The day had yet to break entirely. There was nobody on the streets, there were birds chirping occasionally. Lili dragged the luggage and sent her son to the only car with lights on parked by the street. Seeing Lili was there with Zhang Lisheng, Tina got off the car and waved immediately. "Hi, good morning Ms. Lili."
"Good morning Tina. I asked Lisheng to bring you beef pieces and juice. You can eat it on the way if you haven't had breakfast but watch out when you're driving. Get going now if you guys are in a rush, goodbye," Lili put Zhang Lisheng's luggage into the SUV's boot as she spoke. Bearing the pain of seeing her son go, she waved to say goodbye without speaking more.
"Goodbye Ms. Lili, thank you for the pies and juice."
"Goodbye mom," Tina and Zhang Lisheng said goodbye to Lili loudly after he got into the car.
The SUV moved slowly and drove towards New York JFK International Airport. Tina could not help but tease Zhang Lisheng while they were on the way. "Mom's little boy. Don't you dare say those affection-instigating words to me. Admit it Lisheng, you're a mommy's boy. The only difference you have with other mommy's boys is that you're not irritating which I've no idea why."
"That's because my mom treats me as her baby, she needs me to be her baby but I don't want to be her baby," Zhang Lisheng looked at the city which was covered with darkness outside of the window while saying moving his lips.
"Was that a tongue twister? But what you said made sense. Another reason is that you have a great mom who makes a delicious pie," Tina who was hungry could not help but have herself a small piece of the pie with the lingering fragrance. She was impressed by Lili's baking skills as she put it into her mouth.
"Not only the pies are good, the juice's good too," Zhang Lisheng said while smiling, "Oh yea Tina, so what kind of excuse did you tell your parents for this trip to Amazon? Would it be exposed?"
"How… how do you know that I lied to my parents… It makes sense, people who aren't stupid would guess that my dad will never allow me to go to Amazon since the accident in Sichuan. But I didn't really lie, I told my family that I'm going for a vacation in the tropical country Tatetutu with Sheila since New York's too cold. There are so many tropical countries, my parents agreed without thinking much into it."
"Your parents don't know Trish's parents? How can they not know that her brother has gone missing in Tatetutu?"
"They know each other but they're not close. Lisheng, there are many circles in New York's upper-class. Apart from those who are nosy, people from different circles wouldn't speak more than three sentences to each other even if they go to the same event."
"So the kids' friendship's nothing to the parents then?"
"Apart from the time I'm in trouble, I sometimes think that I'm nothing to my parents. I have friends anyway," Tina fell into silence for a moment before speaking softly.
Zhang Lisheng was stunned as he opened his mouth, he wanted to ask how Trish decided to go to Tatetutu but he changed the topic instead, "Actually, I've always thought a wealthy lady like you would fly in a private plane whenever you get out of the country. Never had I thought you would take the public plane just like everyone else."
"You watched too much TV, Lisheng. None of the friends that I know bought their own plane when they're in their 20s before they could spend their money freely. In reality, our parents would make us live a constraint life before we learned about money and before we became an adult."
"Oh, so you're living a constraint life when you have some ten or tens of expensive luxurious cars. That's interesting." Both of them arrived at JFK airport as they chatted happily in the car. After parking the car, Tina headed straight to the airport's VIP lounge with Zhang Lisheng even without getting their plane tickets.
The security guards at the VIP lounge's entrance did not check through Tina and said courteously, "Welcome to JFK airport, Ms. Tina." She then left her luggage there and walked in. Big, expensive leather couches, elegant coffee tables, tasteful decorations, famous painting replicas on the wall and the floor spread with cashmere carpet gave a real VIP feeling in JFK airport's VIP lounge.
After walking into the VIP lounge, Tina looked around and pointed to a bunch of young people standing before the ceiling to floor window. "Lisheng, Trish and Sheila are over there," She grabbed Zhang Lisheng's arm and ran forward.
"Don't run Tina, I forgot to tell you that I hurt my arm a few days back. It hasn't healed completely yet."
"What happened?" Tina was stunned and asked caringly after letting go of his arm.
"Someone broke my shoulder blade."
"Oh my god, how did that happened?"
Zhang Lisheng said while smiling. "Now I think I'm like a trouble magnet whereby I would meet all sorts of serial killers no matter where I go just like the lead character in some soap opera."
