Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chapter 6, part 1: What about Quan?

Sunlight streamed through the French doors in the breakfast nook the next morning.  Mom handed me a glass of orange juice and sat down across the table.  “Have you thought about what you’re going to tell Quan?”

“I guess I’ll tell him in class today. Or maybe I’ll wait until tonight.  He’s supposed to pick me up at 6:30.  We’re going miniature golfing.”  I blew on a spoonful of hot oatmeal to cool it off.

“Yes, dear, but what are you going to tell him, about the future of your relationship?”

“Why do I have to tell him anything?”

“Giselle, you have to think this through.  Do you really want to go off to college and be tied down to a long distance relationship?  I think you’d get more out of your experience if you were single and free to get to know all the young people on campus.”

“But I’m not leaving until August, and Quan and I have only been going out a few weeks.”

“All the more reason to end things now.  It’ll be easier on both of you this way, don’t you see?  Although it’s obvious the poor boy is already head over heels for you, and why shouldn’t he be?  You’re a wonderful young woman, so lovely and bright.  Any man would be lucky—”

“Okay, okay, Mom, I get the point.  I’ll think about it, but I’m not going to break up with him tonight.”

“I trust you to make the wise decision.”  That was code for I’ll be disappointed if you don’t take my advice.

Kirsten came stumbling out of her room.  “I overslept!” she yelled from the landing of the stairs “Giselle, don’t leave without me okay?  I promise, I won’t make you late.  I’m just going to take a quick shower and then I’ll throw on some clothes and be out the door.  Mom, can you make me some Instant Breakfast?”

“Why bother showering? You’ll still look like a homeless person the way you dress,” Mom snarked. 

***


After my third honk, Kirsten ran out the front door, an empty bookbag slung over one shoulder, Algebra book tucked under one arm and a travel mug in her opposite hand. I slid out of the driver’s seat and jogged around to open the passenger door for her, then took the mug while she climbed in.

“Thanks for waiting.”

I held out the mug. “Sure.”  In truth, I was annoyed but there was no point in complaining to Kirsten. I knew from experience that she would get defensive, and either turn on the waterworks or lash out at me. Not my idea of a great way to start the morning.

While I navigated the streets of our neighborhood to Grand Avenue, I took a few deep breaths and redirected my aggravation. “So Mom thinks I should tell Quan about my decision tonight. Can you believe it—just before you came in, Mom had the nerve to tell me to break up with him.”

“You know he’s not going to be happy when he hears the news. He’s in lurve with you.”

I sighed as we turned left and headed north. If I could hit all the lights just right, there was a chance we might not be late for school. “Yeah. He’s already assumed I’ll be going to UCLA with him.”

“Oh my gosh, how romantic!  He’s probably hoping you’ll stay together all through college, so when you graduate you can get married and have lots of babies!”

I let out a puff of air. “You been listening to Mom too long or something?    Last night she had me marrying some random guy in Ohio and now you’ve built this whole crazy story about Quan.”

“Relax, I was just giving you a hard time. But seriously, does he even know you applied to Elk River College?”

“It hasn’t really come up. So?”

She whistled low. “Man, I don’t know whether to be sorry for him or for you. There’s going to be some drama tonight!  You better tell me all about it when you get home from your date of doom.”  She let out a stage cackle.
At moments like these, I truly wished I were an only child.  


***

When the doorbell rang at 6:29, I sat at the piano, playing the fastest and loudest songs in my repertoire, trying to release the pre-date jitters.  My heart jumped up into my throat.  He’s here! Should I get the door or have someone else let him in?  Should I tell him about Elk River College right away or wait until the end of our date?

Almost against my will, my feet carried me through the foyer to the double doors of our entry and my hand turned the knob to reveal Quan, standing with his hands behind his back.

“Hi, Giselle.  You look great as always.”  He leaned in for a kiss.  

I turned my cheek to him.  “Thanks, so do you.”

“Uh, this is for you.”  He held out a small neon pink teddy bear that had the words “Be Mine” embroidered on the belly.  It looked like something out of one of those claw machines.  

I took it and forced a smile.  “Thanks.”  

“Don’t you like it?”

“No, it’s not that.  It’s cute, and you’re sweet.  Sorry for not being more enthusiastic.”

He let it go, but I could tell he knew something was bothering me. As we drove down the freeway, I wondered for the hundredth time how I was going to tell him about choosing a college so far away.  How was he going to take it?  Kirsten was probably right, we’d break up over it and there would be a huge scene.  
By the time we reached the restaurant, I had almost talked myself back into not mentioning college at all.  I could just pretend like everything would stay the same all summer, and maybe he’d eventually break up with me.  Could I live a lie for three months?  The knot of anticipation and dread in my stomach tightened at the thought.  No, I had to tell him, no matter how he took it.  I’d just wait until he walked me up to the door after our date.  

When we finished the last hole on the golf course, Quan led me to a nearby bench. “Let’s sit here. We need to talk.”

"I have something to tell you too. You first.”

He grabbed my hand. Was he crying?

“I can’t see you any more.” His voice broke. He really was crying, or at least was on the verge of it.

And here I was worried about how to break up with him. “Why not?” 

“My parents. They don’t like me seeing a white girl, especially one who’s not Catholic. You probably think I should just blow them off, but that’s not really an option in my culture. I just had to see you one last time. It kills me to have to hurt you like this.”

It did sting a little, but there was no point in letting him see that. “It’s okay. I was going to tell you I’m not going to UCLA after all. I actually decided on a school in Ohio. The long distance thing would have been hard. I guess God has a different plan for us.”

Our parting was bittersweet. Especially the kiss. Mom was right, practice did make perfect. Quan ended up becoming a pretty good kisser after all.