Chapter 10:

Sweet Like Honey

Sweet like Honey

As it turned out, Shirley didn’t live too far away from me, with the both of us having rented places close to Honey Café. Consequently, we agreed to meet at the Mi Tang train station a couple of blocks away from our beloved spot.

I wasn’t very enthusiastic about it, to be honest, but Honey and Bernard essentially forced me to take a day off. They made it clear that they wouldn’t allow me into the café unless it was as a customer and I was bringing Shirley along. Apparently, they didn’t trust me enough to believe that I wouldn’t ditch her in the middle of the date or something.

I didn’t know what to wear, but given that I would be covering myself in a black jacket meant to protect me from the cool temperatures of spring, I thought it wouldn’t matter. I just grabbed one of the few t-shirts I bought for myself the moment I escaped from my mother’s grasp (she bought all of my other clothing for me) and wore a pair of jeans that I bought from Uniqlo. The t-shirt was from there too, one of their character design brands, which was the complete opposite of the kind mom picked out for me. Then I covered it over with the jacket.

Honestly, I didn’t know where Shirley planned to go. She said she would plan the whole thing, and so I left it up to her. I couldn’t say I was looking forward to it because I had absolutely no idea. I hadn’t been on a date before, except for one lunch session with a girl from college who never responded to my messages again after that.

I guess she didn’t like me much.

Whatever knowledge I had was gleaned from manga and anime. So…an amusement park, maybe? Or perhaps an aquarium? This was starting to feel like I had just rented a girlfriend, though Shirley hadn’t asked me to pay her. Not that I could afford to, but…

“Sorry I’m late!”

I must have been lost in thought when leaving my home, for the next thing I knew, I snapped out of my stupor and found myself in front of Mi Tang station. Shirley waved at me, but though she had ditched the mask, she was still wearing the bright red cap, flashy crimson jacket and sunglasses. Her long hair was tied and wrapped under the cap, which went a long way in masking her identity. Her beauty was still enough to draw a few stares, and a couple of people looked as if they were pondering on whether they had seen her somewhere before, but she ignored her and approached me.

When they saw that she had a date, they turned away in disappointment. As for me, I simply glanced at my smartphone and shook my head.

“You’re not late. I just got here too.”

For some reason, Shirley laughed at that. “Such a cliché line, but you seem like you’re telling the truth.”

“That’s because I am. I have no reason to lie.”

“I know. It’s just funny, nonetheless.”

Raising an eyebrow, I decided not to pursue the matter. She clearly had a different sense of humor. And I had a more burning question in mind. “Where are we going today?”

“Where do you want to go?”

“Uh…I don’t know. I thought you said you already had a plan.”

“I do, but I can accommodate any requests you might have.” Shirley beamed brightly, a huge contrast to her crying face when I first encountered her by chance all those weeks ago. I was so glad that she had cheered up, even though there were a few moments where she would slip back into melancholy, staring out the window as she sipped her beverage sadly.

An air of loneliness…was that why she wanted to go out with me today? Was it because she was sick of being on her own, without any company? Even if that was the case, why me? Did she not have any other friends?

…dumb question. If she did, she wouldn’t be idling away in Honey Café by herself all day.

Dragging myself back to the present, I shook my head. “No, I don’t have anything in mind. I’m open to following you around. I look forward to seeing what you have planned.”

“Hmm…” Shirley gave me a look, and for a moment panic stabbed my chest. Was she going to call me boring like Victor did? I knew it. No wonder that girl dumped me during my first year of university after that single date. Women preferred more decisive, adventurous and confident men. I had none of those qualities.

“Follow me then!”


Shirley didn’t seem disappointed at all, and instead seized my hand. I let her drag me toward the train. We had to tap our passes at the aisle and wait for the barrier to open, and then she led me to the platform. She picked the train going north, but to my surprise, our destination was only one station later.

“Over here!”

