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Thread: The Vow

  1. #1
    Senior Member C Monster's Avatar
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    Oct 2001

    Post The Vow

    Hi Everyone,

    The following is a fanfic that was started ages ago by a person named "Smiley" ... <IMG SRC="smilies/smile.gif" border="0"> that featured two stars -- Maggie Siu and Leon Lai -- a couple which I've always been interested in. It first appeared in Maggie's International Fan Forum, but never got completed. Another writer (Deb) decided to continue it and added the next chapter. Seeing that there's so much potential in this story, I decided to take up the mantle and try to complete the story. So you see, in some ways this is kind of like a Round Robin Fanfic. I'm just now the only person rounding off the edges <IMG SRC="smilies/biggrin.gif" border="0">

    It's not completed yet... but very close to an ending.

    Hope you enjoy! And please give me comments and suggestions. Would really like to hear some feedback.




    Chapter 1

    by <IMG SRC="smilies/smile.gif" border="0"> (aks Smiley)

    An iridescent moon lit up the ebony sky above Hong Kong. Leon Lai sat in his Mercedes, opening one aluminum can after another until he’d downed the six-pack. Beer cooled the burning ache at the pit of his stomach. Beer helped him remember.

    For 364 days of the year he had successfully curtailed all thoughts and forgotten about Maggie. On June 7th, he did pull out the memories, rolled them around in his tortured mind and relived again the golden days of his sweet abandoned youth....

    After five years it astonished him that the memory of her beautiful face still held such power over his mind and heart. Closing his eyes produced a flood of images and a sensation of almost painful pleasure. HE HATED HER, and in the same breath, realized that he will go through the rest of his life and never love another woman again the same way he had LOVED Maggie.

    Normally, Leon Lai lived his life as a well-known, respected citizen, president of Lai Industries, the man who had almost everything.

    Tonight he drank beer instead of whiskey sours. Tonight he wore worn blue jeans instead of an Armani suit. Tonight he yearned for a time long past and the young woman whom he had loved with a passion he never hope to recapture. Leon gripped hard around the steering wheel.

    The happy wonder days, youthful days were swept away by the pain that followed by her deception. He drove down the road that he knew so well in his heart. Unconsciously and without any direction, he found himself parked outside the old house. The house where he and Maggie had been so happy there once… before her betrayal and deception.

    Anger rose within him until the taste of bitterness filled his heart. They had married and had Jimmy there. He could still see her as clearly today as he did all those years ago when she was pregnant with Jimmy. Ironically, she had abandoned him and Jimmy for the money his
    mother gave her. She threw all their love away for ten thousand dollars. On that June 7th, she had packed all her clothes and possessions and left him and Jimmy behind with only a short letter and the necklace he had given her as a wedding gift.

    The ache grew within him until his chest hurt.... God… he'd loved Maggie.

    Leon drove around for what seemed like hours and he went back to the private place he owned. He walked out and took the ax, carrying it deep into the land. He hadn't come here for years and the memories this place evoked were bittersweet. He swung the ax and hit the tree bark with violence, anger, and frustration. He kept on swinging until the huge tree began to fall.

    He stood back. "It's over," he mumbled, chest heaving, as the mighty tree slammed against the earth.

  2. #2
    Senior Member C Monster's Avatar
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    Oct 2001


    Chapter 2

    by deb

    The day was flawless as only in Hong Kong could be in the summer. Maggie Siu stood outside the hotel and her fingers toyed nervously with the room key.

    Nothing was different, but everything had changed. She crossed the street and walk into the Lai Industries building. She had been back for only a couple days. A confrontation so soon would be a very bad idea.

    "Can I help you?" asked a girl at the front reception desk glancing briefly at her.

    "Is Mr. Lai available?" Maggie replied trying to keep her voice even.

    "Oh, Mrs. Lai! I'm so sorry I did not recognize you. Hold on. I will inform Mr. Lai right away." The
    girl said in a rush leaving her desk.

    Maggie waited for a while. Then she heard someone calling her.

    "Maggie, I can't believe it. When did you get to Hong Kong?" the man asked.

    "Oh, hello Deric. How are you? I just got back a few days ago."

    Deric was one of Leon's closest friend and business partner. He was also the only person that understood her situation with Leon and was there for her when she was having trouble during her marriage.

    "How is he?" she asked.

    Deric already knew who she asking about. "He didn't do too well after what happened and after you left. However..."

    The secretary walked over and interrupted him. "Mrs. Lai, please come in. He is waiting for you."

    "I will talk to you afterwards." Deric said with an understanding tone.

    Maggie nodded. She walked in nervously.

    Leon rose from the large oak desk to confront her. Time had altered his dark good looks. The
    brown eyes that had once warmed her with his love were now as cold and grim as the storm-tossed North Sea. He was so cold that dressed in his gray flannel suit he resembled a killer. Cold and cruel. The edge of his mouth twisted upward. "Hello, Maggie."

    "Leon." The oxygen returned to her lungs in a deep breath. She smiled bravely and silently at the chilliness and quietness in the room. They both sat down in their respective chairs like any business meeting.

    "Something amuses you?"

    "No." If anything, the thought should produce tears, but Maggie didn’t. She had stopped crying in years. Leon had taught her that.

    "You wanted to see me?" he began in a cold tone.

    "I wanted to see Jimmy."

    "He isn't here but even if he is. You have no right to see him."

    "What do you mean? I’m his mother. I have every right to see my son." She screamed at Leon for his bitterness.

    "You lost that right when you walked out on him." And when you walked out on me, he said silently to himself. "Why are here now? I'm surprised you didn't ask for more money?"

    "Ask for more?" she repeated, her heart constricting painfully. "No." She wouldn't bother to explain that it had nearly killed her to accept the money. "I'm returning every penny with interest. Tell your mother that I…" She hesitated shaking her head. "No. Don’t tell her anything." Meeting his hardened gaze, she sighed. "Leon, I just want to see Jimmy. I will tell you right now that I will fight and will not stop until I get Jimmy back." She spoke with determination as she got up away from him and the desk, walking toward the door.

    "Fight with me? Maggie, the judge will not let a WIFE and a HUSBAND fight over their child when they are not even DIVORCED." He answered in a low dangerous tone. "You do remember that you are still MY wife and I still have lawful right over YOU and our son. How are you planning to fight that Maggie?"

    Maggie turned back with surprise, swallowing back the nervous lump that tightened within her
    throat. She stood still for a moment and said with confidence, "I can fight you Leon. And I will win this time." With that, she left the room.

    He said not a word, but turned away to face the window that looked out onto the street.

    The gleaming white envelope remained on the corner of the desk as Leon rolled back his chair and stood up. For Maggie to come back to Hong Kong had taken her courage and maybe powered by love for their son. To confront him and return that damn money had cost her a lot of pride. On thing Leon still remembered vividly about Maggie was that she may not have had any money from where she came from, but when it came to pride, she had been the richest lady he knew.

    She had turned back briefly from the door and hesitated when he told her about their legal marriage. Her shoulders had stiffened with resolve as she refused. In that minute it was as if the five years had been wiped away and she was his wife and Jimmy’s mother. She had been so beautiful. And she was just as beautiful today. Naturally, several things about her were different. No longer short black hair. Now, it was shoulder length and professionally styled.

    Maggie had been his first love and he had been hers. Together they had been through thick and thin. They had discovered the physical form of love together and that was when she gave him the most beautiful gift ever, JIMMY. They shared a love so powerful that they had thought they could overtake prejudice, class differences and anything else that loomed in their path.

    Only it hadn’t. Maggie had prostituted herself. God, he had loved her so much he would have willingly given his life for her. And now he wanted to hate her with the same intensity and passion, but discovered he couldn’t.

    The building was empty by the time Leon left his office. The envelope remained on his desk. He would give the money to charity. Money meant little to him. He had it all his life and had never been happy. The only real contentment he’d ever known had been those years when he first met Maggie and during their brief marriage. Now it seemed that she, just like him, had discovered that “money'’ had its limitations.

    Maggie drifted into his thoughts again as he drove to Jessica’s house to pick up Jimmy. Jessica had been his first girlfriend. They had been going out for a couple months before his fateful meeting with Maggie. Most recently, Jessica had been taking care of Jimmy whenever she was free and Jimmy loved to go to her house because of her young nephew, Nick.

    He walked into the house and Jimmy started to jump into Leon’s arms.

    “Dad, you’re late today.” Jimmy said with excitement of a six-years-old boy.

    “Yeah, I was a little busy today. How’s my favorite son today? I hope you didn’t cause any trouble for Jessica today.” He said jokingly.

    “You know I’m a good boy everyday. Can we stay here for dinner dad? Jessica made my favorite soup and she also made sweet and sour chicken for you. She asked me what you like to eat today but I didn’t really know so I just told her that because I like that too. Hope you don’t mind dad, but don’t tell Jessica that or she will be mad at me.” He stopped and looked at Leon’s with his big brown eyes that reminded him every bit of Maggie.

    “Slow down here young man. Of course I mind because you don’t even know what your
    FAVORITE daddy likes to eat. I will forgive you and not tell Jessica if you make me some of your special breakfast tomorrow. Is that a deal or not?” He said in a serious tone.

    Jimmy giggled. “It’s a deal. I’ll wake up early and make you some cereal.” After that he ran and
    joined his friend.

    “You’re late. I should charge you for the hours that you come late.” Jessica teased while handing him a glass of water.

    “Thank you. I know you will not take it because I remembered offering it. Hope Jimmy didn’t cause you any trouble.” He said in polite voice.

    Jessica gave him a small smile. “You know I don’t mind. I love having Jimmy around. Come dinner is ready.”

    “I’ll go and get the boys. Where are Steven and Marianne by the way? Are they home?” Steven and Marianne were the parents of young Nick and Steven was Jessica’s younger brother.

    “NO, they have a business meeting right now.” She answered.

    The boys ran and talked loudly as they sit at the table with Leon and Jessica, having dinner just like one big happy family.

  3. #3
    Senior Member C Monster's Avatar
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    Oct 2001


    The rest of the story is written by me, C Monster. <IMG SRC="smilies/typin.gif" border="0">

    Hope you enjoy <IMG SRC="smilies/read.gif" border="0">ing.

    Chapter 3

    Staring into the warm amber pool of brandy in her glass, Maggie wondered why Leon never filed for divorce under the legal grounds of abandonment. He could have done so after the second year. By now, it would have been approved and finalized, and she wouldn’t be in the sticky mess that she was in now. She poured the stinging liquid down her throat and signaled the bartender for another round.

    It was late. There were less than a dozen people left milling around at the hotel bar and restaurant, mostly couples talking in hushed whispers. A few men had came over earlier with offers of drinks and sweet talk but she waved them away. Tonight she was in no mood at all.

    Eyeing the empty baby grand piano by the corner of the room, Maggie picked up her glass and sashayed over. It had been years since she had touched one of these. Besides her soon to be ex-husband, music had been her other passion. It had been a childhood fancy of hers to one day have the opportunity to go to New York City and study at Julliard, the renowned performing arts school for the gifted and talented. Maggie snickered to herself. What big ambitions from someone who grew up in the impoverished floating fishing villages that moored the docks of the Hong Kong Bay! She thought back. If not for her accident and chance run-in with Master Stevens, her music teacher when she was five, she would have never left the life of the waters to come up on dry land. She had been picking up scrap metal at the boat junkyard to help out her family’s finances. It just so happened that the junkyard was own by Lai Industries. Out of nowhere, a heavy metal beam was about to topple on top of her. Luckily, Master Stevens was there to push her aside in the nick of time or she would have turned into mincemeat. Slightly bruised but still in shock, Master Stevens invited her and her mother and her armful of siblings back to his home to clean up. That piano sitting inside his living room foyer altered her life forever.

    Lifting up the cover, Maggie’s fingers glided across the keys just like one would pet an old beloved teddy bear. Her touch was soft and gentle. The notes rang back was welcoming and soothing like a smile of long lost friend. Maggie began to play, first with reluctance and trepidation, but her old friend urged her on. It had been years, but music was in her blood, as Master Stevens used to say. Her fingers were rusty, but never her heart or soul. They guided her through this night. And she played to her heart’s content imbuing the famous classical piece with the sensitivity and beauty that the original composer had intended. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata had been one of her favorites. The intertwining melody reminded her so much of forlorn love and the quiet passion that still remains. It was a sad haunting piece that broke her heart every time she played.

    Fingering the last few notes, a wave of applause broke across the room. Through her misty eyes, she noticed that a tall figure was standing beside her and the piano. His hands were clapping the loudest.

    He said with admiration and approval, “Maggie, I never knew you could play like that! Where have you been hiding?”

    “Mr. Lau?” She asked recognizing the sweet charm and amiable smile. “What are you doing here?! How did you know…”

    “Where to find you?” Andy finished the sentence. He chuckled lightly like a wind chime tickled by a fresh breeze. Shaking his head and holding his hands up, he explained, “I didn’t. I’m here in Hong Kong for a business conference. What are YOU doing here? You’re not staying at this hotel too?”

    Maggie nodded her head. Today had been a day of strange twists and turns. Her quiet dinner with Deric after the confrontation with Leon brought more questions than answers to light. Never did she imagined that Leon would not explain the circumstances of her disappearance to anyone for the past five years. Either he didn’t care or he never knew what had actually happened that drove her away. According to Deric, she ceased to exist after the day she left. Leon never mentioned her name again and became even more engrossed in his work. He had left Jimmy’s care to his mother initially until two years ago when she got hospitalized from leukemia. Then Jimmy and Lai Industries became the two most important things in Leon’s life.

    And now to run into Andy Lau again, especially in Hong Kong. Andy Lau was the famous defense lawyer in Singapore who had taken on her case when no one dared or cared to. She felt forever grateful and indebted to him for his assistance in putting her in touch with the right people and right places to champion her cause.

    She explained, “I have some personal matters to take care of here. After that I will be back in Singapore to start my life anew. When I do, I will be sure to invite you over to my home for a proper thank you, Mr. Lau.” Her eyes looked away to a far off distance, but her words were spoken with conviction.

    This woman had always been a mystery to Andy even during their few brief meetings together. A very tough cookie to crack. He didn’t remember much about her case except that she was a stranger trapped in a strange land and a simple crime of fake IDs and stolen passports left her with a prison sentence of over ten years. The injustice of the sentencing was what initially attracted him and his firm to her appeal. She and so many others had been so harshly punished by the Singapore judicial system. “Please. Call me Andy. When did you get out?” He asked out of curiosity. Although he was the main contact person to bring the case to trial, most of the paperwork and proceedings were handled by his assistants. It also didn’t help his memory when he had been encumbered lately with personal turmoil in the home front.

    “About a year ago. Florence was a great help. She even gave me a small sum money to help me get back on my feet again.”

    “Hmm. I will be sure to tell her that the next time she demands raise from me.”

    “I didn’t mean to…” stuttered Maggie. Her face colored in embarrassment.

    Andy smirked. “I’m only teasing. It’s good to hear that not all my attorneys are as cutthroat as they’re made out to be.” Switching topics, he remarked, “So. Now you’re making it as a concert pianist? You’re very good! But I’m sure you hear that quite often.”

