Hapar, spring, 2017
Most days, Ming was the picture of organized tranquility. She could calm Xiang Hua down with a few whispered lullabies,
quickly change a foul diaper
and successfully put her daughter down to nap
within ten minutes.
Today was not one of those days. Naptime took an hour and she forgot about the noddles on the stove, which were now burned to a crisp.
She did what she always did when stressed, she got undressed. No sooner did her pants touch the floor, did she hear the piercing scream through the monitor.
He was waiting outside, patient as always.
When she finally opened the door, she hoped that he couldn't tell how stressed she was, but the comforting smell of noodles tickled her nose.
"Did you eat yet?" He asked, "I brought food and strong drinks."
He always seemed to show up whenever she needed someone, but didn't know that she needed someone.
He cooed with Xiang Hua and the baby blessed him with one of her rare smiles.
He had been angry at first, when she told him. Not that she was pregnant, or that she didn't know who Xiang Hua's father was, but that it wasn't him.
That possessiveness scared him and he stayed away for weeks. Their friendship growing silent.
In the end, he showed up with food and drinks and they moved on. Neither talking about it,
but both acknowledging that what was in the past, was in the past.
He would come over when the weather was bad, so hat she didn't have to bring Xiang Hua to his place.
He was moving anyway, he said that it was time to have a house worthy of his celebrity status. Ming knew that he wanted too many bedrooms and a large kitchen that he never cooked in.
"Do you think about him sometimes?" she asked, stuffing noddles in her mouth.
He nodded. "Of course, I never met him. I only saw photos of him, but he looked just like me.
I wanted to see him. Not to tell him that I was his father. Poor kid would have been so confused about how his father was also his uncle.
My family didn't have to adopt him, but they did and I appreciate them for that."
"Is that why you started the scholarship?"
"Yea, it was the only thing I could think of...to honor their memory. To honor the type of family that they were. Sometimes I think it is all unfair, but at least...at least they were together when they died."
Ming nodded. Togetherness. It was something her family had been trying to do lately. Since Xiang Hua's birth her parents demanded to see their grand-daughter. They highly disapproved of her origins, they still wanted Ming to do the honorable thing and get married, but as her mother whispered to her "we never thought we would see grandchildren from you"
Ming wondered if that was why Benjamin had inserted himself into Xiang Hua's life. So that she wouldn't know what it was like to not have a father.
At first it annoyed her. Ming knew that she could provide quite well for her daughter, she had a good job and the paycheck to go with it. She wasn't one of those selfish single parents who tried to do the same things they did before having children. She knew that Xiang Hua required much time, patience and love and Ming was willing and happy to give it to her daughter. She didn't want anyone to tsk tsk when they saw Xiang Hua and Benjamin's help and presence seemed to be mocking her at times.
Now she saw that it was something deeper. Benjamin needed them. He needed the stability of greasy noodles and strong drinks in the evening, the predictability of a 2 am feeding. It was his anchor especially as his schedule got crazier during the season and he was on the road more than he was off of it.
He always found something to do while he was visiting,
something to clean
Ming also always found something to do when he visited.
She wanted him to remember that Xiang Hua still had a mother
and a sexy one at that.
Benjamin had a child right before he left Simdale for Apple Valley.