Kam smiled. “Your mother and grandmother sound really different.”
Lin rolled her eyes. “You have no idea.” She looked over at him when he placed his hand on her thigh. She’d pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweater after they’d washed up earlier. She could feel the heat of his hand through the denim as he moved it up and down, squeezing lightly as if he was experimenting with the sensation of her flesh in jeans.
“Tell me then.”
“Okay, I’ll try,” she said. His touch was distracting. It had the paradoxical effect of both lulling her and exciting her. “My grandparents and my mother were born in Hong Kong. For my grandparents, America truly was the promised land, and they totally embraced US culture when they immigrated. My grandmother especially was a very chic, modern woman. My mother never really seemed to assimilate here, though. My grandparents couldn’t understand why she was so resentful and withdrawn. It was a constant thorn in my grandmother’s side. She couldn’t comprehend why mother felt so out of place, when Grandmamma militantly embraced it and loved the life she built for herself here.”
“So obviously your grandmother wouldn’t have condoned your participating in traditional Chinese dance or anything else Chinese.”
“Oh no. Grandmamma wanted both a very westernized daughter and grandaughter. She got her way in my case.”
“But not in your mother’s?”
“No. Not in my mother’s,” Lin said, giving him a quick, sad smile.
“What happened between your mother and grandmother?” Kam asked.
“My mother rebelled against Grandmamma. She swung in the opposite direction, coming to despise Western ways and becoming extremely traditional. It was pretty confusing for me when I was little. We all lived in the same house together. My mother started insisting I speak Chinese, for instance, which I’d never learned, having been born here. She wanted to send me to a Chinese school and only eat Chinese food. It infuriated Grandmamma. Mother and Grandmamma officially went to war.”
“And you were their battleground.”
Lin blinked at his grim intensity. “Yes. That’s a pretty apt description. Although probably misleading in one respect. I never resented my grandmother. We were always close, and had this natural connection from the very beginning. I think my mother might have felt like an outsider in that respect, which always makes me sad to consider. After my grandfather died, my parents decided to leave the States. Grandmamma saw my mother’s choice as a betrayal.” She paused as the waiter brought their drink orders. “It only made matters worse that they planned to live in Taiwan, near my father’s family instead of near either of my grandparents’ relatives. Grandmamma absolutely refused to let them take me. I was nine at the time. Grandmamma threatened to take my mother to court, although she must have been bluffing about her likelihood of winning custody.”
“And so your parents agreed to leave you behind?” Kam asked, frowning.
She laughed softly. “You didn’t know my grandmother. Ask Ian. She was a force to be reckoned with. Besides, it’s common for Asians to want their children educated in the States, and so Grandmamma had that as her trump card. Even my traditional mother and father couldn’t deny that was a desirable outcome.”
They paused in talking when their waiter brought them their salads.
“Do you see your parents often?” Kam asked when they were alone again.
“Once a year. They never return here. Maybe there are too many bad memories for my mother.” He gave her thigh a final squeeze and lifted his hand to begin eating. She sensed him studying her in the silence that followed.
“You miss them, don’t you,” he stated, rather than asked, after a moment.
“Yes,” she said quietly, picking up her fork. “To this day, I don’t think my mother understands how affected I was when they left. I don’t wish I’d gone with them necessarily. I love my life here. It’s just that my mom sort of looks at it in black-and-white terms. I’m an American, I live a similar lifestyle to Grandmamma’s, so I must be a clone of Grandmamma. In her mind, I ‘chose’ Grandmamma and everything she represents over her.” Lin sighed. “I didn’t ‘choose’ anything.”
“You were a little kid.”
“Right. But I’m an adult now, and my mother carries on seeing Grandmamma instead of me. She disapproves of my choices and automatically assumes I disapprove of her and my father’s,” she reflected. She forked her salad. “I don’t,” she said, shrugging helplessly. “I just want them to be happy. But I can’t seem to convince them—especially my mother—of that.
“Family, huh?” she said after a pause, feeling embarrassed when she realized how much she’d been going on about herself. It was strange, but even though Kam didn’t talk a lot, he was very easy to talk to. “What about you? You mentioned not going back to your residency when your mother became ill,” she said after she’d swallowed some salad. “You must have been close to her.”
“I was. She was an easy woman to love.”
She set down her salad fork slowly, studying his bold profile as he ate. “That’s a lovely thing for a son to say about his mother.”
He shrugged. “It’s true.”
“You must miss her,” she said quietly.
“We were all each other had in the world.”
“But now you have Lucien and Ian,” she said quietly after a moment.