Yuri didn’t get a chance to talk to Rainbows all week. He couldn’t justify asking her to stay up late to talk to him in the mornings, and his days were so exhausting that he couldn’t keep himself up past 11. He couldn’t wait until Saturday. He would be spending the weekend at home, and he and Rainbows had a “Skype date” set. His stomach fluttered when he thought about the word date.
Although right now Yuri had to admit he was getting a little distracted. Adriana had decided he was her new history buddy, and she whispered little comments to him the entire period for two classes in a row. She didn’t talk to him much at work, but he didn’t mind. He always watched her out of the corner of his eye. She did everything with such intensity. It was no wonder she had been promoted to assistant manager after only a few months.
He found out that she had moved to LA from Missouri in June and had worked full-time at Walgreens while she waited for school to start. She lived in an apartment in the backyard of somebody’s house off campus with some older girls who she knew from back home.
Adriana had a straightforwardness to her that Yuri liked. She was blunt and funny—and flighty. She was just… exciting. She was exhausting sometimes too; it was like she drained his battery—but then she put it on rapid recharge. She seemed to change every day.
Yuri walked out of history with Adriana on Friday. She was rummaging through her bag, looking for her schedule.
“I can’t remember what I have next,” she was saying.
Yuri laughed. He had memorized his schedule and where all his classes were on the first day. But then, Adriana didn’t seem to worry much about anything. He was actually a little jealous.
“Biology…” she turned around. “In the Terasaki building…”
Yuri pointed the way—he had biology there too on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She thanked him and bowed a little. Yuri rolled his eyes and she laughed.
“You don’t like it?” she said. “Doesn’t it remind you of home?”
He smiled. He had mentioned to Adriana about his oversea venture in Shanghai and this was not the first time she teased him about it. The truth was it did remind him of home, but he knew how weird it was to Americans that the Chinese bowed to each other. He also knew she had no idea what bowing really meant. She didn’t know that you only bowed to your superiors. Then again, maybe she did. He sometimes wondered if everything she did was just to make fun of him. But then… he kind of liked it. At least, she remembered. At least she was listening.
“Okay, well, I’ll see you later.” Adriana turned on her heel, then suddenly turned right back around as though she had forgotten something.
“What are you doing this weekend?”
Yuri stopped and stammered a little. “Uh—I was gonna go home.”
“Oh, that’s right, I forgot. Must be nice.” She smiled, then turned back around and started walking. Over her shoulder she yelled, “Have a good one! See you Monday! Tell them I said konichiwa or whatever!”
Yuri stood there for a minute, watching her go. Why did he spend so much of his time watching the back of her head?
And what was that all about, anyway?
Yuri was relieved to be going home. He grabbed his pre-packed suitcase after class and sped down the freeway. Everyone was home. Annie was lying in the grass, reading a book in the front yard. His mom was on the phone in the kitchen, and his dad was starting on dinner.
Annie followed Yuri into the house. “So how’s school?” she asked.
“I just talked to you yesterday,” Yuri said. “It’s great.”
She gave him a flat look. “How is it really?”
He paused. Then he sighed and flopped down on the couch, leaving his suitcase at the door.
“It’s weird,” he said.
“I knew it. Is your roommate a turd?”
“Annie!” His mother said, covering the phone and giving her a frown. Annie put up her hands, grinning, and looked at Yuri with an eyebrow raised.
He laughed. “He’s fine. He has a girlfriend.”
“Ohhhh.” Yuri’s dad came into the living room, wiping his hands on a towel. “You feeling the pressure?”
Yuri was taken aback. He’d only been at school for a week and they already wanted to talk about girls?
“No,” he said, his face feeling a little hot. “I meant I don’t see him a lot. So if he’s a jerk I don’t know about it yet.”
“Uh huh,” his dad and Annie were sharing a look.
Yuri stood up. “Come on, you guys,” he said. “Can we just—drop it?” He paused. “What’s for dinner?”
His dad seemed distracted enough by that. He elicited Yuri’s help and pretty soon they were all setting the table and getting ready. Annie kept shooting Yuri looks across the table. She even kicked him once and raised her eyebrows expectantly. Yuri frowned and shook his head.
