"Ethan! I'm glad to see you again! How have you been?" As usual, Lillian Yang's approached towards Ethan Lu was welcoming and warm. She then served Ethan Lu her signature hot cup of aromatic tea.
"I've been well, Auntie. How are you?" As courteous as ever, Ethan Lu felt refreshed with Lillian Yang's motherly company. Also, her tea was relaxing with just its scent. Not to mention, it's refreshing taste.
"Ohh, we've been doing just fine." Lillian Yang chuckled. She was clearly delighted with Ethan's visit.
Last night, Ethan Lu contacted her asking if he could drop by. Of course, Lillian Yang treated her like he was her own son and didn't reject his request. After all, they hadn't seen Ethan Lu for a month for some unknown reason and Lexi's response to her query was always vague.
"Have you eaten? Try these snacks I had made first while the dinner is being prepared." Offering him her homemade egg tarts and pumpkin pancakes, Lillian Yang gently gestured.
"Thank you, Auntie. I'm sorry for the trouble." Smiling, Ethan Lu slightly nodded before picking up one egg tart and took a bite. The moment he chewed on the said snack, his eyes gleamed which pleased Lillian Yang.
"Wow, Auntie. These are… heavenly!" Ethan Lu genuinely praised as they were indeed good. He had tasted Lexi's mother dishes but it was his first time to try her desserts. He added after gobbling the whole delicacy,
"Auntie, why didn't you opened a restaurant? This is so good! I can eat it every day!" Ethan felt like he was on cloud nine as he indulged with the flavorful snack. If he wasn't watching his manners, he would be shameless enough to eat everything in one go.
"Silly, you are welcome here whenever you like to have some." Lillian Yang giggled as she was flattered by Ethan Lu's kind words. Also, his expressive reaction while he enjoyed her simple snacks was enough to fill Lillian Yang's heart with satisfaction. After all, not everyone who tasted her dishes was as vivid as Ethan Lu.
Just then, Frederick Yang arrived wearing a formal business suit. Seeing the light atmosphere in the living area with Ethan Lu's presence, he smiled.
Lillian Yang as if her radar of her husband's presence has switched on, she turned her head towards the entrance and saw her husband arrived.
Standing up, she greeted, "Dear," Lillian Yang then strode to welcome her husband. She helped him took off his formal blazer then placed it on her arms.
On the other hand, Ethan Lu abruptly stood up and courtly bowed his head towards Frederick Yang's direction. "Uncle!"
"Haha, Ethan, you don't have to be so formal." Seeing that Ethan Lu didn't change a bit, Frederick Yang let out a short laughed.
Both Yang parents then perched on the set of exquisite sofas; Frederick on the head seat while Lillian Yang on the right side, across Ethan.
"Ethan, I was surprised when you said you'd drop by today. But, Lexi wasn't here." When Frederick Yang leaned his back against the soft sofa, he turned his attention to his left where Ethan Lu sat.
Lillian Yang, as usual, busied herself pouring his husband a cup of tea and placed some snacks on the porcelain small plates for him.
"Uncle, I am actually here because of Uncle and Auntie." Clearing his throat as Ethan fixed his position as he placed both on his hand on his lap and straightened his posture.
His statement made Frederick Yang's brows raised and Lillian as they diverted their focus on the young man.
"Because of us?" Repeating his intention, Frederick Yang slightly tilted his head on the side. Meanwhile, Lillian Yang also patiently anticipated on Ethan Lu's next words. But for some reason, Mother Yang's instinct tells her it was about Lexi.
Ethan Lu wordlessly nodded as he mustered his courage. After three seconds, Ethan spoke. "Uncle, Auntie, I came here not as Lexi's friend but her suitor."
A sudden stillness enveloped around the whole Yang mansion the moment Ethan Lu uttered his words. It was as if Ethan Lu caught them off guard as both Yang parents stared at him without a word.
"Uncle, Auntie, I know you have welcomed me with open arms, feeds me with delicious home cooking every time and had been lenient with me. I know it is selfish of me to bear such desires towards Lexi after everything and crossed the line. But, I really love Lexi and would be more than willing to marry her if she ever gives me the chance." Ethan Lu's hands gradually formed sweats as he uttered his intentions.