She snagged my wrist and pulled, and despite my reservations, I trailed after her. To my utter shock, I found myself standing in front of a karaoke bar. Shirley had stopped in front of it and was grinning at the entrance.

Really? Surely we weren’t going in here for a date, right…?

Shirley stepped in, and then gestured for me to follow. Still astonished, I stepped through the glass door and watched her practically prance toward the counter and book a room for two hours.

“We’ll extend if it’s not enough,” she told the staff, who was a high schooler working part time on the weekends for extra allowance. Or so I believed, judging from his appearance. He nodded disinterestedly and waved us in.

“Room 403,” he grunted.

Yup, definitely a high schooler who was only interested in earning extra pocket money.

“We’re doing karaoke?” I asked as I followed Shirley into room 403. She whirled around with a big smile, taking off her cap and sunglasses. With a shake of her head, she allowed her long black hair to tumble down before she stretched herself. The room felt a little warm, so the both of us ended up taking off our jackets to hang them from a stand.

“Of course! Unless you have a better idea?”

I didn’t. So I nodded and sank into the sofa, watching as she picked up a microphone and browsed through the menu. She looked so happy that even I couldn’t help but smile at her enthusiasm and passion.

Shirley almost resembled a kid in a chocolate factory.

“Do you want to sing?” She offered me the microphone, but I declined.

“No, you go ahead.” I chuckled. It was obvious that she really wanted to sing. “Besides, I want to hear you sing.”

“Because I was an idol?” She asked, raising an eyebrow. I scratched my head.

“No, I actually forgot about that, to be honest.” It had been a couple of busy weeks, and I now felt ashamed that I had been absorbed in my own problems to be concerned about other people. “It’s just that you look really eager, and watching you made me kind of happy too.”

“Aw…how sweet.” Shirley giggled and tossed me the menu. I had to scramble to catch it. She winked at me and held the microphone to near her mouth. “How about I perform a service for you? Pick a song. Any song you like, and I’ll sing it for you. You’ll get the chance to listen to Shirley Li’s exclusive private one-on-one performance!”

“Uh, even you say that, I can’t suddenly think of a song…” I then paused. Then I suddenly remembered. “Hey, wait! You said you sang an opening song for an anime, right? The Girl Upstairs, was it? What was that song again?”

“Sweet like Honey?”

“Yeah! Please sing that!”

Shirley looked thoroughly amused, but she nodded and used the selector to pick that song. In the background television, an anime video began playing, featuring dancing anime characters from The Girl Upstairs.

“Sweet like honey. Sweet sweet sweet like honey. Sweet like honey, sweet like honey. Sweet like honey, yes, just like you. Sweeter than caramel. The fragrance you left behind, it makes my heart melt. The sweet taste of honey lingering. Baby, you’re so sweet like honey! You’re so sweet, you’re so sweet like honey…”

I listened, enraptured. Shirley didn’t just sing. She was actually living the song. Every movement was graceful, each stroke of her arm elegant as she spun around and gyrated to the beat almost in tandem with the dancing anime characters in the background. At that moment, I understood what Bernard was talking about when he mentioned seeing my passion when I enthusiastically told him about what I studied in graduate school whenever I bought a honey pastry or drink.

Shirley was the same. She clearly loved singing. It wasn’t just her previous job. It was her life.

“When I see you walk past, in that moment you attracted me. I knew that you would be mine. Sweet like honey. Baby, you’re my favorite flavor tonight.”

With a flourish, she whirled around and did a curtsy before putting the microphone down with a satisfied look on her face.

“That was great!”

“That’s a lovely, lovely voice,” I wheezed in my best Tom Hardy imitation.

“Thank you.” She raised an eyebrow, but was probably too worn out after that strenuous performance.

“No, really! It was amazing! It felt as if I was watching the anime again!”

“Speaking of which…” Shirley cocked her head to the side as she studied the Eva character on my t-shirt. “I’ve been wondering this ever since you asked me that weird question regarding anime songs that I sang…but are you an anime otaku or something?”

John Lee H. Wu
Steward McOy