AAE AUTUMN’S DELIGHT
Written by: Jamie
In a warm summer’s night in the month of June, Zhan Shan Mei had just left BBC building, the place she had been training and working for the past two months. It’s almost 7.00 in the evening but the night was still as bright as day. When winter comes, she mused, it would probably be the reverse, long night and short day. She was dressed in pastel blue jacket and pencil skirt. The tube should not be so crowded now as it was almost over the peak hours. She thought as she walked slowly towards White City Station. She was staying in a two rooms apartment near Ealing Broadway, the accommodation provided by MBS.
The working environment in London was challenging and different, for one, the majority of her colleagues were English and do not speak a single word of Korean. Her grasp on spoken English had improved tremendously over the past two months. As a special correspondent for MBS in London, she had to coordinate closely with BBC’s television crew. The crewmembers were young and friendly. They would go for drink in the pub every Thursday night. SM didn’t mind joining them, it was no harm when they went out as a group. She would be isolated and alone if she did not socialize.
“Lousy, sneaky Xue Zhang.” She muttered under her breath. He had to wait till the eleventh hour before proposing to her. By then, it was a bit too late to back out from the decision as a special correspondent in London. When she arrived in London, his engagement ring was fitted securely on her middle finger. After the initial joy at his proposal, she grew increasingly dismay when he started dropping heavy hints about the other women in his life. With all the beautiful newscasters and actresses flocking around him, and with NOTHING to indicate her claim on him, he was free to do as he liked. He had so smugly placed his ring on her finger, and then so cleverly hinted in their telephone conversations how beautiful and competent the newscaster replacing Xu Ying Mei was, as if he was regretting his impulsive action proposing to her.
In her anger, she was tempted to donate the engagement ring when she passed by Oxfam one day. So he was starting to have second thoughts was he? Why couldn’t he reveal to her his reluctance to let her go? He had to act so noble. She wrinkled her nose, making a face at the imaginary Xiang Zhe in annoyance. Then chuckled to herself as she recalled the events leading up to the day she lied to him over the loss of the engagement ring.
“Shan Mei, would you like to go for a football match this Saturday? We are doing live coverage for the match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. It’s a home match for MU, the crew will be traveling to Old Trafford.” Peter asked SM after they had completed recording their programs.
SM’s eyes lighted with interest. A football match at Old Trafford, that’s splendid! She had never watch one live before. She was a MU fan, and Ryan Giggs was her hero. She liked the way he chased the ball around, how fast and balanced he was, his run in lightning speed, as if his legs were made of elastic; and the way he beat those defenders was just so exciting to watch. She hoped Alex Ferguson was going to play him for the Saturday match.
“I’d love to come, Peter, thank you for inviting me.” She smiled delightedly. SM’s smile captivated him from the first day they met. He had never seen a girl with such a radiant and sweet smile he just couldn’t help staring.
“What plans have you got tomorrow?” XZ asked SM over the phone. He knew she had been lonely in London. It’s been a month since she left Seoul. She had tried to conceal her tears from him, flashing him her patented smile as she waved at him before walking towards the departure gate. He knew as soon as she turned, her eyes would be blinded by tears, his guess must had been right for she nearly bumped into a middle-age couple.
“I am traveling to Old Trafford with the crew tomorrow. Peter invited me and you know I adore Ryan Giggs!” He could hear her excitement over the prospect of watching her favorite football team playing. XZ frowned thoughtfully. Peter’s name kept popping up in their conversation and he was getting a bit jealous. He had to scheme up something to take her attention away from another guy.
“Oh, I will be going away with the Good Morning Eve crew too. As you know, the presenter Ma Xiu Wen is performing well and the viewing rate is rising steadily. I am rewarding them with a trip to Cheju Island, we will be staying the night there.”
XZ told her a white lie, crossing his fingers. He had been working 18 hours a day since she left, hoping to complete three months’ job in two. His father was promoting him to the position of Executive Director in MBS, he had to undergo six month’s on the job training at BBC. SM was not aware of this arrangement. He wanted to surprise her. The month away from her had been too long; he missed her dreadfully.
XZ was glued to the sofa, his eyes fixing on the TV screen. He was watching the live coverage between Manchester United and Totenham Hotspur. The excitement of the match was entirely lost on him. His gaze was searching eagerly for the sunny figure of his fiancée. About fifteen minutes after kicked-off, SM’s face appeared before the TV screen, she had braided her hair, and was wearing a short-sleeve red T-shirt, matching it with a pair of Levis blue jeans. She was cheering for MU, jumping up and down, clapping her hands in excitement, her joy obvious. Her excitement was so contagious the sports commentator commented,
“Well, we can be sure which team this radiant oriental lady supports!” He chuckled in amusement.
XZ’s eyes popped out when he noticed SM wasn’t wearing his engagement ring. Throughout the match, he was fuming, his mind conjuring up all the possible reasons why SM was not wearing his ring.
SM’s handphone rung the moment the match was over, it was XZ. Without further ado, XZ questioned her over the matter of the ring. SM’s almond shaped eyes rounded in amazement, how did he know? Didn't he mentioned he was in Cheju Island today?
“Xue Zhang..” she began mournfully.
“Shan Mei, tell me the truth, why are you not wearing my ring?” XZ asked anxiously.
“I’ve .... errr... lost the ring you gave me, it dropped off my fingers…” SM held her handphone away from her and waited.
“WHAT???” XZ shouted down the telephone line.
“It’s too loose, and it fell off my finger. I didn’t notice until I got home…”
SM continued pitifully, her fingers crossing behind her back. If SM had been right in front of him, he would wring her beautiful neck. How could she be so careless over the ring he had so painstakingly selected for her?
XZ sounded so upset SM almost relented
and blurted out the truth. The thought of his other women, in particular Ma Xiu
Wen appeared just on cue to stop her. Let him stew a bit. She squashed the
rising guilt she was feeling.
“I thought you are in Cheju Island today, are you having fun with your team?” SM asked.
“Oh…yes, yes, of course.” The bombshell she had just dropped blew the thought of his own lies away.
“About the ring, SM….” XZ began.
“Xue Zhang, I can’t hear you properly, it’s too noisy here, I will call you later.” She quickly hung up the phone, and stuck out a tongue at the handphone as if that was XZ.
The atmosphere in Old Trafford was just astonishing. They won 3-1 at home and it was so different watching a live match at the awesome stadium. She estimated the crowd to be around 61,000 today. Manchester United had clinched the Premier League trophy again this season. That made it three consecutive years. The trophy would be presented in today’s match and MU fans were dancing, cheering and singing with joy. Waving MU’s banner of red, white and black crazily in celebration. The players were now running around the field, holding up the trophy with immense pride with their manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.
“So you are the radiant oriental cutie our camera captured earlier.” Bryan Smith, the sports commentator for BBC came over to greet SM. He had driven over to Old Trafford with a guess commentator Emile Hughes earlier. But would be returning with the BBC crew.
“How do you do? It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Smith, my name is Shan Mei.” SM bent her head slightly to acknowledge his greeting.
“Your smile is so bright it captivated me, it made me forget my age and I feel thirty years younger.” Bryan Smith complimented SM. He was one of the top football commentators in BBC in his late forties. They chatted for a while before Peter Gates ran over.
“SM, Ryan Giggs is over there, let’s go and introduce ourselves to him.” True to his words, SM spotted Ryan Giggs at the opposite side of the road. She excused herself from Bryan, following Peter with a half run towards Ryan Giggs.
“Hi Ryan, I am Peter Gates from BBC and this is our special correspondent from Korea, Ms. Zhen Shan Mei.” Ryan Giggs was a talented left-winger for Manchester United with short curly black hair.
“A pleasure to meet you.” Ryan smiled politely.
“I like to watch you play though I do not understand the game, when a player is offside and so on. But my eyes refuse to blink as soon as you win the ball under your feet, you move like lightning, surfing to the left and the right, just as if the ball is glued to your feet.” SM couldn’t stop talking chirpily as soon as she opened her mouth to address Ryan Giggs.
“Thank you, Shan Mei.” Ryan laughed heartily, retrieving a new red jersey from his car and handed it to SM.
“A gift for such a lovely sweet young lady.” He said before waving them goodbye.
“Wow, that’s unfair, why do you get a jersey and I don’t?” Peter shook his blond head helplessly.
“It’s a No. 11 shirt with Giggs printed at the back, wait till I relate this to Xue Zhang, he will be so envious.”
SM exclaimed with a giggle. Thinking of XZ brought back those guilty feelings, when had she become so vindictive? She hit both sides of her forehead lightly with the bottom of her palms.
“Aiyo, what am I going to do?” She jabbed both hands between her breasts, knitted her brows together in a disturbed frown.
XZ paced back and forth his apartment like a caged tiger. His scheme had miserably backfired on him. He could never predict what happened next with his mischievous imp. All his planning and scheming went awry where she was concerned. He remembered the day he had cracked his head on a way to propose, watching TV and romantic movies like Pretty Woman to get some ideas. When he finally got the opportunity to propose on Yong Xi and Xian Da’s wedding, she had to spoil it for him, breaking the news that she would like to take up the assignment as a special correspondent in London.
He was so upset, rubbing his fingers against his temple in frustration. Letting her loose in London was such a bad idea. She wouldn’t know how to protect herself from wolves the likes of Peter Gates, he thought broodingly.
He had better speed up his work progress so that he could join her in London. He picked up the phone again and put through a call to Fr. William Franks.
XZ pushed the trolley containing his luggages out of the arrival area in Heathrow Airport. He would take the underground train from Heathrow Airport to Ealing Broadway Station. He had not informed SM of his arrival, she had no idea he would sprung such a surprise on her and more.
When he sat down on the cushioned seat of the train, he tried to imagine how SM would react when she realized he was the occupant of the apartment next to hers. XZ’s heartbeats quicken alarmingly at the thought of seeing his fiancée again. He had abandoned the ‘other women act’ the past month, concentrating in sweet-talking her with honey-coated words. It was obvious the ‘other women’ scheme’ didn’t meet with the desired effect; instead he was the one who nearly suffered from a heart attack.
He had visited the same jewelry shop the next day, purchasing a diamond and sapphire eternity ring for his angel. He had also included two plain silver bands for their engagement rings. He could still recall their arguments that night after SM returned home from the Manchester match.
“It wasn’t as if it was an engagement ring, I was wearing a ring but you are just free to date anybody in my absence.” She voiced out her objections over that arrangement.
“So that’s it, you are jealous!” He said with a pleased smile.
“I am not jealous!” She denied, “ I just do not feel it’s fair when I am bound by your proposal and you are not.” She pouted over the other end. (If only XZ could see her, she was sitting on the chair of her dining table, hitting her right temple with the palm of her hand in frustration. She was compounding her sins arguing with him, even if it was true, the fact remained she had lied to him, and that offending ring was lying smugly on the dining table, she felt as if it was now staring at her in mockery.)
“You are assuming I am not acting like an engaged man?”
“I am the only one wearing the ring!”
“You didn’t give me one.” He protested, claiming his innocence.
“You didn’t allow me any time to get you one!” She stomped her foot underneath the dining table. Oh, XZ had a way to bring out the best and the worse in her.
“Okay, okay, I get your point.” He surrendered. He was caught between the desire to kiss her and to strangle her. What an unreasonable angel she was! However, she still remained the only woman who could stir his emotions, whether to the brink of despair or to the height of immense joy, she was the angel who descended from heaven when she fell onto his car bonnet five years ago. She was God’s gift to him and he would treasure her for the rest of his life. Was it any wonder he would spoil her?
“Excuse me, Miss, please look where you are going!!!” An elderly lady bumped into SM accidentally, she warned her and gave her a disapproving look.
SM was jolted out of her reverie. “I’m sorry.” She apologized. She ran down the elevator when she reached White City Station. The tube would take between 5-10 minutes as Ealing Broadway Station was only 4 stations away; and another 10 minutes walk to her apartment.
SM retrieved her keys from the bag to open the door. She could smell a delicious aroma coming out from the apartment next door. Someone had shifted in, it’d be good to have a neighbor, better still if the neighbor would share his/her dinner. Oh, that smelled like Spaghetti Bolognaise, she thought enviously as she let herself into her apartment.
XZ heard SM opening the door to her apartment. He took a peep, yes, that was his angel entering her apartment.
As soon as SM entered her apartment, her doorbell rang. Who could that be? Her expression brightened as she thought of the Spaghetti Bolognaise, it might be her kind neighbor, she thought blissfully. She stared in incomprehension when she opened the door. Frozen to the spot.
“Hello, anyone at home?” XZ smiled lovingly at his sweet angel who seemed to have turned into a statue. He moved forward, taking her eagerly into his arms, hugging her tightly to him. SM buried her face into his chest, tears of joy flowing down freely from her cheeks. She hammered XZ’s chest repeatedly with her fists.
“You are a big bully! You are a big bully!” She cried.
“And you are a crybaby!” He laughed with joy. He felt alive again; his sunshine was back in his arms.
“Am I an idiot, Xue Zhang?”
“What brought this on?” XZ asked curiously. Guiding her into the apartment, closely the door firmly behind him.
SM related to him the events in BBC that day. As a special correspondent, she needed to attend classes every Friday morning. Due to the nature of her job, she normally dashed in and out of the class and did not take much notice of a charity box there. She noted only the words “GUIDE, BLIND and DOG”. As it happened, she was early today, taking the opportunity to ask one of her classmates Elaine Simpson,
“Why is the charity called ‘Guide for the Blind Dogs’? What’s that?” SM asked curiously.
Elaine Simpson, together with a few of the classmates, was stupefied by her question. Then they burst into uncontrollable laughter. When they were able to contain their laughter, they explained it was a charity organization called “GUIDE DOGS FOR THE BLIND”, training dogs as guides for the blind and elderly persons with blurred vision.
XZ roared with amusement. His angel was such an ORIGINAL. Oh, it’s so good to be reunited with her again.
“You are just like the rest,
you think I am dumb, poor in judgment, blur and childish!” SM lifted her head,
throwing XZ a resentful stare, trying to struggle out of his restraining arms.
“SM! I have missed you so much, have you missed me at all?” XZ pulled her back into the circle of his arms, ignoring her outburst. He buried his head in her silky black hair, breathing in her soft scent. He tightened his arms, just needing to feel her closeness.
“I have missed you too!” SM admitted. Returning his embrace. It’s been so long, she closed her eyes, reveling in the feel of him. They remained in one another’s arms, savoring the feel of togetherness. Unable to resist his tempting angel, XZ bent his head to claim her lips in a searching, lingering and deep kiss. When they eventually emerged from the drugging kiss, their breathings were heavy and uneven. SM somehow found the strength to ask a string of questions, ruining their romantic moment. XZ shook his head ruefully.
“Xue Zhang, I am hungry! Where are you staying, how long will you be in London?” XZ compressed his lips, smiling crookedly. SM narrowed her eyes; she knew that look so well.
“Tell me, Xue Zhang!” She commanded, tickling him.
“I am here to stay, SM.” That spaghetti … SM’s thoughts focus back on food.
“Xue Zhang, are you staying next door?” He nodded.
“((((YEAH!)))), for how long?” she shouted
“Long enough for us to get married.” He said in a satisfied grin. A wedding? Was he implying their wedding would be held in London? SM’s eyes rounded in wonder.
“Aren’t you already hungry? Let’s adjourn to my apartment.” XZ grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the direction of the door.
“Wait a minute, my keys…”
XZ and SM were seated cozily together in XZ’s living room sofa after a delicious meal of spaghetti Bolognaise.
“Xue Zhang, you are a fantastic cook!” She laid her head on his shoulder, stretching like a contented cat. XZ moved to take out a ring from the pocket of his pants, finding SM’s left hand to slide the diamond and sapphire eternity ring onto her ring finger. It was a perfect fit.
“What’s this?” She asked, repressing her feeling of guilt.
“A ring to replace the one you so conveniently misplaced.” XZ’s said mildly, though his look was accusing. SM dipped her head, lowering her lashes to conceal her gaze from him. The original ring was burning a hole in her jewelry box. He stood up, walking towards the row of wooden furniture opposite, retrieving a tiny blue box from the top drawer, before moving back to where SM was seated.
“And these, are our engagement rings, one for you and one for me.” He said pointedly. SM snatched the box from him hurriedly. She sought her mind for the next course of action to compensate him for being such an accomplished liar.
“Xue Zhang, we will pick a day to exchange our engagement rings.” That made sense, she was proud of her ingenious excuse. XZ nodded in agreement.
“And when will this auspicious day be?” He enquired.
“I will advise you when the time is right.” There was an impish glint in her eyes.
“Okay.” He said indulgently and didn’t press her further.
“Do you have any plans for the weekend?” XZ asked a while later.
“I would like to spend a day in Hyde Park. I heard from my BBC colleagues that the Speakers' Corner in London's Hyde Park is a place for people from all walks of life to voice out their opinions.”
“What are you up to now? Another speech on why Yin Xiang Zhe should not engaged the services of a renown broadcaster but rather train up in-house talents?” He asked teasingly.
“Patience, my dear, you will know the answer tomorrow.” She retorted secretively.
Yin Xiang Zhe and Zhen Shan Mei woke up early the next day. They had decided to have a picnic lunch in Hyde Park, London. XZ was sure SM had no idea how huge Hyde Park was.
“Have you got everything in the basket?” SM nodded in affirmation.
“Have you taken your guitar?” XZ showed her his guitar, arching his brows as he nodded.
“Let’s make a move then.” SM patted lightly on her pouch. Contained inside her pouch was the surprise she would spring on XZ today. Both were casually dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a white jumper. SM was also wearing the red cap XZ had given her all those years ago. It’s a warm Saturday morning, the sun was shining bright, what a beautiful day, SM sighed in contentment.
They found a place overseeing the lake when they arrived at Hyde Park. To XZ’s surprise, the speakers’ corner was not the first place SM wanted to go. Instead, she selected a wooden box near the area, requesting XZ’s assistance to carry it.
“I know why I am here now, to be your cheap labor!”
“A more handsome cheap labor I have yet to see.” She caressed his right cheek affectionately. She was struggling to carry his guitar too. SM spread the blanket flat on the grass, retrieving from the basket a whole range of food, from sandwiches, salad, tangerines, oranges, apples, to a bottle of red wine with two wine glasses, a thermos with two mugs, a 1.5lit bottle mineral water and a Tupperware container.
