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Season 7

Episode 14

(An Empty Room)

Sheryl stretched her hand towards Amy to hand over the gift she had brought for her. "It's a thank you gift," Sheryl said with a bright smile on her face. "You've been really kind and benevolent in helping me out in my hour of need lately.

You don't know how much I appreciate you, Amy. I bought these as a token of my gratitude. I hope you will accept it," she added as she handed the gift to Amy.

Amy looked at Sheryl with loving eyes as she took the parcel from her hand. "Well, that's very sweet, but you really don't have to do that," Amy said as she ushered Sheryl inside her house. "Please make yourself comfortable. Treat this like your own house." When they entered the living room, Amy told her daughter, "Abby, please entertain Sheryl for me. I'll make a soup for the dinner." Then she turned to Sheryl and added, "Have a seat, Sheryl. Dinner is almost ready. Dine with us tonight."

"No, Amy," Sheryl hurriedly declined Amy's invitation. "I just came here to pick Shirley up. I really can't disturb you any more."

"You are not disturbing me," Amy said firmly. "Eat some fruit now and go back after having dinner with us," she spoke in a stern yet emphatic tone. "You may not know that I'm a good cook. Please don't stand on ceremony. Take your seat. It will make me happy if you treat this like your own house," Amy repeated herself.

Unwilling to disappoint Amy, Sheryl nodded her head in acceptance of her invitation to stay for dinner. Amy gave a satisfying smile and walked towards the kitchen. Abby pulled Sheryl onto the couch. Andy, who was also sitting quietly on the couch, looked at her with a welcoming smile.

They were seeing her just after three years yet Andy felt that it had been a century since they had last met.

"Oh, let me introduce you to my family," Abby said delightedly. "This is my husband, Andy Xu, and these are my two children." She pointed to Andy, and then to Cindy and Rick.

Cindy looked straight at Sheryl with her big black eyes. She felt an urge to run to Sheryl and hug her crying Autumn. But she remained silent as she had been instructed by her mother to call her Sher.

It was Autumn right in front of her eyes and no one else. But still the girl obeyed her mother. She passed a polite smile and kept looking at Sheryl.

As for Sheryl, she could not move her eyes from Cindy. She felt a very strong sense of familiarity with this girl as if she had met her before. She took Cindy's hand and inquired affectionately, "Hello, what's your name?"

"Cindy, I'm Cindy," Cindy replied in a clear voice, showing no sign of timidity.

Rick standing next to Cindy gave a shy smile as he watched Sheryl. Sheryl could feel that the boy wanted to come close to her but he was hesitant.

She then waved at Rick which gave him the courage to walk towards her. He went straight into her arms and gazed at her face in an unwavering manner. Sheryl felt a familiar warmth with these two kids. She had felt so happy and contented in this way for a long time.

There was something about this house and these people that gave her a very home like feeling. All of a sudden, she remembered Shirley. "Oh, Abby, where's Shirley? Why is she not here?" she asked looking around the living room.

"She's sleeping upstairs," Abby answered gently. "She fell asleep just before you came. Maybe, because she was tired from playing with Cindy and Rick. Don't worry. Let her sleep for a while and then we will call her over for dinner."

"It's very kind of you. Thank you very much," Sheryl said expressing her gratitude. "But for your kind help, I really didn't know what I should do today."

"All right, all right, that's enough. Stop saying 'thank you'. It hasn't been half an hour since you have walked inside the doors, but you've said thank you a million times," Abby teased. "Shirley and I get along really well. I really like your girl."

As they chatted, Sheryl felt more and more relaxed due to the easy way that the Zhao family treated her. She felt as if she had known them for a long time. "Shirley must have troubled you this afternoon. She's a bit of a rebel. I shouldn't have spoiled her."

"Not at all," Abby denied instantly. "She had a great time with Rick and was very obedient. She didn't bother me at all."

