(We meet again)
On their drive home, the couple dropped by a mother-and-baby store. An excited Autumn, with Charles in tow, went around the store browsing through the display of several lovely clothes for infants. Charles was delighted to see his wife so cheerful.
"You like it?" he asked as Autumn inspected one item in blue. His wife looked at him, hesitating.
"But I still don't know if it's a boy or girl," Autumn sighed. "I don't know which color to pick," she added, with a light laugh. Shopping was fun, though, Autumn thought. She kept looking at one item after another, admiring the cute designs.
Charles encouraged his wife. "It doesn't matter what you buy now. You can buy more later." The he flashed a mischievous smile. "Besides, they might all be useful someday." Autumn blushed at her husband's statement. It seemed like Charles wanted to have many babies. After looking at several of the infant clothes, Autumn finally picked out two of different colors. She handed these to Charles, who paid the bill.
On their way home, Charles turned to Autumn. "When you feel much better, I'd like to take you out to buy things for the baby," he told his wife.
"Really? That would be wonderful," she replied. Autumn was pleased that Charles was taking more interest in the baby and her. She laid her hands on her belly and lovingly rubbed it, speaking to the baby in her mind.
When they got home, Autumn was out of the car first and walked in to find a surprise waiting for them. Arthur stood by the door and was ready to welcome the couple. "Grandpa! What brings you here today?" Autumn cried out in delight.
Arthur gave Autumn a warm hug, and pulled her to sit down on the couch. "I was worried about you so I came to check how you were," he said, while closely inspecting Autumn's face. "And how was the physical examination today?"
"Oh, I'm fine, Grandpa. And the baby's well," she assured Arthur. Then she grinned and excitedly brought out her purchases. "Look! We even went shopping for baby clothes."
Charles walked in as she was showing off the clothes to Arthur. He greeted his grandfather warmly, who motioned for him to sit down. "Charles, Autumn, I have something to talk to you about," Arthur began. "And I want to ask your opinion on something," the elder man said.
Charles and Autumn looked at each other. "What is it, Grandpa?" he asked, a slight frown on his brows.
"I have a good friend who specializes in Traditional Chinese Medicine. He's here in Y City for a holiday. And I was thinking…" Arthur paused for a while and looked at Autumn and Charles before continuing, "Since Autumn can't take any kind of Western medication because of her pregnancy, I was wondering if she's open to Chinese traditional treatment. I have spoken to my old friend and he is willing to help. If you are agreeable, we can pay him a visit later. What do you think?"
Charles heaved a quiet sigh of relief. "Well, that's wonderful!" he told Arthur. Like his grandfather, he worried about Autumn's mental condition and was hoping she would really get better soon, for the sake of the baby.
"So, do we need to invite him for dinner?" he asked his grandfather. Arthur nodded in agreement. He told Charles, "All right. I will make reservations at a restaurant now while you and Autumn get some rest first."
But Charles stood up quickly. "No, grandpa. I'll do it," he offered. Charles knew a place that was not like the usual restaurants and wanted to bring his wife there. "I know a good place — it's located in a farm — and they have many special cuisines. The dishes they serve are pretty good," he said.
Besides, he didn't want to trouble his grandfather with the task, so it was better to take the initiative to make reservations.
He easily made the call to the farm estate. It was located in a suburban district and was part of Eric's family property. It was not in the downtown area but the scenery was beautiful and relaxing plus the food was quite good. 'This would be perfect,' he thought.
It was already late in the afternoon, but Nancy, who also left the house earlier, still had not arrived. Charles decided not to worry about her. Once the reservation was settled, he told Arthur to inform his friend about the plan, and to get ready to be picked up.
By five o'clock, Charles drove to Pure Zone with Autumn. The trip itself was relaxing and smooth. When they arrived, Charles went to order while Autumn decided to look around.
She took several deep breaths, admiring her surroundings. The property was large, quiet and clean.
