Chapter 45 (The Finale) - The Gift

(February 2006 – Redmond, Washington) …continuation from end of Chapter 44

Fei quickly got up and dashed to his bedroom.  It was empty.  He opened the door to the en-suite.  There was no one there.  All this time, his two munchkins were following closely behind him.  Then they heard a familiar melody coming from the family room.

“Mommy!” Boy-Boy was the first to speak.  He obviously knew who his dad was looking for.

“Daddy! It’s your favorite song!”  Lemon-B tugged at his shirt.  “Canon in D!”

Fei swept up his daughter in one arm and said. “You are so smart! And you’re not even 5 yet.”  Then he swept up his 2 year-old son with his other arm and said.  “Let’s go watch Mommy play the piano!”
When Quin saw her husband’s grin on his face, she knew he got the message about the dog.  But she pretended to know nothing and continued playing the piano.  As hard as she tried to concentrate on the piece, there was no way for her to continue for two reasons.  One was that her two munchkins were banging on the piano, Lemon-B was adding lots of high note staccatos to the classical melody while Boy-Boy was complimenting with low sounding chords.  Mozart would have recruited the boy and Beethoven would have done the same for the girl.  However, Johann Pachelbel would have flipped to hear his piece being turned into hard metal rock n’ roll.

The second reason Quin wasn’t able to continue her playing was because her husband was hovering over her from behind and tickling her for being so cheeky and sneaky in delivering the news of her pregnancy.  When she surrendered in his arms, he gave her a quick kiss on her cheek.

“When did you find out?”  Fei asked.

“This morning,” Quin turned and smiled at her husband. “Remember your Christmas morning gift?”  Fei most certainly remembered and gave her a grin, a proud one to say the least.

Just then Bui Yee came out of the kitchen with some snacks and the grandchildren ran up to her.

“Poh Poh, we’re getting a dog!”  Lemon-B spoke with excitement.

Fei glanced at Quin who then shook her head.  “Just like these two, you are the second person to find out.  And I guess you will be the one to blurt out the news, without exception, like you did for our first two!”

Fei nodded with certainty.
The Tsui family accepted an invitation for an interview to commemorate SARS 10th year Anniversary Special Edition at the local news station.  Among the many SARS survivors, Kwan was one of the chosen because of her dedication back in 2003 until now.  When they learned how Kwan miraculously gained her life back after being diagnosed with SARS, and also how Fei was a survivor of September 11th, they wanted the entire family to come along for the interview.

The interviewer, Barbara, was an outspoken confident woman, well-known locally for her no-nonsense interviewing techniques.  Her program received the highest rating and viewers because of her ability to get the utmost juicy details out of all her guests.

Barbara started by shaking hands with the parents.  Then she shook hands with Lemon-B who was sitting next to Fei.  Next was Boy-Boy who was sitting next to his younger brother.  Finally, Barbara turned to shake hands with the youngest member of the family, De-De.  He was sitting between his mother and brother.  He was like his father, very camera shy.

“So, Mrs. Tsui.  Let’s start from when you were actually pronounced dead.”  Barbara looked at Kwan.  “What happened there?  Did you know you were dead?”

Kwan thought that was a funny question.  She didn’t quite know how to respond so she laughed.  “I don’t know.  They told me I was dead so I believed them.”  The audience laughed as well.

“Oh so stupid of me!  I should be asking your husband.”  Barbara smacked her head which caused a roar of laughter from the audience.  But the loudest came from Lemon-B and Boy-Boy.  It was their cute, contagious laughter that kept the audience and the hostess laughing for the next few minutes.  Finally, Barbara turned to Fei. “Mr. Tsui, was your wife dead at all or did the doctors make a mistake?”

“Doctors don’t make mistakes!”  Lemon-B blurted out and Kwan gestured her index finger against her lips.  The 11-year old got the hint and remained silent, but only for a short time.

