Dragon's Breath, Part 1

(by uciboy2001@yahoo.com, 08 August 2002)


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DRAGON'S BREATH
by uciboy

PART I

Faye Cheung sat at the cafeteria table grading math exams in her lap while a
speaker droned on about the importance of student performance assessments.
Like most of the teachers in the room, she always found these workshops
deadly dull, but Chinatown's Grant High School required her attendance once a
semester.  

Her workmate and close friend Charlotte Yeh, doing her best to look
interested in the speaker, gave Faye a nudge.  "Don't let principal Wu see
you grading those.  She'll eat you alive."

Faye looked up to make sure that the principal's gaze had not fallen on her.
"She must be the meanest woman in San Francisco," she whispered to Charlotte.

"They don't call her the Dragon Lady for nothing, you know.  That's probably
why she goes through two packs of cigarettes a day.  But she's good at her
job.  Discipline problems are way down since she came on board."

"It's because the students are terrified of her," Faye replied.  "And
frankly, so am I."

The speaker droned on.

"So," Charlotte said with another nudge.  "Do you have that football player
Brian Wong in any of your classes?"

"First period," Faye said with a nod while writing a C+ on a test.

Charlotte began to fan herself.  "My God, he is soooo hot!  How I would love
to get a piece of his ass."

"Charlotte," Faye whispered in disgust, "that's gross!"

"Shhhh," a teacher hissed quietly.

Charlotte looked around and whispered softly, "You just aren't getting
enough, girl friend.  But hopefully that's going to change soon.  You have
that date tonight, right?" 

"Yeah, but it's nothing like what you're thinking.  I'm just looking for a
friend."

"Friends are easy to find, Faye.  It's a lover that takes some work."


"Well, I just feel it's time to get back in the game," Faye said.  "A year's
long enough.  But I don't want to go too fast.  And I'm not sure Lisa is
ready for it, anyway.  She may not approve of her mother dating."

"You gotta do what's right for you, Faye.  Go have some fun!"

"Shhhhh!!!!" the same teacher hissed with impatience.  Suddenly principal Wu
looked in their direction, and Faye and Charlotte looked straight ahead,
pretending to take notes of what the speaker had to say.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

"Mom, are you sure you want to go out with this guy," Lisa asked.  "I mean,
what do you know about him?"

"Well," Faye replied as she finished putting on her make-up, "we talked on
the phone a little.  He's a teacher over in Oakland, so we'll have that in
common.  And he sounds like a nice guy."  Faye looked over at her 15 year old
daughter who had a grimace on her face.

"Honey," Faye said as she put her hand on Lisa's cheek, "I know this is tough
for you, but your Dad and I have been divorced now for over a year.  You know
we're not going to get back together."

"I don't want you guys to get back together," Lisa said forcefully.  "He's a
total jerk and I don't ever want to see him again.  I hate him!"

"You shouldn't say that honey," Faye said softly, but she couldn't argue with
Lisa's premise.  Dan, her ex, was a jerk - or more accurately, a totally
insensitive asshole, though Faye would never use such language out loud.  Dan
wanted someone more exciting, he told her;  someone who didn't cringe when
the suggestion was made of going dancing or having a drink; someone who
wasn't always so nice and milqetoast.  "Faye," his last words were when he
finally left, "I'm bored out of my mind with you."  Last she heard he moved
in with some white college girl over in the Mission District.  No child
support.  Hardly even a phone call to his only child.  It was like one day he
was here and the next he was gone - and it devastated Faye.

But she knew that she was too set in her ways to change, too much influenced
by the old country, even though at 35 she had practically lived most of her
life here in San Francisco.  She was raised by immigrant parents who firmly
believed that a proper Chinese daughter should be timid and submissive - and
although she tried to instill more American values in her own daughter, she
couldn't deny that she herself would always be the shy math teacher who
students would make fun of behind her back.  So she had big glasses; so her
clothes were ordinary; this is who she was - and she was determined to find a
man who accepted that about her.