There were two huge stones on each side of the gate. The spacious garden was surrounded by two rows of bungalows. A grape trellis was set up in the center of the yard, where several marble tables were arranged around it. A dozen stone carvings made interesting decor along the passageway that led to the beautiful scenery once in the garden. Autumn felt at ease and safe while enjoying the view.
Several chestnut trees were planted at the end of the yard. Although these were still bare because harvest season was a long time away, it would be exciting to visit in the fall when the trees were heavy with ripe fruit.
"It's rather cold out here," a voice spoke up, startling Autumn. "You better get inside where it's warmer." Autumn was about to explore the back of the garden when she heard the man. When she turned to see who it was, she was surprised to find the same person she met at the hospital earlier. She gasped, "It's you! What are you doing here?"
Politely, he said, "I'm here to attend a banquet. What brings you here?" He kept his face impassive but continued to gaze at Autumn.
"Me, too! What a nice coincidence," she replied with a smile. Autumn realized she was really glad to see the man again.
Because of her pregnancy, Autumn had been confined to the house where everyone was careful not to upset her, afraid that she might throw a tantrum.
She felt more like a patient that just a pregnant woman and it was becoming wearisome. She welcomed her encounter with the man who seemed to treat her like a normal person.
And it was very pleasant to run into the stranger who helped her earlier.
"You look weak and the weather is cold. It's not good for you to stay outside for long," he pointed out. His words of concern were a contrast to his indifferent tone.
Yet Autumn smiled at him. "I'm fine, really," she assured him. "I rarely go out since I'm pregnant. I've forgotten how good it feels to walk around like this occasionally."
The man continued to look at her, but remained silent for several minutes. Then he observed, "I've met you twice but both times, you were always alone. Are you…"
His gaze dropped to her belly as he paused. He was wondering if Autumn was a single mom.
"Oh, I came here with my husband. He's inside ordering for us now," she explained. At that moment, she saw Charles as he walked towards them. "Look, there he is," she pointed out.
"Autumn, who are you talking to?" he asked curiously. Charles stopped beside his wife and looked at the stranger.
Autumn reached for Charles' hand. "Do you remember the man I was told you about, who helped me in the hospital earlier?" She looked at the stranger. "I didn't expect to run into him here."
Autumn proceeded to introduce the two men and then suddenly remembered she did not know the stranger's name.
She cleared her throat in embarrassment, realizing the awkward situation they were in.
"I'm so sorry. I don't even know your name," she apologized. "I'm Autumn Zhao, by the way." Autumn waited for his reply.
"Anthony Xiao," he said. "I'm glad to meet you."
She sighed in relief, but continued to smile. "Now, let me introduce you to my husband, Charles Lu. Charles, this is Anthony Xiao," Autumn said.
"A pleasure to meet you, Anthony," Charles remarked. He extended his hand for a handshake, which Anthony Xiao took. Charles said, "Thank you for helping my wife earlier at the hospital."
"You're welcome," Anthony Xiao said calmly. Suddenly, he said, "Please excuse me. I need to deal with something else."
Autumn was taken aback by his abruptness. But she said, "Okay." As Anthony Xiao walked away, Charles and Autumn decided to head back to the balcony. "Let's go. Grandpa and his friend have arrived," he said gently as he escorted Autumn.
"Oh, all right. Let's go then," she said holding on to her husband's arm. As they approached the entrance of the balcony, they could hear Arthur's laughter. "Craig, it has been a long time since we've seen each other," he said. Then he pointed out, "Your grandson is all grown up."
A quick pause was followed by, "Yes, how time flies… as swiftly as an arrow."
This time, another man's laughter broke out in the balcony. And an old man's voice drifted towards Charles and Autumn. "Arthur… you never told me you had a granddaughter. You should have introduced her to my grandson and then we would have been related by their marriage," he said teasingly.
"Well, it's too late now," Arthur retorted. He smiled and added, "My granddaughter is married. And she's also pregnant now."