Fei shook his head.  “No, the doctors did not make a mistake.  I saw the machine’s line go flat and there was no pulse when I held her hand.  That was the first thing I did when I went in.  But her pulse came back after 45 minutes.”

“Wow!  Now I didn’t know that!”  She looked at her notes again and waved them in the air at the crew. “You guys gave me the wrong info!  It says here she was only dead for 9 minutes.”  Barbara closed her folder and put it aside.  “Forget these notes!  Just talking to all of you is much more interesting. So Tsui Fei, uh… don’t mind me calling you Tsui Fei, do you?”

Boy-Boy leaned forward and addressed Barbara directly with confidence. “You can call my Dad, Flygon, too!”

“His colleagues call him Flygon!”  Lemon-B second motioned her brother with assertiveness.

“Really?  Flygon, like the dragon in Pokemon?”  Barbara acknowledged the children with a big smile.  All three of them nodded and remained quiet again because Kwan just gave Boy-Boy her stern discipline look and Fei tapped his daughter on the shoulder and gave his glare as well.  Then Fei turned to address Barbara.

“Tsui Fei is fine.” Fei responded.  You could tell he was a man of few words in front of the camera.

“So how did you feel during those 45 minutes?  What did you do?”  Barbara was getting deep into the topic, her hands were moving all over as she asked the questions.  “Did you pray, cry, did you beg God to bring her back to life?”

Fei looked at Kwan who was next to him.  Her warm sparkling eyes were on him as well.  He took her hand and squeezed it tight.  “All I remember was the sadness and the emptiness and there was this unexplainable pain in my heart that night.”

Kwan saw his eyes were getting misty and she in turned squeezed his hand back for support.

Fei didn’t want to lose his cool, especially in front of his children, the audience and who knows who else would be watching the program.  So he shuffled in his seat.  “It’s not something I like to remember or dwell on these days. I don’t think we are supposed to do that when given second chances.  We are not to live in the past, but that night will always be a reminder to love my wife and cherish every living moment with her and with our children.”  Fei had his arms around Lemon-B and he pulled her closer to him.

Barbara could tell he was holding back his emotions as well.  She turned to Kwan.  “Spoken like a true man!  He would never admit to crying like a baby for you that night, would he?”

“I saw Dad cry!”  Lemon-B put up her hands as if she was at school.  As soon as she said that, Fei smiled and quickly covered her mouth with his hand.

“You remembered seeing your Dad cry?  You weren’t even 2 at that time!”  Barbara watched with delight as the girl was being playfully man-handled by her father.  Boy-Boy and De-De jumped out of their seats and wanted to join their father in their play but their mother caught hold of them and put them back in their place.

“So Mrs. Tsui, what do you think was the reason you are alive?”  Barbara continued.  “Was it because you heard your husband’s crying?”

Kwan laughed with the audience as well, but she wasn’t laughing at Fei.  She admired his tears back then.  “I guess I didn’t die that night because someone was not willing for me to die.  Perhaps his tears touched the heart of God above and brought me back to life.”

The audience sounded a touching ‘Awww’ moment and some even echoed their ‘Amens and Praise God!’  Barbara placed her hand on her heart to demonstrate how moved she was by Kwan’s statement.

“Actually, a lot of tears were shed for her that night, not just mine.  Perhaps even the angels were crying.”  Fei finally admitted in front of the camera that he indeed did cry.  “When I found out she was pregnant from the blood test result, my heart just broke.” Fei admitted.

“Did you know she was pregnant before she was hospitalized?”

Fei shook his head.  Then Kwan interjected.  “He couldn’t have because I didn’t know until I saw the blood test results just before I blacked out.  But maybe that was what made my body fight and resist the virus.”

“You found out you were pregnant just a few seconds before you died?”  Barbara turned to look at the audience and placed her hands on the arms of the chair she was sitting on.  “Hang on to the edge of your seats, everyone!  What you are about to hear might sound like The Twilight Zone!”  Then she made that musical tune popularized by the show.  Boy-Boy and Lemon-B imitated her because they knew the tune as well.

