Monday, 17 July 2017

Tinker Belle

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The girl walked nervously towards the bush, her red bells tinkling merrily as she walked, betraying her trepidation. Upon arriving at said bush, she looked behind to see that no one was following her before entering the bush, carefully such that the branches did not unravel a single thread of her sky blue dress. The dress, as blue as the sky above the gentle river behind her, was, after all, her favourite.

The person she was waiting for was sitting in the bush, waiting for her, fidgeting. She tsk-ed.

“You know, Chor tai-gor is the thief here, not me! I don’t like this hide and seek!”

“Well…You’re supposed to be his adopted sister, surely you share the trait in hide and seek…”

The girl glared. Although she had been missing him earlier, seeing him sitting like a coward annoyed her. She snapped. “Shut up! Now tell me that you’re ready for this.” When the person she talked to mumbled, her blood boiled. She stomped her left foot and, as she said, “I knew it! You’ll never be ready!” she turned back to leave.







Yet, the man she talked to held her hands and, softly, begged her to stay.

“I’ll do it…” he stuttered. “I will do it. I promised you, so I will do that.”

“But?!” She snapped again, for she knew there would be a ‘but’.

It was a while before he replied. “I’m… nervous…”

That melted her heart. Slowly, she turned and faced the man she had come to love for the last ten moons or so.

“I know. I’m nervous too…” she touched his hands, they were cold despite the summer weather. She resumed. “But if we don’t say it now…”

“I know. We’ll never say it…” He looked up and, witnessing love and care spilling out of her usually mischievous eyes, finally smiled. “Is he on the boat?”

She nodded. “With his family.”

“You’re his family too.”

“I know…” unconsciously, she touched her red bells. Chor Lau-heung gave her those bells as her weapon a decade ago after he realised that the little girl he rescued from bandits loved bells. Since she was a sweet girl, Chor tai-gor (as she would call him) then started to call her ‘Sugar’. When he found out that she was also mischievous, he’d call her ‘Tinker Bell’ every now and then. That was years ago, before his adopted brother found his eternal love. Before he had a family of his own.

“He’ll always be your brother,” the man comforted her. “Even after we…” he stuttered again. “I hope he approves.”

She nodded. She knew she had to move on one day. They all had to. She just happened to be the first one to do so. She cleared her throat. “Let’s do it.”

-xxx-

“Where is Tim-yi?” Song Siu-ching placed her last lunch dish on the table. Everyone but the girl in question was already gathering around the table on board the Fragrant Boat, ready for lunch. Siu-ching had been busying herself with preparing lunch for the last two hours. Sung Tim-yi used to supervise her, but since Siu-ching’s culinary skills had been vastly improving, the former usually just took turns in preparing meals with the Princess. At times, they would combine forces to produce more meals, but at times Tim-yi would just let Siu-ching run the show. Today was such a case.

“I thought she was with you?” So Yung-yung stationed her niece A-ying securely on a small children seat that Chor Lau-heung made for his daughter last year. “Smells nice, Siu-ching!”

“Thank you!” the Princess’ face split in two as she grinned. “I thought I’d just go full-force with the lunch before we sail again this afternoon.”

“I thought we’re to see Wu tai-gor before we sail down south?” Wah Jan-jan started to distribute rice. Jan-jan almost became Wu Tit-fa’s sister-in-law, hence she always had a soft spot towards the Drunkard, wondering if he had truly let go of his star-crossed romance with her Hua-shan sister Koh Ah Lam.

“He’s supposed to come yesterday –” Chor Lau-heung nodded to acknowledge the bowl of rice Jan-jan gave him, “– but perhaps he changed his plan. Not uncommon for our Drunkard.”

“I do miss him…” Jan-jan admitted as she served Siu-ching some rice. “I sometimes wonder if…” she stopped and, true to her private self, she then just shook her head and smiled. 

“You wonder if Wu tai-gor has moved on?” Siu-ching asked as she heaped some honeyed chicken onto her husband’s bowl. “I sometimes wonder too…” Siu-ching sighed and shook her head. She was very vocal in supporting Wu Tit-fa during his break up with Koh Ah Lam some years ago. Her unexpected support and compassion eventually broke Tit-fa’s indifference towards the Princess. Whilst he originally just thought of Siu-ching as a spoiled little princess Chor Lau-heung happened to fancy, the Drunkard slowly started to appreciate her loyalty and courage, as well as her tenacity in facing a wandering life with the carefree Chor Lau-heung.

