Elle woke up at 5am. She went to the restroom to rinse her mouth, wash her face and arms, and ran her fingers through her hair. Since no one was at work yet, it was a good time to leave before anyone saw her. She took her purse, wrapped herself with JZ’s blanket, and used his pillow to shield her chest and stomach as she walked to the subway station in the cool Beijing morning. She was tired but glad to be going home. Many people recognized her in the subway, others filmed and photographed her, but she did not care and ignored them. All she knew was that she felt great comfort having the blanket wrapped around her and the pillow at her chest. Three hours later, she was at home with no surprises. She showered and went to bed.
Meanwhile at the studio, everyone wanted to know what JZ did to Elle to make her cry and flee the building. Such drama was juicy and young bachelors placed bets on what JZ did and how long it would take for the girl to leave. When JZ arrived in the common area, everyone was already there waiting for him without his assistant sending a group text.
“Morning everyone,” he began announcing, “I know you’re wondering what I did to her. You don’t have to worry about it because I fixed it. She won’t be here today but she will be here tomorrow, so act friendly to her and don’t pry into her business. That’s all. Go to work.”
One Word pulled JZ to his workroom. “Were you truthful when you said you ‘fixed it’?”
“Yes I was. I talked to her last night. She gave me today to practice treating her better in the future.”
“How do you plan on doing that?”
“Looking at pictures of her, react the way I usually do, and correct myself.”
“Do you think that would work?”
“That’s the only thing I can come up with without going to her place right now and practicing in-person. Do you have any better ideas, old man?”
“No, but I do want to see you practice.”
“Can you not put on such a gleeful face?”
“No, because this will be really funny.”
JZ took out his phone and chose a picture of Elle writing on the mirror looking very focused. JZ’s eyes wandered from the top to the bottom of the image, and then back up and down. He took his hand and covered his eyes for a moment. Then he uncovered them and looked back at the picture. He looked in her eyes and caught himself staring at them, remembering how big, soft, brown, and fragile they were.
He covered and uncovered his eyes again. He looked at her lips and caught himself staring at them, too, remembering how soft they were and how she ate ice cream. Again, he covered and uncovered his eyes. He looked at her breasts, remembering how round they were and how much attention he got from glancing at them. He covered and uncovered his eyes. He looked at her neck, remembering the Afghan-style gold and ruby statement necklace that belonged around her neck but she rejected it. He covered and uncovered his eyes. He looked at her hair, remembering how silky it was and how fragrant it smelled. He covered and uncovered his eyes once again. He looked at her hand, remembered her soft thin skin on the back of her hand, hard and beat-up on the other side.
JZ looked up at One Word laughing silently, “I hope this works on the next picture.”
“Me too,” he replied, still laughing.
The next picture was of her entering the studio with New Guy but New Guy was cropped out. She was smiling and her hair flowing on one side of her head when a breeze blew by. Again, he was reminded of her silky, fragrant, flowing hair, leaving him two days ago. The breeze reminded him of her published poem and how clever she was. Her smile was not the same as the one he saw two days ago, but she was happy, a feeling he wanted to make her feel.
“This is going to be a long day,” he said to One Word. “If I can’t be in the same room with her without acting the way I have, I will have to lock myself far away from her to keep her here.”
One Word calmed himself down then comfortingly said, “Your strong desire to keep her here should motivate you to endure this obstacle.”
Meanwhile, CeeCee was with Hero and the musicians discussing what might have happened.
“I bet he touched her private places and she couldn’t handle it,” said Hero.
“That sounds plausible, seeing that he holds her hand a lot. She could just follow him instead, but he holds her hand so much. It’s not too far from holding her hand to a squeeze on the behind,” CeeCee supported.
“I saw that she began clutching her hands on her purse. Yesterday when JZ went to spend time with her, she brought her whiteboards with her. Everyone here knows they weren’t going to work on anything, so she brought the whiteboards so he couldn’t hold her hand.”
“Hmm…he could also threaten to buy her apartment complex and raise the rent. That way, she can’t afford to pay him and she would have to either live on the street or live with him, as we both know he offers,” said CeeCee.
“Ha-ha-ha, yeah, we know that too well. Have you been to his place?” Hero hinted.
“I have…have you?” CeeCee countered.
“I have. How did he do it with you?”
“He was nice at the beginning, pouring me wine and feeding me strawberries. Then he played a song on the piano, he said he wrote that was inspired by me. Then he kissed me, and the rest is history.”
“Wow, what a nice time. He and I were jamming; he was on the piano and I was playing my guitar. Then he played a song, he also said he wrote that was inspired by me, kissed me, and the rest is also history.”
The two of them looked at each other thinking the same thought with a serious face, then burst out laughing. They were talking and laughing hard at the same time, so hard that the other musicians, all were male, did not understand anything they said. Then New Guy popped in.
“Hi everyone,” he said. “What’s so funny?”
“They were comparing notes on JZ, and that happened,” said the drummer pointing his drumsticks at the two girls.
“Oh, was it funny?” asked New Guy.
The drummer looked at the other musicians, all were shaking their heads without interest. “No,” the drummer responded.
