Author's Note: There are only two options for American Citizen-Foreign National marriages. If marrying in the US, you have to file a petition with INS for a fiance visa. When the fiance arrives, the marriage must take place within three months and the couple must have met in person at least once in the two years before. The other option is to marry abroad and file a petition for an alien-spouse visa, which would start the immigration process and can vary depending on the country the couple is married in. ANYWAY, my point is that the situation for John and Meg isn't actually covered. He came into the US illegally. She can't leave the US legally. If I wanted to be completely accurate, I would've had to send him back to China, get a legal passport (which the Chinese government is very poopy about), have her file for a fiance visa, and when he FINALLY made it to America through legal channels, have them marry. And of course my attitude was, 'Screw that.' So I kind of fudged and glossed over it. Just an FYI;)



Houston, Texas

Eight years later

Dr. Miasu Lee entered the parking garage and proceeded to search for her car. After another sixteen hour shift in Ben Taub General Hospital's E.R., the location of her vehicle had been deemed extraneous information and shoved unceremoniously out of her brain. She aimed her key chain remote around and pushed the button repeatedly.


Bingo. She opened the trunk of her silver Ford Focus and tossed her long white coat in. Next, she removed her green scrub top and dropped it in a clear plastic bag where it joined another half-dozen just like it. Mental note: Do laundry sometime between sleep and work. Her scrub pants would've been clean enough for just the drive home, but today was a special occasion and she wasn't going directly home. Normal clothing would be required.

She toed her sneakers off and stripped down to the tank top and shorts she always wore under her scrubs. She pulled a navy Henley over her head, slipped on a pair of jeans, and reinserted her feet into the sneakers. Closing the trunk, she circled to the drivers' side and slid into the seat.

The car started up and she wound her way down to the exit. The booth attendant waved and raised the bar, allowing her to edge her way into Houston traffic. She headed north out of the medical district and hit Highway 59 going west. Taking the Kirby exit, she followed the road north into River Oaks, one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the city. She passed Roman houses with columns and clean lines, forbidding British stone castles, Mediterranean bungalows, French villas, and an assortment of varied architectural styles and mixes. No cookie cutter prefabs here.

She pulled into the semi-circular driveway of a home with a distinctly Oriental flare and came to a stop. Pocketing her keys, she opened the glove box and dug around until she pulled out a small blue velvet jewelry box. She grabbed her bag, dropped the box inside, then got out of the car and walked to the house.

The house was one of a kind, built to John's specifications. It was three stories, pagoda style, with a blue tile roof in the shape of a curving concave triangle. The open floor plan centered around a courtyard, enclosing a garden and pond. As was her habit, she walked up the steps to the front porch and rubbed the snouts of the bronze lions standing guard. On the left was the male, under his right paw a pomegranate, a symbol of power. On the right, the female with a lion cub under her left paw. Mia reached the red double doors, each decorated with eighty-one nails in nine rows of nine, nine being the imperial lucky number.

She unlocked the door and walked in, her sneakers squeaking lightly on the polished wood floor. She stopped to examine the photographs lined up on top of the hallway table. John and Meg on their wedding day, taken with a disposable camera at the Las Vegas Wedding Garden; John and Meg in a hospital room, newborn Jin Na in their arms; Mia's graduation from A&M University THAT had been an interesting four years.; John and Meg back in the hospital for Alan's birth; and Mia's graduation from Baylor College of Medicine just last year.

Smaller photos were interspersed here and there, social events, family vacations, Jin Na and Alan in various stages of cuteness, messiness, and general childhood mishaps. A movement from the corner of her eye caught her attention and she turned to find Ling, the Lee family long haired black cat, strutting across the hallway.

"Hey, Ling, what's up?" Mia enthused with mock cheerfulness. The cat gave her an unfriendly look, stuck her nose in the air, and with a fluff of her tail continued on her way. Mia rolled her eyes, but didn't take it personally since the cat treated everyone with barely concealed disdain. 'Tinkling of pieces of jade', my ass, she thought, translating the name. Mia had taken to calling her 'Bitchy-Kitty', though not when the kids were around.

