Wednesday, December 30, 2020

 

Two months have passed. Dao Ming Si is happy working in a restaurant as an assistant cook. He gets a good monthly salary, more than enough for their needs and for a savings fund. San Cai has found a part time job in a local cafe. She would work there in the morning and be home in time for when her son comes home from school. 

The family was having dinner when San Cai asked her husband, "What are your plans for the New Year?"

"Not much. We stay here, and celebrate as the locals do. Would you want to go somewhere else? I mean, we do have some savings in the bank. Anything to make my beautiful wife happy, I would readily oblige." Dao Ming Si says.

"Fine with me. I pretty much love this neighborhood. Everyone is friendly. I just have to get used to people calling me Mrs. Liu." San Cai smiled.

"Me too, Mama. I don't understand why you had to change my name. Xiao Tang was nice, now I have to be called Qing Bian."

"Someday you will understand, my son. Just be thankful we are together and living a happy, peaceful life."

"Yes, Pa." Xiao Tang replied.

"Is there anything special you want me to make for the New Year celebration? San Cai asks Dao Ming Si.

"Oh yes. If you could please make me those cookies again. Like the ones you made for me for my birthday years ago?" Dao Ming Si gave San Cai a wink. 

"Just teasing, sweetheart. But if you could, that would be nice. That memory is etched in my heart forever."

"Awww.... " San Cai blushed.

The weeks have gone by so fast. It was the New Year's celebration in a couple of days. San Cai was busy in the kitchen, prepping a special meal for her family. She secretly made those cookies - the ones that she fashioned to look like Dao Ming Si. This time, her cookies were perfect. She kept them in an airtight box on the top shelf of the kitchen pantry. 

"Dao Ming Si will be so happy to have these cookies" San Cai said to herself.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Dao Ming Si is doing excellent work in his job as an assistant cook. His supervisor has been letting him make the restaurant's specialties by himself and he has done a good job. 

"You Hen!" Dao Ming Si's supervisor calls him. "A customer wants a bowl of Kong Oan. We don't have it on our menu, but this old lady wants it. She says she grew up here and she wants to taste the dish she enjoyed as a child. Do you know how to make it?"

"Yes I do, Lao ban. I know how to make that dish. Let me check if we have the ingredients I need." Dao Ming Si says.

"Okay, let me go back to the customer and let her know that we will prepare it for her. Looks like a rich little old lady. Promised to pay a lot. Haha." Dao Ming Si's boss exits the kitchen and goes into the main dining hall. 

Dao Ming Si starts getting the special dish ready. He remembers Auntie Jade making this dish for him and it has been one of his favorites too. In his youth, he'd  drive all the way from Taipei to Hsinchu just to eat authentic Kong Oan.

In about half an hour, the Kong Oan was ready to be served. Dao Ming Si calls the waiter to take the bowl to the waiting customer.

"This is what I have been missing!" The old woman was visibly satisfied with the dish. 

"Ma, they are just meatballs in clear broth. What's so special about it?" her son asked.

"When you have lived far from your hometown, there are things that may seem simple to you, but it is these simple things that bring back so many happy childhood memories." the mother replied.

"Sir, would it be too much for me to ask if I could meet the chef that prepared this dish for me? I want to thank him personally." the old woman asks the waiter.

"No problem, Madam. Let me call him." the waiter says.

"Liu You Hen! That woman whom you made the Kong Oan for wants to meet you. It looks like she enjoyed her meal." The waiter said.

"But I am not a chef. Let the boss meet with her. I think that would be more proper." Dao Ming Si says.

The kitchen supervisor goes out into the dining hall and meets the customer. "I am glad you enjoyed your meal, Madam. I am this restaurant's chief cook. It was my assistant, Liu You Hen who made the dish for you, but he is a little shy and sent me to speak with you instead." 

"Please let him know that I will be back soon. I hope he would be willing to make me another bowl of Kong Oan."

"No problem, Madam. We will make sure we have the ingredients in stock. Please feel free to drop by anytime." The supervisor then gives a respectful bow and heads back to the kitchen.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Spring Festival.

Dao Ming Si and family were watching the traditional Chinese dance performances in nearby Hsinchu park. Xiao Tang was enjoying every minute of it. Growing up in Spain, he never had a chance to experience a Chinese New Year celebration. 

"Mama, look at the dragon dance! How wonderful!" Xiao Tang was clapping his hands and smiling from ear to ear.

Across the park from where Dao Ming Si and family were standing was Meizuo and his mother. Dao Ming Si did not notice Meizuo was looking at him, like trying to figure out if he really was Dao Ming Si.