“Have you brought the whole supermarket? No wonder I felt as it I am carrying a ton of bricks!” He complained. But the grin on her face was sufficient for him to be her willing slave for the rest of their lives.
“I am ready.” SM said suddenly.
“Ready for what?”
“Ready for my speech. But you must remain seated here, you are to be my loyal listener, do you hear?”
“Yes, ma’am.” She nodded shyly, bringing with her the wooden box, adjusting the position until she was satisfied. XZ looked on in curiosity, pouring himself a cup of coffee, sat back and relax to enjoy the spectacle his fiancé was making. SM had stepped on top of the wooden box. She took a deep breath, looked XZ straight in the eye before she yelled loudly in Korean,
“(((((YIN XIANG ZHE, I LOVE YOU, DO YOU HEAR ME? I TRULY LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY HEART, MY SOUL AND MY MIND!!! YOU WILL ALWAYS BE THE ONLY ONE FOR ME!!!)))))”
XZ was sipping his coffee and promptly choked on it when he heard her. He ran towards her joyously, unable to contain his happiness or the grin on his face. He lifted her off the box, swinging her round and round in circles. Her feet hanging on midair, her jingle like laughter blended together with his deep delighted laugh. When he finally let her down and her feet touched the ground, he made his own declaration.
“I love you too, Zhen Shan Mei, with all my heart, my soul and my mind, you will always be the only one for me.” He hugged her tightly.
SM unzipped her pouch, retrieving from it a tiny red color heart shape cushion; their engagement rings fastened at the center of the cushion with white ribbons. She untied the white ribbon, removing his ring, lifted XZ’s left hand, sliding the silver band unto his ring finger, “With this ring, I thee engage.”
XZ in turn unfastened her ring from the bondage of the ribbon, sliding the slender silver band on her ring finger, just above the diamond and sapphire eternity ring, “With this ring, I thee engage.” He said solemnly. The silver band matched the eternity ring perfectly. He kissed her lightly on the lips to seal their commitment.
XZ and SM walked hand in hand back to where they were seated, enjoying the serenity and peacefulness of the place. XZ strummed the strings of the guitar as he sang to his beloved SM:
And he laid her down in a field of corn,
And the sun was on his back,
Up above there was, a clear blue sky,
She held him by the hand,
She had known him since they both were young,
He'd been always in her life,
And the first time that he had kissed her lips,
She knew it deep inside, that this was;
Love of a different world, love of the life,
Love of the ancient ones, love of the heart divine;
Through the long hot days and the summer nights,
He was always by her side,
Just a boy and girl in an innocent world, before the Flanders tide,
When the autumn leaves had turned to gold,
She would have her wedding day,
And the people sang like an angel choir,
And everybody said that this was;
Love of a different world, love of the life,
Love of the ancient ones, love of the heart divine;
Then the winter came, and the winds of war were blowing with the snow,
And he looked so fine in his uniform, she knew that he must go,
When the soldiers left on the morning train,
She was waving him goodbye,
And as the tears rolled down, for the very first time,
The baby kicked inside, and this was;
Love of a different world, love of the life,
Love of the ancient ones, love of the heart divine;
Love of a different world, love of the life,
Love of the ancient ones, love of the heart divine.
SM clapped her hands to the rhythm of the music, singing the chorus together with XZ. “Love of a different world, love of the life, love of the ancient ones, love of the heart divine.”
They spend the beautiful summer afternoon together at Hyde Park, in simple companionable enjoyment, treasuring their love for each other. XZ rested his head on SM’s lap, and she stroked his hair gently with her fingers.
XZ couldn’t stop grinning the
whole day. Whenever he thought of how SM had declared her love for him, it’s
just beyond him to wipe off that silly smile from his face. They had just
returned from Hyde Park. XZ was back in his own apartment, he’d be taking SM
out for dinner, this was the day they got engaged and he planned to take her
somewhere special for the occasion.
SM held the ring XZ had proposed to her with between her fingers. Honesty should win the day, shouldn’t it? When she so impulsively lied to him, she was filled with the desire to retaliate and to ruffle his feathers. Anger had clouded her reasoning; she had even considered donating the ring to Oxfam in her annoyance! Zhen Shan Mei, Zhen Shan Mei, when would you learn where Yin Xiang Zhe was concerned? Tears misted her vision as she thought of his unmistakable joy in the afternoon. He had loved her enough to wait for her return patiently, why did she still doubt his love? “Love makes one loose his faculties.” She had once written to him, commenting about You Zhen. Would she always feel so insecure? Or was it because she loved him too much? The intensity of her feelings for him at times frightened her. She recalled the way he gazed at her and the expression in his eyes, he mesmerized her without any effort. SM was lost in her own thoughts, trying to make sense out of her emotional turmoil.
SM pressed on XZ’s doorbell, although she had a set of keys to his apartment, she preferred to press the bell when she knew he was in. She had made up her mind to tell him the truth. Their relationship should begin on mutual trust and honesty.
“SM, missing me already?” He pulled her inside his apartment with a pleased smile. She had presented him with a few surprises today. SM nibbled her lips nervously, XZ tilted his head to one side in curiosity; she reminded him of a schoolgirl who had made mischief and was awaiting her punishment.
“Here, this is for you.”
She stretched out her right hand from behind her back, placing a ring firmly onto his palm. SM turned around; she had the childish desire to flee from XZ’s wrath, for surely he would be furious at her deception. XZ grabbed her hand effortlessly, dragging her with him to the living room. He refused to let go of her though she was struggling hard. XZ took a closer look at the ring, and understood the reason for her anxiousness. He pulled her towards him, and because she was struggling so hard, she lost balance and fell into his waiting arms like a sack of potatoes.
“Zhen Shan Mei, can you show a little poise and dignity worthy of a top class newscaster?”
He mocked her, tightening his arms on her waist. In truth, he couldn’t decipher his feelings, on the one hand relieved that the ring carrying such a significant meaning in their relationship was not lost as claimed, on the other he was furious at her deceit. Her little lie had caused him endless hours of anxiety and heartache. SM abandoned her futile struggles; she had never been able to win when he asserted his brute strength.
“You are a bully!” She accused, staring at him crossly.
“Do you resemble someone who is here to apologize? Nowhere can I see any signs of repentance.”
His tone was dangerously mild. This was a Xiang Zhe she was not accustomed to. He had always been so gentle and loving, not this mocking inscrutable stranger.
“Let me go! I dislike you, you are not my Xue Zhang. You are acting like that detesting Director Yin!” SM said in disgust. Tears of anger were now shimmering in her eyes. Her tears had never failed to soften him; it’s a powerful weapon to use. XZ pressed her head on his shoulders, his hands stroking her hair.
“What brought this on, you crazy child? You need only tell me the reason you lied?”
“You are smart, rich, successful and handsome. I am just a dumb and humble newscaster. You will get tired of me once the novelty has worn off.” She hiccupped, “And I do hate that Director Yin attitude.”
“Are you regretting your decision to marry me?” She nodded.
“Shan Mei!” His heart contracted in agony, what was she trying to do to him. He was the happiest man on earth in the afternoon, now she had cast him down to the deepest despair.
“You will always be chased by all those sophisticatedly beautiful women with similar family background, who will equal you in every aspects, whereas I am … just a nobody…” XZ closed his eyes. So that’s it, his ‘other women’ act had been so effective he had hurt her and she had retaliated.
“Shan Mei, you are the catalyst in my life, and essential to my very existence. You brighten my life and fill the deep void within me. If I had wanted women with the type of caliber you just described, I’d have married Yong Xi.” He paused for a moment before continuing,
“I am sorry, in my insecurity I have hurt you with my lies. I didn’t like the way you constantly mention Peter’s name. I conjured up the impression of being interested in other women to get your attention and maybe make you a little jealous. But the plan backfired on me. Will you forgive me for lying to you? I was cramming three months work into two so that I could be reunited with you in London. Where do you think I would get the time or the energy to look at another woman?” He confessed. He now understood that one should never begin their relationship founded on lies and dishonesty.
“And I am sorry I have hurt you with mine.” She muffled into the opening of his jumper. “I came over because I didn’t want to begin our engagement with lies, I wanted to come clean with you, but somehow my plan went all awry when you disarmed me with that Director Yin act. What I feel for you is so complicated, I love you but at times I am afraid and act out of character.” SM confessed.
“Shan Mei, it’s simple, all you need to do is walk straight towards me.” XZ heaved a sign of relief. The seed of uncertainty buried deep within their hearts had made its ugly appearance. He knew she loved him, but the thought of her with YZ never failed to unbalanced his equilibrium. She too must be aware of how much she meant to him, and yet her inferior complex and insecurities surfaced when they were playing games with one another.
“But it’s a good idea we should be honest with each other. For a start, are we convinced that we love each other?” He looked deep into her eyes, and she caught her breath at what she saw, she nodded her conviction.
“Based on mutual love, trust and honesty, are we committed to work at our differences then?” SM nodded her head again. He was mesmerizing her with his eyes.
“So do you agree to a wedding date in the month of September?” He continued. She nodded her head in assent again. Then it dawned on her what he was saying. “Wait a minute…” she protested.
“Too late, you have already agreed!” He laughed triumphantly. She hit him with her fist. “You just promised to be honest, why you are cheating …”
“I did not break my promise, sweetheart, I was just a little sneaky, sneaky but honest.” He winked his eyes.
“Xue Zhang!” His happiness was contagious, and her lips twitched in amusement as she giggled. She had so many questions to ask, but was temporarily distracted from the subject when he said seriously,
“And Shan Mei…don’t ever say you regret your decision to marry me again, not even in jest.” He revealed his pain. SM raised her eyes to look at him searchingly, she saw his vulnerability and felt his pain. Why did she always hurt him with her thoughtlessness? She reached out her hand to touch him gently on the cheek, “I promise you.” She whispered softly.
Their lives settled into a routine for the next two weeks. XZ and SM left for BBC in the morning and returned home; cooked their meals and dined together. XZ had brought SM to the coffee house overseeing Thames River they once visited. They would either shop in Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury or Tesco for their food supply. SM insisted on paying her share and that almost caused another argument. XZ eventually gave in, citing he would not allow that arrangement to continue after they were married.
“We are not married yet!” She retorted smugly, wrinkling her perk nose at him. He retaliated by bending his head quickly to steal a small bite.
“Ouch, that hurts…” she complained.
“That would teach you to show some respect towards your elders!“
“Oh… I see, I am marrying an old man!” She ran away, hiding behind the sofa. They chased one another round the small apartment like little kids, their cheerful laughter filling the whole area.
Yin Xiang Zhe observed his fiancé’s pained look for the past five minutes. He was seated comfortably in the sofa reading BBC’s program enhancement proposal, and she was seated at the dining table, scribbling some notes as she read her textbook, paper and files lying all over the table. She was concentrating so hard, her brows knitted together in a slight frown, and muttering under her breath as she tried to work out a solution. XZ was tempted to walk over and pinched her chubby cheeks.
Zhen Shan Mei attended an informative and enlightening lecture today. It was called Myers-Briggs type Indicator (MBTI). She found the lesson so useful she had requested a copy of the self-scorable form for XZ to complete. The objective of MBTI was to: 1) Identify your personality type 2) Understand the characteristics of different personality type and, 3) Be able to identify successful communication, problem solving and decision making strategies for different personality types.
The ‘Cinderella Story’ gossips about XZ and SM at MBS had hurt her self-esteem. They claimed that the personality and family background gaps between XZ and SM were as vast as the ocean, as deep as the sea. Just like their birthstones, the pearl and the peridot. Pearl was taken from the deep ocean, and the peridot from the other end of the galaxy, the remains of a Hale-Bopp comet. Perhaps MBTI could be used as a tool to gauge their personality differences. She would like to identify and address their gaps.
“Extraversion and Introversion” she murmured to herself, “People who prefer extraversion focus their energy and attention outwardly, are aware of who and what is around them, may not be aware of what is going on inside themselves, are friendly, verbally skilled, and easy to know, are bored and restless if they are alone too long, do their thinking as they speak….” That sounded very much like her, remembering the blunder she made on the seven o’clock news, when she blurted out and called the bunch of children kidnappers ‘Hooligans’! Forgetting the fact she was reporting the news ‘live’ and was supposed to act impartial.
“People who prefer introversion are attracted to the inner world of thoughts, feelings and reflections, are usually very aware of their inner reactions, may not be aware of the outer world around them, are often quiet and reserved, are often difficult to know, can seem withdrawn and secretive to extraverts...” Hmmm, that definitely sounded like XZ. SM looked up and caught XZ’s glance, why was he devouring her with a stare like that, she blushed prettily.
“Why are you staring at me like this?” She asked uncomfortably.
“You look so cute, I find you irresistible.” He stood up, moved towards her and pulled out a chair to sit beside her. “What are you doing?’ He asked.
“Xue Zhang, the class today is very interesting, it’s called Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), I am trying to find out what type both of us are categorized into, then maybe I’ll be able to see if we are compatible.”
“Shan Mei, how many times have I told you we will work out our differences, there is this word called compromising …”
“You misunderstand, Xue Zhang. Once we determine our character type using MBTI, we can communicate more successfully.” He shook his head helplessly.
“Listen to me, there are four dimensions of type, the E-I (Extraversion-Introversion) dimension, the S-N (Sensing-iNtuition) dimension, the T-F (Thinking-Feeling) dimension and lastly the J-P (Judgement-Perception) dimension. I am the ENFJ type, I am curious what type you will be categorized as, you seem to have a split personality, the Xue Zhang I adore and the Director Yin I dislike.” SM’s eyes were dancing as she told him, an impish smile evident on that mischievous face, her eyes blinking at him deliberately.
XZ gazed at SM indulgently.
Despite what others thought, SM had her set of philosophy and she was rich in
wisdom. While XZ might be brilliant and possessed great leadership quality in
the business environment, SM had a upper hand when it came to handling
relationships, mainly because her inner beauty radiates through her. She was
unconditional in love, compassionate, sincere and understanding, she would
always place others’ wants and cares before her own, and she strived for
justice and truth.
“Explain to me a little further, I have not done MBTI and don’t understand what you are uttering about.” He prompted gently. SM explained patiently to him the difference between extraversion and introversion, then continued,
“The other dimension of type is known as Sensing & iNtuition. People who prefer Sensing prefer to take in information using their five senses – sight, hearing, feel, smell and taste, they see and collect facts and details; they are practical and realistic; they start at the beginning and take one step at a time; are specific and literal when speaking, writing and listening; like to work with the parts to see the overall design; like to use set procedures, established routines, and historical precedents to guide them.” She arched her brows at him, checking if he understood. XZ nodded his head, signaled for her to proceed,
“People who prefer iNtuition go beyond what is real or concrete and focus on meaning, associations, possibilities and relationships; see patterns, possibilities and relationships; are imaginative and inventive, start anywhere and leap over basic steps; speak and write in general and abstract terms, focus on future, imagining what it could be; study the overall design to see how the parts fit; thrive on change, new ideas and variety; prefer imaginative new solutions to problems, often becoming impatient with detail.”
“Well, the S’s can seem materialistic and too literal to N’s, and N’s can seem impractical dreamers to S’s!’ SM concluded.
“Are you implying I am a S and you are an N?” XZ enquired.
“I think Director Yin is an IS and Xue Zhang an EN. We have two other dimension types to go, but I want you to fill up this MB questionnaire, it’s a self-scorable form. I will do a separate assessment on you based on what I have learned today and let’s compare the results.”
“How do I fill up this form?” XZ queried
“Read the directions, Director Yin, don’t expect me to spoon feed you!” SM ruffled his hair playfully. XZ and SM concentrated on their respective tasks. SM would look up at XZ from time to time, trying to suppress her impish smile from appearing at the corner of her lips. 15 minutes later, XZ completed the questionnaire with the results. He leaned back against the chair, appreciating how contented he felt just being with his little angel.
“Hello, miss, why are you taking such a long time, your student has been waiting patiently here for more than five minutes.”
“That’s because I am doing the personality assessment for two.”
“Yours and mine?” He asked, tongue in cheek.
“NO! It’s Yin Xue Zhang and Director Yin!”
“Minx! Hurry up to explain what Thinking-Feeling (T-F), Judgment-Perception (J-P) are, otherwise the result will be meaningless to me.” SM gave XZ a thorough explanation on the other dimension types.
“To me, Xue Zhang is an ENFP. You are warmly enthusiastic and imaginative. See life as full of possibilities. Make connections between events and information very quickly, and readily give appreciation and support. Whereas that detestable Director Yin…”
XZ knocked her head with his knuckles at her deliberate dig, but she ignored him and continued,
“is an INTJ. He has an original mind and great drive for implementing his ideas and achieving his goals. Quickly see patterns in external events and develop long-range explanatory perspectives. He is skeptical and independent, has high standards of competence and performances – for himself and others.”
“So tell me, what’s your result?” She commanded. XZ rolled up his score sheet, inserted it into the back pocket of his pants before addressing her. “It’s a SECRET! I am neither called Yin Xue Zhang nor Director Yin. For your information, I am Yin Xiang Zhe. Zhen Shan Mei, I am warning you, that whatever the results, you are going to be Mrs. Yin Xiang Zhe in less than three months, you’d better get use to the idea!” SM tried to snatch the score sheet from his back pocket, but he avoided her effortlessly, laughing at her before he tore the score sheet right before her very eyes. SM stomped her feet in frustration.
“My result is all here!” He pointed his forefinger to his head.
“Why, you louse, you sneaking cheating louse!” SM couldn’t decide whether to scream or to laugh at him. In the end, humor won the day and she chuckled helplessly. XZ wrapped his arms around her gently, taking her into his arms. The ringing sound of the phone disrupted their harmony. XZ picked up the phone automatically,
“Hello, Yin Xiang Zhe….Hi papa… yes, I will be leaving shortly, do you want to speak to SM?” He handed SM the phone.
“Papa! Of course I have missed you, Xue Zhang and I were working out some problems… yes, papa, do not worry, how is aunty?” SM chatted with her father before hanging up.
“Since when have you started calling my papa ‘Papa’?” SM narrowed her eyes suspiciously. XZ smiled in self-satisfaction.