    “No. Not at all. This….” Pointing to the piano, she tried to explain over her hesitant laughter, “This just happened. Was drinking too much. I used to play, but not anymore.” Picking up her glass of brandy, they walked back to her table. She continued, “Actually, I’m making a living trying to help others who were trapped like me.”

    “You became a lawyer too?!”

    “No.” She corrected with a smile. It was hard to keep a straight face with this man. “I’m involved with a non-profit organization that fight for the rights of the less fortunate.” She went to get her business card out from her purse. She handed it over to Andy.

    Examining the card, he read, “Human Rights Watch. Special Coordinator East Asia. Maggie Siu. Impressive.”

    “Not really. Just a start.” She said modestly.

    “Uh-oh! Not a good sign.” He replied shaking his head profusely.


    “I just noticed. You’ve been answering all my questions with negatives.” He said with a conspiring wink, “What if I told you that I had a pile of money to give away. Would you say ‘no’ to that too?”

    Maggie laughed some more. It sounded just like dew drops dripping on a hazy summer morn. Tonight was turning out to be not such a bad night after all.

  4. #4
    Senior Member C Monster's Avatar
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    Oct 2001


    Chapter 4

    “What is this!?” Leon demanded throwing a pile of magazines onto the conference table. The glossy covers splayed across the smooth surface like wet paint splashing on canvas.

    Deric, who was the only one working in the room, took a quick glance and got up to close the doors. He has rarely seen such emotional outbursts from his childhood friend. Leon always kept everything to himself. Deric answered in a matter-a-fact tone. “They’re pictures of Maggie at a charity function. It says here that she plans to hold a benefit concert to raise money for her organization. She looks very sharp.”

    “I can see that,” fumed he. “But why does it naturally imply here that Lai Industries must be in deep waters and financially unstable if we’re not backing her cause with a single cent? What does SHE have anything to do with my company?”

    “Technically, she is your wife. Some people still remember her as your elusive Mrs. Lai, you know.”

    “But she doesn’t even go by that name anymore. Maggie Siu. She disappears for five years and suddenly comes back making a name for herself by being a goodie-two-shoes.” And in the arms of another man standing next to her in all the photos, he thought to himself. Leon shook his head in disbelief. Within a week of her return, she has turned his tranquil life into a living hell.

    Picking up one of the magazines, Deric began to read the in-depth article inside. He snickered at some of the content. “This gets even worse. It says here that your marriage must have been a sham. Maggie was actually the surrogate mother you paid in order to have Jimmy, your heir to your business. That is why she was gone for so long only to resurface now. That it was a cover-up all along giving you the freedom to pursue your OTHER interests. Which is namely ME. Hah! I’m the love of your life. Wow! How come you never told me that?!” He stared at Leon and winced not sure whether to be angry or sad at this cheap tabloid’s poor attempt at sensationalism. He hoped that Michelle hadn’t gotten wind of this or there would be hell to pay.

    “Let me see that!” Leon grabbed the paper from Deric’s hands. Scanning over, he cursed even more. Throwing it aside, he grabbed the phone on the desk and began dialing. He yelled into the speakerphone, “Laurie, I want you to get me Michael Tao. There is a libel case I’m interested in….”

    A click sounded cutting off the phone line. Deric had pressed the disconnecting button. Leon stared at his friend and asked, “Why did you do that?”

    “Have you given this any thought, Leon? We’ll be playing right into their hands by bringing on the lawyers. We don’t need to exacerbate the situation by giving them more frenzy to feed on. In a few days these rumors will die. Don’t further fan the flames.”

    “But these are outrageous accusations. If we don’t put up a fight, some people – maybe our creditors and clients – might believe them.”

    “I’m sure everyone is smarter than that to believe that crap. I am engaged while you are…. Never mind.” Deric was not going to touch that sour subject with a six foot pole. He thought of a different angle. “Michelle and I are going to be married in two months. You’re MY best man. It’s going to be THE wedding of the year. Everyone knows that you and I are just long-time friends, golf buddies, and the occasional business partners. Nothing more.”


    Deric grabbed his friend by the shoulder. He recommended, “The best way to fight this is to make some news of our own. When was the last time you took Jess out? Michelle tells me that you and her just hole up at her place and have dinner with the kids after work.”

    “How does she know that?” Leon asked.

    “They might not be living together anymore. But they’re still sisters.” Deric rolled his eyes in exasperation. “Take the woman out. Wine and dine Jess at all the fine establishments where the Press goes to dig for fresh gossip. With you and her making the covers, Maggie’s twenty seconds of fame would be over. You do know that the only reason why Maggie’s even getting so much attention is because they can’t get to you. You don’t go out enough!”

    “Why are you so suddenly so persistent in pushing Jessica and me together. I thought you didn’t even like her.”

    “I don’t. Too bossy. But as a future brother-in-law, I have to look out for my best interests. With you occupying more of her time, I’ll have Michelle more to myself.” Deric smiled, but continued complaining. “It’s hard competing with the oldest sibling that has practically raised her and Steven. Think! We might even become related.” He chuckled.

    Leon didn’t think Deric’s jokes were funny. Although he had gone out with Jessica once briefly when they were teenagers, their families were too close for it to have worked out. Even without Maggie walking into his life, he knew soon enough that he only thought of Jessica and loved her as a sister. To be looked after and cherished like any big brother would. He thought he had made it clear to her when they broke up, since they stayed as good friends ever since. When her parents were killed in that freak car accident seven years ago, she had sought him out first for comfort and advice. He had tried to help out as best he could, both emotionally and financially. But at the time, he and Maggie were just starting out and barely making ends meet. His parents had disowned him completely when they found out about their elopement. He, in turn, had cut off all ties with them. However, he remembered telling Jessica to go to his parents for help. The ties between the Lais and the Hsuens ran deep. He was sure that whatever financial trouble she was in his parents, especially his mother, would lend a hand.

    Leon sighed deeply wondering if Jessica might still harbor a hope that their long standing friendship would blossom into anything more. With his frequent visits to her house and her babysitting Jimmy when his mother took ill, it was only natural. Even Michelle and Deric seemed to have thought so. That was never Leon’s intent. Maggie had taken all the love out of him. He had nothing more to give to any woman.

    “Why the gloomy face, old chum?” Deric asked teasingly. “Does the thought that we might become real brothers make your stomach turn? Welcome to the club.” He made a face and began to pat Leon’s back in comfort.

    Shrugging it off, Leon turned and stared at Deric in frustration. “You don’t get it. Do you?”


    He gulped a breath of fresh air and tried to explain. “Jessica and I are not like that. If it was, it would have happened a long time ago.”

    Taken aback, Deric finally pieced the missing links together. “You don’t mean that you still…. Is that why you never….”

    Leon just nodded to all of Deric’s suppositions. He had thought he could when he chopped down that tree two weeks ago. But seeing her again. In the flesh. He knew he hadn’t. Letting go and burying the past were not as easy as he had thought. Five years and she still have the ability to make him boil over.

    After a long silence, Deric said, “I can’t help you there, buddy. But you better straighten it out with Jess. No good in prolonging the inevitable.”

    Leon bowed his head and began to shuffle out of the conference room dejectedly. He knew what he had to do regarding Jessica. As for his wife, it was an entirely different ball game.

    “By the way,” Deric called back, “I had dinner with her that night.”

    Leon paused and turned around to ask, “Maggie?”

    Deric nodded and said, “She seems to be doing well. I know you don’t ever want to talk about it. But I sense that whatever made her leave so suddenly had as much an effect on her as to you.”

    Shoulders straightened, face drawn back to the stoic expression, Leon whispered in a low tone, “Why do you say that?”

    “Just a gut feeling I had. She didn’t say much, but… I don’t know.” Deric shrugged not sure how to continue and debated how much he should tell his friend. Maggie was his friend too. When Leon broke away from his family shipping empire to start his building business seven years ago, Maggie had wanted to help out. But Leon didn’t approve of her being onsite working in the construction project, especially with her pregnant and all. As an alternative, Deric, who was the chief designer of the project, then offered her a part-time job helping out his secretary, Mindy. It wasn’t a lot of pay, but it kept her busy. That was how they got to know one another so well during those few months. It was easy to see what Leon saw in her. Maggie was vibrant, dynamic and confident. She was honest and forthright. You knew where you stand with her, because she always spoke her mind. However, the Maggie Deric saw last week was not the same Maggie he knew. During their stilted conversation, she was polite but withdrawn. An overwhelming sadness loomed over her. She seemed so fragile, brittle even, like a dead tree branch ready to snap. What had happened to her that made her like this? Deric had wanted to know but was too afraid to ask. He stared at Leon deeply wondering how such a once happy couple could come to this. He hoped the same was not going to happen to him and Michelle.

    “What is it?” Leon asked again. This time there was a trace of concern.

    “Your wife’s changed.” He said worriedly.

    “I know that.”

    “No. Leon. You don’t. Maggie’s not the same person you loved anymore.” She’s been hurt. Badly. Deric wanted to say but couldn’t. Maggie would kill him if he revealed that much. He sighed and repeated what Maggie had wanted him to say to Leon. “She told me that she’s determined to get Jimmy back. That she will take you to court if she has to.”

    “We’ll see about that.” Leon uttered ominously before exiting the room.

    Chapter 5

    Maggie checked the piece of scrap paper again to see if the number matched the one on the side of the heavy oak door. A white picket fence circled the three-story townhouse. Lacey curtains hanging from inside the tall French windows and upper terrace doors marred her view. She couldn’t tell if anyone was home or not, but she couldn’t wait to find out. It has been so long! She had dropped by Master Stevens old home a few days ago on a whim fueled by a desire to recollect her troubled past. She had not thought that the current occupants would have the address of where he had moved, but fortune was shining on her side. She dashed across the street, sprinted up the steps and rang the chimes to announce her arrival.

    Master Stevens had been almost like a father to her. Not only did he save her life that day in the junkyard, he also exposed her to an entirely different world and way of living. There was no hunger or violence in his house. Husbands did not hit their wives nor mothers screamed at their young children to go to bed when their stomachs were only half full. Nor did the on rush of a menacing typhoon would come and destroy a boathouse and drown a family at sea. If she had not been at piano practice that day and trapped by the storm, she surely would have perished just like her mother and four siblings did.

    A tall proper Englishman in his early 60’s opened the door. His gray eyes squinted through his spectacles as recognition dawned on him. “Margaret!” he exclaimed in a bright smile. “Please come in! It’s been so long. And you’re just in time for afternoon tea.” His voice was warm and inviting. The smells of fresh raisin scones and apple pies baking permeated the hallway.

    It has been a long time since she’s had this feeling of home, Maggie thought. She greeted in return, “Master Stevens. It’s wonderful to see you too! Sorry for dropping by so unexpectedly. I didn’t have your phone number, only the address….”

    “No need to apologize. I’ve seen your picture covering all the magazines that Victoria reads and was just thinking about you.” He took a closer look and said, “My my, they don’t do you justice at all. You’re so sophisticated and stylish now. No more black leather, dark makeup, and tomboy look, eh?”

    Maggie laughed. “That was more than 10 years ago!” Her biker chick phase was her final act of rebellion before leaving the Stevens’ household. Realizing a career in music was impossible because of her lack of connections and financial support, she did a 180 degree turn and became an auto mechanic, specializing in motorcycles, instead. Everyone in her neighborhood had owned one back then. And being a fast learner and handy person, she quickly mastered the skills to earn a fast buck or two. Of course, being a great motorcyclist helped win customers over too. Maggie remembered that Master Stevens was adamantly opposed to her switch, but there was no use fighting. She wanted financial independence. She owed them enough as is, and when Mrs. Stevens passed away so suddenly with a pile of medical bills to pay, she didn’t want to add to the family’s burden. It also was a means to help her Papa out from his drinking and gambling problems.

    “Has it been THAT long?” He asked before joining in her laughter.

    “Hmm-hmm,” she mused. Another lifetime ago it seems.

    “Well, we can catch up in the kitchen,” he said leading the way. “Victoria doesn’t like to be disturbed when she’s in the middle of her lessons.”

    “How’s Vicky doing?” she asked politely. Victoria was Master Stevens’ daughter. They were close in age; Maggie being two years older. When the Stevens’ took Maggie in given her plight, Victoria never really warmed up to her, deeply resentful that her parents’ love and attention were stolen from her.

    “Same old. Same old. She doesn’t have the talent like you did, but she makes a pretty good living giving piano lessons to the children in this posh neighborhood. That was one of the reasons why we moved here, you know. To make it more convenient for these affluent parents to drop of their pampered kids.”

    At that precise moment, a dark brunette in a slinky black evening gown came gliding down the staircase. Catching her reflection in the hall mirror to touch up on her hair and makeup, she said in a distracted voice, “Pa, I have to run out for the evening. Could you cover for me?”

    “What do you mean? Can’t you see I have a guest here, Victoria?”

    Victoria turned around and caught Maggie’s tepid smile and shy wave at hello. She glared back and said, “Oh, it’s you. Wondered how long it would take for you to land at our doorsteps again.” There was a trace of annoyance and sarcasm in her voice.


    “No, Pa,” she continued lashing out, “Can’t you see she’s at it again? Dividing us apart?”

    Master Stevens’ face turned beet red with anger, but he was without words.

    Finally, hoping to resolve the tension, Maggie stepped in and said, “Uh, Master Stevens. Victoria. Why don’t I come back another time? There’s no reason for the two of you to… to get so worked up… on account of me.” She began to gather her purse and jacket.

    “No, Margaret.” Master Stevens replied firmly in an even voice all the while glaring into his daughter’s eyes. “Victoria, you can go. I will take care of the student.” With that, he slammed the door as Vicky stormed out of the house. He muttered under his breath, “Good riddance. Don’t know who she takes after…” He then turned to Maggie to say, “I’m sorry about that…”

    “No.” Maggie began to apologize. “The fault is mine. I should have called ahead of time and not drop in like this…”

    “Don’t. What’s done is done.” He sighed as he led her to the kitchen. “Come along. Let’s get tea started before this pupil of mine comes for his lesson.”


    Strains of piano music woke Maggie up from her short nap. She must have dozed off when Master Stevens went to the front door to greet his student. Her muscles felt stiff as she got up from the wooden armchair by the breakfast nook and stretched her arms and legs. It wasn’t the most comfortable position to sleep in but hot tea and scones could do that to you when you haven’t slept much in two days, she thought.

    Feeling recharged, she followed the sound of music. Sliding the French doors open, she walked into the living room parlor. In the corner, she saw a young boy’s back huddled in front of the upright piano. Rays of late afternoon sunlight filtered through the windows coloring his dark locks from black to deep brown. His teacher sat nearby in the easy chair, eyes shut, listening. They were in such concentration that neither of them noticed her intrusion. Passing Master Stevens’ chair, Maggie finally picked up his light snores. He had fallen asleep as well! She smiled as she went to stand by the young musician who stumbled on a few notes briefly when he saw that someone else had entered the room.

