Tea Leaves and Silver Rings

Plucky Girl Meets the Princess

Match Twenty: Plucky Girl Meets the Princess:

-Bik-

Friendships between women are a powerful force.

I knew grew up in a world of wealth. My mother worked to put me through med school. Our house was a modest building filled with love. Mother and I were happy with how things were for us. But my father, on the other hand, wanted more.

“I am tired of this house,” he would complain. “Why don’t we leave in a nice big mansion?”

“Wealth doesn’t always make a person happy,” my mother would say. “We should be blessed for what we have. We all live in a house, have plenty of food to eat, great health, and we are a loving family.” That wasn’t enough for my father, apparently. By the time I turned ten, he left us to get rich and live the wealthy life. We’ve not heard back from him ever since.

Still, my mother did the best for me and I turned out right. She was so happy that I started medical school.

“I wish you good luck,” mother told me.

Two years later, I met Hen-to and we started dating. For six months, we had a good relationship. He treated me like a lady on our dates. That was the first time, a man didn’t belittle me for my lack of wealth or my ambitious goals.

“I grew up poor myself,” he told me on our fifth date. I feel bad to say this, but I actually felt better about myself when he said that. But, that’s not why I dated him. (I really do love the man and I still do.) However, I wasn’t really thinking about us being serious. That was until one warm spring day in April. Hen-to took me by the hands.

“Bik, there is somebody I would like you to meet,” he told me. I have to admit, I was caught off-guard by this.

“Okay…” I said. My first thought was I was going to meet his parents. “Uh… isn’t a little too early for that?”

“No?” Hen-to said back. “When has it ever been too early to meet the friends of someone that you are dating?” At first, it didn’t sink in.

“Huh?” I asked.

“I am taking you to meet my friends this weekend,” Hen-to said. I chuckled once I got the message.

“Oh! I see, I see!” I said. My boyfriend gave me a strange look.

“What did you think I meant?” he asked.

“Nothing, nothing!” I said, still laughing. He probably thought that I was being an idiot in that moment.


On Saturday, Hen-to came to pick me up at my dorm. I had just started on my homework when one of my roommates knocked on my door.

“Bik!” she shouted. “Your boyfriend’s here!” I threw down my pen and opened the door. My roommate stood in front of me, giggling.

“What?” I asked. She stepped away, smiling. The other two girls in my dorm smiled as I walked to the front door. Hen-to waited outside. I blushed when I saw his face.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hi…” I mumbled. I started to play around my hands.

“Ready to go?”

“Yes!”

He had to take me by the arm as we left my dorm.


We took a taxi to the Liao Property. I recognized when I looked out of the window. I turned to Hen-to with a puzzled look on my face.

“Why are we here?” I asked.

“We’re going to meet my friend,” he said.

“No, why are we here at the Liao Property?”

“I live here.”

“Huh?”

“My friends and I all live on the Liao Property. The boss moved us here after he hired us.”

“That’s kind of weird.”

“Yes, it is.” He sounded so dry when he said that. Hen-to was quick to shake his head and smile again. “Come on, my friend is waiting in her house.” I became confused as he helped me out of the cab. She? His friend’s a girl?

Hen-to and I walked up to the main Liao house. My boyfriend knocked on the door.

“Hey boss!” he shouted. “Is Daiyu up?” He backed up when the door opened. Khai greeted us at the door dressed in a business suit.

“Hey boss,” Hen-to said. Khai frowned and narrowed his eyes at my boyfriend.

“You have a key to this house, you know?” he asked. Hen-to kept that stupid grin on his face.

“My mistake,” he said. “Is Daiyu up?”

“Yes.”

“May we come in and visit?”

“That’s fine. I am heading out for a business meeting today anyway.”

Hen-to gave him a strange look. “Do you need me there with you?” I raised my eyebrow as his boss broke into a grin.

“That won’t be necessary,” Khai said. “Fei will accompany me this afternoon.” When he said that, alarm bells went off in my head. I bet he’s trying to play matchmaker again. (Despite Hen-to and my blooming relationship, it was still underhanded on how he did it.) He walked past Hen-to and stopped in front of me.

“Good afternoon, Miss Joo,” he said.

“Good afternoon,” I said, sounding polite. Khai looked over his shoulder at Hen-to.

“Daiyu’s upstairs in her room,” he said. “She just had her medication.” Hen-to and I watched as he walked up to his gate and to the car waiting for him. I looked up at my boyfriend.