He cautiously looked at Frederick Yang's inexpressive front then shifted it to Lillian's surprised front. This quietness surely raised Ethan Lu's anxiousness level to the core. He could hear his heart throbbed as if he was waiting for his judgment. Soon, sweats started to form on his forehead as he gulped his own saliva until he could no longer swallow anything.
After sometime when Ethan Lu's words finally processed on the Yang parents, Frederick and Lillian wordlessly looked at each other before Lillian nodded in understanding.
"Ethan, will you follow me to my study?" At last, Frederick Yang broke his silence and he invited Ethan Lu to his study room which he agreed without a second hesitation.
[Inside Frederick Yang's study room]
Ethan Lu silently followed Frederick Yang from behind until they entered his study room. Scanning the room, a huge family portrait of three hung behind the desk instantly caught his eyes. It was a simple photo but it was evident with their smile that they were a happy family because of their beaming smile.
Frederick Yang stopped in his stride in front of his desk as he raised his head to their family portrait. Without turning his head, he finally broke the silence.
"That photo was taken years ago when Lexi came back from abroad…"
Ethan Lu attentively listened to his words and nodded after knowing when it was taken. He fixed his gaze towards Lexi's smiling face as if she was free of negative vibes and could not help but fall for her the longer he stared at it.
"You see, in that photo, my Lexi was smiling from ear to ear. It was her idea, to take a family photo that time saying we needed to update our family photo. That silly girl, she was so energetic as if she wasn't exhausted with her long flight." Frederick Yang's eyes softened as he recalled how giddy Lexi back then while she insisted to shoot a formal family photo the moment she arrived in the country.
"I didn't know the reason why... she probably didn't as well, but, after that day, I never saw her smile like this. At first, I didn't notice that slight change as she always smiles at me." Suddenly, a bitter expression gradually displayed on Frederick Yang's face. He resumed,
"As days, weeks, months passed by, her smile has slowly faded. After more months, I finally noticed her change. Her eyes don't smile just like it used to be and even if she always reassured me that everything was fine, it only worried me even more. But, I didn't know why -- even my wife didn't know the reason but we felt there's something wrong. Yet, we still gave her the benefit of the doubt because we believe she will open up if she can't take it anymore… but we're wrong." Frederick Yang's voice had a touch an anguished that he had been hiding all this time.
"We failed her as a parent. We didn't meddle with her affairs and dared to think we were respecting her personal space but clearly, it was considered negligence. We didn't know that our daughter's fragile heart was slowly being shattered."
Ethan could feel the regret, Frederick Yang has until now. Hearing his point of view, Ethan's felt like someone was stabbing his heart.
"Until she finally broke and we could not recognize her anymore. Our sweet daughter turned into someone we don't know and even when we decided to step in, it was too late because my daughter almost killed someone." This time, Frederick Yang's voice cracked and the corner of his eye formed a salty liquid that was tempting to fall. He resumed when he managed to keep his heart at bay,
"Ethan, our Lexi had been through a lot. She only loved one man in her entire life and devoted her life to him -- she would even go to the extent of ending her own life because of it. I didn't know like always, huh. While my daughter was… while she was struggling with her last breath, I was looking at this same portrait like a fool. At the very end, I failed her because I decided to look at her in this photo instead of being with her side." Frederick Yang almost sobbed because he was mad at himself. He nearly lost his daughter because he was an incompetent, weak father.
"I was fortunate that she didn't leave us… that she was given an oppotunity to start anew. I know that my daughter was still fighting, rebuilding herself." With that said note, Frederick Yang slowly turned and faced Ethan who was standing behind him.
Seeing that Ethan was looking down, Frederick Yang relaxed his shoulder yet, his voice turned firmed. "Ethan, if you give me your word to bring her smile back and never taking it away, I will gladly give you my blessing. But, if you're going to be one of the reasons if she cries again, I will use all my power to destroy you -- even if it means facing the Lu family."
Slowly, Ethan Lu raised his head and his determined gaze met the intimidating eyes of father Yang. "Uncle, I am pursuing Lexi with the intention of marrying her. If I ended up hurting her, I will give my word that I, Ethan Lu will personally destroy myself… but, rest assured that I will make sure not to make her cry... because my heart was already hers and hurting her means hurting myself."
For some reason, Ethan was itching to beat Morris Liu to a pulp after hearing this. After all, Lexi had always said things like it was no big deal, alas, in Frederick Yang's perspective, Ethan felt an unimaginable pain in his heart.