Tea Leaves and Gold Pins

Beach, Dinner, and Men

Match Eleven: Beach, Dinner, and Men:


My birthday destination? The lovely beach of Gulangyu Island. Wasn't easy to pull off, but Bik and the mothers all pulled it off. Mothers are awesome like that! The ladies got the train tickets and the tickets for the ferry. All the younger girls and I had to do was pack up and be right to leave at eleven.

Szu and Mei already sat on the bench in the courtyard, waiting. I walked over to them with my shades on my head.

"Hey guys!" I said. They looked up at me and laughed. I cocked my head at them.

"What?" I asked. Mei looked up at me with a goofy smile on her face.

"You look so silly right now," she said.

"What?" I asked. "This is my birthday weekend! Get off me!" My friends just smiled to themselves. I forced myself to keep smiling.

"You're not going to let this go, are you?" I asked.

"Hell no!" Szu cheered. I hung my head and shook it. Figures! They are more used to me wearing traditional clothes. Darn you, father! Why have you chained me to your rules? That's it, I am ending his traditional wear regime when I get back!

"So there you are!" we heard someone speak up. We looked up to see the ladies hurrying over to us, all dressed up for the beach. I smiled and gave them a little wave.

"Ladies!" I said. I looked among each of the mothers. One woman caught my eyes in particular. I clapped my hands together in delight at her face.

"Xin!" I exclaimed. "So glad that you could come with us!" She smiled at me.

"So happy that you could have me," she replied.

"Tell me," I said. "How did you manage to get away from work?" Xin opened her mouth to speak, but Bik waved her off.

"Tell her in the car," she said. "We have to go now." No arguments there; we all got up and headed straight to the cars. We picked up Tina and Qun on the way to the train station. I got to sit with Xin on the train.

"So tell me," I said. "How did you manage to get off from work?" She gave me a little smile with those fat, rosy cheeks of hers.

"Begging, pleading, and sweet talk," she murmured.

"Ooo!" I said.

"Have a good birthday?"


"That's nice."


"I'll get you your present at dinner, okay?"

I grinned at her. "Nice."

The game plan is this: go to the beach, eat a restaurant, check in to a hotel for the night, and get back home by tomorrow evening. (Hey, we all have school tomorrow. "I can't worry for summer break," Szu complained many times. Can't blame the child.) We arrived at the ferry station by two p.m. This time, I stayed with Szu for the whole ride. I glanced over at her IPod.

"Hey, what are you playing?" I asked. She only showed me the screen. My face fell flat.

"Oh…" I mumbled. Not much of a conversationalist, huh? Between her and Qian, I would have an easier time of talking to a brick wall. I wouldn't have to pull teeth and I would probably give a better response. I looked out on the sea as we rode along to our destination. This is going to be a long ride. Why couldn't I have been sitting with Tina, Qun, Mei, Xin, or Bik? At least I would have someone to talk to for a bit.

Finally, we made it to the island. After a quick change into our swimsuits, we all headed down to the beach. Szu, Xin, Mei, and Qun went swimming in the water. The mothers just hung around on the beach. Tina and I did the same.

"So, how was the meeting?" Tina asked. I shrugged at her.

"Good," I said.

"So how is this Yao Wang guy?"

"He's okay. I've seen him before today."

Tina sat up at that statement. "Where?"

"At my mother's funeral, but I was only four at the time. He showed up at my father's funeral too."


I shook my head at her. "Not necessarily."


"I want to get to know this man even more."

"What do you mean?"

I shrugged to myself as I lied there. "I don't know yet. I just do."

"I really don't get you at times."

We looked out on the ocean to see a soaked Mei in a black swimsuit jogging towards us. Here comes my teddy bear friend. I sat up on the towel.

"Can we help you?" I asked.

"Why are you guys just lying there?" she asked. "Get out and swim with us." I waved her off.

"We'll be there in a moment," I said. I looked and saw Tina and Mei staring draggers at each other already. I leaned forward to break it up.

"Guys!" I said. "Calm down. Can't you pretend to be nice to each other for the next two days until we get home? That's all I ask. Please?" They stared at me for a moment. Then, they snorted and looked away. I laid back and sighed. I don't understand why they don't like each other.

Moments later, Mei, Tina, and I joined Szu and Qun in the water to swim around until Tse walked over to us.

"Girls!" she called. "Come out. Time to eat!" We all groaned like little children.

"Do we have to get out now?" Szu asked.

"Yes!" Tse said. "Come on." The girls all turned to me as if the decision sat in my little hands. I looked at them all with a blank stare.

"What?" I asked.

"What should we do?" Mei asked.

"Huh?!" I asked.

"You're the boss," Szu said. "Tell us what to do."

"I'm not the boss yet!" I said.

"Tell us what to do!" Tina said. The other three joined in on her chant. I felt myself shrinking back in the water.

What the hell?, I thought. "Well…" I said as they waited for a response.

In the end, we all went to lunch at a decently-priced seafood restaurant. I sat between Tina and Mei to keep the peace. Nothing like beautiful Fujian cuisine to bring two rivals (and everyone else) together in eating peace. It's not Peking duck, but it's a welcome change from my previous birthdays.

"Oh my!" Xin said. "I have never had food like this before." Wan looked over at her with big eyes.

"Really?!" she asked. "Oh! Buddha Jumps Over the Wall is the greatest!" She had her hand to her chest as she spoke.

"Oh, so good!" Mei's mother said. I looked my chopsticks and looked at her.

"Qin-taitai," I said. "I didn't know you were from Gulangyu!"

"Oh yes," she bragged. "Born and raised."

"What made you leave?" Tse asked. Qin sighed.

"I fell in love," she said.

"Oooo!" the girls and I cooed.

"When I was fourteen," Qin began. "A charming young man from the mainland came along and swept me off my feet." Mei rolled her eyes.

"Oh boy," she mumbled. "Here we go again." Her mother glanced over at her.

"Hey!" she snapped. "You should be grateful that I met you father, moved to Beijing, and had you! I would've been happier to stay here!"

"Bite me," her daughter muttered.

"What was that?!" Qin snapped. Bik cleared her throat just in time. Mother and daughter quickly calmed down.

"Right," the nurse said. For some reason, I just had to ask this question.

"Bik-taitai," I said. "Does Hen-to-xiansheng still love my mother?" I noticed her hand tremble her bowl. It only took me a second to realize what I had done.

"You don't have to answer if you don't want!" I said as I tried to brush it off. Bik shook her head at me.

"No, it's find," she muttered.

"You don't have to if you don't want," I said.

"I said it's fine," she said with gritted teeth. Cai grabbed onto her wrist. The nurse went quiet. We just ate up for a couple of awkwardly silent moments. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore.

"You all seem to have strong marriages," I said. "Will I fine someone as stable as Hen-to, Fei, or Man?" The mothers looked at me with warms glows on their faces. Bik clapped her hands together.

"Of course," she cheered. Cai choked back a giggled. I glanced over at her.

"What?" I asked. She glanced up at me with a goofy smile on her face.

"You already have!" she blurted out. I gave her a puzzled look.

"Huh?" I asked. The nurse jabbed her in the ribs.

"Ow," she whimpered.

"You weren't supposed to tell her that yet," Bik whispered.

"Tell me what?" I asked. The nurse gave off a loud laugh.

"Nothing! Nothing!" she lied. "Just enjoy dinner!" Her laughter attracted the attention of many other customers in the restaurant for sure. We all just sat there giving her a puzzled look. I blinked at her as well. Okay, it's official: Bik and Cai are definitely up to something.

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