Friday, July 29, 2011

Oleander - Gen 7 Ch 10

It was so good to be back home again. Lotus is growing like a weed. And Zhan has convinced the local police chief to give him more undercover assignments. I don't even want to know what he's going to be doing today, dressed in those rags.
"Be careful out there today," I always say.
"I'm always careful," he replies, smiling, then he kisses me lightly before heading out for the day.

Lotus has formed a special bond with her grandpa while we were gone, and I'm quite sure the feeling is mutual. They are always together. He is getting too old to do much active playing, but she seems to be content just to cuddle and sit on his lap.

And Daffodil has learned a new trick. I thought she was spending an inordinately long time in the shower one day, but I had no idea why....

...until I heard a panicked shout coming from the bathroom.
"What the...?? My hair! Argh, Dilly! Not again!"
I guess this was not the first time Papa had been caught by his granddaughter's pranking.  I had a stern talk with her, but I could tell by the gleam in her eye that she was not as penitent as she pretended.

In no time at all, it seemed, it was time for Daffodil's birthday.

Song invited his friend Jenny, but he instead of their usual banter, he seemed all of a sudden nervous and shy. Jenny obviously didn't appreciate the change in him.

"Ahh.. so.. Jenny. Umm.. Would you.. I mean.. Do you want to go to prom with me?"
"Yes, of course I will!"
I'm glad that's settled! I like Jenny, she's such a sweet girl.

"Okay, come on everyone! It's time for the fireworks!"
We had brought a box of fireworks back from China with us, and thought we'd surprise Dilly for her birthday.

Of course, being Dilly, after watching her dad send one off, she had to light the next one herself. Zhan called out instructions.
"Okay, sweetheart, be careful now, just light the first one in line, then move back!"

"Aahhh! I said just one! Why did you light the whole stack? Everyone, move back! Watch out! I don't know what'll happen!"
Dilly just laughed and covered her ears.

What followed was the most amazing fireworks display any of us had ever seen. Rocket bursts of all colors and shapes lit up the sky one after the other.

I can still see the shocked expression on Zhan's face. I think he thought he had known everything there was to know about fireworks.

This was truly a party to remember. Zhan did give Daffodil a lecture on fireworks safety afterwards, but I'm not sure how much sunk in.

Indeed, if we thought that growing up a little would have any positive effect on her pranking ways, we were wrong.

Every few days, there would be a cry from someone, somewhere in the house.
"Argghhh! Dilly! What did you do to the computer?"
Then there'd be a little snicker from some where close by, as Daffodil pretended to be totally engrossed in choosing a book from the bookcase. Looking back, I should have grounded her for it, but hind sight is always better than foresight.

Soon it was prom night, and Daffodil elected to go with her girlfriends.

Song, of course took his sweetheart Jenny. He was very serious about the whole affair, and so proud to walk into the gym with his girlfriend on his arm.

He and Jenny were chosen prom king and queen, and for days he couldn't stop talking about the great time he had. Daffodil, on the other hand, was uncharacteristicly reticent about her prom experience. She'd only say she met someone she liked a lot.
Song had been so wrapped up in Jenny and his prom king duties, he couldn't shed much light on this 'someone', either. He did mention that he'd seen Daffodil and her friends hanging out with some boys from the rougher side of town, but lost sight of them after that.

I finally convinced her to invite her new friend Denis to Lotus' birthday. At least now I've gotten a name out of her. I snuggled my baby one last time before she blew out her candles.

What's this? Dilly's friend had arrived at the last minute, and while we were still celebrating, before I could even introduce myself, he wandered off. This does not bode well.

But I'll have to worry about that later. Right now it's Lotus' time to shine.
"Happy Birthday!"

It turns out, he had made a bee-line for the bar.

Daffodil headed outside to join him as soon as the cake was cut. Zhan says he looks familiar, but he just can't place him. I hope it comes to him soon, as things look like they may be getting serious between the two of them.

Song didn't want to tell me, but I think he's worried about his little sister getting involved with Denis' crowd at school. So he does his best to keep an eye on them.

But Daffodil adamantly refuses to listen to any of us.  And as long as they hang out in the yard and - mostly- behave themselves, all I can do is hope this infatuation burns itself out quickly.

Somehow, I have my doubts, though. Now, more then ever, Dilly always seems to have that mischievous sparkle in her eyes. I just know she's up to something.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Oleander - Gen 7 Ch 9

"You be sure and help your grampa while we are gone. You know he's getting on in years and can't handle everything by himself."
"Don't worry, mom, I got this. We'll be fine."

When we arrived at our little hilltop garden, I was all for taking off for the mountaintop ruins immediately. Zhan, however, had different plans.
"Come in the bathroom first, Andee. We need to make you look less obvious as a tourist first."

"Here. Try this hat on. Hmm. It mostly hides your hair, I guess. Just try to keep your head down a little, okay?"
Of course. I should have known I couldn't just go waltzing up to the ruins and start digging. This is so exciting! I feel like a real spy!

After the disguise business was taken care of, the next stop was Zhan's contact at the market. I stayed outside and kept my head down, pretending interest in the relics on display near the entrance. But of course I was eavesdropping on their conversation. I could hear the relic merchant plainly.
"We have a problem. Your little archaeology expedition will need to be put on hold for a few days. Thanks to the lead you gave us last time you were here - you remember, the man you found digging in the restricted area - we have discovered concrete evidence of an international smuggling ring working right here in Shang Simla. You've been reassigned to investigate."

