Chapter 9 - Start of a Tradition

Daniel couldn't believe he had let his Little Beauty coerced him into participating in the Xbox Dance Central in the middle of an open courtyard of the Christmas Market.  The attendant mending the station happened to be a friend of May's.  When they first arrived at the market, no one was dancing to the demos.  So Frank encouraged May and Daniel to try it out.  As they started the workout mode of the game, a small crowd began to gather.  By the time they came to the end of the game, they received a loud round of applause. 
"Hey May!  How about you and Daniel try out the Dance Battle?"  Frank called out to them as they were about to walk away.

May looked at Daniel and challenged him to the battle.  He shrugged his shoulders and accepted though he had no clue what he was in for until the music started.  He was Angel and she was Miss Aubrey.  At first he was having trouble following Angel's moves, which caused the crowd to laugh so hard.  But he soon caught on and was able to dance the moves and his score was improving rapidly.  However, by the end of the song, May still scored higher than he did.

"You obviously did this before, huh?!"  It was Daniel's turn to pose her a challenge.  "Bet you I can beat you next time!"

Frank caught the echo of their private conversation and drew them back to the stage with the mic in his hand.  "Since you two did so well, how about try out the Challenge Mode?"

May laughed and shook her head though Frank kept on encouraging.  "Come on!  It'll be fun for the two of you!"  Then he turned to the crowd.  "Would you like to see May and Daniel dance again? How about it?!"

The audience clapped and cheered them on.  And so Daniel took the challenge as if he was competing in Dancing with the Stars.  Now that he was all warmed up, he danced like a pro.  When their scores were the exact match, May had to really concentrate on her own moves as well.  But towards the end, she was having so much fun she was laughing and giggling so hard that she was not able to keep up with the moves.  Finally, she couldn't take it anymore and broke down in bouts of laughter.  Daniel did the same soon after but he still won because he had the higher score this time.  The audience applauded as they came off the stage hand in hand.

As they walked away from the open courtyard, Daniel pulled her hand up to his lips and kissed it on the back.  "I can't believe we just danced and are holding each other's hands again on the same day 20 years later.  What do you say we make this a yearly tradition from now on?"

The word sounded quaint in May's ears.  The concept was foreign to her because she never had family members close enough to set any sort of traditions when she was growing up.  Her mother passed away when she was five, leaving her to be raised by various nannies until she was old enough to take care of herself.  That was when she turned 16 and had dreamed of love, marriage, and a real family life with the boy who almost kissed her on the floor of the gym equipment room.  But she soon woke from that dream when she found out he was seeing someone else.  Her dream, along with her heart, was completely shattered when he became close friends with the group of students who were more into skipping out of classes than in getting good grades.  Daniel was the only one among his new peer group who made the Honor Roll throughout high school.

When Daniel noticed May’s sudden silence, he thought she felt rushed into the relationship again.  "Sorry, don't take it the wrong way.  I just thought you are starting to like the idea of 'us'."

May forced her hands away from his and perched them on her hips!  She pulled on a face as fierce as she could mutter.  "Well you thought wrong, Bucko!"

For a few brief seconds, Daniel looked to have stopped breathing.  May thought she had better tell him the truth before it was necessary to resuscitate him back to life.

"I LOVE the idea of us!"
From a far, the echo of their laughter was heard from across the street where someone was quietly following them.  Daniel and May took their time to get to the lunch venue.  As they reached the walking deck of Canada Place, they decided to not hold hands and tried to act serious again.  They tried, but the person watching them knew something was definitely going on between them.  When she saw enough of their intimate display, her eyes lifted from the couple to see if there was anyone else she could recognize.  There were many passersby but her eyes failed to spot out one particular person tailing 20 feet behind them.  For if she did, she wouldn’t have turned around and walked into the restaurant.

Daniel and May thought they would be the first to arrive at the restaurant since they were 20 minutes early.  But upon entering the hotel, they were surprised to see his parents and Mr. Carlson seated behind the Maître D’s podium.  Ethan happened to look up at them when he ended his call.  Daniel asked where his bride-to-be was, Ethan had to whisper that Emily had reluctantly gone to show Anna and Alice to the Ladies' Room.  So Ethan took upon himself and introduced May to his parents and Mr. Carlson.

May’s apprehension in meeting Daniel’s mother vanished the moment they met.  Mrs. West gave her a warm motherly hug and thanked her for getting the guest suites for The Carlson.

Meanwhile, Daniel shook hands with his Dad and Mr. Carlson.  After exchanging a few words with them, he turned to his mother and gave her a big hug.  May took this short moment to muse over the mother and son embrace.  The first time she saw Daniel’s mother was at their high school graduation 18 years ago.  May had been too afraid to look at his mother back then.  Standing in front of them both, May could tell Daniel inherited 80% of his facial features from his mother.  The more she looked at the two of them, the more she smiled to herself.

"Daniel, what is this about you bringing a date from LA to the wedding?"  His mother questioned him in a soft whisper.  "Emily was so upset you didn't tell her you were bringing a date.  She's had all the seating arrangement done and now she doesn't know where to seat your date!"
Daniel chuckled and purposely moved to stand beside May.  "You can tell Emily to seat her on my lap!"

May gave Daniel a stern warning which made him draw back his chuckles immediately.  Then he put his arm around his mother's shoulders and whispered his big secret.  "Mom, there is no date from LA.  But don't tell Emily or Ah Gor!"

“What?  No date?”  Mrs. West gasped.

“Not from LA, anyways!”  Daniel admitted.  "I had to tell Alice I have a date for the wedding.”

“This has to do with Alice?”  His mother asked.  “Again?” 

“Yes.”  Then Daniel drew May close to his side for just a short moment.  “May is my date!"