    Maggie quickly signaled him to keep on practicing while she made a seat beside him. She began to play in synch to his chords but in a lower key, occasionally adding her own rendition to the harmony. That’s one of the wonderful things with Chopin. Two sounded better than one. She whispered to the boy, “You’re pretty good. How long have you been playing?”

    A pause, then he said, “One year and 2 months.”

    “How old are you?”

    “I’m going to turn seven next Spring.” He said excitedly.

    Maggie encouraged, “Now, I’m going to pick up the tempo just a bit. Just follow my lead.” She began to pick up the speed and he matched her wonderfully. She said with approval, “Good. Good. You’re a natural, kiddo. The finale’s coming up. Yes. That’s it.” The last few notes finally keyed out. The two players stared at one another grinning in deep satisfaction.

    A light applause came from behind them. Master Stevens remarked, “Excellent. You two are like two peas from the same pod.”

    “No, you’re much better.” Maggie disagreed examining the boy with delight. She added with a wink, “By the way, I’m Maggie Siu. Nice to meet you. You got great potential!” She offered her hand for a handshake which the young star pupil returned.

    “You think so?” He asked in earnest. “My name is James Lai, but everyone calls me Jimmy.”

    Maggie shuddered as the identity of the young boy sank in. Her face turned white as ash. The words she was about to say froze in mid-air. She only had the strength to give Master Stevens a surreptitious look to see if her assumption was correct. He nodded back discreetly.

    “Ms. Siu, are you all right?” asked Jimmy with concern.

    Master Stevens stepped in to say, “She’s fine. Just a little excited to meet another child prodigy. Did you know that she was just like you when she was your age? Able to play music just by ear.”


    She nodded trying to hold back her tears of joy. She mustn’t frightened him this way, Maggie thought. Finding her voice, she managed to say softly, “Hmm-hmm. I started playing about the same age you did. Master Stevens was my teacher.”

    “Have you ever performed on stage?” His large brown eyes grew with curiosity.

    They stared back just like hers, Maggie thought. How could she not have recognized it? “Yes. Briefly. For a short recital. I wasn’t very good. Too nervous.” She was six then too. Neither of her parents was able to make it to the event. She remembered staring out into the pool of strange faces trying to find them.

    “Wish I could though,” complained Jimmy. “But Ms. Stevens won’t let me. She says I need more practice. But how can I when my daddy won’t even let me practice at home? Just one hour a day here.”

    “Why is that?” Maggie asked.

    Jimmy shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s not like we don’t own one. We do. There’s a white baby grand in our indoor back patio. But Daddy says it’s only an ornament. To look at. Not to play.”

    “Odd. You never told me that, James,” commented Master Stevens.

    “Why? You’re not my teacher anymore.”

    Maggie heard the bite in Jimmy’s tone. He was a smart talented young man, but proud and a bit spoiled. Wonder why, she thought. “Now that’s not the right way to address your elders.” She reprimanded.

    “And who are you?” He directed back harshly staring at her.

    She wanted to say, “your mother”, but she checked herself. She instead said, “I hope to become your friend. As is Master Stevens here. Friends don’t talk to one another like that. Do they? Do you want to be talked back to in the same manner?” Maggie arched one of her brows daring him to challenge her line of reasoning.

    Jimmy gave her words some thought and shook his head. This woman reminded him of someone, but he couldn’t remember from where. She was different from other adults he has encountered in the past. She treated him as an equal – tough, not easily won over with a few cute smiles and adoring looks. He sensed he was going to have to prove himself worthy in order to become a good friend of hers.

    “Thought not.” She then added in a stern preachy tone, “If you want to be treated with respect, you have to be respectful of others first.” There was a wry amusement in her voice though which Jimmy caught.

    He exclaimed, “You sound exactly like my… Master Stevens here!” Laughter broke out in the room, clearing away the brief tension.

  5. #5
    Moderator Suet Seung's Avatar
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    Sep 2001

    Thumbs up

    Oooh! This is such a good start! All the nostalgia and reminscene of the past love and bitterness heartbreak rememberance. I don't like Leon's image right now but in the past with his suit look I can imagine the debonair look in a suit. Each of the chapters capture the moment of feelings and emotion perfectly. Very good! So your writing the rest...does that mean you wouldn't want this fanfic to be an open round robin? If so, thats okay...I'm too busy with stuff and writing my fanfic anyways...
    I just love how you Captivate My Mind

    Self reminder - Update blog more often and continue editing/writing for TOV fanfic.

  6. #6
    Senior Member C Monster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2001


    I agree with you, WhiteKrane. I'm writing from a reference point of Leon in his earlier days. Just think that these two had wonderful chemistry in "The Breaking Point" and "Bing Kuen."

    Yes, I intend to be the one to finish the story... unless someone here have some good ideas and would like to share them.

    Here's more to keep you <IMG SRC="smilies/read.gif" border="0">ing

    Chapter 6

    The sun was already setting by the time Leon got back to his office to pick up the files he needed to go over for tomorrow’s next round of meetings. The staff meeting that ironed out the finishing touches on the Marina One project took longer than he had planned. Checking the calendar on his table, he realized that he would have to pull another all-nighter. The Annual Midsummer Night’s Dream Benefit which Lai Industries helped sponsor was tonight! Each year, Jessica and her events planning firm put together a concoction of fairytales, wishes, and splendor that gets auctioned off to the highest bidder. Whether new Porsches, dream vacations, dazzling pieces of jewelry or meals for two at Hong Kong’s finest restaurants, all were donated. The proceeds raised by the auction would then go to benefit a variety of children’s charities whether UNICEF, Children’s Aid Society or Make a Wish Foundation. By granting frivolous wishes of the rich and famous, the money raised would then go to fulfill more deserving needs of the poor. It was irony at its utmost, an idea that his mother helped dream up years ago, Leon reflected looking at his watch. Just enough time to make a quick trip home and change.

    Tonight, Jessica with her congenial smile and gracious charm was going to be in the thick of things running the entire show. Since his conversation with Deric three days ago, Leon had been too consumed by work to have the talk he had planned with her. Hopefully after tonight’s event, she’ll be in a receptive mood to hear him out on the true standing of their relationship. No matter how much he disliked it, Leon knew that he was going to have to let her down gently, but still be firm and clear that he was not the right man for her.

    As Leon was about leave the office complex heading toward the parking lot, a straitlaced man in a dark olive suit in his mid-20’s came up to him to ask, “Mr. Lai? Are you Leon Lai?”

    Leon nodded his head in response.

    The stranger then pulled out a manila envelop from his briefcase, handing it to Leon. He said in a clipped tone, “My name is Rob Lo, a representative of L & L Associates. I’m told to give this to you personally. It’s a copy of the divorce papers your wife, Margaret K. Siu, requested our firm to draw up along with a petition to the courts for the sole custody of your child, James Lai. Please consult your attorney promptly and have him contact us. Thank you and have a nice day.”

    With that, the man waved down an oncoming taxi and quickly hopped on, leaving Leon alone on the street dumbfounded pondering what had just happened.


    Speeding in his Mercedes on the expressway, Leon quickly dialed his best friend’s number. “Hi, Deric? You can’t believe what just happened,” he said harshly into the mouthpiece. “I was just served. What?! Divorce papers. From HER,” he barely grounded out. “Of all the… How dare she! When I…. What?! Your voice is breaking up….” Through the traffic and tall buildings he was passing by, Leon was having difficulty hearing what Deric was saying at the other end of the line. “Deric? Are you still there? Good. Listen. Can you do me a favor and get hold of Michael Tao for me? Tell him that I’m going to swing by his office early tomorrow morning to drop off the papers for him to look at. I want him to find me the best. Yes. Thanks a million! (A brief pause.) Yes, I remember. The benefit’s tonight. That’s why I’m going home. To change. I’ll see you there. Look, the tube’s coming up. I’m going to have to go. Good-bye.” The call ended abruptly. Leon pressed the gas pedal harder as he entered the tunnel.


    “What took you so long?” Deric asked in a friendly manner. He escorted Leon to their reserved table inside the grand ballroom of Wyndham Court, one of Hong Kong’s glitziest hotels.

    “And you’re not getting paid enough? When did you start moonlighting as an usher?” Leon quipped back. He took in the room with a sweeping glance, noticing the fancy ice sculptures, ornate flower settings, classical string quartet playing in a corner. Jessica had out done herself again. From the place settings, décor and lighting, everything was assembled to perfection, weaving a fairytale land of fantasy and dreams. This time, he saw some guests had even come dressed up in their favorite childhood characters and heroes. What surprised him most was that everyone was wearing a mask. He then asked, “How come no one told me this is a masquerade?”

    “Even if you knew, would you dress up or even come? That was why I was standing so patiently by the entrance waiting for you.” Deric dug into his trousers pockets and pulled out a black satin mask that just covered the eyes and nose. “Hope this will do.”

    “How come you’re not sporting one?”

    “Jess graciously volunteered me, Michelle and a few of the non-essentials to act as greeters and hosts.”

    “Really? Where is she? You guys need any help?” He volunteered hoping that that may keep his mind occupied from stewing over less palatable topics.

    “Nope. We’re all covered. Jess is back in the kitchen doing the final tasting. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. The bidding should start in about an hour. If you want to take a closer look at some of the smaller pieces, you’ll find them in the adjoining room. Look another wave of people’s coming. Gotta go. I’ll catch you later.”

    “How?” Leon pointed to the mask he now wore.

    Deric smiled archly. “Don’t worry, buddy. You stick out in any crowd like a sore thumb.”


    The smaller showroom was jam-packed with mainly gawkers sprinkled with a few true appreciators of the fine art and jewelry on display. Maggie – in a long sleeve elegantly cut blue-gray ball gown with white faux fur trimming on its scoop neck collar and cuffs – stood out from the rest of the ladies in their less conservative and more colorful attire. Her only touch of extravagance was the iridescent pill-box hat and short veil that reached down to her nose over the sparkling silver feline face-mask. She had not expected to see such a crowd when she accepted Andy’s last minute invitation yesterday. His cousin from L & L had a few extra tickets to this grand fundraising gala, and Andy jumped at the chance thinking that it would be a great opportunity for her to do some networking and research for the benefit she’s putting together next month.

    Since bumping into him two and half weeks ago, Andy has become a great friend, confidant and ticket to accessing the movers and shakers of Hong Kong’s high class society. He’s a Singaporean with a Hong Kong heart, Maggie thought. While his law practice was in Singapore, he visited this city often due to deep family ties and love for the new and exciting. Just watching him interact with the other guests and approach each item up for bid with such zeal and delight, Maggie understood why he preferred Hong Kong to his native born city that had too many restrictions on decorum and manners. Under normal circumstances, she would have done some mingling too, but tonight her mind was too preoccupied and stunned to do anything more than grin and nod courteously. She still found it hard to believe that she had been sitting next to her baby Jimmy earlier playing the piano together! Thinking back, she beamed even more brightly.


    Across the crowded room, Leon caught sight of the regal lady and her platinum smile. A smile so hauntingly familiar that he blinked once then twice to make sure. My mind must be playing tricks on me again, he thought. When Maggie had disappeared from the face of this earth five years ago, there were many occasions when he thought he saw her face or heard her twinkling laughter lingering everywhere. It was only later when he found out from his mother the pact sealed between the two that his delusions stopped. Now having met her again so recently, Leon can not imagine Maggie ever smiling at him in the same affectionate and teasing manner as this woman was with her husband. From this distance even with most of their faces concealed, he suspected that this couple was having a much better time than he was. When they left through the exit at the other end, he turned his attention back to some of the jewelry pieces on display. Hope Jessica would like the Cartier diamond earrings as a congratulatory and sweet parting gift, he mused somberly.


    “So, what caught your fancy in there?” Andy asked as they made their way back to their reserved table.

    Maggie shook her head. That’s not who I thought I saw in there, she hoped otherwise. Like a bucket of cold water splashed to her face, all her former giddiness and joy were washed away. Their eyes locked briefly when she walked through the doors with Andy’s arm in tow. Even through the mask, Maggie recognized his angular profile, tall frame and lean built. As always, his intense probing stare made her feel flustered and jittery all over. She lightly touched her veil and mask to make sure they were securely in place. She crossed her fingers praying that she would make it through the night without any further encounters – no matter how brief – with him.

    Noting that Maggie had fallen into a silent mood, Andy asked again, “Is everything all right?”

    She managed to find her voice and reassured her charming friend. “I’m fine. Just feel a bit lightheaded. Probably from the champagne. That’s all.”

    “Well, you better eat something then. I’ll go to the snack table to see if I can find something.” He offered gallantly.

    She placed her hand on his and said, “Don’t, Andy. I think the show’s about to start. By then, the first course will be served too.”

    “How do you know?”

    Regaining more of her composure, she perused the menu card she had been distractedly toying with on the table. “It says it right here.” The lights began to flicker as more guests took their assigned seating. She and Andy directed their attention on stage. The MC was getting ready to make the announcement. In a shimmering short gown of lavender and blue, Maggie could see that it was Jessica Hsuen dressed in a Fairy Queen costume with diaphanous wings and wand. Ah, she wondered, so that’s why she found her enigmatic generally press-shy husband here tonight.


    Chapter 7

    The rest of the evening passed by smoothly. The show and silent auction that followed was a success. When the final numbers were tallied up, it appeared that even last year’s record amount of money raised was broken! Given the economic downturn, Jessica was thankful that it had no affect on the generosity of the guests’ hearts and wallets. Inside the dressing room, she worked feverishly to shed her fairy wings and some of the glittering makeup. Although Leon had promised to wait for her while she went backstage to congratulate everyone and give some more last minute instructions on the clean up, she did not want him to wait too long.

    When Jessica came back into the main ballroom, she saw that almost everyone of the 300 guests that was here were now gone. It was a little after midnight and the hotel staff were diligently clearing the tables and taking down the decorations and displays. Over at one of the side tables just left of the center stage, she spotted Leon sitting all alone. He seemed to be preoccupied with staring at someone that was sitting at a table located near the ladies’ room. She waved to catch his attention. Leon got up from his seat to meet her half way by the main doors.

    She said, “Sorry to keep you waiting. Where’s Deric and Michelle? Aren’t they coming with us?”

    Leon shrugged. “They came over right after you disappeared to tell me that they’re too tired to wait and wanted to head home first.” His attention was still focused on the man.

    She asked curiously tipping her head in the same direction, “You know him?”

    “No. Not personally. But I think I’ve seen his face somewhere. Not sure where exactly,” Leon lied. If his hunch was correct, that man look like the same man pictured next to Maggie in all the recent tabloid magazines. Does that mean she was here as well?, he wondered shaking his head. Turning back to Jessica, he said sincerely, “Forget about him. You, on the other hand, has been the star of the show. Congratulations on putting such a fine evening together! I knew when my mother passed the baton to you, you wouldn’t disappoint us.”

    “Thank you, Leon. Despite all the work, I’m really delighted that it turned out so well.” She said proudly.

    “I’m sure.” He paused to inhale a deep breath. He then said, “I realize it’s late, but before we head back to my car, do you mind going for a light stroll with me in the gardens by the reflecting pool? There’s something we need to discuss. In private. I promise it wouldn’t take long.”

