Chapter 42 - One Moment in Time

“Happy Birthday!”  Ah Kit couldn’t wait to take his niece from his sister when Kwan opened the door to let him and Ah Yuk into her home.  It was June 18 and there was to be a dinner gathering there to celebrate Lemon-B’s first birthday.

“If you let her down, you need to watch her.  She’s just taken her first steps two weeks ago.”  Kwan passed her daughter to her brother.  “She’s been trying to run all over the apartment.”

“You are trying to run before walking, huh?!”  Ah Kit mimicked in baby talk and his niece squealed excitedly in high pitch.

“Lemon-B!”  Kwan gave her daughter a stern look.  The baby stopped and returned her mom an innocent look.  Then she smiled as if nothing had happened and started to play her other game, saliva blowing.  Kwan gave up and said to her brother and Ah Yuk.  “Okay, you two are in charge of looking after her.  I need to get dinner ready before everyone else arrive.”

“Where is Fei?”  Ah Kit asked.

“He’s been called to the office, something about a bomb on a bus.”

“Here in Hong Kong?”  Ah Yuk was astounded.

“I don’t think so…somewhere in the Middle-East, I think.”  Before Kwan made her way back to the kitchen, she made sure her guests would be let in when they arrived.  “Can you guys be in charge of the door buzzer?  Just have to press 5 and #.”

Fei finally returned home at about 8 in the evening and the guests were nearly done with dinner.  A few of his old colleagues from Central Station had not seen him since his return a week ago.  So when he entered his home, he was greeted by hugs and handshakes.

“Don’t they give you a day off at the FBI?  It’s your daughter’s birthday, for goodness sake!”  Korean teased.

“Yeah, I think you are better off coming back to work for us,” Yau Sir gave him a pat on the back.  “At least we allow you to take breaks and give you time off!”

“I’ll keep that in mind if they ever fire me,” Fei responded and noticed Lemon-B was yanking herself away from her Grandpa’s hold.  It was her way of communicating that she wanted her Da Da.

“Now that your Da Da is back, you don’t want Gong Gong?”  Mr. Mo teased his granddaughter who obviously wasn’t listening.  She was totally gungho in reaching out to her father.

When he finally had to pass Lemon-B over to Fei, Gigi tried to comfort Mr. Mo. “At least she lets you carry her.  She won’t even let Korean or Chi Shan carry her.  Never mind us ladies!” 

Kwan saw the whole charade involving her daughter and her father when she brought Fei his dish of food that was warmed up for him.  “Oh Dad, don’t feel bad.  She does that to me too.  When Fei is around, I become invisible!”

Laughter filled the room immediately and Fei gave his daughter a kiss on the cheek and hugged her tightly against his chest.  Then he announced proudly to all his guests.  “It’s because she knows how to pick out the best looking guy in the room, just like her mother!”  He winked at Quin.

That was when the laughter turned into bouts of groans, even from Quin herself.

“Happy Birthday Dear Lemon-B.  Happy Birthday to you!”

When the birthday song ended, one candle was burning brightly on the cake before the birthday girl.  Not only did she want to reach out to touch the flame, she also wanted to grab the cupcake while everyone was busy take pictures of her.  Just as her tiny hand was about millimeter from the beautiful birthday cake, everyone shouted out ‘No!’ 

Immediately the baby’s lips started to tremble, tears were forthcoming behind her eyes and her mouth was opening up.  Kwan quickly blew out the candle as Fei took the baby into his arms just when she was about to burst out crying.  But she stopped her outburst right away.  For in her father’s arms, she was no longer scared.  After Fei wiped away the tears from her eyes, her bubbly laughter returned in a matter of seconds when everyone tried to coo her again.

“Uncle Fei, why did you name her Lemon-B?”  Annabelle asked innocently while eating a piece of the cake.

Suddenly, the whole room became quiet.   Though everyone was curious once upon a time, no one ever asked that question.

“Yeah, always wanted to ask you why as well?”  Chi Shan finally said.

“We thought you two had been so influenced by the West that you gave such a funny name to your daughter.”  Bui Yee added.
Kwan and Fei communicated to each other with their eyes.  Then she gave Fei a smile to inform him that the answer would never come out of her mouth.  He smiled cheekily at her as well and turned to their guests.

“That’s classified information!  Top secret in the Tsui household!”  He picked his daughter up and blew noises into her tummy making her breakout with adorable giggles.  Then he said to Bui Yee. “You can always call her by the Chinese name you and Dad gave her.  Tsui Sze-Ling.” (詩玲)

It was time for Fei to hand over their daughter to his wife.  The baby had no qualms going to her mother because she knew she was going to be fed.  But before she made her way to the baby’s room, she told them.  “Her name is also Melanie!  But she likes being called her Lemon-B, right Baby?”  The baby responded by repeating the second letter of the alphabet as her mother carried her away.

