Li Wei – Katie Dowe

Delia sat in the corner of her father’s room, her fingers twisted together as she tried to stop the tremors. The funeral was over and all or most of the food had been consumed. She had managed to hold it together during the trite comments as the mourners patted her awkwardly and murmured that they understood what she was going through. It had been almost impossible for her to stay in the large church hall and put on a brave face when all she wanted to do was to scream and rail at God for taking her father – her only family away from her. Her friends, Becky and Marva had offered to stay with her tonight, but she had declined their offers. She loved them and they had always been there for her, but she wanted to be alone with her grief. She wanted and needed to be alone so she could process what was happening. Wanted to be alone to just sit and ponder what direction her life would take now. Desmond Franklin had been her rock. He had brought her up on his own since she was ten years old and her mother had succumbed to a brain aneurysm. Delia barely remembered her now, except for a fleeting memory of a smilingly beautiful woman with toffee brown eyes that had been passed to her daughter and a thick head of hair. It had always been her dad. He had been there when she had her periods when she was eleven and had dealt with it reasonably well. Delia blinked and smiled through her tears, as she recalled the awkward conversation. “Sit honey.

” He had told her solemnly, taking her into the tiny office he used at the bakery. “You are becoming a young lady now.” She had nodded fearfully. She knew about sex, had been taught about it in guidance counseling sessions as well as the changes her body would go through and was acutely embarrassed that she was going to have the personal talk with her dad. “Do you know what this means?” He had asked her. She had nodded again, and she had seen how much he was struggling to get the words out. “It’s times like this that I wished fervently that your mother was alive.” He had told her with a laugh. “Your body is changing and there will be boys….“ “I already know all that Daddy and I know about sex and that if I allow a boy to enter me down there, I could have a baby.” He had stared at her in silence for a spell and then nodded slowly. “Of course you do. I – er – I will have to get you some sanitary ….” “The guidance counselor already did that. It’s cool, Daddy.

I know what to do.” The relief on his face was so intense that she had felt like laughing. He had also been there for her first crush when she was fifteen and thought that if she did not get to go to homecoming with Jeffry Miller, she was going to die. He had also been the one to sit her down and firmly told her that Jeffry Miller did not deserve a beautiful girl like her when he ended up asking Sophie Platt to the dance. He had been the one to insist that she go to college and further her education when she had expressed the desire to follow in his footsteps and work in the fairly successful bakery that had been in their family for years. “You might find that you want to do something other than this darling. Widen your scope. Getting an education is something everyone should strive for.” So she had gone off to college to study finance and entrepreneurship, getting degrees in both. Over the years, she had refused to move out of the rambling stone house that she had grown up in and had been contented to stay there with him and play hostess. There had been a time when it looked like she was going to be moving out when she met Stephen Collier when she reached thirty. He had come into the bakery and bought out all the cinnamon bread because he was throwing a ‘bread’ party for some associates of his. She had fallen for his dark good looks and laughing dark brown eyes and had believed when he told her that he loved her. He had been an associate at his law firm a few blocks from the bakery and had come there every day for coffee and cinnamon rolls and they had gotten close over six months. She had entertained thoughts of marriage for the first time in her life and had expressed it to her father who had warned her to get to know him before getting in too deep.

Stephen had broken her heart two months later when she discovered to her grief that he had used her as a decoy. She had found out that the man she had thought was a gentleman who had claimed that he did not want to rush into anything and was saving his passion for the wedding night had been actively involved with an associate from his law firm and had started seeing her in order to avoid the suspicion that had surrounded him. Her father had not passed judgment but had opened his arms for her to vent and cry. The devastating ending of her relationship had frozen her ability to enter into another one and had settled her mind to concentrate on expanding the bakery by introducing a bake-off with amateurs that had taken off and had attracted a lot more customers, therefore forcing them to hire several more people. She handled the books, made the investments and took over the paperwork entirely from her dad. The partnership went very well, so much so that her dad had changed the name to D & D Bakery to acknowledge her hard work. The ringing of the phone stirred her out of her reverie and had her getting up from the rocker she had settled into since she came back from the cemetery. ***** “Sir?” Li Wei looked up from the paper he was perusing to see his housekeeper hovering inside the doorway of his home office. “Yes?” “Would you like something to eat before I leave?” “What time is it?” He looked at his watch in surprise to discover that it was almost 6.00 pm. “I had no idea the time had gone by so fast.” He shook his head. “I will find something a little later on. I am not particularly hungry.” “Your aunt said I should make sure you eat something.

” The woman looked as if she had no intention of moving until he agreed to eat something, and Li Wei stifled a sigh. “Bring me something. Thank you.” Mavis nodded and went to do his bidding. Le Wei stared sightlessly at the documents he had been trying to read for the past hour and finally put it away from him. He had buried his mother a week ago and the pain was still fresh in his mind. He had told himself that he should be grateful that she had gotten some ease from the pain and constant chemo and radiation pumping toxic poison inside her body and she had been battling cancer for the past ten years. Her doctors had more or less given her two years to live but he had fought tooth and nail to overturn that by hiring the best doctors and home care nurses money could buy and it had worked by giving him eight more years with her. He had spent his time being there for her at the same time building his investment company which was now a multi-billion dollar one but none of that mattered now because he did not have her to share in the success. The joy had gone out of his work, out of his life and he had no idea how to get it back. She had told him that she wanted to see him married and giving her grandkids, but he had been so busy taking care of her and trying to preserve her life that he had not had time for any meaningful relationships. He nodded as Mavis placed the tray in front of him and left the room, closing the door behind her. He stared at the food before him and knew that he was probably going to end up putting the tray back inside the kitchen. His appetite had been nonexistent for the past few weeks when it became apparent that his mother’s time was running out. He missed her – missed the gentle way she had of talking and her enticing laugh.

