Chapter 37:

Lunar New Year

Would You Paint My Dunk

Since that day, I never skipped Sunday church services. My parents were surprised with my action, and they questioned if I actually put it into my new year resolution. After I confirmed that fact, they congratulated me and fully supported my decision.

Well, I’m a man of his words, and I don’t intend to pull it back. It did cut my solo basketball training time, but I didn’t regret it. Maybe by currying Him a favor like this would smoothen whatever I’m stuck with.

Spending my days practicing, my shots getting more accurate. I could feel that my accuracy is now on par with Ryan, the substitute Shooting Guard that doesn’t improve anymore.

I wish that the coach will use me in the upcoming regional college competition, even if it means I have to be moved into the Shooting Guard position.

Compared to Ryan, I have better physique, I have higher reach, and I can dunk as well. With my diverse utility, I pack more punch than him.

Only if the coach would notice my improvements…

But that was my wishful thinking. Talking to myself won’t yield any result, and I just have to spend my time practicing. One day, I will reap the fruits of my efforts.

One month has passed, now it’s Friday, February 2nd, 2024. Tonight, she was the one who called first.

“Hey Keith!”

“Hello, Jess. It’s your turn this time, eh?”

“Ha-ha, yeah. I want to give you a piece of good news. Guess what? I finished my uncle’s economy training regime. Yay! I’m free! Starting today, I’ll have some free time, Keith.”

“Congrats! Now you have the time for your painting hobbies again.”

“Yes!! And I will have more time to talk with you too. How about you, Keith? How’s your life been to you?”

“Me? Ah, I’m just honing my basketball skills these days. I think I’m good enough to replace a certain someone from the bench. I guess I’ll get to play soon.”

“Really? Great! Since I don’t have to study hard like I used to, I can attend your basketball matches. Let me know when your team is playing, I’ll be there to watch you play.”

“Oh, come on, Jess. I’m not sure when I could play.”

“Still, you are going to, sooner or later. I don’t want to miss your first match.”

Her words warmed my heart. Only if she would notice my own feelings…

“Speaking of which, Lunar New Year is getting close and a festival will be held in Chinatown. How about it, Keith? Do you want to celebrate it with me?”

“Wow, I didn’t know you would celebrate the Chinese New Year.”

“Well, the thing is, I'm half Chinese and half American. My mom is Chinese and my dad is American. It’s going to be weird if a Chinese folk like me does not celebrate the Chinese New Year, right?”

Ah, now it makes sense. I guess she wanted company… Wait… Isn’t this another date? Did God finally answer my prayers? In any case, I won’t waste this chance. This time, I’ll definitely make it count. The fireworks will be my signal to deliver my feelings to her.

“I see… Sure! So, Shall I pick you up again just like before?”

“Yep! Pick me at ten on the tenth of February.”

Suddenly, I had the urge to crack a joke.

“Alright. Do you want me to bring a tent as well?”

“Tent? What do you…”

She paused for a moment before she burst into laughter.

“Oh my God. Keith! I just realized the homophones.”

“He-he. And then we will arrive at our destination at ten past ten.”

We were laughing out loud, and it took a while before our laughter dissipated.

“Anyway, it’s already late. Keith, see you later!”

“Yeah, and have a good night.”


As the call ended, I threw myself into the bed, giving myself rest for tomorrow.

One week went by, and it was the anticipated Lunar New Year. I woke in the morning and swiftly took a shower. After I dried my body with a towel, I sprayed my body spray all over my body. I needed to go all out with this.

Once again, I put on my previous outfit that I used back in Christmas. Why that again you ask? I don’t have a lot of suitable clothes, remember? That one is the most decent outfit I had.

I went downstairs for my breakfast. After finishing my meal, I booked an online taxi service. Before leaving, I said my goodbyes to my parents. No matter how much I wanted to meet her, I still have to be respectful to my parents.

Arriving at her house, I was left speechless. She stood in front of the gate, wearing a red Chinese long dress.

I was surprised to see her with that outfit. Well, I know that this is a Chinese New Year, but I didn’t expect her to wear such a restricting outfit on the occasion.

As I was left speechless, she walked over and opened the car door.

“Good morning, Keith.”

In response to her greetings, I cleared my throat and focused my gaze on her.

“Ahem… Good morning. You look good with that outfit.”

“Thank you, and you are… Wait… Are you using the same outfit back then on Christmas?”