CeeCee stumbled over to New Guy and talked while she was still laughing hard. New Guy did not comprehend anything she said. “You know, CeeCee,” New Guy began, “for the two months I’ve known you, I’ve never seen you laugh like this before,” and was uncertain of what to do since she just rested her arms on his shoulder. He led her back to Hero, the two still laughing uncontrollably, and New Guy sat on the piano seat watching the two. After a short while, all the guys were laughing at CeeCee’s and Hero’s hard laughter.
Annoyed with all the laughter that was penetrating his concentration, Buzzy came into the music room and found them all laughing. He approached his intern and demanded to know what was so funny. New Guy pointed at CeeCee and Hero while laughing. Annoyed that he did not get an answer, Buzzy left the room angry.
One Word was in the hallway when he heard the hysterical laughter and popped in to the music room. He discovered everyone there was crying from laughter. “HEY!” he shouted. They all stopped laughing and looked at him. “What’s so funny?” he demanded.
“Uhhhhh…nothing…” answered Hero, not moving anything else.
“Go back to work,” he said sternly.
“Ok,” replied Hero.
When One Word was out of their view, they began laughing again. He poked his head back in, and everyone froze and stared at him. He paused for a moment then poked his head out again and everyone was containing their laughter.
After they were done laughing, the room was quiet. CeeCee asked the musicians what they thought JZ did to Elle. The drummer said, “He used his mouth the wrong way.”
Everyone except New Guy started laughing again. Recovering from laughter, CeeCee asked, “How did you get to that?”
The drummer, too, recovering from laughter replied, “A guy knows what another guy would do, especially if he is JZ and has JZ’s track record.” Everyone except New Guy laughed again. CeeCee, recovering, asked New Guy what he thought JZ did to Elle.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know either of them well enough to say what he might have done or what he might have said. I don’t think any of us know the girl well enough to determine her breaking point, or what could have triggered her breaking point.”
Everyone was quiet.
“Look at you, smarty pants,” said CeeCee rhetorically. Quickly turning to Hero, CeeCee asked, “What do you think about inviting Elle to come with us for girls’ night?”
“I don’t know…is she any fun?” she asked hesitantly.
“From my experience, she’s pretty serious, especially about work. But it looks like she needs some friends and some fun, things we can fix, right?”
Hero was still hesitant.
“Look at what her life has been like since JZ introduced her to China. She should be able to forget about all her woes while she’s with us, right?”
“Yay! We should get her a dress and some accessories.”
“Because she lives on Happiness Street.”
“Doesn’t that mean she already own dresses?”
“No, it doesn’t. I’ve seen where she lives and she needs a dress and accessories. Don’t you agree, New Guy?”
Uneasy that he was brought into a “girl” conversation, New Guy said, “I’ve seen where she lives, too, and I think CeeCee is right.”
Hero and the musicians had on a “what’s going on” face, wondering why he had been to Elle’s residence.
“If you can convince the other girls to split the bill, I’ll agree to it.”
“Great! Not a problem. Come with me, New Guy.”
“Just in case I need you.”
While CeeCee and New Guy were convincing the receptionist, JZ’s assistant, and another song-writer, the remaining members for girls’ night, Elle was awake and washing the blanket and pillow JZ lent her. She hung the blanket on her door of her walk-in shower and clipped the pillow on a make-shift clothesline along with her clothes. Then she took both of the dictionaries out and continued in the Chinese dictionary without disturbance.
With all the girls agreeing to purchase a dress and accessories for Elle, CeeCee and New Guy went shopping.
“Why am I shopping with you?” he questioned. “Couldn’t you get the other girls to go with you after work?”
“I could, but their styles would clash with my style. And since you don’t have any style, it’s best to bring you because you’re practically a clean slate.”
He sighed. “I need to go to Li and Tea House at 11:30 so I can get Buzzy’s lunch to him on-time. Otherwise he’d be really mad at me.”
“What’s he going to do to you? Glare at you? Not mentor you? Tell One Word or JZ on you? I was in that same room with you on Monday, so I know what you do all day.”
“Have a little respect for my insignificant duty.”
They both laughed.
“But seriously, it’s my job to get him his lunch and get it to him on-time.”
In an hour, CeeCee looked at about a hundred dresses in two department stores, while New Guy held CeeCee’s purse and watched her throw about a hundred dresses in two department stores.
“Let’s go, I need to order his lunch soon. We can come back after lunch. Aren’t you hungry?” New Guy said, trying to convince CeeCee to leave.
“But I’m on a roll,” she reasoned with determination in her voice.
“Come on, let’s get you something to eat to power you up.”
“But I’m on a roll,” she repeated.
“I’m leaving without you.”
She heard that and said, “Let’s go.”
“Why the change?”
“Because I knew that if you went to get his lunch alone, you’re not coming back.”
CeeCee and New Guy got Buzzy’s lunch to him on-time, and they went out to eat. They returned to six more department stores and looked at over 2,000 dresses and they still did not find what they were looking for. Riding the subway to the silver building next to the studio, New Guy asked CeeCee, “Do you know what the dress you are looking for looks like?”
“Sort of. I pictured it in sequin with-”
“I don’t need to know what it looks like. I ask because if you know what you are looking for, why not have it custom-made?”
“Because it’s really expensive, nobody has her measurements, and we won’t get it in time for girls’ night.”
“Oh,” he said, trying to sound sympathetic.
They arrived to the silver building next to the studio. “Good night,” they both said, and CeeCee continued up the stairs while New Guy went to the first floor.