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Chapter 10 Leaving Yesterday Behind

Quin had a peaceful and quiet Christmas in New York with her friend, Megan.  When the New Millennium finally arrived, she (as well as everyone) was glad it was not the end of the world as some had predicted. 
A week into 2000, she got herself settled in Baltimore where her graduate classes began at John Hopkins University.  Between attending classes and working as a research assistant, there was hardly any spare time for her to think about the life she had left behind in Hong Kong.  Aside from the two phone conversations she had with her family on the first day she arrived in New York and the night before flying to Baltimore; Quin did not make any other oversea phone calls.

She was tempted to call Fei for more times than she wanted to count.  So far, she had managed to overcome her temptations.  However, she allowed herself to send him an email upon her arrival in New York.  She told herself it was only courteous to thank him for his gifts, which kept her in emotional upheavals throughout the entire flight from Hong Kong to Seattle and onwards to New York.  She didn’t tell Fei that, of course.  Neither did she reply to any of his emails while she was staying with Megan in Manhattan where internet was easily accessible and free for her. 
So when Quin first arrived in Baltimore, she sent one generic email to everyone on her contact list to let them know of her whereabouts.  Then all communications ceased because she was only able to access the internet during library hours.  She chose to use the limited data to just reading her emails but she didn’t reply any of them; she needed the data to look for housing information. 

Three months later, Kwan finally settled into her own little rental apartment with her own phone line and internet access.  That was when she sent another generic email to everyone on her contact list to let them know of her new contact number and mailing address.
One spring day in Hong Kong, Chi Shan called Fei into his office to inform him of an opportunity for career advancement.  Chi Shan had expected Fei to jump on the opportunity of a lifetime, but he definitely did not expect Fei to give him a dejected expression.

“Not willing to leave Chin Chin behind, is it?”  Chi Shan thought he had figured out why Fei was reluctant.  When Fei made no response to his teasing, Chi Shan thought he would provide him with the solution.  “You do know you can take Chin Chin with you to England, as long as the two of you are married!”
Fei immediately let out a sigh and sent Chi Shan a frowning look that told him it was lame for him to make such a suggestion.  Chi Shan sighed and surrendered, all he could do was keep quiet.
Finally, Fei opened his mouth and spoke his mind.   “Have you heard from Kwan?”
Chi Shan took ampathy upon his friend immeditely.  “Last email was when she moved to her new apartment … I think it was about three months ago?”
Chi Shan couldn’t quite read the expression on Fei, so he asked him directly.  “What about you?  Have you two been emailing each other?  Have you called her?” 
The facial expression on Fei was an answer in itself.  This time Chi Shan was certain Fei was missing Kwan very much and going to England for training with Chin Chin was the last thing on his mind.
​The following evening, there was a small dinner gathering at Chi Shan’s home.  After the meal, he was in the process of getting an email address for Nathaniel when he noticed a new email from Kwan.  It was sent 8 hours ago.  When he clicked on the image attachment, he called everyone to take a look. While Ah Man, Chin Chin and Nathaniel gathered around the kitchen counter, Fei didn’t budge from the armchair he was occupying.  He was still brooding over the fact that Kwan had only sent him one private email but never replied to any of his.  However, he was struggling emotionally not to blame her as she had told him to move on for more times than he wanted to recall.  He was starting to believe Kwan had written him off for good.
“Fei!”  Chin Chin called to him.  When he ignored her bidding, she approached him. “Come take a look at Kwan’s photo!”  Chin Chin grabbed his arm and attempted to pull him out of the armchair. 
Fei reluctantly stood up because he didn’t want Chin Chin to injure herself.  But he stood like a dead weight and Chin Chin had to push him from behind to get him close enough to join the others around the kitchen counter.

