Tea Leaves and Opal Necklaces


Match Eight: Brother:

-July 10th, 1994-

Four months after Ju was born, Bik took her then seven-year-old son, Biao, with her to her local clinic. At the time, the nurse was hard at work. Just she began her shift, she dropped him off in the local playground.

“I’ll pick you up by lunch,” the nurse said. “If you need me for anything, come by my office. Will you please be good?”

“Yes!” little Biao said. Bik leaned down and kissed him on the forehead.

“I’ll see you at lunch,” she said. “Bye-bye.”

“Bye-bye,” her son said back. He waved as she walked into the building. Little Biao looked around at the playground. He couldn’t find many children around the tiny park. On days like this, little Biao wished that it would rain. When it rained, he could look through his mother’s medical books as she filled out prescriptions and tended to youths too poor to go to a hospital in the city. He thought that he would be doing that today. But, Bik saw to that otherwise.

“It’s a nice day out today,” the nurse said. “You need to be outside more. Plus, you should go and make more little friends. You’re too lonely with just Kee around the compound.” Neither Biao or Hen-to dared to argue back with the nurse. Hen-to may be the man of the house, but Bik ran everything like a tight ship. Right now, little Biao shoved his hands into his shorts pockets and sighed. Despite it being summer, the child found himself getting bored. Kee had a cold that day and couldn’t come with him. Most of his little friends went off on vacations throughout the country. Biao’s dad was on a business trip with Khai and Fei and wouldn’t be back until this evening.

The little boy walked over to the swing set and sat down. Maybe someone would show up and make things more interesting. Biao began to swing back and forth. Usually around ten or eleven, this playground would fill up with children his age. But lately, this summer’s been rather slow. Biao sat up in the swing and tried to move higher.

That’s when he spotted him.

Against the chain link fence next to the sidewalk, he saw a head of black hair. Biao jumped out of the swing and walked over for a closer look. A boy about four years old sat on the ground against the fence, staring down at his toes. The child looked like he hadn’t seen a bath in days with the dirt in his hair and on his skin. He looked like he was biting on his fingers. The smaller boy froze when he heard footsteps walking towards him. He looked up to see an older boy dressed in a nice light space print t-shirt and black shorts.

“Hi!” Biao said with a big smile on his face. The smaller boy stared at him like the older kid was planning to exploit him in some fashion. Biao tilted his head.

“That doesn’t look tasty,” he said as he looked at the child with his hand in his mouth. “How are you going to eat lunch with no hands?” The smaller boy narrowed his eyes and turned away.

“What are you doing out here?” Biao asked. The child didn’t move. The older boy got a good look at him. The dirty child’s muddy white shirt hung off of one shoulder. His face told him that he wished that this little rich boy would go away. Instead, Biao sat down next to him.

“What is your name?” he asked. The smaller child didn’t look up at him. Biao puffed up his cheeks. He doesn’t talk much, does he? He watched as the smaller boy kept his hand in his mouth.

“You really shouldn’t do that to your hand,” Biao said. He reached over and took hold of the little boy’s arm, but the smaller child yanked himself away. The older boy put up his hands.

“Okay, okay,” he said. “I won’t touch you, geez.” The little boy mumbled something without moving his hand.

“What?” Biao asked. The smaller child didn’t even lift his head. The older child looked up at the sky. To him, the clouds looked like fat pillows of white cotton candy floating by. They reminded him of the class trip him took before school let out for the summer. His class took a break for lunch. Biao and four other little boys lay in the grass, looking up at the sky. They would try and guess what the shapes looked like as the clouds floated by.

Today, Biao turned to the younger boy.

“Look up at the clouds,” he said. The other child cut him a strange look.

“Come on,” Biao said. “Just do it.” The smaller boy reluctantly looked up at the sky. Biao looked up at them.

“Looking at the clouds makes me think of my friends,” he said. “Sometimes, I look at them with this other boy that lives on the same compound as I do.” Biao turned to the smaller boy next to him.

“Let’s be friends,” he said. The other little boy gave him a strange look. Biao leaned in with a smile on his face.

“You looked lonely,” he said. “I’m lonely too.” The other child looked at him as if he had gone crazy. Biao’s smiling face made it hard to read. He rose to his feet.

