[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 079
Chapter 16 (5 of 10): Investigation
By any standard it was large, and luxuriously appointed. Wall-to-wall carpeting in a light beige. Several sofa and chair sets, a couple of low-riding tables, cupboards, an armoire in dark red wood, a built-in bookshelf covering almost all of one wall. A number of paintings hung on two of the walls; they did not appear to be reproductions. Against the wall opposite the window a Trinitron with a large screen stood next to a stacked array of receivers, amplifiers, and several VCRs.
“Lots of bucks here,” Phoebe observed. “Just in this room.”
“Lots,” Ulla agreed.
“Here it is,” Sheena said, now full of upbeat cheer.
The detectives looked at the passport, comparing the photo with the girl in front of them. The passport was made out to Xi Quian Wang, born 19 April 1984 in La Jolla, California. There were several stamps on the inside pages, including a Swiss exit stamp dated 30 December 2003. Right below it there was an American entry stamp for 31 December 2003. Phoebe flipped through the pages again, and Ulla made a note of the passport number.
“Satisfied?” Sheen asked.
“Satisfied,” Phoebe said.
Ulla handed Sheena her passport. “Thank you.”
Sheena took it and shrugged.
Phoebe made a decision to segue straight into a closer examination of the background here. Was Sheena – and Phoebe was now certain this was Sheena — telling the whole story?
“I get the sense there are …” she cast Ulla a glance, “… issues between you and your father. Is that right?”
Sheena rolled her eyes.
“Issues!” she sniffed. “That’s the understatement of the new year.” She shook her head. “You guys see this huge house, and you look around this room. And you see me living a life of luxury, but it’s really a gilded cage. You have no idea what it’s like!
“My father’s very, very old fashioned. He won’t let me go. He won’t let me grow up. I can’t be myself. Both my parents are from mainland China. I won’t bore you with the details, but my father made it big in America. Really big.” She made a demonstrative sweep with her right arm. “I think he was very torn about letting me go off to the university.
“‘She will forget her roots,’ he says. Portentously. ‘She will become too American.’
“‘But I am American,’ I object.
“‘You are Chinese,’ he trumps me.
“‘I was born here, and besides, I’ve never even been to China,’ I counter.
“‘It is your destiny and you cannot deny your past,’ he corrects.
“‘But this is now, Daddy,’ I insist.
“‘I am your father,’ he trumps me.
“And so it went, on and on and round and round, him and me, locked in this generation dance that never ends and amuses and tires the rest of the family.
“In the end his profound belief in the necessity of education to prepare for the future prevailed over his deep conservatism regarding the past. As Mom pointed out on more than one occasion, it was because he himself foolishly saw himself as not genuinely Chinese enough that he harps endlessly about Chineseness. Fortunately Mom doesn’t have this obsession to always be validating her ethnicity. She’s not trapped in the past the way my father seems to be.
“He thinks I’m too independent, and it’s a difficult thing for him to deal with. It just wasn’t supposed to be like that. I’m too intractable – his word. I should be deferential and respectful to elders. No argument.
“See if you can believe this,” she continues, and her eyes get moist.
“‘Are your grades going to be better next semester?’ he asks me at dinner after I come home for Christmas after my first semester as a freshman.
“‘Better?’ I can’t believe my own ears! ‘How could they be any better than this past term?’
“‘Have you forgotten what you got?’ he asks. He is unhappy.
“‘No, of course not. All A’s,’ I tell him. And I’ll tell you I feel triumphant.
“‘One A minus.’
“‘I can’t believe this,” I say, and I’m about to start crying.
“‘Perhaps if you had not come home so late that Saturday night your last year in high school, you would have received an A in your biology class instead of an A minus.’
“‘In high school?’ I say, and now I am just flabbergasted.
“‘How can one hope to get into medical school at Harvard if one only gets an A minus in biology?’ he asks abstractly
“Mom is pouring some more soup into father’s cup, catching his eye. She moves her head back and forth. Enough. Leave the girl alone. They think I don’t notice.
“My father sighs and makes a lot of noise slurping down the hot beverage.
“‘It was different in my day,’ he says to nobody in particular.
“I feel that familiar coil of guilt throttling my chest. A big boa of guilt. Be myself, be my father’s me? An impossible tension! ‘I know that,’ Daddy, I say politely; I’m trying to mollify him. I know he’s hurt. Can’t he see that I’m hurt too? ‘I promise I will do better this term.’
“He looks at me. ‘A good daughter would not shame her parents, and her grandmother — again.’
Phoebe interrupts. “Are you sure you want to tell me all this?”
Sheena bobs her head up and down furiously. “I’d just like you guys to get some idea of what my life is really like. O.K.”
“Anyway, that appeal to the honor of ancestors always marks that point in our arguments when I know I’ve lost, and I accept defeat. I resign myself to silence. It always comes down to my guilt over his shame at my failure to attain unattainable perfection.”
She sighs, not without a certain practiced theatricality.
“And then what happens?”
“I weather the spring term, study my ass off, and come home in early June. I feel pretty good; I’ve gotten straight A’s in every course. Not a single A minus this time. My father will be proud. I’m actually looking forward to seeing him. I almost want to throw the grades in his face.”
Now the tears start rolling down her cheek.
TO BE CONTINUED