When the performances were over, Dao Ming Si and his family walked home. San Cai prepared sumptuous meal and Dao Ming Si and Xiao Tang were excited to savor the good food that San Cai prepared for them.

Meizuo had his gaze fixed on this family. He instructed his mother's nurse to stay with her for a few minutes, saying that he would be right back.

Meizuo discretely followed them to their house. He approached a neighbor and asked, "Is your neighbors' name Dao Ming Si and San Cai?"

"Oh no, Sir. They are Mr. and Mrs. Liu. The man is Liu You Hen and his wife's name is Pi Qi. Their little boy is Qing Bian. Lovely family. Very kind." The neighbor said. "Why do you ask?"

"I must have mistaken them for my friends who I have not seen for a long time. Sorry to bother you. I must go back now."

Just as he was about to turn around, he heard a familiar voice.

"Dao Ming Si! Aren't you done washing up? The food is ready!"

"I knew it!" Meizuo said. He knocked on the door. Once. Twice. On his third attempt, the door opened.

Dao Ming Si was surprised to see Meizuo at his doorstep.

"Meizuo?" 

Dao Ming Si received a punch in the face.

"You prick! So this is where you have been hiding all this time! You cut off all communications with me, Lei and Ximen for what? Is that how you treat your brothers? Since that day that you told us that you will cut ties with us, I despised you. I hated you so much, and I hate you still!"

"Dao Ming Si! Who's at the door?" San Cai rushed to her husband's side and was shocked to see Meizuo standing there.

"Meizuo, I am sorry. I did not turn my back on you guys. I just wanted to protect San Cai and my son from my mother. You don't know how much I miss being with you three." Dao Ming Si took a step forward and hugged Meizuo.

"My brother, please forgive me. I just want you to understand that I do not need money to have happiness. This is my life right now. I work hard for my family and we get by pretty well. I never regretted that decision of turning my back on the Dao Ming empire." Dao Ming Si had tears in his eyes. 

"Please, Meizuo. Would you come inside and meet my son? I have lots of things to tell you."

Meizuo nodded. He understood. "Ah-Si. I apologize for hitting you. I was just so upset because I thought you threw out our decades of friendship. Let me bring my mother back to the hotel and I will be right back, okay?"

"Okay. Be careful. I will wait for you."

Meizuo rushes back to where his mother was and said, "Ma, I have to take you back to the hotel now. Your nurse will be with you. I  need to go some place for a few hours, okay?"

"Don't tell me you met a girl? Meizuo, I am warning you!" his mother sternly said.

"Ma, I did not meet a girl. I am going to a friend's house. This friend who I have not seen in almost 7 years."

"Who is this friend?" Meizuo's mother asked.

"Ma, it is Ah-Si! He's here in Hsinchu. With his wife and child. I have to go and have a long chat with him. I will be back before the fireworks display starts. Promise." Meizuo gives his mother a kiss and then leaves.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Meizuo and Dao Ming Si had a very long talk. Meizuo was really happy to get to know Xiao Tang. 

"You have such a cute and smart boy. You are so lucky, Ah-Si." Meizuo said.

San Cai joined them after she has put Xiao Tang to sleep in his bedroom.

"Won't he want to watch the fireworks?" Meizuo asked

"I will wake him up. I promised him that." San Cai smiled at Meizuo.

"You cut your hair, San Cai."

"Yes, I did. Partly because we did not want people to recognize us, but unfortunately, you did." San Cai laughed.

"Guys, let me ask you this. All that time you've been away, have you had any news about your mother Ah-Si?"

"No. I still don't trust her. You know what she did before. I don't want San Cai and Xiao Tang to go through such hardships. Never again. As I have told Lei and Ximen, whatever goes on in the Dao Ming empire, the mansion, or my mother is no longer my concern." Dao Ming Si says.

Your mother is half paralyzed, Ah-Si. Isn't it about time you knew? Isn't it about time to forgive? Meizuo thought silently to himself.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Back at the hotel, Meizuo's mother asked him how Ah-Si is. 

"He's a little gruff looking now, Ma, but other than that, he's fine. He's happy with his life. Oh, and his son is so cute. I am jealous. He's got a son and I'm not even married yet." Meizuo says.

"They live here in Hsinchu? Where?"

"Right across from Hsinchu park. The little house with a blue colored roof. You won't miss it. Their house is the only one with a blue roof." Meizuo smiled. "I'm going to take a nap, Ma. You should rest too."

"I will, son. Maybe a half hour more until I finish this TV show." His mother replied.

Soon as Meizuo closed the door of his bedroom, his mother started making a phone call. 

"Hello? Yes, it is me. I have some news for you. I am positive this is something you really need to know...."

