[Editor’s Note : Every week we will be publishing one chapter from Ansh Das’s book, The Memory Of A Face. Needless to say, we are super excited! Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18, Chapter 19, Chapter 20, Chapter 21, Chapter 22, Chapter 23, Chapter 24, Chapter 25, Chapter 26, Chapter 27, Chapter 28, Chapter 29, Chapter 30, Chapter 31, Chapter 32, Chapter 33, Chapter 34 & Chapter 35]
Why don’t you get married?
Summer fell back on a tried and tested formula for dodging sensitive questions coming from nosey relatives during Chinese New Year. She asked Diano to come to the biggest family gathering on Chinese New Year’s eve as her boyfriend. It had worked the previous year. They had pulled it off so effectively that many of the relatives she had visited afterwards, had asked her about him. There was no reason not to try the same formula this year.
They went out to buy chocolate, ginseng and bird nests for her family, which they carried with them to her parents’ home in Kowloon Bay.
Her mother welcomed them in. Her mother was happy to see Diano. Her sisters sat on the sofa, dressed up for the occasion.
“You should come visit us more often, son,” she said.
“Yes, Aunty,” Diano said.
“He’s busy at work.” Summer offered as an excuse.
“All work and no play will make you a dull boy.” Her father joined them in the living room. Her sisters rolled their eyes.
“Hello, uncle.” Diano bowed his head in respect.
“Good to see you, son,” her father said. “Let’s get going.”
They rode a mini-bus to Tsuen Wan. They got off near City Walk and walked into one of the Chinese restaurants inside the mall. Most of her relatives had arrived. Summer knew she wasn’t a favourite and so her cousins wouldn’t bother her. It was the aunties she was afraid of.
She was also worried about subjecting Diano to boring conversations that flowed at the two round tables their group was occupying. Fortunately food was served and most of them ate without talking much, a rare sight at family dinners.
“Are you doing okay?” she asked Diano.
“Yup.” He glanced at his cell phone.
“You seem distracted.”
“Sorry about that.”
“Andy?” she asked.
“He hasn’t contacted me since he flew home last night.”
“That’s like almost a day. Maybe he’s busy.”
“Yes. Hope so.”
Just then his phone buzzed. He took one look at it and his face broke into a big grin. She winked at him. People acted funny when they were in love. Diano was no exception.
“So when are you two getting married?” It was the aunt she found most annoying. She never failed to put people on the spot. Summer chose to ignore the question.
“I said, when are you two getting married?” The aunt pushed on.
“She’s talking to you.” Her mother, who was seated to her left, nudged her.
“Hmm… Haven’t decided yet.” Summer felt this was the safest answer. Why did the witch always bring up some stupid topics at public gatherings? Sigh.
“You two are living together, right?” This time it was her uncle, the witch’s husband.
“Well, you should start planning about your wedding soon,” he said.
“It isn’t good for a girl to delay. In our days, we used to get married as soon as we could. It’s good for bearing children,” the witch said.
Summer wanted to retaliate. What the hell! How old did they think she was? Twenty-eight wasn’t the age to get married. There were more complicated problems in life to think about. Getting married and bearing children weren’t the solutions.
Her mother sensed her resentment and put a hand on hers under the table. “She is still young. Marriage is a huge responsibility. There’s no need to rush into it,” her mother said.
“Well, if she’s found the right guy….” the witch trailed off.
It was supposed to be an insult. What did she mean by that? Diano wasn’t the right guy? Of course, he wasn’t. But this was meant to be an insult to whoever would have been sitting in Diano’s place.
“I want to settle down first. I’m yet to buy a flat,” Diano said.
Summer knew Diano didn’t have enough money to buy a flat. She knew he was trying to save her from further humiliation. But he didn’t realize he was providing more fodder to the cattle. Now there would be endless talk behind her back. They would all discuss about Diano’s social standing and how he didn’t even own a flat. They would probably taunt her mother by saying something nasty on those lines. Why couldn’t they just disappear from her life?
“Oh, I see,” the witch said. “When are you planning to buy one? How big?”
“We haven’t decided yet. When we decide we’ll announce to all.” Summer was fuming inside.
They sat through the rest of the evening without any further questions from her relatives. Maybe they had sensed her annoyance. She definitely hoped they did.
It was pretty late by the time they said goodbye and took the MTR home.
“Thank you for tonight. You’ve no idea how bad it would have been had I turned up without you,” Summer told Diano.
“That’s okay. I’d do anything for you.”
“You are a darling.” She gave him a hug.
“So, will you be able to manage without me tomorrow? I mean the lunch.”
“Yes. I think so. The lunch is with my family. No lousy nosey relatives are allowed to attend.” She sighed with relief.
“Good.” He replied to another SMS.
“Is that him? How is he?”
“Missing me very much.” He winked.
“Well, thanks to him you were grinning like a monkey during dinner. That kind of eased the tension. I felt as if I was gonna blow up and take the witch with me.”
“Ha-ha. You need to relax. She isn’t a witch. She just worries about you, like any other aunt.” He winked at her again.
“She doesn’t worry about me. She wants to show us down. She’s a witch and that’s her pastime. That’s her business. Who does she think she is? If she’s worried about babies why doesn’t she go and have another.”
“Well, the point is she’s too old for it herself. Maybe she does want to have another baby.” Diano laughed.
“Yeah. You’re right. Anyway, I don’t wanna waste our time talking about her.”
“That’s my girl.”
“What about you?”
“What about me?”
“Can you manage tomorrow? Are you sure you should be going?” It wasn’t a good idea for him to have lunch with his folks. His mother was okay but his father was the problem.
“Yes. I think so. Actually, I don’t know,” he said and put his cell phone inside his bag. “Tomorrow is gonna be a long day.”