Chapter 10

Leaving Yesterday Behind

Kwan had a peaceful and quiet Christmas in New York with her friend.  The New Millennium arrived and she, like everyone else, was glad it was not the end of the world as some had predicted.  A week later, she got herself settled in Baltimore where her graduate classes began at John Hopkins University.  Between attending her classes and working as a research assistant, there was hardly any spare time for her to think about the life she had left behind.  Aside from the two phone conversations she had with her family the first day she arrived in New York and the night before flying to Baltimore, she did not make any other oversea phone calls. 

However, she was tempted to call Fei for more times than she wanted to count.  So far, she had managed to curb her temptations.  She did allow herself to send him an email upon her arrival in New York.  She told herself it was only courteous to thank him for his gift, which kept her in emotional upheavals through the long distance flight.  She didn’t tell him that, of course.  But she never did reply to any of his emails while she was in New York where internet was easily accessible and free.  So when she got to Baltimore, she sent one generic email about her status to everyone on her contact list.  Then all communications ceased because she was only able to access the internet during library hours.  She chose to use the limited data to read her emails but not to reply so she could surf the internet for housing information. 

After three months, Kwan finally settled into her own rental apartment with her own phone line and internet access.  She sent another generic email to everyone on her contact list to update them on her new home phone number and address.

One day, Chi Shan called Fei into his office to offer him an opportunity for promotion.  When he mentioned the part about going to England for training, he thought Fei would have jumped on this opportunity of a lifetime without a doubt.  He definitely was not expecting dejected facial expression from Fei.

“Not willing to leave Chin Chin behind?”  Chi Shan tried a casual tease but when Fei made no response to that statement, he thought he would offer the solution to his reluctance.  “You do know you can take Chin Chin with you to England, right?”
Fei let out a sigh and gave a frown telling Chi Shan how lame his jokes were.  When Chi Shan said nothing more but shrugged, he finally spoke his mind.   “Have you heard from Kwan?”
“Latest email was regarding her move.” Chi Shan replied casually.  “What about you?”  The look on Fei’s face was an answer by itself.
The following evening, there was a small gathering at Chi Shan’s home.  After dinner, he opened up his laptop to retrieve an email address for Nathaniel.  That was when he noticed there was a new email from Kwan and announced to everyone that a photo was attached.  While Ah Man, Chin Chin and Nathaniel gathered around the kitchen counter to see Kwan’s photo that was taken from the university a few months ago, Fei kept his distance by remaining seated on the couch.

He was very disappointed that Kwan had only sent him two emails and never replied to any of his since she left Hong Kong.  But he couldn’t blame her as she had told him to move on more times than he wanted to remember.  He was starting to believe Kwan had written him off for good.

“Fei!”  Chin Chin headed towards his direction.  “Come take a look at Kwan!”  She grabbed his arm and pulled the reluctant man off the couch.  When she got him standing, she got behind him and pushed him to join the group.
At the first sight of the photo, the image of Kwan smiling caused his heart to drop to his stomach.  He could see her hair had gotten longer even though she had a hood on.  Her rosy cheeks showed she was keeping herself healthy.  Looking at the pair of sparkling eyes, he couldn’t help but admit how much he missed her. “She looks happy,” he stated the obvious.

“Did you talk to her lately?” Ah Man turned and asked Fei.  He shook his head and stepped away from the group.

“You should give her a call!”  Chin Chin said with a reprimanding tone to Fei. “You can’t expect a girl to call you all the time!”

Nathaniel caught Chin Chin’s plea for support so he took the opportunity to tease Fei.  “Would you like Chi Shan and I to help you in that area?”  He looked at his watch.  “It’s 8:30 in the morning.  Would you like to give her a wake-up call?”

“Sunday?” Ah Man asked at the same time and Fei welcomed the distraction which took away his need to answer Nathaniel’s questions.

“No, Saturday!” Chi Shan leaned closer to Ah Man and whispered.  “Hong Kong is 12 hours ahead of Baltimore!”
“Let’s call her!” Ah Man got excited and then realized how costly long distance calls could get.  “You don’t mind the long distance charges, do you?”

“No, I have a really good plan!” Chi Shan said goofily with pride.  He picked up the phone and started dialing.  When he heard the connecting tone, he turned around and handed the phone to Fei who refused to take it.

“Come on!  Don’t waste money on long distance!”  Chin Chin chided Fei who then had no choice but to take the phone and waited. 
After the fourth ring, Fei was about to return it to Chi Shan when a sleepy male voice came on.  Being caught off guard, all he could do was clear his throat to buy himself some time to hide his disappointment.  He also needed a moment to translate the question in his mind.  But before all hope was lost in his heart, he was hoping Chi Shan dialed the wrong number.  “Hello, is this Quin’s residence?”

“Quin’s residence?”  The man repeated in a rather sleepy voice.  “Quin?…um…oh yes!  Hold on please.”
Then Fei heard background noises that sounded odd.  Then he heard the man’s voice drifting into a distance as he called out to Quin.  “Wake up, Quin! Wake up!”  Then he heard the familiar sound Kwan used to make when he tried waking her up from her sleep. Immediately, his jaw muscles tensed up as he pictured her waking up next to the man he just spoke with.  His stomach churned and the acid was rising to his mouth as the man had covered up the mouth piece.  When he heard the man’s voice again, he could tell Kwan was holding the phone now.  The man was teasing Kwan that a mysterious man was calling her.
When Kwan’s voice came on the phone, Fei’s stomach acid had frozen up making him feel like he was floating in the sea of dismay.  He wanted to slam the phone down, but all he could do was press the End button and handed the phone back to Chi Shan.  “Wrong number!” 

“Wrong number?”  Chi Shan repeated with confusion.  “I thought I just heard Kwan’s voice.”  He placed the phone to his ear.  “Hello?  Hello?!”
Ah Man took the phone from Chi Shan and did the same.  When she only heard a dial tone, she handed it back to Chi Shan.  “Check the number and dial again!” 
“Yeah, maybe the connection is bad!”  Chin Chin added.
When Chi Shan pressed the auto-redial button, Fei made an excuse and walked away before anyone knew he was making a quiet exist.  Just before the door closed, he heard Kwan’s voice over the speaker phone and then everyone jumped into the conversation.  He could no longer deny the throbbing pain in his heart.  So instead of waiting for the elevator, he took the stairs and descended like he was running to catch a thief.  When he got inside his car, he was breathless and his body was shaking.  He tightened his fists and shut his eyes to overcome the internal rage.  When the fit subsided, he looked out his front windshield and lifted his gaze towards the balcony where Kwan had asked if he still loved her on the night of her farewell party.  He now regretted not telling her the truth back then.

Three weeks later, Fei told Chi Shan he would like to accept the offer to go to England for training.  After that phone call fiasco, he felt it was time for him to truly leave the past behind and move on.  That night, when he told Chin Chin that his application had been submitted, she reassured him again that she would get by on her own.  Chin Chin also suggested renting out the condo that he and Kwan purchased so that there would be extra income for him and Kwan while they were both living abroad.  “Kwan said she couldn’t afford to call because long distance charges were high in the US.”
And while they were on the subject of calling Kwan, Chin Chin decided to take the opportunity to lecture him for disappearing on the night they called and spoke with Kwan.  “So have you called her back yet? I told her you would call her back!  Don’t you make a liar out of me!”
To avoid further discussion, he knew he had to get out of her presence immediately.  On the way to his room, he told her.  “I will call her when I get to England!”

Leaving Yesterday Behind

by Keno

Chapter 9
Chapter 11