His mom got into the subject of girls again after dinner. At least she waited until it was just the two of them.
“So Rainbows is pretty excited to talk to you tomorrow,” she said slyly.
She was putting sheets on his bed while he looked around his room for things he had forgotten.
“Yeah, I’m pretty excited too,” he said.
“You must miss her.”
Yuri looked at her. He considered her for a second. He figured it wouldn’t hurt to just tell the truth. “Yeah, I do.” He paused. “And everyone from school, and Uncle Chandler, and Mr. Butler.”
She gave him a look. “It’s okay, you know, Yuri,” she said. “You’re eighteen. You can like girls.”
He was getting frustrated. Now they cared? All through high school his dad had practically barred him from even looking at girls. And now it was all anyone could talk about.
“I know,” he said. “But it’s kinda… private.” She looked a little hurt so he backtracked. “I’ll tell you whenever there’s a girl worth telling you about, okay?”
“Okay… I get it.” She smiled. “I’m your mom.”
Yuri’s dad was suddenly at the door—how long had he been standing there? “And he’s a guy,” he said, walking into the room and ruffling Yuri’s hair. “I never talked about my dating life either.”
She gave him a sour look. “I know. I seem to remember some problems when you brought me home and your grandma asked what my name was. And we went to high school together.”
He waved his hand. “Senile,” he said, sitting on Yuri’s bed. “You remember.”
“Two years of dating wasn’t enough for her to figure out who I was, I guess?” she said.
Yuri’s dad looked at him. “See what I mean?” he said. “Keep it to yourself. Or better yet, just leave girls alone altogether.”
His Dad got smashed in the face with a pillow. He turned with a grin and the two of them started wrestling on Yuri’s bed.
“Oh, come on!” Yuri said. “Get a room!”
After some giggles and some screams from his mom, they finally got it together.
“I’m just saying, Yuri,” his mom said. “I love you. I care about your happiness. And dating was one of the best parts of college for me.” She gave his dad a sideways look. “Dating lots of people.”
Yuri’s dad was on her again.
“I’m leaving,” Yuri announced. “And sleeping on the couch.”
As he walked down the hall he heard their bedroom door close. He rolled his eyes. They were worse than teenagers.
Annie was reading her book again in the living room.
“They’re gross,” she said. “And it’s only gotten worse since you left. I’m so mad at you for leaving me alone with them.”
“Well, looks like me being here isn’t helping,” he said.
“Maybe it’s some weird menopause thing,” she said sullenly.
“Don’t let Mom hear you say that. She’d kill you.”
“Mid-life crisis maybe?”
Yuri laughed. So his parents were ridiculous, and everybody was trying to force him to make up a dating life that didn’t exist… but he still liked being here. He looked around at the house. He had only been here a few months, but he was surprised how much it felt like home.
“You know, you’re different,” Annie said, looking at him.
“What do you mean?”
Annie chewed on the inside of her cheek. “Well, when we first got here you were all weird. You didn’t really talk to anyone. I was always trying to make you mad and I couldn’t even get a rise out of you. Now you’re all… animated.”
Yuri smiled. “Good word,” he said. “Keep reading.”
“No, really. What’s up?”
Yuri paused. “I do feel… better,” he said.
She sat up straight. “It’s totally a girl!”
He put up his hands. “No!” He paused again. “Well, not… really.”
“So it is.”
“I haven’t hung out with her outside of school.”
“So you have a class with her?”
Yuri nodded. “She’s in my history class. And she works with me. Her name’s Adriana.”
She smiled triumphantly. “I knew it,” she said. “I totally knew it. She’d better be cool.”
“She’s…” he thought for a moment. “Crazy. And I don’t even know if anything will happen.”
“Will you just ask her out?” she said. “It’s really not hard. And you’re… you know, you’re a good looking guy, for a nerd. Crazy girls go for nerds, anyway.”
Yuri laughed. “Um, thanks, I guess,” he said.
