to-face. He held her hand around one of the chairs and she sat. He then sat on the other one and she continued to feed him more cake. He took a spoon and fed her a piece of cake, but she shook her head. “There’s egg in the cake,” she said loudly over the boisterous guests, “I don’t eat eggs.” He was a little disappointed but accepted her strict vegetarianism. She took the spoon from him and fed him, and he smiled at her happy face.