Jeannie Lam was 21 and though she was the only child of the Lam’s, she seemed no closer to her parents than any of the 85 workers who worked in the Mr Lam’s real estate empire.
Unlike her parents who came from the slums of Hong Kong and arrived in London during the 1950’s penniless with nothing except their straw hats and worked day and night to finally succeed in building a successful business.
Jeannie had never known this harsh side of life, instead her days as a young girl were spent running carefree in well manicured lawns in the prestigious all girls school in Malvern far away from the stench and grime of China town. Where for over 500 years English girls were trained to be prim and proper ladies – who could always be counted on to sip and not drink their tea or for that matter nibble and not chew on their crumpets.
Her parents seemed determined to mould her into the same image of the people who they had once served, respected and feared; their colonial master’s – the British upper class. However, despite their best efforts all they really managed to produce was a banana – Yes Jeannie was a 5 foot 7 inch tall banana – she was yellow skinned outside, but she was all white inside – right down to her clipped upper class English accent, Laura Ashley clothes complete with a matching Burberry handbag and an amorg* boyfriend. (* Caucasian)
I can’t say I blamed her for her choice of men, after all, even in China town she very much like a fish out of water and no self respecting Chinese man would dare to approach such an independent woman who hardly behaved like a Chinese woman – so it must have come as a great relief to the Lam’s when I propositioned them for the hand of their only child.
Naturally, everyone in Chinatown and even the Lam’s imagined that I wanted her hand because of money, but as the saying goes, “you scratch my back and I scratch yours” and fortunately Jeannie was a gigantic itch that needed much scratching and the Lam’s like the rest of the 1.8 billion Chinese belonged to– the most practical race in human history.
I moved like lightning and by the end of the week – Jeannie had all but forgotten the name of her English boy friend – and she would often be seen by my side dreamy eyed with her head often resting on my shoulder – I wish I could say more but really it was simply that uneventful, had there been a duel between me and this English boy, it would have made a better story, but there wasn’t and I cannot pretend to tell you otherwise.
One day, I simply appeared after her afternoon lectures in King’s college in my expensive Italian suit and slicked back hair. When her eyes caught mine in the crowd, she looked for a moment like someone who felt something stir inside her.
She wasn’t sure what it was, but the impression it had on her was profound. Jeannie Yu was like a moth being drawn to the naked flame of a candle. Every moment would draw her deeper and deeper into the depths of my fiery eyes – heightening her awareness, she was not simply any woman, but the only woman a man such as myself was content to look upon for the rest of all eternity.
In a while, her eyes came to rest on mine and she became quite still, like a lotus on a calm pond. The slight quivering of her lips as they began to part like the moist petals of a lotus after the rains – her eyes watery reflecting fascination and fear like a ripple in moonlit waters gave the impression of woman who was falling uncontrollably in love.
Yet I continued starring oblivious of even time, space or even the English boy at her side who must have said something like “are you coming?” Even then she hardly heard or even cared to look his way.
In a while, this English boy disappeared with the rest of the crowd, leaving only both of us standing by the steps and four body guards standing some distance away. Yet even then, I did not speak and just at the moment when she came to her senses and would be expected to turn away or say something like, “why do you look at me in this way, do you not know it is rude”. Her hands fidgeted with her necklace nervously and just when her eyes tore away and she felt the first wave of embarrassment brushing her flushed red cheeks for having allowed herself to behave in this matter before a stranger.
I moved in with the spirit of a man who was about to pluck a fruit just when it had reached it’s sweetest moment – Jeannie Yu never had a chance, it was love at first sight.
That evening in Chinatown, the body guards recounted this story to the elders one by one whispering to their masters – though they had been sent by the elders to make sure I did not violate the honor of this young girl and to keep to all the covenants of courtship. They served as the eyes and ears of the elders. Throughout the evening these old men would be seen smiling and laughing amongst themselves after hearing about the incident on the steps – one of them would latter turn to the old man and whispered mischievously,
“We are living in interesting times, are we not my friend?”