“Our parents have met and our wedding date is set on Saturday, 9th September, I can’t possible address my future father-in-law as ‘Uncle’, can I?” He asked innocently.
“You have set our wedding date without my knowledge?” She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Their parents met up behind her back, why didn’t her father breathe a word to her.
“Don’t I get consulted on this?” She was fuming mad.
“You agreed to marry me, I just went ahead with the wedding plans when you are in London. I wanted to surprise you.” XZ argued, he wasn’t about to wait another nine months for her to return to Seoul.
“Xue Zhang, doesn’t the bride have a say on these matters?”
“You need only walk up the aisles straight towards me.” XZ said arrogantly. SM was infuriated, she queried sarcastically, “And will I have the privilege to know what other plans you have set aside as a surprise for me?”
“We shall see…” XZ winked at her. SM glared at him in disbelief, but couldn’t remain angry with him because he looked so boyishly happy and gorgeously handsome, but above all, he was giving her that besotted tender loving look which never failed to take her breath away.
XZ and SM were driving on the motorway towards Cambridge. SM wanted to visit her ‘Gu Gu’ and that fell perfectly into XZ’s plan. He had bought a BMW since he came to London though they still preferred to take the underground train to BBC. SM refrained to comment on his extravagance. She was about to marry a rich man she had to get accustom to the materialistic behavior of his.
“Xiang Zhe, it’s been such a long time, I never thought you’d be my niece’s fiancé the next time I see you.” SM’s Gu Gu greeted XZ, hugging him affectionately when they arrived at her house.
“Gu Gu, I am your niece but you greeted an outsider first!” SM pouted in protest as she went over to embrace her aunty.
“Outsider? Xiang Zhe is going to be your husband in a few months!” Gu Gu chided SM gently. SM turned around, making a face at XZ. XZ threw his arms round SM, gave her perk nose a quick kiss before adding, “You are not going to escape me, imp!” Gu Gu watched their play with approval, it was apparent to her XZ and SM were very much in love.
“Gu Gu, is our lunch ready, I am famished!” SM enquired as soon as she entered the living room, XZ followed closely behind with their traveling bags. Lunch was laid neatly at the dining table, SM ran over to investigate, yes, a plate of delicious sushi was among the various dishes Gu Gu had prepared. She hugged her Gu Gu delightedly, kissing her affectionately on the cheek, whispering quietly,
“Thank you, Gu Gu.” Her aunt smiled at her knowingly.
“Xue Zhang, Gu Gu has prepared your favorite sushi, see how Gu Gu pampers you, truly she loves you more than me!” She complained.
“Stop teasing XZ! Truly, you are a handful to deal with. XZ, I sympathize with you!” Gu Gu shook her head in jest.
“Gu Gu!” SM protested, turning to jab XZ’s shoulder with her balled fist when he came from behind to wrap his arms around her waist, resting his chin on her nape.
“See what I mean?” Gu Gu pointed out when she witnessed that little gesture, and both XZ and Gu Gu roared with amuse laughter at her frustrated and annoyed expression, her almond shaped eyes rounded in a fierce frown and lips pouting in disagreement.
XZ brought SM to Cambridge University after lunch. He had an appointment with Fr. William Franks.
“Xiang Zhe, it’s good to see you! So this is Shan Mei, your lovely bride?” The priest asked. XZ nodded.
“Fr. William, let me introduce you to my fiancé, Shan Mei. Do you remember her? She was here studying English for a term five years ago. I brought her to the chapel for service frequently.” XZ prompted. Fr. William was an old kind priest. He searched his memory, then nodded in a pleased smile,
“I recall now, Shan Mei, you are the curly haired girl with the sweet radiant smile, that was the only time I saw XZ bringing a girl to the chapel. I didn’t know you are the same girl, your hair is straight and longer now, but you are just as adorable! I can see why XZ is smitten with you.”
“Thank you, Father.” SM acknowledged shyly. Fr. William was warm and welcoming. They sat down to work out the finer details of their wedding.
“It’s settled then, your matrimonial service will be held in King’s College Chapel.” They reconfirmed the date and time of the service, before leaving Fr. William’s office.
XZ and SM wandered into the music room. “Xue Zhang, I wonder if the grand piano is still there, you once played and sang for me here!” SM grabbed XZ’s hands, dragging him into the music room before releasing him. XZ walked unhurriedly towards the piano, lifted the cover and sat down to test out the keyboard. His fingers moved expertly over the keyboard, playing the scales to determine if the notes were in tune. SM leaned against the edge of the piano, watching XZ, waiting in eager anticipation. XZ thought for a moment before playing and singing the tune ‘Ebony and Ivory’, the popular song sung by Sir Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder in the 80s.
Ebony and Ivory
Live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard
Oh Lord, why don't we?
We all know that people are the same
wherever you go
There's good and bad in everyone
We learn to live, we learn to give each other
What we need to survive
Ebony, Ivory, living in perfect harmony
Ebony, Ivory, living in perfect harmony
Ebony, Ivory, living in perfect harmony...
The sun shone brightly into the music room and its warm rays rested on XZ. The various images of XZ appeared before SM’s mind. The carefree and light-hearted Xue Zhang, the aloof, stern, angry and distant Director Yin, the loving, supporting and suffering Xue Zhang, and all these images fused into one. He was Yin Xiang Zhe, the man she loved with all her heart; the man who loved and cherished her with all his might. He was born into privilege and to it came responsibility. She could not separate her Xue Zhang with Director Yin, for he was the same person. As his wife, she had the obligation to support him, to share with him her insights and to remain steadfast to him.
At that moment, SM understood her role in XZ’s life, yes, they might be as different as ebony and ivory, the black and white notes in the piano keyboard, but they would live in perfect harmony, together they would blend into a piece of melodious music. SM and XZ’s gaze met over the piano, XZ knew SM had understood why he played that tune. At that instant, both realized they were destined to be together, and their souls touched, they knew deep within their hearts that they would be soul mates forever.
Cambridge, 8th September 2000
SM hung her wedding dress on the closet carefully, it was a L’Armour design from Paris, XZ had brought her on a weekend trip to select her bridal gown. She couldn’t believe how rapidly the days had passed, tomorrow was her wedding day, and she would be Mrs. Yin Xiang Zhe.
Zhen Gui Cheng knocked lightly on SM’s bedroom door, his little daughter was getting married the next day, she was going to be somebody’s wife at times he still could not get use to the idea.
“Come in.” SM called out, still admiring her wedding dress. GC opened the door, walking quietly into the bedroom.
“SM, do you have a little time for your papa?” He asked.
“Of course, Papa.” SM drew GC to her, holding on to his hands. She gazed at her father lovingly.
“SM,” GC paused for a moment, seeking to communicate his thoughts to his beloved daughter with the right words, “beginning tomorrow you are going to be somebody’s wife, papa will no longer be the most important person in your life, you have a husband to care for, and in the future a family of your own, “ there was tears in GC’s eyes “but to papa, you will always be my little girl, I will always be here for you. Should you encounter any difficulties, remember I am your papa. If you need someone to share your burden, your papa is always here.”
“Papa, you will always be the most important person to me, how could I forget your selfless care for me, the unconditional love you lavished on me, a papa who played both mother and father to me? If you are sad, papa, I can always delay my wedding” SM was so affected by her father’s emotions she said impulsively. GC patted her hand.
“Don’t be silly, SM. XZ loves you, I believe you are made for each other and will be happy together. I wouldn’t have been able to make a better choice myself. But SM, you have to behave like a mature adult when you become XZ’s wife. You are not to throw childish tantrums at XZ. You are going to spend the rest of your lives together, it’s important for you to respect, honor and love one another. Be honest, and if you have problems, resolve them by communicating.” SM’s nodded her head in obedience, her eyes were shimmering with unshed tears, she understood what her father was trying to tell her, and she knew what her father had left unsaid, he was finding it difficult to let go of his little girl.
“Papa is very proud of you, and your mama would be proud of you too, SM.” Her father then reached into his pocket to retrieve a heart shaped red velvet box, as he snapped the box open, SM gasped with appreciation, contained in it was a cultured pearl necklace, with a heart shape diamond choker in the middle, “this is a present from your mama and me, when you were born, we bought this in the hope of seeing you wear it on your wedding day.”
“Oh Papa, they are exquisite! Thank you! I love you. And I will always be your little girl who adores you. I will always be here for you too, please remember that Papa! You have not lost a daughter, but will gain a son, I promise you.” SM wrapped both her hands around her father, hugging him tightly to her.
SM’s Gu Gu knocked lightly on the bedroom door. Today was SM’s wedding day and she wanted to make sure she was up and ready. They had plenty to do and the most important task of all was to ensure the bride did not oversleep. XZ was extremely anxious; he had repeatedly reminded Gu Gu of the list of tasks to perform and had drawn her a checklist. She opened the door for a peep; the bride was still soundly asleep with a cheeky smile on her face. It was obvious she was still in dreamland. Gu Gu glanced at the alarm clock standing by the bedside table, it was only 6.00am, she thought sympathetically, let her catch a few more minutes’ sleep. As Gu Gu turned around to leave the room, SM’s handphone beeped.
The little cutie searched for her phone in her sleep, her right hand patting on the pastel floral bed sheet then her hand slid under her pillow. It was a wonder how she managed to find her handphone when her eyes were still tightly shut.
“Hello..” SM answered the phone in a sleepy slur.
“Sweetheart, are you awake?” XZ’s voice came down the line.
“Oh, Xue Zhang, it’s you, why are you calling so early?” SM pouted. She turned her body around, burying her head under the pillow.
“SM, it’s already six o’clock, be a good girl and wake up, the make-up artist will be arriving in a short while, take your breakfast or you’d not have the time.”
“What make-up artist? MAKE-UP ARTIST????” SM’s sleepy eyes widen in astonishment, it was her wedding day and the groom had given her a morning call. Didn’t he trust her? She thought in annoyance.
“Xue Zhang…” she pretended to sound tearful, and that heightened XZ’s anxiety, she was not getting cold feet was she?
“SM, what’s it? Tell me, don’t torture me so.”
“I am well aware it’s our wedding day, it will be consoling if you can show a little confidence in my memory.” She said fiercely.
“Just checking, sweetheart.”
“Did you sleep well? What are you doing?” She asked gently, remembering just in time not to begin her wedding day like a fiery tempered brat.
“Calling my bride to ensure she arrives at the church on time.” SM could here her father and aunty’s voices.
“Have to go now, Papa and aunty is awake. See you later!” She whispered.
“I love you, sweetheart…. And don’t cry when you walked up the aisles, I do not want to see my bride’s face smudged with mascara all over.” He reminded again.
“Yes, sir… and I love you too.” She blew him a kiss. Gu Gu shut the door quietly behind her after eavesdropping on their conversation.
King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, Saturday, 9th September 2000
“Where is SM, why hasn’t she made an appearance?” XZ questioned Xian Da anxiously; he glanced repeatedly at the entrance of the chapel. It’s already 8.55am and the wedding service was supposed to begin at 9.00am!
“Don’t worry, old boy, your bride will not run away at such a late stage.” XD was delighted to see the normally cool and collected Director Yin losing his composure, he was a picture of nerves and anxiety, he could see droplets of sweat at both side of XZ’s temple on this cool bright autumn morning. XZ looked gorgeously handsome in his navy blue tuxedo. The altar was graciously decorated with white and pink roses, and a combination of pink, white roses, violet daisies and white lilies arranged at both sides of the pews.
The bridal car arrived at the entrance of King’s College Chapel at 8.59am. The little pageboy hurried to open the rear door of the car, allowing the bride to make a grand appearance. SM was dressed in a stunning regal white satin gown with sweetheart neckline and capped sleeves, its draped overlay embellished at the side with crystal button. One side of the bodice was lavishly studded with peridot beads and cultured pearls. The hairdresser had rolled her shoulder length straight hair into little curls and the coronet of pink roses and white babies’ breadth she wore was complimented with a cathedral length simple veil, the completed effect was just astounding. The original design of the bridal gown was strapless, but XZ had been adamantly opposed to the expanse of flesh exposed and had insisted on a more conservative effect with higher cut at the neckline and capped sleeves.
Gasps of admiration and envy could be heard as the bride got demurely out of the car. She was simply alluringly breathtaking, an enchanting vision. The bridesmaid Zhao Di handed her a bouquet made of white roses and lilies. SM made her way slowly up the stairs towards the entrance of the chapel. It was a beautiful sunny but breezy morning, and the sunlight caught the diamond of her pearl necklace. The pageboy and flower girl were waiting eagerly with their respective flower baskets.
XZ’s pulse rate quickened as he caught the breathtaking vision of his bride. He could not take his eyes off her, moving involuntarily towards her. XD stopped him, signaling to the best man Chen Sui to keep XZ in control. As the music ‘Canon in D’ began to play, SM held on to her father’s arms tightly, gazing up her father with mixed emotion. Her father returned her look, patting her hand with his reassuringly. She was so nervous. SM looked towards XZ who was standing so tall and handsome, he was so strikingly handsome. She could not see XZ’s expression as it was a long way down the aisle, but as she took a step nearer towards her Xue Zhang, she remembered his words, “I want you to walk straight towards me.”
XZ was so mesmerized by the vision of his alluring bride he walked half way down the aisle to meet her, shaking off the restraining hand of the best man. The guests comprising of their friends and relatives laughed indulgently as he moved determinedly towards his bride, relieving GC of his duty, taking SM’s hand in his firmly, his gaze was intent on his bride. SM met the loving glance of her husband-to-be, her eyes suspiciously bright with happiness. His eyes were glazed as he relived the moment they first met, his wounded angel! He had so lovingly nursed her to the radiant bride she was today, patiently helping her through her broken heart caused by YZ and later claiming her as his own. She was worth the long wait! SM rewarded XZ with a wobbly but enchanting smile. He looked at her warningly, whispering softly, “No tears! You are the most enchanting bride a man could wish for.” His voice trembled and broke with emotion. The glance they exchanged was so lovingly intense that some of their guests were moved to tears. SM’s father coughed at the background, jolting them out from their self-engrossment. As they walked together down the aisle towards the priest, with SM’s father behind, they were shown to the two seats prepared specially for the bride and the groom near the altar.
The Rite of Marriage between YXZ and ZSM began, and when they reached the part where they were to exchange their vows, pledging their love and commitment towards one another, XZ and SM joined their right hands together, looking deep into one another’s eyes, speaking clearly and loudly:-
“I, Yin Xiang Zhe, take you, Zhen Shan Mei, to be my lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you, cherish you and honour you all the days of my life.
“I, Zhen Shan Mei, take you, Yin Xiang Zhe, to be my lawful wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you, cherish you and honour you all the days of my life.
They proceeded to exchange rings; platinum bands engraved with a symbol of their love, alpha and omega, and the initials XZ and SM with a heart at the center. They took pains to design it, for the symbol signified that their love for each other would last throughout the ages, from the beginning to the end of time.
Fr. William Franks then pronounced, “By the power vested in me by the Church, I now pronounced you husband and wife.”
XZ unveiled his bride, bending his head to kiss SM lingeringly on the lips. Their guests applauded delightedly, showering the magnificent pair with their heartfelt blessings, for the love of SM and XZ radiated so naturally and powerfully it was obvious even to the most inexperienced eyes.
Their wedding reception was held outside King’s College Chapel where pink and white canopies were set up to house their guests. They were being treated with the view of the River Cam. As their guests enjoyed their buffet lunch, the bride and groom had mysteriously disappeared.
“Xue Zhang,” SM protested, “I can’t possibly get into that punt, I am inappropriately dressed, look, I am wearing a pair of high heeled and flimsy sandals!”
“You are most appropriately and beautifully dressed for a wedding punt, my love.” He laughed at her, ignoring her protests as he swept her up her feet, stepping into the punt, balancing himself perfectly inside the punt before lowering SM carefully unto the cushioned seat. Punting was one of Cambridge’s chief attractions. Punts were flat-bottomed boats which; because they didn’t have a keel, were usually steered with a long pole (about 10 foot long). This was another surprise XZ had lavished on his beloved SM, he had arranged for a wedding punt. The punt was decorated with floral arrangement, and they were chauffered by an expert punter.
XZ took SM down memory lane; they punted at the River Cam down the Backs when they had first met. Little did they realized that five years down the road, they would be punting together on their wedding day down the same route. SM stared gratefully at her husband, he was such a romantic; she lifted her head to quickly plant a kiss on his cheek. That gesture brought a please smile to his lips. He hugged her tightly to him, breathing in her sweet scent, his eyes roving down appreciatively at the full curves revealed by the sweetheart neckline.
“What will our guests think when they see us walking towards them from a punt?” SM asked, her face burnt with embarrassment for she hadn’t missed his roving eyes.
“It’s a treat for them to witness the bridegroom carrying the bride out of the punt.” He would take advantage of all the opportunities to touch and caress her.
“You will not!” SM’s eyes were rounded with amazement.
“Of course I will!” XZ’s happiness was inexpressible, he wanted to announce to the whole world he had finally made SM his bride; he just could not contain the joy within his heart he needed to proclaim and share it with everyone.
The visitors punting at the
Backs of River Cam waved and whistled at the magnificent newlyweds. They
cheered and sang, some were so entranced by the pair they snapped photographs
of them with their digital cameras. XZ and SM sportingly smiled and waved, the
radiance on their faces nearly blinded them.
“Yeoh!” a Canadian couple shouted to catch the newlyweds’ attention, “a souvenir for such a handsome couple! Congratulations and may God Bless your marriage!” The middle-aged gentleman with a belly pot leant over to thrust the picture he had just taken of XZ and SM into their hands when the punts crossed.
“Thank you, sir. I believe so, she is God’s gift to me!” XZ returned the greeting with a charming smile. Turning his head to glance at his bride lovingly. SM smilingly nodded her head in a thank you gesture.
Their guests applauded with excitement when they spotted the radiant bride and groom punting up the River Cam. They stood up, giving them a standing ovation, cheering and clapping their hands rhythmatically. When the punt docked at the riverbank just below King’s College Chapel, SM discovered that a roll of red carpet had been laid across the field right up to the erected stage. Only then did she realize the props were up, with cupid arrows across XZ and SM’s names. She stared up wide mouth at XZ, meeting his impish gaze.