    Not exactly sure what Leon was planning, Jessica acquiesced and followed his lead. In the back of her mind, she hoped it was the declaration that she had dreamt about hearing.


    Maggie cautiously walked out of the ladies room. She, who had wanted to make a speedy getaway as soon as the program ended, had to excuse herself to the restroom to fix her contacts. No longer able to blend in with large crowd, she hoped the hotel was now devoid of anyone that could recognize her. Blinking her eyes rapidly trying to wipe out the tickling sensation in the back of her left eyeball, she spied Andy waiting for her sitting by a nearby table.

    “You all right?” he asked while getting up from his seat.

    She nodded her head, surveyed the room and breathed out a silent sigh of relief. “Thanks for waiting. Looks like you and I are the only ones left. You must think I’m the clumsiest person around. First the champagne made me tipsy. Now flying contacts.”

    “No,” he said with a bemused smile. “Far from it. You seemed to be the most prepared person I know. Who would have thought there were a pair of glasses in that tiny handbag of yours?”

    His observation brought a chuckle to Maggie’s throat. “That comes from experience. As you can see, contacts don’t always agree with me.”

    “I hope that applies only to the seeing sort and not people, especially me in particular,” joked he.

    “Ha ha. Very clever. Now I know how you got your law degree.”

    “All right. Bad pun aside, what did you think of tonight?”

    She reflected, “Extravagant, but very well done. If my event can be half as successful as this, I’ll be very happy.”

    “Anyone you’ve met here that you would like to add to your list?”

    “I’m not sure since everyone was wearing masks. Got a few business cards, but…”

    “…it would be great if we can get hold of a copy of their guest list?” Andy completed her thought.

    “How did you know?”

    “Like minds think alike. We’ll see. We’ll see.” He flashed another smile. “But first, let’s head back to our hotel. Hopefully, the limo is still waiting for us.”

    She said appreciatively, “Thanks, Andy, for everything. Your invitation, efforts, and enthusiasm. Sometimes I think you’re doing more work than I am. I don’t know how to thank you enough.”

    “Aw shucks. You’re making me blush.” He kidded around before explaining more honestly, “With or without you, I was going to come here anyway. And now, you’ve made my evening even more memorable. If these meager efforts add in anyway to the success of your benefit, so much the better. You know how much I enjoy your company.”

    This time it was Maggie who was blushing profusely.


    A soft breeze blew over a fine mist of water toward Leon and Jessica. The gardens turned out to be done in the style of a tropical rain forest filled with oversized plants, palm trees, ferns, and exotic orchids. The mist emanated from the dramatic fountains gushing out from the reflecting pool nearby. Palely lit by a trail of small lights on the stone floor, it offered an intimate and serene atmosphere just twenty feet away from one of the city’s busiest intersection to the freeway. Leon let out another sigh, unsure how to broach the topic.

    Jessica turned around and stared directly at him. On the outside she appeared patient and calm, but inside, her heart was pounding, pulse racing eagerly anticipating for what he was about to say.

    “Jessica,” he began seriously, “we’ve been friends since childhood and you know me…. I’m never one to come up with fine, flourishing words…. But believe me, I really appreciate all the work and dedication you devote to this event every year. If mom came, she would be so proud.” He then dug into his trousers’ pocket and pulled out a small black velvet box. “It isn’t much. Consider it as a small token of gratitude.”

    She inhaled sharply as he snapped the case open. Inside was a pair of sparkling diamond earrings that hanged in the shape of a dew drops. “Leon,” she gushed, “how beautiful! When I first saw them in the catalog, I fell in love with them. Then I found out that Cartier were going to give them up for auction, I nearly… How did you know? And you overbid me too.” She grinned from ear to ear. He handed the box to her and she accepted readily, delighted to try them on.

    “I’m glad you like them. Looks like I made the right choice.” His eyes turned briefly away and saw a limousine slowly passing by the garden’s perimeter barely separated by the tall iron gate.

    “Did you!” In her excitement, Jessica rushed over to embrace him tightly and bestow a soft stolen kiss on his left cheek. She had wanted to give him something more, but his body had stiffened. Annoyed, she looked up to find out what had happened, and met a pair of the darkest, most brooding, and stormiest eyes she ever encountered staring off to a distance. She turned around and saw the recipient of Leon’s penetrating gaze. It was the face of a woman – lost, startled and embarrassed – staring back. Someone she recognized immediately but never dreamed of ever seeing again. As quick as the image flashed in front of her, the face soon disappeared again behind the tinted window rolling up. Then, the limo slowly turned the corner and merged with the rest of the city’s traffic.

    Jessica met Leon to gauge his reaction. The hard flint in his eyes was gone now, replaced by a cold and withdrawn expression. She asked, “That was Maggie, wasn’t it? She was at the party? When had she come back in town?”

    Leon responded by nodding mutely. All thoughts had since been swept away like a giant tidal wave crashing into shore. All he felt was deep hot broiling emotions of her betrayal and abandonment. But he reined in his control to keep it from surfacing. Seconds before, he had not only caught sight of Maggie in the car, but the profile of that man as well. So, he thought, that was why she’s in such a rush to divorce me. We’ll see about that, he mused spitefully.

    Watching that brief sneer crossing his face, Jessica started again, “I can’t believe it. After all these years to turn up like this. Have you talked to her? Do you know what she wants?”

    “Yes,” he replied in a calm even tone, “she came to me a few weeks ago demanding her rights to see Jimmy.”

    “Did you?”

    “Hell will freeze over before she gets to lay her hands on my son.”


    Back inside the limousine, Andy saw the myriad of expressions flickering across Maggie’s face. He reached and squeezed her gloved hand in comfort, and discovered that her fingers had turned ice-cold. “Maggie, is everything all right?” It seems to be his running question for this entire evening, he bemused.

    Maggie drew in some more deep breaths, unable to believe what had just happened. She had been so close to escaping without notice, but a button switch in the car and her curiosity had cost her. She felt like a kid getting caught stealing from a cookie jar. She winced again, then schooled her face to a resigned expression. What was meant to be will be, she thought to herself.

    “You know them, don’t you? The woman looks familiar.”

    “She should be. You were staring at her all night.” She replied in light humor. Andy gave her a questioning look before she continued explaining. “The Fairy Queen? MC? Her name is Jessica Hsuen of Hsuen Designs Inc. The planner behind the revelry.”

    “Ah, I remember now. The well-known home fashion designer famous for her impeccable taste and gracious charm. Coined as the younger, hippier, East Asian version of ‘Martha Stewart’. Without the wig, makeup and lighting, she looks different.” Maggie nodded. He then inquired, “And the guy she was with?”

    “That’s Leon Lai of Lai Industries. His company is the chief sponsor of the benefit.” She managed to keep her voice even and dull.

    “The shipping and real estate development magnate?! I didn’t know he was so young. Mid to late 20s?”

    She answered straightforwardly, “Thirty-one to be exact. Only child. He took over the company about four years ago when his father, Ming Lai, passed away in a heart attack.”

    “His mother is Meredith Lai, right?”

    “How did you know?”

    “I think my aunt might have mentioned her name in passing. They’re contemporaries, I believe. Moved in the same social circles before my aunt relocated to Singapore. Two years ago, she paid a visit to Hong Kong to see her friend. I helped with the travel arrangements. If I remember correctly, my aunt mentioned that Meredith was diagnosed with leukemia. How sad. First the father, now the mom.” He remarked out loud.

    “Leon came very late in their lives, almost when they were in their fifties. Mrs. Lai’s never been of very good health. They went through a lot in order to have this son and sole heir. The last I’ve heard, the cancer is in remission and her condition has stabilized.”

    Andy arched an eyebrow. “You seem to know them quite well. This is a passing fancy or do you do such thorough background checks are every prospect you’re thinking of pursuing?”

    Maggie stifled a nervous laugh wondering why he hadn’t made the natural connections yet. “Lai Industries will never support me.” Nor would I want anything, except that is rightfully mine.

    “And why not?”

    Being a forthright person who never shied away from the truth, Maggie thought it best that Andy got the facts directly from her. “Guess you’re not one to follow the gossip columns,” remarked she casually staring out the tinted window. Images of flashing lights, tall buildings zooming by reflected in her eyes. “Know about the scandal that rocked the family five years ago? Leon’s wife – a woman whom the parents never approved of – disappeared suddenly….”

    “I think I remember now. An older woman of poor social standings who had lured the good obedient son away from the fold.”

    Only by a few months, Maggie bit back from saying. From the way he put it, the months seemed to span into years, decades even. She scoffed silently. And for her, their marriage might as well be another lifetime ago. If not for Jimmy… She sighed and went on, “Yes. Anyway, they have a six-years-old boy together. James Lai.”

    “Don’t you have a son by the same…” He started to ask as realization crept in.

    Maggie admitted wryly. “Yes. He’s the child that I hired L & L to fight for custody. I’m the siren from the gutters that Leon wound up marrying.”

    Andy’s face colored with embarrassment while he made amends. “Jeez. I had no idea. I’m so sorry…”

    “No need, Andy. ‘But chi jie but jue.’ (There’s no fault in ignorance.)” She attempted to smile. “Actually, I find it quite comforting to know that Rob hasn’t shared my secrets to anyone. Not even to the cousin he so admires and respects.”

  7. #7
    Senior Member C Monster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2001


    This is the rest of it. I had wanted to finish this in 10 chapters... but there seems to be too many loose ends to tie up to do so. Maybe -- 12?

    Please give me feedback.


    Chapter 8

    A few days later, Leon sat in the reception area of Tao & Lam LLC waiting impatiently to discuss the divorce proceedings. He wanted to concentrate on the Marina One project files that he had brought along to look over. The launch event was scheduled for next month and there were many details to map out. However, he was too distracted by Michael Tao’s animated voice over the phone to concentrate on the charts, diagrams, and number projections before him. Michael seemed zealous in his latest discovery, and assured him that the custody battle over Jimmy will be a no-brainer for any judge. How had he put it? Leon tried to remember. Yes, the final nail to Maggie’s coffin. When he first heard the imagery, he almost choked. He was bitter over what has happened between them, but he would never go so far as to wish for her death.

    “Mr. Lai,” the secretary called from her desk. “Mr. Tao’s ready for you in the conference room.”

    The clock overhead said it was already 4:30 in the afternoon. He packed his files away, got up, and made his way through the double doors. Michael and another man were already up from their chairs to greet him.

    “Sorry to keep you waiting, Leon,” apologized Michael with a smile. “We just wrapped up a long distance call. Let me with the introductions. This is Bowie Lam. My co-partner and the best man to handle your case. You said you wanted the best, and believe me, if I was going through a divorce, I would want only him. Bowie, Leon Lai of Lai Industries.”

    “Nice to meet you, Mr. Lai.”

    “Likewise, but please call me Leon.” They exchanged the customary handshakes and took their respective seats.

    “So, ” began Bowie while ruffling through the highlighted sections of the petition in front of him. He breezed through the details quickly and succinctly. “I went over the papers. And given the five years separation between you and the Plaintiff, Margaret K. Siu, the divorce will be finalized in a matter of weeks. Since I didn’t find any request for any kind of alimony payment, that’s one less thing to worry about.” He chuckled under his breath.

    Leon was about to interrupt, but decided to wait until the lawyer finished. Bowie was too rapt up consulting his notes to notice anyway.

    The attorney droned on. “As for the sole custody of the minor child you and she have together, James Lai. I see no reason why the judge would not award you custody since you’ve been the sole caregiver and economic provider all these years. Compounded with the fact that it was the Plaintiff who had left and abandoned the child, I don’t see any argument the other side could present that would be in their favor. It’s odd really. Why she would spend the money and go through the trouble of bringing this case to Court. Unless, of course, there are some extenuating circumstances that have not been brought to our attention….”

    “Namely?” Leon eyed suspiciously.

    Bowie shrugged, wondering how best to phrase the next few questions. “Well, evidence that shows you have not been as good of a parent as you appear on paper. Economically, you are well qualified. However, sometimes a judge might look for less tangible factors such as emotional support, love, guidance etc.”

    “What are you saying?” he responded harshly. “That I’ve been neglecting my son!?”

    “Well, given your demanding work schedule, it’s something the Plaintiff’s attorneys would probably bring up. You have a close relationship with your son, right?” Leon nodded. “Good. Then there’s nothing to worry about when the judge ask him who he wants to live with.” Bowie continued with his list of questions. “Are you or have you been intimately involved with anyone?”

    Leon shifted in his chair and countered, “I don’t see how that has anything to do with being a good parent.”

    “No,” agreed he. “But if you are or have plans of marrying again in the near future, it would mean that James will no longer be reared in a single-parent household. Some judges go for that, you know. And if the converse is true then that gives the other side a stronger leverage. By the way, do you know whether or not the Plaintiff’s in a relationship with anyone currently?”

    “That you’ll have to ask Maggie directly.” Leon’s eyes narrowed. “But it’s always been my understanding that we’re still legally married and that any intimate relationships developed outside the sanctity of this marriage are to be considered as acts of adultery.”

    “Yes, that is correct, Leon,” said Michael finally. “But given the circumstances, the long separation and all, it’s natural to conclude that….” He stopped when he met the frosty glare in his friend’s eyes. You always knew when you’ve crossed the line with Leon, he thought. Even during their college days together with Deric, Leon knew how to have fun and played along in all their pranks and banter, but when it comes to their private lives, he was always on guard and evasive. Shaking his head, Michael explained, “Bowie just wants to cover all the bases. That’s all.” He turned to his partner and suggested, “Why don’t we tell Leon about our recent discovery? With this, there’s no way we’re not going to bag this one.” His eyes grew round with excitement.

    “What is it?”

    Bowie cleared his throat. He began by asking, “In these past five years, do you know where your wife’s been residing?”

    “Yes. First in LA, then San Fran, after that New York. Most recently in Singapore.”

    “You’re right about the last one,” he replied, “but that’s the ONLY place she’s been. It appears that during our normal background search, we found that five years ago, she was detained and indicted in Singapore for the illegal use of false identities and the possession of a stolen passport. They handed her a ten year sentence.”

    “What!?” Leon almost jumped up from his seat. “That’s impossible!”

    “That’s what I thought,” jumped in Michael. Throughout the course of Maggie’s strange disappearance, he remembered seeing the gossip columns reporting on the occasional Maggie sightings or two at all the cities Leon just listed. How she could have landed in jail was unfathomable. “But as we traced her steps backward starting with Singapore, the trails just ends. It looks now that’s where she’s been all this time. It also turns out that it is L & L’s parent law firm that had handled her appeal. They were able to gather enough supporting evidence that knocked the original sentence down by half. With good behavior, she got out of jail about a year ago.”

    Never in his wildest dreams…. He couldn’t believe his ears. In a deadly serious tone, he declared, “You’re kidding, Michael. If this is one of your silly practical jokes, I’ll tell you right now it’s not funny at all.”

    “No joke, Leon. I even checked with some friends of mine there to make sure. The report is conclusive. We just got off the phone with some folks in their Records Office. Pulled a few strings and they’ve agreed to fax over a summary of her case on file to us – the investigation, trial proceedings, sentencing, even the appeal. Once they find it, that is.”