Suddenly, I felt guilty. Instead of preparing a new look, I took a shortcut and came with the same appearance as before. Thinking about it, she must be disappointed in me.

Well, all I could do now is to apologize to her.

“Yeah, I guess I should have bought a matching red outfit as well. I’m sorry to disappoint you.”

Contrary to my expectation, she shook her head.

“No, you don’t have to. I’m quite fond of this outfit. It reminds me of our Christmas shopping trip.”

My consciousness took a hard hit. She is so considerate toward me, going as far to put a Chinese dress on. Meanwhile, I’m taking it easy with my old clothes.

I’m so ashamed of myself.

“Jess, I felt bad for you. I mean, I’m being unfair. You went with that Chinese long dress. It must be uncomfortable to wear, and yet, you still put it on. And here I am, wearing the same outfit as last time.”

“Keith, chill! I like your outfit, really. As for myself, my mom is a hardcore Chinese, she would scold me if I went out to the Chinatown in Chinese New Year dressing casually. So, I had to wear my old Chinese dress. I hate how this dress constricts me, but that’s better than taking her wrath head on. You know…”

“Hold on. Jess, why don’t you celebrate with your family? I thought your mom would object…”

“Ah…” She turned her head away. “My mom was against this, but my uncle told her that I should be free to go outside. Also, he said that I should experience my youth, as long as I'm responsible for what happens, I’m free to do whatever I want. Why do you ask?”

“Oops, it seems I asked something sensitive. I’m sorry.”

“Nah, it’s okay. I believe you are not a person who likes to share other’s secrets, so I don’t mind if you know about it.”

“Yeah, I don’t get why people like to gossip. I rather spend my time doing something more productive, like practicing basketball.”

She put a wide grin and looked at me closely.

“So, are you saying that accompanying me is a waste of time?”

I was shocked by her question. I never thought that coming here was a mistake. If anything, I would sacrifice my free time if I could be with her. How could she have that kind of conclusion? Right now, I have to clear the misunderstanding before everything escalates further.

“Jess, I never thought accompanying you is a waste of time. Rather, I’m glad to…”

I couldn’t finish my words. She went full into laughter.

“Ha-ha. It’s so fun to tease you. You are panicking over something that you already answered clearly.”

“Jess, I didn’t remember I had answered that question before, so how come…”

Again, she interrupted my sentences. This time, she went full on in her explanation mode.

“Keith, you have answered with your actions. Look, you were faced with two options today: keep practicing your basketball, or go with me to this festival.”

“I know how hard you have been working toward your goal, and how valuable your time is. For someone with a lot of free time on their hands, it would be an easy choice. But for someone like you who endlessly carves your own future? The choice became heavy as time held some importance.”

“By coming here, you decided that spending time with me is more important than continuing your basketball training. And for that, I’m grateful.”

I see, I never thought of it that far. Everything she said was correct. I just didn’t realize it.

While I was pondering, we finally arrived at Chinatown.

“Anyway Keith, we are arriving at our destination. I can’t wait to explore around.”

With the taxi stopped at the streetside, I paid the driver before we hopped off the car. The scene was bustling with people, and red lanterns were hung all across the buildings.

There was a huge Chinese styled gateway standing tall in front of us, with emerald roof, white pillars, and brown interior. Beneath it, there hung a blue sign with a red border, with a few golden Chinese texts written on it.

I don't understand both the meaning of the sign and neither the text on the pillars, but I didn’t care about it. All my attention was focused on her as we walked side by side.

Numerous street stalls were set up on the sidewalks, as if those Chinese people didn't want to lose a lucrative business opportunity.

Slowly walking through the district, she grabbed my arm and started walking arm-in-arm with me. I ended up being flustered by how close she was.

As if it wasn’t enough, she leaned her body forward, and turned around to look at me with a smile.

“Well, shall we go?”

I forced myself to calm down as we toured the place. We went into a Chinese restaurant, bought some snacks from the stalls, and watched a lot of street performers as we walked around with our sightseeing spirit.

In the evening, we watched a dragon dance show that went for quite a long time. As the sun started sinking into the horizon, we walked into Portsmouth Square and sat on one of the benches.

With the mood set, I opened my mouth to confess my feelings, but she went first and dropped a bombshell.

“Keith, can we… Stop pretending?”

That day, our relationship changed forever.

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