I don't have any records of how long I ever lasted with any chick in my original life, but I think Jacky Lau may be the longest relationship I've ever had. Benjamin suggests that this should have an asterisk, since roughly half of that time has had us in different hemispheres, but I kind of call bullshit on that. After all, if we were living in the same city, he wouldn't have the chance to forget just what kind of body he could be waking up next to. Temptation increases with distance, right?
It makes the reunion more exciting, too. I wouldn't exactly say it was sexual torture being away from him for the fall semester, but it did feel damn good to put on a push-up bra, fuck-me heels, and a tight dress to go down the arcade, where Jacky had just talked about hanging out, though I don't think he minded heads turning to his girlfriend and him at all. I'm admittedly not at my best gaming in that outfit - even now, when I get in front of a fighting game, I kind of want to take a wide stance and use my size to establish dominance, for instance - but it pepped him up and made it very clear what the real highlight of the night was going to be.
I introduced him to my "mother" Chen-ai the day before Christmas, and I don't know whether she was more being playful or trying to do something to break us up when she asked if Ernesto knew about Jacky. Yes, I said, my classmates know I've got a boyfriend back home. It got a bit weird when she kept pressing the point, especially since she seemed to suspect I had slept with him; did she just assume that's how it went on a set? Jacky didn't rise to the bait, not even when she mentioned that Inspector Yee had visited a few weeks ago, although she assured both of us that she made sure to mention my carelessness, so that it would be clear that what happened to Father was at worst an accident.
I blew up at her after Jacky left, something that felt like it was a long time coming, wanting to know just why the fuck she would say that to her daughter's boyfriend. She tutted about how I was so rude these days, that America must be a bad influence on me. I was tempted to give her the "you have no idea" line, but instead hit back with something about how, maybe, me being over there made her realize just how alone she was always going to be before storming off to my room, trying to calculate the time difference to Montreal to figure out whether I should call René or email.
I wound up emailing to be on the safe side, then heading back into the city. I tried to phone Jacky on the way but it went straight to voice mail - he can get more tunnel-vision-y than me when gaming - so decide, fuck it, I'll just go dancing myself.
Benjamin thinks I should feel sort of bad about hitting a club solo now that I've got a boyfriend, but for me it's kind of a practical thing more than disloyalty. I may just be there to dance and drink and show off, but lots of guys don't necessarily see buying me a drink as fair payment for getting to look at me in that dress as opposed to a down payment on getting it off, and even being with a string bean like Jacky or another girl will cut that shit down. You've also gotta watch your drink like a hawk, because stuff that didn't seem like a big deal when it was my fraternity brothers doing it is not flying with me these days.
Despite all that, I still like getting sexy and flirting; the knowledge that I could fuck any of these guys if I felt like it rather than maybe settling for someone's less-hot friend if I'm lucky is almost as intoxicating as the booze, and sometimes you just want to bounce around to music even if you're by yourself, just as a release. I probably didn't have that much to get out - who gives a shit what some woman I've seen like four times in the year and a half I've known her thinks just because she gave birth to the original Yuan-wei? - but it felt good, right up until I saw Bingbing inhaling some guy's face and figured, fuck it, might as well force the issue after months of trying to be tactful electronically.
So I downed my drink, put a smile on my face, and was like "Chen Bingbing? It's been forever! And who is this kind of decent-looking guy? I don't recall hearing about you and my brother breaking up!"
Bingbing looked annoyed, but close to match my bitchiness. "Wow, what a weird thing for an only child to ask, Yuan-wei! Keep up with these delusions and people will think you're nuts!"
I held my phone up. "Well, if Max doesn't exist, then I guess this text message and the YouTube link inside it will just get bounced right back to me!"
It was a bluff, but Bingbing didn't seem to know that. "Fine, let's go have a smoke." She started walking to the door, telling her dance partner not to wait, even if he really is better than kind of decent-looking. After a quick stop at the coast check to get her purse, we stood out on the sidewalk. She quickly lit up, took a long drag, and blew the smoke in my face. Bitch move, but I coughed a bit anyway. "So," she said, "what do you know?"
"The real Bingbing says you're Giorgia Wong, and if that's the case, Google says you're 44 years old, come from Chinatown, two time loser, divorced three times, no kids. Facebook suddenly takes a nosedive and switches entirely to English in 2014. The person using it now says you've basically abandoned your old life. Good match for you and your sister pulling the ultimate dick move and convincing René and Romain that going back to the Inn will kill them. Whose idea was that, you or Carlotta?"
She didn't actually answer, just pointed out that I said "the real Bingbing" when I was just talking about her, but when the changes involved both of us, the people in Montreal were suddenly "René et Romain". I started to explain, but she cut me off. "I'm just saying, you did the same thing when you got that hot little bod that I did - you saw a chance for a fresh start way ahead of where you were at Yuan-wei's age and fucking took it. Sure, Carlotta told you it was okay, but so what? You chose to be yourself instead of Deirdre when you first went to the Inn, you made a choice, and we choose to have good lives rather than the ones we had which sucked. And if we have to lie a little to do it without hearing them fucking whine about it for the rest of our lives, so be it!"