“I bet it has to do with when Fei and Kwan started dating!”  Gigi was still trying to solve the top secret.

“How so?”  Chin Chin asked.  To this day, she still didn’t know how Fei and Kwan met or when their courtship started.  Her curiosity was spiked again.

“Fei used to drink black coffee all the time until that day when Kwan called him and asked him to drink Honey-Lemon Tea.  Even the waiter noticed when he changed his order.”  Gigi continued.

“I remember that day too!”  Korean laughed.  “And he was so happy, smiling to himself all day long!”

“That’s so cute!”  Chin Chin smiled.

Kwan was hearing this for the first time and decided to turn around.  She looked at Fei and gave him that sweet smile that always made him bashful.  She could tell he was blushing at that moment, even behind his tanned cheeks. 

And then Korean pointed out to everyone that Fei had the same expression back in the cafeteria when he got the call from Quin that day.

(Three months later) - September 2002

Kwan and Lemon-B came to visit Chin Chin at Nathaniel’s studio.  When she arrived, Chin Chin was practicing with Annabelle.  They were dancing beautifully and Kwan did not find it obvious that they were wearing prosthesis limbs.  They were truly natural dancers, much more graceful than a lot of dancers Kwan had seen in the past.

“Kwan!”

Kwan let Lemon-B down and she wobbled up to Chin Chin who carried the toddler into her arms.  Then Annabelle came up and wanted to carry the baby as well.  “Hi!  Hope we are not interrupting your lessons.”  

“Not at all!  We were just wrapping it up for the day.  Nathaniel wrote some new steps for us last night.”  Chin Chin sounded very excited.

Kwan was wondering about the issue Chin Chin had with Nathaniel.  “So I heard from Fei that you have accepted to go on the tour with Nathaniel.  I am really happy for you.  It’s going to be wonderful.”

“I told him I will look for another job after this tour.”  Chin Chin shrugged and told Kwan with a blank expression.

“What did he say to that?  Did he ask you to stay?” Kwan wondered if their relationship was still on rocky ground.

Chin Chin shrugged and walked away to gather her belongs from the floor.  “There’s nothing he can say.  I made it clear that if having a family is important to him and his parents, then this won’t work.”

Kwan remained quiet.  She was trying to analyze Chin Chin’s statement from her tone of voice.  Somehow it sounded emotionless.

“Not many parents can accept their only son marrying someone who can’t continue their family line.”  Chin Chin finally let out the thorn that was causing the sting in her heart.

Kwan was surprised to hear this because she did not get this impression from Nathaniel when she and Fei had a talk with him just before he left their home in Redmond after Christmas Day.  According to Nathaniel, it was Chin Chin who did not want to get married.  When she noticed Chin Chin avoiding eye contact, it daunted on her that she was not telling the truth.

“I thought his parents were very open-minded and liked you very much,” Kwan said carefully.

“They were just being nice.  I know they still have strong traditional Chinese values.  They would never say it to Nathaniel or me.”  Chin Chin was still avoiding eye contact.  “He never told me he was their only son and that his younger brother was actually his cousin.”

“Are you sure you didn’t blow this out of proportion?  Like turned this mole-hill into a mountain?”  Kwan challenged her.  She felt Chin Chin’s last statement was where the problem was.  “Remember not to let your past keep you from going forward.  Don’t be blinded by your past.”

Finally, Chin Chin lifted her head and smiled.  “I won’t.  That’s why I am dancing again.  Remember when you encouraged me to dance again?  You had better be there on my opening night!”  Chin Chin put out her pinky for Kwan to make a promise.

Kwan took the hint that this was the end of discussion regarding her love life.  So Kwan crossed the pinky with hers.  “Alright, I promise.  I will certainly be there!  You will shine like a star!”

“Okay, you promised now!”  Chin Chin Chirped cheerfully.

“When is your debut?”

“April 29, 2003!"

Just a week before Christmas, Dr. Millard called Kwan to discuss a research project he just received from the World Health Organization (WHO).

“It looks to me like Influenza.”  Dr. Millard said over the long-distance line.  “It could be just another strand of the Bird-Flu.  It’s just routine work.”

After downloading the file from her email, she saved the file into her local server that Fei had set up here in Hong Kong specifically for her work.  “Alright, I’ll start the ball rolling and let you know once it is done.”

“When will Fei be stationed back to Redmond?”

“The last I heard, June 2003 is the tentative date.”

And so Kwan went on to work on the project, one that would require the very best of her.  She didn't know it then, but this project would soon become her one moment in time when she would actually feel eternity.

One Moment in Time by Whitney Houston