They arrived at JZ’s costume makers’ office 35 minutes later.
“How are you feeling?” JZ kindly asked after parking the car.
“I need to go to the restroom and I need to drink more water,” she responded, hoping he would get the message. She unbuckled her seat belt, grabbed her purse from the backseat, and finished the water bottle before getting out of the car. “At least my vision is getting better,” she said to herself. “I can see the sidewalk and the stairs.” He held her hand and led her to the office.
“Would you like me to carry you up the stairs?” he kindly asked.
“I can see the stairs,” she replied.
He led her up the stairs and opened the door for her to enter first. “Hey,” both Xiao Xing and Mike said, first in a high tone then in a low tone when they saw her face. “What did you do to her?” Xiao Xing asked a little surprised.
“She had an allergic reaction to something she ate,” he simply replied. “She’ll be fine. By the way, can she use your restroom?”
“Of course! What a silly question to ask,” said Xiao Xing, sounding relieved. “Your hair looks great!” she said to Elle as she escorted her.
“Is it just me or does something out of the ordinary always happens when you two are around?” Mike asked jokingly.
“Nothing out of the ordinary happens when we’re around. It’s like she has never been treated like this before,” JZ replied half jokingly. He paused and noticed a blue flair floating behind Mike’s legs. “Is this it?” he asked. Mike took a step to the side, and JZ was looking over the simplicity of the design with the intriguing colors.
With Elle out of the restroom, Mike said, “Don’t just stand there, come over here and take a look at the dress.”
JZ led Elle to the mannequin. “So pretty …” said Elle, as she gently ran her fingertips over the dress and admiring the craftsmanship. “You were right, Xiao Xing. His parents will like this dress a lot.”
Everyone laughed. “The way she’s looking at it, this dress isn’t just for my parents,” said JZ, smiling at the radiance on his angel.
“We’re very happy to see you both so happy,” responded Xiao Xing, smiling at her husband. “What are you waiting for? Go try it on!” she cheerfully.
“Right,” said Elle. She examined at the dress with a finger on her chin. “How do I take it off?” she asked a little embarrassed.
“Just pull it up,” said Mike in English.
“It’s a little tall,” she said, sizing up the mannequin, “JZ, can you take it for me?” she asked in sweet voice.
“She’s doesn’t sound this nice when we’re alone,” JZ said, jokingly, and both Mike and Xiao Xing laughed. They held each other’s hands tightly as they waited for JZ to lift the dress from the shoulders. He lifted it and held it by the shoulders. She took it from him and held it against the front of her body to see the length of it against her legs. She felt someone poke her. “What?” she asked and followed JZ’s finger pointing at the mannequin.
“It looks amazing,” Elle said in English, admiring her design and its outcome. “It looks quite tasteful. Do you think he’ll like it?”
“See for yourself,” replied Mike with a chuckle.
She saw that JZ was looking back and forth at the bra and panty set and at Elle’s body. She stood in front of the mannequin facing JZ. “Do you like it?” she asked in a sweet voice, knowing the answer.
“I really like it,” he kindly responded. When he looked at her, he saw her smile back at him like she was thinking about dessert.
Elle turned to Mike. “I can take this off,” she said pointing at the bra, “but how do I take this off?” she asked pointing at the panty.
“It’s easy enough,” said Mike. He twisted the waist off, placed it on the messy table, and lifted the mannequin from the waist end and slightly tilted the feet in JZ’s direction. “JZ, can you slip it off?”
JZ inserted his index finger into the waistband and slipped it right off. He swung the panty in a few circles on his finger, and then held it with two fingers in front of Elle’s face. She was not amused.
“Mike, can you tell him that he was so well-behaved earlier and I don’t like how he’s acting now?”
“Of course.” Mike translated.
“Really?” JZ asked, like it was immature of Elle to get upset over that. “Did she say what it was that made her so offended?”
“No, but I’ll ask.” Mike translated.
“I know I’m not thin like all of his previous girlfriends, and none of the clothes in this country fits me,” Elle said, calm and a little sad, looking away.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Mike translated.