A car could be heard outside and Mia moved to the window to see Meg's green Lincoln Navigator pull into the driveway. She opened the front door as seven year old Jin Na, pleated school uniform skirt billowing out behind her, raced up the steps and into Mia's arms.

"Mia!" the girl cried in delight, practically squeezing the life out of her aunt. Behind her, Meg lifted three year old Alan from his car seat and came up the walkway into the house. Jin Na pointed to Mia's hair. "Ooh, cool. Just like Lola." Mia had a habit of coloring her hair outrageous shades to suit her moods. Her current hue was a shocking magenta, inspired by one of her and Jin Na's favorite movies, the German cult classic 'Run Lola Run'.

"I can't believe you're the cool one," Meg commented, closing the door and setting Alan down, who immediately bounded over to Mia and wrapped his arms around her leg. "And I'm the fuddy duddy." Jin Na turned to look at her mother.

"What's a fuddy duddy?" Meg and Mia exchanged grins.

"Upstairs. Change. Now," Meg ordered, her arm motioning toward the stairs for emphasis. Jin Na reluctantly let go and trudged up the stairs. The women headed for the kitchen, Alan still clinging to Mia's leg, causing her to clump along. "How was work?" Meg asked, pulling bottled green teas from the fridge for them both and milk for Alan. Mia detached Alan from her leg and sat him on a stool at the breakfast bar, then took the seat next to him. Meg poured milk into a sipping cup for Alan and set it in front of him.

"Busy," Mia replied, accepting the bottle Meg handed her across the counter and shaking it. "Especially for a wednesday/thursday combo. Some genius in a chemistry class at Bellaire high school performed an unauthorized experiment. Whatever it was blew up and injured about a dozen students. None were life threatening, but the one who did the experiment may be permanently blinded." Meg frowned and smoothed Alan's hair thoughtfully.

"That sucks," she said softly. Mia nodded in agreement.

"Yeah." Mia decided to change the subject. "How about your day?"

"Remarkably uneventful. And Larry hardly slobbered at all during our morning meeting." Meg was a part time digital graphics artist for an ad agency downtown and unfortunately had Larry Petrie for an enamored co- worker. Mia had been a guest at the company Christmas party the year before and got to see Larry's devotion firsthand. Larry, all five feet- eight inches, bespeckled, balding bit of him, was a jingle writer. He'd penned a love song for Meg and decided to unveil it at the holiday gathering, thinking it an excellent idea. He was completely plastered, of course. Although he was one of the best lyricists in the business, a singer he most definitely was not. As he belted out his declaration of love, the crowd cringed, dogs howled, and champagne glasses threatened to shatter. Meg could only stare in stupefied mortification, John grinned in amusement, and it was all Mia could do not to burst into laughter.

"He thinks you're sooo hot," Mia teased in a seductive voice. "Grrrr."

"Grrrr," Alan mimicked, hammering his cup on the countertop. Meg raised her eyebrows at Mia and pointed to her son, giving her a 'Now look what you've done' look. They heard pounding on the stairs and Jin Na burst into the room a few seconds later, heading straight to Mia to pull on her shirt.

"Guess what today is." Jin Na said excitedly. Mia put a finger to her chin and made a show of thinking deeply.

"Thursday?" she finally replied. Jin Na rolled her eyes indulgently.

"Noooo. What else?"

"May thirteenth?" Jin Na jumped up and down.

"Uh-huh, uh-huh!" Suddenly Mia clapped a hand to her forehead.

"It's trash day and I forgot to put mine out." Jin Na stamped her feet impatiently and crossed her arms over her chest.

"Aunt Mia, it's my birthday," she intoned severely. "I'm seven," she added, frowning. Mia grinned and pulled the jewelry box out of her bag.

"Ah, I thought there was a reason I brought this." Jin Na immediately brightened and jumped for the box, but Mia held it out of reach. "Not yet, wait 'til your dad gets home." As if on cue, they heard John's car pull up outside. Taking one last longing look at the jewelry box, Jin Na twirled and ran for the door, throwing it open and disappearing outside.