Meizuo's mother was on the phone with Dao Ming Feng. She tells her that Meizuo met Ah-Si and that he just came back to the hotel after staying in his house for an hour. 

"Your son is in Hsinchu City. I don't have the exact address but I can give you landmarks on how you'll find the house your son stays in. You can rest now. No more searching. You will be reunited with your son very soon."

"Thank you. Tomorrow I will be in Hsinchu."

Dao Ming Feng puts the phone down. She starts crying. Yu Tien rushes in and asks, "Madam, are you okay? What's wrong?"

"Yu Tien, Ah-Si is here. He is in Hsinchu City. Will you ask the driver to take me there? 

"Madam, you surely know that he married San Cai, right? Are you ready to accept that?"

"I do not have any hard feelings about San Cai anymore. As long as I know that she takes good care of my son, I am fine with that. All's forgotten. All is forgiven."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Early the following morning, Meizuo goes to Dao Ming Si's house. He lets him know that he and his mother will be driving back to Taipei and will be leaving for Los Angeles next week. 

"San Cai! Can I borrow your husband for a while? We'll just be taking a walk around, maybe shop for some souvenirs too so I can take them back to L.A." Meizuo says.

"Go ahead, you big boys. Have fun!"

About half an hour after Dao Ming Si and Meizuo left, there was a knock on the door. San Cai was doing the laundry when she heard it.

He forgot his keys again. San Cai took a deep breath and said, "Alright, I'm coming! I know, I know. You forgot your keys again." 

She opened the door and her jaw dropped. It was Dao Ming Feng. On her doorstep. In a wheelchair.

"San Cai..."

"Madam." San Cai was trembling in fear.

"San Cai, please do not be afraid. I am here because I want you to know that I have been searching for my son, for you, and my grandchild for so many years. I know I have been hard on you, but please, believe me, I have learned to accept the life that my son wants for himself. For me, just to see him and his family, to know he is well, is enough for me. May I come in?"

"Yes, please, madam. Dao Ming Si went out for a walk with Meizuo. They will be back soon."

"Mama! Is breakfast ready yet?" Xiao Tang slowly goes down the stairs and takes a seat on the couch. He notices Dao Ming Feng and Yu Tien in the living room.

"Mama! This is the rich old lady that was staring at me outside my school in La Mancha. And this is the man who asked my name!" Xiao Tang was confused. "Why are you here? Who are you?" Xiao Tang asked.

"Xiao Tang, she is your grandmother. She's your Papa's mother. And he is Yu Tien, her secretary and trusted assistant." San Cai says.

"My grandmother? How can Papa have a mother like her? She looks very rich. Papa is a farmer. He's not rich. I am confused, Mama."

"Are you Dao Ming Tang?" Dao Ming Feng asked the boy.

"Yes I am, but my name has been changed. I am Liu Qing Bian."

San Cai takes Xiao Tang by the hand and gently nudges him to approach his grandmother.

"Xiao Tang...I am your grandmother. Your father chose to live his life differently. I have not been a good mother to him, but I am going to make it up to you. Can you give me a hug?"

Xiao Tang looks at San Cai who nods at him. Xiao Tang approaches Dao Ming Feng and hugs her. "I did not know I had a grandmother. I am happy. Should I call you Nai nai?" Xiao Tang asks Dao Ming Feng.

"Nai nai  sounds good to me." Dao Ming Feng smiled as she hugged her grandson once more.

This is the first time I've seen her smile. San Cai said to herself. She does not look scary at all when she smiles.

Xiao Tang sees his father coming in the door and says, "Papa! Come quick! Nai nai is here and she is waiting for you."

Ah-Si and Meizuo look at each other. "Nai nai? What the.." Meizuo says.

Ah-Si runs into the house and finds his mother there."

"Meizuo! Don't tell me you had this all planned?" Dao Ming Si was angry.

"I have no idea how your mother found out about where you live. I have never talked with her since I left for Los Angeles two years ago. I have never told anyone about me meeting up with you, except my mother...It must be my mother! She asked me yesterday who I was going to see and I said I am going to meet up with you." I am sorry, Ah-Si. My mom must have called your mother." Meizuo was apologetic.

Dao Ming Si runs to San Cai's side and snatches Xiao Tang away from his mother. "What are you up to this time? Just to let you know, I am not going back to that mansion, I do not want your riches. Leave me and my family alone!"

"Dao Ming Si! Are you blind? Can't you take a good hard look at your mother? She is paralyzed. She can't walk! All she wants is to see you. She does not mean any harm. Dao Ming Si, she is your mother! Please." San Cai was pleading.

