Tea Leaves and Silver Rings

Past Love, Crisis, and the End of Us

Match Twenty-One: Past Love, Crisis, and the End of Us:

-Ju-

-Summer 2007-

Stefan.

We had been dating for close to a year. We had to date in secret. My father didn’t take too kindly to foreigners. He begrudgingly let Tina and I be friends. He would stay out of my way when I had her over. I didn’t want to think about how he would react to me having a white boyfriend.

Stefan tried me like a princess. We held hands in public. He wasn’t afraid to kiss me in the open.

“Stefan,” I would say as I giggled and tried to push him off. “Stop!” He looked at me like a sweet little puppy.

“Aw, don’t be like that,” he said. Stefan nuzzled me on the neck.

“What am I going to do with you?” I asked.

“Keep me around forever and ever?” he asked. I covered my mouth as I broke down giggling.

“You are so silly,” I said. Stefan put his arm around my waist.

“I do love you,” he said. I blushed as we walked to class. Tina was happy for us. In fact, she encouraged my relationship with him.

“You two look so cute together,” she said. I blushed when she said that. The kissy noises didn’t help either.

“Stop!” I wailed. Tina laughed as she smacked me on the back.

“I’m just messing with you,” she said.

“Ow,” I murmured as I rubbed my back. She leaned in close to my face on my desk.

“But I mean it,” my dear friend said. “You and him are good for each other.”

“You really think so?” I asked. This time, Tina patted me on the head.

“You are happy, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. My friend moved her hand to my shoulders.

“Then you have your answer,” Tina whispered. We shared a smile between us.

Stefan and I would meet up under a giant tree in the middle of the park. We would sit there and do nothing. We dated like normal couples, but I didn’t really want to be seen in public. My father had no idea of my relationship with his. Our clan was really connected to just about everyone in the Eastern cities of China. One of his partners could spot me with Stefan and report back to him. My boyfriend at the time didn’t understand it.

“Why won’t you introduce me to your dad?” he asked me as we walked around the park one evening. He nuzzled me on the neck. “You’ve met my family already. My mom loves you. My dad loves you. Even Adele adores you.” My cheeks turned pink as I smiled.

“I love them too,” I said. “But I don’t think my father would feel the same.”

“Aw, why not?”

“I told you, he isn’t found of your kind.”

“Handsome and suave?”

“Foreigner.”

Stefan frowned. “You can’t be serious.”

“That’s just how it is, my love,” I said. “My father comes from an old way of thinking. He tried to push Tina away, but Hen-to and Bik managed to intervene.”

“What would I have to do to get your dad to accept me?” he asked.

“You can’t.”

“Aw, that’s harsh!”

I took him by the hand. “That’s just how it is.” I kissed him on the cheek. We walked up to our usual tree. Right away, I noticed a large blanket sitting underneath. I turned to Stefan with an eyebrow raised.

“What is all of this for?” I asked. Stefan turned to me with a naughty smile on his face.

“Part of the surprise I told you about,” he said. Stefan took my other hand and pulled me over to the bright pink blanket.

“Get on it,” he whispered in my ear. I giggled as I laid back. Stefan climbed on top of me. I playfully tapped him on the nose.

“We can’t go too far with this,” I told him.

“I know,” he said.

I gave him a strange look. “Then… what are you up to?” Stefan kissed me on the lips. He started off genteel with this “surprise”. I could never figure out what he was thinking the whole time we were dating. I would just ride along and see what would happen next.

Stefan landed another kiss on my lips. I happily kissed back. I wasn’t naïve. Twelve and thirteen-year-olds had some idea about sex. Last year when I had questions about it, my father dropped me off at the Chang House with a red face.

Stefan tried to push his tongue into my mouth. The sensation felt icky at first. I shivered as he tried to go down my throat. I pushed on him to get him off. Stefan looked at me as he backed up.

“Is something wrong?” he asked.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m sorry, am I going too fast?”

“I don’t know…” I looked up and him and then I looked behind him. “Won’t someone see us out here like this?” Stefan pushed my bangs out of my eyes.

“It’s fine,” he said. “Just let me take care of everything.” He sank another kiss on my lips. This time, Stefan slipped his hand down my shorts. My hips jumped as he moved lower. He shifted his body as if to block out the view. His fingers crept down into my panties. I managed a yelp before Stefan used his free hand to cover my mouth.

“You were worried about somebody seeing us, remember?” he whispered. “You can enjoy this, but you have to be quiet about it, okay?” Stefan slowed down his fingers. I quickly nodded. He smiled and kissed me on the forehead.

“Very good,” he whispered. My then-boyfriend stole another kiss from me. His fingers sped up at my lower entrance. My cheeks turned bright red as I murmured.

“W-W-What is this?” I asked. Stefan looked me in the eye.

