Tea Leaves and Diamond Bracelets

End of Summer, Family, and Worry

Match Thirty: End of Summer, Family, and Worry:


Summer is going to end in a few days. It makes feel a little bit sad every year. I guess it’s because I know that more work will be coming soon. I should be used to this by now and I am. But that feeling always manages to come back. I shook my head as I looked out the window. Funny, I would be happy were summer break was over that meant I could get away from my father again. Summer was like boot camp with him. I told you already that he trained me to be the next clan leader. He took that seriously. Too seriously, I may add. My days were spent practicing writing, how to eat, walk, and speak properly. He would use snacks and treats as a way for bargaining chips. If I made a bad deal, I wouldn’t get anything. Hen-to and Bik were have to come up with “day passes” just to get me out of the house to be a normal kid on the playground. It got a little bit better in high school. After his death, it didn’t really change. I was still work-minded around the summer. Only this time, it was school and the clan.

I frowned and shook my head again. I needed to think about something else.

As per the end of every summer, my father would go and visit the other families on the property. That is one traditional will be keeping up. They were the only family that I have left now. It wouldn’t hurt to give them a little visit today. I walked over to my closet and picked out another dress to wear. Once I changed clothes, I made it down to the front door.

“I’m leaving now,” I said. “I’ll be back.”

“Okay,” Yao said. I walked out to the front door.

-Ju and Chang Family-

My first house was the Chang house. I rang the doorbell.

“Coming!” I heard Bik shout. I stood back as she opened the door.

“Ju,” she said. “What brings you by?”

“Just thought I would stop by for a visit,” I said. “I barely get to see you anymore.”

“Do you want to come in?” Bik asked.

“Sure,” I said. She moved aside and let me into the house. It felt like walking into my own house again. The living room looked the same as it always had. I shielded my eyes from the sunlight through the windows. Hen-to used to have something delicious waiting for me when I came by to visit.

“Hey, Ju,” Hen-to said from the kitchen. “I just put some doughnuts in the fryer.” My eyes instantly lit up.

“You’re making doughnuts again?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Hen-to said. I tried not to squeal aloud like a little girl. When was the last time I had something so good like that? I cleared my throat.

“Are they ready yet?” I asked.

“Just about,” he said. “I think we have about three minutes left.”

“Sweet,” I said. I sat down at the kitchen table. “I’m going to visit the family around the property.”

“Ah, I remember those days,” Hen-to said. “Your father would pop in before the summer was over.”

“Yeah, I figured that I would do the same,” I said. I smiled as I spoke.

“How’s Little Bean?” Bik asked. I put my hands on my belly.

“Good,” I said. “They are doing good.”

“Are you having twins?” Hen-to asked.

“No,” I said. “It’s gender neutral. I don’t feel right calling them ‘it’.”

“You still don’t know the gender?” he asked.

“I don’t want to know until the baby is born,” I said.

“Alright,” Hen-to said.

“I still think it will a girl,” Bik mouthed at me. I turned and looked around.

“Are Biao and Chih here?” I asked.

“Upstairs,” Bik said.

“Thanks,” I said. I got up and walked over to the stairs.

“Doughnuts will be ready soon,” Hen-to said after me. I gave him a thumbs up as I went up the stairs.

I knocked on the boys’ door.

“Come in,” Biao said. I opened the door and poked my head inside. Biao and Chih sat at their laptops.

“Hey, guys,” I said. “How’s it going in here?”

“Good,” Biao said. He was dressed up in his doctor wear as he moved his mouse.

“Same,” Chih said.

“You have work today, Biao?” I asked.

“Uh-huh,” he said. “Afternoon shift.”

“I see,” I said. “And you, Chih?”

“Good,” he said. “I don’t have much to do today.”

“Okay,” I said, nodding. “I’m just stopping by to visit everyone today.”

“Is something wrong?” Biao asked. I smiled as I shook my head.

“No, I just wanted to see everyone,” I said. “I just missed you.”

“Aw, that’s so sweet of you,” Chih said.

“Guys, doughnuts are ready,” Hen-to said.

“Yay!” I said, clapping my hands. Biao and Chih tried not to laugh at me.

“What?” I asked.

“You are such a child,” Biao said.

“I am not!” I shouted as I folded my arms across my chest.

“Yes, you are,” Chih said.

“Shut up,” I said. The boys were still trying not to laugh at me. I just puffed up my cheeks and walked out of the room. I did stop by the kitchen for the doughnuts. So good. Fresh from the deep fryer. Bik and Hen-to both do the cooking in the house, but Hen-to is much better with the fryer.

