Stanley didn’t sleep well that night as he was careful not to touch his sister in law. He turned it all over in his mind and looked forward to his return to Singapore with a mixture of happiness and apprehension. He now had knowledge how disappointed the family was with him, but he’d take up his load with enthusiasm and win their respect once again. It would be hard without Jade, but he’d bring his grief under control and show by his actions he understood their grief too.
He tiptoed out of bed early and headed for the bathroom where he began to shave. No time limit on the shower today as Lanfen was still sleeping. But the door opened and Lanfen brushed past him and got into the shower totally oblivious to his presence. Every day bought a new surprise to him. He turned and went back to sit on the bed to finish his shave wondering what other surprises were in store. Lanfen appeared toweling herself ignoring him and headed for the clothes closet to choose her outfit for the day. Today they were to head for the mountains, so she decided on jeans another tank top and walking shoes. That gave an indication of what kind of clothes he’d wear for the day himself. He retreated to the shower to enjoy his long soak. Lanfen appeared again and sat doing her hair at the mirror. He shook his head. This was not at all the image he had of appropriate behavior in her family environment, but it was obvious she wasn’t intending to be misunderstood in these actions.
She spoke as he attempted to turn his back on her. “Have you driven a BMW before? I have a rented one downstairs and you will know this area, so I prefer not to use my smart phone as a GPS if you are prepared to drive.”
“Then hurry out as we need to have breakfast at my favorite breakfast place downstairs. Where do you intend to take me for the day? I want to see everything Jade saw on her honeymoon. I want to feel her presence again there.”
“Then first we’ll go to view the exotic bird park in the botanical gardens in Maleny, then on to the rainforest walk at Mary Caincross Park, then for the later afternoon view over the Sunshine Coast while we eat an early supper at the restaurant you showed me in the brochure. Then it’s back home and you can plan our evening. How many days will we be here before returning to Singapore?
“It all depends on your reactions when we talk more this evening. There is one more test.” Stanley looked at her in surprise but didn’t say anything more. In that she wasn’t about to move he emerged and reached for his towel around her. These were strange circumstances.
They were soon on their way to the mountains and he reveled in the familiar surrounds. Lanfen loved the bird park and the beautifully sculptured botanical gardens. There was a visiting choir at a lower level of the gardens with accompanying string orchestra and little knots of people gathered around appreciating the music. She loved the rainforest walk breathing the pure air with satisfaction and she marveled at the steep up and down climbs as they made their rollercoaster ride to their destination in the mountains passing small settlements with glorious views of valleys and sea. Eventually they reached their destination and marveled at the view over miles of coastline to the north and south. On an impulse he took her to the guest house he and Jade had stayed in on their honeymoon. It was surrounded by flowering trees and palms and looked out over a valley. “Even better than the photo Jade shared,” she murmured in appreciation. She went to the front entrance and spoke to the woman in charge. The woman nodded as Stanley watched from the car then Lanfen beckoned to him shouting. “Bring the car into the parking lot we are staying here tonight.”
Stanley was beginning to feel exasperated at all the surprising decisions Lanfen was making without prior consultation. Oh well, he’d soon be back in Singapore and by himself and it was Jade’s sister, so he needed to be patient. Lanfen was going back in the guest books year by year when he arrived at the check in. At last she found what she was looking for going back several years and many journals. She pointed this out to the woman and was handed a key. He walked mechanically behind her and gasped as he recognized the room. Lanfen watched him closely. “Maybe this should be your last test Fei Hong,” she murmured sympathetically as she watched his emotion.”
Not knowing what to say Stanley said, “We don’t have any change of clothes, why are you doing this?”
“This is for my sister who I love with a deep love you will never understand, and my family I love deeply too. It’s time to reveal the final conditions of your acceptance back into the family. I’m absolutely clear on my commitment to this plan and prepared to move forward because I want to. Let’s see what your reaction is. Our bloodline going back into history has never been compromised until you were accepted into our family circle. Producing a boy child with Jade it seemed like fortunes had changed in this generation. Marriages were usually negotiated by parents and it cemented alliances within families, but only those from our original bloodline were acceptable as marriage partners and that you’d describe as cousins far removed who’d honored the tradition of keeping the bloodline pure. That is breaking down now. So, the family would like you to marry me along with a commitment to make Singapore your permanent home and integrate into the family. I know Jade wants that as we think in an identical way you will find strange. We think alike but we are individuals and I never want you to call me Jade for that reason. Both of us should treasure Jade and her pictures would remain in our home. I know you don’t love me but that’s not important in our culture. What is important is respect for each other and attention to each other’s happiness. Jade told me it develops into more and she said you call it love. Are you prepared to marry me? That is what my family wants and that’s what I would like too. That is the last test. Before finally making up my mind I put you under a severe test last night and this morning. It was planned and I can see you are a decent man I can respect.
