Chapter 1

Yawn one, followed by a head shake, and yawns two and three. Then I put my head back, and tucked the tiny marshmallow pillow behind my aching head. One more tug on the too small blanket, and I was soon in La-la land.

I must have been, dare I say it, snoring; because some shaking hand was waking me up and destroying a very pleasant dream.

In a sort of broken English, the FA said something to me and continued trying to wake me up. I, of course, tried to see what the girls in my dream we going to take off next, instead.

"Sir, Sir! Would you please do this lady a favour?"

Through one partially opened eye I peeked until I saw her standing next to us. Lean, tan, almost dressed for a beach rather than the first class section of a plane but, my God she looked like she should be on some magazine cover. Upon further inspection, using my keen powers of observation, I noticed her leg was in a cast. I also noticed that she was barely five foot, not tall and looked fifteen or sixteen years old ... maybe.

"Okay, I'll buy two boxes of mint chocolate chip cookies from her."

That got me a smile from the FA and a look on the girl's face that would have made a pissed off Princess proud.

"Could you change seats with her, or if possible, use the window seat? With her leg she needs the extra room."

I looked at her.

"Yes, I see. She certainly has long legs, pretty ones, too. I don't suppose her seat is in first class, or that is just a guess on my part.

Princess was getting a bit of colour in her face. Why was it girls of any age responded that way to anything a guy would call pretty about them?

"Sure, I'll change with her, as long as she does not kick me with that cast on, and she'll have dinner with me when we land. I'm going to miss that fine cuisine (not) that you'll be serving later. Take care of her."

"I am here, you know?"

"Princess? You speak? English, even? I thought I would need to learn better Mandarin on this flight!"

There was that pissed look, again. I got up, keeping the pillow and blanket. "Let's set 'Princess Lea' down, and I'll follow you to her seat."

When we walked what seemed a mile and a half to the last seat on the plane, the FA pointed.

"Your seat Sir!"

She was laughing! She was a sadist! I said something not very complementary to her in Mandarin. She shook her head and gave me one of those inscrutable grins.

She said, "No, not a Purple Cat!"

As she walked back to the First Class Section, I noticed a sway in her rear and saw that she herself was not even five foot. It was not to be the last time I would see her.

I tried really hard to continue that dream. I saw just why the girl wanted to move. This seat was the worst possible seat on the whole plane. My carry on was still up front. There was not much in it. My passport, money and ID were on me. The only thing of value was the bottle of Johnny Walker Blue, and that was just a gift. I would ask a FA if she could bring the bag back. That dream was starting to come back. This time there was a redhead with the blonde. La-la land called.

The flight to Hong Kong was non-stop but still long. The Brits would be leaving soon, and the PRC was making some effort to assure that investing there, continued. I really did not care. I had learned a long time ago not to confuse things with Religion, Politics or other peoples wives ... unless they were just too damn cute. That's probably why the 'Boss Man' hired me. He had the same rules.

That dream was now back. All six of them were having a sort of a lingerie fashion show.

That shaking feeling was back again. Ms. Fu Manchu surely had to be her name. She excelled in Torture 101, obviously taught by her Dr. father at some secluded Island where she kept her victims imprisoned.

"Sir, Sir. The young lady wishes to know where and when will dinner be?"

Well! 'I'll be a 'coral snake's Uncle!' The Princess really took me seriously.

"If you would, tell the Princess to call the Mandarin Hotel and tell them where to have a car pick her up. The arrangements will be made under 'Parker' ... Jonathan Parker. The car will notify me when she arrives, and someone will escort her if I am not available. Any time after nine this evening should be fine, I do not know how far she lives, so remind her to allow enough time. You might gently mention there is an expected 'Dress' rule. If that is a concern, we can have a room set up for the meal. In-fact, she should just dress for comfort. I forgot about the cast. I don't wish to embarrass her. Please say how pleased I am to be able to have such a lovely dinner companion, this evening. The car will return her home, or a room will be reserved for her, there in the hotel. 'Shay shay knee!' (Xie Xie or thank you)"

She gave me a strange look. I was doing nothing more than what I might do for my sister, if I had one. Every once in a while her face appeared in my dreams. Not as a participant, but as someone that made me realise just how much of my personal life I had hidden away. This meal became, for me, an opportunity to just try and have a personal moment. No 'business, ' no expectations of anything ... just looking forward to the pleasant company and an excellent meal. Such times were few and far between, now.

She must have been the first one off. 1-A should have been a good seat for that. China was not noted for having the 'cattle car' mentality of most countries. I'm sure Ms. Fu Manchu got her off the plane, okay.

Speak of the Devil. I bowed to my tormentor.

"Miss Wu Chang accepts your invitation and will arrive promptly at nine this evening, at the 'Mandarin.' I feel I should mention, this is China, or soon will be once again. Ms. Chang will not be alone. You do not know who her family is, do you?"

"Mother, father, maybe sister or brother. If you tell me a husband I am in-trouble. I mean no disrespect and will try to 'behave' myself, although she is something to look at."

"No, Please, you must be ... her 'family' is 'old Chinese.' She meets you because she feels it is her duty. To repay your kindness for what you did. She has no other reason."

"Ahh, yes. I had forgotten how she may have thought of it. I will not give her any reason to regret that, either."

'Yes, ' I thought.

