The Adventures of Lilly
Book Two – A China Escape
“Lilly! Lilly! Wake up!” Mr. Hill called shaking her gently.
Lilly’s eyes fluttered open. “What’s up? Where is everybody?” she asked stuffing her iPad into her carry-on bag.
“We just touched down in Beijing. Everybody’s leaving the plane,” Mr. Hill answered.
“Funny,” Lilly muttered. “I was just dreaming the same.”
“Congratulations!” Mr. Hill said. “You dream of reality. I don’t know of too many people who do that.”
“Just teasing,” Mr. Hill said. “You were probably half awake.”
“Right. What time is it?” Lilly asked.
Mr. Hill looked at his sleek fashionable watch with the tiny dots in place of numbers. He frowned. “Sorry, darling. I still can’t tell time off this thing.”
“No worries,” Lilly said switching on her cellphone. “It’s 11:14 p.m.”
Stepping off the plane, Lilly was immediately struck by the huge Beijing Capital International Airport, the thousands of bright city lights, and the heavy smog which hung over the area hiding the moon and twinkling stars. The new sights, sounds, and smells assaulted her senses in the most splendid way.
“This is all so impressive,” Lilly said snapping photos to send to Marco and her friends back home.
Mr. Hill nodded his head in agreement as they walked to locate Benedicto Hsu, their chauffeur. Smiling pleasantly, he welcomed them to China and loaded their luggage into the black Audi. “Where to?” he asked.
“Downtown, please,” Mr. Hill said. “I’d like to grab something to eat first.”
“Me, too,” Lilly agreed. “My stomach feels empty. Did the attendants even serve dinner on the plane?”
“They did—while you were sleeping.”
“You shouldn’t be so hungry then,” Lilly said.
“You aren’t very observant, darling,” Mr. Hill said. “I try not to eat anything in the air.” He smiled. “The food tastes like cardboard.”
In a few minutes, they arrived in the downtown area of Beijing surrounded by glistening, highrise buildings and swarms of people. “There’s a McDonald’s,” Mr. Hill said pointing out the car window. “Why don’t we eat there?”
“Come on,” Lilly exclaimed. “We’re in China! Where’s your adventurous spirit?”
Mr. Hill hugged her shoulders tightly. “I must have left it somewhere in the ocean. Forgive me. May I borrow yours?”
“Sure,” Lilly said. “A generous portion.”
“How about I take you all to my favorite restaurant,” Benedicto offered from the driver’s seat. “It’s just a few blocks down, but we’ll still have to hurry. Closing time is tomorrow morning.”
“That means we have hours, right?” Lilly asked. She was confused.
“No,” Benedicto answered. “Tomorrow will be here in about fifteen minutes.”
Lilly looked at the numbers on her phone. “I get it!” she said. “It will soon be twelve o’clock midnight.”
Benedicto chuckled. “So what do you say?”
“Hmmm. Is the food good?” Mr. Hill asked.
“Quite. I know the chef.”
“But how do we know you’re not biased because of this friendship?” Lilly asked, the corners of her mouth curving to form a smile.
Benedicto decided to play along. “Well, I suppose you’ll just have to go there. The food speaks for itself. Trust me.”
“If you’re right, and I am sure you are,” Mr. Hill began, “Lilly will pay you an extra $19.00 for giving you a hard time. It’s a go.”
Benedicto’s face broke into a grin. “Deal,” he said.
“Cruel punishment, Dad,” Lilly moaned. “But I’ll pay up.”
“And I’ll make sure of it,” Mr. Hill guaranteed.
“You don’t have to. I’m a trustworthy person,” Lilly said.
“I’ll still make sure of it,” Mr. Hill repeated with a smile.
The restaurant was a medium sized one with low lights hanging from its ceiling casting a golden ambiance all around. Large abstract posters hung on the brick walls and bowls of fortune cookies sat in the middle of each vacant table. Over their meal of roasted duck, spicy noodles, steamed vegetables, and green tea, Lilly and Mr. Hill discussed their plans for lodging.
“I’m picking the hotel again this time,” Lilly said stirring her tea, “’cause the one you chose in Novosibirsk was horrible. It was probably haunted. I got lost in it. Remember? And I never get lost.”
Mr. Hill raised his thick eyebrows so as to show doubt about that statement.
“O.K., sometimes I do,” Lilly admitted.
Just then, Benedicto honked the car horn from his parking spot in front of the restaurant. Lilly and Mr. Hill flashed him two thumbs up.
“He said this food would speak for itself and it is sure saying something good to me,” Lilly commented.
“I agree, Lilly,” Mr. Hill said. “However, I need to tell you that we won’t be staying in a hotel this time around.”
“How come?” Lilly asked.
“Well,” Mr. Hill began looking at his phone, “Bo has set us up to board with one of his friends who has a family of four, and that’s including two kids around your age.”
“This should be interesting,” Lilly said. “But is it at all possible for us to stay with Bo like we did last year in the U.S.?” she asked referring to her father’s friend and associate who had moved to China as a result of his newly acquired promotion in their firm’s branch located in Asia.
“No, because Bo’s apartment here is too small,” Mr. Hill informed her. “He practically lives in his office.”
Lilly made an ‘O’ shape with her mouth. “No biggie. I’m excited to stay wherever.”
“That’s the spirit,” Mr. Hill said. He finished off the last of his noodles.
After ordering red bean buns and ice cream for dessert, Mr. Hill tipped the chef generously for allowing them to stay past closing time, and then gave Benedicto the directions to the host family’s residence in Shuangjing. After arriving, Mr. Hill and Lilly paid Benedicto before saying farewell.