Chapter 8 

Just Once

As Chi Shan was leaving Tong Sum’s graveside, he saw Ah Man and Kwan approaching.  He wasn’t surprised to see Ah Man here because it was his late wife’s birthday afterall.  He knew Ah Man would remember her late best friend's special day.  What took him by surprise was the close bond she and Kwan had developed since her return from Hunan a couple months ago.  But he could still sense she was keeping her distance from him, and that saddened him.

“Hi Chi Shan!” Kwan greeted but Ah Man only gave him a nod with a smile that was hardly noticeable.
           
“Hi!” Chi Shan directed his response to both parties and then pointed to the large bundle of roses that Ah Man was holding.  “Those are beautiful.  They will make Tong Sum very happy!”
           
Kwan thought the happiest person was the florist, but she decided to keep that to herself.  Ah Man returned his compliment with a more sincere smile, then she walked towards the grave and placed the flowers next to the ones Chi Shan had brought.  Kwan gestured to Chi Shan to stay where they were so Ah Man could have some private moments with her late best friend. 
           
“Do you come here with Ah Man often?” asked Chi Shan.
           
“No, this is the first time after the funeral.”  Kwan answered.  “Ah Man mentioned it the other day when we were at your house, so we decided to come together today.”
           
Chi Shan glanced towards where Ah Man was for a few countable seconds and then let out a sigh.  “I wish things could have been different for Ah Man.”
           
“How do you mean by ... different?”  Kwan was in her psychoanalysis role and emphasized on the last word in hope to turn his attention back to her. 
           
After a moment, Chi Shan finally turned back to look at Kwan.  “If I had not made a mess of my relationships, Tong Sum might still be alive today.”
           
Kwan studied Chi Shan’s eyes and facial expression for a moment.  “If you really think you have created the mess, it’s not too late to clean up it up!"  She could tell this wasn't what he was expecting her to say.  She gave a chuckle.  "Don’t turn memories of Tong Sum into a shadow.  She no longer needs love from a human heart.”  
           
This time, Kwan saw the twinkle in his eyes as if her words had enlightened something in him.  He smiled and glanced towards Ah Man again and said with a deep sigh.  “I think my mess has left a stain too deep to  remove.”
           
“Only for the one who is buried deep there!  But she doesn't need you to remove the stain!  She is dressed in a robe that is white as snow!"  Kwan could tell Chi Shan understood who she was referring to.  "But you still have a chance for the one who is not buried yet!  Just use a stronger stain removal if you have to, just don’t give up.”


Chi Shan gave out a laugh and found himself breathing in a breath of fresh air.  "Since when did you go into relationship counselling?!"

"I do all kinds!  This one is pro-bono!"  Kwan joked. “Or you can repay me by including an airline ticket with your invitation to your big day!”
           
Just then, Ah Man approached and interrupted their laughter to join in the conversation.  “What are you guys laughing about? What big day?”
           
“We were just joking around,” Chi Shan told Ah Man.  
           
“You’re done?”  Kwan asked and Ah Man nodded.
           
“How about we go to grab a bite to eat?”  Chi Shan suggested.
           
Kwan could tell from Ah Man’s body language that she would rather not be
​​
in his company so she thought she had better say something before things
turned awkward in the next second.

“Maybe next time, Chi Shan,” Kwan spoke up among them.  “I’ve asked

Ah Man to accompany me to some last minute shopping for girly things.” 
She hoped he didn’t detect her lying words.​​
Just to redeem herself from the lie she told Chi Shan, Kwan bought herself one item on their way to lunch at a nearby Japanese restaurant. 
           
“Chi Shan and I used to come here often.” Ah Man told Kwan after they were seated inside a private booth. 
           
Kwan looked up from the menu.  “You don’t mind coming here, I hope.  I don't want your food to go down the other way!”  
           
Ah Man let out a girlish laughter. “No, of course not!” 

After placing the order, Kwan decided to share some of her observations that she had kept to herself since Ah Man had been opening up to her over the last month or so.     
           
“You do know that Chi Shan cares about you a lot, right?”  Kwan began.  “In fact, I am quite certain he is still in love with you.”
           