“You heard the man,” Hen-to said. He took me by the hand and led me into the open house.


The house looked rather modest and fancy at the same time with its ancient silk carpets, white paper lanterns, and large windows. I looked over into the living room and noticed a Victrola sitting on an end table against the back wall.

“Did we just step back in time or something?” I asked as I looked at the red and gold wallpaper around us. Hen-to chuckled.

“His grandmother chose the design for the house when it was first built,” he said. “The boss wants to keep it the way that she wanted it.” He took off his shoes and placed them neatly by the door. I did the same and set my shoes besides his.

“Come with me,” he said, holding out his hand. I slowly took hold and he led me up the stairs.

The hall upstairs was much darker than the downstairs. I tried to looked around and we walked up to a closed door. Hen-to knocked once.

“Daiyu,” he said. “Are you asleep?”

“No,” a small voice croaked.

“May we come in?”

“Sure.”

Hen-to opened the door. I followed him inside.

When I first saw her, I thought I was staring at a real-life princess.

She had red silk nightgown with her long black hair down. This woman about my age looked so pale. She didn’t need make up to be beautiful. The sheets and her bed looked like they were swallowing her whole. Hen-to walked over to the foot of her bed.

“How are you feeling, Daiyu?” he asked.

“A little bit tired,” the princess said.

“Would you like me to open the shades?”

“Yes, please.”

“Okay.” Hen-to walked over to the window and opened the thick red drapes. Sunlight spilled into the room as he shook his head.

“Honestly,” he said. “What kind of a man leaves his ill wife sitting in the darkness?”

“It’s okay,” Daiyu said. She looked and spotted me standing in the doorway. “Is this your girlfriend?”

“Yes,” Hen-to said. He walked over to my side. “This is Joo Bik.” He turned his attention to me. “Bik, this is my friend Liao Daiyu.”

“Hi,” I said in a soft voice.

“Nice to meet you,” Daiyu said. “Hen-to only says nice things about you.”

“He does?” I asked.

“Yes,” the princess said. I turned to my boyfriend smiling at me. He clapped his hands together.

“Great, you two meet each other,” he said. “Would you like anything to eat or drink, Daiyu?” The princess shook her head.

“I can’t have anything with my medication for about four hours,” she said. “But I did leave my book downstairs on the couch last night.”

“I’ll go get it,” Hen-to said. He turned and left the room. I was left alone with the princess when he closed the door behind him. Daiyu and I stared at each other. I have never been alone with fancy people before. I didn’t get this aura of snobbery surrounding her.

“Uh… are you sick?” I asked. I didn’t know why that came out of my mouth. It probably sounded rude of me in the way that I asked it.

“It’s not really much,” Daiyu said. “It’s just something that I had when I was born.” Her eyes looked so bright as she spoke.

“That must be tough,” I said.

“I have good days and okay days. Today is rather okay since I took my medication.” She paused. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Is Hen-to happy?”

“Yes, I think so. He always has that goofy grin when he’s around me. He treats me like a lady. And he’s good man.”

Daiyu closed her eyes as she smiled. “That’s good. He’s spent so many years trying to making Fei, his parents, and me happy. I always wished that he would find happiness for himself.”

I found myself smiling. This princess seemed like a nice person. I turned around when the door opened. Hen-to poked his head inside.

“Is she asleep already?” he whispered. I nodded.

“Well, darn it,” my boyfriend said. Hen-to walked in and placed the book by Daiyu’s nightstand. He pulled the sheets over her shoulders.

“Daiyu’s a new woman,” I said.

“Yes, she is,” Hen-to said. He stood up and turned to me. “I think you and her will become great friends.”

“I think so too,” I said to myself.


-Present Day-

The phone rang in the Chang house. Hen-to grumbled as he reached around for the receiver on his nightstand.

“Hello?” he asked. Hen-to sat up with a serious look on his face. “You’re kidding?”

“Baby?” Bik asked as she woke up, rubbing her eyes. His worried expression pushed her into alarm. “Baby, what’s wrong?” Hen-to turned his head with a cold fire in his eyes.

“It’s Junjie,” he said in a low voice. “He’s out on bond, but nobody knows where he went.” His wife covered her mouth as she gasped.

“No… But how?” Bik asked.

“How do you think?” Hen-to asked.

“But why?”

“That’s what I would like to know.” Hen-to jumped out bed, got dressed, and march out of the bedroom. Bik sat watching the closed door with her hand to her bare chest.

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