"Someone broke your shoulder blade, you met a serial killer… Oh, no, Lisheng did you encounter… encounter…"
"No matter who I encountered, he's with Mr. Rudolph now. Let's go over there, Sheila's looking at us. Walk slower, don't grab my arm."
However, Tina did not leave right away. Instead, she said in shock, "Lisheng, you really killed Dr. Fracture! I was just betting with my friend yesterday that he will never be captured just like Jack the Ripper."
Sheila who saw the both of them ran towards them when Tina was pestering, "Hi Lisheng, good morning. Tina, I didn't expect that you really brought Lisheng with you. Oh, you look like you didn't sleep well babe," The two girls began chatting softly as they walked, they ignored Zhang Lisheng completely. The three of them arrived before the ceiling to floor window, Trish who looked tired said in gratitude, "Thanks for coming, Lisheng. Tina, you don't have to go to Tatetutu with me actually. I've never blamed you since the beginning…"
Tina shook her head hard and opened her arms wide. She hugged Trish. "Trish, we're best friends. This is a hard time for you, I'll be with you no matter what you do."
"Oh Tina, Sheila, you guys are the best."
The scene of the three ladies sobbing while hugging made Zhang Lisheng realized why Tina must go to Amazon this time. Perhaps it was not because of not learning the lesson, snobbish or ignorant but she must be there. At that moment, the two Caucasian boys who looked similar who Zhang Lisheng saw at the Queens Hospital ward with Trish and Sheila began comforting their girlfriends. They looked like brothers but they were just schoolmates while their family background was very different.
Sheila's boyfriend Shittu Morgan was the new generation of the Morgan family who once conquered America's financial market. He was considered to be born with a golden spoon in his mouth. Trish's boyfriend Walter Sanders, on the other hand, was a child of a second-generation immigrant family. Because his father worked as a janitor at Fordham High School and for his good grades, he managed to get into Fordham. Among the wealthy students of Fordham High School which was dubbed as the Oxford of Manhattan, he was considered a rather special one.
Naturally, he was extraordinary himself judging by the fact that he managed to date Trish of the Fordham Sisters seizing the opportunity that she had just recently broken up with her boyfriend at the moment. That included his understanding character. "Trish, Sheila, Tina, I understand how you guys feel but there's no need to cry just yet. I have a feeling that it will be better, Henry will be fine. Let's stop crying, we're leaving now."
Shittu caressed Sheila's shoulder softly and comforted the three ladies softly. Zhang Lisheng hesitated for a moment and patted Tina's shoulder in a stiff manner but he said nothing. The girls stopped crying slowly while Tina only began to introduce Zhang Lisheng. "Lisheng, this is Shittu, Walter, Lister…"
"Wait, Tina, is everyone here going to the Amazon?"
"No, apart from Shittu and Walter, the rest are just here to send us off…" Zhang Lisheng was secretly relieved, he did not expect Tina to proceed to speak, "But they'll be booking the entire plane to Tatetutu a few days later. Henry's one of the Fordham Kappa Sigma Chi members, they're his brothers."
The fraternity and sorority in American schools were a special student society. Such a society was not compulsory whereby the students would join as they wished. Everyone was eager to get in because a popular school's fraternity was a shortcut to expand one's people connection. Moreover, one would have their identity validated since they had to go through strict and grueling assessments to get in. To Zhang Lisheng's understanding, the so-called fraternity was something like sworn brothers. He did not despise it but he would not join a fraternity.
Since he knew Tina for quite some time now, Zhang Lisheng realized how the parents' fortune, people connection, and power would influence these wealthy teenagers. They would have luxurious cars and watches that people would be envious of. Traveling the world was nothing to them, they could lie to their family and book the entire plane to Amazon. To them, it was like going to the street next door to buy a sausage. These kids had no idea how to take their life seriously at all.
As he thought to this point, Zhang Lisheng said while smiling vaguely looking at those young men and ladies who looked gloomy, "Since they're brothers, indeed they should really go to Tatetutu. Go on, Tina."
"This is Habbi, Henry's best friend. They're always together…" Tina introduced them accordingly and eventually said while pointing at Zhang Lisheng, "This is Zhang Lisheng, my good friend. He's a legit jungle hunter from China."
"Hey, we met at the hospital. I remember Mr. Howick liking your Amazon and donut theory. Nice to meet you," Walter was the first one to shake Zhang Lisheng's hand and spoke.
"Me too, Mr. Walter…" A VIP lounge attendant came to them quickly while Zhang Lisheng was speaking, "Ms. Trish, the plane's ready for boarding now."