Annika and Jabulani glanced at each other as they replied in unison, “That would be great. Where shall we meet you?”
“Let’s meet at “The Old Man” bar, it has great cocktails and a nice atmosphere where we can hear each other,” suggested John.
“That sounds perfect,” Ken joyfully responded, while looking at the other two, “Does that work well for you?”
They both responded with a smile and verbal “Yes, we look forward to it.”
Ken struggled to stay on task the rest of the afternoon. He was eager to get all the paperwork done, so they could relax and talk about whatever they wanted. He couldn’t wait to inquire more about the country, what living there was like, and of course dig more deeply into the winery scene.
As they finished signing the last agreement, John asked, “Would it be okay if I invited my wife Li Na, to join us tonight. She has been so busy with our son lately that she has not gotten out to just enjoy adult interaction.”
Annika responded quickly, welcoming the female addition, “It will be wonderful to have her join us.” While Ken and Jabulani supportively chimed in, “Of course.”
Shaking hands they concluded the contract signing and bid each other farewell until 5:30pm. Sitting at the table John and Ken looked at each other, both were smiling, grateful for this new expansion. Ken had one more day in Hong Kong and then he headed back to the States. He was eager to get back so he could reconnect with Jessie, apologizing in person for his behavior prior to leaving and then to embark on the journey to find his dad. Excusing himself to go to the restroom, he grabbed his phone. Stepping into the fairly austere hallway, he looked down at his phone to see if Shannon had responded.
“What a surprise to hear from you big brother! I would love to chat, better make it 10:00pm your time, so I can be almost ready for the day before we talk. I won’t have much time, but, we can sneak in 10-20 minutes. Love you, look forward to talking.” Shannon’s kind reply stared up at him.
He had not realized that he was still standing in the middle of the hallway, a big fruit bowl painting stared at him from the wall to the right. Placing the phone back in his pocket, he briskly walked to the bathroom. He was such a jumble of emotions, excitement, anticipation, fear, vulnerable, open, it was a true smorgasbord, all mashed into his body.
Standing at the sink he washed his hands, glancing up into the mirror he stopped, letting the water run, he stared at his reflection. “Who are you? What do you really want? Why do you suddenly feel so lost and yet excited at the same time?” The questions flowed out, matching the speed of the water. His hazel eyes stared steadily back at him. Taking a deep breath, he turned off the faucet and reached for a paper towel to dry his hands.
Entering the office, he pulled out a chair to sit across from his boss. John looked up with a smile,”Li Na will be joining us, she was very happy to receive the invite.
They spent the rest of the afternoon discussing the addition of an employee or two in the states and outlined all that needed to be accomplished before Ken headed back to the states.
Li Na arrived at “The Old Man” before the others. John had told her that there would be five of them, so she looked for a table that would comfortably accommodate them, allowing for free flow conversation. She was used to these kinds of social functions, for her dad had included her often after the death of her mother. Huan, her dad, had never kept it a secret that he wished for her to be involved with the business, to someday take over. The thought of that made her insides knot up until she couldn’t breathe.
Her hair gently swished as she elegantly walked to the table, drawing attention from the others in the room. Li Na was striking, her dark hair and eyes were accentuated by high cheekbones and glowing chiseled features. She was definitely a blend of her mom and dad, Olivia her mom, came from Sweden to study for a semester in college, during that time, she met Huan and they fell in love.
Sitting down, she quietly waited for the others to arrive. When the server came over she ordered one of the speciality house drinks, for she did enjoy a cocktail with high quality bourbon, one of her many nontraditional preferences.
“Did I take someone’s table,” she asked the server, noticing a magazine sitting near a chair to her left.
“Oh no, someone left it earlier. I was going to throw it away, but decided to leave it just in case another person found it interesting,” he smilingly replied.
She had arrived fifteen minutes early, her excitement to be out with other adults taking over in her anxiousness to leave the house. Reaching over she pulled the magazine to her, sliding it across the dark wood of the table.
Quickly she glanced at the cover topics, they all looked boring. Picking it up she flipped through the pages, stopping to look at pictures that caught her attention.
A blank page caught her eye, she was curios to see what advertisement would use so much white space. Nothing, there was nothing there. “Bizarre,” she thought, flipping to the page before to see if it explained why a blank page followed. Staring at the blank page, her brow furrowed in confusion.
“Are you happy,” presented itself at the top of the blank glossy canvas.
“Qi guai,” shrieked Li Na, dropping the page closed. She could feel people looking at her, so she quietly kept her head down, pretending to stir the cocktail the server had delivered. After a couple of minutes had passed, she opened up to the same page, “Are you happy,” was still there, the only three little words on the page.
Then right before her eyes the next words flowed onto the white space.
“It’s okay, you are not crazy, just breathe and relax. Are you happy,” it inquired and soothed.
Leaning close to the page, she whispered, “Who are you, how are you doing that,” quickly she looked around to make sure no one heard. Glancing at the front door she checked to see if the others had arrived.
“We are you, your inner self, your deeper being. Don’t be afraid. We just want to visit. Are you happy,” it again asked.
Quietly Li Na looked up, not wanting to be caught communicating with a magazine. While she attempted to look calm she answered the question quietly in her mind “Yes and no, I’m happy with most of my life, however, I feel like a part of me is lost. Since Joshua’s birth, he has received most of my focus, with the rest going to John and running the house.”
“Do those things bring you joy,” responded the page.
Li Na gasped, followed by a fake cough to cover up her sound. Looking quickly at the entrance, she saw John and Ken as they entered. Flustered she quickly closed the magazine, turning it upside down and placing it under her purse.
To be continued… 41