“My name is Biao,” the older boy said. “What’s your name?” The smaller child mumbled something with his hand still in his mouth. Biao tilted his head.

“Could move your hand?” he asked. “I can’t hear you.” The smaller kid glared at him, but pulled his hand out of his mouth.

“Now what is your name?” Biao asked again.

“Chih,” the little boy muttered. His stomach grumbled loud enough to attract attention. The smaller boy quickly turned away.

“You hungry?” Biao asked. Chih drew his knees closer to his chest. The older boy held out his hand.

“Come on,” he said. “I know a great place where you can eat. It’s really big and there is a nice lady there too.” The little boy sat on the ground with a blank stare. It felt like he was expecting Biao to pull a prank on him or something.

“Please?” the older boy asked. “Please be my friend?” Chih stared at him before taking the other boy’s hand. It took his stomach growling a second time to make up his mind.

“There you go,” Biao said. “Follow me.” He led his new friend across the street to his mom’s clinic.

“Mama!” little Biao shouted as the boys walked into her office. “I’ve got a present for you!” His mother paused with the pen in her hand.

“A present?” she asked, not turning around.

“Yep!” he said. Bik chuckled to herself as she turned around. But, her face turned into shock and slightly disgust as she laid eyes upon Chih.

“What the hell?!” she shouted. Two nurses poked their heads when they heard their manager yelling.

“Is something wrong?” one of them asked. Bik and the little boys turned around.

“Uh… Nothing!” she was quick said. “It’s fine. Nothing to see here. Go back to work.” The nurses stared at her with confused looks on their faces. Bik laughed aloud as she waved them off.

“It’s fine, really,” she insisted. “Go back to work. Go on! Go on! Move it along! Now!” The nurses scattered away back to whatever they were doing. Bik turned back to the little boys.

“Honey, who is this?” she asked, trying to stay calm. Biao smiled brighter than the sun.

“Your present!” he said. Both Bik and Chih looked at him so confused.

“Why is he my present?” his mother asked.

“I don’t know,” the little boy said. Bik didn’t know whether to laugh or scream. It was written all over her face that she was telling herself not freak out. Biao frowned.

“You don’t like him?” he asked. His mother rubbed her forehead.

“It’s not that,” she said. “You just can’t bring in random children off the streets.” Biao looked at her like he was going to cry. The nurse took in slow, long breaths.

“I’m not mad,” she said in a low voice. “I’m just really confused here.” She rubbed her forehead and groaned.

“Did I do something…?” Biao began to ask.

“Enough!” his mother cut him off. “I just want five minutes of silence.” The little boy opened his mouth, but the nurse waved him off.

“Five minutes of silence,” she repeated. Biao took Chih by the arm and led him out into the hall. Bik threw back her head and sighed.

By lunchtime, Bik came out of her office. To her surprise, she found the boys sitting in the hallway.

“You sat out here waiting for me?” she asked.

“Yes,” Biao said in a small voice. They froze when they heard a stomach growling. The nurse’s eyes darted towards Chih.

“When was the last time you ate?” she asked. The dirty little boy shook his head. Bik tried to put on a positive attitude for the time being.

“Well, it is a nice day today,” the nurse said. “We will eat near the playground. I only made lunch for two people, but I can pick up a third meal for one of the street vendors.” She looked Chih up and down.

“But first, you are going to get cleaned up,” she said. “I will not be taking any dirty children out in public with me. Homeless or not!” Chih looked at her with big eyes. Bik grabbed the little confused child by his arm and took him to the ladies’ room. Amazing what soap, hot water, and paper towels can do. First, Bik took his clothes off and put them in the sink. The little four-year-old tried to run off at one point, but the nurse was faster than he was.

“Stop right there!” she snapped. “You are going to be cleaned up before you eat! You will not embarrass me in public!” After about ten minutes of kicking, thrashing, and biting, Chih submitted to his condition. Bik cleaned up the child and his clothes the best that she could. After drying his clothes under the dryer to the best of her ability, she leaned against the wall and sighed.

“That will have to do for now,” she said. After getting a pissed off Chih dressed, the nurse and the boys were ready to go to lunch.

Chih chomped down on his fried rice as any homeless child would. Bik stared at him with big eyes as they sat on the bench in front of the clinic.