"Well, at first that was just me being pissed off - Carlotta was going to transfer to NYU at the same time I did so we could be classmates, but she goes and freaks out over Yuan-wei's father, and living in Hong Kong, and, like, how kids in their twenties do all that social media shit and abandons me, and then I meet the brother of the guy who took her place? Watching you fall all over yourself to hang out with us but having your skin crawl every time Max looked at your tits was just funny! Although, let me tell you, if you ever come around on not being related any more, and want to get close, I wouldn't blame you - he's really sweet and his dick--"
She went on about that subject.
"-- so tell him. I'll just say I was lonely and sorry and call you a bitch for stabbing me in the back like that. He'll feel great that I chose him over a lifelong friend and he'll fucking hate you. Trust me on this, I've known how to get men to do shit longer than you've been alive." With that, she flicked her cigarette butt into the gutter and smiled. "God, it felt good to let that all out! I just never get a chance to do that now that Carlotta is spending all her time being a good 'Sandy' since you outed her. We've got to hang out more - call me when you figure out your New Year's plans!"
Yeah, like hell.
After that, I decided I really needed to get the hell out of Dodge for a while, even if I had booked a flight and hotel so that René and Romain could visit HK for the first time since they went to the Inn. I guess I was kind of lucky that they apparently were a little nervous about that themselves, because when I suggested that the for of us (me, them, Jacky) head to Australia instead, they liked the idea. Jacky thought it was kind of weird, since I don't get much time at "home", what with going to school in America, but how to explain how little it was feeling like home that week?
I booked René and Romain a round trip that would basically fit in between their flights from Montreal, so we met at the airport, but didn't have a lot of time to talk; owing to the last-minute nature of the reservations, we wound up scattered throughout the first-class cabin, and then a crowded bus for our ride from the airport and hotel in Melbourne, then... Well, by then it was evening and Jacky and I opted to take advantage of not having mothers or roommates nearby.
One side effect of going to Melbourne instead of staying in Hong Kong was that there was a lot less time for chatting with René and Romain about how to handle actually knowing about each other; if we'd stayed in HK, there would have been times when Jacky was just of doing his own thing or at home, but making it a couples' vacation meant he was always around. Normally, pretty nice, but it meant I didn't really have a moment alone with either of the other Inn people until the third day, when we're sitting on a beach and Jacky & René run off to fetch us some ice cream. Romain and I are both in swimsuits, but I don't really feel like that's rude or anything until he says I'm looking good.
"Well, I did inherit some good genes."
"You don't have to say that."
"It's true! I watched the guy living my life drop a hundred pounds, and by the time I was done being Deirdre, I'd gotten kind of soft. It's different this time. Maybe I'm still enough of a guy that I like the sight of a naked hottie in the mirror every morning, but that can't be all of it."
"Mm." Way he looked at me was different, and not just because he's gay. He was studying me the way I do Benny and wondering.
"Look, if you really want--"
"Of course I want that! I mourned that body when Carlotta said there was no going back, and ever since meeting you, I wake up every morning trying to figure out how to arrange it, and if it were just me... Have you ever been in love with your best friend?"
"I've, uh, had a crush."
"Me and René is crazy - we were kind of disgusted that the Inn made us into a gay couple, but we had no-one else, and, like, now I can't be without him, and I've spent the last few months coming up with ways we could go back, but even if you don't back out, only I can, and then, what, we hope he lucks into becoming a straight guy where the fact that his English isn't nearly as good as his French, Mandarin, or Cantonese isn't a problem?"
"You guys could probably make something work--"
"We're making this work, but I know what I could have had, and been, and I kind of hate that you and René get along, because what if he actually kind of likes girls a little? What if that's why he was so supportive those months I was doing the drag thing... Then I think of my Dad and how the police are still poking around even though the case is closed, and I think about getting my life back and going to jail..."
He stopped there, and we looked at each other, both kind of thinking that we weren't getting what we wanted it off this conversation. Like, we were going to sit down, talk, and he was either going to say "oh, I'm too in love with René and settled into this life to ever think about getting the life I was born with back, enjoy fucking Jacky and spending my money with a clear conscience!" or him making an argument that has me saying "ah, well, easy come, easy go". No, instead the situation is still complicated and we both know it.
At least Romain's face seemed to legitimately light up when René got back, and is weirdly cute to watch two guys whose bodies are in their mid-twenties goofing around with their ice cream like they were actually what I look like. Jacky started getting a bit uncomfortable when it became kissing, to the point of asking me whether all that time in America got me used to that, and I kind of wanted to say, dude, I grew up in New York, but, obviously, I can't. It at least got him feeling kind of competitive, though, and while we didn't quite wind up making out on the beach, he did pick me up and toss me in the water. It involved a little huffing and puffing and promising to work out a bit more, even if I wouldn't see the results until Spring Break.
Anyway, the rest of vacation was cool - there's lots of signs in Chinese around Melbourne, so Jacky and René could keep up with Romain and I without a whole lot of trouble, we all did little girly squeals meeting koala and kangaroos and penguins (okay, maybe not Jacky), and we got to celebrate the New Year before anyone else, practically. There's a ton of good food and streetcars and museums and stuff, too. I highly recommend the trip. Heck, I won't lie; I might start thinking about it long-term after graduation, depending what my Hong Kong and American situations are.
It was a bummer that it ended; knowing I'd only talk to Jacky, René, and Romain online during the spring semester sucked, although I've been kept busy enough for that not to be a huge problem.