The audience laughed and so did Kwan and Fei.  De-De sat amused and smiled, he was too young for The Twilight Zone.  Then Fei voluntarily shared his experience that night.  “It was more like X-File for me when I felt the pulse on her wrist.  I was preparing to say goodbye for the last time before they were to move her to the morgue.  So when I touched her hand, I thought I was imagining her pulse until the nurses and doctors came.  Everyone kind of went ‘huh?!’”

Fei demonstrated a dramatic gasp and Barbara did the same by repeating after him.

Kwan chuckled at both their overly-exaggerated action.  “I don’t think it was that dramatic!”

Then Fei made an abrupt turn of his head and with his two stunned eyes as he blurted.  “Have you ever touched something dead and have it suddenly come alive?”

Quin was stunned by his vivid description.  Then she thought his question sounded rather funny in an awkward kind of way and she started to turned away to hide her embarrassment.

Fei read her thoughts and realized he said something that could be interpreted in a totally different content and looked really abashed.  He tried to stifle his own embarrassment but Kwan knew he was blushing.  They both tried to hide from the camera.  The children joined the audience and laughed at their parents though they had no idea what they were laughing about.

Barbara caught the meaning and quickly pulled a line to cover it.  “Not the topic of discussion here.  Let’s get back to the pregnancy.”  She looked at Kwan.  “So did you remember you were pregnant when you first came back to life?  I mean you must have been so weak and ….”

“It was the first thing she asked when she came back to life.”  Fei interjected, he was really glad the interviewer was experienced enough to handle situations like this. “She asked if the baby was alright.”

“Wow!”  Barbara remained quiet.

“Some of you may not know this, but the brain doesn’t stop functioning when the heart stops.  The brain is actually the last to ‘die.’”  Kwan gestured with her fingers the open and close quotation to the last word she said.

“I believe her mind on child willed her body to fight the SARS virus.”  Fei offered his two cents worth.  “The doctors were explaining that somehow the body builds up the immune system to protect the mother and the baby during pregnancy.”

Barbara nodded in agreement.  She turned to Boy-Boy.  “You saved your Mommy!”

The boy shook his head and smiled timidly.  “No, God saved Mommy!”  

“Well said!”  Barbara complimented the boy.  Then she turned to the young girl.  “Melanie, I heard you also had some miraculous healing power, is that right?  You did something to help bring your Dad’s memory back when you were a baby.”

“Dad said I hit him in the head because he didn’t remember me!”

Barbara and the audience found her remark amusingly cute.  Then she turned to the youngest who had not said a single word throughout the interview.  However, he was very attentive and well behaved.  “And you, little boy.  What special gift do you have?”

De-De smiled, with deep dimples like his father’s, and said with the sweetest voice.  “I have No Comment!”

Barbara and the audience couldn’t help but laugh at the little boy’s response.  Then Barbara turned to the audience.  “Doesn’t he sound like this certain Hong Kong actor?”  The audience laughed some more.

Fei turned to his wife and asked in a whisper.  “Who is she referring to?”  Kwan shrugged her shoulders and turned her attention back to the hostess.

“Now I have one last question for you, Mrs. Tsui.”  Spoke Barbara.  “Is it true that they took blood samples from you and Boy-Boy and came up with a vaccine for SARS?”

Kwan quickly shook her head.  “No, that would be a terrible rumor and lie.  To this day, even in 2013, there is no vaccine for SARS.  The best is still prevention.  If you have any signs of fever or flu symptoms, remember to isolate yourself and keep your surrounding clean from germs.  Always eat healthy food and take lots of rest so your body can build up its immune system to fight the virus.  And of course, see your doctor immediately!”

Barbara looked to the audience.  “Listen to Dr. Tsui!  She is both a psychologist and a neurologist and she just gave us free advice!”