“Come, let’s not disappoint our guests, we shall give them a wedding to remember!” Without further ado, he bend to sweep SM up into his arms as if she was weightless, stepping out of the punt in a swift motion, effortlessly carrying her towards the direction of the stage. SM rested her head shyly on his shoulder. The crowd went crazy with joy, flagging the pink and white napkins in their hands for they were halfway through their meal.
It was fortunate SM wasn’t remotely aware of the further surprise XZ was about to spring on her. She lifted her head slightly from XZ’s shoulders, checking where XZ was heading. She breathed a sign of relief when she spotted her father-in-law the Senior Yin and his second wife, XZ’s stepmother, together with her father on the stage, that was the direction her husband was making his way to. They were probably about to toast to the newlyweds. The MC for the day Xian Da did an introduction as the handsome groom strode steadily up the stage with the vibrant bride.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let us welcome our bride and groom with a resounding round of applause!”
Xian Da smiled devilishly, for he was about to stun the bride with his announcement, though he anticipated their relatives and friends would go frenzy with anticipation.
“They are truly a remarkable couple, aren’t they?” The crowd applauded loudly again in agreement as XZ lowered SM to the ground easily.
“A little bird told me, that our newlyweds have been diligently taking ballroom dancing classes, (((DO YOU WANT TO SEE THEM DANCE?))))”
Their guests cheered in encouragement. SM narrowed her eyes, glaring at XZ in consternation. The applause was thunderous! XZ pulled his reluctant bride to the dance floor, lowering his head to murmur something at her. SM’s expression changed to one of mischief, nodding her head vigorously. They decided to do a cha cha dance. Both SM and XZ moved to the center of the stage, as the music Corazon Espinado flowed into the background, they began with the side chasse basic steps. As the tempo picked up, XZ and SM did the natural underarm turn, XZ did a slight triple hip movement, which send the crowd wild with excitement. They danced together gracefully, holding their guests spellbound with their classy performance. The highlight though was when SM performed the swivel, moving her footwork in a back and forth sliding and tracking actions. The swiveling action had such a sexy effect the men drooled and their knees buckled, they whistled and raised their fists, demanding for more. XZ and SM laughed, they continued to dance, moving with the tempo, doing the crossover breaks, shoulder roll spot turns, peek-a-boo and other fancy movements. The crowd enjoyed their showmanship tremendously. When the music eventually faded into the background signaling the end of the dance, they cheered, imitating the triple rhythm of the cha cha as they clapped, demanding for another number.
XZ and SM politely declined, inviting their guests to join them in the dance floor instead. The party was on full swing. XZ and SM mingled with their guests for a while. The time came for the father of the bride to address the crowd, to everyone’s amazement, GC chose to sing SM a song, drawing her into his arms in a slow dance. He gazed at his daughter with moisture in his eyes, pouring everything he was feeling, his bittersweet emotions into the song – ‘A Song For My Daughter’:-
Just once upon a yesterday, I held you in my arms, you grew into a little girl, with lovely childhood charms
Now it seems I only turned around, and I see you by his side, oh, I can't believe my eyes today,
My Daughter is a Bride
I guess somehow I always knew, this day would soon be here, still I wonder as I look at you
What became of all the years, and no words could ever quite express, the way I feel inside
Oh, I can't believe my eyes today, My Daughter is a Bride
All the laughter and the teardrops, the sunshine and the rain, I would relive every moment, Dear
If I could bring them all back again
But now, My Love, the time has come, to send you on your way, so I wish you every happiness
And the blessings of this day, and I hope the love I've given you, will forever be your guide
Oh, I can't believe my eyes today, My daughter - Oh, I can't believe my eyes
My Daughter - Oh, my angel and my pride, My Daughter is a Bride
SM couldn’t control the tears pouring down her cheeks. Her gaze remained fix on GC, there wasn’t a pair of dry eyes around, the love oozing out of this father and daughter pair was just too immense it would take a seriously hardened heart not to be affected. XZ hovered in the background, on the one hand deeply touched by the intense emotions displayed by GC and SM, on the other deeply worried his bride’s make up would smudge. SM hugged her father tightly to her for a long moment. She composed herself with an effort, before lifting her head to smile tremulously at GC, lifting her white laced gloved fingers to dab at those betraying tears. She moved toward Xian Da, murmuring something into his ears. A short while later, the band played the song ‘One More Time’. SM took the microphone from GC, and she began to sing, her eyes revealing clearly the feelings within her heart.
You used to love the way, I could dance on your feet, when I was a child of four
And it used to make me mad, when you just couldn't see, I wasn't that child anymore
But today I'm a woman, and old enough to know, what this moment must mean to you, so...
One more time, I'll be your little girl, one last time, I'm in ribbons and curls
And we'll waltz through our memories of days gone by,
The times that we laughed, and the times we cried,
One more time, I'll be your little girl, one last time
But you can be sure, though all of my little girl days are through
I still love you, Daddy, I love you
The last words were choked as she fell into GC’s arms one more time. GC embraced her tightly to him one last time, kissing her lightly on her forehead, before leading her back to the anxious groom, placing her hand firmly in XZ’s.
“Hush now, SM, I refuse to have my bride’s face smudged and looking like a tomcat!” XZ teased.
“Don’t have to worry, I am not wearing mascara, haven’t you noticed I have naturally dark lashes?” she pouted, batting her eyelashes deliberately at him, in a desperate attempt to lighten the mood. He took out a handkerchief from his pocket, gently wiping away the tear stains still visible around her eyes and cheeks.
XZ’s father smiled with pride and consolation as he watched his son and new daughter-in-law. He was so envious of GC, he wished he had such close bonding with his son, similar to the one SM shared with GC. He walked over to the newlyweds, tapping XZ lightly on the shoulder. XZ swirled round questioningly, but his father looked intently at SM, addressing her,
“May I have the honor of this dance?” SM nodded shyly, a please expression on her face. As both moved away from XZ, Yin Senior spoke quietly to SM.
“SM, I am so grateful to you. XZ’s attitude towards me has changed so much for the better since he met you, but our relationship is still strained, how I wish our relationship was similar to the one you shared with your father.” Yin Senior sighed heavily. Overcame with deep compassion for her father-in-law, SM squeezed Yin Senior’s arm in a gesture of comfort.
“Pa,” she began hesitantly, savoring the feel of addressing another man besides GC as her father, “it takes time to mend a relationship, but I believe forgiveness and love are the keys to mend your relationship with XZ. Give him some time…ummm?”
Senior Yin was moved, her compassionate heart touched him to the core. He smiled with pleasure at the way she called her pa. He was convinced she was a good omen to the Yin family. SM gave him an encouraging smile. Her smile was so enchanting, and warm as the sunshine, Senior Yin was deeply affected by it. He felt a wave of heat spreading through the region of his heart. At that very moment, Senior Yin glimpsed the reason and thought he understood why XZ loved this enchantingly loving child-woman so much. It might sound ridiculous, but he had a sudden feeling that … she was the angel of hope…. to their family.
Christmas was a month away. SM
spend almost the whole day shopping in Oxford Street and Bond Street, from the
bigger departmental stores like Debenhams, C&A, Marks & Spencer, Laura
Ashley to the smaller less well known shops. This was her first Christmas with
an extended family, SM was really anxious to please her parent in-laws. She
shook her head helplessly as she thought of XZ’s attitude towards his
stepmother, his mannerism had thawed towards his father, but his cold indifference
towards his stepmother and little brother sometimes made SM grit her teeth with
SM struggled with the big and small parcels and paper bags, containing the presents she had purchased for everyone. She descended the stairs leading towards Oxford Circus Station. XZ was tight up with a meeting with BBC senior management and wasn’t able to join her in this shopping expedition. Since their marriage, he had insisted on driving to work instead of using the public transport.
She could hear the tube arriving and ran clumsily to catch the train. The train was jam packed with Christmas shoppers, SM was squeezed in between the many passengers and with all her parcels and paper bags, she nearly loose her balance. As she fought to balance herself, she saw a hand removing her purse from her handbag. She looked up to identify the culprit, her pair of almond eyes rounded indignantly and she heard her own voice demanding from the woman in question.
“Return the purse to me!”
The woman defended her innocence.
“I didn’t take anything from you.”
SM was enraged. She couldn’t tolerate someone who lied after committing a crime, her sense of justice emerging.
“I say, give me back my purse, I saw you removing it from my handbag!”
SM accused fiercely, ignoring the other curious passengers. The woman’s face reddened, and when the train reached Bond Street Station, she ran out of the tube. SM ran out in hot pursuit, her purchases knocking against her legs and body unceremoniously.
“Give me back my purse! YOU STOLE MY PURSE!”
She caught up with the woman in question, pulling at her arm. The woman thief was so frightened she let SM searched the sling bag she was carrying. SM couldn’t find anything in it and had to release her. Deflated and depressed, SM felt like a fool although she was sure it was the lady who had stolen her purse. What was she going to do without any money? Her mind went blank.
“You idiotic child! Have you never considered your own safety, what if she got out a knife and harm you? All because of the fifty pound note you have in your purse?”
XZ roared at his wife in disbelief. A shudder of fear ran through his body as he thought of the possible consequences at SM’s foolish act.
“My mind went blank alright! Someone robbed me of my purse, I didn’t realize it contain only cash. All I could think of was some important documentation might be inside the purse!”
SM shouted back at him with fury. She had wanted him to take her in his arms to console her, instead he was lecturing her on her foolishness.
“You were carrying your mobile phone right? You can always call your husband, or have you forgotten you have a husband?” He challenged.
“So this is the difference between before marriage and after marriage. You would have just taken me into your arms without further questions before marriage, now you are only shouting at me!”
SM accused, tears starting to well in her eyes. XZ glared at SM, he was struck dumb. He ran his fingers over his hair in frustration. When a drop of tear fell off her cheek, he groaned, moving forward to take her into his arms.
“You can be so dumb at times!” XZ couldn’t control those words from slipping out. SM’s backbone stiffened at those unflattering words, she countered in indignation.
“If I am dumb you are even dumber to marry a dumb dumb!!”
Her English had gone all awry, but who cared, as long as she got her point across her outstandingly prominent husband. XZ felt the surge of anger and tension leaving his body. She could just twist him around her little finger. He chuckled.
“Okay, okay, so I am dumber. I know the reason now why God threw his angel down from heaven as his gift to me, He couldn’t find somebody more idiotic in heaven, so he found me, the one dumber than the dumb dumb angel, to dump you on.”
He mimicked her terminology, remarking in self-mockery, one hand stroking her hair lovingly, the other drawing her closer to him.
“Why, you….” That was an indirect insult, but her pea size brain couldn’t think of anything to counter his remarks. Zhen Shan Mei, where was the brilliance of speech so evident in you as a newscaster when you most need it? She thought in self-directed annoyance.
“Promise me something, sweetheart? Don’t ever endanger your life like this again. I can’t tolerate the thought of losing you. I will wither and die without you. I love you too much to risk losing you.” XZ implored earnestly.
SM nodded her head. She could feel the tremor of fear running through his body. She lifted her head, meeting his eyes with a loving gaze.
“I am sorry, Xue Zhang. I am constantly troubling you with my follies!”
“Oh my love, I didn’t know I was alive until I started rescuing you from your follies! But don’t do it so often alright, and not something that will endanger your life!” He repeated, rubbing his chin against her silken hair, breathing in the fragrance of her hair.
“Well, if you say that more often, I wouldn’t mind so much when you get cross with me for my idiotic acts.” She replied impishly, her cheeks dimpled as she smiled. He resembled an ogre when he was crossed.
XZ bought a house in Cambridge a few roads away from Gu Gu’s house as a wedding present to SM. They had spent their wedding night there. Thinking of their wedding night brought a flush of embarrassment to SM’s cheeks. That was a night to remember, not because of romance, rather that marked the first folly SM committed since their marriage. She giggled in amusement as she thought of XZ’s stupefied face when he found his bride sleeping soundly on their marriage bed, not eagerly waiting in anticipation for her groom, but in a drunken stupor after consuming a bottle of wine.
XZ was sensitive to her nervousness and had attempted to lighten and relax her tense mood. He first plied her with wine and put on the most romantic music, Luther Vandross’s ‘Here and Now’. Perhaps the tactics he employed was too successful for when XZ went into the bathroom for a shower, SM continued drinking her wine to calm her nerves, and she unwittingly finished the whole bottle! Though he got even with her later. One thing was for sure, her husband had never been short of innovative and effective ideas!
‘What are you doing?’ XZ came out of the kitchen, joining SM on the couch. They had retained SM’s apartment in Ealing Broadway, London.
“Hmmm, knitting a jumper for pa.” She lied smoothly, expertly working at her knitting needles.
“Where is mine?” He flung his arms around her shoulders, drawing her to him.
“Yours? Go buy yourself those branded ones!” She wrinkled her perk nose, making a face at him. In truth, the jumper was meant for XZ.
“I don’t want the branded ones, I want one knitted by my wife. Do you know how proud I’d feel wearing a jumper knitted by my wife? I’d feel cocoon with your love just wearing it. In fact this colour is just right for me!”
He argued, giving her one of those besotted gaze that never failed to weaken her knees. SM screwed her face to conceal her mirth.
“Shame on you! How can you try to take something meant for your pa?” she chided.
“I’ll buy him a branded one.”
“Yin Xiang Zhe!” SM pretended to be aghast at his suggestion.
“Pleaseeee…..” XZ pleaded in boyish charm. SM couldn’t resist him like this.
“We shall see.” She said in a no nonsense tone.
“SM, this is the fifth Christmas lot we are visiting. The trees all looked similar to me, why are you so fussy with the Christmas tree.” XZ asked in exasperation.
“The tree must be perfect, just like my husband.” She sweet-talked him, patting his cheeks gently. XZ lowered his head to chip at her perk nose, aware of her tactics, though his face broke immediately into a please smile. She finally settled for a big, husky Scotch pine with a perfect shape.
SM lovingly decorated the living room to give it a Christmas spirit. The tree was up with the decorations. The surprise though was the Nativity Crib she made. It stood just beside the Christmas tree, with baby Jesus inside the crib, accompanied by the figurines of Mary, Joseph and the three kings paying homage to the newborn king.
SM wanted to convey a message to her husband, that Christmas wasn’t just a time for exchanging presents. It was a time of giving and receiving, a conversion of heart. And the mending of family relationships was one of them. She stroked her stomach gently, wondering what it would feel like to carry XZ’s child beneath her breast, nurturing it.
“What is occupying the thoughts of my wife so extensively that she can’t sense the presence of her dashingly gorgeous husband? I wouldn’t allow it if it’s of another man!” He said mockingly, wrapping his arms round her waist from behind.
“Xue Zhang! Do you like children?” She blurted out impulsively. They had not discussed on the subject of children before.
“I like the ones we are going to have.” He replied softly, meeting her gaze steadily, conveying his sincere and honest desire to be the father of her children.
SM gazed lovingly at her
husband. Christmas was just a week away. They had traveled back to their house
in Cambridge during the weekend just to clean up and decorate the house in
preparation for Christmas celebrations. XZ’s father, aunty and little brother
Xiang Jie will be joining them for Christmas. This was their first Christmas
together and it’d be a family reunion since their wedding. Gui Cheng and Chen
Su will also be celebrating with them in Cambridge, though they’d be staying
with Gu Gu.
SM pulled XZ over to the crib. Kneeling beside it, she lifted the baby Jesus gently out of the crib.
“Xue Zhang, what do you think baby Jesus symbolizes?” she prompted.
“That we’d probably have our little bundle of joy next Christmas?” XZ twisted her words deliberately, asking tongue in cheek, teasing her. SM giggled, lowering her lashes to conceal her shyness. She jabbed him on his chest lightly.
“Be serious!” she chided. XZ sighed heavily.
“SM, I know, you’d like me to treat my father, aunty and Xiang Jie better. But don’t you think they should show more consideration to a pair of newlyweds, than to descend upon us on our first Christmas together like this?” He made a face, annoyed with their tactlessness.
He wanted to spend their first Christmas with her alone, just the two of them. SM repressed a smile at his sulky look. He had always been her senior, her guardian shielding her from adversity and protecting her from harm. He now resembled a little boy who just had his best toy removed from him.
“Fr. William once said that the world has lost its peace, because it has lost its heart, the heart of love, peace and forgiveness. Baby Jesus is our Prince of Peace, he brings peace, but only if we possess a heart of love and forgiveness.” SM touched his heart gently.
“You are so loving and giving towards me, but what about your own?”
“SM, you’ve not seen how my mother suffered, while they took her wealth to enjoy themselves!” His voice raised in anger.
“How were you able to condone my behavior when I went to You Zhen?” she brought up the delicate subject.
“That’s different. You were bound by duty and circumstances, and I love you.” He defended her.
“But I hurt you …” she said in a small voice, continuing bravely, “just like your father hurt your mother.”
“There’s no comparison, SM. We were not married with a son.” XZ voiced his disagreement.
“But don’t you see, when it comes to the basics, it’s the same. Love, injury and forgiveness?”
“It’s easier said than done, but for your sake, I’ll willing to try,” Pleasing her would always be his first priority.
“Oh, don’t you see, it’s not for me but for your sake.” She leaned forward to hug him, laying her head gently on his chest.
“Xue Zhang, your mother would want to see you happy and freed from the injury she and your father caused you by their separation. Try viewing the matter at your father’s point of view, and place yourself in his shoes. You might understand and be more sympathetic towards him then, umm? And Xiang Jie is an innocent party. As for your aunty, try accepting her, umm?”
XZ tightened his hold on SM. She was the most important person in his life.
“Give me time, sweetheart, I can’t change how I feel about them overnight.” SM nodded her head, pressing her face deep into his chest. It was sufficient he was willing to let go of the past.
“I love you and will try my utmost best to make you happy!” She vowed earnestly.
“Oh, you already have, my love.” XZ whispered lovingly into her ear.
The whole family returned home after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. SM danced with joy, she was in great spirit, softly humming the tune ‘Away In A Manger’ as they walked home.
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle til morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.
“SM, are you preparing to present me a grandchild by next Christmas?” Yin Senior teased his daughter- in-law. SM face reddened in an instant. XZ laughed beneath his breath at her look of embarrassment. She glared up at him warningly.