JZ was very surprised. He grabbed her arms and spun her to face him. She looked away. He looked into her eyes and saw that she was trying to hold her tears. “I’m really sorry, baby. I don’t think you’re fat. I think you’re perfect. You’re much prettier than all the other girls.” He embraced her tightly in his arms.
“Tell him not to wrinkle the dress! Tell him not to wrinkle the dress!” she said with great urgency.
Mike translated with the same urgency. JZ quickly took a step back. “I’m very sorry, baby. I’ve always thought you were perfect. I won’t do that anymore.” He cupped his hands around her face, his thumbs caressing her cheeks, wiping away her negative thoughts that were released from her sad, brown eyes.
“I’m really sorry, baby. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Please don’t be so sad.” He yanked the dress from her loose fingers, and threw it along with the panty at Xiao Xing. Then he tightly embraced her in his arms.
“I don’t want to go to dinner with your parents anymore. I want to go home,” she quietly said but as clear as possible.
He let go of her but held her hands and quietly asked, “Why? What can I say or do to change your mind?”
“What did he say since the first apology?” she asked Mike a little choked up.
“He called me ‘baby’ like I’m a helpless infant?” she asked with a little anger in her voice.
Mike’s eyes widened and he put his in front of him as if he was signaling Elle to slow down or stop. “No, no, no, no, no. It’s a term of endearment. It can be translated as ‘baby’ or ‘darling.’ For example, baby, you look ravishing tonight, or darling, have I ever told you your eyes shine brighter than the stars on a clear night?” he said desperately like he was trying to save JZ’s life.
“Oh,” her voice softened. “Tell him if his words were truthful, I will go.”
“Of course I was truthful. I’m still working on being the best that I can be and it’s all because of you. Will you forgive me for my thoughtless action?”
“What did he say, Mike?”
Elle looked at his face, and saw that he was sincere. “See girl? He didn’t intend to hurt you. He won’t do that again. His face is both sad and concerned. Clearly, he’s affected,” Elle said to herself. “I forgive you,” she said quietly, “and I will go to dinner with your parents.”
JZ’s face lit up and he had the biggest smile she ever saw on him. He wrapped his arms around her, lifted her up, and spun her around and around.
“Put me down!” she yelled. “Put me down!”
He put her down. Her eyes were tightly closed and her head was down with her hands tightly gripping her head. “Tell him he made my dizziness worse,” she said in an angry voice.
“I’m really sorry, baby.” JZ gently rubbed her arm and she pushed him hard, so hard that he took a couple of steps back to regain his balance. “How are you so strong? And you’re only using your left hand,” JZ said, astonished.
“Take this advice,” Mike said to JZ. “Don’t make her madder than she already is. The angrier she is, the stronger she is. She can probably crush your car into a cube like one of those machines at a junkyard at this moment,” Mike said, trying to stay as calm as possible. “By the way, what kind of allergic reaction makes people dizzy?”
When Xiao Xing saw that Elle was a bit better, she went to her and kindly said, “Let’s go to the restroom and you can wash up?” Elle went with her.
“Can I be in here by myself?” Elle quietly asked.
“Of course,” Xiao Xing replied quietly and closed the door from the outside.
JZ went toward Mike and asked him quietly with skepticism and a little bit of fear, “Don’t mess with me at a time like this. She can’t really crush my car. It takes a lot of power to crush any car, certainly not by someone so small like her.”
