Xiang Yu did not know if Song Yu Shan had forgotten him as he had confidently predicted, but he had certainly not been able to forget the arrogant rich miss. Every time he thought about her, his lips would curl up in a smile. It had been several years, but to his amazement he was always able to recall all the details clearly. A hot summer, a young girl’s childish fantasies and dreams and how it all ended finally. In a foreign land, when he was tired and lonely, he would often think of her sweet face, her auburn hair, her hazel eyes, the purple and pink bedroom and the lavender fragrance that always surrounded her…
It had been eight years, not a short time by any standard. In the past eight years, he had broken up with his girlfriend, resigned and left Taiwan, studied for a master’s degree in the United States, set up a new business and oversaw the company as it grew from five employees to hundreds of employees…
Working sixteen hours a day was just normal for him. When they set up the business, he and his partners even slept in the office or in their cars. Today, he was the vice president of a technology company. His time and attention was all focussed on getting contracts, meetings, acquiring new business. But in the midst of all this, he would often reminisce about that sweet and innocent girl.
Who would have thought, that in just eight years, a system engineer in a security company would become the vice president in a technology company that was growing exponentially? The IT industry had seen a lot of ups and downs and had created many storms in their entrepreneurial journey. But with his analytical ability, calm demeanour and steel will, he had always been able to come up with appropriate solutions. At this moment, though he wasn’t extremely rich, he was certainly quite well off and famous. In recent years, he had even been featured in several magazines whenever they did articles on young, successful entrepreneurs.
The understated, luxurious black Eurpoean car was pleasantly air conditioned so he did not feel the summer heat in northern Taiwan. The driver was experienced . He could easily pretend he was driving along the multi lane highways of California rather than Taipei if his eyes were closed. In the past few years, Taipei had really burgeoned, but because of the development of public transport, the roads still did not have major traffic snarls like California. Mr Gu, the driver, always ensured that he reached his destinations smoothly and in the shortest of times. Money was not a solution to everything, but it certainly made life easier.
“ Mr Yu, we have arrived.” The car slowed down and the driver gently informed him. He opened his eyes
“ Thank you.”
It had only been a few weeks since he had returned to Taipei. He had been quick to re-acclimatise himself. In his mind, although he had been away for eight years, it was still home. He had made up his mind to return here and finally settle down. He could no longer sustain the hectic pace of life of the last eight years. Of course, the fact that the company wanted to expand in Asia also helped in his decision. They had anyway needed someone to be stationed in Asia. The execution of their expansion plans in Asia thus fell on his able shoulders.
Both his parents had passed away. But he had others who looked forward to his return here. When the car reached the door, a little girl was already standing there. As soon as he alighted, she ran and jumped into his arms!
“ Hello”, he hugged the pink cannonball and smiled, “ Why did you run out again ? Didn’t I tell you to wait inside?”
“ But I heard the sound of the cover!” the little girl raised her round face and said confidently.
“ It’s a car. Not a ‘cover’.”
She smiled in answer, then snuggled in his arms, her face buried in his neck.
“ Tang Tang, don’t run out like that! It’s dangerous. There are cars on the road”, a fully spirited but old voice could be heard admonishing the little girl. When the man came out and saw Tang Tang in the arms of a tall man , he smiled. “ Its you! I guess she heard you arriving. No wonder she ran out so fast I couldn’t stop her.”
“ Why don’t you listen to grandfather? Huh?” he bent and mock scolded the little girl.
Although she was five years old, she was a pampered child. She was not going to listen to him. She knew what she wanted.
“ You can start serving the food!” A door opened and Shui Xin came out.
She had matured in the last eight years as well. She was already a mother, and her figure was softer and plumper. The arrogance in her eyes was no longer there. Marriage and childbirth had certainly agreed with her. She looked happy and contented. Those long ago events of ugly fights and hurting each other were a thing of the past. Now they were all family.
‘Daddy, we got a strawberry cake today,” Tang Tang whispered to him. “ Grandfather and I went and got it. Mama said I can’t have it before lunch!”
“ Yes. You need to first eat a big bowl of rice. Then you can have the cake, okay?” Xiang Yu whispered back. The little girl nodded. Their relationship was so close that even Tang Tang’s mother and grandfather sometimes felt jealous.
“ Ok, ok. Don’t spoil her”, the grandfather spoke out, “ Lets go and wash our hands”
‘ I want Daddy to go with me,” Tang Tang snuggled in Xiang Yu’s arms and refused to let go.
“ I will take her,” Xiang Yu smiled. He was an expert on how to deal with wayward little girls. The grandfather sighed as he looked at their backs. Shui Xin, who was arranging the table, heard his sigh and looked up.
“ Daddy, why do you sigh every time you see them?” she asked.
“ Just look at the little girl clinging to him.. They are both so similar..”
“ So? “ she put her hands on her waist and demanded.“He has always been popular with young girls, especially the spoiled and pampered ones, Tang Tang… Song..” She stopped before she finished her sentence.
But her father knew who she was talking about. He sighed again. “ I wonder how she is doing now”
“ What’s wrong?” Xiang Yu asked as he returned, the little imp still clinging to him. His eyebrows were raised.