    Clearly shaken by this revelation, Leon was mumbling softly to himself. “But Mark… the forwarded credit card reports… Mom’s admission… How? Why? None of this makes any sense.” Maggie’s been incarcerated for all these years? Then who was the woman Mark, the private detective he hired, was tracking from the get-go? And her note, the ten thousand dollars exchanged between his mom and Maggie? What does this all mean? His mind reeled rapidly with all sorts of possibilities and scenarios. From afar, he heard Michael trying to console him that they would know more once they get the file. But, he wasn’t sure if he had the patience to wait that long.

    “You know what this means,” continued Michael while Bowie nodded at his partner’s assessment. “This puts the custody battle in an entirely different ball game. With this information, we can declare Maggie an unfit, incompetent mother….”

    “That won’t be necessary,” Leon snapped back pointedly.

    It was the lawyers’ turn to be surprised. “What do you mean?” Bowie asked. “This will help us immensely.”

    “I had been wanting to tell you earlier. I have no intention of granting the request for divorce. And without it, there’s no custody case.”


    After leaving the law office, Leon switched his cell phone back on. He disregarded the pips that told him there were voice messages waiting for him and quickly dialed Deric’s number. “Hi, it’s me. Just got out. Deric,” cutting off his best friend’s questions on the other end, “you mentioned that you had dinner with Maggie, right? Did she by any chance give you a number for you to contact her directly? Don’t ask. I’ll explain later. Do you have it? I did, but Michael said that they only have her lawyer’s number.” A short pause. “No, huh. Thanks anyway. Could you patch me over to Laurie’s line then? Thanks.” Another pause. “Hi, Laurie. No, I didn’t check yet, but I want you to cancel the rest of my appointments for the evening. I’m not coming back to the office. Something’s come up…. What!? No, I had no idea. Which hospital? Good. I’ll call Yvonne for an update. Thanks, Laurie. It’s already past 5. You can call it a day. And yes, I’ll have all the files read by tomorrow. Bye.” Then he clicked for his phone’s directory and scrolled down to find Yvonne’s number. Yvonne has been his mother’s nurse for the longest time. “Hi, Yvonne? How’s she doing? Good. Doctor Cho was there? Good. No, don’t. Tell her when she wakes up that I’m on my way. Thank you.” After hanging up, he saw an available taxi passing by and hopped on quickly.


    Inside the private suite at Saint Mary’s Hospital, Leon sat patiently by his mother’s bedside waiting. Her left arm was wired with an IV tube, medication drops and monitoring devices. In the past few months, she had started to gain back some of the weight she had lost from fighting the cancer. But for Leon, it was still difficult to accept that the once stubborn, fierce, and formidable matriarch and backbone of the Lai empire has now been reduced to this frail old woman with wispy white hair and sunken cheeks lying before him. Although his mother had always been plagued by various maladies, she had never let her health stop her from leading a full satisfying and normal life. Her body may have been weak, but her will to live was strong. No one dared go against her wishes, not even his late father, Ming Lai.

    That task, Leon chortled to himself, had been left for her dear beloved son. He still remembered that deadly malicious glare she gave Maggie when they met for the first time. It had been in the third month of their stormy and passionate relationship. He already knew that this was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Kind-hearted, independent and full of pride, Maggie exuded confidence, sophistication and honesty that the pampered princesses he knew and grew up with in his social circle clearly lacked. She never suffered for fools and would tell them so gladly. Her sharp tongue and ready wit and humor cut everything down to size. It was one of the first attributes that attracted him to her. Her pixie-like beauty, luminous eyes and dazzling smile came to play a little bit later, because, as he remembered, he had thought she was a young lad in their first encounter.

    She was crawling out from beneath his prized motorbike, face smudged with grease and grime, and wiping her dirty oily hands all over her jumpsuit uniform before she shook his proffered hand. Her hair was much shorter back then, curly, with bangs that just came to her large glowing eyes. Like any master mechanic, she had been running off a litany of the repairs that needed to be done in order to get his bike back into shape while he was taken aback by the soft, melodious cadence of her voice. It was then that he realized his mistake. He remembered offhandedly muttering, “You’re a…?”, in which her response had been a perked eyebrow and nod to say, “Do you have a problem?” He then shrugged because he didn’t know of any other auto shop around where he lived. With that, he then caught a wisp of her enchanting smile and heard her whispering mysteriously, “Neither do I then,” all the while staring at his beloved wreck of a bike.

    The night before, he had been racing to win back the title of being the unspoken bike master of Windy Slopes and his bike had taken a serious beating. The title had meant nothing to him, but since his short return from college abroad, he was thirsting to regain some of the freedom that he had lost and took for granted while not under the watchful eye of his parents. With the wind whipping across his face, the race had been both exhilarating and liberating. His opponent was good, but there was no clear victor. A rematch had been set in two weeks.

    Unbeknownst to him at the time, Maggie the mechanic turned out to the same daredevil he had been challenging. Of course, she knew of the full irony. That explained her ominous parting words of their first meeting. For him, he found out the truth two weeks later when she beat him to the finish line and saw that mirthful look of satisfaction on her face. To this day, Leon smiled to himself, he will never know for sure whether or not she took advantage and doctored his bike to throw the race in her favor. Given her strong ethics and professionalism, he didn’t believe so, but it was hard to tell with Maggie.

    “What are you so smiling about, darling?” Meredith whispered in a hoarse voice wanting to share in the delight she saw in her son’s eyes.

    Caught off-guard, Leon blinked slowly a few times then answered, “Nothing, Mom. I’m just glad that you’re okay. I spoke to Dr. Cho. He’s still waiting for the test results to come back for a complete diagnosis. But for now, everything seems fine. What happened, Mom? Yvonne said you were fine one minute, but something startled you that made you faint away.”

    Meredith’s eyes clouded over. She hesitated a bit before replying. “Don’t believe everything that girl tells you,” warned she. “It must be a side effect of the new medicine Dr. Cho gave me. Either that or I should have eaten something before taking then. Anyway, no harm was done to this sturdy pile of old bones.” Switching topics, she looked around the room and inquired, “Where’s Jimmy? He hasn’t come for a visit in such a long time.”

    A million questions flashed through Leon’s mind as he remembered his earlier meeting with the lawyers. Questions he wanted answers to but he knew was pointless to prod when she was in this evasive mood. That is one trait he inherited from his mother to a fault. Seeing the strain on her face, he stroked her right arm lightly and said, “It’s a school night. Jimmy has a lot of homework to do. I’ll bring him to visit you this weekend, all right? Get some more rest. I’ll check up on you again tomorrow morning.” And she nodded her head slowly before falling back to sleep.


    Chapter 9

    The sky rumbled and flashed streaks of anger as it wring down another tumult of water. Trapped in a taxicab for over fifteen minutes, the only movement had been the steady rocking back and forth of the windshield wiper across the front window. Maggie tried hard to stay calm and not let her brewing anger get control of her. Screaming at the driver for taking a wrong turn and heading straight toward this traffic jam was not going to help. Neither was cursing the heavens for this sudden and unexpected summer rainstorm. She thought to herself. Her clothes were soaked all the way through. Her hair was dripping wet and her eye shadow and mascara ran down her cheeks like a cross-eyed panda bear. She snorted at herself when she caught sight of her pathetic reflection in the rear view mirror in the car.

    Today started out bad and has gotten progressively worse. The first thing Maggie found out when she got into work this morning was that her supervisor had relieved her of all the duties regarding the benefit concert that was scheduled to happen in three weeks. What she had spent over the past month planning has now gone the wayside. She had put in long days and nights from getting a preliminary invite list to clearing names with all the bureaucracy involved to finding the right venue and guest performers to the publicity to…. She fumed bitterly. The reason her boss Angela had told her was that her name – Maggie Siu – was attracting the wrong kind of attention. It seems that while the concert has been the talk of the town for weeks, the ticket sale had been extremely slow. With the economic downturn, no major companies had been secured to underwrite the expenses incurred for the event. Additionally, her superfluous ties to Lai Industries have caused the press and just about everyone to speculate and assume that this mysterious husband of hers would come and drop off a huge chunk of change and turn the entire party into a roaring success. She chortled again, remembering the ashen color of Angela’s face when she stated adamantly that Human Rights Watch should not expect help of any sort from this sly and vindictive man who has done every possible means to….

    The desire to scream at the top of her lungs and exalt all her frustration shook her again. But as always, her tight control forced her to do the opposite. Taking a deep gulp of air, she swallowed the fury back to the pit of her stomach. Two can play this game of cat and mouse, she thought to herself.


    Leon stared at the mountain of files laid in front of his desk. Gone for three weeks and just got off from the plane, he didn’t know how he’ll ever be able to catch up. When that oil tanker accidentally ram into his ship off the coast of Madagascar, a cataclysmic explosion occurred. Not only was the entire vessel destroyed along with its cargo, but the entire crew that were unlucky enough to be onboard had quickly perished as well. Twenty men gone, leaving behind widows and children in a blink of an eye. Upon hearing the news, Leon immediately flew out there to make sure all the arrangements, condolences, insurance and compensation packages were handled properly. Because it was a local ship from the region, he stayed a bit longer to help the grieving families there cope and attend all the funeral proceedings. It was all part of the “human face” that his father had instilled in him since he was young.

    He closed his eyes to rest, but all he saw were painful faces of mourning and shattered dreams. Their loss was so deep and final that nothing – no amount of money – would ever make things right for them again. How fleeting and fragile life was? Every day that he was gone, he had made it a point to call Jimmy and tell him how much he was loved. Although Leon was sure that his son might now think his old man has turn into sentimental fool, he realized that there are certain things that can never be said enough.

    And there are so many things left unsaid between them. Leon sighed deeply. With Jimmy in mind, thoughts of Maggie soon followed. In the time away, he had made it a point to get to bottom of what had happened that led to her incarceration in Singapore. The overnight package of her case file that Michael Tao obtained from the Singaporean Courts and was kind enough to forward to him while in Madagascar helped to shed some light, but there was still so many unanswered questions. What was she doing there in the first place? And why did she never contact him when she got into trouble?

    He had asked Mark Kwok, the PI he originally hired, to do some more digging. And what he eventually discovered was disturbing. As it turned out, the woman that Mark had been asked to follow was not the real Maggie, but someone who look very much like her. From the pictures, they could almost pass of as twins in fact. Somehow this mysterious lady must have stolen Maggie’s passport, credit cards, and credentials while she was in Singapore and switched them with hers. Later, she began to use Maggie’s name and identity, impersonate her, and thus managed to throw everyone, including Mark, off Maggie’s original trail. All the trekking and sitings of Maggie that was reported from across the globe was not her, but this imposter! But who is this person? What is her history and background? Leon has seen and heard of people looking alike. But it seemed all too coincidental for this doppelganger of Maggie’s to be found in the exact time and location as she was in Singapore. Also, this stranger had been able to fool and lead everyone on for over five years! How could he have been so stupid!

    But what about Maggie’s letter and the ten thousand dollars? What role do they play in all this? Clearly, Maggie must have had every intent on leaving when she wrote it and packed up all her things five years ago? She also seemed well aware about the pay-off money from his mom and unspoken agreement. The check Maggie had dropped off over a month ago that he has kept locked in his desk drawer as a memento of her betrayal was proof of that. This would mean that this mystery woman only stepped into the scene only to waylay Maggie’s true desire to abandon him and their child. Or could it be something more?

    Looking back, Leon realized that, like this unexpected trip, he had been called away somewhere when Maggie had disappeared that fateful day. When he got off the plane and opened the door to their house, he had fully expected a warm welcome and embrace from her. Instead, he was greeted with an empty home and that cold letter. He then called his parents and made sure that baby Jimmy was safe and sound left in their care. After that, he remembered his frantic and desperate search for her all over Hong Kong to see if they could talk things through and work to salvage their marriage and relationship. An entire month and he came up with nothing. During that lonely period, he never stopped wondering what went wrong between them that drove her away like that. Everything had been so perfect before he left. Yet when he returned, his entire world was torn apart. The manner in which she left was so unlike the straightforward Maggie he knew. She had loved Jimmy so much! Over one and half years old, Jimmy had been showing all the signs of precocious child. Able to walk, talk and learn faster than other kids his age. Much of it was due to Maggie’s devotion and careful rearing. They had been such proud parents. It was really hard to believe that she left her baby just like that despite what that letter said. That all the pressures and confinement of motherhood was draining all the life out of her! And now she wants to wrestle Jimmy back from him!? Leon shook his head. None of this make any sense!


    A dry, more refreshed Maggie stepped out of the elevator doors of Lai Industries’ main offices. That was one of the smart things she did when she booked the hotel room so close to his office building. After the taxicab dropped her off at the hotel, she immediately took a hot shower and lined up her best suit out for this engagement. With hair blown dry and fresh makeup in place, Maggie had on her most stone cold expression like an armored soldier going to war. A dark cloud of anger loomed over her as she headed toward the reception desk. This time the receptionist recognized her on sight.

    “Mrs. Lai,” she uttered nervously. To which, Maggie just nodded. The girl then swallowed deeply and asked, “How… how can I help you?”

    Maggie replied, “I’m here to see Mr. Lai.” Her eyes pinned squarely onto those of the girl. She was not going to take no for an answer.

    The receptionist got the silent message and gulped again. “He… just got back from a business trip. I’ll go and tell him that you’re here.”

    “No need. I know where his office is.” Maggie was about to step pass her.

    The girl stammered out. “But. But.”

    Hearing the anxiety in her voice, Maggie relented and let the young lady be the first one to escort her in.


    Leon was still in deep contemplation when a soft knocking on the door interrupted him. He looked up and saw that Deric had already made himself at home in his office.

    Deric greeted cheerfully, “Welcome back! Old chum!” Seeing the strain on Leon’s face, he toned down his excitement and asked, “Everything all right?”

    Leon sighed again. “As right as things can be. Given the circumstances.”

    Deric nodded. “Well, I just wanted to drop by to say that I’ve been good and was holding up the fort on this end. Nothing out of the ordinary happened while you were away. Those files there (pointing to the mountain on the desk) are just for show. To tell you all the work I’ve done.” He winked slyly.

    “Humph! We’ll see about that!” Leon felt a smile creeping up his lips. No matter what his mood, his best friend’s good humor and sunny personality always had a way of rubbing off on him.

    Before leaving, Deric turned around and said, “Oh yes! Almost forgot. Michelle and I just got the proofs for our wedding pictures back. There are some we want to redo. Well, not we. More like Michelle and Jess. Anyway, we had scheduled to retake them this afternoon, but with the rainstorm the studio just called to change it for tomorrow. You’re a part of it too. I already cleared it with your secretary, Laurie. “

    “Hold on a second here! What are you talking about? What wedding pictures? Proofs? The last time I recall, you two were supposed to marry next month. What happened?”

    “We still are! I’m talking about the studio pictures. The ones we – you, me, Michelle and Jess – took the week before you left. The proofs came back. The girls didn’t like some of them and want to do them over….” Deric paused when he saw the two people about to enter the room. He greeted the first one in a friendly gesture. “Hi, Monica! No smile…” He then recognized the other one following close behind. He whispered out, “Maggie!”