The audience clapped in response.
“I want my Mommy!”  Lemon-B ran out the room crying.  “Maaa…ma…..” The poor 2 and a half year old toddler couldn’t even articulate her words.  She was truly crying with real tears rolling down her cheeks.  She dashed into her parents’ room as Kwan was coming out from the en-suite just after putting on her shower robe.

“What’s wrong, B?  Mommy told you I’m taking a shower, remember?”  Kwan stooped down and hugged her daughter.  She then proceeded to wipe away the tears on the toddler’s face with her hand.  “Tell Mommy what happened?”

Fei entered their room with their son who was also crying.

Lemon-B saw her father and got frightened and quickly buried her face in her mother’s bosom.  “Da..Da…Daddy…” The poor kid was sobbing and talking in between hiccups, “…said.”  She took another huff and sobbed. “I was too…” She finally let out her final words, “…too loud.” Then she started sobbing into her mother’s bosom again.  But she found refuge there and her sobbing started to cease.

Kwan was unable to carry her daughter because she was still recovering from the operation while giving birth to her son two months ago.  Fei helped his wife up from the floor and walked her to the bed.  Kwan pulled Lemon-B to her side and then pointed at Fei.  “Did Daddy say that?”

Lemon-B nodded, tears were still coming out of her eyes though her sobs were few in between now.

“Should Mommy spank Daddy for making you cry?”  Kwan asked and saw Fei gave her the pouty stare.  But it was no surprise to Kwan when Lemon-B shook her head because she knew her daughter would never let her mother, or anyone else, spank her Dad.  Kwan looked at Fei who had a victory smirk on his face which said it all. Lemon-B not only had his eyes, but his heart too.

Fei passed their son to Kwan.  The baby stopped crying as soon as he was in his mother’s arms.  Then Fei picked up Lemon-B and gave her a kiss on the cheek.  “Sorry Lemon-B.  Daddy didn’t mean to make you cry.”  Lemon-B smiled shyly and buried her face into her father’s chest and sucked her thumb.

Chin Chin stood by the corridor and saw the entire scene.  She placed her hands over her own stomach and smiled at Kwan who noticed her.  Kwan greeted her for the first time since she and Nathaniel arrived at their house 15 minutes ago while she was in the shower.  “Your tummy is starting to show!  The look suits you!”

Stepping out of the children’s bedroom, he saw the lights were still on in the kitchen and wondered what his wife was up to.  But when he entered the kitchen, he found Chin Chin preparing some baby food and putting them into the travel bag.

“You’re still not done getting things ready?”  Fei asked.  “Better get some sleep because we have an early start tomorrow!”

“I’m almost done.”  Chin Chin held up a packet of Baby Mum-Mum. “We won’t last the trip without his favorite snacks.”

Fei smiled and said with tongue in his cheek.  “Yeah!  I wouldn’t want to fly with your son who cries all the time!  I think he must have inherited it from you.  I don’t see it in Nathaniel.”

“Tsui Fei!”  Chin Chin showed her colors and perched her two hands on her hips.

Then Fei quickly bid his goodnight and escaped from the kitchen.  He made his way to his room and heard the shower just came on.  So he locked the bedroom door and was about to sneak into the en-suite when he heard Kwan knocking on the bedroom door.

“Dad?! Are you still in the shower?” Quin called aloud behind the closed door.  “Why did you lock my bedroom door?”

“What?!”  Mr. Mo shouted from inside the en-suite while the shower was still running.  “I can’t hear you!”

Fei finally unlocked and swung open the bedroom door.  Quin took one look on his face and knew right away what he was about to do if she had not knock on their bedroom door.  “If only!”  She said and started to laugh so hard she had to roll unto their bed. 

“Nothing would have happened, I’m sure Dad locked the bathroom door!”  Fei tried not to even imagine what could have happened. 

