Chapter 1 - The If Game

Kwan checked her watch and realized she was 20 minutes early.  The TV in the bar was showing the live soccer match between Brazil and France, so she decided to watch the game while waiting for her friend to arrive.  The match was getting exciting as cheers and shouts from that section spread throughout the entire restaurant.  Just as Rivaldo attempted and missed a goalie shot, Fei walked into the bar and saw the frustrated Kwan turned to the guy sitting next to her as she vented in rhetorical. “What happened?  How could he have missed that?” 

Fei smiled to himself.  It had always delighted him to see her all cited up during a soccer game.  “You’re really into the match, huh?”

Kwan turned and was surprised to see her ex-fiancé walking towards her with one of his smile that made him irresistibly handsome.  Instantly, she realized the shield that she had been trying to build around her heart from being affected by the sight of him since their breakup five months ago was becoming undone.  Again!  She sighed to herself in a defeating smile.
“Why aren’t you watching the game at home?”  Fei took her returning smile as an invitation to approach.

Kwan silently demanded her brain to think quickly so not to sound like a dork in front of him.  She challenged herself to look into his eyes.  “It’s much more exciting here.” 

She felt her heart was starting to soften like a piece of cold butter in the microwave oven.  She knew if she continued to look into his eyes for another second longer, her entire body would melt.  She had to come up with a cool line.  “There are lots of guys for me to pick up here!”

The guy sitting next to her turned to smile at her.  Fei turned and gave him a ‘back off’ look and then turned back to look at Kwan.  He couldn’t come back with a better rebuttal, yet he was curious.  “So, have you reaped any rewards yet?” 

She was well aware their ‘nosing into each other’s interpersonal relationship game’ had begun again and she was not about to reveal her lingering feelings for him.  It somehow irked her that he was still giving her hints that he hasn’t made his choice between Chin Chin and her yet.  But at the same time, she couldn’t help being thrilled about it either.  And this time around, she decided he was going to have to fight hard for her.  “With you standing here, who would dare approach?”

Noticing how she avoided his eyes, Fei wanted to see how far she would take the game.  “So you’re trying to spurn me away now?”

As much as he was killing her softly with his words, Kwan made an agreeing laugh just when his cell phone rang.  She saw the word ‘Home’ when he answered the call.  “Time for you to check in,” Kwan teased.  “I think you’d better take care of yourself first!”

Fei eyed his acknowledgment to Kwan’s comment and excused himself to a quiet corner to take the call.  Indeed it was from Chin Chin.  She asked him something to which he told her he would be back soon.  Then she must have nagged him about something to which he gave his usual cheeky answer.  “What do you think?”

Chin Chin knew there was no point in responding to his brush off so she simply reminded him to be home by 7pm with dinner.

Chi Shan arrived and headed straight to Kwan at the bar and surprised her.  “Hello Miss.  Can I buy you a drink?”

Kwan turned around and was indeed surprised.  Though she was waiting for Chi Shan to arrive, her surprise was seeing him in a leather jacket.  This was totally not his usual attire. “Wow!  A complete makeover! I like it!”  Kwan noted approvingly.  “So how did it go today?”

“It went well,” Chi Shan tried to speak over the loud noises with what little voice he had left from the rally he just came from.  He leaned closer to Kwan’s ear so she could hear him without the need to shout over the music and noise.  “Some passerby thought I was a celebrity with all the cameras following me.”

“That’s because you look so cool!  Don’t think I’ve ever seen you in a leather jacket.  You might show up in the evening news!”  Kwan gestured to the TVs on the wall. 

“Please stop teasing me.”  Chi Shan begged bashfully.  “I don’t even know why they chose me for the recruitment poster, especially one riding on a motorbike.  I think Fei volunteered me.  I will get him back for this!”

Kwan saw Fei had turned around but she wasn’t if he was still on his call.  When she noticed he was looking at them in a peculiar way, she was reminded of how his erratically his mood can change.  “Hmmm, send him to the front line on your next shoot out,” Kwan suggested as a joke. 

“Really? You’re sure?” This time it was Chi Shan’s turn to tease her back. 

But her attention was focused on Fei whose facial expression suddenly turned weary.  Chi Shan followed Kwan’s gaze and saw Fei approaching them. 

Noticing how Fei’s eyes were focused on the TV screen, both Kwan and Chi Shan turned to watch the Breaking News of EgyptAir Flight 990. 

Suddenly, the entire restaurant was quiet and everyone focused in listening to the broadcaster’s announcement about the giant twin-engine Boeing 767 on the way from New York to Cairo with 217 aboard mysteriously plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean. 

Reading the flight details from the screen, Kwan fumbled for her cell phone in her purse.  Fei and Chi Shan looked at each other in wonder.  When Kwan started dialing her cell, they both noticed the concerned expression on her face. A few seconds later, they realized she was calling her brother. 

“Ah kit? Can you go to the fridge and check the flight schedule for Dad and Bui Yee?  They are supposed to be flying to Egypt today or tomorrow.” Kwan waited with her eyes on the screen.  Fei and Chi Shan took in the situation in silence.  A moment later, they heard Ah Kit’s voice echoed through Kwan’s cell phone and their heart throbbed harder.