“Promise you’ll do something about it?” Annie said. “You’re kind of a weenie sometimes.”
“Thanks,” he said again, his voice flat. “Sure. Just don’t expect anything. She might really be crazy.”
She grinned. “Okay,” she said.
Yuri thought for a moment about asking her about her own dating life. Then he realized that his sister was 14 and he was likely to punch any guy in the face who even looked at her. So he decided he’d rather not know.
After their conversation, though, he felt a growing anxiety about the next day. He’d be talking to Rainbows. She would ask him about school. Annie would be there, overhearing everything. He hoped she’d be smart enough to keep her mouth shut. After all, she seemed to see more than he gave her credit for.
The next morning Yuri got up early to talk to Rainbows on his laptop. The video was choppy, but the sound was good enough. She looked tired. Her first week of school had been strange, she said, without him there. Senior year was going to be a lot of work. She had spent most of the day studying and was getting ready for bed.
Her hair was tied up in a bun on top of her head and she wore a tank top and pajama pants. She looked cute. Yuri realized he had never seen her room before. She had a bright red blanket on her bed and yellow walls.
He noticed she wasn’t wearing a necklace. He held the jade necklace in his pocket while they talked.
“So how was your week? How is school?” she asked, covering her mouth as she yawned.
“It’s… weird,” he said. He didn’t know how else to describe it. “Everyone speaks English—everyone.”
She giggled. “How strange in America, for everyone to speak English.”
He grinned. “And the classes are huge. Everyone talks during class. I feel like I’m one of the only people taking notes half the time. I’m a good student here.”
“You were a good student here, too,” she said.
“Not like you. I couldn’t have gotten into a Chinese school.”
“You could have. They love Americans.”
He paused. “Have you decided what to do for school?”
“Not… exactly.” She looked down. “I’m waiting to see what happens right now. My grandfather keeps mentioning a change. But he’s very vague. I worry we may be moving.”
“I don’t know. But Mr. Chandler has been very restless. I’m not sure what to expect. So I’m trying not to make any plans, just in case.”
“Hmm.” Yuri thought for a moment. “Well, wherever you go, it couldn’t be any more of a culture shock than California is. And you can go wherever you want for school next year, can’t you?”
“I’m not sure about that either.” She looked upset. “I’m my grandfather’s only posterity. There are a lot of traditions I’m afraid to break. I’m almost his… heir.”
“What, so you’re going to be a butler too now?”
She shrugged. “I don’t really know. Like I said, I’m trying not to make plans. You know we don’t really talk about these things, Yuri.”
Yuri realized he was being much more forward with her than he usually was. “Right,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
She smiled faintly. “America is rubbing off on you already,” she said. She paused. “I don’t mind it.” She yawned again.
“It’s late there, isn’t it?” Yuri said. He looked at the clock. They’d been talking for over an hour. It was past midnight in Shanghai.
“Not too late,” she said.
She was always too accommodating.
“Look, I’ll let you go to bed, Rainbows.”
She smiled and rubbed her eyes. “Thank you for talking with me, Yuri,” she said. “It was… wonderful. You look like you’re doing very well.”
“Thanks. I think I am,” he said. “You do too.” He paused. “You really look great, actually.”
Her cheeks turned pink and she didn’t say anything for a moment. “Thank you,” she finally said quietly. She crossed her arms and rubbed them.
Yuri pulled out the jade necklace. “I carry this with me all the time,” he said. “It helps me when I get homesick. Thank you.”
She fiddled with the strap of her tank top. “You’re welcome,” she said softly. “I hope it makes you think of me.”
“All the time. Miss you.”
She smiled. “I miss you too, Yuri.”
She bowed her head slightly. He bowed back, and she gave him an uncomfortable look.
“Goodnight, Rainbows,” Yuri said. “Sweet dreams.”
She smiled. “Goodnight, Yuri.”
Then she hung up. Yuri held the jade in his hands and looked at it. The color seemed brighter than when she had first given it to him.
He blinked and shook his head. He was probably just thinking that because of how much he missed Shanghai right now. How much he missed Rainbows.