“Pa! I can’t do that alone!” She protested with a pouting look.
“I am more than willing to cooperate, my love! Are you implying I am lacking in my duty? I get the hint.” XZ gave a mocking frown. SM could feel her cheeks burning.
“What nonsense are you uttering?” she rained punches on XZ’s shoulder furiously. “You are so hateful!”
XZ let her vent her fury on his shoulder for a while before catching her hand effortless to restraint her.
“Bully!” she stuck out her tongue at him childishly. The group laughed heartily at the spectacle they were making of themselves. It’s obvious they would have an addition to the family next year. Yin senior nodded his head with approval. He just wished XZ would be more affectionate towards him, his stepmother and little brother.
They gathered round the living room when they arrived home. SM distributed the presents under the Christmas tree to the family with glee. Her happiness was infectious. Xiang Jie, XZ’s teenage brother stared open mouth at her with an infatuated look on his face.
“Sorry, little brother, she’s taken. Keep that look for somebody else.” XJ jumped guiltily as XZ patted his arm in commiseration. XJ blushed guiltily, this was the first time his elder brother had acknowledged his presence and shown some kind of affection towards him.
“Don’t know about you folks, but SM and I are retiring!” XZ announced. He yearned to be alone with his wife. His family had been dominating her for the whole day, it’s time he reclaimed his wife’s attention.
“Oh, but I …” SM was still struggling to unwrap one of her presents. XZ moved forward impatiently to sweep her up into his arms, presents and all, walking purposefully towards their bedroom, ignoring the indulgently amuse faces of the elder generation.
“Why, you’re always embarrassing me in front of your family!” SM complained when they reached their bedroom.
“That’s the punishment for being insensitive to your husband’s needs.” He mocked. Laying her down on the bed. SM got up quickly, escaping her husband’s attempt to keep her there. She removed a gift from the closet, thrusting it to XZ.
“This is for you, with all my heart. Merry Christmas!” She said softly. XZ unwrapped it with a delighted twitch at the corner of his lips. Contained in it was the beige jumper she was knitting a month back. He unfolded it carefully, grinning from ear to ear. She had knitted the design of their wedding rings at the top left of the jumper, in navy blue and red colors, the symbol of their love that would last throughout eternity.
“It’s beautiful, sweetheart. I feel cocoon with love already. Thank you.” He tried it on immediately. The jumper was a perfect fit.
“Where is mine? You didn’t leave it below the Christmas tree.” She demanded.
“I am the greatest Christmas gift. Why don’t you unwrap me now?” XZ teased.
“Wah!” SM realized her mistake, too late, her husband had caught her before she could run.
They could hear the carolers singing ‘Felix Navidad’ outside their house, but this night, Yin Xiang Zhe had eyes only for his wife, Zhen Shan Mei.
Xiang Zhe and Shan Mei returned
to London after celebrating Christmas with their family. As MBS’s special
correspondent, Shan Mei was assigned the task of covering the news of New
Year’s Eve celebrations in central London. Xiang Zhe though need not return to
work until after New Year. Xiang Zhe, being the protective and indulgent
husband, would not hear of Shan Mei traveling back to London alone.
Trafalgar Square was the place where crowds gathered to hear Big Ben chime in the New Year and joined in the tradition of doling out New Year's kisses and singing Auld Lang Syne. Up to 500,000 people were expected to attend events in central London and police are warning people to avoid the area.
Xiang Zhe was aware that when the crowd lost control of themselves, people get trampled on and there were cases where people were injured and killed during these celebrations. He wasn’t about to let Shan Mei ventured alone into that area, even though Peter and the BBC crew would be there. In his opinion, nobody else could be entrusted the job of shielding his angel from danger.
Thinking of Peter never failed to unbalance his equilibrium. His naïve wife had no idea, but Xiang Zhe always suspected that Peter was more than a little smitten by Shan Mei. No man would show such concern over a woman without some ulterior motives. It was fortunate he was transferred to London just in time to protect his unsuspecting little lamb from the wolf. Xiang Zhe distinctly remembered Peter’s disappointed expression when Shan Mei introduced him as her fiancée. In fact, he would describe that Peter’s jaw almost dropped. Even at the wedding, Peter had attempted to take advantage of the bride when Shan Mei danced with him, thought Xiang Zhe broodingly. He had held her so close to his body.
“What are you thinking of that brought such a frown to your face?”
Shan Mei enquired from behind. Xiang Zhe was leaning against the windowpane, looking unseeingly outside the streets of Ealing Broadway. Shan Mei attempted to smooth the knitted crosses between his brows with her fingers.
“I worry I will one day resemble you, constantly frowning!’ She teased him, flashing him her patented smile. Her lips curved into a cheeky grin.
Xiang Zhe turned to face her, drawing her into his arms. He just couldn’t keep his hands off her! Now that she was his, he noticed he was getting very possessive, which was not obvious before their marriage. Perhaps it was more accurate to say that he had always been possessive, but when he thought You Zhen still had a place in her heart, he was so insecure he would take any crumbs thrown his way.
“I won’t frown so much if you keep your distance with Peter.” Xiang Zhe said.
“Oui, Peter? What are you trying to imply, Xue Zhang!” Shan Mei asked with curiosity.
“He is too damn obvious in his interest!” He growled.
“I wouldn’t know, I have eyes only for a dashingly handsome, filthily rich and unreasonably jealous guy. Yeah, the old women’s tale are true, I should have dated more guys before settling down, it’s too late now…”
Shan Mei lamented, pretending to regret the choice she had made, though she couldn’t quite conceal the mischievous twinkle in her eyes. She loved it when he was jealous!
“How dare you say such a thing? Where will you get the opportunity to date other guys and make comparison? I have exclusive rights where you are concerned, this life, next life and all our lifetimes together!” He started to tickle her in punishment. Shan Mei laughed, struggling out of his embrace, running around the tiny apartment to avoid the big bad wolf. Xiang Zhe caught her, continuing to tickle her.
“Surrender!” He commanded.
“No! NEVER!” She defied, struggling futilely to avoid his tickling fingers.
“Surrender! You will have no others but ME!” He reiterated in a loud tone.
“NO! NEVER! …. Wah, papa help me, Xue Zhang is a bully.” She giggled joyously, throwing herself into his arms, abandoning her pretence.
“Don’t do that, you are cheating!” She objected to his treatment. Xiang Zhe gurgled with laughter, hugging her close to him.
New Year’s Eve, Trafalgar Square
Shan Mei was astounded at the number of people crowding round Trafalgar Square waiting for the Bin Ben to strike twelve. The weather was wet and windy with temperatures between 3C to 5C. Despite the fact that there will be no fireworks display to mark midnight, it did not stopped people flocking their way here to welcome the New Year.
Peter signaled to Shan Mei to get ready. She adjusted her earphone, waiting to hear from Xian Da at MBS Korea. It was going to be a live telecast for MBS’s morning show.
“Ms. Zhen Shan Mei, how do you do? What is the atmosphere like in Trafalgar Square?” Finally, Xian Da’s voice transmitted across her earphone.
“Well, as you can see from the reactions of the crowd here, they are very excited. Many have waited here as early as 10.00pm. There are approximately 100,000 gathered here in Trafalgar Square, waiting for the BIG BEN to strike 12.00 to welcome the New Year. The turn out is quite amazing as there will be no fireworks display or shows staged to mark the crossing of the threshold from Year 2000 to Year 2001. There was intense criticism on the Mayor’s failure to stage official New Year’s Eve celebrations. Xian Da, can you hear the crowds now? They are doing their own countdown! We can see from here the needle of BIG BEN moving nearer towards midnight …” Shan Mei’s voice raised with excitement.
“Ten, nine, eight, seven …”
Shan Mei started counting down. When BIG BEN struck twelve, they could hear the crowd singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’, some started to grab people around them, doling out New Year kisses. Xian Da was struck dumb when he saw someone grabbing Shan Mei and planted a passionate kiss on her luscious lips. Then it dawned on him that the back profile of the man looked very familiar indeed. The viewers in Korea were anxiously watching a crazy guy pawing their most beloved newscaster. To their amazement, Shan Mei laughed heartily, remarking when she emerged from the drugging kiss bestowed on her by a total stranger.
“Don’t worry, this crazy guy is my husband, Yin Xiang Zhe. The man I love beyond anyone else and anything else in the world, the father of my baby …” Xiang Zhe looked directly at the camera. His expression was … flabbergasted.
“Ms. Zhen, I suppose congratulations is in order.” Xian Da questioned. He was proud of his professionalism, in truth he was goose smack! Shan Mei was at her best again, she had just declared her love for Xiang Zhe and announced the news of the baby they were expecting to the whole of Korea.
“Congratulations! When is the baby due?” Xian Da asked.
“Oh, oh, no … I mean I am not pregnant, that is not pregnant last year … but not sure this year …” Shan Mei babbled, her face burning with embarrassment. She wanted to cry, she had made an unforgivable blunder again, what an idiot she was! She wanted to bury her head under the sand like an ostrich. She didn’t know how she managed to finish reporting. But finally heard herself saying,
“This is MBS’s Zhen Shan Mei at Trafalgar Square.”
“It’s all your fault, how could you kiss me? And right in front of the camera?” Shan Mei’s fists fell like rain on Xiang Zhe’s chest. What had she done, she had to blame it on someone, and the closest target she had found in the form of her dashing husband.
“Hey, I saw Peter, he was about to pounce on you!” Xiang Zhe defended mildly. He was grinning from ear to ear. Shan Mei had just announced to the whole world she loved him. That effectively killed off all competition for him. His mobile phone rang right on cue.
“I say, you have a priceless gem for a wife, old boy! Whole of Korea is demanding for a repeat telecast of the morning show! No, that’s not true, just the part on Zhen Shan Mei and her gorgeous husband! Haha… MBS staff is being overworked, picking up phone calls from delighted viewers! Shan Mei is simply sensational and irreplaceable! I wish Yong Xi would do that to me…” Xian Da lamented.
“Dream on! Xian Da.” Xiang Zhe chuckled happily.
BACK AT THEIR LONDON APARTMENT THE SAME NIGHT
Shan Mei sobbed heartbrokenly.
“I am a fool, an idiot!” She cried. Xiang Zhe stroked her back gently, consoling her.
“Hey, you are unique! I am the luckiest guy alive… you acted true to the character of Zhen Shan Mei!” Though he was upset over her tears, his heart swelled with happiness.
“How dare you laughed at me! It’s all because of you! You knew I couldn’t think when you kiss me like that, my knees wobble, my head gets dizzy …”
“Sounds like the symptoms of early pregnancy…” Xiang Zhe teased.
“WAH!!! Papa, Xue Zhang is bullying your little girl, where are you?” Shan Mei wailed harder. She buried her head deep into her husband’s chest, damping the front of his jumper with her tears.
“Okay, okay, it’s all my fault!” He soothed, wrapping her closer into his protective embrace, stroking her glorious long hair and patting her shoulders as if she was a baby. The twitch at the corner of his lips though betrayed his mirth…
New Years Day 2001
Xiang Zhe busied himself in the kitchen, turning the bacon he was frying in the pan over expertly, whistling lightheartedly. From time to time, a delighted grin would appear involuntarily on his face, and he shook his head. The weather seemed to reflect his obvious good mood, it was a glorious winter morning, and for once it was not drizzling. His joy seemed to have infected the sparrows outside their apartment too, for when he opened the kitchen window this morning, he heard the noisy chirpy sound they orchestrated, five of them lining up on the branch of the tree staring boldly at XZ.
He laid the two plates of bacon and eggs on the dining table. Moving into the master bedroom to peep at the reason for his excellent mood. Xiang Zhe glanced down at the sleeping Shan Mei, his eyes tender with love. He sat down at the edge of the bed, it had taken him ages to pacify her the previous night. His smoothed his thumb lightly across her eyes, they were swollen for she had cried herself to sleep in his arms. He bent forward, planting a lingering kiss on those tempting lips.
“Oh, oh, no … I mean I am not pregnant, that is not pregnant last year … but not sure this year …”
Shan Mei frowned a little, what nonsense was she saying, and to top it all she was facing the camera! She felt so confused, it was Xue Zhang, he was the culprit, she thought with annoyance… Oh, she couldn’t breathe, she struggled to open her sleepy eyes … and stared right into those gorgeous eyes of her husband. Shan Mei attempted to speak, realizing belatedly that the reason she felt suffocated was due to her husband who had captured her lips with his.
“Happy New Year, sweetheart.” Xiang Zhe murmured, brushing the tip of his nose against her rosy cheeks. His heart ached at the sight of the pair of swollen eyes.
“Happy New Year, Xue Zhang.” She responded in a small voice, wrapping her arms around his waist, taking refuge in his protective embrace.
“This is a glorious morning, the birds are chirping, the sun is shining, it fares well for the new year. New Year, new hope!” He declared brightly, attempting to cheer her out of her sullen mood.
“Yeah, new year, new hope, hope not to act like an idiot again in front of the camera!” Shan Mei pouted, then wrinkled her perk nose at the smell of breakfast. She squealed delightedly, getting up in a swift sudden movement, nearly toppling Xiang Zhe in the process.
“Xue Zhang, you cooked breakfast? Oh, you are the best husband a girl could ever dream of!”
“Hey, be careful or you might hurt our baby… I see, food holds more interest for you than me…”
He mocked and lamented, stroking her flat stomach with his large hands suggestively, quirking his brows with a teasing smile at the corner of his lips.
“What baby?? You hateful tease, do you have to bring it all out again..” She punched his chest with her fists, but her strength was puny and Xiang Zhe just laughed at her, catching both her fists with one large hand easily.
“Now what am I now, the best husband or a hateful tease? I have never come across a woman more fickle than you, now make up your mind, what’s the answer? … I am the best right, SAY IT…” he commanded. Shan Mei giggled, her sunny mood returned with a vengeance.
“You should not harass the mother of your child thus, and your child is hungry NOW!”
She slipped out of his arms and ran into the bathroom to freshen up, escaping. Xiang Zhe watched the graceful imp disappearing from his sight with a rueful shake of his head. She was still such a child!
At the end of January, the weather was freezing cold in London. Temperatures were between –8C to –15C. Shan Mei waited outside the home of Andrew and Phyllis Hammond at Clapham Common with a determine look on her face. She just had to meet up with the parents of the two lovable children. Being taken in and out of their foster homes was too unstable an environment for the children to grow up in.
Shan Mei’s heart ached with compassion at the thought of the two kids. She first met them two weeks ago while she was researching for a story on the social problems in London. She stumbled upon BAAF Adoption and Fostering, the leading UK-wide membership organisation promoting the highest standards of child-centred policies and services for children separated from their families of origin. She had visited a few foster families and was appalled by the abuses drug addict parents inflicted on their children. Somehow this pair of brother and sister touched her heartstring in a peculiar way. They had lost their ability to smile and to trust with the uncertainty of life. There were no constant parents they could rely on or to love. Little Phyllis has a pair of liquid green eyes with darks curls on her baby chubby face, she looked so cute but lurking behind those beautiful eyes were a soul that was deeply confused and hurt. Andrew was the elder brother whose eyes stared coldly at everyone with distrust and hate, but the deep love and protective care he showered on his sister moved Shan Mei to tears. Seeing the plight of these children reminded Shan Mei of Ying Mei. Could she ever blame her for behaving the way she did growing up in an environment constantly subjected to a father’s abusive acts.
She gathered her woolen winter coat closer to her, rubbing her hands together and moved her feet in an attempt to keep warm. Finally, she caught sight of Adrian and Dusty Hammond. She recognized them from the photograph Phyllis shown her. In actual fact, it wouldn’t be difficult to tell as their eyes were glazed, as if they were high on cocaine.
“Mr. & Mrs. Hammond, are you the parents of Andrew and Phyllis?” She called out boldly. The couple looked at her questioningly, what has an oriental woman got to do with them.
“Yeah…” Adrian replied. He was slim and about the same height as Shan Mei with light blonde hair and blue eyes. His gaze at her was unfriendly and defensive.
“Can I speak to you regarding Andrew and Phyllis?” Shan Mei asked, shivering badly as the chilling strong wind slapped against her slim delicate frame, she held on to her feet with an effort to balance herself, and wish the Hammonds had the courtesy to invite her into their home to discuss the matter.
“What you want? Ain’t have any business can do with a bloody social worker!” His cockney slang was something Shan Mei wasn’t accustomed to. She had tried to converse with him in her most cultured English. Aggression was written all over Adrian Hammond’s face.
“Please could we just go into your house to talk?” She persisted.
“I’m afraid I ain’t know you ma’am. Don’t talk no business with a strang’er..” Adrian declined.
“No, listen to me. I appeal to you to give your children up for adoption. It’s doing them a lot of harm not having a stable environment to grow up in, moving from foster home to foster home. They are such lovely children, for their sake won’t you reconsider?”
Shan Mei realized her mistake when she saw his face. Those were not human face capable of any human feelings, consuming drugs have become his way of life and he didn’t care what happened to others, his face contorted with rage and he clenched and unclenched his fist as if ready for a fight.
“Who are you to judge? Have you any idea what it’s like living in a slum, don’t come lecture us with your high and mighty ways, ain’t no time for your kind who think you’re better than the likes of us less fortunate …”
Before Shan Mei could react, he lifted up a sharp object from his bag and aimed it at Shan Mei. She turned around quickly trying to run away from him, but he was too fast and caught up in two swift steps, directing the sharp object unto her back. Just as the weight was about to fall on Shan Mei, a figure appeared from nowhere to block the blow, but he could not cushion the impact and Shan Mei was pushed roughly towards the side, her head hitting hard on a lamppost, as she fell unto the ground, her last thoughts were that of Xiang Zhe’s anguish face at the news of her ….
“Shan Mei! Shan Mei!” Xiang Zhe cried out hoarsely. He learned about Shan Mei’s whereabouts from Peter and rushed towards Clapham. He shuddered at the thought that he might be too late to protect her from danger. Thank God he just made it on time to shield her from the drug addict’s attack. The neighbours managed to refrain Adrian’s violent act and Xiang Zhe squatted down, lifting his unconscious wife into his arms with trembling hands.