“I’m leaving now,” I said as I was putting some doughnuts in a container. “I’m going to check in on the other families.”

“Come and have dinner with us sometime,” Bik said.

“Sure will,” I said. I walked out the door.

-Ju and Song Family-

The Song Family was my next stop. I rang the doorbell. I backed up when the door opened.

“Oh, Ju,” Cai said with her head poking outside. “So nice to see you.”

“Hi,” I said.

“Care to come in?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said. I followed her into the house. Fei sat in the living room, reading the paper. I lowered the top of it.

“Hello,” I said. Fei blinked at me at first.

“Oh, Ju,” he said. “What are you doing here?”

“Just thought that I would stop by and visit,” I said.

“Ah, that takes me back,” Fei said.

“You’re just in time,” Cai said as she walked into the living room. “I was making lunch.”

“Ooo, what are you making?” I asked.

"We’re making fried noodles,” Kee said as he walked into the living room himself. I turned around and waved.

“Yo,” I said.

“How have you been?” Kee asked.

“Good,” I said. “Little Bean is doing well too.”

“Nice,” he said.

“Any baby names yet?” Cai asked. I thought about it for a moment.

“Yao and I have thought of some them,” I said. “I really like Gong-sun or Han for boys’ name and Qing or Nui for girls.”

“And Yao?” Fei asked.

“Nine or Sa-kota for a girl,” I said. “Tan or Zuo-lin for a boy.” I wrinkled my nose at the last name. But then, I perked up as I remembered something else.

“Oh, you should see the nursery,” I said. “We have it all decorated in purple, green, and white.”

“Why those colors?” Kee asked with a confused look on his face.

“Looked gender neutral, I guess,” I said.

“You’re really sticking to not knowing until the kid is born, huh?” Fei asked.

“Uh-huh,” I said.

“Wow,” the whole family said.

“Hey, I’m not always modern,” I said. “I do keep some things traditional.” Fei nodded at me.

“Nothing wrong with that,” he said. I ended up staying with them after about thirty minutes longer before I left to go to the next house.

“Let me bless the child before you leave,” Cai said as I put my hand on the door. I sighed and dropped my shoulders.

“Fine,” I said. I didn’t really see the point anymore, but I went through it anyway to keep her happy. After Little Bean was blessed again, I headed out to the next house.

-Ju and Qin Family-

Next up was the Qin Family. I thought of going home and dropping off my doughnuts, but my visits weren’t going to take up too much time or anything. I walked up to the door and rang the bell.

“Coming!” I heard Mei shout. When was the last time I saw my dear friend again? It felt like forever. I looked up when the door opened. Mei saw me and her eyes lit up.

“Hey!” she shouted. She reached forward and hugged me.

“Whoa!” I said. Mei looked up at me with desperate eyes.

“I am so glad you are here!” she said. “Mom is driving me crazy again!” I sighed and rolled my eyes upwards.

“What is it now?” I asked.

“She’s just being a bitch again,” Mei complained. I tried to look into the house.

“Is she in right now?” I asked.

“Yeah, dad is trying to calm her down,” she said.

“Come with me,” I said. “I will help you out.”

“Thank you so much!” Mei said. She tried to hug me even tighter.

“Mei! Get off!” I cried. “You’ll hurt Little Bean!” My dear friend let go of me smiling.

“It’ll be fine,” she said. “The baby probably needed to be hugged with you.” I rolled my eyes.

“Just take me to your parents,” I said. Mei took me by the hand and led me inside. We found Wan and Chi-Ju sitting in the family room.

“Ju?” Chi-Ju asked.

“What seems to be the problem here?” I asked. “Don’t try to talk over each other. One person at a time, please.” I spent about twenty minutes listening to mother and daughter argue back and forth to each other. I had to try and get them to calm down a couple of times. The whole time, Chi-Ju sat back listening to everything. Sometimes, I just think that he doesn’t care or doesn’t want to get involved. I don’t know whether to shame him or be amazed by him. I seriously don’t know how he does it.

“I just let them get it out of their systems,” he told me one day.

“But how does that even work?” I asked.

“I know that I can’t do anything to break them up,” he told me. “Men fight to prove a point. Women fight to kill. It’s best for me not to get involved.”

Once I got mother and daughter to calm down, I offered up me opinions and advice. (I doubt that it will work. But that’s for another time.) When peace was restored, I excused myself out of the house.