    Hearing her name, Leon stood up immediately. Hanging by the door frame, he caught sight of his estranged wife’s killer face. Their eyes locked. The tension in the air was palpable. Like mice, Deric and Monica filed out and closed the door behind them.


    Like the last time when they confronted each other in this room, Leon was the one who spoke first. This time, however, his greeting was a bit more warm and inviting. “Hello, Maggie. How can I help you?” He said while offering her to sit down.

    “Help?!” scoffed she coldly. Chuckling sarcastically, she mused, “Yes. You’ve been a great help.” Maggie saw the flicker of confusion crossed his face and took the seat in front of her. Leon sat down as well.

    Pass the piles of paper, Maggie spied the loving picture of their darling boy that laid facing Leon on his desk. That cute and adorable half-turned smile of Jimmy’s was so familiar. Just like the father now sitting before her in his younger. happier days. Closely examining the long haggard face and bloodshot eyes, she realized that time had matured Leon considerably. Gone was the innocent, bright and starry eyes that had been filled with such hope and optimism for the future. Now, all she saw was this deep look of quiet authority and grim acceptance. If they had met for the first time today as they are now rather than seven years ago, she was sure their relationship would have been very different and probably for the better. Not as lovers but more like friends, Maggie decided for them. Or even passing strangers on the street. Who knows?!

    “Maggie?” He asked softly. It was disconcerting to have her watch him like this. Leon had sensed her anger upon her entering the room, but it soon dissipated when she sat down. For what reason, he was still waiting to find out. But that was one of the things you can always count on with Maggie. Her face was easy to read like an open book. The harder she tried to keep it expressionless, the easier it was because all of her feelings would then brim through her deep dark soulful eyes.

    As if on cue, Maggie decided to tear down all the invisible walls between them and get to the straight honest-to-God truth. She declared bluntly, “I came here today for some answers. Why Leon? Why won’t you grant me the divorce? We’ve been apart for over five years. Isn’t it time for both of us to move on?”

    “Move on?” He repeated numbly.

    “Yes. Move on with our lives. I don’t understand. I thought with me out of the picture you would have divorced me a long time ago on the legal grounds of abandonment. You should be remarried by now. With Jessica. With anybody. Not like this. Never like this.” She shook her head as tears began to form over her eyes.

    “Why?!” He arched a brow as he lashed out bitterly. “Why would I want to do that, Maggie? Go through the hell of marrying someone only to have her walk out on me like the way you did?” He had not meant to be so harsh but the words just tumbled out uncontrolled.

    She gasped suddenly when she saw the pain in his eyes. She got up from her chair and walked away to face the wall of windows that was on the left side of the room. Hugging herself tightly, she fought the trembling in her body. The storm had long since stopped, but gray clouds continued to hang over the Hong Kong skyline obstructing her view of the ocean. She said quietly almost to herself, “I’m sorry. It was wrong of me to have left you like that. But what was done is done.”

    “What’s done is done.” Leon repeated her words dejectedly. Staring at her backside, he then asked, “But don’t I deserve a reasonable explanation as well?! You said that you came here today for some answers. Well, what about me? I’ve been waiting for five years.” He worked to keep his voice even and low, but the gamut of emotions that he had been keeping dormant all this time was bubbling over like an overfilled dam.

    “My letter to you explained everything. What more do you want?!”

    “Really? All right then. Forget about the letter. What I want to know is where you’ve been all this time?”

    “Why should you care?” She quipped back in bitter sob.

    “Care? Maggie!” He walked to the windows where she was standing and grabbed hold of her from behind. “You’re my wife! For Christ sakes,” swore he as he embraced her wracking body tenderly but tightly. “Why was I never told that you were in jail all this time!?”

  8. #8
    Moderator Suet Seung's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2001

    Thumbs up

    Hehehh! I like the turn of events! Please update sooon. I'd like to know if Leon's mom had anything to do with Maggie's imprisonment. Anyways, good story!!! <IMG SRC="smilies/drool.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/wink.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/biggrin.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/smile.gif" border="0">
    I just love how you Captivate My Mind

    Self reminder - Update blog more often and continue editing/writing for TOV fanfic.

  9. #9
    Moderator Suet Seung's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2001


    CMONTSTER: How come you don't update anymore?
    I just love how you Captivate My Mind

    Self reminder - Update blog more often and continue editing/writing for TOV fanfic.

  10. #10
    Senior Member C Monster's Avatar
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    Oct 2001


    Hi Everyone,

    Don't know how many people are actually reading this piece of fluff. But here it is! Hope you enjoy. Comments are always welcome. I had thought it would end in 10 Chapters, but it seems to be inching along to make a dozen.



    Chapter 10

    “In jail?” Maggie managed to croak out in protest. “What are you talking about?” She worked her hands in between his so she could break free.

    Her struggle only made him pull tighter. He turned her body around to face him directly. He confronted squarely, “Don’t deny it, Mag. I know everything.”

    “Let go of me, Leon!” She cried out as she wrestle herself away from him. Seeing the tears and tumult on her face, he reluctantly loosened his grip. She sprung back immediately putting at least three feet of distance between them. Wrenching her feelings in, she met his gaze and asked back almost tartly, “Since you know everything, why ask me then?”

    “Don’t play games with me! You know full well what I’m talking about. Why Singapore? What were you doing there? How did it happened? Why did you never get in touch with me even when you got into trouble? Did you think that I was so spiteful to not come and help?” He fired back. You left me with a broken heart. That only proves I’m not the heartless bastard you seem to make me out to be. He said to himself.

    Shaking her head, she whispered sadly, “No. Never that.” And I did try. You just never heard me. She thought to herself silently.

    “Then why?”

    “Leon,” she replied before expiring deeply. In a hollow voice, she continued, “What is the point in knowing the why’s, what’s and how’s? It won’t change a thing. The fact is that I did leave you and Jimmy. What happened afterwards is my business.” The last sentence was whispered like a tender caress, but it contained the finality of a pair of steel doors slamming shut. Maggie turned back to the vista outside, wrapped in her own arms and world.

    Her dismissal enraged him further. Usually he was the one who did the shutting out, not the other way around. What right had she to barge in here expecting answers when she won’t do the same?! He looked at the same direction she was staring and caught her reflection in the window pane. Streams of tears flowed from her eyes, and despite everything, it pained him greatly to see her hurting so much. His anger diffused. He whispered emphatically from behind, “What are you hiding, Maggie?”

    She ignored the question and began to rock on the balls of her feet, back and forth. She chimed to herself, “What’s done is done. A promise made is a promise kept. I’ve made through the worst of it. Letting him know now would only make everything all for naught. Be strong, Maggie! Be strong!”

    Seeing her like this, Leon spun her around by grabbing both her shoulders. He peered into her bewildered eyes and cried out worriedly, “Maggie! What’s wrong?!”

    That got her attention. Blinking slowly, she shrugged and replied lucidly and resignedly, “I’m going back to Singapore next week. And I’m withdrawing my request for Jimmy’s custody. However, I would still like our divorce to be finalized before I go.” Without a job and stable home, Maggie knew rationally that she would never win the custody battle. Also for her son’s best interests, Jimmy have a much brighter future with Leon than with her. Having spent more time with Jimmy in the past weeks during his piano lessons at Master Stephen’s home, she soon discovered that her baby has grown up to be a lovable, sweet, charming young boy, much to the credit of his father. When in prison, she was plagued by guilt and haunted with visions of a neglected child crying for his mother. That was why she returned and went ahead with the law suit. Now to see for herself how happy he was, Maggie did not have the heart to uproot her son from his familiar surroundings and take him to a strange country where she will be struggling with her new life.

    Like a rug pulled from underneath him, this sudden about face threw Leon off completely. He gasped, “What?” Narrowing his eyes, he asked accusingly, “It’s him. Isn’t it? This sudden desire to divorce. Move on! So you can marry HIM?!”

    “What are you talking about? Who?!”

    “That lawyer friend of yours. The one I saw you leaving the party with.” And plastered in all those tabloid.… He spitted out as he turned away to stare out the windows.

    “You mean Andy? Andy Lau. He’s not…” Maggie stopped. There was no need to explain. From the look on his face, she knew that Leon had already made up his mind that she and Andy were an item. He made it sound like they were carrying on an illicit affair behind his back when she never gave much thought to his. How dare you?! An idea struck her. She said resolutely, “Yes, Leon. I want a fresh start. I think you should too. My lawyer and I have discussed it. Even without your agreement, the separation papers have been filed. After two years, our marriage will be legally over. I just wanted to save us both the hassle.” She walked to her chair and picked up the handbag she had left sitting there. Leon’s back continued to face toward her. He may not be able to face the truth, but she will. For them both.

    Sighing deeply, she went on. “Five years is not a long time nor a short one. Luckily, we’re both young. We still have time for a second chance in love and happiness. Don’t let what happen between us turn you away from finding yours.” Quietly, she went across the room to open the twin doors. Turning around for one last time, she found herself staring directly at Leon’s intense gaze. He said not a word, but she saw the turmoil in his eyes. She finally broke away and directed her attention to the thick azure carpet beneath her feet. She then said without any hesitation, “Please apologize to Deric for me that I’m not going to be able to make it to his wedding. It’s about time he and Michelle tied the knot. I wish them all the best. I’m sure you and Jessica will make a great ‘best couple’.”

    In a hoarse voice, he asked again, “What did happen? Between us?” Her withdrawn expression said everything. He nodded and murmured to himself, “I know. I know. Let it be.” Shoving his hands into his pocket, he added almost ominously in a low whisper as she walked out, “Mag. You might not have taken our vows seriously. But I’ve always and intend to continue to honor mine.”


    By the piano keyboard, Maggie stared in reverie at the crown of dark hair that moved in tune with the gentle sway of the music. The warm mid-afternoon sun beaming through the French windows bathed her and Jimmy in a sea of glowing light. His bowed head, concentrated face and flying fingers across the keys made the scene more poignant. He played with such intensity and feeling! This will be one of the many cherished memories of her precious baby that she will bring back with her now.

    Once the last notes finished, Jimmy looked up at Maggie with earnest eyes expectantly. She nodded and smiled brilliantly back. With a light pat on his shoulder, she said, “You’re getting better and better every time I see you. Pretty soon there wouldn’t be anything more for me to teach you.”


    “Hmm-hmm. As long as you keep practicing with the proper techniques, posture and the guidance of Master Stevens or Ms. Stevens, you’ll be a pro.”

    Jimmy felt lightheaded hearing her praise. In the past month and a half, Ms. Siu had been an extremely difficult and demanding interim teacher. She was strict and always honest in pointing out the faults in his playing. Yet at the same time, she was great fun to be with. Her choice in music scores were never dull or stuffy like Master Stevens, but enchanting and cool that challenged him in the right way. She was also very attentive and caring unlike Ms. Steven’s cold and aloof personality. Ms. Siu generally came by Master Stevens’ house at least two times a week and he looked forward to her company every time. This week had been extra special because she was here every single day. He wondered out loud, “Ms. Siu, do you think I would be able to make it to this year’s Junior Recital Concert?”

    She asked, “I’m not familiar with it. Could you tell me more about it?”

    At this time, Master Stephens came into the room with a tray of hot tea and baked goodies. He shook his head and reprimanded, “Jimmy. You’re one of the few students I know who seems to excited to perform in front of an audience. Everyone else generally have to be dragged into it. Aren’t you afraid at all?”

    The young pupil shrugged. “I want to know how I am compared to others. You may say that I’m excellent, but that’s only in your eyes. There might be others out there much better than me.”

    “You don’t trust our judgement then?” Master Stephens countered back.

    “It’s not that. It’s just that…”

    Looking at her boy and former teacher, Maggie interrupted, “Could one of you please explain to me exactly what this is?”

    Her teacher replied, “The Junior Recital Concert started out as a way for young performers in classical music to gain some experience in public performance. Founded by the Hong Kong Philharmonic, its original goal was to encourage and foster young talent. However in the past ten years or so, the JRC has turned into a heated competition in which young children pit their skills amongst their peers in order to gain a prized spot at the concert. In order to get in, each performer must submit an application with parental approval, and go through a rigorous round of tests and preliminaries. It’s not very different from other talent search contests around these days.” He turned to the boy and asked, “Your father has agreed?”

    James shook his head. “He’s been too busy. I wanted to ask him on the phone last week when he’s was away, but I lost my nerve. He sounded so troubled that I didn’t want to add to his problems. Now that he’s back, I still hardly see him.”

    “Well, if your father says yes, I don’t see any reason why you can’t do it. Margaret, what do you think?”

    “I agree with Master Stephens. You certainly have the talent and skills. It will be a good experience for you. No matter the outcome. Too bad I’m not going to be here to help you through it.”

    “What! You’re leaving!” exclaimed the child and the old gentleman.

    Maggie nodded. “Yes. I’ll be flying back to Singapore this Monday.”

    “This doesn’t have anything to do with….” But before Master Stephens could finish his question, Maggie shook her head in warning to stop and mouthed the word “later” in his direction.

    “You can’t leave. Ms. Siu,” pleaded Jimmy whose eyes were downcast. “Whose going to help me select my score?”

    “Jimmy,” she sighed turning her attention back to her son. “As I said before. I don’t have anything left to teach you. Most of what I taught you I learned from Master Stephens and my own experiences. I’m not even a real teacher by training.”

    “But I need you.”

    His bright eyes blinked adoringly beseeching her to reconsider, but the decision was final. “No, Jimmy. You’re going to do fine without me.” Maggie’s own eyes began to tear up hearing her words spoken aloud. It’s for the best, she said to herself. She ruffled his soft hair gently and said, “You’re a wonderful talented young man. And I know you know it. Just remember to play what you feel and you’ll have no problem. Music speaks from the heart and soul. There are no lies. Just the absolute truth.”

    “Be honest to yourself and to the music.” He recited softly the simple phrase she often used when trying to get her point across.

    Maggie nodded again. “Right, son.” Hearing him say those words, she wondered if she made the right choice in keeping her true identity from him. She sighed deeply. Telling him now would make the parting worse. It would mean loosing his “mommy” all over again. This time he would be fully aware of her betrayal and abandonment. At least now, Jimmy will always remember her as a good friend and not filled with anger and bitterness toward a mother who was never there for him all these years. She choked back on her unshed tears. Speaking with fervor, she promised, “Tell you what, Jimmy. Once you make it to the recital. Which I’m sure you will. Tell me when and I will be sure to fly over just to hear you play.”

    “Really? You’re not going to go back on your words?!”

    She raised her three fingers in the air in the form of a pledge. “Scout’s honor. But if you still don’t believe me, we can shake on our pinky fingers to close the pact. I never go back on that.”

  11. #11
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    Cool! Chapter C Monster! So sweet and so <IMG SRC="smilies/sigh.gif" border="0"> emotional...hehehehe.. <IMG SRC="smilies/sigh.gif" border="0"> Please update some more...!!! I'll always support you!! <IMG SRC="smilies/thumbsup.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/thumbsup.gif" border="0"> Even if there is no other least you still have this loyal reader here. I'd like to see what happens next between Maggie and Leon...
    I just love how you Captivate My Mind

    Self reminder - Update blog more often and continue editing/writing for TOV fanfic.