“Was there a flight from New York?”  Kwan was specific.  “I remember Bui Yee said something about LA …..You are sure! ..... What is the flight number?”

Kwan posture sagged immediately.  She looked up at the TV screen and entered into a trance.  Fei placed his hand on her shoulder to give her a shake back to reality.  Chi Shan took the phone from her hand and asked Ah Kit to confirm the flight number again.

“What was the departure date?” Chi Shan asked.  After hearing the answer, he told Ah Kit to watch the news and told him that they would see him at home soon.  Immediately afterwards, he turned to Fei.  “They were on Flight 990.  Departure date was October 31 New York time.”

Kwan got off her bar stool and Fei pulled her into his arms and held her tightly.  In that instance, she just let go of her grieve and sorrow and poured out her vulnerability upon Fei.  She sobbed silently into his shoulder.  After a few sobs, she pulled herself away from him and tried to collect herself.  But it was obvious to the two men that she was still struggling with reality.  Fei reached out and held her by her wrist.

“Let’s get her home.”  Chi Shan patted Fei on the shoulder.

Kwan’s hands were shaking as she tried to put the keys into the keyhole to open the door.  When Ah Kit opened the door before she was able to insert the key, Kwan said a quick hello and headed straight the kitchen in search of the flight itinerary. 

“Ah Kit,” Fei and Chi Shan greeted her as entered.

“Fei Goh,” Ah Kit greeted Fei with a bit of awkwardness due to his long absence. 
Ah Yuk greeted them and then turned her eyes to the television set again.  It was broadcasting the breaking news about the aircraft.

Kwan returned into the living room when her search in the kitchen reaped no reward.  “Ah Kit, where is the flight itinerary?  I want to call to confirm Dad and Bui Yee were on the passenger list.” 

Ah Kit suddenly became aware or her presence and that Fei and Chi Shan were here as well.  “Hey Sis!”   He then greeted the two men with a nod.  He picked up the iternerary from the coffee table and handed it to his sister.  “Umm, I tried calling but they said they are not releasing anything at this time.” 

“He’s right, Kwan.  It’s too soon!  They don’t release such info until two hours into the flight.”  Chi Shan added.

Kwan realized there was nothing more she could do but wait, but she hated to be in such a helpless state.  She stared at the itinerary and wished the flight information was different.  She was hoping Ah Kit had read the wrong information to her due to his lacking ability in the English language.  But he read every number correctly and deciphered every letter precisely.  Their father and Bui Yee had boarded the aircraft from LA and the facts were on the piece of paper she was holding.

“Kwan, are you okay?”  Ah Yuk asked after seeing Kwan staring at the itinerary for almost two minutes. 

Kwan did not answer but started walking away from the living room.  Fei was about to grab her arm but was Chi Shan stopped him.  He gestured Fei to give her some space.  Kwan headed straight to her father’s den and sat on the coach looking at the empty leather chair behind the desk.  Next to the coach was the latest picture of her Dad and Bui Yee.  She picked up the photo frame and a sense of loss overcame her and brought tears to her eyes. 

Ah Kit and Ah Yuk were talking to Chi Shan while Fei trodded near the den.  When he heard her soft sobs, he could no longer bear to stay away.  He approached the open den and saw Kwan looking solemnly while holding unto a photo frame. 
She looked up and showed him the photo.  “When Dad was sick, he did not want to commit to Bui Yee because he didn’t want Bui Yee to be left all by her lonesome self.”

Kwan tried to sound happy for them but Fei could tell she was trying hard to control her sadness.  He drew her into his arms and that was when Kwan couldn’t hold back her emotions any longer and started crying on his shoulders.
After a while, Fei tried to console her.  “It’s better this way, right? Your Dad and Bui Yee are with the one they love.  They are with each other to the very end!”

Unaware that Chi Shan, Ah Kit and Ah Yuk were standing by the door listening to to their conversation, Kwan lifted her head from Fei’s shoulder so she could look into his eyes to let him know she agreed with what he said.  She also wanted something to distract her grieve so she made an attempt to sound jovial.  “You haven’t answered my question from when we were held hostage on the fabricated island.  If you’ve only have one minute left to live, who would you want to be with?”

Fei tensed up immediately and the only thing that he could articulate was “Kwan” followed by a sigh.   He hated it whenever she played the ‘if’ game.  He remembered the first time she played the game when they were abducted a few years ago.  But he knew he owed her at least an answer this time and he had to be honest.  “I would want to be with you!”

Looking into his eyes, Kwan was getting mixed messages.  She wondered if he was telling the truth or just saying this as a consolation.  Then she remembered how he went balistic over Chin Chin’s near-death incident a few months ago.  She pulled herself away from his embrace.  Forcing her eyes to remain on his, she had to force out the words.  “You don’t need to lie to me.  I know you would still choose to be with Chin Chin.”

Fei let out a deep sigh and gazed into Kwan’s sorrowful eyes.  He knew where she was coming from and he also knew this was not the right time to reason with her about what happened in the past.  And even if he wanted to, he couldn’t because there were still matters in his heart that were unresolved.

If - by Bread