"Well," Lisa said with a shuffle of her feet, "just make sure he's not a
smoker, okay?"

"A smoker?  But your Dad is a smoker," she answered as she took one last look
in the bathroom mirror.

"That's why I don't want you to date one," Lisa protested.  "Smokers are evil
people."

Faye had no particular preference.  All of the men in her family were
smokers, though she had never tried it herself.  Nice girls don't smoke, she
was always told.  "Don't worry," she assured Lisa, "I didn't answer any ads
for smokers.  Now, remember that it's a school night.  I shouldn't be late,
but you should be in bed by 11 pm."

Just then the doorbell rang.  "There's my date," she said a bit nervously.
"How do I look?"  She was wearing a long blue skirt, an off-white blouse, and
a button sweater that looked like something Mr. Rogers would wear.  

Lisa knew that her mother was about the most ordinary person alive and that
for her, fashion was whatever the Goodwill Thrift Store had on sale, but she
decided to lie to boost her Mom's confidence.  "You look great," she said
with her best fake smile, but Faye was not fooled.

"Come on," she said, "let's go meet him."

When they opened the door, they found a gorgeous man standing there.
Sandy-brown wavy hair, blue eyes, muscular, about 5'11", and dressed in a
stylish black outfit.  Lisa barely held in a gasp - not just at how
stunningly handsome this man was, but that her mother had failed to mention
that she was dating a white man!  She feared her mother's chances of a
successful date were doomed from the start.

"Faye?" he asked with his hand put forward, "I'm Richard O'Reilly."

"Richard, please come in." Faye was suddenly feeling very self-conscious
about her own ordinary appearance.  "I'm sorry," she said, "I feel so
underdressed."  

"No," Richard said earnestly, "you look beautiful, really."

Lisa was impressed with the sincerity of this guy.  Maybe Mom would have a
good evening afterall.

"This is my daughter, Lisa," Faye said with a smile.  The two exchanged
hellos and an uncomfortable pause followed.  

"Well," Lisa said breaking the silence, "I have some homework to do.  It was
nice to meet you Mr. O'Reilly."  

Richard and Faye were left alone in the foyer as Lisa went into her bedroom.

"Please, sit down," she said awkwardly as she pointed to the couch in her
small Chinatown apartment.  It had been over 15 years since she had dated
anyone.  She was unfamiliar with what the protocols were these days.

"You know," Richard began as he took a seat, "some men on first dates bring
candy or flowers, but I hope you don't think it too forward of me to bring
something a little more...unique."  He pulled out of his coat pocket a thin
silver bracelet with a charm attached to the center that was about the size
of a quarter.  Within the charm was a dark colored liquid that shifted like a
mist.  "I belong to...well, sort of a community organization that has been
here in Chinatown for well over a century.  I would like you to have one of
our bracelets as a symbol of my honorable intentions."

Faye took the bracelet in her hand and watched the mist within the charm move
about.  "It's beautiful."

"We call this bracelet the Dragon's Breath.  The knowledge in crafting these
goes back centuries and came to the U.S. with some of the first Chinese
immigrants."

Faye handed the bracelet back to Richard and said sincerely, "I really can't
take this.  It's too valuable."

"No, no - you must," Richard protested as he put the bracelet around her
wrist with a smile, "it's my gift to you."  The bracelet snapped firmly
around her wrist when it came in contact with her skin, and the mist within
the charm became more active and started to turn a light blue.

Faye, happy now to accept such a beautiful piece of jewelry, could perceive a
very slight but pleasant tingle in her wrist and was intrigued with how the
bracelet operated.  "How does it work," she asked as she continued to watch
the mist in the charm change colors.

"It's magic," Richard replied mysteriously.

Still inspecting it closely, Faye said, "It looks kind of like those mood
rings from the 1970s that would change colors."  She looked up at Richard and
said with a smile, "Except my ring always stayed black."

"Shall we go," Richard asked, and the two headed out the door.

END PART I


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