“I sometimes wonder if Wu tai-gor will ever love another woman,” Li Hung-chao commented as she helped herself to some freshly sautéed greens. After praising the freshness of the vegetables, she added, “I sometimes don’t know if he really has moved on, if he just doesn’t care… or if he just covers it up. Ah. Chor tai-gor ah –” the in-house physician addressed her brother, who had been just nodding as the women around him expressed their concerns about Wu Tit-fa. “What do you think?”

Lingering Fragrance chuckled. “It’s been a while since he broke up with Master Dik Chan… I tend to think he’s moved on by now.”

“You guys are fickle!” Hung-chao snorted. “If it were us girls, we’re not easy to move on.” A rhyming ‘yes’ were heard around the table.

Chor Lau-heung chuckled again. “I don’t mean to say that moving on means caring less, or stop caring at all. I’m sure Wu Tit-fa still cares about what happens to Master Dik Chan and Hua-shan – doesn’t he ask you about news from Hua-shan every now and then, Jan-jan?” Upon a slow nod from the former Hua-shan student, the Wanderer resumed. “Men can be trapped in the past as well like women… But while I think it’s quite romantic to always linger in the past… I do think it’s healthier if we all move on eventually, without forgetting the sweetness of the past we used to share with that failed romance…”

Siu-ching studied her husband’s face for a while before asking, “So, had I not come here to the boat, you’d move on?” Her question caught him off-guard, such that he stuttered for a while. The girls around them giggled, while Siu-ching studiously waited for Chor Lau-heung’s response.

“Siu-ching, don’t worry!” Yung-yung stopped giggling to offer her solace. “Our Chor tai-gor, despite being great at hiding his feelings, is not someone who can move on easily on very important things. He’ll still be merry, but he’ll keep his past in his heart. He’s not an example of a healthy habit in this case.”

“Really?” Siu-ching whispered. Her husband just looked at her and smiled as he scoped their daughter on his lap. A Ying busily making funny noises as she grabbed his hair and tugged it several times. When he replied with “I wouldn’t know what I’d miss…”, Siu-ching smiled again and blushingly diverted her attention to another matter.

“Where is Tim-yi, by the way?!”

“Looking for the real chef, are you?” a merry voice entered the boat dining room before the owner. “Can’t do without me?”

“Huh! You wish!” Siu-ching grinned to Tim-yi as Lingering Fragrance lifted his eyebrows. “Oh, Wu tai-gor! We thought you wouldn’t come!”

“Wu tai-gor, we have kept a jar of good wine for you,” Realising that Wu Tit-fa indeed had walked in behind Tim-yi, Jan-jan excitedly rose to fetch the wine. “Wait, I’ll –”

“Jan-jan, that can wait.”

Jan-jan did a double take to make sure that it was indeed the Drunkard who said that fetching a jar of wine can wait. “Excuse me?”

“I…” Wu Tit-fa shifted his weight from left to right nervously. “Hey, Chor Lau-heung buddy! Can I talk to you alone?”

“Oh? What is it? A national emergency?”

“Don’t be silly!” the Drunkard waved his hand. “I’ll spill the bean here if it was about national emergency!”

“What is it then?” Yung-yung’s curiosity was piqued. “Do you need money to buy wine?”

“Don’t be silly!” the Drunkard looked annoyed before he considered Yung-yung’s comment. “Hey, are you serious?! Do I really have the habit of borrowing money?”

“Everyone has a bad habit,” Chor Lau-heung chuckled. “But with the right girl by your side, you can improve yourself.”

Only two people understood Lingering Fragrance’s comment. One was furiously blushing and suddenly played with her red bells, the other one was stuttering before decidedly dragged the King of Thieves to the cabin corner.

“Hey, hey, hey, what the hell do you mean by that?!”

“I mean…” easily, Chor Lau-heung extracted himself from Wu Tit-fa’s grab. “With the right girl by your side, you can improve yourself.”

“Stop repeating yourself!” the Drunkard hissed.

“You were asking for me to clarify,” his friend didn’t miss a beat in his reply. He wouldn’t miss the chance to tease the anti-woman drunkard for the world! He lifted his fore finger and repeated himself for the third time. “With the right girl by your side, you can improve yourself.”

“Shut up!”

“Wu tai-gor!”

Everyone turned to see the red-faced Tim-yi getting annoyed. “You promised!”

Then it dawned on them.

“Tim-yi…” whispered Hung-chao. “Since when??”

“Oh my…” Yung-yung whispered. “I do have my suspicions, but…” she stopped.