“You’ve never touched yourself?” he asked. I shook my head. His lips curved into a smirk.

“Well then, this makes things more interesting,” Stefan said. His face lit up as the wheels turned in his brain. He sat up on his knees and unzipped his jeans. My eyes widened as my heart raced.

“Stefan, you can’t do that,” I said. “You’ll get me trouble.”

“Relax, we won’t go that far,” he said. Stefan took me by the hand and shoved it down my jeans. “Just stroke me.”

“What?” I asked.

“Rub me while I finger you,” I said. My head was too far in my confusing bliss, but his words managed to sink in. I began to move my hand up and down slowly. Stefan tried to bit his lower lip as he gave into whimpering. I looked up at him as his fingers started to go inside.

“Am I doing this right?” I asked.

“Yes!” Stefan said, panting. “You are doing it perfectly.” We spent the afternoon pleasuring each other. That day, he opened me up to a new world. After I came for the first time at his fingers, I wondered what else could Stefan show me.

However, three months later, my father found out that I was dating a white boy from Belgium and was furious.

“I will not have my daughter dating any foreigners!” he roared. “The bloodline must be pure Chinese!”

“But I love him!” I argued back.

“I don’t care!” my father yelled. “You will end this relationship and that’s final!” We fought back and forth, but he won in the end. Stefan and I broke and he went back to Belgium at the start of our final year in junior high because his father got transferred back.

-Present Day-

I looked down at my coffee.

“I don’t understand you,” I said. Stefan looked up at me.

“What don’t you understand?” he asked. I turned and looked up at him.

“Why did you call me out here just to talk? We could’ve just caught up on the phone. I thought you went back to Belgium after my wedding.” I jumped when Stefan grabbed me by the hands.

“Stefan?” I asked. The desperate look in his eyes made me feel uneasy.

“I am still in love with you,” Stefan said.

“What?”

“Ever since I went back to Belgium I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I love you so much. Come back to Belgium with me.”

I stared at him with big eyes. “But… I’m married.”

“I don’t care! I just have to have you.”

“But what about my clan?”

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life in that house? What about your dreams of seeing the world? You didn’t want to live the way your father grew up.”

“But…”

Stefan sighed. “What do you want?”

I stared at me. “What do… I want?”

“Uh… well…” In that moment, my phone buzzed. “Excuse me.” Stefan tried to grab my hands as I reached into my purse for my phone.

“Forget about them,” he said.

“I can’t,” I said, pulling away from his grasp. He sighed as I checked my text messages. My shoulders dropped as I rubbed my forehead.

“Oh god,” I muttered.

“What’s the matter?” Stefan asked. I clutched my phone by my side.

“I’m sorry, Stefan,” I said. “But I can’t.”

“What?” he asked. I looked up at my old boyfriend.

“I can’t go to Belgium with you,” I said. “My clan needs me.”

“But Ju…”

I shook my head. “They aren’t a burden that I thought they were. These people are my family. They need me and I need them. My clan is all that I have now. If I left with you, who’s going to take care of them?” I put my hands over his when he opened his mouth.

“I love my husband and I don’t want to break his heart,” I said. “I still think highly of you, but what we had when we were younger doesn’t exist anymore. We’re not kids anymore. I buried us in a little box in my heart and I would love to keep us there. I’m sorry, Stefan. But I just can’t leave and return your love.” I kissed him on the cheek.

Stefan stared at me, stone-faced. “Is that how you really feel?”

“Uh-huh,” I said as I nodded once. He gave me a calm smile.

“I understand,” my former love said in a low voice.

“I’m so sorry, Stefan,” I said.

“Don’t be,” he said.

I turned my head when I heard the glass doors opened. Tina and Mei stood in the doorway, panting. I tilted my head.

“Tina? Mei?” I asked. “What are you doing here?” My American friend turned to my former lover.

“Stefan!” Tina shouted. “What’s going on here?!” Stefan let go of my hands.

“Nothing,” he said. “She doesn’t want anything to do with me anymore.” Stefan stood up and paid for his coffee and cake.

“Where are you going?” Mei asked.

“Back to Belgium,” he said as he walked up to the glass doors. “Isn’t that what you all wanted for me?” He paused with his hand to the glass. “Now I have to go back to my wife and kids.” And just like that, Stefan was out of my life with that bitter-sounding statement him muttered. I looked at Tina and Mei.

“Wait, he was…?” I asked.

“Yes,” my friends said.

“Oh,” I muttered. “Think we should apologize to his wife?”

“Why?” Mei asked. “You didn’t do anything.” I still frowned. I knew that Stefan was flirtatious, even when we were dating back in 2007. I guess he hadn’t changed at all.


Meanwhile in the emptiness, the Woman in Red smirked. The fifth gate had been located.

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