I had not considered that a girl that age would react to a simple gesture of kindness as if she now was 'duty bound' to do as I asked. I would make certain that all propriety demanded by custom was followed. Those at the Hotel would know what and how to arrange this. The 'Mandarin' was a very nice place, and Chinese custom was exemplified.

I changed my other plans for that evening. I would be there at any time she arrived. The Hotel took my request as nothing more than a task to do. For them it was easy, they said. The 'Mandarin' was one of those places where the number of staff far exceeded the number of guests. I was getting to feel like a kid, now, waiting to go on his first date. I did not want to do anything wrong. The fact that she was joining me for dinner, became the only thing on my mind.

At six twenty-two, my door chime sounded. The door was opened, and a presentation seemed to be taking place. I was presented with the driver, bodyguard, female escort ... and what I could only describe as female 'minder, ' who was about the same age as the girl. I was informed they would 'attend us, ' this evening.

When the chime sounded again, I was informed Miss Chang would arrive shortly. Was I ready, I would be escorted to a reception area usually used only by Chinese guests.

I saw the green Rolls pull up, and then two others stopped alongside. A small gift was placed in my hands. Doors held open and 'Princess' dragged herself in, led by a half dozen others.

I would not have recognized her if it had not been for her leg dragging a bit. Before me was a mini-sized, and young looking 'Empress'. There was more Jade and silk adorning her body than there could be in the proverbial: 'Tea in China.' I did not know whether to bow, prostrate myself at her feet, or what. Someone touched my hand, and I remembered the gift. I moved forward towards her and held out my hand. Her 'escort' took the gift. Another strange look. Miss Chang had a smile on her face.

I think I was being introduced or presented to all of Hong Kong. I would never know. The vision in front of me was all I wanted to see or hear. This could not be the same girl who'd been on the plane!

When she limped up and took my arm, her touch was like that of a burning torch. It seems we were being escorted to our meal. I asked myself if I might still be dreaming on the plane? If so, and it was not a dream I never wanted it to have an end! I knew it was not realistic to expect that the girl was doing all this with any feeling for me. It was, she felt, a duty. For me, I was a lost man. I wondered how it could have gone from a simple act of kindness to this.

'What is this?' I asked myself.

I was not Chinese, I was not from here, yet everything that went on that evening seemed to follow any rules or etiquette expected at a royal Chinese court.

Her exit was as grand as her entrance.

Back in my room, I had to sit down. I was shaking. During that entire evening with her, it seemed that it was just the two of us. The meal was not just placed on dishes, it was 'served' as item by item was presented. The chef for each dish came out, saying something about what had been prepared. The closest, I might think of was a Medieval Times feasting, with pages and servers racing about. Man, I noticed her eyes. I imagined the look they say 'Helen' had ... a look that launched a 1,000 Greek ships to bring her back ... could not match what I was seeing.

I was lost in thought about that night, when the damned chime sounded again. This time I had to get up and open the door myself. I almost didn't open it. I was not expecting a rogues gallery of men. I saw the old man and relented.

With only a part of a greeting ... in Chinese, of course ... finished, he alone came in.

"You had your meal with my daughter, yes? I am Chang."

"I think we did have some food, I don't believe I remember that part, only of your daughter. She is beautiful. That 'Pearl of Great Price' oft spoken of in literature."

"Mei tells me you were a perfect gentleman, and what was presented was done in a 'Chinese' manner. She said she was surprised and enjoyed herself far more than she expected. May I inquire why? You are not Chinese. English perhaps. What brings you here?"

"Not English. I came to get a better understanding the impact of the upcoming transfer of the Islands. Beijing is concerned all care be taken, and asked to have an independent assessment. I provide one view, that of an outsider's perspective. You asked 'why?'

We met on a plane coming here. I actually did not think my asking her to be my companion this evening would be taken seriously. I had forgotten some of the 'old ways.' She was not wearing 'traditional' garb at the time."

"Yes, I know. The product of too liberal of a Californian education, and an overindulging father."

"I apologize if I have offended you or her. It was not my intention."

"You speak Chinese, you know some of our ways, and you seem to have the trust of the PRC. This is strange."

"There are several sayings, each having similar meanings ... perhaps the phrase, 'know thine enemy' would apply. As I said, mine is only one of many views, nothing may come of it. And no, I hold no 'hidden' reason for doing what I do. It is what I do for many, all across the globe. They are not all liked, either. They treat me fairly, as I treat them. Perhaps I am the one following those 'old ways, ' also. You have a beautiful daughter. I shall remember her face all of my life."

"She is the child of two worlds. You are an enigma, both to her, and to me also. My daughter invites you to our home, here. Transportation will be provided at noon. You may gain another perspective on how we Chinese live. Noon."

When he left I thought, 'Well, that was a bit of a command!'

I also had the feeling Mr. Chang was not accustomed to playing the messenger, or asking for anything. I think he had it correct when he said the Princess had an 'overly indulging father.' Somehow I don't think anyone had ever refused her anything. Remembering, I could not think any man, of any age, would refuse her anything. I further realized something. He had come to my room. At the Mandarin, no one goes to a guest's suite. Plus, the Princess had come decked out in 'Imperial Jade, ' the cost of which would have emptied the treasury of many a small country.

The comment by the FA that I did not know who her family was, had become something to reflect upon, now.

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