The Love We Choose

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Chapter 19

Huan must have dozed off for a bit, because the next thing he knew, the teapot on his stove was whistling, aggravating the headache he refused to admit was bothering him. The ache in his muscles had increased and he struggled to sit upright. Lynne walked over to him with a cup of strong peppermint tea, a piece of buttered whole wheat bread, and a bottle of Nyquil.

“Eat the bread first and drink half the tea. Let it coat your stomach. By the time you finish all that, your soup should be ready. Once you finish eating, you’re gonna take the Nyquil, change out of your work clothes, have a shower, and go to bed.”

Nodding he picked up the plate and began nibbling on the bread, grateful that she hadn’t toasted it because in his current state he found swallowing his own saliva to be a trial. Sitting sideways, leaning against the couch looking toward the kitchen he could see her shadow as she flitted around. Chopping, dicing, and the plopping of ingredients into liquid could be heard in rapid succession. In a perfect world he’d be able to make out the aroma of the concoction she was piecing together, but his sense of smell had taken a leave of absence and he was forced to imagine what was to come.

About fifteen minutes later, Lynne walked out of the kitchen with a bowl of soup and glass of water for Huan. “Here, I added ginger, spinach, green onions, garlic, and a hit of cayenne,” she told him as she handed it over to him. “Eat.”

Huan took a gracious spoonful of hot soup and brought it to his lips. The flavors were muted, but the warmth that radiated through his body as he swallowed was calming. Even though his throat still hurt, his stomach was content to be filled with food. He smiled up at Lynne before he continued to finish the bowl.

Grabbing the plate off the coffee table, she returned to the kitchen to deposit in the sink. Returning to the living room, she picked up her bookbag and plopped herself into the chair. “So, anything exciting happen since I’ve seen you last?”

Slurping up a spoonful of soup, Huan gave her the run down of the past two weeks. “Well, the family dinner was as expected. Aunt Jieli and Uncle Yang are in town for the next few weeks, so if you drop by my mom’s you’ve been warned,” he added with a smirk.

“I don’t know why you feel the need to warn me. I love your uncle.”

“We both know why you need to be warned.”

“Eh, as long as she doesn’t start anything, we’re good. I’m nothing, if not totally respectful to my elders.”

“Sure. Just remember that we were boff at Rose’s 8th birthday dinner.”

“Hey, if she didn’t want no smoke, she shouldn’t have come for me.”

“Yes, but calling her a dumbass egg in Mandarin was a bit much, Lynne.”

“Then you shouldn’t have taught me the words.”

“Do not blame me for this Lynd. You knew what you were doing.” Finishing the bowl, he placed it on the coffee table and laid back down on the couch. “Oh yeah, Rose wanted to talk to you.”

“We spoke. I’m supposed to be meeting with her on Sunday at your uncle’s restaurant. That little girl is very focused. I guess it helps when you have someone stellar to look up to.”

“Wow. Your ego is astounding,” he quipped, snuggling underneath the blanket.

Lynne got up off her seat and walked toward Huan. Picking up the medicine bottle, she poured a specific dosage into the measured cup and held it out to him. “Flattered that you think I’m stellar, but I wasn’t talking about myself, you idiot.”

Sitting back up and grabbing the cup, he downed it before asking, “then who?”

“You are so oblivious. It’s you, you dumbass. That girl has idolized you since she learned how to walk.” Taking the plastic cup out of his hand and replacing it with the untouched glass of water, she gave him a stern look that told him to drink it. “All her life, you’ve spoiled her with your time and attention. For a girl with working parents, that is a huge thing. Because you are so invested in her academics and personal life, she has you on a pedestal. She is pushing herself so hard to get to your level. She just wants to make you proud of her.”

“Did she tell you this?” He asked her, perplexed.

“She doesn’t have to. I can see it in how she interacts with you. Her grit and drive is laser-focused. You can do absolutely no wrong in her eyes. She defends you when you aren’t there. And when you give her compliments or ask her about something she is doing or interested in, she immediately lightens and opens up. She doesn’t do that with everyone.

“Have you not wondered why she isn’t interested in business, but science and math, hardcore? She has never wanted to take over the family restaurant. She hasn’t spent any unnecessary or non-required time in the kitchen with her parents or the aunties. Shoot, I spend more time in the kitchen asking questions of her parents for their recipes. She never asks Bao about his work. ONLY YOU. She ONLY asks me about ways to help her pay for college on her own. And she only just asked me about skipping grades and how to do it. Sidebar, I have to reach out to my old college roommate, Lehna, over at the NYC Board of Ed to find out what exactly Rose needs to do to accomplish this. I need to mentally bookmark that,” she stared off to the side for a moment, before regaining her focus. “Back to the topic at hand though, all roads lead to her trying to emulate the Great Powerful Huan! It’s really sweet,” she mused as she stared out the window, eyes glossy, lost in thought, before shaking her head clear. “Now please, get up and shower.” Grabbing his dirty dishes off of the table, she headed into the kitchen at a brisk pace.

Huan was left to contemplate what she had just pointed out to him. Although Rose had always been like his shadow since he was often entrusted with her care, he never realized just how much of an impact he might have on her life. From the first time he saw her pudgy little red face, she had stolen a special place in his heart. When most teenagers would rather be hanging out with their friends, he was babysitting her. He took his time with her and invested in her growth. He didn’t just do the bare necessities: keeping her clean and fed when she was in his care. Huan taught her, spoke to her in both English and Mandarin, educated her in their culture, treated her like a person, and had fun with her.

“I don’t hear the shower running,” Lynne shouted from the kitchen, breaking him from his own thoughts. “You will feel better once you shower.”

Right. She’s right. Pulling together what strength he could muster, he shuffled himself down the hallway to his bedroom. “A nice, long shower will help clear some of this congestion in my chest.”

Turning the knob to hot, he let the water heat up as he stripped out of the clothes he came home in. When the bathroom was sufficiently filled with steam, he got into the shower. The instant effect of the hot water on his aching body made him moan as his muscles unclenched and relaxed.

Shaking his head underneath the water, a bemused smile on his face. “How is she always right?”

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A/N: What are we going to do with our poor, sick doctor? Don’t forget to like, comment, and share with your friends!

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