After a moment's pause, she took a look at Sheryl and said in a gentle voice, "I heard from my mom that you don't have family or friends in Y City. So, when you go to work, Shirley is left unattended. How about this? In case of such an emergency next time, you just send Shirley to me. Taking care of two children is about the same as taking care of three."

Sheryl felt embarrassed and thankful at the same time in the face of such an offer made by Abby. "How could I bother you..." Sheryl tried to refuse this offer of help but Abby interrupted her, "Don't be so polite with me please. From now on, please just treat us like your own family."
Abby's enthusiasm made Sheryl feel so overwhelmed that she could not refuse her.

While they were talking, Arthur came back. The moment he got the first glance of Sheryl, his heart pounded. He was eager to take his granddaughter in his arms. It had been such a long time...
almost three years. He had never thought that he would be able to see her face again in his lifetime. Then he remembered what Amy had told him and regained his composure.

Abby stood up and introduced, "Sheryl, this is my father, Arthur Zhao. He used to be a doctor. The director who treated Shirley used to be my father's subordinate."

"No wonder..." Sheryl suddenly realized why the director took Shirley's illness so seriously. She stood up and thanked Arthur, "Doctor Zhao, about Shirley's illness... Thank you for your help, otherwise I really wouldn't know what to do."

"You're welcome. That's not a big deal," Arthur said, waving his hand. "Just sit. Don't be so courteous."

Arthur took a glass of water and continued, "My wife already told me that you paid for her breakfast that day. If it hadn't been for you, she'd have been a disgrace."

"Not at all..." Sheryl felt a little embarrassed. "Compared to the helping hand you have extended for me and my daughter, it's really nothing."

Just as Arthur brought in the context of the breakfast, a question popped out in Sheryl's mind. She frowned her brows and asked, "But... your house is a little far from where I stay. Why did Amy go to buy breakfast all the way to that place that day?"

Her question came very spontaneously and absolutely out of the blue that made each one of them quiver and freeze.

Thanks to Abby's presence of mind and prompt reply, Sheryl didn't get suspicious of them. "Why would my mom go out of her way to buy breakfast so far from home without any reason? We went to see a friend the other day and forgot to have breakfast. So she bought breakfast there and it so happened that we met you," Abby explained.

"So it seems that we are destined to meet," Abby concluded with a smile. Her funny words made all the people present in the room have a hearty laugh. The family's collective effort to make Sheryl feel convinced about their accidental meeting succeeded. Amy came out of the kitchen and asked, "What are you talking about? You all look so happy."

When everyone stopped laughing, she announced, "Dinner is ready." Then she turned to Abby and said, "Abby, take Sheryl upstairs to wake Shirley."

"Okay," Abby replied and told Sheryl, "come with me, Sheryl." As Abby led Sheryl upstairs, Sheryl walked passed a room downstairs that felt very familiar, as if there was something in the room she knew. She paused outside that room and stared at its closed door. What lied behind this closed door? What was it that made her so curious about this room? Sheryl stood there wondering why a room in a house she had visited for the first time pulled her towards it.

Abby marked the dilemma that Sheryl was going through. She decided to stand there in silence and wait for Sheryl's reaction. After a while she asked, "What's the matter, Sheryl?"

"Abby..." Sheryl stood at the door. After hesitating for a long while, she asked, "What's in this room?"

"Oh, this room..." Abby stared at Sheryl for a few seconds trying to read her mind. She wondered if Sheryl had remembered the past.

"It was one of my elders' room, but she passed away three years ago. So it is empty now."

"Oh, really?" Sheryl glanced at the closed door in disbelief. 'Why do I feel I have been in this room before?' she wondered.

"Let's go," Abby urged and pulled Sheryl's hands.

Shirley was still sleeping when they came to the room where she rested. Sheryl walked to the bed and woke Shirley up. "Sher, you're here to pick me up," she said, rubbing her sleepy eyes.



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