Chapter 26 – Yuri was on air driving back to campus after the weekend.

Yuri was on air driving back to campus after the weekend. He’d spent most of the last week with the biggest and best surprise in a long time—Chandler had decided to move permanently to California to work on Lab2O full time. And that meant Mr. Butler and Rainbows were coming with him. They had surprised him at home when he’d gone there for dinner last Sunday. Rainbows was just the way he remembered her. She smiled when she didn’t need to, she covered her mouth when she laughed, she slipped around in the background all the time. It was like a game for Yuri to force her into the spotlight. She hated it. But then, she seemed to kind of like it. Everything about Rainbows was a contradiction.

He was excited to take Rainbows around campus. She had graduated early from high school—of course she had, she was so much smarter than him—and she was anxious to start looking into American schools. The way she talked about UCLA made him feel lucky to be there. He had never felt like there was anything special about living in LA, eating American food, having a Spring break. But it was like Rainbows couldn’t get over it. She made him feel strangely… important. Happy.

And then there was Mr. Butler. Strong, smart, quiet except when he found something really funny—then he had this booming laugh that made Yuri laugh too. They played mahjong like old times—almost. Yuri realized with a smirk that he missed Mr. Butler’s old friends. He actually missed hanging out with old Chinese guys. They were funny, and proper, and crude at the same time. They believed in so many superstitions that Yuri couldn’t keep track. And they told stories about their childhoods and the war and being refugees. They were men who had really, really lived. And sometimes they would get contemplative and smoke their pipes and lean back and stroke their beards—if they could grow them—and say things like, “the sun only shines on youth once.” Yuri would feel strangely guilty as they looked at him through squinted eyes. They gave him this strange feeling that made him want to be successful. He wondered if that was why Asian kids tended to be so much better in school—they had Chinese grandparents living with them. How could they not be?

It was with thoughts of Shanghai and Rainbows and mahjong games that Yuri practically stumbled into Adriana on his way to class.

“Dude, Yuri, where have you been all week?” She had come out of nowhere. Had she been looking for him?

“Well look who’s talking. Where’ve you been yourself?” Yuri hadn’t missed the fact that Adriana hadn’t shown up for history in a week.

She gave him a half smile. “My mom was here on a business trip.” She grinned. “We like to sleep in. So what’s your excuse?”

“I was with family too. My other family… from Shanghai. Mr. Butler and Rainbows are here.”

“Mr. Butler? The legend? And… Rainbows? What Rainbows?” She looked puzzled.

Yuri grinned. “Yes, the Mr. Butler. His real name is William but everybody calls him Mr. Butler. And Rainbows is his granddaughter.” Adriana’s mouth hung open a little. She raised one eyebrow. “Her Chinese name really is Rainbows. It’s… complicated. Chinese people give themselves English names, and a lot of times they don’t make much sense to Americans.”

Adriana rolled her eyes. “No kidding,” she said. “I think I had that troll doll…”

Yuri laughed and she punched him in the arm. “Seriously, though?”

“Really.”

“So am I gonna meet this Rainbows?”

Yuri suddenly felt strangely uncomfortable. “Well… sure. If you want to.”

He couldn’t really picture it. He sort of wondered if Adriana ate girls like Rainbows for breakfast.

Adriana paused and her eyes lit up a bit. “Oh, wait, so the old man and the girl I saw at your Uncle’s house…” She looked far away for a moment

“Huh?”

Adriana blinked. “Oh. Your Uncle Chandler gave me a ride back to school from the lab last week when you weren’t there. He drove by this house pretty close to campus and said he was staying there. So we stopped by and he showed me around. He told me your mom and dad used to live in that house with him. Pretty crazy. But yeah, there was an older man and a Chinese girl who looked like maybe thirteen living there with him.”

“She’s eighteen…”

“Yuri, I can’t understand why a well-off guy like Chandler would want to live in an old house by the school. I bet that house was totally trashed by whoever rented it before him.”

Yuri stopped. He didn’t really know how to react. He’d seen Chandler almost every day this week and he’d never said anything about giving Adriana a ride anywhere. Much less about introducing her to Rainbows and Mr. Butler. He felt… weird. Like they were all keeping something from him.