-Ju and Kim Family-

I made my way over to the Kim Family’s house. I rang the bell and waited. Everyone is acting like they always have. I should be enjoying the peace. But something doesn’t feel right. It’s like something is waiting for the right moment to surface its ugly head and swallow us whole.

I looked up when I heard the door open. Hark looked me up and down, confused.

“Ju?” she asked. “What are you doing here? Is something wrong?” I smiled as I shook my head.

“No, I just wanted to see you guys,” I said. “I have always visited Chang, Song, and Qin today. You all are next. How are you today?”

“Good,” Hark said. “And you?”

“Little Bean and I are fine,” I said. “Can I come in?”

“Sure,” Hark said. “Sure, come in.” She moved aside and I stepped in.

“Thank you, am I interrupting anything?” I asked.

“Oh, no, no,” she said. “Lili, Szu, and I were just about to sit down for lunch.”

“Can I join you?” I asked.

“Sure,” Hark said. We found Lili and Szu sitting at the table to eat.

“Hello,” I said, waving.

“You joining us for lunch?” Szu asked.

“I sure am,” I said. I took a seat at the table. “What are we having?”

“Just something a little bit something,” Hark said as she started serving out a plate. I took a sniff of the air.

“Wow, that smells like Ma Po Tofu,” I said.

“I made it with rice and spring rolls,” Hark said. She placed my plate in front of me. I had to swallow back my drool.

“Thank you,” I said, picking up my chopsticks. Hark and served her husband and daughter before getting her own plate.

“How is everyone?” Lili asked.

“Good,” I said. “I just broke up another fight between Mei and Ms. Wan.”

“How bad was it?” Hark asked.

“Not too bad this time. Mr. Chi-Ju managed to calm down Ms. Wan before I got there. How are you doing, Szu?”

“Good,” Szu mumbled. She didn’t look up at me. I didn’t bother to bring up Junjie and Jianjun with her.

“You’re not much in a talking mood, are you?” I asked.

“Leave her be,” Lili whispered. “She’s not in a good mood today.” I didn’t need to ask. I already had an idea.

“This is some good tofu,” I said. “You really did good with this.”

“Thank you,” Hark said.

“How’s the baby?” Szu asked.

“Fine,” I said. “Little Bean is fine.” That was how far the conversation went for the rest of lunch. We all just ate in silence.

“Thank you for lunch,” I said when I was finished.

“You’re welcome,” Hark said. I placed my chopsticks on my plate and bowed.

“Thanks for visiting us,” Szu said as I walked out of the dining room.

“You’re welcome,” I said. I smiled to myself as I walked out the door.

-Ju and Lew-Sun Family-

My last stop was the Lew-Sun Family’s house. I walked and rang the bell. Szu is doing better at least. She will be even more so once Junjie is back in jail. I shoved him out of my head as the door opened. Tse came out while she was drying her hands.

“Ju,” she said. “How have you been? Hi, Little Bean.” She patted on my stomach.

“Good,” I said. “How have you been?”

“Good, please, come in,” Tse said.

“Thank you,” I said. I bowed and followed her into the house. Qian was playing another video game while Man watched him.

“Hello, boys,” I said.

“Hi,” Qian said with eyes fixed the screen.

“Hello, Ju,” Man said, turning his attention me.

“How is everyone?” I asked.

“Good,” Man and Qian said in unison.

“What brings you by to see us?” Man asked.

“I just thought I would check in on everyone today just like my father did just before summer was over,” I said.

“That takes me back,” Tse said.

“I don’t know if this will be a traditional that I might keep up,” I said.

“I think you should,” she said. “We all miss you and love you.” I rubbed the back of my head.

“Aw, thanks,” I said. I stayed and talked with the family for a little bit longer. The whole time, I couldn’t shake that nagging feeling of something about to go wrong for us all. I didn’t know how to explain and I didn’t know if I should.

“Is something wrong, Ju?” Man asked. I smiled as I shook my head.

“No, nothing,” I said. “Nothing at all.” The rest of the visit was pleasant. That feeling disappeared in the back of my mind for the time being.

“Come back and see us again sometime,” Tse said as I was ready to leave.

“I sure will,” I said. I waved goodbye and walked out the door.

-Ju and Yao-

When I got home, I found Yao waiting for me in the living room.

“Were you waiting long for me?” I asked.

“No, not too long,” he said. “How is everyone doing?” I closed the door behind me.

“Good,” I said. “Everyone is doing good.” I walked over and we embraced.

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