“Somebody call the ambulance!” He shouted, tightening his hold on her. Then as if unable to bear the wait anymore, he carried her in his arms, running towards his car parked just alongside the road.
XZ stared down at his wife who was lying on the hospital bed. He caressed her cheeks tenderly and smooth back a log of hair that had fallen off her forehead. She looked so pale. This was the third time he was sitting next to her in a hospital bed.
First, when she was twenty on the day his car had knocked her down. Second, when they had a misunderstanding and he had reprimanded her in front of the whole ‘Good Morning Eve’ team, she had fainted in the middle of hosting a radio show. She had hurt him beyond his endurance then. And now she was his beloved wife, the thought of losing her filled him with fear and agony he trembled with it.
“Darling, don’t ever do this to me again, I just couldn’t bear it, I love you so much.” He whispered to her softly, taking her left hand and holding it with both his palms, tears glistening in his eyes.
The first person Shan Mei saw when she opened her eyes was her husband. He was half lying face down at the side of her bed, both his hands holding hers tightly. Tears shimmered in her eyes, she moved her body a little so she could stretched out her right hand to caress his head lightly. Xiang Zhe lifted his head at her touch and she was stunned at the sight of his puffy red eyes.
“Xue Zhang…” she struggled to sit up, she needed to comfort him.
“How are you feeling?” He asked worriedly, his voice hoarse. He stood up hurriedly to assist her.
“I am fine.” In truth her head ached like tiny soldiers hammering against it. She pulled him down to sit at her side, wrapping her arms round his neck, stroking the back of his hair in a gesture of comfort. XZ buried his head in her nape.
“Don’t ever do that to me again, I was scared to death.”
“I am sorry, Xue Zhang.” She made a silent vow never to cause him such anxiety again. At that instant, her stomach grunted loudly. “Oh!” she covered her face in embarrassment. Xiang Zhe chuckled. His Shan Mei was truly a priceless jewel! This effectively broke the morbid spell they got themselves into.
“I’ll get you some breakfast, coffee and tuna sandwich?” He asked. She nodded her head with a smile.
“Coffee, tuna sandwich and a hotdog?” She added with a hopeful look. She felt suddenly famished.
“Be a good girl and stay here. I’ll be back in a short while.” He stood up, dropping a light kiss on her forehead before opening the door to leave the room.
“Mrs Yin?” SM gazed stupefied at the handsome Keanu Reeves look-alike, her mouth opened in astonishment.
“No, I am Zhen Shan Mei. Mrs Yin is my mother-in-law…”Shan Mei babbled.
“Huh?” The gorgeous guy quirked his brows in a questioning look. Has his patient lost her sanity when her head hit the lamppost? Who was he, wondered Shan Mei. Her gaze fell eventually on the white jacket he was wearing. This handsome hunk was a doctor? Haha …. No, but her husband was more good-looking, she thought to herself with a shy smile.
“Mrs. Yin?” Doctor Michael Reece stared hard at his patient, was she cuckoo? First she uttered a load of rubbish, now smiling to herself, umm, perhaps he should transfer her to the psychiatric ward.
“It’s written here you are the wife of one Yin Xiang Zhe?” He tried again.
“Yes, yes! I am sorry, everyone calls me Shan Mei, I am quite unaccustomed to the address of Mrs. Yin.”
She scratched the back of her head in embarrassment. Dr. Michael smiled coolly, but the twinkle at the back of those dark sapphire eyes betrayed his mirth.
“Mrs. Yin, you are a very lucky woman. The X-ray result is cleared. But err, the blood test and urine test results indicated that you are pregnant, are you aware of that?”
“Huh??” Shan Mei asked in confusion.
“I guess from your reaction you are not aware of this?”
“No, I am not. How many months?” After the initial comical introduction, both settled down to a serious dialogue, discussing Shan Mei’s condition.
“Dr. Michael, can you please keep this a secret? I would like to be the one who break this piece of good news to my husband.” Dr. Michael nodded in agreement.
Xiang Zhe walked hurriedly down the corridor of the hospital towards the room of his wife. He had taken longer than anticipated to purchase the hotdog. When he saw Dr. Michael leaving Shan Mei’s room, he raced quickly forward to introduce himself.
“Doctor, I am Yin Xiang Zhe, how is my wife?” He queried anxiously. Dr. Michael frowned at the coffee he was holding in his hands.
“If I were you, I wouldn’t give that to her. It’s not recommended for a pregnant lady to consume too much caffeine.” Had he contracted the ‘blur’ virus from that lady inside the room, Dr. Michael groaned silently inside. He had just broken the confidence between patient and doctor.
“What?” Xiang Zhe asked in amazement.
“Your wife is pregnant! Take good care of her.” Dr. Michael patted Xiang Zhe on his shoulders.
“I presume you have not informed my wife? Don’t tell her will you? I would like to surprise her with the news!” Xiang Zhe said. What a pair, thought the good doctor. He nodded his head before moving away from Xiang Zhe with cool long strides. Both husband and wife had sought his assistance to remain silent, but he had revealed the news to the two of them. Dr. Michael crossed his fingers.
Shan Mei smiled delightedly as she gently stroked her still flat stomach. She was carrying Xue Zhang’s baby. He must have been conceived on Christmas Eve! She blushed as she recalled how boldly Xiang Zhe had carried her into their bedroom with her parent-in-laws and brother-in-law as indulgent witnesses. Yes, Valentine’s Day should be a good time to break such good news, it’s only two weeks away. Xiang Zhe knocked at the door.
“May I interrupt? Who are you thinking of? I wouldn’t allow it if it’s thoughts of another man!” He teased. He was in an awfully good mood.
“They ran out of coffee, so I bought you some milk instead.” He said innocently. Xiang Zhe had drunk the coffee himself, replacing her coffee with milk.
“It’s alright, I feel like drinking milk now.” She responded equally innocently. Both stared at each other suspiciously, then burst out laughingly for it was obvious they were hiding something from each other. They exchange a delighted grin.
“Whose blunder?” He asked simply.
“The doctor’s, I guessed.” SM retorted with a derisive look. She had asked the Keanu Reeves look-alike to keep a secret, but as soon as he got out of the room, he revealed the information to her husband!
“What are you saying now? Has that knock crippled your brain? I mean whose blunder was it that you got pregnant so soon?” He mocked.
“Definitely yours! Do you have to ask…” she made a face at him.
“How many months, Shan Mei?” The gaze resting on her lovely sweet face was tender and loving.
“One month. He’s going to be the most handsome baby, Xue Zhang.” She laid her head against his chest.
“Was there ever any doubt about that, with such a dashing guy for a father?” He pointed to himself proudly. Shan Mei giggled, her eyes curved into the shape of a half moon. Xiang Zhe was mesmerized at that brilliantly bright sunshine smile.
“You know I was about to buy you a puppy and thought you should name him Daffy. When you call him, it’d be like calling yourself because you are so daft… Daffy Daffy … Daffy Daffy … Ha, that will definitely cure you of your foolish acts… OUCH, that hurts!” He protested laughingly, taking his furious wife into his arms. A baby to look forward to, the miniature of her mother! Xiang Zhe smiled and sighed contentedly… A baby in autumn ….
SM remained in the warm loving
embrace of her husband, reveling in the contentment and happiness they shared.
After the first thrill of excitement over the piece of great news, anxiety
suddenly set in. Dios! What if she wasn’t a good mother? She had never really
known a mother’s love, though her father and aunty tried their level best to
provide her with a loving growing environment, she had been left alone most of
the time during childhood. She didn’t have a clue how to be a good mother.
XZ could feel the change in SM’s mood. He tightened his hold on her, wrapping those protective arms more securely over her waist. He lowered his head to brush a light kiss on her forehead, his right hand moving up caressingly from her spine to stroke her soft silky hair.
“What’s bothering you?” He murmured into her hair.
“Xue Zhang, what if I am not a good mother?” She lifted her head, gazing at XZ with a frown.
“Don’t worry, you’d be an exemplary one! You have never been a wife, but you have done such a great job. I am the luckiest man in the whole universe!” His dark gaze met her questioning one, his tender love for her unashamedly revealed on his face.
“But you just called me Daffy! I must be such a failure …” XZ glimpsed the tears brimming inside her incredibly beautiful liquid dark eyes, threatening to fall any moment. SM lowered her head quickly to hide her impish smile. She wanted to get back at him for teasing her so, she was almost hypnotized by that besotted look in his gorgeous eyes!
“Hey, I was just teasing!” He hurried to reassure her. Did pregnant women get agitated and emotional easily? He made a mental note to check out that piece of information.
“NO! You were teasing but it was based on a fact, you think I am foolish and childish, a mumbo dumbo!” She further accused, trying to spice up the atmosphere, her lips twitching with mirth. XZ caught that betraying sign and his mind worked rapidly, devising a way to counter attack.
“Yes, come to think of it, that’s true…” He glanced innocently at her as she rounded those almond shaped eyes in outrage, her punches falling onto his shoulders and chest furiously in retaliation.
“Hey hey, you are also very violent!” He chuckled out loud, raising both hands to block off her ineffective attacks.
“Err, excuse me, I knocked but you didn’t seem to have heard me.” Dr. Michael Reece interrupted their affectionate play.
Indeed, Dr. Michael Reece thought he had been given an acute doze of ‘loony’ pills. After doing his rounds, it dawned on him that he had forgotten to tell Mrs. Yin Xiang Zhe she could be discharged today; neither did he examine the lump on her head. Instead, he had acted like the genealogist! There was just something about her that stirred his heartstring. He couldn’t really put a finger on it, and now it appeared he had interrupted the couple in an intimate moment between husband and wife.
“I wouldn’t act so rough if I were you, Mrs. Yin. You should be cautious in the early stage of pregnancy. And you too Mr. Yin should not be provoking your wife and allowing her to overstrain herself.” He reprimanded XZ and SM. At the duo’s surprised looks, he realized he had spoken out of line and wanted to bite off his tongue. Two bright spots appeared on his cheeks.
XZ sprung up on his feet and said politely.
“I am sorry, doctor, I shall be more cautious in the future. Is there anything you’d like to tell us?” He asked Dr. Michael Reece, anxiety gripping him. The doctor had only revealed to him that SM was pregnant, he had not said anything about the lump on her head. In his joy over the news of the baby he had forgotten that SM was hurt.
“I’d like to examine the lump on her head.” The doctor moved forward to examine SM, and she winced as his fingers pressed lightly on the blue-black area on her left forehead.
“Alright Mrs. Yin, you can be discharged today. The bruise should subside in a day or two.” He smiled at SM, those dark sapphire eyes flashing warmly at her. XZ intercepted that look and straightened stiffly, walking towards SM and placed a proprietary arm on her shoulders.
“Thank you, Dr. Michael.” He said in dismissal. The Keanu Reeves look-alike nodded his head, noting the possessive stance of XZ, like a lion guarding its mate. He left the room in haste, confused by his own behaviour. Snapped out of this trance, he remonstrated himself, he was acting like he had been hypnotized by this warm sunny child woman… there was just something about that smile … he shook his head, attempting to clear his mind …
SM glanced at her husband with amusement. Jealousy was written all over his face, she bent her head, a lovely grin on her face, her heart felt as if it had been coated with honey.
“What are you grinning at? I dislike the way he was devouring you with his eyes!” XZ growled his displeasure.
“Hey, I am your wife, the mother of your child and also the woman crazy enough to tell you she loved you in front of the TV camera! There’s no need for you to be jealous.” She soothed his ruffled feather. A gleam appeared in his eyes.
“Do you think we can play that tape when he gets into the room again.” He asked tongue in cheek.
“What are you saying-lah?” She laughed at him, making a face, hitting him lightly with her fists.
“Oops!” She exclaimed with guilt, her fists hanging midair as she remembered the good doctor’s reprimand, looking at her husband with a vibrant smile, sticking out her tongue in mischief.
“I hope you are not going to teach our child all these mischievous antics!” XZ mocked her. This time, her fists fell hard on his chest.
“Ouch!” He grimaced with laughter.
XZ sat by the couch of their London apartment quietly sipping a glass of Martini. SM had been discharged from the hospital and was now taking a siesta. His thoughts turned towards the danger SM had placed herself into the day before. He would need to caution her against such reckless acts. It was by chance he came across Peter who unwittingly revealed SM’s whereabouts. If he hadn’t arrived at the scene… he shuddered at the thought of his sweet wife being stabbed to death. He knew he would be inconsolable if anything should happen to her. He finished the Martini in one gulp and banished those ominous thoughts determinedly. He sent up a silent thank you to SM’s guardian angel for keeping her safe. XZ sighed ... BBC had requested he extend his stay. His six months training in senior management was near completion. The BBC bosses wanted him to stay till autumn. They needed someone with his caliber to head a joint venture project with the French TV station. SM’s time as MBS special correspondent would end in April, he detested the thought of being separated from her. Moreover, he didn’t want her to be alone in Korea, and now that she was expecting, the situation was even trickier.
SM removed the glass from his fingers, taking a seat next to him. She wrinkled her perk nose at his drinking habit, narrowing her glance at him with disapproval. XZ glanced at her broodingly. SM frowned as she saw his troubled face.
“Xue Zhang, what’s bothering you?” She asked with concern. XZ sat up, clasping both her hands in his large ones, looking at her earnestly.
“Shan Mei, I want you to promise me never to go to such places alone…. You were dealing with drug addicts, discretion is needed in handling such cases. Have you not thought of your own safety?”
“I never thought… my thoughts were focused on Andrew and Phyllis …” she admitted shamefaced. Xiang Zhe shook her shoulders gently in frustration.
“Shan Mei! Can you weigh the consequences before you act so rashly? Why can’t you consider my feelings?”
“Xue Zhang, I wasn’t aware that it’d be dangerous! It’s not a question of whether I am taking into account your feelings or not…”
Shan Mei objected, her eyes rounded in protest, blinking those huge eyes at him. Her expression reminded him of the time he had finished her sushi, she had looked at him crossly in accusation. He was tempted to pinch her cheeks, but he needed to get his point across.
“Shan Mei, can I talk some sense into you. All I am requesting is that you use some of your common sense to analyze. You don’t go anywhere alone where drug addicts and prisoners are concerned! “
XZ sighed, running his hand over his dark hair. The angry words she was about to blurt out stuck in her throat at his expression. Shan Mei swallowed back those hurtful words, trying to place herself in his shoes. She too would be worried sick if anything should happen to him, didn’t she just disapprove of his drinking?
“I promise not to behave so rashly. Now can I do something to cheer Mr. Yin Xiang Zhe up? What about calling Pa and Papa to tell them the good news?” She prompted brightly, a shy smile visible at the corner of her lips.
“I have forgotten completely about them…” He smirked in embarrassment, though that did not distract him from wanting to get a more reliable promise from her. He had a sudden inspired idea how he could monitor her movements, his face cleared immediately.
“Let’s make those calls …” He said.
Peter spotted Shan Mei walking furiously towards him. He was tempted to act the coward and do a runner on her, but her voice carried itself across the reception area at BBC 7th floor, its volume loud enough to wake the dead.
“Peter Gates, you GREAT TRAITOR!” Peter flinched, blinking his grey eyes as if they are hurting him. He schooled his features and turned around to face Shan Mei sheepishly. For a pregnant lady she walked at flying speed, and why didn’t he ever notice she possessed such loud vocal chords.
“Easy, Shan Mei! You’ve got to be careful in your delicate state… and ahem… what have I done to be branded a traitor? Surely you can lower your volume a little…. Innocent until proven guilty! Have you never heard of that phrase before?” He asked.
“It is you who reports my every single movement to Xue Zhang, isn’t it? How could you?”
She accused. Shan Mei couldn’t understand how Xiang Zhe knew where she was all the time. Since that incident with the Hammonds, her every movement had been closely monitored by Xiang Zhe. He would call her a few times a day, sometimes even dropping by her shooting locations. It had puzzled her how he could know her every single movement and when she questioned him, Xiang Zhe just shrugged his shoulders and smiled smugly, claiming he had placed a mobile satellite on her. If she hadn’t overheard his conversation with Peter, she wouldn’t have suspected him to be the traitor!
“Your husband had obviously not used that censorious look of his on you. He cuts me into tiny little pieces with a mere laser sharp cool stern gaze. I was surprised I didn’t drop dead on the spot when I told him your whereabouts two weeks ago…. Frankly speaking, between the two of you, I’d rather face you wrath!” He confessed with a shudder.
“Why, you coward! Doesn’t our friendship mean anything to you?” Shan Mei couldn’t decide whether she should continue to rage at Peter or stomped her feet at Xiang Zhe.
“Not when it’s my life I am comparing with! Got to go…” Peter retorted honestly before fleeing into the lift, temporarily distancing himself from Shan Mei.
“Really!” Shan Mei exhaled a breath, stomping her feet with temper as she stared at the departing figure of Peter.
“Sweetheart, take it easy will you, you should not stomp your feet like this in your condition.” An all too familiar voice came from behind. Shan Mei rolled her eyes upwards in disbelief, now how did HE know where she was. She took a deep breath before turning around to face her husband.
“Are top management personnel so free nowadays they trail the whereabouts of unsuspecting employees? How dare you bribe my friend with that laser sharp censorious gaze of yours? ….” She asked with sarcasm.
“My method is that effective huh?” XZ chuckled.
“He said he’d rather face my tantrums than that killer look of yours! Huh, I have been stalked by my own husband, am I not allowed a little freedom …” SM glared at her husband.
XZ wrapped an arm around her waist. Smoothing away the frown between her brows
“Who has displeased you?” He asked absent-mindedly. His thoughts on the article he had just read: ‘Expectant mothers might have mood swings during pregnancy, and this wasn’t simply a case of hormones run amok. The physical discomforts of pregnancy, such as morning sickness, breast tenderness or constipation could play a role since they'd naturally feel down when they were uncomfortable.’
Who had displeased her? She stared in disbelief at her husband, HE was the root cause of all her emotional stress!
“YOU ARE THE CULPRIT!” SM screamed at him furiously, ignoring the curious crowd they were attracting on the 7th floor. Struggling out of his arms, she walked quickly towards the lift. She needed to breathe some fresh air before she exploded.
“Shan Mei, sweetheart! Wait a minute… hey …take it easy… you might hurt yourself….”