May wasn't sure how to react when she saw the questioning look on Mrs. West's face.  But she soon relaxed when Mrs. West smiled her realization and pointed her fingers at them as if she just caught them doing something naughty.  "Ah...that's why Alice said you and May took her out for breakfast this morning.  I wasn’t sure which May she was talking about."

“Yes, we took Alice out this morning!”  Daniel explained. 

Mrs. West made a funny gesture and smiled at them.  "No wonder she looked so sulky when I saw her!"

"Did she mention about May and I to Emily and Ah Gor?"  Daniel asked with apprehension.

His mother shook her head.  "No, no one else was in the suite!"  Then she looked mischievously at her son and May.  "So does this mean you two are…?"

Daniel saw Emily returning to the waiting area with Anna and Alice, so he hushed his mother.  "Mom!  Secret, remember?  Don't let Emily and Ah Gor know!"

May found Mrs. West very adorable when she made a giggle and covered her sneaky laughter.  She was definitely ready to play this secret dating game with them.  May couldn't deny the fact that this very moment was warming to her heart.  And when Mrs. West introduced her to Anna, May couldn't help but believe that she not wanting her son to date a Chinese girl was becoming unsubstantial.  May had always suspected the things she heard about Daniel’s mother were nothing but a bunch of lies.  May remembered the brief meeting with Mrs. West at her Grade 12 Graduation Ceremony when Daniel's grandmother had recognized her.  Now looking at Mrs. West's mannerism, May just couldn't understand why anyone would want to tell such lies about someone so kind.

When their table was ready, Daniel's parents asked for The Carlson to take their seats first.  After that, Daniel's Dad pulled out the chair for his wife before he took his own seat next to Mr. Carlson.  Daniel and May purposely waited until everyone was settled before approaching the table.  When Emily noticed there were four empty seats between Alice and her soon-to-be mother-in-law, she saw her opportunity to split up the two lovebirds.  So she purposely took the middle two seats and guided May to sit between her and Mrs. West.  That left only one chair for Daniel, the one between Alice and Ethan.

Daniel and May exchanged a quick glance before he started to make his way to take the seat next to Alice.  Emily caught the glance from Daniel and asked cheekily.  "Oh, did you and May want to sit together?"

Daniel caught the smirk and returned an ‘I-will-get-you-back-later’ smile.  "No, we might as well start getting used to the ‘Seating plan’ for your Wedding Day!" 

"Ethan, you and Emily move one seat over!”  Mrs. West interrupted and waved Daniel to come to her.  “I want Sai-lo to sit next to me today!"

A smile escaped May because she found Mrs. West’s attempt to say 'little brother' in Chinese so very adorable but also because the mother figure gave Emily a stern look.

Daniel’s smile escaped for reasons that did not require any explanation.  He sent a triumphant glance towards Emily who returned a quick split second snub with her nose, but his ultimate victory was when his mother spoke up.

"May, you don't mind, right? I haven't seen Daniel since last Christmas!"  Then Mrs. West’s smile turned from genuine to coy, especially when her eyes met her son telling him she knew how to play the game.

"Mom, didn't you see Daniel when he dropped off Dad's medication the night he got back?"  Emily asked. 

"No, I was out at the movies with Auntie Deborah!"  Mrs. West pretended to fuss over Daniel about his weight loss since the last time she saw him.

"Auntie Kate, what movie did you see?"  Alice asked, trying hard to be noticed by Daniel.

Kate said the name of the movie which brought on a sudden burst of laughter from everyone except the parents for they did not know it was made from a popular erotic novel. 

“Was it good?”  Alice asked and turned to Daniel.  “Maybe we can watch the movie as well!”

"Nah, don’t think it was worth it!"  Kate interjected and brushed Alice’s comment off with a swipe of her hand.  "Better off reading the book!"  Kate turned to May.  “The book is much more descriptive!”

Emily laughed when she saw the shock on May's face.  "Don't you just love my mother-in-law?"
Suddenly May had a sickening feeling in the pit of her stomach.  Her memories took her back to the letter Mrs. West had sent to her in Grade 12 to stay far away from her Daniel.  The letter was dropped off at her residential address without a postage stamp just before the Provincial Final Exams started.  There was a photo of her and Daniel dancing in the school's Christmas Party.  It was the same photo taken by the school photography club, the one that appeared on the front page of the school newspaper featuring Christmas Romances.  May knew Daniel got a copy of the photo from the club, just like she did.  During the party, Daniel had surprised her by asking her for a dance in front of all her friends.  Then with courage she had never seen from him before, he pulled her aside and acknowledged that they'd been dance partners from Grade 8 to 10.  'For old-times’ sakes?'  When he offered his hand, she took it because he was looking at her with the smile she found irresistible back then.

May was woken from her trance by Daniel, who happened to be flashing the same smile at her.  He handed her a menu though she already knew what her order would be.  While others were browsing through the menus, her thoughts brought her back to the dance again and she remembered how upset Pam and her best friend looked while watching her and Daniel for three songs in a row.  That was also when Daniel told her of his plans to break up with Pam.  4 months later, she received the letter from Mrs. West informing of her son’s engagement to Pam.

Emily nudged May twice to get her to look up from her menu because the waitress was waiting to take her order.  After placing her order, Emily nudge her again when the waitress moved on to take Daniel's order.  "You okay?"

May nodded and gave Emily a timid smile.  Then it was Daniel’s turn to nudge her.  "Something wrong?"

"No, just tired, I guess."  May told him with a meek smile.

"Yeah, all that dancing.  I’m also tired!"  Daniel gave May a private grin.

"Dancing?"  Emily turned to May.  "I thought you had to fix your car this morning?"

Save the Last Dance for Me - Micheal Buble