“He really hasn’t eaten for days, has he?” she whispered to her son. The smaller child finally had something to eat, but there was still a number of issues to sort out.

“So, um, what is your name?” Bik asked the smaller boy. Chih paused with the bowl to his face. The nurse looked like a gentle angel this time.

“May I ask what your name is?” she asked again.

“Chih,” the little boy said.

“I see,” Bik said. “My name is Nurse Bik and you already met my son Biao.” Chih looked at her unsure where this was going.

“So tell me,” the nurse said. “Where are your parents?”

“I don’t have any,” the boy said. Bik gave him a blank stare.

“What?” she asked. “Do you even know who they are?” Chih his gaze and frowned.

“No,” he muttered. Bik struggled to think of the next course of action.

“Okay then…” she said. “Uh… Wo…” Biao turned to his mother.

“Can we keep him?” he asked. Bik and Chih looked like they had just been hit by a bus.

“Sweetheart,” the nurse said.

“Please?” Biao pleaded. He looked like a sweet little angel asking for candy. Bik rubbed her forehead.

“Sweetheart, you just can’t pick up random children off the street and take them home with you,” she said.

“Please?” he pleaded. “He has no family. He’s my friend!” The older little boy looked like he was going to cry at this point. Bik sighed and dropped her shoulders.

“Fine,” she said. “But only for tonight. After that, we will decide what to do with him next.”

“Yay!” Biao cheered as he rushed forward and hugged his mother. Meanwhile, Chih glared at the older boy. He believed he knew where this plan was going.

After that first night, Chih ended up staying at the Chang house. In the beginning, the four-year-old was a moody and unruly brat. He wouldn’t eat or play with Biao or Kee. Hen-to and Bik couldn’t figure it out at first.

“Do you think he was abused?” Hen-to asked.

“Maybe he’s not used to structure in his life,” his wife replied. Despite this, they didn’t call the police and have him sent to an orphanage. Biao wouldn’t have it. The seven-year-old would look all sad and break down crying.

“No! Don’t send away my little brother!” he pleaded. The parents knew that the child was supposed to listen and obey, but Biao did have a point. It would just be cruel to kick out a little four-year-old boy back out on the streets. Still, they had another problem to deal with.

“What do we do if people start asking questions?” Bik asked Hen-to around the twentieth of July. Her husband sat on the living room couch and shrugged.

“We’ll just say that a relative got sick and left him in our care,” he suggested. “I don’t know. Something like that.”

“But how long would that last?” the nurse asked.

“I don’t know,” Hen-to said. “You’re the ones who brought him here.”

“It was Biao’s idea,” the nurse complained. “He said that Chih was a present.” Hen-to smacked his lap.

“Okay then,” he said. “We’ll just have to adopt him.” Bik spat out her green tea.

“You can’t be serious!” she yelped with wide eyes.

“Hey,” Hen-to said. “The kid already lives here now. Biao really likes him and with the right amount of love and discipline, Chih could turn out to be a really sweet kid.”

“But how would we even pull that off?” Bik asked. “Adoption in this country is a nightmare. They might even see through our lie and take Chih away. They won’t be thrilled with a seven-year-old picking up a random child off of the street.”

“Baby,” her husband said. “We can talk to Khai to help us out.”

“But would that even work?” the nurse asked.

“We will have to try,” Hen-to said. Khai ended up pulling a few strings for his advisor and his nurse wife to keep Chih. Surprisingly, the clan leader was on board with the plan. Hen-to’s jaw hit the ground.

“You really mean it?” he asked.

“Yes,” Khai said. “He’s going to grow up to be a fine young man. You and Bik have been taking good of him. Biao and Kee now have a new brother as well.” Bik and Hen-to bowed.

“Thank you, sir!” they shouted.

Over time, Chih’s rotten attitude soften and he grew to love his new family. Biao was one of the first people to never give up on him.

-Present Day-

“Hey, Chih,” Biao said.

“Yeah?” Chih asked.

“When bar exam?” the medical asked. The law student did a quick count in his head.

“In about a couple of weeks,” he said. “Why do you ask?”

“Good luck,” Biao said.

“Thanks,” Chih said. Both young men headed out the door to their respective universities.

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