  12. #12
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    Cool! Chapter C Monster! So sweet and so <IMG SRC="smilies/sigh.gif" border="0"> emotional...hehehehe.. <IMG SRC="smilies/sigh.gif" border="0"> Please update some more...!!! I'll always support you!! <IMG SRC="smilies/thumbsup.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/thumbsup.gif" border="0"> Even if there is no other least you still have this loyal reader here. I'd like to see what happens next between Maggie and Leon... <IMG SRC="smilies/drool.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/azzangel.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/biggrin.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/wink.gif" border="0">
    I just love how you Captivate My Mind

    Self reminder - Update blog more often and continue editing/writing for TOV fanfic.

  13. #13
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    Thanks WhiteKrane for your contining support. I think you're my one and only fan out there.

  14. #14
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    Sorry this took so much longer than I expected. The second to the last chapter to this short story that is taking forever to complete.




    Chapter 11

    Leon sat on the cool white piano bench deeply entranced at the tattered photograph in front of him. A moonless night with a sprinkle of glistening stars above, it made the glass atrium even more dark. The only source of lighting came from the small lamp on top of the baby grand piano.

    By day, this was an active room serving as the warm incubator for the assortment of plants that decorated his home. Leon was not an expert horticulturist by any means, but he knew his housekeeper Glen was and made no efforts to dissuade this hobby. Also being that he rarely have time to venture to this section of the house, Leon never mind the changes Glen made to it. Since the last time, he did noticed that the plants’ arrangements have been changed yet again. This time the pots sat against both side walls making the normally airy barren room more intimate and inviting. The piano which was the only piece of big furniture was placed in the center of the room a few feet off from the sliding glass patio doors which empty out to the deck and back garden. From where Leon was sitting, one could discern all the way to the distant hedges that hide and divide this property from the next. Although there was no breathtaking ocean views facing this side of the home, the small wading pool, if filled, would have promised the same lulling and relaxing tranquility and peace that water represented.

    However tonight, Leon was too busy ruminating to notice such details. Taking another sip of the bitter whiskey, he placed the tumbler on the piano ledge to stare at the picture once more. It was not an old photo but well-worn with ragged corners and creases. It showed a young woman with dreamy eyes who was looking so lovingly at the bundle of hope nestling in her arms. A picture of Maggie holding Jimmy when he was just a month old, it was probably the only keepsake he brought back with him from the old house. He rarely looked at it since it was well hidden underneath the keyboard cover of the piano that everyone was forbidden to touch.

    Jimmy was so bald then with a few tufts of hair on the top of his head, Leon reminisced. But you could never tell that from the picture. Maggie had made sure he was safe and warm wrapped in his baby blue blanket from head to toe. Underweight and always prone to sickness, Jimmy had been a handful from the start. He cried relentlessly during the first few months, but Maggie was always so patient and gentle with her baby boy. The photograph was taken outside in an open field a couple of miles away from their old home. A majestic oak tree stood in the background giving shelter and breeze from the beaming sun. Their tree of promises, Leon remembered. The same tree he recently chopped down on the night of the fifth anniversary of Maggie’s departure during a drunken haze.

    The light pitter-patter of small feet broke his reverie. Leon looked up to see a timid boy creeping his way from the shadows of the hallway toward the light. He was also dragging a big soft stuffed rabbit by its ears with one hand. The doll was only slightly smaller in size than he. Leon gestured to invite his son to come over and sit on his lap. Without any hesitation, Jimmy hurried over and jumped in making himself comfortable next to his father. He rubbed his eyes sleepily before looking up. “Daddy, what are you doing here? Why are you not in bed?”

    “Shouldn’t I be the one asking you that? I thought I had you tucked in nice and tight.” Leon replied with a light smile on his lips.

    “Need to go potty. Couldn’t find you. Saw light. So I came down,” muttered Jimmy incoherently.

    “Do you still need to go?”

    “Went. Before I asked Bunny to come with me.”

    “Bunny’s here to protect you then?”

    The young boy nodded. Soon he caught sight of the photograph in his father’s hand. He remarked excitedly, “Hey, that’s me! Isn’t, Daddy?”

    “Why do you say that? You remember taking it?!”

    “No, but there’s one exactly like it hanging in my room with just me in it. That’s Mommy holding me, right?” James barely whispered the question knowing how upset his father could get whenever he asked questions about her. This mysterious mother who left him, never to return. The little of what he knew came mostly from overhearing his grandma’s phone conversations and mumblings with her friends through the years. He remembered Grandma always referring her as “the heartless gold digger” and was all too happy that she was gone from their lives.

    Leon nodded silently. He had forgotten about the other picture, the close-up of Jimmy, that he had taken that same day.

    The boy continued shyly. “Too bad I don’t remember her. She’s very pretty. Looks like Ms. Siu. Except Mommy’s hair is short like mine while Ms. Siu’s long.”

    Wide-eyed, Leon stared at his son’s head and asked deliberately in a low and steady tone. “Jimmy, who is this ‘Ms. Siu’ you’re referring to?”

    “Ms. Siu’s my new piano teacher. She’s really good.” Playing with the floppy ears of his Bunny doll, Jimmy added dejectedly, “Too bad she can’t…”

    “What happened to Master Stephens?” cut in Leon. “I thought he was your teacher.”

    “He still is. You see, Daddy. Ms. Siu was Master Stephens’ pupil when she was the same age as I am. He thought it might be a good for me to learn from her and share her childhood experiences playing with me. Even though she says she hadn’t practice for years, I think she’s still pretty cool.”

    “How long has she been teaching you?” He kept his voice even, but a steady stream of conjectures and suppositions were already forming in Leon’s mind.

    “Not long. Maybe for about two months.” Jimmy noticed a sudden stillness in his father’s hold. “Are you mad, Daddy? I’m sorry. I wanted to tell you. But you were so busy. Then the trip, I never got the chance.”

    “No, I’m not mad. Just curious.” He managed to say reassuringly. However, he added, “I trust Master Stephens enough to know that he won’t leave you alone unattended with a complete stranger. By the way, this Ms. Siu has a first name, right? What is it?”

    “Master Stephens calls her ‘Margaret’, but I think she prefers ‘Maggie’ for short.”

    “Really?” Leon responded automatically.

    “Huh-huh. When we first met, she introduced herself as ‘Maggie Siu.’”

    Leon only half heard what his son was saying. His mind running in a tumult of anxiety, frustration and perplexity. Never in a million years could he believe that his wife would play him as a fool for the second time around. She had been in constant contact with Jimmy all along. Since her first days of arrival to Hong Kong. No wonder she seemed so nonchalant and cold when she said that she won’t be fighting for their son’s custody any longer. At the time, it already struck him as odd that she made her decision without even asking for a chance to meet Jimmy personally. A piano teacher, my foot. A foreboding thought crept in. No, she would never do that. Would she? Leon turned suddenly to Jimmy, grasping his arms tightly. “I would like to be finally introduced to this new teacher of yours. When is your next scheduled lesson?”

    “This Tuesday. But, Daddy, she’s not going to be there. She’s leaving on Monday. We said our good-byes already. This afternoon.”

    “Monday? But…” Leon sighed deeply. So, his instincts were right. Maggie would never stoop so low as to kidnap their child. But does this mean she loved Jimmy too much to not want to put him through it or not at all because he will only be a burden to her? He shook his head trying to stop this chain of conflicting thoughts. Leon never thought of himself as a suspicious and paranoid person, but when it comes to guessing Maggie and her motives, his steady sense of logic gets tossed out the window. Backtracking, he realized that Jimmy and his music teacher could possibly provide him with some of the answers he’s been seeking.

    “Don’t look so sad, Daddy. You’ll still get to meet her. Later. When she comes back and hear me perform at the Junior Recital Concert. She promised. That is, if I make it in.”

    “Junior Recital Concert?”

    “Yes. I’ve been wanting to ask you. That’s why I came down here.” With a little hesitation, Jimmy took a deep breath and explained it all to his dad including the application form and parent’s permission. “So, could I do it? Could I?”

    “Hold on a second, son. Before I sign anything, I’m going to have to talk to Master Stephens first.”

    “But he’s already agreed. I only need your permission.” He protested. His face turning into a pout.

    “I understand, Jimmy. But I need to get some things straightened out first before I can even say ‘yes.’ Look, it’s already really late. We should both be in bed. Tomorrow morning, we’ll call Master Stephens and see if we can swing by for a short visit before we see your grandmother. Then the two of you can persuade me on the merits of this contest. Remember, two mouths are always better than one. What do you say?” The father offered his hand out for a gentleman’s agreement, and the son smiled before shaking it heartily.


    “Thank you for inviting us over. Jimmy and I rarely get a chance to enjoy a full English breakfast together.” Leon took another deep sip of his cup of brewed tea. “This is delicious.”

    “Here, have some more.” Master Stephens picked up the teapot to pour some more. “You with your busy lives. Everything is made for convenience sake. Instant this. Instant that. Did you know even milk and cereal can be repackaged into a candy bar?”

    “Thank you. No, I wasn’t.”

    “Didn’t expect you to. The head of Lai Industries to be found rummaging through the aisles of a supermarket. What a great photo-op that would be for the tabloids.” He teased lightly.

    Leon smiled back warmly enjoying the cool crisp breeze. Breakfast had been set up on the patio deck outside the backyard. He could see Jimmy playing with catch and fetch with Master Stephens’ cocker spaniel, Rusty. They were running around in circles on the small lawn. Seeing them play like that brought back memories of his own youth. He had a dog once too and it was Master Stephens who would come over to have breakfast with his father on weekends to discuss about business, politics and other worldly matters. “Remember Grouch?” asked he.

    “How could I forget! That mangy monster of yours always snarling. He almost bit my hand off when I tried to pet him the first time.” Master Stephens remarked.

    Leon laughed. “He would never do that. Just a warning not to come too close.” Grouch had been a hound he had found wandering on the road near his parent’s old mansion when he was twelve. Lost, hungry and probably abused by his previous owner, it took a lot of coaxing and patience to win that dog’s trust and loyalty. Even then, Grouch stayed apart from the rest of his father’s pack of dogs which was how he got the name Grouch. Leon was the only one that dog paid any attention to. For six years, that dog would follow him like a shadow.

    “What ever happened to him anyway?”

    “He died of old age during my first summer break from college.” Probably didn’t want to go through the separation again, Leon thought. His parents hold told him while in school that the dog was hardly eating, just laying around waiting for him to return.

    “I missed those years. Right before you went abroad.”

    Leon nodded. Although never neighbors, Master Stephens had been a steady influence in his childhood. He even volunteered to teach him the piano, but Leon refused saying that he would rather tag along on fishing trips than to stay cooped up inside banging on a keyboard. The longstanding friendship and business ties with his father, Master Stephens came over often, but always alone because his mom and Mrs. Stephens never got along. “I know. Mrs. Stephens had gotten really sick at the time.”

    “Yes. And my business investments were sinking too.”

    “Did my father?”

    “Your father offered to bail me out. But I was too proud. Plus seeing Marge like that, my heart wasn’t in it anymore. Besides, I never fit into that kind of hectic lifestyle. Gives me no time to do other things. Money’s a necessity but music is my only passion!”

    Leon smirked cynically. Here was the opening he had been anxiously waiting for. “How strange. My wife said something to me in a similar vein once.” A very long time ago, he remembered. The exact quote had been ‘he and music were her only passions in life.’ He stared into his old friend’s eye to gauge his reaction.

    “Your wife?”

    Leon nodded. “You know, Maggie. Margaret K. Siu. The mother of my son. The same person who has been teaching him piano behind my back for the past two months.” The volume of his voice grew steadily. “Why, Master Stephens, did you not tell me?!” He lashed out in a sharp whisper.

    Shaken for a moment, he replied calmly, “Tell you what, son? Margaret’s been my pupil since she was five. That she has been like a daughter to me. We lost touch soon after Marge died and I left Hong Kong. I didn’t know of your marriage until after the fact. When I came back four years ago to attend your father’s funeral, Margaret was already gone.”

    “When did you make the connection then?”

    “Humph! Only after my first lessons with James. He’s a natural, just like his mom. I got curious and did some poking. You had been so mum about that mysterious wife of yours.”

    “Then you know nothing about what happened to her all those years?” The question sounded hollow even to Leon’s ears. He didn’t realize he had put so much hope in Master Stephens’ knowing the truth.

    “Not exactly, son. Out of desperation, Margaret did try contacting me. She wrote several letters addressed to me during the first couple of months in prison. They were sent to my old home here in Hong Kong. Probably, it was the only address Margaret knew by heart and she was too distraught to remember that I was no longer living there. Either that or she hoped that there might be a forwarding address or something. Anyway luckily or unluckily, the couple who bought the house was all too kind. They held them for me hoping that one day I might stop by and get them. I did. About six months ago. When I had this great overwhelming desire to see this row of magnolias I had planted in that old garden. To watch them bloom.” He got up from his chair and walked inside the house to a secretary desk on the side wall of the kitchen. He unlocked the top drawer and pulled out a thin packet of letters tied together neatly with a ribbon.

    “Those are the letters?” Leon asked excitedly.

    Master Stephens nodded. “When I found out what had happened I immediately got in touch with the prison officials in Singapore. They told me Margaret had been out for a year already. They gave me an address, but it was an old one.”

    “What do they say?”

    “I’m not too sure. They are actually for you.” He handed the stack to Leon. “Mine explained a little of her predicament. That she was trapped and wanted my help. Someone had framed her. She never said who. She only wanted me to give these letters to you. Directly.”

    “What?! I was always here. If she wanted to contact me, she could of…” He grasped the stack of letters tightly. They were his lifeline to which all the secrets that would be unraveled.

    “Maybe she did. I don’t know. These past few months, I’ve asked myself repeatedly whether it was a good idea or not to give them to you. It’s been so long. Five years. And she’s now safe from harm. To give them to you might do more harm than good. Both of you with your separate lives.”

    “You never told her you finally got them?”

    “No. She never brought it up and I felt too guilty to say anything. She asked for my help and I wasn’t there for her. I think she assumed that they must have gotten lost along the way. Believe me. These past few weeks I’ve tried to find out more about what happened in Singapore. To see if there was anything I can do to help. But she always sidestepped the issue. Saying that she has everything under control That she has come to terms with what fate has dealt for her. To let bygones be bygones.”

    ‘She asked for help and I wasn’t there for her.’ Master Stephens’ words echoed in Leon’s heart. A wretched feeling crept across his back. I was never there for her either, he repeated in his mind. “And you’re giving to me now because…?”

    The Englishman stared back. In a subdued voice, he said, “For you, Leon. Look at you. Margaret may have put the past behind her, but clearly you have not. Hopefully, they would give you the answers you seek. So you can move on.” He patted Leon’s shoulder lightly as he stepped back outside the deck to clear up the table.

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    Count me in

    I love all the ppls work on these Fan Fics... they're so great! So creative! Keep up the good work ! <IMG SRC="smilies/bow.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/bow.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/bow.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/thumbsup.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/thumbsup.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/thumbsup.gif" border="0">
    Goodness me, it's SPC!