XZ rushed forward, trying to catch up with her, since when had she learned how to walk like speedy Gonzalez? He was now experiencing the first taste of the emotional roller coaster of his pregnant wife.
He started chanting silently ‘Expectant mothers might have mood swings during pregnancy, and this wasn’t simply a case of hormones run amok. The physical discomforts of pregnancy, such as morning sickness, breast tenderness or constipation could play a role since they'd naturally feel down when they were uncomfortable.’ …. SM couldn’t possibly be feeling physically uncomfortable with the pace she was demonstrating, it must be those raging hormones …… the poor expectant father was thoroughly bemused…
Shan Mei stopped at the
pavement about 50 meters outside BBC building. She shivered involuntarily as a
surge of crispy cold wind slapped head on against her slim frame. The
turtleneck woolen jumper she was wearing was no protection against the chill in
“What a fool!” she murmured under her breath, crossing her arms over her chest in an attempt to keep warm. Was she suffering from pregnancy blues? She asked herself. Was it wrong to object to being so completely restricted in her movement she felt as if a pair of eyes was constantly following her every move? She bowed her head, her eyes catching sight of the anklet on her left ankle. It was the pearl-peridot anklet he had given her as a birthday present all those years ago.
“I wish that in the next one year, two years, ten years and twenty years, all your birthdays after this, I will celebrate them together with you.”
“There’s a movie which says, we shall meet again in our next life if an anklet is given as a birthday gift. May we meet again in our next life.”
When he looked up at her with his heart in his eyes, she felt so thoroughly engulfed in his love, and she was overwhelmed with indescribable happiness. That was the night she had realized that her feelings for him were no longer merely that of platonic friendship, she had fallen deeply in love with him.
“I promise I will never leave you. I won’t get sick or allow myself to be injured.” His gaze had been tender and reassuring… the night she got mad at him for driving recklessly, not long after You Zhen’s death.
Yin Xiang Zhe, her beloved husband, the man who loved her beyond anyone and anything else in the world, who guarded her so unashamedly, like an eagle’s wings, shielding her from all dangers and snares, with a love that was so faithful, unwavering and unconditional.
“Xue Zhang…” she whispered. What had she done to deserve the love of such an outstanding handsome man? She mused, unshed tears glistening in her eyes. His love for her was as deep as the ocean and as vast as the universe.
At a distance, XZ studied the slender figure of his wife, standing so vulnerably in the pathway. He had witnessed the emotions displayed so vividly on her face, perhaps it wasn’t the mood swing so often associated with a pregnant woman…. Perhaps he was being over protective? His brows pleated together in deep thought. He saw her shiver and swore under his breath. Didn’t she know how to take care of herself? He removed the jacket he was wearing, making his way cautiously towards her, he wasn’t sure if she would welcome his presence.
“Put this on… and if you can’t stand me, just treat me like one of the wax portrait you see in Madame Tussauds.” He remarked wryly, placing his jacket over her slim shoulders.
‘A wax portrait in Madame Tussauds’, SM couldn’t decide whether to laugh or to cry. She turned around to face him, gazing up into his beloved face.
“I can never treat you like a wax portrait, you crazy man! I am nuts about you!” She flung her arms around his neck, burying her wet face against his chest. Then lifted her head, staring right into those gorgeous dark eyes.
“I think, I think …. ugh, ugh …” she hiccupped suddenly. Shan Mei was appalled, she wasn’t nervous! And how could she hiccup in the most crucial moment, when she was about to talk to him on the first lesson of COMPROMISING!
“Here, drink this!” Xiang Zhe took out a soya bean packet drink from the pocket of his pants, poking the straw in, and handed the packet over to her. He tried hard to hide a grin, but couldn’t quite control the quirk at the corner of his lips.
“Thank you.” Shan Mei accepted the drink gratefully.
“Xue Zhang, I think we need to COM-PRO-MISE …” she began slowly after those embarrassing hiccups subsided.
“COM-PRO-MISE, that’s a big word…” Xiang Zhe nodded his head in amusement.
“Hmm… I promise to report my whereabouts to you, when I am going out, where I will be, and you stop this crazy surveillance on me with immediate effect.” she demanded.
“Surveillance? Wow, you are all for big words, aren’t you? Is this compromising, why does it sound more like a command?” Shan Mei hit Xiang Zhe on the ribs, glaring crossly at him.
“Be serious… do you know why I object… it felt as if you do not trust me, treating me like a child, not a responsible adult … and an equal partner …” she chose her words carefully.
Xiang Zhe gazed searchingly at her. He had always respected her wishes, allowing her to make mistakes, be there for her when she needed his support… since when had he started to desire clipping her wings… he knew, the answer was… since the night he had proposed to her. He sighed heavily.
“Alright! Wherever you go, just pick up the phone and call …”
“THE BIG BULLY!” she cut in quickly to finish off the sentence for him. Xiang Zhe smirked with a besotted look. The dark cloud surrounding his heart earlier dispersed without a trace, his good mood was restored. As long as she was happy, he would be happy. He drew her into his arms, hugging her tightly to him… she was his precious little angel.
Shan Mei stood in front of the mirror, studying her reflection in the mirror critically. She had swept up her thick silky hair, combing it into a chignon. A few strands of hair curling loosely down her cheeks. The pastel yellow evening chiffon dress looked good on her. It was another L’Armour design with capped sleeves and a modest neckline; the fabric clung to her figure attractively. Since her marriage, her husband had banned her from wearing anything revealing, no baring her back, spaghetti stripes were not allowed either, neither anything that remotely suggested a plunging neckline. When she had objected over the ban of wearing spaghetti stripes attire, he had responded dryly that the only spaghetti permissible to her was those associated with food, what an unreasonable man! She thought.
Satisfied with her appearance, she turned around to admire the room. Her romantic knight in shining armour had checked them into this exquisite suite in THE RITZ on Valentine’s Day. The suite can best be described as a symphony of grand taste and unrestrained style. The deep carpets and rich, heavy curtains provided a perfect complement to the antique paintings, unique furnishings and superb décor that completed the splendour of the suite.
The Ritz, located in Piccadilly, London is truly one of the most famous hotels in the world, when she stepped into the hotel earlier with Xiang Zhe, the place projected the feel of a French country house combined with the glamour, excitement and graceful living that are synonymous with this legendary, World famous hotel. All the rooms have been individually decorated in the distinctive Ritz colour schemes of blue, peach, pink and yellow and all are luxuriously furnished with rich fabrics, 24 carat gold leaf and beautifully restored antique furniture in keeping with the original Louis XVI style.
“Ready?” Xiang Zhe prompted. He was leaning lazily against the doorframe to the dressing area, his right hand behind his back. He had been there admiring her breathtakingly alluring figure for quite some time without her knowledge.
Shan Mei glanced up and caught her breath. Attired in a pair of midnight black suit and pastel yellow silk shirt, the same shade as her gown, he was just dropped dead gorgeous! His handsome chisel features relaxed and indulgent, the look in his eyes mesmerized her and her pulse rates raced crazily.
“Do I look alright?” She asked breathlessly.
“Yes, you look wonderful tonight.” He replied huskily.
Xiang Zhe straightened, walking towards Shan Mei. With a little boy expression, he presented her with a single red rose with the hand he had been hiding behind his back earlier.
“This is for you, with all my love…” He said tenderly. Shan Mei accepted the rose, breathing in the fragrance, her heart coated with honey.
“What, just one stalk?” She pretended to be disappointed, but the happiness radiating from her glowing face gave her away.
“A single red rose, signifying you are my ONE AND ONLY, my love for you constant and everlasting…” He didn’t bother to conceal the deep love and tenderness he felt for his wonderful angel.
“Xue Zhang…” she whispered croakily, tears swimming in her eyes.
“Look at you, you are going to cry again.” He teased lightly, rubbing his thumb gently across her cheeks.
“I am not!” she denied vehemently. Unable to resist the charms of his enchanting wife any further, he kissed her lightly on the forehead before drawing her gently into his embrace.
Xiang Zhe brought her down to the magnificent Ritz restaurant, which offered a superb blend of classical cuisine with contemporary influences.
“Cheers ~ Happy Valentines!” They toasted, exchanging a loving glance. Shan Mei bowed her head slightly, avoiding the smouldering gaze of her husband, her cheeks blushing in an attractive rosy hue, the flickering candlelight enhancing the romance in the air and both could feel the electric current sizzling between the two of them.
“Why are you staring at me like this?” Shan Mei pouted her lips.
“You look so cute…” He responded with a smile, his gaze remained arrested on her face. To her horror, Shan Mei started to hiccup. Oh no, she couldn’t possibly be nervous or excited over her husband, could she? Xiang Zhe stared in fascination at his wife’s fluttered and embarrassed face, he recalled her words, “I always hiccup when I am extremely nervous, or when I am highly excited…” Xiang Zhe’s grin widened.
“Hmm, delicious.’ She brought the wine glass to her lips, sipping the champagne carefully in a desperate attempt to cover up her unladylike mannerism, licking her lips in appreciation of the '88 Krug Brut Champagne Xiang Zhe had ordered for dinner.
“There, this is for you.” Xiang Zhe leaned forward to place a heart-shape velvet maroon box on the table.
Shan Mei snapped the box open, catching her breath in awe.
“They are exquisite, thank you.” Contained inside the velvet box was a matching pair of earrings and pendant made of pearl and peridot, similar to the design of the anklet he had given her previously.
‘I hope that a year later, two years, ten years, twenty years, every year after this Valentine Day, we’ll celebrate this special day together.” Xiang Zhe whispered, his eyes gleaming with the intensity of his love.
“Xue Zhang…” Shan Mei reciprocated his look, her heart in her eyes.
“Come, let me put them on for you…” Removing the pendant from the box, he clasped it on for her expertly.
“Hey, what… what are you doing?” She protested, trying to slap his hand away, he was doing it in public again! She glanced to her left and her right anxiously, but before she could recover from her first shock, she felt his fingers pulling at her earlobe … OMG, he wasn’t going to put on the earrings for her too … Shan Mei wanted to dig a hole to hide.
“You can emerge from your hiding place now, no one is looking anymore.” Xiang Zhe grinned with amusement at his wife. She had been staring interestedly at the napkin for the past five minutes, two bright spots on her cheeks.
“It’s all because of you…” Shan Mei glared at him in annoyance, her brow knitted together in a frown.
“Okay, so it’s all my fault … where is my present.” He arched his brows up in enquiry. Shan Mei retrieved a Winnie the Pooh Bear clutching a heart shape pillow between its chest, and handed it to Xiang Zhe. He frowned at the gift.
“Don’t you think this little toy, doesn’t suit me one bit?” She mimicked his tone of voice, rewarding him with a honey sweet smile.
“It’s the thought that counts!” He imitated her girlish tone mockingly, chuckling heartily.
“Xue Zhang, press on the pillow.” she urged. Puzzled, Xiang Zhe pressed on the heart shaped pillow, he could feel a hard mechanism inside the bear. His brows raised in amazement when he heard the sound of Shan Mei’s impish voice coming from Winnie the Pooh.
“Xue Zhang, have you been working too hard? Take a break-oh… remember to take regular meals, and think of me ‘cos I am your catalyst and the source of your energy. I LOVE YOU!”
“That present is from Zhen Shan Mei, and this is from Mrs. Yin Xiang Zhe.”
She handed Xiang Zhe a flat rectangular velvet blue box. With curiosity, Xiang Zhe opened the box, in it was a pair of cufflink with similar design to the anklet he had given her, except that the stone at the centre was the peridot, engulfed by two pearls.
“It’s beautiful, Shan Mei.” His voice was gruff. He knew what message she was sending him. He had given her the anklet, with her - his precious pearl at the centre, and him – the two peridots enclosing and guarding his precious pearl. Tonight, she had presented him with a gift signifying something similar. She too, would be protecting him in her love. He didn’t raise his head for long moments, afraid she would notice the lump in his throat and the tears that threatened to spill from his eyes. No one, but no one, had ever loved him so completely until Shan Mei.
“Here, let me clip them on for you.” Shan Mei offered softly. Leaning forward to retrieve the cufflinks from the box, Xiang Zhe stretched out his hand eagerly to her.
The live band started to perform, and haunting sentimental music flowed into the background. Xiang Zhe sprang up from his seat in a sudden movement, walking towards the lead musician. Shan Mei looked on with curiosity. He did not return to his seat after speaking to the lead musician, instead, he stopped at where she was seated and bowed, extending his right hand to her.
“Mrs. Yin, may I have the honour of this dance?” He asked politely. Shan Mei gave him her hand.
As he led her to the dance floor, the band started to play “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton. Xiang Zhe held her tightly to him, resting his chin on the top of her head. The lead singer started to sing:-
It's late in the evening
She's wondering what clothes to wear
She puts on her make up
And brushes her long blonde hair
And then she asks me
Do I look alright
And I say yes, you look wonderful tonight
Shan Mei closed her eyes, treasuring the precious romantic moment at the dance floor with her dashing husband. Both swayed gracefully to the music, and as the song was about to end, Xiang Zhe lifted his head, cupping her cheeks with his large hands, his gaze softened into a caress as he serenaded to her:-
I say my darling, you were wonderful tonight
Oh my darling, you were wonderful tonight
Yin Xiang Zhe and Zhen Shan Mei spend the most unforgettable Valentine Night together in The Ritz, London on their first Valentine as a married couple ….
SM’s Office, 7th Floor BBC
Zhen Shan Mei typed furiously on the keyboard, her eyebrows knitted together into an attractive frown as she concentrated on the task at hand. She nearly jumped when she received a Yahoo Messenger alert. The message was from Yin Xiang Zhe, her husband. He had busied himself downloading, installing and configuring the software onto her laptop the previous night, an effective tool to trace her whereabouts, he had claimed.
“I have missed you, sweetie pie!” followed by a string of hugging smileys and kissing smileys.
“That adorable twit!”
She murmured under her breath, a honeysweet smile appearing involuntarily on her face. She looked around self-consciously, wondering if anyone had noticed her silly smile that would surely betray she was chatting privately with her husband. She inserted a string of angry smileys in response, and added,
“I am busy!” She typed. A heart-broken emoticon appeared immediately, followed by a sobbing smiley. Shan Mei giggled, then looked around guiltily, checking if anyone had noticed.
“Do you know who you are chatting with?” She typed a message. Her husband Yin Xiang Zhe had never addressed her as ‘sweetie pie’. ‘Sweetheart’ was his favourite endearment.
“My wife is a little tigress, do you think I would dare to play around?”
“I am leaving now!!!” She stuck out a tongue at the monitor childishly, as if Xiang Zhe could see her.
“Shan Mei, my lovely wife, don’t!”
“What do you want?”
“I missed you, I am thinking of you, I need you and I WANT YOU NOW!!!”
Yin Xiang Zhe grinned as he typed those outrageous words. His mind conjured up the pretty image of his blushing wife when she read his message.
Shan Mei’s eyes widened in shock, the great tease! Just you see, Yin Xiang Zhe, she vowed silently, muttering under her breath. “I will show you I am not as timid as you think!” She chewed at the bottom of her lips, thinking hard. Her face cleared, with an impish smile, she nodded her head with satisfaction, and waited patiently for him to continue.
“Stop blushing, sweetheart….” Xiang Zhe’s grin widened. Shan Mei must be looking around in panic to see if anyone had noticed the hot flush on her face.
“I WANT YOU TOO, XUE ZHANG! WHERE?”
Shan Mei chuckled with glee, forgetting for a moment she was sitting at her workstation. Her co-worker Helen Armstrong threw Shan Mei an enquiring look. She shrugged her shoulders in response, dropping her head to conceal her amusement. She could just picture Xiang Zhe’s dumbfounded expression.
In his office on the 17th flloor, Xiang Zhe sat back and relaxed smugly on his chair, the prim and proper little missy must be scandalized by his remark. He chuckled heartily. But he choked at the act of sipping the coffee, nearly falling off his chair when he read her provocative message. ”Damn!” He laughed in admiration at his prickly wife. He had underestimated his opponent. Xiang Zhe’s heartbeat quickened alarmingly.
“Choked on your coffee, sweetheart? Serves you right!” Now when did his little angel become so smart?
“Alright, I admit defeat. This round goes to you….” Xiang Zhe shook his head indulgently and raised both his hands in surrender.
“Sweetheart, what do you say about a vacation in Austria. Can you take a few days off beginning April?”
“Why the sudden urge to take a break?” Shan Mei frowned, Xiang Zhe had been working late hours the last month and she sensed BBC had been putting pressure on the project he had undertaken.
“Our second honeymoon before you grow too big to travel.” He laughed at his deliberate dig on her shape.
“I am NOT BIG!” She inserted 10 angry smileys to add weight to her statement. Her stomach was still flat and only a discerning eye could tell she was pregnant.
“You are going to be.”
Shan Mei inserted a few sobbing smileys in her reply, pouting her lips in denial. Knowing how sensitive his wife could be, Xiang Zhe hastily inserted a few hugging smileys to pacify his wife, regretting his impulsive urge to tease her.
“What about a romantic candlelight dinner tonight?” He asked in his eagerness to make amends.
“Got to check my diary, despite some people’s insinuation about my growing shape, there’s still a long queue of gorgeous guys lining up to date me!!!”
“Yeah, I am sure….. and everyone of them named Yin Xiang Zhe.” Shan Mei giggled, blushing with embarrassment when she finally noticed Peter, who had been standing in front of her workstation waiting for her to notice him. He winked at her, reminding her softly it’s time for their appointment. She had been so absorbed instant messaging her husband she had forgotten the time.
“I’ve got to go, Xue Zhang. See you tonight!” She couldn’t resist inserting a string of flying kisses smileys to her husband. Xiang Zhe bit his lips, withholding the shout of happiness that sprung to his lips. Shan Mei had just injected an energy booster for him to continue his battle for the rest of the day.
“Love you too sweetheart!”
“Tell me, what are Beethoven’s famous compositions?” Shan Mei challenged.
Xiang Zhe and Shan Mei arrived at Vienna International Airport the previous night. Shan Mei’s assignment in London with MBC was officially ended two days ago, but she received a phone call from MBC to extend her stay until June. There was some delay on the work permit of the new special correspondent who was supposed to replace her.