Kwan could tell she got Ah Man's full attention.  “When Tong Sum found out the reason why you broke off your engagement to Chi Shan, she told me exactly what happened that night at The Peak.  Chi Shan also told me later.”
           
 Ah Man turned to look around the restaurant to avoid the subject of their conversation.  “This is already in the past, why bring it up?” 
           
Kwan reached out and placed her hand on Ah Man's so she would look her in the eyes.  “Because it was a misunderstanding at that time,” Kwan would not allow her friend to head towards denial again.  “Everyone reacts to relationships differently.  It’s understandable, one was your fiancé and one was your best friend.  You’ve lost trust in both of them.”
           
“I felt so foolish when I saw them,” Ah Man opened herself up again.  “All my life, I didn’t want a triangle relationship like my mother.”
           
“Well, kept  everything inside, especially when it came to matters of the heart.” 
Kwan stopped talking as the waitress placed their food in front of them.  At the
same time, she heard the hostess seating someone into the private booth next
to theirs. 

Kwan thought the male voice sounded very familiar.   But when the waitress
walked away from their table, she continued the conversation from where she
left off and forgot all about the voice.  “You kept everything inside yourself and
never opened up to anyone, not even to the man you were about to marry.” 


Ah Man had a look of helplessness on her face. “Yeah, Chi Shan used to say the same thing to me.”
Trying to pick up her own spirit, she let out a breath as if to put a closure to this subject.
​​  ​"It's too late for us now!"​​
 
“It’s not too late.  Both of you can try to help each other to love again.”  Kwan encouraged. “And you have to stop avoiding him or else his guilt will eat him up eventually.”
           
“Guilt?”  Ah Man looked surprised.  “Why would he feel guilty?  He loves Tong Sum and can’t forget her.”
           
“Well, he can’t forget you either.” Kwan emphasized.  “And Tong Sum doesn’t need his love anymore.”
           
Ah Man thought about what Kwan just said.  As if bringing the conversation to an end, she stated helplessly with a sigh. “Why is it that Tong Sum, Chin Chin, you and I are so unfortunate to wind up in triangle relationships?”
           
“You, Chi Shan and Tong Sum were never in a triangle relationship.  He was only committed to loving one of you at a time, never at the same time.”  Kwan explained.  “Fate stepped in and is trying to make it easier for you and Chi Shan now.  Remember, Tong Sum will not suffer if you two were to get together again.”
​​
“Then what about you?  Do you consider you, Fei and Chin Chin in a triangle relationship?”  Ah Man asked out of concern for her friend, the counsellor.
           
Kwan thought for a brief moment said as if her mind was speaking to convince her heart.  “No, but fate has intervened to keep two people who were meant to be together."  And convinced she must be, she told herself as she gave Ah Man a smile. "So I have to let it be!”


Chi Shan sat at the private booth for another ten minutes after Kwan and Ah Man left.  He heard the entire conversation since he was seated while waiting for Fei to join him for lunch.  He was really hungry when Fei finally turned up.  Hungry for food as well as a second chance to make things right with Ah Man.

Just Once
James Ingram 
I did my best but I guess my best wasn't good enough
'Cause here we are back where we were before
Seems nothing ever changes, we're back to being strangers
Wondering if we oughta stay or head on out the door


Just once, can't we figure out what we keep doing wrong
Why we never last for very long What are we doing wrong

Just once, can't we find a way to finally make it right
Make the magic last for more than just one night

If we could just get to it, I know we could break through it

I gave my all but I think my all may have been too much
'Cause Lord knows we're not getting anywhere
Seems we're always blowing whatever we got going
And it seems at times with all we've got we haven't got a prayer


Just once, can't we figure out what we keep doing wrong
Why the good times never last for long
Where're we going wrong
Just once, can't we find a way to finally make it right
Make the magic last for more than just one night
I know we could break through it, if we could just get to it


Just once, I want to understand
Why it always come back to good-bye
Why can't we get ourselves in hand and admit to one another
We're no good with out the other
Take the best and make it better
Find a way to stay together


Just once can't we find a way to finally make it right
Make the magic last for more than just one night
I know we could break through it, if we could just get to it
Just once ...I know we can get through it ...Just once