“ Nothing, nothing. Let’s start.” Shui Xin smiled unnaturally , “ Tang Tang, you sit here. Mummy will give you a small bowl. You eat yourself.”
“ I want daddy to feed me!” the little girl demanded.
“ You are already five years old. You can eat yourself. No one will feed you.” Xiang Yu said. Immediately, Tang Tang nodded in agreement, making both her grandfather and mother roll their eyes at her unusual compliance.
“Then I want to sit next to Daddy!”
“ Ok. Come here.”
The family finally sat down for dinner, the very portrait of a happy family.
“ Daddy, I got a new car, “ Sugar informed him as she ate, “ Papa took me to school in that car. Its an ‘ardee’. My teacher said its very nice.”
“It’s an RV, not an ‘ardee’!”, Xiang Yu corrected her again as he smiled.
Strange, how did Tang Tang have a Papa and a daddy? Shouldn’t these two titles allude to the same person?
Shui XIn unveiled the answer. She squeezed her daughter’s cheeks. “ Finally you remember Papa? Every time you meet Daddy you forget your own parents!”
“ My father is Wu Ruiping. My mother is Yan Shui Xin. My grandfather is Yan Yong gun. I don’t have a grandmother. And I have a Daddy called Xiang Yu but no godmother. My grandfather said Daddy was going to marry Mama…”
“ Tang Tang!” both adults screamed.
“ …but he liked someone else. Not Mama. Daddy, who do you like? Is it me?”
Five year old girls had the ability to ask the most embarrassing questions. They were also very persistent. She clung to Xiang Yu and asked, her crisp voice so sweet that everyone smiled.
“ If you behave like this, Daddy will not come again”. Shui Xin shook her head. “ How strange Xiang Yu! You are so cold and emotionless, yet all these little girls are never afraid of you. They always cling to you..”
Xiang Yu stilled. “ All?”
Apart from Tang Tang, who was the other little girl who loved to cling on to him? Who else? They all knew who Shui Xin was referring to.
The father and daughter duo looked at each other as soon as Xiang Yu asked the question. In tacit understanding, they quickly changed the subject.
“ Xiang Yu, your company is doing really well. A couple of weeks ago, there was a special article in Business Week…”
“ Do you want some more soup? It’s bitter but good for health. Taiwan is so hot this year..”
Xiang Yu cleared his threat. He had been waiting for so long now , but no one had volunteered any information on Song Yu Shan. In fact, whenever he tried to approach the subject, he was always skilfully steered to another direction. He had learnt nothing about her since the day he left Taiwan
In the beginning, when he had first left Taiwan, he was really busy adapting to his environment, studying and doing homework. Then came his entrepreneurial phase which really left him with neither the time nor energy to pursue enquiries about her. Time had actually passed quicker than he had imagined. In the blink of an eye, eight years had passed. The security company was still there, but Uncle Yan had retired. The consortium who owned the company had not changed either. But the CEO had changed. It was no longer Song Yu Shan’s father.
Where did he go ? More to the point, what happened to that family ? No one seemed to know. Perhaps no one knew. But the more obstacles he faced in his quest to gather information, the more determined he became.
Perhaps it was just natural curiosity. Perhaps it was because he felt an emotional connection, however short lived it was. Whatever the reason, he really wanted to know how that little spoilt rich girl was doing these days. Was she still spending time shopping and partying? Was she still spending a fortune on the newest style of shoes and bags? Had she found a partner who was willing to pamper her? He hoped she had finally found someone to be by her side. She always seemed so lonely.
The thought of her loneliness brought back that familiar dull ache in his heart. He cleared his throat again. Perhaps he needed to see her with his own eyes. Perhaps that would finally bring him closure and he would no longer worry about her.
“ Miss Song…” he decided it was time to ask directly, “ how is she?”
He looked at uncle Yan, then Shui Xin. They both avoided his gaze.
“ Is she in the US? Or in Taiwan? It must have been some time since she graduated.” Xiang Yu was persistent. Realising that the atmosphere was a bit strange, he smiled and reached out to brush away the rice grains sticking to the corner of Tang tang’s mouth. Then he said casually, “Tang Tang, when you grow up, will you behave like Miss Song? Hmm?”
The little girl rounded her eyes and looked up. She did not understand what he was asking and did not answer. Neither did her mother or grandfather.
This time, he was really confused. His sharp eyes examined the members of his extended family. He knew them very well and had no trouble discerning their expressions. Something was going on.
“ Well.. what happened to her?”This time his tone was a little different, indicating that he knew something was wrong and he wanted an answer.
Yan Yonggun sighed. He knew this would happen eventually. This cold hearted, emotionless person who did not easily form attachments would not forget the girl who had once created waves in his heart.
“ Miss..she..” Yan Younggun spoke, “ I don’t know what happened to her but she did not return to the US”
He raised his eyebrows in surprise. ” Do you mean she did not go back that year? Or that she never went back?”
Yan Yonggun was silent again.After a long while, Shui Xin spoke up, ” We really dont know.”
They didn’t know? How was that possible? Xiang Yu’s doubts grew stronger and stronger