Their vacation in Vienna was planned with her doting husband before she learned of the extension. Xiang Zhe was determined to whisk her off before the arrival of the new member to their family. He wanted them to have a second honeymoon before the arrival of their baby daughter.
“Our daughter is already occupying too much of your thoughts!” Xiang Zhe had argued jealously.
“How do you know it’s a daughter?” Shan Mei couldn't decide whether to laugh or weep at his childish display of father-child rivalry.
“When you stroke your stomach that way and wear that dreamy look on your face, I just know you are talking to her and not thinking of me. It’s a daughter because I want a daughter as enchanting and lovely as her mother.” Xiang Zhe announced arrogantly.
As if unable to help himself, he then moved forward, wrapping his arms round her thickening waistline, his right palm stroking her stomach possessively.
“Sweetheart, tell your daddy you love him too.”
Shan Mei’s fingers closed over her husband’s consolingly, drawing him into the special tender circle she shared with the baby growing within her womb. She couldn’t help wondering about her unborn child, her maternal instinct intensifying for her child each new day.
Xiang Zhe’s eyes widened in wonder when he felt the baby’s first kick, he noticed a similar expression on Shan Mei and his heart swelled with pride for he knew at that instant that was their baby’s first kick. He was so blessed to be given the opportunity to share that temder moment with his wife. Shan Mei’s eyes brimmed with tears of joy.
“Our daughter is telling her daddy how much she loves him …” Shan Mei whispered gruffly, convinced that her unborn child was going to be a girl, because that was Xiang Zhe’s wish.
“Beethoven's fifth symphony, Beethoven's 9th, Beethoven's moonlight sonata and Beethoven violin concerto.”
Shan Mei was brought back to the present at her husband’s smug response. She had caught her husband devouring her with his eyes the whole day, seeming to concentrate his attention more on her person than on the beautiful landscape of Vienna and the country’s rich history that the local guide was trying hard to relate to them. Shan Mei had chided Xiang Zhe earlier, and now that they were back at the hotel, she began to test how much of the local guide’s narration he had heard.
“His greatest work was ‘Der Radetzky Marsch’. He had many top hits, ‘At the Blue Danube’, ‘Tales from the Vienna woods’, ‘The Bat’ and many more. He is the king of waltz.”
Xiang Zhe and Shan Mei were staying at Le Meridien Vienna, a hotel directly located on the famous Ringstrasse. It was only a stroll away from the Vienna State Opera and the Imperial Hofburg Palace. All historical attractions and shopping areas are within walking distance.
“Not bad… hmm, who is nicknamed ‘Sissy’?” They had earlier visited Vienna's complex and imposing Imperial Palace, the Hofburg.
“Franz Josef’s wife. Franz Josef, arguably the greatest Hapsburg emperor who ruled from 1848 to 1916. His wife Elisabeth was mysterious, narcissistic, and beautiful. Nicknamed "Sissy," she was mostly silent, worked out frantically to maintain her Barbie Doll figure, and spent hours each day tending to her ankle-length hair. We saw Sissy's dressing room where servants worked two hours a day on her famous hair, remember?” He arched his brows mockingly.
“Sissy's been compared to Princess Diana because of her beauty, her estrangement from her husband, and her tragic death. She was murdered by an Italian anarchist.”
He added helpfully. Shan Mei pouted her lips, her gaze narrowed as she stared thoughtfully at her husband. Her baby gave a hard kick.
“Ouch!” She groaned with surprise. At the same time comprehension dawned on her.
“You know Beethoven and Johann Strauss’s famous pieces because you studied music, and you learned about Sissy through the internet!”
“Looks like our daughter takes after me intellectually.” Xiang Zhe declared proudly, and continued mockingly, “She gave you the answer right?”
He had seen her wince and felt the baby’s kick as he had been stroking his wife’s abdomen. Shan Mei hadn’t been wrong to say he wasn’t paying attention, he had been so captivated by his pregnant wife’s serenely graceful demeanour he couldn’t take his eyes off her.
“HEY! That’s not true….” Shan Mei protested, turning around to punch him hard on the chest.
“You shouldn’t teach our baby the art of violence.” He teased.
“And you shouldn’t teach her the art of making mischief!” She countered.
They stared at one another in the eye challengingly, then unable to continue with their pretense, roared out with laughter at their playful antics.
Spring turned into summer and summer into autumn. Yin Xiang Zhe and his beloved wife Zhen Shan Mei returned to Seoul, Korea in July. Shan Mei was seven months pregnant by then, though Xiang Zhe would have preferred she resume her job at MBS after the birth of their child, MBS was short of news broadcaster of her caliber. Jin Xian Da persuaded Shan Mei to resume her role easily, preferring to approach the amiable special correspondent who had just returned from London than her aloof hardheaded husband.
“Are you feeling very uncomfortable?” Yin Xiang Zhe asked his heavily pregnant wife Zhen Shan Mei with concern. He had noticed how uncomfortable and restless she was feeling for the past week. Shan Mei snuggled closer to him in the couch. They had just finished dinner and were watching MBS’s nine o’clock news.
“It’s tolerable.” Shan Mei smiled weakly. Her movements were getting increasingly clumsy. She could neither reach her toes, nor could she see them. Her feet were swollen and carrying the weight of their baby was wearing her down.
“I’ll smack the little rascal for causing her mummy so much discomfort when she decides to make an appearance.” He caressed her cheeks lovingly, hoping to alleviate a little of the discomfort she was enduring with his tenderness. His gaze fell on the bracelet she was wearing, it was a gift from him for their first wedding anniversary celebrated two days back. She caught the direction of his glance and commented dryly.
“I suppose I will be presented with a pair of nose rings in similar design on Christmas day!” He had given her a matching pair of earrings, a pendant, and now a bracelet to go with the peridot/pearl anklet he had given her as her birthday gift all those years ago.
“Ungrateful hussy!” He pinched her perk nose punishingly.
“But you love me just the way I am!” She announced impishly, her cheeks dimpled. He gently brushed away the log of hair which had fallen off her temple.
“Yes, everyone in MBS knows Zhen Shan Mei is Yin Xiang Zhe’s greatest weakness. ‘If you can’t get through the hardheaded Yin, just approach his wife!’” he mimicked, then continued, “Even Jin Xian Da, whom I considered my greatest ally, played that underhanded trick on me.” He derided.
“That’s not true, I don’t interfere with your business decisions, only on areas where it affects my career.” She protested heatedly.
“Do you want me to cite you a few cases? What about the time when Zhao Di had this brilliant idea of holding the Studio One’s Celebration Dinner at our house? And ….”
“Perhaps on decisions related to entertainment, …” Shan Mei whispered guiltily, then her voice grew stronger as a thought came into her mind. “BUT, I refrained from interfering when you decided to hire the sexy ‘Ms. Gao’ in place of Senior Qing Xi. And I can tell you now, I am totally opposed to such a management style….”
“I think you’re more opposed to the sexy Ms. Gao than my management style.” Xiang Zhe arched a brow suggestively.
“That’s not true!”
“That you don’t like Ms. Gao?” Xiang Zhe prompted.
“It’s not that….” Shan Mei said.
“Than it’s true you don’t like her.” Xiang Zhe said triumphantly.
“Stop that! You are interrogating me.” It was her clingy mannerism towards Xiang Zhe that Shan Mei objected to.
“Why don’t you like her? She is beautiful, sexy, professional, highly intelligent, full of initiative, capable, just perfect.” He said provocatively.
“Perhaps you should have waited another two years before getting married. Then you can have the PERFECT WOMAN MS. GAO.” Shan Mei remarked sarcastically. She wriggled out of Xiang Zhe’s arms and stood up clumsily, furious at her husband.
“I believe your eye colour has turned green, sweetheart.” Xiang Zhe sat back comfortably against the couch, satisfied with his wife’s show of jealousy.
Hateful Xue Zhang! Shan Mei turned her head around, taking in Xiang Zhe’s comfortable post on the couch, she took a step forward, walking determinedly towards their bedroom.
“Darling,” she said sweetly, “since you’re seated so comfortably on the couch, you can sleep there the whole night!” She threw those words at him before entering the bedroom.
Xiang Zhe moved like the whirlwind and just managed to prevent Shan Mei from slamming the door on his face.
MBS News Broadcasting Studio
It was Shan Mei’s last day at MBS before going on maternity leave. She breathed a sign of relief as she surveyed the newsroom. Something was just not right today, and she was glad her only task remained was reporting the seven o’clock news with Senior Xian Da.
“Are you ready?” Xian Da asked. He frowned a little, Shan Mei looked pale and drained.
“Yes.” She replied, reassuring him with a smile.
“Let’s take our positions then.”
Xiang Zhe felt restless the whole day, as if something was about to happen. For the hundredth time, he took out the checklist he had started drawing up when Shan Mei was seven months pregnant. He’d faithfully gone through it everyday, adding to the list if he had forgotten some minor details. He glanced at the bag standing just beside his briefcase. He had packed all the necessities required into it. He was fully prepared should Shan Mei go into premature labour. He glanced at his watch, it’s two minutes to seven.
Shan Mei spotted Xiang Zhe behind the camera halfway through reporting the news. Did he get her telepathy message? Her water bag had broken a minute ago. She had remained calm, knowing there would be an advertisement break in 3 minutes. There wasn’t any need to alarm anyone, she could alert them during the break. When the producer signaled for the break, Shan Mei called out to Xiang Zhe.
“Xue Zhang, my water bag has broken. Can you bring the bag down, we will leave for the hospital when I am done with the news reporting.”
The cold mask worn by the handsome MBS Director’s was stripped instantly. He ran towards his wife, lifting her out of the chair unceremoniously.
“Xue Zhang, the news….” Shan Mei protested.
“Have you lost your mind? …. Xian Da, the news is all yours.”
Xiang Zhe dashed out of the broadcasting studio. He ran down the stairs with Shan Mei in his arms, arriving at the parking lot. He congratulated himself for a job well done. He had been so cool, not a bit like the panic-stricken expectant father Xian Da had bet he would become. He didn’t even need the checklist.
“Xue Zhang, where is your car keys, and the bag?” Shan Mei asked.
“What, what?” He looked at her uncomprehendingly. “Oh, oh…” Xiang Zhe scratched the back of his head, “in the office, I think….” He looked uncertain. Shan Mei shook her head, retrieving the checklist from the inner pocket of his jacket.
“Look at your checklist.” She instructed calmly.
“Isn’t she lovely?” Shan Mei asked her husband enquiringly. Contrary to his expectations, their baby girl was the spitting image of her father.
Xiang Zhe peeked a look at his baby daughter. It had been a difficult birth, and he nearly fainted in the labour room witnessing the pain Shan Mei had to endure giving birth to their daughter. At one stage, the doctor had suggested he left the labour room because he was causing more stress to Shan Mei than the labour pain. His wife had pleaded with the doctor, telling him she needed her husband’s support. In truth, Shan Mei understood her husband’s need to be there in all the important moments of her life. He had warned her several times not to leave him out of the picture when he caught her murmuring to their baby in her womb.
“Hmm, she’s beautiful, but not as beautiful as her mother.” He said, bending his head to plant a light kiss on her forehead.
“Princess, yes, that’s it, we should name her Princess!” Xiang Zhe declared suddenly.
Shan Mei widened her eyes, staring at her husband in horror.
“Do you think you are the celebrity Michael Jackson, naming his children ‘Prince’ and ‘Princess’?”
Xiang Zhe shook his head, denying the charge. “No, no, I am not the celebrity,” he shook his fingers, “it’s my wife who is the celebrity….” He handed her the newspaper, and Shan Mei nearly choked when she read the newspaper headlines.
“ZHEN SHAN MEI, MBS’S LOVELY BROADCASTER WHO WANTED TO FINISH REPORTING SEVEN O’CLOCK NEWS AFTER WATER BAG BROKE”
“Zhen Shan Mei, you have done it again.” He teased.
“How….” She asked, she was sure the producer had given the signal for the advertisement break.
“Who knows, technical error, whatever …” He shrugged his shoulders.
“It’s all your fault. You must have frightened the new camera man or the switchboard controller with your presence, what with that reputation of being an unscrupulous no-nonsense merciless director, you must have frightened them.” Shan Mei accused. Xiang Zhe was sure she would have hit him if she hadn’t been carrying their daughter.
“My sweet, even if I behaved the way you have so vividly described, I am not the one who made the headlines.” He mocked.
“Tsk tsk, and you should not be teaching our daughter the technique of screaming at her dad….”
“You’re hateful…” Shan Mei pouted, her anger directed towards herself as she couldn’t think of anything to counter Xiang Zhe’s remarks.
“I might be hateful, but I am crazy about you.” He gathered her gently into his arms. Shan Mei looked pale and exhausted, but to her besotted husband, she had never been more beautiful.
“These two must have come as a surprise to Xiang Zhe.” Yong Xi commented as she gazed at the twin toddlers Shan Mei was trying hard to control.
“He shouldn’t be, it’s his doing.” She smiled impishly, her cheeks dimpled.
Ten years! Was it already ten years since they were married? Shan Mei gave a contended sigh. The twins, born six years apart from their second child, a son who had the gentle temperament of his mother but looks of his father. Xiang Zhe had frowned at her when their son was born and queried, “Did you get my order wrong, I asked for a daughter like you.”
Well, he had nothing to complain about now. Their twins, a boy and a girl, were the spitting images of their parents. Finally, Shan Mei gave birth to a baby daughter the replica of herself, in looks and temperament, and Xiang Zhe was over the moon.
“How is my little angel this morning?” Xiang Zhe stride over to where Shan Mei was, taking a seat next to her and lifted his baby daughter easily into his arms. He planted an affectionate kiss on the baby’s forehead. The other twin crawled over to Shan Mei, pulling at her skirt in protest. Shan Mei lifted her son, kissing him lightly on the cheek before placing him neatly on his father’s lap.
“Your little angel is fine, but your little prince is fretting for you.” Shan Mei eyed him reproachfully. Xiang Zhe laughed, gathering the other twin into his arms.
“Who would have thought Yin Xiang Zhe would have such a tender side to his character. Shan Mei, what spell have you cast on him?” Xian Da joined the gang, who were enjoying a picnic at the Backs. Their elder children were all playing above the bank with their doting grandparents.
“Don’t you know, Zhen Shan Mei is a little witch!” Xiang Zhe said.
“Hey, since when have I become a little witch? I suppose after ten years of marriage, your angel has transformed into a witch in your eyes.” Shan Mei glared at Xiang Zhe with annoyance.
“I am going back home!” She stood up.
“Shan Mei, Shan Mei, wait, WAIT….” Xiang Zhe shouted. He hastily placed one twin into Yong Xi’s arms and the other into Xian Da’s.
“Do me a favour, take care of them for a while.” He hurried towards Shan Mei, then lifted her, shouting and kicking into his arms.
“Put me down! “ She hissed. “Everyone is staring at us.” She looked around self-consciously, spotting Xian Da and Yong Xi’s amused faces.
“They’d have to get use to it. How do they think the twins were conceived? Zhen Shan Mei, you are slacking behind, you don’t have much time left producing a football team. To speed matters up, the next would have to be triplets, that adds up to seven, than quadruplets, that will make it eleven, and two reserves to make a team…..”
“Who promised you a football team?” Shan Mei rolled her eyes upwards.
“This calls for some romance between the CEO of Wen Rong and the CEO of MBS….” Xiang Zhe teased, as if he hadn’t heard her protestations.
Shan Mei had just been promoted to be the CEO of MBS. He was so proud of her. His wife had decided to continue her studies after the birth of their second child. She wanted to share some of his burden and she attained her MBA through sheer hard work. Sensing how determined Shan Mei was in being his equal partner, he had patiently tutored her and was pleased at her results.
“Let’s go home.” He continued to coax her, mesmerizing her with those gorgeous eyes, the intensity of his love displayed unashamedly for her to see.
“The twins….” She said weakly, with the last ounce of sanity left in her.
“Yong Xi and Xian Da promised to look after them.” He told a white lie, crossing his fingers behind his back. He had merely dumped the twins on the couple.
“Alone at last!” Xiang Zhe shouted delightedly when they reached their home.
“I don’t believe we did that. What conclusions will everyone draw?” Shan Mei lamented. It’s all because of Yin Xiang Zhe that she did all these outrageous and out of character actions.
Xiang Zhe smiled crookedly.
“They have a dirty mind, I merely intended to spend some time alone with my lovely wife, dance with her, tell her that I am crazy about her. Let her know that I love her just the way she is…”
He drew her gently into his arms, breathing in the lovely scent of her silken long hair. Her eyes glistened with happy tears, she raised her almond shaped eyes to meet the loving gaze of her husband.
“I am everything I am because you loved me. Thank you Xue Zhang, for all those times you stood by me, for all the wrong that you made right, for all the dream you made come true, for all the love I found in you. You saw the best in me, you gave me faith because you believed in me, I know I am blessed because you loved me. Xue Zhang, you have made me the most happy woman on earth!”
“Hey, when have you become so fluent in your declaration of love?” Xiang Zhe was deeply moved. He tightened his arms around her slender frame.
“Oh, I borrowed them from Celine Dion’s song.” She said mischievously.
“Zhen Shan Mei, you little cheat!” Xiang Zhe bellowed threateningly.
“Xiang Zhe, Shan Mei, your twins are crying for their daddy and mummy!” Came Xian Da and Yong Xi’s cries for help outside the house.
“The story of my life ….” Groaned Xiang Zhe.
Yin Xiang Zhe and Zhen Shan Mei, the golden couple walked hand in hand towards the front door and opened it wide to welcome their twins, and their two elder children, a boy and a girl who raced towards them and shouted excitedly.
“Mummy, Daddy, looked what we have caught?” They laughed as they caught sight of their children’s catch. The whole house was filled with warmth and laughter.
Indeed, it hadn’t been easy, reflected Shan Mei later that night. With their vast differences in character, and the wealth and responsibilities that accompanied Xiang Zhe. But against all odds, Yin Xiang Zhe and Zhen Shan Mei had made it through with the strength of their love, and she strongly believed that their love would last through all their lifetimes and through eternity.
“I am everything I am, because you loved me.” She whispered. Xiang Zhe wrapped his arms round her waist, resting his chin against the top of her head.
“And I am blessed because you loved me.” He responded lovingly.
~ The End ~