Stanley stood there shocked. This was more direct than he’d experienced before. His brain raced. He felt the obligation of kinship and had experienced true love with Jade. He’d never thought of Lanfen in that way. He stared at her. He knew the family said exactly what was on their mind and he liked that. She was prepared to commit to a marriage with him knowing he did not love her. Could he love her eventually? Everything other than her voice screamed he certainly could. What an amazing woman she was. He wanted back into the family to take the load given him. Lanfen seemed very sure that’s what Jade wanted too.
“Lanfen I’m humbled you’d accept me after all the trouble my leaving Singapore has bought on the family. I want to marry you and I want to be accepted back into the family. I will grieve for Jade and the child, but I know the family grieves and we’ll do that together. With your help I’ll learn to be more useful to the family.”
Lanfen cried, then quickly brushed away the tears. It was unbecoming for one of the Wong family to show emotion that way. Stanley reached out and embraced her and she felt the electricity Jade had felt when that event had occurred at the yacht club. It felt strange but she slowly relaxed and melted into his embrace. Then pulled away quickly. “Do you have your Singapore passport?”
“Yes, you have it back in the drawer at the high-rise apartment in Mooloolaba remember?”
“Good I will make a phone call to a representative in Brisbane tonight. You will phone your brother and tell him we will marry there in their presence we’ll have a civil ceremony in your hometown. Can he make an appointment with whoever can do this ceremony and inform us of the time and place? Tomorrow I’d like to go to Australia Zoo. Jade loved that place. Then the day after we’ll get married. I’ll now phone my father and report the time spent here was successful and we’re coming home married. But I’m afraid you’ll have to go through some ceremonies again in Singapore just as you did before with Jade. I’m sorry. I know you don’t enjoy that but this time we’ll moderate it to more Western style for you.”
“Lanfen I’m really happy about this but they’ll probably require some documentation here before recording the marriage legally. I don’t have all that documentation.”
“We had copies on file in Singapore Fei Hong and I brought all of that with me after contacting the Embassy to see what may be required.”
Stanley looked at her with amazement and respect. “You had that much confidence you could persuade me to take my family responsibilities seriously?”
“Not really but it pays to be prepared doesn’t it. We Chinese are very thorough.
Stanley’s family were all represented at the wedding in his hometown and documentation proved satisfactory. The representative from Singapore was present to confirm documentation from that side on behalf of the Embassy. The family were amazed at the exact likeness of Jade in Lanfen and welcomed her into their family membership gladly. Wong Hui and the extended family were there to meet them at the airport in Singapore and began immediate preparations for a ceremony there.
Stanley who everyone in the family including Lanfen now addressed as Fei Hong reveled in the feeling of warmth within a marriage again. It turns out Lanfen had already claimed the apartment at 800 Thomson Road as her dwelling during the time Stanley was away in Australia much to his surprise when he found her things scattered around the apartment on their arrival. The old woman who’d stayed there since moving in to care for Jade continued as part of their family and over time she survived to see two boys born to the union to be followed by a girl. They became the immediate property of the Wong extended family. Both boys had the Wong features but the girl who they named Jade in their aunt’s honor was of Eurasian appearance.
Fei Hong lived to a ripe old age to see his son’s take on the family investment business under careful supervision of Lanfen’s father and Young Uncle in their retirement years. Fei Hong progressively took over from Wong Hui as principal of the consultancy practice on his retirement treating him with the respect normally given a father. Over time with continued use of Mandarin his ease with the language increased to proficiency with only a trace of an accent. He was ever grateful for Lanfen’s intervention and rescue from self-destruction in his beloved Sunshine Coast Australia so long ago as he grieved for her twin, and for the love and devotion given him over their long marriage. The Wong name in this branch of the family would survive into the next generation passing along the noble attributes associated with their name.
© Copyright 2020 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved