“You know you are the daughter they always wanted.”
Eliza’s eyes were wide from what Fiona said, and the gorgeous view that she had of Shanghai from the window. It was hard for Eliza to hear that even though she knew it was true, out of Fiona’s mouth.
“Not Mom, Dad or Rafe suggested that I should not come here. Frankly that is fine, because I am not planning on going back to New York.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, and you can be the bearer of the good news. I am staying here.”
Fiona sat calm in a lotus pose on the bed opposite her.
“I cannot tell them that.”
“You will, you will, because I am not going back.”
“Why can’t you go back Fi? Everyone who loves you is there. What is here for you in Shanghai?”
Fiona shook her head, bit her bottom lip and looked out of the huge window from the bed.
Eliza leaned forward and touched Fiona’s leg. The darkness and moisture in Fiona’s eyes when she touched her was not something she expected. She pulled her hand away.
“I can’t go back because the person I am in love with is in love with someone else.”
“You are going to let your love for someone make you leave everything that you know?
The words rushed out of her mouth, but Eliza realized she was in Shanghai because she ached for a man that was not the man she was going to marry. How many times had she tried to justify to herself that it was just a fling? But she was in Shanghai for Oscar, and she was advising Fiona.
“I cannot be there when you get married…”
“What does the wedding have to do with anything?”
Eliza looked at Fiona’s watery eyes, and watched her bite her lip even more. Her feelings of empathy were so deep, her eyes teared up as well.
“Eliza, I love about you that you are so naive. You think the world is a beautiful place, and you think everything in your world is beautiful. My parents love you, my brother loves you and I love you.”
“I love you too, Fi.”
Fiona placed her hand on Eliza the same way Eliza had placed her hand on her thigh, but slightly higher.
And then higher.
They looked at each other.
“How can I be in New York when you marry Rafe when I love you Eliza?”
Eliza shook her head.
“This is the biggest chance I have ever taken in my life coming to Shanghai alone with you.” Fiona took Eliza’s hand in hers. “This is my big chance, and I am just going to have it and tell you I love you. I loved you since Rafe brought you home. I loved you and wanted you, and had to pretend all this time. I thought maybe you would break up. No. Solid. I cannot be there for the wedding.”
Eliza looked at Fiona’s hand shaking on her thigh, and squeezed hers tight over it.
“Fiona, I never knew, and I’m sorry. I am sorry that you are in so much pain. But you have to come home with me…”
“I cannot be at that wedding.”
Fiona pulled her hand from Eliza’s, and got up from the bed to stand by the huge window which she seemed to drown in. Eliza followed her to the window. She wanted to say something to Fiona, but did not know what to say.
When Fiona turned around, they looked at each other for a long time.
“I have to go to meet with a gallery owner here. She speaks English, so there is no need for you to come with me. Really Eliza, there is no reason for you to even be here anymore if you do not want to be.”
Eliza was speechless as Fiona walked out of the apartment.
Her engagement to Rafe was supposed to be the thing that defined her. She was going to be his wife. Then Oscar defined her, she was his lover. Now Fiona was defined her, she was her unrequited love.
She stood still for a moment trying to take in everything, trying to be.
And then like Pavlov’s dog, a ping from her phone made her jump.
She picked up her phone, and typed furiously. Without thinking, and still not sure about getting around in Shanghai, she got into a cab with her light knowledge of the language.
She arrived at a bar with seats that looked like fire-filled lanterns. Oscar was there waiting for her, her heart beat so loud she heard it pounding in her ears. She almost ran to him, but stopped herself. He had never seen her be anything but calm and collected her.
She slowly sashayed toward him, and he looked down at her.
“Oscar,” she could finally say, and not just think or say softly aloud to herself.
He caressed her cheek.
“What is wrong?”
The way he looked at her, searching for what she had hoped to hide made her tear up.
He wiped the first tear that fell, and kissed her where it landed above her cheek.
It all rushed out of her mouth, as she heaved more than cried. She looked down when she was done, and listened to Oscar order drinks.
“You speak the language too?”
He nodded, and asked,
“What are you going to do?”
Eliza sighed heavily, her hand on his hand on her thigh pressing into it for support.
Her mind murmured Oscar’s name over and over again, as she became tearful again and the fire-colored seats looked like fire in earnest around them.
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shanghai photo via wikipedia