“Nope! The lock is still broken!  Remember?!”  Quin pointed out.  “That’s how you were able to sneak in last week while I was enjoying my Spa therapy in the tub!”

That night, when Fei and Quin were finally in bed, he shared his earlier déjà vu moment with her.  “Just now when I was reading to the kids, I remembered the boy and his mother on September 11th.  The boy was our son the mother I helped was you!”    

“You saw us 3 and a-half years ago?”  She looked at her husband with gasping eyes. 

“Yeah, all these years, I couldn’t remember what you guys looked like.  Then tonight, when I was carrying Boy-Boy, it came back like a déjà vu!”

“Wow!  No wonder you didn’t recognizing it was me!”  Quin gestured how her body had changed.  “I probably wouldn’t recognize myself if I had known I would gain so much weight over the next 3 years!”

Fei gave her a ‘here you go again about how your appearance’ look.  And like before, he told her once again.  “Like I said before, you will always be beautiful to me!”
It was a beautiful day for a beautiful wedding for the beautiful couple, Ah Kit and Ah Yuk.  The groom was Kwan’s brother, Fei’s brother-in-law.  Thus the ring bearer was their youngest son Jeremy, better known as De-De, who was 6 years old.  The head candle boy was their son, Joshua, better known as Boy-Boy who was 9 years old.  The second candle boy was Tommy, Chin Chin and Nathaniel’s son, who was 8 years old.  And of course, the head flower girl was Melanie, better known as Lemon-B, who was 11 years old.  The second flower girl was Christine, Chi Shan and Ah Man’s daughter, who was 10.  The wedding was filled with joy and happiness.

In the past, Fei had no problems enjoying a good wedding.  However, today’s affair was an exception.  Though he was surrounded by close friends and family, his heart was somewhere else.  From a distance, Kwan also noticed her husband’s body was here but his mind wasn’t.  She herself had been feeling unhappy lately due to Fei’s long absences.  In order to have her husband’s presence here today, she had to fight through many levels of obstacles to get the message across that family occasions like this was top priority, above National Security.  She was very glad when the woman who was stopping her husband from fulfilling his family obligations finally relented her stubborn ways and allowed him to be present here this weekend.

Fei had not been with his family in person since March.  Shortly after the interview, he had to fly to different countries to deal with urgent issues - mostly world crisis in the Middle East.  It had been two months since he was home in person.  The three children owned him the moment he stepped off the private jet yesterday and practically wore him out by the time he made his way to bed last night.  Within 5 seconds, he was flat out and was sleeping like a baby.  Because Kwan was helping her brother with the wedding ceremony, she had to gather the children early in the morning and left their apartment before he got up.  Thus Fei had to make his own way to the church.  It was a good thing he managed to arrive just minutes before the wedding ceremony was about to start.

Because of the current world crisis, Fei had a lot on his mind and even more responsibility on his shoulders.  Standing at the back of the reception hall, he wished he could be with someone, somewhere else instead.
Kwan took occasional glances at her husband and noticed how he was keeping a distance from everyone.  What she wasn’t aware of was the fact that there was this certain woman on his mind throughout the ceremony.  They were looking at each other now.  She was sipping champagne as he stood admiring this woman who had gone through tremendous hardship in her life and felt he could never repay her for the sacrifices she had made for him.  He found her looking stunningly attractive today.  The more he looked, the more frustration he felt towards his current circumstance because she was unreachable and untouchable to him.  To him, she might as well be a Greek Goddess at this moment.  In fact, during the wedding ceremony, he had to resoved to texting her because that was the only way he was able to communicate with her.  But Fei knew he had to keep a distance from his family, especially his children.  If they ever caught site of him, that would ruin his chances of ever being with the woman he was looking at.  At this instance, Fei’s only comfort was to look at their text messages from earlier again.

