When Wu Mei arrived at the office next morning she found Grant sitting in her office waiting.
“May, we could have a solution for you. My wife has a job in government which puts her in contact with a lot of important people. She’s not in a position to share what her work is exactly and there is an unwritten agreement between us I won’t ask. I can assure you she’s not a spy!” He laughed and then paused to think of what he should reveal next.
“I’ve not shared your experience with her as I thought it best not to at this stage. While I don’t understand all the behind the scenes activities of government I do know the Australian Government has important trade relationships with China which they’d not want disturbed unless absolutely necessary. They shouldn’t be seen taking sides with you against the Chinese government. So I approached it as a need of the consultancy to move you from a work visa status, which we arranged after your student visa expired, to a move toward citizenship. There is a process and my wife feels it can be worked out through the existing system. Perhaps a nudge could be given to see it was finalized within the three-month consideration system. We can find reasons to delay your return to China, which obviously it would not be wise to do for the present. Of course that means you’d have dual citizenship and if you do go to China the Australian Government may not be able to help you if you retain your Chinese citizenship too. Do you feel comfortable becoming an Australian citizen? I think it will give you some immediate protection while you’re in this country, but you shouldn’t share this plan with anyone yet as I don’t know if it will work.”
Wu Mei bowed involuntarily. There are some aspects of home culture which remain in spite of moving to another culture. “Thank you so much Grant, you are a good friend. You’ve protected my secret and found a possible solution. I’ll follow your advice gladly and feel it a privilege to be Australian. Please let me know what I should do to begin the process.”
Grant handed some forms across the table. “You can do it on line, but my wife suggests you may want to fill in these forms and I’ll give it to her. That will begin the process, but there are things you’ll have to do directly with the appropriate government departments. My wife will watch what’s happening behind the scenes, but she’ll have to be careful as it’s frowned upon to try and influence decisions on citizenship and it could cost her job. That she’d not be prepared to do.”
Wu Mei noticed relations with the Embassy now became restricted. Occasionally her handler at the Embassy made contact to inquire how her studies were progressing and when she’d be free of her contract with the consultancy. Her services were needed in the homeland. Never at any of these phone contacts was her family situation in China discussed and neither was there any reference to an interest in questioning her. Those at the Embassy who’d previously been friendly were suddenly silent. She was too hot to handle and they didn’t want to be bought into scrutiny by way of association. They’d leave it to their superiors in Beijing to deal with the situation when she returned.
It was only toward the end of three months when inquiries were made by way of routine into any police involvement in her past the Embassy became aware of Wu Mei’s application for Australian citizenship. They were quickly on the phone for an explanation.
Wu Mei had moved from her North Shore luxury accommodation soon after her father was arrested. She noticed the wealthy Chinese family had become less friendly and unaware at the time of her family situation in China guessed she’d outworn her welcome over the years. Perhaps they had other people the Embassy preferred to be accommodated? Business was business, and these people had factories in China that needed continued good relations with the Chinese leadership. Little did she know it had been indicated by the Embassy Wu Mei was no longer in favour. Tears were shed, good fortune wished on all and the relationship ceased from the time she moved. Grant had suggested she rent the guest accommodation behind their palatial residence at Sydney Harbour side which was currently vacant, and she accepted that offer gladly. She lived independently and hardly saw Grant outside the office. They were members of elite families and it was a continuous round of entertainments with visitors coming and going or parties hosted. The Adams family were prominent in Sydney society.
As no adverse records had been produced against Wu Mei and all formalities completed she was surprised to find a letter in her mail within the three months indicating her acceptance as a citizen. She was to attend the next ceremony. She signed with relief! The end of the year was looming and her original contract set to expire on the horizon. This was the lifeline she’d hoped for.
Communications with her family had been cut off long ago and she understood from her brother’s letter for the time being that was the way it should be until her brothers and mother in China could be extricated from their distress. It would have to be dealt with carefully, and with Wu Mei under suspicion they couldn’t afford to be in contact with her either in case these contacts were monitored. While this broke her heart she understood the sensitivity of the situation. She loved her family unreservedly and it was a great distress to her. But she stoically did her work, and the stress of it all ensured she did it to perfection. She was beginning to be noticed by the head office in America.
At last the day of the ceremony arrived. As she stood with others to swear allegiance and receive her certificate of citizenship she glanced over the audience and gasped in surprise. Sitting in the back row were two people she knew intimately. The first one she noticed sitting prominently in the back row was Cheng. She smiled as he caught her eye. Sitting not far from him on his left side was her handler from the Embassy. Her smile froze as their eyes met, but he smiled in return. He made his way quickly to her side looking furtively around as he did so after the ceremony and extended his hand smiling.
“You’ve acted wisely Wu Mei. None of us at the Embassy believe you’ve done anything wrong and the unfortunate block on communications was probably just a routine upgrading of your firm’s security around the world. However, we’re powerless to help you and as your family is in trouble in China its wise for us to be ignorant of your plans. Some of the Embassy staff who know you well wish you good fortune. I’ve risked my own safety in coming here today.” He bowed and disappeared into the crowd outside.
Wu Mei turned to look for Cheng and her face clouded in disappointment as she scanned the rapidly emptying room and didn’t find him there. Then a voice behind her said, “Looking for me?”
All the reserve of her upbringing evaporated as she turned to look at him, then slowly reaching out she touched him. He reached out in return and held her close, then turning her face upward so he could brush away her tears he said, “I think its time you and I had a talk!” Taking her by the hand he led her outside and hailed a taxi. Not a word was spoken until they’d reached the Chinese restaurant all wealthy Chinese in Sydney favoured. They alighted and waited to be seated.
Finally, Cheng spoke. “You’re safe now Wu Mei, that is at least while you remain in Australia. What do you intend to do with your life now? Do I fit into the picture now?”
Wu Mei nodded her head. “Yes Cheng, you’re very much in the picture. I’m so glad to see you! How did you know about my taking Australian citizenship?”
Cheng chuckled. “Singapore and Australia have need to share information from time to time so I make sure I ask about you whenever I phone in. Grant certainly knows of my interest in you after all those inquiries. So he called to let me know of your plans today. I took time off and hopped on a plane arriving this morning. I hoped you’d be glad to see me?”
Then in a torrent of words Wu Mei poured out the situation for her family in China and the fact she was under suspicion herself. This had been a grand strategy to offer her temporary protection. “But I love my country very much Cheng and I don’t know why this has happened to my family. Will it ever be safe for me to visit my beloved country again?” Tears formed in her eyes as she finished.
Cheng sat in shock as he processed what Wu Mei had just revealed. He shook his head finally. “I don’t understand it at all Wu Mei, perhaps it’s not safe for me to visit either as you and I have been associated in their minds and the Singapore Chinese Embassy has this crazy idea I’m a spy for Taiwan! I love China too as it’s the home of my ancestors. They’re buried there and I wanted to pay my respect at the burial place of my ancestors. I hate politics!”
The courses arrived and both prepared to enjoy the celebration of Wu Mei’s new citizenship.
To be continued.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2016 All rights reserved”