“Yeah, since when??” Siu-ching stopped as well before replying to herself, “Since A-Ying’s birth??” A-Ying’s birth made Wu Tit-fa stayed with them for a good few weeks. Nothing suspicious happened then; mostly the girls were annoyed by Wu’s habit of snatching A-Ying from their hands.

“Well… kind of afterwards…” Tim-yi answered in a small voice.

“I wouldn’t know…” Jan-jan whispered. Wu Tit-fa looked at the former Hua-shan girl and he became more wrong-footed.

“Jan-jan…” he whispered as he walked towards her. “I will always consider your sister as a special person to me.” He nodded several times for good measure. “It’s just that… I apparently have moved on…” He looked at the boat wooden floor before resuming. “It was unplanned… but it happened…”

Jan-jan looked at the posture of one of the most loyal men she’d ever known. She smiled and nodded. “I’m glad that you have. My sister would approve. I do approve.”

Wu Tit-fa looked up and chuckled in relief. Then, realising that the steward, the brother of his love, had not said anything else, he turned to face Chor Lau-heung. The Wanderer had a mischievous grin on his happy face.

“Do I have to say that I approve too?” Lau-heung teased.

“Chor tai-gor!” Tim-yi slapped his arm playfully. “We need your consent!”

Chuckling, the Wanderer touched the shoulders of his best friend and his most lively sister. “Then I give you two my consent, whole-heartedly. I’m very happy for you. Actually, I have been very happy for you for a while.”

“You know already?!” Wu Tit-fa was surprised. He thought he was stealth enough in his budding romance with Tim-yi.

“Of course I do. I’m a detective, and I’m her brother. Of course I know what happens. Why do you think I suggested that Siu-ching cooked today instead of Tim-yi?”

Amidst the bursts of happiness around her, Tim-yi stuttered again. “I might leave the boat…”

Chor Lau-heung nodded. He knew. “You need to follow him. He’ll take care of you.” He looked at the sober and solemn Wu Tit-fa who nodded seriously. “I know he will. Not because he knows I’ll confiscate his wine if he’s not doing that… but because he loves you.”

“Chor tai-gor…” the Tinker Bell sobbed. “I will miss you…”

He embraced her. “I will miss you too… And you might leave the boat, but you’ll come back to visit us. Because you always have a home here.” He blinked his misty eyes as he resumed, “For we are your family.”


-FIN-



Author’s note:

Earlier this year, I realised that – of Chor Lau-heung’s three adopted sisters – I love So Yung-yung the most. Not only she was the most level-headed and wise of the three, she was also played adoringly by Lui Ching-hung. Sung Tim-yi came second, for I eventually can’t resist the cuteness and snappiness of Lau Miu-ling, who also played as Li Sai-man’s cousin in The Foundation 1984. Note that Tim-yi's name means 'Sugar', but she was never called 'Tinker Bell' of course in the series. I just thought of her as Tinker Bell due to her mischievous and cute nature. And the 'e' on the title (Belle) refers to her as a beautiful girl.

So anyway, I want Yung-yung and Tim-yi to eventually find their own men… but I think it will be more difficult with Yung-yung, for she really saw Chor Lau-heung as more than a brother (at least during the first episodes). With Tim-yi, I find it easier to find her a match, because she really mostly saw CLH as her brother, and her jealousy towards Siu-ching was mostly because she wanted CLH’s undivided attention.

That’s when Wu Tit-fa came to play. Played by the often-underrated Chan Wing-chun, I find that Wu Tit-fa was a perfect friend for CLH in this series. I love Wu’s love story with Koh Ah Lam (Sharon Yeung) and I feel sad that it wasn’t patched up in the end. Then as I kept rewatching CLH 1984, I saw how the snappy repartee between Wu and Tim-yi were actually pretty enjoyable. Tim-yi liked fooling Wu around, and I say, with the right setting and as both of them matured, they could be a nice cute couple together.

Having said that, I purposely also include the topic of moving on here. It is indeed romantic to cling on to failed romance (or potential romance) in the past…  but it actually is possible to move on, but still smiling sweetly to the memories of the past. And actually, when we can turn back to a time and smile at it, understanding that it has fulfilled that chapter of our lives, I fancy that it indeed is a good sign that we have healthily moved on…

To me, Michael Miu has healthily moved on from the tragedy surrounding Barbara’s death. She will always be a dear part of his past. These days, in some interviews he smiled more instead of being sad about her passing. He reminisced good memories he shared with her. Those memories stay in the past, and it’s okay. People move on. Michael is happy with his life now. Rob Radboud is also happy with his current life. They truly move on, yet they will always cherish their memories with Barbara.


And to me, that’s okay. I am content with that…

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