“Yeah, she can. One time when I was still dating Xiao Xing, there was a really annoying new client who kept changing her mind about an evening gown always after Xiao Xing had already made it. This went on for about a month, because I was working with her on every dress. When the client finally agreed to a dress it was one that another dressmaker made. When Xiao Xing asked the client to reimburse her and her employees for time, labor, and materials, she wouldn’t agree to it! Then Xiao Xing demanded it from her. ‘It was only fair,’ she reasoned. You know Xiao Xing is a very nice and easy-going person, but if she’s demanding something, she had had enough. The client denied her demand. I’ve never seen her so mad. She stormed out of the office and jumped on the hood of the client’s car, and then punched the windshield with her bare fist. There were cracks in the windshield from just one punch. By then the client chased after her. She was yelling, ‘What the something are you doing?!’ and Xiao Xing asked her, ‘Are you ready to reimburse me and my employees?’ The client yelled, ‘Are you crazy?’ Xiao Xing took her pocketknife from her pocket and wrote, ‘Stingy bitch’ on the car, then asked again, ‘Are you ready to reimburse me and my employees?’ The client didn’t respond, so she continued writing on the car, all around the car, ‘has 5 billion Yuan and refuses to reimburse,’ until the client got into her car. Xiao Xing saw that and stabbed the tire. It didn’t deflate fast enough, so she slashed it and slashed another one. The client could only get half of her car out of the parking spot, so she got out of her car, and it looked like she was going to attack Xiao Xing. Xiao Xing pointed her knife at the client and gave her a stare like she’s calling her bluff. The client backed away, then Xiao Xing resumed writing, ‘me and my employees,’ when the client pushed Xiao Xing, and she fell. Xiao Xing quickly got up and grabbed her hair and cut it, then grabbed her shirt and slashed it, then pushed her and she fell onto the street. Xiao Xing resumed writing, ‘for 20 dresses she had us make in 1 month.’ Thank goodness none of our neighboring businesses called the police.”
“Did this really happen?” JZ asked, not believing everything in the story.
“Yes, it did. That’s one reason why I never argue with her unless it’s about something really important or life-changing, and I do everything she asks or tells me to do.”
“What are the other reasons why you never argue with her?”
“There’s only one other reason: because I love her with all of my heart. Because I love her so much…if she’s not happy, I’m not happy. Therefore, my goal is to make her happy. Our quality of life is so much better when she’s happy.”
“Is that really true?”
“Yes. Well, her happiness isn’t all that I focus on. I want to protect her and provide her everything she needs and wants. These are qualities every man should have. You still look very skeptical. If you don’t believe me reflect on your time with her. Ask yourself in each situation you both were in, ‘Is she happy? Am I happy?’ If you realize that both of you have the same answer for each situation, then you should keep dating her, however, if you realize that both of you have different answers, then you should not waste your time from finding a wife and her time for a husband.”
They heard the click from the changing stall in the corner of the office. JZ, Mike, and Xiao Xing faced the opened stall door. Elle step out. Both Mike and Xiao Xing clapped with smiles on their faces, while JZ gazed at his radiant angel in the seamlessly-striped cobalt and sapphire wrap dress that perfectly fit her. It was not too tight and not too loose. The neckline is not too low. The shoulder straps were the perfect width, showing a bit more than her shoulder and sternum. It ended above the knees, showing off her athletic, smooth, white calves.
“You look so beautiful!” Xiao Xing said happily. “Do you like it?”
“Yes, I really like it. It fits so well and I’m very comfortable wearing it,” she said smiling from ear to ear and looking at the skirt of her dress. “Everything fits so well. Thank you so much for making this for me,” Elle said with great appreciation and joy. She started crying. “It’s so hard when none of the clothes in the store fit, and this is so perfect.” She went and gave Xiao Xing a really big hug. “Thank you so much,” she said quietly.
“Mike, get Elle some tissues,” said Xiao Xing. She leaned Elle back a bit and said, “I almost forgot. JZ’s assistant dropped these off earlier today,” she said and went toward the window.
JZ came toward Elle, taking the tissue from Mike on the way, and gently wiped her tears of joy. “Do you think your parents will like it?” Elle asked him. He nodded his head. “What are his eyes saying? They resemble his bedroom eyes, but he doesn’t have the extra something to be his bedroom eyes,” she said to herself.
“Do you like it?” Elle asked JZ. He nodded his head again.
“Why aren’t you saying anything?”
“Words cannot accurately describe your immense beauty. I didn’t think you could get any more beautiful than you were in my suite yesterday, and then again at the restaurant earlier today, but you do. All I can do is gaze at you and admire your beauty,” he romantically said with his naturally melodic voice. He gazed deeply at her big, brown, soft, vulnerable, and joyful eyes with an unexpected, un-identifying characteristic. He cupped his hands around her round face, bent his neck, and kissed her slowly and passionately, making sure she understood what he had just said.