"And she's off," Meg commented, taking Alan's sipping cup and placing it in the sink. She then gathered the tea bottles and dropped them in the recycling bin.

John walked inside the front door, kicking it shut behind him. His arms were full, Jin Na held in his right, briefcase in his left. John Lee was an instructor in East Asian studies at Rice University, an Ivy League school, commonly referred to as 'the Harvard of the South'. His credits from his college days in China turned out to be transferable and he was able to complete his degree at Rice. He then applied for a teaching position and was hired. He was an immediate hit, popular with the students, and his classes were always filled to capacity.

Jin Na slid down and took her dad's briefcase, setting it on the counter and hopping on the stool on the other side of Mia. John cocked his head at the sight of Mia's hair. She struck a pose.

"What do you think?"

"Interesting," John said cautiously, after a pause. "The bright blue was my favorite though," he added with mock seriousness.

"Oh, yes, my blue period," Mia returned jokingly. "What WAS I thinking?" John grinned and kissed her on the forehead, then moved on to Alan, ruffling his hair.

Finally he came to Meg. Mia never tired of watching them together. They always seemed to zone out to their own world for a few moments whenever they reunited at the end of each day. John ran a finger down the side of Meg's face and she reached up, joining her hand with his. They exchanged a brief kiss on the lips and then parted to acknowledge the rest of the family.

The moment over, Meg went about putting food on the table while John when upstairs to change. The cook had already been in, preparing one of Jin Na's favorite dishes, chicken pot pie, of all things. When Meg insisted that Jin Na set the table, Jin Na announced that she shouldn't have to since she was the birthday girl.

"And?" Meg asked, unimpressed. Jin Na squinted at her mother, gauging how serious she was. She finally sighed and took the dishes off the counter, heading for the dining table. Mia decided to help her, gathering cups and silverware and following along behind. John returned just as Jin Na and Mia put the last plate, cup, and piece of silverware down. Meg put Alan in his high chair, then joined everyone else at the table.

The meal passed in companionable chatter, everyone seemed to have an interesting tale to tell about the day's events. The meal finished, Meg and Mia brought out the cake and ice cream, forcing Jin Na to sit through a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' before they let her blow out the candles, which she managed with one breath. Stuffed full of sweets, Jin Na was ready for her presents.

A personal CD player and an assortment of CDs from John and Meg, a jade necklace in the shape of Buddha from Mia. Giddy over her new possessions, Jin Na took her spoils up to her room. John retreated to his office with his briefcase and Alan. He had papers to grade, while Alan had a stack of LEGOs to topple. Meg and Mia tidied the kitchen, then headed to the living room with more green tea.

"I'm glad that one's over," Meg commented, settling into an overstuffed chair. Mia sat in the loveseat adjacent to her and grinned.

"Just wait until she's a teenager," Mia replied. "She'll want a DJ, a pool party, and NO chaperones." Meg practically glared at her.

"Hush your mouth," she told her, but then turned speculative. "Oh, God, in six years she'll be thirteen. In nine years she'll be sixteen! She'll be dating." Meg shook her head and sighed. She quirked a look at Mia, a look which Mia recognized. "Sooo, dating anyone?" The question all singles dreaded from married relatives.

"Oh, sure, I squeeze him in between work and sleep, like I do everything else." Meg frowned at her.

"It's not good to be alone. I know." Mia relented and smiled.

"I know you know, but you also got incredibly lucky. Not everyone is."

"No, I guess they're not," Meg acknowledged, holding out her bottle for a toast, which Mia promptly responded to.



Another Author's Note: And there you have it. Too cheesie? Maybe. But I thought John and Meg deserved a happy ending, so . . . that's what I gave them. Also, I did it all from Mia's POV. Thought it might be interesting to see them from a third person perspective.

Well, folks, it's been a pleasure. My thanks and sincere regards to all who left reviews and e-mailed. Your encouragement, praise, and criticism has been amazing. This has been an experience I will always treasure. Until next time.