  16. #16
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    Still on Earth


    back w/ a vengeance ^_^

  17. #17
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    Thumbs up

    C Monster: I like this chapter very much! Very good! I finally got to read this chapter. I've been very busy and finaly got to read this chapter. Very good! I hope to read the next chapter soon. You write so beautifully. Wellz I'm cheering for a happy and sweet ending. <IMG SRC="smilies/wink.gif" border="0">
    I just love how you Captivate My Mind

    Self reminder - Update blog more often and continue editing/writing for TOV fanfic.

  18. #18
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    Thanks WK, Floo... and aaron655 for your positive feedback! Your encouragement does help in this long arduous crossing to the finish line.

    I had hoped to have the ending by now, but I've gotten a bit sidetracked once again. Please forgive me. No more promises about when the real ending will come, but hopefully really soon.

    Hope you enjoy, nevertheless. <IMG SRC="smilies/wink.gif" border="0">


    Chapter 12

    Sitting in the umbrage of a large oak, Maggie observed the lighthearted game of badminton being played on the grassy field below with interest. Four young ladies laughed giddily each time they volleyed the shuttlecock over the haphazard net with their rackets. It was a close game, but no one was keeping score. Whenever the shuttlecock was to hit out of bounds, a man off on the side of the court would go eagerly and retrieve and hand it back to one of the players. He seemed to be everywhere at once, running to and fro, here and there, to keep the object of the game in the control of the inexperienced players. After more than twenty runs of fetching, the man signaled another person, an orderly standing nearby, to take his place. In turn, he headed toward the shaded mound where Maggie had been hiding.

    Obligingly, Maggie stood up and handed him a dry towel and bottle of water. She said cheerfully, “Here. These should help.”

    Andy smiled back as he took the towel first to wipe his face and hair then the water bottle. After guzzling more than half of it down, he remarked lightly, “I thought the early morning sun wouldn’t be as bad. Guess I was wrong.”

    “It’s the humidity.”

    Staring at the field below, he asked, “How come I’m the only one sweating then?”

    She chuckled. “Ladies do not sweat. We perspire. Besides you’re the one who’s been getting the bulk of the exercise. Shuttling back and forth like that.”

    “Humph!” He continued to watch the game with deep affection. A few moments later, he said in a loving voice, “It’s good to see her like this. So happy. And full of life.”

    Maggie nodded in agreement. In their short time together in Hong Kong, she has gotten to see many different facets of this warm, jovial and charming man. Andy has such a disarming way of putting everyone around him at ease. Tragedy has struck him as well, but he doesn’t carry it around him like a badge of broken dreams and sorrows. So unlike her soon to be ex-husband.

    Turning his attention to the woman standing beside him, Andy said, “I truly appreciate your coming here, Maggie. To give up your last precious moments in Hong Kong and accompany me here to see Sammi. Thank you so much.”

    She blushed slightly with embarrassment. “Don’t. What are friends for anyway if not to give each other support. What did the doctors say?”

    He shook his head. “The same. That her physical recovery is progressing beyond expectations, but there’s no guarantee that she’ll ever get her memory back. It’s already been two years.” He sighed deeply before continuing, “I had thought there might be some improvement by bringing her back to Hong Kong. Surrounded by her family and friends. But.” He shrugged not knowing what more to say. “Maybe it’s for the better. That way I’ll never have to explain to her about what happened to our unborn child.”

    “Sometimes ignorance IS bliss.” She nodded before adding, “As long as there are some that would benefit in the equation.”


    “Daddy, what’s wrong?” The little boy asked expectantly.

    Leon stared back blankly, terribly dazed. He had read Maggie’s letters many times already, but there were still passages that rocked him to the pit of his stomach. Each letter contained similar information: seeking his forgiveness, explaining the reasons why she did what she did, and finally pleading him to come to her aid. There were five in total, each one more forlorn than the last. It was as if each time she willed herself the courage to pick up a pen and write again, Maggie knew her window of hope was steadily, but surely, closing. Squeezing his eyes tightly and shaking his head, Leon tried not to imagine what it must have been like for her, trapped in that hellhole with no one. He will not go there. He will not go there. Leon said to himself. The guilt was to much to bear.

    Nudging his father’s knee again, Jimmy repeated, “Are you OK, Daddy?”

    Leon focused on the crown of his son’s head and breathed deeply. No point in scaring the wits out of him. He attempted to reassure the boy with a weak smile, but his voice sounded raw. “Daddy’s fine, Jimmy. I just want a little hug from my favorite son.” He then took him into his arms and held tightly.

    Leon had been so close to losing him without even realizing it. Maggie’s letters revealed that Jimmy had been recovering from a serious bout of meningitis at the time. That was why she had sought his parents out despite their initial hostility, in order to get the money to pay for his hospitalization and treatment. It had been a cold truce of sorts between her and his mother, based solely on the boy’s sake, being that he was the heir to his family’s shipping empire. Then, a few days afterwards, Maggie received an urgent call from her father begging for ten thousand dollars. He was stuck in Macao and needed the money to pay off the hoodlums that were after him. At a total loss, Maggie swallowed her pride and approached his mother yet again. Meredith agreed readily, but only if Maggie promised one thing. To walk out from Leon and Jimmy forever, never to return. His mother knew him well enough that Maggie’s disappearance would not be enough. That was why she had Maggie write that cryptic letter and leave behind the wedding necklace. For ten thousand dollars, she did sacrificed and traded in their love and marriage. But not for the reasons Leon had always been led to believe. Maggie did it not for herself, but for the love of her father in order to save his life. Yet in the end, she wounded up with nothing. No son. Because she had willingly abandoned her baby boy and thus gave up all her parental rights. No husband. Because he had thought the worst of her when she left without a trace or explanation. No father. Because he had died trying to save her from a slew of bullets fired in a gang battle that they were caught in the midst of. After the tragedy, Maggie went on to explain how she was knocked unconscious, and the next thing she knew she was getting arrested in Singapore.

    A steady hand gripped his shoulder, he heard Master Stephens say, “Leon, is everything all right?” Still in his arms and lap, Jimmy was looking at him worriedly.

    He nodded and then gazed into his son’s eyes. “Jimmy. I have some things I need to take care of, so you’re going to be staying here with Master Stephens for a while.”

    “But weren’t we supposed to see Grandma?”

    “Not today.”


    “Promise me you’re not going to make any trouble? And I will gave you my consent for you to enter the recital contest.”

    “Is that a deal?”

    Leon nodded again as he loosened his hold to let Jimmy climb off his lap. “Run along now. I want to hear you practicing by the time I leave.” Time was short. He prayed there was enough time to make amends. Watching the young boy dash out of the kitchen into the parlor with so much enthusiasm, he couldn’t help reflecting how much Maggie missed watching their child grow up. He turned to the Englishman and asked, “Do you know where Maggie’s staying?”

    Master Stephens replied, “I have the hotel name and number. But she told me she doesn’t usually get back until late in the evening though. What did those letters say?”

    He ignored the question and asked instead, “Could you leave her message for me then?”

    “What is it?”

    “That I want to see her one last time before she leaves. That I will be waiting for her. Tonight at 8. Back at our old house. She knows where it is.”

    “What if she doesn’t want to?”

    “She will. When you explain to her that I finally got her letters.”


    “When are you planning to go back?” asked Maggie before taking a deep sip of her café au lait. They were sitting in the lounge area of the hospital. With its high glass ceilings and sleek ultra-modern décor, it felt more like being inside a trendy restaurant. Probably to make the high-end patients this hospital caters toward feel more at ease, she thought to herself. Looking around, it struck her how much it felt like being on the set of Star Trek’s Ten Forward with its metallic gray walls and aluminum flooring, royal blue chairs, and subdued neon lighting at the bar area.

    Andy replied, “Next week. Need to finish some loose ends. Then I will come back to settle down here permanently.”

    “I’m sure Sammi will be delighted.”

    “I haven’t told her yet. In her condition, I have to find the right time to tell her for it to register. Besides, my moving here has more to do with my peace of mind than hers.”

    “You love your fiancée very deeply.” Maggie said it emphatically, an observation of fact.

    He nodded. “Wish I had told her sooner. Before she ran off on me thinking I wasn’t ready for the commitment. Sometimes.” He paused to swallow and said, “I wonder if I had done something – anything – to stop her, then that accident could have been avoided.”

    “Don’t.” Maggie warned shaking her head. “It’s pointless to think like that. You can’t change the past. Just concentrate on the present and hope for the future.”

    “You’re right.” Switching topics, Andy began to ask, “What about you? What are your plans when you get back to Singapore?”

    “Start over. I’m unemployed, but I’m like a cat. Haven’t used up all my lives yet.” She smiled wistfully.

    “If you have any problems, I could help, you know.”

    “I know. But I’m a stubborn fool who only like to do things my way. Thanks though.”

    As they were getting ready to leave and head back up to Sammi’s room, a nurse came over in a hurry and told Andy that they’re having problems calming his fiancée down. He gave Maggie a telling look, and before leaving with the nurse, it was agreed that Maggie was going to wait for him in the garden outside.


    Maggie made herself comfortable sitting on a wooden bench nestled between some tall hedges. Staring at the small wading pool, she felt a sense of tranquility and peacefulness that had long evaded her. She knew she made the right choice in not pursuing the matter of Jimmy’s custody further. Humming a happy tune in her head, she couldn’t help overhearing a rising conversation that came from behind on the opposite side of the green wall she was leaning against.

    “I can’t believe she dared come back!” The husky voice of an older woman spat out. “Do you know what she wants?”

    A softer, also feminine voice replied, “I tried to get more information out of him on Thursday when he got back. But you know him. Not a word.”

    “Whatever it is, she’s up to no good.” The older woman sighed deeply. “All this time wasted. I had hope you would be a part of the family by now. Still no luck?!”

    Chuckling lightly, the younger woman said, “Your son is as obstinate and obtuse as they come. Maybe if we hadn’t bumped into her that evening, he might have made the move.”

    “You saw her?”

    “Only in passing. Leon was livid.”

    At the sound of hearing his name being whispered, Maggie became deathly still. She had thought their voices was familiar but couldn’t pinpoint why. Now she knew. Meredith Lai is staying in the same hospital as Sammi’s, and the other person she’s talking to must be Jessica, Maggie said to herself. What a small world this is turning out to be.

    “Speaking of which, I wonder what’s taking him so long. He and Jimmy should be here by now.” Meredith complained.

    “They’re probably stuck in traffic. Why don’t we wait back inside the lounge area? The sun…”

    “That’s all right, Jess. I like it out here in the open. Could you do me a favor? Go back to my room and get my straw hat and sunglasses. That should help.”

    “No problem.”

    Upon hearing Jessica’s retreating footsteps, Maggie silently made her move to get away from these hedges. Just as she was about to leave, she heard Andy call out from ten feet away. “Maggie! There you are! I was looking all over for you.” She jumped up and swung her head around to swerve straight into Meredith’s face.

    Meredith narrowed her gleaming eyes as she rolled her wheelchair closer. She lashed out sharply, “What are you doing here?! I told you I never wanted to see you again. You were not to come back!”

    “Lai La…,” Maggie began to address her mother-in-law formally before pausing to remember the faux pas. Meredith had never acknowledged her marriage with Leon. She sighed deeply and then said in a salty sarcastic voice, “Mrs. Lai. Believe me I had hope to leave Hong Kong without crossing your path either. But fate does not seem to treat me kindly. Although it may not seem like it, I am glad to that you are in such fine shape and form.” By this time, Andy had already reached her side. However, he kept quiet not sure how to diffuse the tense situation before him.

    “Humph! Your sweet deceptive words are not going to get you anywhere. So, you’re leaving again. So soon? Must have gotten what you’ve came for and bilked my son for more money.”

    “What?! I gave every cent I owe….” Maggie never finished the sentence because she was too overwhelmed by emotions. To this day, Meredith’s opinion of her never changed. Shrugging her shoulders, Maggie turned and grabbed Andy’s arm. She urged in a hoarse voice, “Come on, Andy. Let’s get out of here.”

    “Hey, young lady! I’m not done with you yet!” Meredith called out.

    Bowing her head, Maggie continued her speedy pace with Andy out of the garden, never looking back.


    A deep voice from behind whispered, “Mom? Who were you shouting at?”

    Meredith turned around and saw the outline of her son standing against the glare of the sun with Jessica not too far behind. “No one in particular.” She lied and took another surreptitious glance at the other side of the hedges. “I was hit by a kid’s soccer ball and wanted to know who did it.”

    “Are you all right?” Jessica asked with concern.

    She waved dismissively. “I’m fine. Just braised my lap a bit.”

    “What happened to the ball?” Leon wondered.

    “I gave it to one of the attendants.” Changing topics, she then asked, “Where’s Jimmy? I thought he was supposed to come today.”

    “I told him not to come. He’s at piano practice with Masters Stephens.” He replied in a deadpan voice.

    “Piano practice is more important than seeing Grandma?” Meredith tried hard to contain her hurt and anger, but nevertheless the latent accusation seeped through.

    “That’s not what Leon meant,” interjected Jessica. “It’s just that….” She stared at the range of expressions exchanged between the mother and son and knew that a strong contest of wills were about to happen.

    “Mom, there are some things I want to discuss with you. Privately. Why don’t I take you back to your room?” Without waiting for any approval, he grabbed the handlebars of Meredith’s wheelchair and began pushing. He then turned to Jessica and offered more politely, “If you need a lift, I should be done in about fifteen minutes or so. You can wait for me either here or in the lounge.”

    Jessica shook her head. During their quick trip down from Meredith’s room, she noticed that Leon was wound up more tightly than usual. His silence was eerie, like a pressure cooker just ready to explode. And she wanted to stay clear away from the fallout. “That’s all right. I have some errands to run, so I drove here myself. Meredith, it was good to see you. I’ll come and visit again soon. Leon, I’ll catch you sometime during the week then.”

  19. #19
    Moderator Suet Seung's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2001

    Thumbs up

    C Monster: Great chapter! <IMG SRC="smilies/clap.gif" border="0"> The plot thickens! I love it! The longer the better hahah...continue on with the great fanfic of yours. So Andy and Sammi huh? Very cute! Well as ususal you've managed to write a very dramatic and emotional chapter. I know there are a few people who read your fanfic like Kara and Zoey but they often forget to comment. <IMG SRC="smilies/tearlaugh.gif" border="0">

    BTW, With permission, can I post your fanfic in my webpage?

    Here's the site if you had not had the chance to see it.

    Keep up the good work and update soon, don't let us wait too long for another great and beautifully written chapter. <IMG SRC="smilies/thumbsup.gif" border="0">
    I just love how you Captivate My Mind

    Self reminder - Update blog more often and continue editing/writing for TOV fanfic.

  20. #20
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2002


    C Monster,

    i enjoy reading your fanfics but i would like to know if you are still updating other fanfics (gatekeeper and BOGAE)?

    your fanfics fascinate me. thank you.
    For any journey one makes
    Even if the displacement equates to zero
    Something is being gained
    For the distance travelled is certainly not zero

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