He parted his lips from hers, his face still close to hers, his eyes staring at her soft, perfectly pink lips. She looked into his eyes and whispered, “Not enough.” He slightly smiled and kissed her again making sure she had her fill. His hands slid down her neck, then on her back, pushing her body close to his. Her hands were on his strong triceps, then on his protruding biceps, then on his tight pectoral muscles. Her breathing quickened loudly. Her hands moved toward the center of his chest, then “SHIIIIIK!” Their lips quickly parted and their eyes moved to his smooth bare chest and saw her hands gripped his shirt.
“Oops, sorry,” she quietly said, and giggled. She quickly took her hands back and felt her face burn up. She fanned herself but it did not work. He took her hand and pressed it over his heart. She felt each of his rapid beats send a signal through her palm, up her arm, and to her own rapidly beating heart. She stared at his large hand entirely covering hers, and she bit her lip. Then she looked up at his kind and gentle face that said, “I’m letting you feel what I know I feel from you.”
Both JZ and Elle turned and looked at Xiao Xing wiping her nose. “Sorry, that was me,” said Mike. Xiao Xing handed Mike the red paper bag she was holding. He walked over toward the couple, not wanting to interrupt them, but his wife wanted him to so he did it. “This is for you,” Mike said in English and presenting it to Elle with both hands. “JZ’s assistant dropped it off earlier.”
“What is it and why did she drop it off here?” she asked and accepted it with both hands.
“We didn’t look. She told us JZ sent her to buy these things for you,” Mike answered with a hint of secrecy like he knew she would like it.
“I don’t need more stuff,” she said in English to Mike, then turned to JZ and said, “I don’t need more things.”
“Open the boxes and you’ll like me again,” JZ said jokingly.
“I will not open them,” she said and slipped his hands under the handles.
“Why do you have to be so stubborn? It’s only us. You don’t need to be so polite,” said JZ feeling like he already had this conversation.
“What time is it?”
He looked at his watch and said, “Five fifty-five.”
“What time are we meeting your parents?”
“Aiya! We need to go quickly!” she exclaimed and pushed JZ away from the changing stall’s door, then closed it.
“I can call them and tell them to meet us at eight o’clock.”
“Mike, tell him if he postpones the dinner, I won’t go.”
Mike translated. He pulled JZ away from the stall and quietly said, “Meeting your parents is obviously important to her. The reason why she doesn’t want to postpone the dinner is because she doesn’t want to make your parents wait. If they wait, they will assume it is her who is causing the delay. So you must get her there earlier than she needs to be.”
JZ thought about it. “Alright-” he began, and heard the stall click open.
“Pay them then give me your keys,” Elle ordered and sped to the restroom with her head as still as possible.
Xiao Xing went into the stall and retrieved the clothes.
“How much are they?” he asked looking at both of them.
Mike looked at Xiao Xing for an answer.
“Nothing,” she said simply, putting the dress in a clear plastic dry-cleaner’s bag with the hanger’s hook at the top.
“Nothing?” JZ asked astonishingly.
“Did you see her? She was brought to tears because she felt really good with what she wore and knew she looked really good in it. I could tell that it’s been a very long time since she felt so good. Consider it a gift from us.”
“I can’t leave here without paying. You heard her.”
“When you have your child with her, name it after one of us. If I hadn’t sneeze, she would be pregnant, wouldn’t she?” she joked.
“My parents won’t-” they heard the restroom door open, “Quick, take my credit card and charge something,” and pointed the credit card at her. She took it and only held it.
He turned around and faced Elle, and she ordered, “Go,” pointing to the restroom. He handed her his keys on his way there. “She’s so bossy,” he thought and smiled.
Elle went toward Xiao Xing and Mike, “Thank you so much for making everything on such short notice,” Elle said in English but to both Xiao Xing and Mike. “Clearly you two are the best. With excellent craftsmanship like this, it’s no wonder he took me here,” she added with a big smile on her face.
“Can I hug you guys?” she asked in English.
“Of course!” Xiao Xing answered and laughed. They hugged. When they were done, Xiao Xing said, “We’re giving you the clothes as a gift!” and smiled.