At first sight of the photo, the image of Kwan smiling caused Fei’s heart to drop to his stomach.  Her rosy cheeks showed she was keeping herself healthy.  Looking at the pair of sparkling eyes, he couldn’t help but admit to himself how much he had missed her.
“She looks happy,” Fei stated the obvious.  Chi Shan and Chin Chin gave him a ‘Duh’ reaction.
“You must have talked to Kwan!” Ah Man turned to Fei with an innocent smile.  “Is she happy in America?  Did she gain weight?”
Fei looked fazed when all eyes were on him.  Without saying another word, he simply turned around and stepped away from the group.
“You should give her a call!”  Chin Chin called out with a reprimanding tone. “You can’t expect a girl to call you all the time!”
Nathaniel caught Chin Chin’s plea for support.  “It’s 8:30 in the morning.  How about giving her a wake-up call?”
Ah Man liked the idea and got all excited.  “Is it Sunday morning?  I can never remember if we are behind or ahead in time.”  
Fei was relieved for Ah Man’s question because he didn’t want to answer Nathaniel’s question.
“It’s Saturday morning!” Chi Shan assured Ah Man.  “Hong Kong is 12 hours ahead of Baltimore!”
“Let’s call her!” Ah Man insisted.  “I will pay you back for the extra long-distance charges.”
“No need!  I have a really, really good plan!” Chi Shan gave her a goofy smile.  He picked up his wireless phone and started dialing his phone.  When he heard the connecting tone, he approached the armchair and handed the phone to Fei.
Fei refused to take the phone from Chi Shan until Chin Chin chided him about wasting money on long distance calls.  So Fei had no choice but to take the phone and placed it to his ear and waited.  After the fourth ring, thinking Kwan wasn’t home; he was about to return the handset to Chi Shan.  But when a sleepy male voice answered, Fei was caught totally off guard.  All he could do was clear his throat to buy himself some time; at the same time hide his disappointment.  He also needed a moment to translate his question to English in his mind.  “Hello, is this Mo Chui Kwan’s residence?”
“Mo who?”  The man attempted to repeat what Fei said.
Fei thought perhaps Chi Shan had dialed the wrong number, so he repeated the name and emphasized on the last character.   “Mo Chui Kwan.  Is this Mo Chui Kwan’s residence?”
“Kwan…Oh, you mean Quin?”  The man seemed to have woken up and his voice sounded much more alert.  “Oh yes!  Quin’s residence! Hold on please.”
Fei heard chuckles from the man and some tapping noises that sounded odd.  Then the man’s voice drifted into a distance as he called out to Quin.  “Wake up, Quin! Wake up!”  
Then Fei heard Kwan mumbling faintly in the background, it was the same familiar sound she used to make whenever he tried to wake her up from her sleep.  His jaw muscles tensed up as he couldn’t help but pictured Kwan waking up next to the man he had just spoken with.  That was when his stomach started churning and a sudden rush of acid rushed to his heart when he realized the man had covered up the mouth piece of the phone.  A moment later, the man handed the phone to Kwan.  “Hello?” 
When Kwan’s sleepy voice came through the line, Fei felt as if his whole being was floating in the sea of dismay.  He wanted to slam the phone down, but he managed to control his rage to just 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 the confused looking Chi Shan and placed it to her ear.  When she only heard a dial tone, she looked at Chi Shan with confusion as well.  “Check the number and dial again!” 
“Yeah, maybe the connection was bad!”  Chin Chin added.
When Chi Shan pressed the auto-redial button, and placed the call on speaker phone.  Fei immediately got up from the armchair and made a quiet exist through the front door.  Just before the door closed, Kwan answered the call.  As he walked away, Kwan’s cheerful voice filled the hallway.  Instead of waiting for the elevator, he descended the fire-escape staircase as if there was a consuming fire behind him.  Fei could no longer deny the throbbing pain in his heart as the sound of Kwan’s cheerful voice continued to ring in his eardrums.  When he finally got into his car, he was breathless and his body was shaking.  He tightened his fists and shut his eyes to overcome the internal rage.  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.  Now he regretted not telling her the truth that night.  And when his rage finally subsided, he became angry at himself for denying the obvious truth about his own feelings.
Three weeks later, Fei entered Chi Shan’s office to inform him that he would like to accept the opportunity for the promotion.  After the emotional upheaval from the phone call, Fei felt it was time to leave the past behind.  And the only way he could do that was to go to a place where there was no memories of Kwan.  That evening, Fei told Chin Chin that his application for training in England had been submitted.  Chin Chin reassured him again that she would get by with Nathaniel’s help, but she had mixed feelings towards Fei’s hasty decision.  Chin Chin decided to brave it up and brought the subject of Kwan into the conversation.  ““Kwan said she couldn’t afford to call because long distance charges were very high in the US.  Perhaps you can rent the condo out when the renovation is done.  That way you can send some of the rental money to Kwan!  Maybe then the two of you can call each other more often!”
Fei remained quiet, as if what Chin Chin said was not deserving of his attention.  Chin Chin didn’t want to push her luck, but she decided to take the opportunity to remind him of a task he was supposed to do three weeks ago.  “So have you called Kwan back yet? I told her you would call her back!  And don’t you make a liar out of me!”
Fei knew it was time to get out of Chin Chin’s presence or else she would nag him and pressure him to pick up the phone right there and then.  On the way to his room, he told her of his plan that he secretly had no intention to fulfill.  “I will call her when I get to England!” 
Ending Song = Leaving Yesterday Behind by Keno