"Papa, you made Nai nai cry. You always told me to love and respect Mama, to not make her cry. But Nai nai  is crying because of you. Why, Papa? Why are you so angry at her?" Xiao Tang asked.

Dao Ming Si looks at his sobbing mother. She has aged. She looks helpless sitting in that wheelchair. Is she really paralyzed or is she faking it? Dao Ming Si's mind was racing with so many different thoughts and emotions.

"She's faking it!" Dao Ming Si attempts to push his mother out the door. "Get out of my house! Dao Ming Si shouts angrily.

Meizuo grabs Dao Ming Si's arm and turns him around. "Ah-Si, your mother was in a vehicle accident. The damage to her spinal cord was irreversible. She is paralyzed from the waist down. She will never be able to walk again. I am sure Lei and Ximen wanted to tell you about this, but you did not listen. Ah-Si, 6 years has gone by. People change. For the sake of your son, please learn to forgive your mother."

San Cai could not believe Dao Ming Si is acting this way. She rushes towards her husband and slaps him in the face.

"Dao Ming Si! Do you have that much hatred in your heart? Can't you see beyond your anger? Your mother only wants to see you! All these years I have followed your wishes. I know your reasons, but this time, right this moment, could you please calm down and listen?"

Xiao Tang starts to cry. He has never seen his parents fight. San Cai comforts her son, "It is okay, my son. Everything will be fine. Papa just needs to sort some things out. Come with me to the kitchen. Lets get you a snack." 

"Yu Tian, please help me out the door. I guess I should just leave."

Just as Yu Tian starts to take his boss out the door, Dao Ming Si stops them.

"I would like to have a talk with my mother. Alone." said Dao Ming Si 

Meizuo moves towards the kitchen where San Cai and Xiao Tang are. Yu Tian follows.

"Ah-Si, I know I have done you wrong. I know I hurt you. The years we were apart has taught me so many things. Yes, you are my son but I do not own you. I do not own your mind, nor your heart. The things I did made me think that you would come back home, but it only pushed you farther away. I am so sorry, my son. I do not mean you any harm. I now know how much you love San Cai and I am fine with that. Believe me, being paralyzed and alone has made me change my perception of life."

"All I wanted was to live my life the way I want, Ma. I admit it was extremely difficult for me. I was pampered since the day I was born, so trying to earn money through manual labor was tough. But I learned the value of hard work. I now know that money isn't everything. A simple life with my family, having dinner together, watching my son grow up - these things are what made me complete." said Dao Ming Si.

"Will you forgive me Ah-Si?"

Dao Ming Si was quiet for a few moments.

"Ma, I know you understand that I may still have doubts, but yes, I forgive you. And I am truly sorry for making you worry about me."

Dao Ming Si gives his mother a hug. "Ma, please let me stay here in Hsinchu. This is where I want to raise my son. I promise to visit you in Taipei often. I can take San Cai and Xiao Tang with me when I visit, if that is okay with you."

"Of course it is okay. San Cai is my daughter in law. And that little boy of yours... my grandson... I would be so happy to see him play in the garden. I can get him all the toys he wants, I will have one bedroom in the house renovated for him, assign a team of bodyguards for him and maybe hire 4 or 5 nannies..."

"Ma! You will spoil him. Xiao Tang is not used to those things. Don't do that please. I have not even told him about the Dao Ming Corporation, and about me being an heir to the business. I will let him know in the future, but not too soon and not too sudden."

"Alright Ah-Si. But please do come and visit me soon. I will have to go back to Taipei now. Promise me you'll visit, okay?"

"I promise." Dao Ming Si says. "Yu Tian, my mother is ready to go home now. Xiao Tang! Say good bye to Nai nai."

"Bye, Nai nai. Please come back when Papa is not angry anymore." Xiao Tang gives his grandmother a hug and a kiss.

"Xiao Tang! Papa is not angry. He and Nai nai  just needed to talk." San Cai said. 

"San Cai, I am sorry. Please forgive me. Please take good care of my son and my grandson. And if you want to come and visit, you are very welcome to stay at the house." Dao Ming Feng said.

"It is all in the past, Madam. Don't worry." San Cai replies.

"From today onwards, you will need to learn to call me "Ma" okay, San Cai?" Dao Ming Feng smiled.

San Cai smiled back. "I will, Ma."

Dao Ming Feng then reaches up to touch Ah-Si's face. "I love you, my son."

"Love you too, Ma. Be careful."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

© Eileen L. Layno 01/02/2021

Part 1 - Click here
Part 2 - Click here
Part 3 - Click here
Part 4 - Click here
Part 5 - (The Finale) Click here

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