Elle had a very awkward face and asked awkwardly, “Did she say you guys are giving me the clothes as a gift?”
“Yes,” Mike answered.
Elle gasped and had a surprised face but they quickly disappeared. “I can’t take them. It’s too much.”
Mike laughed. “What do you mean ‘it’s too much?’ Why can’t you take them?”
“I can’t take them knowing how much work you both put in and all the trouble you both went through working on Sunday.”
“We’re both really happy knowing they have such a wonderful owner. Don’t worry about us. Take them,” said Xiao Xing.
“Can I at least work for you guys to repay you for your troubles?” Elle asked in English.
Both Xiao Xing and Mike laughed like they did not believe they were hearing that. “Thanks for the kind offer, but it’s alright. We want you to have them,” Xiao Xing said smiling.
“Really?” Elle asked and smiling broadly.
“Really,” Xiao Xing assured and nodded her head.
Elle’s face showed sheer excitement, and she laughed as she hugged both of them again. Elle heard the restroom door click open and she ran to JZ in a few large steps and jumped at him with a huge smile on her face. He caught her, losing his balance and took a few steps back, bumping Elle’s knees against the sink.
“Why are you so happy?” he asked.
“Mike and Xiao Xing are giving me the clothes as a gift!” she said excitedly and gave him a big, wet kiss.
“I’m very happy for you, baby,” he said smiling at her overwhelming joy.
She giggled. “Put me down,” she said happily, and held his hand and dragged him to the other couple. Elle put on a more serious face and asked Mike, “Can I really have it?”
Mike laughed. “For the last time, you can really have it,” he said with a smile.
“Thank you so much!” Elle cheerfully said again, and hugged them again.
“Thanks guys,” JZ said. “You’ve made her so happy, and right now, that’s all I want,” he said and hugged them also.
“It was our pleasure,” replied Xiao Xing as she handed him his credit card back.
“Thanks,” he said, “I’ll let you know if she expects my child,” he added jokingly.
Xiao Xing, Mike, and JZ laughed, then they saw Elle’s face, eyebrows up, eyes wide looking up at JZ. Elle turned to Mike with her most serious face and a switch of tone, “Did I hear him correctly?”
“W-w-what did you hear exactly?” Mike replied nervously.
“‘I’ll let you know if she expects my child,’” she said in a low and tense tone.
“W-w-well you have to know the context first, before you get upset. You see-” Mike responded nervously.
“I’m not asking about context. I’m asking if I heard him correctly. Now, did I hear him correctly?” she demanded in a low and tense voice and gave him the evil eye.
“Um…yes, but he was joking,” he said rapidly and smiled nervously.
Elle said in her calmest tone at the moment, “I’m sorry to both you and Xiao Xing for leaving so rudely, so please excuse me,” and gave JZ her death stare. “I’m driving,” she announced in Mandarin and left for the door with clenched fists.
JZ sped past her and blocked the door with his body. “I’m really sorry, baby. I honestly don’t know what you’re so upset about.”
Elle gave him the death stare again and he did not move from the door, so she went toward the window, climbed on the counter and with a bent knee, placed her foot near the window as if she was going to break the window. She glared at him and angrily said, “I am going out,” and counted in her head, “One…two…”
JZ knew that if she were to kick the window, she would risk injuring herself and jump about two meters, also risking another injury. He turned the doorknob and opened the door. Elle got down from the counter and walked to the door with her fists clenched. She exited the office and got into the driver’s side.
“Quick, grab her stuff and take them to JZ before she drives off,” Xiao Xing said to Mike. She grabbed the dress while he grabbed the red bag. They caught up with JZ just getting into the passenger side and asked, “I’m really sorry, baby. Tell me what I said wrong and I’ll fix it. How can I fix something if I don’t know what’s wrong with it?”
Xiao Xing quickly handed the dress, and took the bag from Mike and quickly handed that to him, too. “Bye!” both Xiao Xing and Mike said and waved. Elle sped off.
“Why does this guy make it so hard to defend him?” Mike whispered to Xiao Xing rhetorically.