But he was being stupid. They probably just never thought to say anything. Because it wasn’t a big deal. Really. Right?

Adriana was starting to say something else about the house when Yuri got a text.

“Oh, it’s Ben. I almost forgot.”

“Is it already starting? I thought the tournament wasn’t for a few weeks.”

“Yeah, we’re just practicing.”

Adriana grinned. “Well go out there and kick some hiney, Gartner!”

Yuri made it to the gym in time to grab one of the mesh jerseys from a big barrel by the entrance. He and some guys from history had decided a while back to sign up for the big intramural basketball tournament. He didn’t think they’d get very far, but he had to sign up. If nothing else, just to see the looks on their faces when they saw that a kid who spent high school in Shanghai could still school them on the court. Okay, well he could at least keep up.

The truth was, basketball was almost as big in China as it was here. And he went to an international school, anyway, so he had no excuse. But he had to admit it still felt good about halfway through the game when Ben started calling him Yao Ming.

Yuri had a great time—it felt good to play basketball again. He used to coach Rainbows at Uncle Chandler’s house. They would play around the world and HORSE. She never would agree to play a real one-on-one game. She would blush and get quiet every time he asked.

They threw their jerseys back in the big plastic barrel and grabbed their backpacks after the game.

“So, Yuri,” Luke was saying. He was a tall, lanky guy with curly hair. He sat behind Yuri and Adriana in history. “Your girlfriend is pretty legit.”

“My girlfriend?” Yuri almost dropped his backpack. “Who told you that?”

Luke put his hands up in sort of a surrender gesture. “Hey, I just thought…. But, you know, if she’s not… Maybe I could take a crack”—

Yuri pushed Luke. “Not funny, man.”

Ben jumped in. “I knew it—I knew you were into her.”

“I don’t blame you, man,” said Luke.

“I’m not”—

Ben and Luke looked at each other, grinning. Yuri couldn’t think of anything to say. He sighed as they walked out of the gym.

“It’s okay, Yuri,” Ben was saying. “You’re into her. So what?”

“Maybe you should do something about it,” said Luke.

“Yeah,” Ben said. “I mean you guys just hang out at school. Maybe you should… I don’t know, ask her on a date instead of being a pansy?”

Yuri laughed and pushed him again. He felt his cheeks getting hot.

“If you don’t, I will,” said Luke. He wiggled his eyebrows, grinning.

Yuri sighed. If it was this obvious to them, how obvious was it to Adriana?

Had he already missed his chance?

~*~*~

Yuri sat in his dorm, grateful that Jeremy was spending the night at his girlfriend’s. He had just spent what felt like forever staring at his phone, getting up and walking around, coming back, and drumming his fingers on the desk, staring some more.

He frowned. This was getting ridiculous. Maybe he should watch TV.

But his phone just sat there, glaring at him. Do something, he thought. Stop being a pansy. Ben was right.

It took a lot out of him to do it, but he finally grabbed the phone and called. And she answered. And then his mind went blank.

“Uh, hey Adriana.”

“Oh, hey Yuri.” She sounded tired. He looked at the clock. It was almost 11.

Idiot.

“What’s up?”

“I don’t know, Yuri, you called me….” Did she sound annoyed or was that just in his head?

“Yeah, sorry. It’s kinda late, huh?”

“Oh, it’s okay. I was just… studying. Okay that’s a lie, I was asleep.” She kind of laughed and Yuri felt a little better. And worse.

“So is everything okay?” she asked.

Yuri took a deep breath and almost choked on his own tongue. “Do you want to go to the beach this weekend?” he blurted out. “Just… hang out?”

There was a long silence on the other end. Yuri thought he was going to throw up.

“Okay.”

Okay. Okay!

“Great. I’ll pick you up on Saturday at 11. Does that work?”

“Sure, yeah. Cool.”

“Cool.”

She was quiet for a moment.

“Okay, goodnight, Yuri.”

“Night!”

Yuri hung up his phone as fast as he could. His heart was racing before… now it was jumping clean out of his chest. This whole dating business was stressful. But also exhilarating. And it was harder than learning to ride a bike. And he hadn’t even gone on a date yet.

He sighed and leaned back in his chair. Well, she said yes. So far, so good.

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