So, while Zhan went off doing excited spy stuff, I was left to amuse myself the best I could. Zhan made me promise to stay in our garden, for safety's sake, but it was hard, knowing he was putting himself in danger every day.
"Let's see. What shall I do today?" I wondered to myself as I made patterns in the bubbles with my foot.

I wandered over to our new bedroom, that we had commissioned after we left the last time. Maybe Sunflower had liked sleeping in that tent, but I much preferred a windowed room from which I could enjoy the view when I woke up. We kept the sunflowers that were surrounding the bedroom area as a tribute to her memory.

After that, I decided to try my hand at making some traditional Chinese dishes in our new canopied outdoor kitchen. Surely stir fry can't be that difficult. Hmm. Actually, with my cooking expertise, which by the way is a  one giant goose egg, it's pretty much impossible.  I settled for hot dogs. I never knew cooking was so hard. I have new respect for Bennie.

I know! These beautiful views are just asking to be painted. I spent most of my days just enjoying the scenery, and trying to recreate it on my canvas.

In the evenings, when Zhan returned, we would spend our time watching the stars and talking. There were only a couple more days left now, before we had to leave.
"I wish I could come with you. I bet I could help."
"You wouldn't like it, I promise. Lots of mucking about in catacombs."

I shivered a little, remembering my last venture into the monks' catacombs.
"Bugs?" I whispered.
"Lots of bugs."
"Weren't you scared?"
Nah, I just brushed them off."
I just sighed. My Zhan is so brave.
"I discovered the smugglers' hideout today, he continued. "The place was full of traps. It took me hours to disarm them."

"And do you remember the guy I chased off from the ruins? The one that was digging there?"
I nodded. "You said you were going to have him followed."
"Yes. And he led us right to the hideout, but then he disappeared into the catacombs under the market. Just as I was dismantling the last traps, he jumped me! He was good, but I was better. I barely managed to defeat him."
I shivered -  half with excitement, half with fear. My Zhan is the best.

"You wouldn't believe what I found in there, Andee. Thousands of priceless relics, that belong in a museum, all bound for black markets in dozens of countries. Why, some of them might have even ended up in the consignment store in Riverview, if we hadn't stopped them. There was even a set of animal statuettes similar to yours.
"Now, I have only a few more loose ends to clear up tomorrow, and we'll still have one more day left to visit our ruins, okay?"

Yay! Only one more day before I get to investigate my ruins. Not enough time to start another painting. I'll just pass the time meditating. So peaceful here. I don't think I've ever felt quite this way before - like I can do anything. I wonder what the Scholar's Garden is like today. I think I'd like to see it before we go....

Wha?... How did I get here? I thought of the Scholar's Garden, and suddenly I'm here? Zhan never mentioned anything like this effect from meditating. I wonder if I can go anywhere else.. the mountaintop ruins. I'll just pop in for a quick look.

Uh oh. What did I do? I hope that woman in pink didn't see me. I better hop back home. Come on, Andee... concentrate. Whew, she ran right on by. Hopefully it didn't mean anything.

Finally! Our last day in Shang Simla, and here we are at the ruins. I searched carefully for hours, handing anything that looked valuable to Zhan to be catalogued and packed up to be sent to the museum. But there was no sign of a matching piece to my Lao Hu.

"Hurry, Andee. We should go soon. I think I see someone coming up the mountain."
I was devastated. I didn't want to leave. I had been sure we would find something here.

I was about to admit defeat, when I noticed a few shards of pottery protruding from the ground under a tree, at the edge of the ruins.
"Just a few more minutes, Zhan. Please? I think I found something!"

Uh oh. It's the woman in pink. What is she doing here? I kept my head down, like Zhan had said, and furiously kept on working. I thought I spotted a small gleam of gold under the dirt. Could it be?
Vaguely in the background I heard Zhan confront the woman.
"Excuse me miss. You'll have to leave. This is a restricted area."

Quickly I brushed a few more clods of dirt away from the golden figure. Full of trepidation, I gingerly lifted it and examined the markings carved into the bottom. Yes! I surreptitiously slipped the figure into my pocket, then turned to see what was going on with the pink woman.

When I saw the camera, I quickly spun away, pretending to take in the stunning view.
"I'm sorry, miss, you'll have to put the camera away."
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Zhan motioning me to leave.  

As I sped away, I heard Zhan's angry voice arguing with the pink woman. I figured he would want me to keep my new dragon safe while he dealt with any problems. I just hope my surprise visit here yesterday wasn't the cause of our difficulties.

Back at our garden, I was about to confess to Zhan what I had done while meditating yesterday, but before I could, not one, but two pink women showed up at our gate. Oh no. Had they followed us?  I worried as Zhan went to deal with them.
"You worry too much," Zhan smiled a little later. "They won't bother us again."
But he insisted we leave for the airport immediately, saying he had arranged an earlier flight. After we settled ourselves into the plane, I confessed my mediation travels to him, hoping he wouldn't be angry. But instead he was amazed. It's called zeneporting, he said. And it's extremely difficult to achieve. I tried to tell him it wasn't that hard, but he still thinks I'm special. I think I'll just let him keep thinking that.

And so, here we are, back in Riverview. And my Lao Hu has a new friend. I think I can almost see him smile! I wonder where the last piece is? I guess I'll trust my pendant to lead me there.