Stanley hurried through his early morning exercise routine, grabbed a quick breakfast, and waited impatiently for the office minibus to arrive to transport him to the office. He nodded pleasantly to others already seated as he entered and engaged them in conversation as they sped on to Suntec City and the office. As he pressed the button on the elevator for the floor he worked on he suddenly became apprehensive about the summons to meet Wong Hui this morning. He may be in trouble. He investigated Jade’s office and noted she was not there yet. He’d wait until she arrived as both had been summonsed to that meeting. But as he was considering this his cell phone chimed. He removed it and gave his customary greeting.
“Please come to interview room three.” It was the voice of Wong Hui.
Interview room three was a larger room reserved for an interview with multiple people. He glanced at reception to see if Jade was arriving then decided she was perhaps in the interview room already. As he approached and looked through the glass door he noted several men seated with documents being consulted. Wong Hui directed the group. Perhaps there were new customers his boss wanted him to be introduced to. He put on his professional face.
But it soon dawned on him that this was a family gathering. He recognized Jade’s father sitting next to Wong Hui and smiled, he had a PhD from the London School of Economics and was one of the movers and shakers in Citibank. He’d seen the other man rarely at family gatherings and knew he was a graduate of Singapore’s own NUS in their collaborative overseas PhD program but did not know in which foreign university that facility was provided, He worked as an investment banker in KL Malaysia. But the additional man was a stranger to him. Jade was not there. Wong Hui indicated he should sit facing them and turned to Jade’s father indicating he should speak.
“You spent the night at Marina Bay with my daughter. Our ancestors were important people in China’s history and would consider that to be inappropriate behavior. You are a foreigner. Would you approve of that kind of behavior if it were your sister or daughter?.
“Sir I should have been more honorable and bought her home immediately when she went to sleep. I apologize!” No shameful behavior happened, and your daughter would never permit that to happen anyway. Your ancestors can be proud of her.” Stanley was indignant at the accusation.
“Suppose I offer you a half million dollars to leave Singapore immediately and return to your homeland not to trouble my daughter again?”
“No Sir, I would never accept such a proposal from you. I do confess to loving your daughter but would never stand between her and the family she loves or accept money from you. If you want me to leave Singapore I’ll do that but if Jade wanted to come with me I would be the happiest man on earth though I’d understand it if she feels sacrificing contacts with the family would be too high a price to pay. I only want what is best for her.”
This family was well connected internationally and could do his career serious damage. He felt wretched. Wong Hui’s phone trilled, and he picked it up listening. “Send her in to interview room three.”
Jade arrived looking radiant, but her expression immediately turned alert. In front of her was the family and their spiritual guide. Wong Hui motioned for her to sit next to her younger uncle within the family circle.
Jade’s father spoke when she was seated.” I’ve just offered Mr. Pengelly a half million dollars to return to Australia immediately and have no further contact with you.”
Jade’s eyes riveted on Stanley with concern and he shook his head vigorously. She smiled back with appreciation, got up and took one of the seats closer to him facing her family.
“Dad you and my uncles bought me back from California with the plan to convince me to marry this foreigner and I wanted nothing to do with your plan. It’s not our family way! Now, when I’ve decided to make him my man for life you’re trying to wreck your own plan. I don’t understand this game you’re all playing please explain to me what is going on.”
Jade’s father remained impassive at his daughter’s explosion and turned to the acknowledged head of the family Wong Hui inclining in respect. “Elder brother perhaps you could explain?”
Wong Hui inclined in return as an acknowledgement of that respect.
“I’m sorry Stanley but we had to test your sincerity and the money offer was a test. I’d have been very disappointed in you if you’d accepted. No foreigner or other Chinese national group has been permitted into our family circle from ancient times, but we are willing to make an exception knowing you will learn to accept our ways completely. Yes, we’d planned on a match between you and Jade but that was to be after satisfying ourselves of your loyalty to the family. In anticipation of a union we’ve compiled your statistics and matched them with those of Jade. Wong Hui turned to the family spiritual advisor who cleared his throat to speak. He addressed Wong Hui respectfully.