He missed coming home and telling her about his day and missed her words of wisdom. She had been his inspiration when he had inherited the investment company that had been losing money and had encouraged him to follow his instincts. Li Wei dragged restless fingers through his straight dark hair wearily as he leaned his forearms on the mahogany desk, his shoulders hunching in defeat. A friend and colleague had suggested grief counseling and he had pushed the idea away but wondered if he should consider it. He could not work, and his nights were taken up with thoughts of her. There were several things he regretted. He should have married Julia Chen when he was in his thirties. The relationship had fizzled out after six months when the passion had waned, and he had become too busy to try and fan the flames. Besides which, he had not been in love with her and never believed in marrying someone just for the sake of having a wife and producing kids. His mother and father had been a love match and she had never been with anyone else after he died. Li Wei wanted the same thing for himself and had never found it in all of his forty-four years. He supposed that it was too late for him now but the gaping loneliness he faced was something he did not want to think about just now. It was too much for him to bear on top of what he was going through right now. ***** Delia went through the motions. She had finally risen from her position on the rocker and stripped off her funeral clothes to go into the bathroom to take a shower.

She had some things to deal with before going to bed and she wanted to get them out of the way. The bakery had been closed and the staff was given the day off to mourn the passing of their beloved boss and would be closed tomorrow as well. She did not care about the loss of sales over the weekend, her father deserved several days of mourning. She would open up on Monday, but her heart was not in it. The heart of the bakery was her dad and he was gone. She was sorely tempted to sell it and stay home to wallow in her grief and loss. She also did not have any idea how she was going to stay in the house that reminded her so much of him. The bed slippers he put on as soon as he stepped from outside and his ratty robe that she had threatened to get rid of. He had told her that her mother had bought it for him, and he would never part with it. Two weeks ago, they had had breakfast and left for the bakery. She never knew that it would be the last time she would be seeing her dad alive. The pain lanced through her heart as she recalled the police officers coming to the bakery to tell her that her father was gone, and she would never speak to him or watch him work his magic in the bakery ever again. She had gone from denial to anger and then denial again before lapsing into grief so unbearable that she had been unable to function. The doctors had given her a sedative when her friends had taken her to the hospital and something to aid in her sleep at nights, but she had refused to take them, not wanting to become dependent on the sleeping aids. She wanted to be clear in her thoughts and she had the business as well as the employees to think about now.

She knew that among the grieving there were uncertainties and questions from the staff as to the future of the bakery and that most if not all of them worrying if they would still have a job in the coming weeks. She was going to have to address the issue next week, if not on Monday and give them the assurance that her father was dead, but the show must go on. But how? Delia took out a clean pair of pajamas and donned it quickly, barely glancing in her mirror to see the result. She normally had a routine where she would brush her thick dark brown natural curls and twist the strands to pin them up so that she would not have a tangled mess the next morning, but she did not have the strength to do so. She kept seeing the way he looked in the box, with his eyes closed forever and his hands crossed. She had stood gazing down at him as if she was willing him to open his eyes and smiled at her and say with his usual cheerfulness. “Baby girl gotcha! I am still here and was just playing a trick on you. Your daddy is here!” But his eyes had remained stubbornly close and her friends, Becky and Marva had finally managed to steer her away and sat with her, their hands holding hers in comfort. She had cried – tears of rage and disbelief when she had heard how a drunk driver had run a stop sign and plowed into her father’s vehicle, killing him on impact and during the funeral service had been dry-eyed with no more tears left inside her. Besides, she hated showing her emotions in public and knew that there would be morbid curiosity from the people gathered to watch her say goodbye to her dad. He had been hinting at her getting married and giving him grandkids and wondered irrationally that maybe if she had climbed out of the shell she had enclosed herself in and really made the effort of finding someone and engaging in a relationship; if he would still be alive. She had tortured herself wondering if she had told him not to go to the bank that afternoon to make the deposit if he would still be alive. She had berated herself for not stopping what she was doing and going to the bank herself – something she had done for the past few years since she had taken over the administrative tasks. If she had gone to the bank herself, he would still be alive, and she would not be feeling as her life was about to end. She could find the strength to go on and wondered what on earth she was going to do without him! Who was she going to turn to whenever she had a particular problem? Who would sit at the head of the table and insist on them saying grace and giving thanks for their many blessings? Who would tell her firmly that she was working too hard and they should use the Sunday afternoon to go to the park and have a picnic or take a trip to the French Riviera or the museum downtown? Or go to an art gallery to educate themselves.

Who would she argue with about politics and the way the country was being run? Who was going to tell her that no matter how bad it was out there in the world, that there was still hope? “Baby girl, we are blessed. We have it a lot easier than so many people. We have running water, flush-able toilets and indoor plumbing and we are free to worship and read our Bible. Yes, there are racial injustices going on in the world, right here in our country but we also have a voice that demands to be heard. We are getting there. It might not be in my lifetime or even yours, but we will get there.”


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Updated: 18 May 2021 — 20:54

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