ME: Sorry - missed our date last night.  Children obligations got to me.
SP: Thought u weren’t interested b-cos of my wrinkles and gray hair.
ME: You will 4-ever be beautiful in my eyes - even if you lose all ur hair :P
SP: Maybe we can arrange for another date soon?
ME: For sure! How bout our usual secret meeting place tonight?
SP: Can’t wait!

To drown his untimely desire, Fei grabbed a glass of Ketel One, the strongest vodka being served.  He downed it in one shot and placed the empty glass on a passing waiter’s tray.  Taking one last look at the woman who was beyond his reach, he turned around to leave.  When he got to the elevator lobby, his cell phone rang and he answered it.

"Leaving so soon?”  A familiar female voice asked.  It was the woman he had his eyes on a moment ago, the one he texted during the ceremony, the Greek Goddess who was beyond his reach.

“Ceremony is over!”  Fei said gruffly.

“But the band is still playing.”  She spoke in a persuasive tone.

“Well, no one will notice I’m gone for a few hours.”  Fei decided not to step into the elevator so their conversation would not to be cut off due to bad mobile connection.  Her voice was endearing to his ears.

“I would feel really bored if you’re not here.”  She said rather seductively. 

Fei realized she was now standing in front of him, so he ended his phone and looked straight into her eyes.  “What would you suggest I do to keep you from being bored?”

“How about we find a place to relax?”  Her eyes made playful gestures to suggest what she wanted. “You know, just the two of us.”

The corner of Fei’s lips curved into a smile.  “So you’ve been practicing your lines while I was away.”  He put his arms around her waist and placed his hand at the small of her back.  He guided her to a quiet deserted corner where he had picked out as soon as he spotted her walking towards him from the mirror in the open elevator when he first answered the phone call.

The first touch of their lips were electric, a dangerous combination of sparkling champagne and vodka made their bodies come alive.  Heat and desire flooded through them both and their arms were entwined around each other tightly.

“Eww, gross!” Lemon-B exclaimed in a disgusted voice.  “I’m so traumatized now! I’m going to need lots of therapy!”

Fei jerked back immediately at the unwanted interruption and let go of his wife.  “What are you doing here?!”

“Looking for Mom!  What are YOU doing here?”  Lemon-B perched her hands on her hips, demanding an answer from her father.  “With Mom!”

Fei shook his head and swallowed a groan.  He couldn’t understand how his cute, little, sweet Lemon-B turned into such a wisecrack before becoming a teenager.

Looking to see that her father was at a loss for words, annoyed, and embarrassed at the same time, she suddenly cracked up in bouts of belly laughter.  Then she pulled out her mobile phone, stomped her foot and whined.  “Ohhhh….. I should have recorded this and upload it on You Tube.”  Then she gave her parents a big grinning smirk.  “I am sure I will catch you guys again next time!”

“Lemon-B, you’re going to drive me crazy before you become a terrible thirteen!”  Fei grabbed his daughter and tickled her like old times.

She squirmed towards her mother and tried to break away from her Dad’s tickles.  Using her Mom as a shield, she giggled and said to her father.  “You guys created me in a car!  That’s why I am here to DRIVE you crazy!”

Immediately Fei’s attention shifted from Lemon-B to his wife who was just as stunned as he was.  “You told her that?!”  He asked.

Kwan shook her head and said in a whisper.  “I never mentioned it to anyone! Did you?”

“No.” Then Fei got hold of his daughter again and looked imploringly into her eyes. “Who told you that you were created in a car?”

“Dad…I wasn’t born yesterday.  I know why you call me Lemon-B!”  She got away from her parents and started walking back towards the reception hall.

“Why?”  Fei called to her.

Lemon-B turned around with a big grin.  “Don’t worry, Dad!  When and if I ever start dating, I won’t go out with a boy who drives a lemon!”

Fei and Kwan looked at each other in surprise.  Then Fei shook his head, folded his arms as they watched their daughter sashayed away.  But of course, he had to have the last say!

“Hey!  You’re not allowed to date until you’re 30!” 

The Gift - by Jim Brickman