Scarring Jasmine-Chapter Twelve Guests

06/02/2024 Sunday 57-82F Cloudy

Shen’s fifty-second birthday was approaching. Instead of hosting a big party, Bai planned to have a small family gathering. Mumei thought it might be an opportunity to introduce Zhao to the family. In addition, Zhao also had mentioned a few times that he wanted to visit Mumei’s parents. Mumei asked for his father’s opinion. 

“It is ok if you want to invite him to come.” Bai said, “But you should remind him first that it is just a simple family dinner, he doesn’t need to bring any gifts. We are not sure whether Yu will come or not, but Jasmine will be here. If Zhao comes, it won’t be necessary for him to meet Jasmine, we will arrange separate dining tables for the men and for the women.” 

The day came. At five o’clock, someone knocked on the door of the second house on Moye Lane. Bai’s doorman took three guests in: One was Zhao, one was a lady and the last one was a big man carrying a red case on his shoulder. 

“Mumei,” Zhao introduced, “This is my younger sister Little Red, she heard about Aunt Bai’s birthday and insisted on coming. I could not stop her.”

Little Red made a bow to Mumei: “Please pardon me for my willfulness. I should have said thanks to you in person a while ago. Today I also would like to take this chance to meet Uncle and Aunt Bai, as well as the sisters. Here I have prepared some gifts for them.”

Because of this, Mumei had to invite his whole family to meet these two siblings. After the greetings, Little Red turned to the red case man: “Leopard, open the case please.”  

The case was opened. Little Red took out some knitting in a creamy white color—They were three cashmere shawls for the ladies, two cashmere scarves for the men, and one pair of cashmere socks for Mumei’s daughter.

“We are glad to have you both join the family’s birthday dinner,” Bai spoke, “but my son should have told you that there was no need to spend money on the gifts. These gifts are too nice and expensive, I am afraid we can’t accept them.” Upon hearing that, Gao gave Bai a secret glare from behind.

Little Red chuckled: “Uncle Bai, I knitted these myself. We didn’t spend money at all on them. The yarns were bought by a cousin last year in Guangzhou. He knew that I am handy with knitting and right at that time these English cashmere yarns were on sale, so he bought some for me and begged me to knit a sweater for him. I did, and there were still plenty of yarns left. My brother told me about Aunt Bai’s birthday, so I worked very hard to rush these out. Please do accept them as our first-visit gifts. We won’t do it again.” 

The issue was solved--Bai’s family accepted these gifts. The ladies gathered around the table chatting, and Mumei showed Zhao the house. Before they left the room, Zhao darted a quick glance at Jasmine, who at that moment was resting her head on her tucked arm and listening to Little Red’s talk; she didn’t pay any attention to Zhao.

In the garden, Zhao immediately noticed a lavish jasmine tree. He slowed down and went to it.

Mumei smiled: “This tree was a gift from an uncle for Jasmine’s full-month birthday, and she was named after it. It has been planted here for twenty-two years. Since she was married, my father comes to see this tree almost every day.” Zhao reached out his hand to touch the blossoms, and a tender feeling arose in his heart.

Then Bai, Mumei, and Zhao had dinner in the dining room; while Shen, Gao, and Jasmine accompanied Little Red to dine in the garden. In some way, Bai felt that Zhao and Shanyuan looked very alike, especially because they both had thick eyebrows and slightly slanted eyes, and their heights were close. But Zhao was darker and more muscular--Perhaps because he was a businessman and had to travel a lot. However, from the way they talked and behaved, Shanyuan was more sophisticated and gentlemanly. While Zhao, like Mumei said, indeed was a straightforward smart young man, in his own sharp debonair way. 

“This kid is far better than Mumei on business. And maybe because he looks like Shanyuan, I am quite fond of him.” Bai thought.

Bai finished the liquor in his cup and waited for the servants to replace the dishes. He felt a little tipsy, yet in a very comfortable way. “Thank God that we still have so many wonderful kids like Shanyuan, Yu, Mumei, and of course Zhao in this bad era. They are different, but all good in their own ways. With these kids, this country won’t fall, they will build the future.” 

Then he thought of Yu. Yes, he neglected his daughter, but the relationship between man and woman was always a puzzle. Perhaps Yu and Jasmine were just like a mismatched lid and pot, which didn’t mean either the lid or the pot was at fault. If he decided to marry Jasmine to Shanyuan, would the lid fit the pot better? Nobody could guarantee it.

Bai then thought of Xiao. The last party they had together was as gay and happy as now, and Xiao got drunk; right after that he committed suicide. In a flash, under the influence of alcohol, Bai suddenly understood why Xiao did that—He must have felt very helpless and his life pointless, because no matter how hard we tried and planned, everything in our lives just didn’t go the way we had expected it to. Rather than being fooled by life, he decided to withdraw himself from it. Yes, withdraw. 

“Uncle Bai, are you ok?” Zhao noticed that Bai was sitting there using his sleeve to dry the corner of his eyes. 

“Yes, I am fine. Thanks for asking. Today I am very happy so I couldn’t help drinking more liquor than I usually do. You remind me of someone, which brought me back to the past. Please excuse me for being an old man who can’t stay up late. Go on enjoying the dinner kids, the sweet lotus seed soup will be served soon. Mumei, you take care of him.” 

Mumei and Zhao all stood up and bid good night to him. Before Bai stepped out, he turned his head to Mumei: “Don’t forget to remind Jasmine to go home early.”

The ladies’ dinner was continuing. Shen liked Little Red very much; she considered her a high-spirited, pretty girl who loved talking and laughing and knew how to please everyone. 

“My brother and I have no parents,” Little Red told them, “they died when we were little. Today I really feel at home here. Aunt Bai, please do forgive me if I act wild.” 

She turned to Gao, “And you sister-in-law, you are so kind. I wish to have a sister-in-law of my own as nice as you.” 

“Does Zhao have any girlfriend, or fiancée?” Shen asked. 

“No. Aunt Bai, you don’t know him. He is too picky. He only wants the best he can find. He told me that he would only marry the most beautiful woman, or else he preferred to remain single.” Little Red made a face.

Gao gave out a titter, “That’s too hard. Where can he find such a woman who is also willing to marry him? And what’s his definition of ‘the most beautiful’? For instance, Jasmine is regarded the prettiest by many, but she is married!” 

Shen nudged Gao’s foot with hers under the table. Little Red grinned and turned her head to Jasmine: “I agree with you, sister-in-law. Indeed, sister Jasmine is very adorable.” 

Then she took Jasmine’s hand, asking: “Pity that early next year I will get married. Can I see you often? Or can I invite you and sister-in-law to my house? Will you come?” 

Jasmine smiled and patted on Little Red’s hand, “Yes of course. I am very happy to have one more sister. Just let me know when you want to see me, I will try to manage it.” 

“Really? You promise?” Little Red was excited.

“Yes, I promise.” 

The moon had gone into the clouds, and the entire garden dimmed. Jasmine stood up, “Mother, it is getting late, I should go now.” 

Shen nodded, “Ok, I will call Mumei to let the puller prepare.” 

They followed Jasmine to the door, where Wang’s rickshaw puller was waiting. Jasmine bid goodbye to everyone. Zhao stood behind her, less than two feet away. When she bowed to him, all of a sudden, the moon came out of the clouds and shone on their faces. They both were surprised to meet each other’s eyes, in which they knew something was happening at that moment.


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