This man is born in the year of the horse according to the information you gave me. I’ve managed to get much information from Australian Government records as to the day and time of birth and checked the alignment of planets at that time. Jade is year of the dog a very good match and I have exhaustive information on her. This union is to be recommended and I’ve studied the best date for a marriage. He handed the calculations to Wong Hui who nodded in appreciation. “Good, one month, we can speed up the planning and contact relatives. Book our favorite hotel reception rooms, we have a controlling interest in shares there and they’ll not fail to make this our usual spectacular event.” He turned to his younger brother. “You will make all the arrangements on the financial side from our family joint assets.” Then he turned to their spiritual advisor. “You will plan the ceremonies.”
Jade interrupted and addressed her father. “I’m not some property to be sold and I’d like to plan my wedding though I’m very appreciative of your wanting to make this a special day for me to remember. My chosen man Stanley should also be given some respect. It is a special day in his life too and I want him to help me and make it his day too.” She looked at Stanley for support.
This had been quite a different experience to anything he’d ever known within his culture. He was not sure what kind of ceremony this would be as Jade did not appear to be different to the seeming secular community he’d observed so far. His parents had been devout Christians and while he’d not been an active participant in Church going he still considered himself Christian and a feeling of discomfort came over him. He looked at Jade helplessly and she took in his confusion.
It was customary for the family to be involved in a wedding of one of their children and she wondered if he’d be able to handle the days ahead. Perhaps she should bring this to an end. He was a good man and while it would hurt her terribly to let him go now it was probably for his best good. She turned to tell her family she’d decided this would not work out for any of them and perhaps she should go back to California and seek reappointment there.
Stanley watched the change of mood and resolve and as she turned sadly to give her response he felt a sudden panic and spoke.
“I accept your kindness humbly in accepting me into the family and will be happy for you to follow custom in these matters. I will certainly be grateful for your instructions and will follow your suggestions gladly. Thank you for permitting me to marry Jade, the first and only love of my life.
Jade’s father nodded in appreciation and Wong Hui cleared his throat for attention. Good! Now for some immediate business. The family has arranged to purchase an apartment at 800 Thomson Road as an investment. We will move Stanley into that apartment which is fully furnished. It has a wonderful view over the Macritchie Reservoir and excellent feng shui and is close to our family properties.” He turned and indicated to his younger brother. You will arrange to take Jade to visit this apartment now and receive her suggestions for any changes she feels are necessary. After this visit today Jade will not go there until the wedding has been completed while Stanley is living there in the meantime. Of course, they are free to move around together as they please as the community will be informed they have received our permission to marry.” He waved his younger brother and a protesting Jade from the interview and waited until the door had been closed behind them. Then Wong Hui turned to address Stanley.
As part of our community now you will exhibit your new name in Chinese characters along with your English name on your office door. He handed the new door name identity to Stanley to view before sending it to the maintenance man to install. Stanley viewed the sign with interest. He’d had a seal prepared by an artist on a Hong Kong ferry in Chinese characters under pressure from the artist selling his wares. The artist had asked him to sound out his name for him to determine what appropriate description could represent his character from those sounds then retreated to his workstation on the ferry to come back in record time. Stanley had marveled at his speed in building that description into a seal and proudly stamped his first seal for a Chinese business friend later that day. His friend had gone into peals of laughter and informed him it was just a standard seal given to unsuspecting foreigners with a derogatory connotation. “Do not ever use this seal as you will lose face,” he’d implored. So, remembering that Stanley struggled with the elementary characters he’d learned over the past couple of years to determine what they may mean.
Stanley looked up in puzzlement and the three men watching him smiled broadly. Wong Hui spoke proudly at his choice. “ 飞鸿 Fei Hong simply means our expectation for your bright future. It is the name of famous martial art master Huang Feihong, Fei Hong literally means ‘a swan goose soaring high in the sky’. This name expresses a parent’s ardent hope that their child will have a bright future.”
Stanley nearly let his emotions over power him but restrained them. That would be inappropriate. But the watchful eyes of the three men noted his grateful acceptance and nodded to each other in approval. Stanley handed the name sign back to Wong Hui with both hands extended and the men nodded again approvingly. Apart from his Western features he’d be quite acceptable to the family.
To be continued.
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