The Adventures of Lilly
Book Two – A China Escape
The apartment complex was large, and thankfully its interior was much warmer and more inviting than its rigid and uninspiring exterior which rose so high into the smog-filled sky that Lilly could not make out where it stopped. Lilly and Mr. Hill took an elevator to the third floor.
“Remember, say, Ni Hao, for hello,” Mr. Hill told Lilly as they rode up.
“Got it,” Lilly said repeating the words until they reached the door marked 19Z. Mr. Hill knocked. Immediately the door swung open and they were greeted by four beaming faces.
“Ni Hao! Hello! I’m Evan Leopond Sun.” The man introduced himself and welcomed them inside. He motioned to the woman, boy, and girl standing behind him and said, “This is my wife, Eia, and our two kids, Echo and Emmy.”
Eia was the first to speak. “Hi! Bo told us you arrived tonight so we decided to stay up until you arrived. I’m so glad we did. It is an honor to have you in our home.” Her warm brown eyes shone.
“Thank you for your hospitality,” Mr. Hill said. “We should only be here one or two days so I can clear up a matter.”
Eia waved her hand dismissively. “Feel free to stay as long as you need to. Can I get you something to eat? Something to drink?”
“No. No,” Lilly answered. “Actually, we just had dinner at a restaurant around here. That’s why we didn’t arrive earlier.”
“O.K.,” Evan said. “I wish you hadn’t because the best cook in the world made the tastiest dumpling soup.” He squeezed his wife’s shoulder and she blushed.
Lilly smiled. “I’m sure it was wonderful. Perhaps tomorrow we can enjoy it.”
“Of course,” Eia agreed.
“Mr. Hill,” Evan began, “Bo told me a little about why you’re here, although he left out most of the details, so if you’ll be needing transportation, I am happy to take you and your daughter anywhere you all need to go, as long as I am available.”
“Thank you for your kind offer, and I do believe we shall accept it, at least for tomorrow as I still plan on renting a vehicle for our time here,” Mr. Hill said. “We don’t want our presence to interfere with your daily activities.”
Evan Sun nodded.
“Children,” Eia called referring to Echo and Emmy, “please show this young lady around while we finish talking.”
Lilly smiled her thanks as they approached her. Thin black hair framed both children’s faces. They had large, expressive eyes and profound dimples. They were lithe and stood no higher from the ground than Lilly did.
“Hi, again,” the girl said giving a small wave. “I’m Emmy and he’s my clone, otherwise known as my brother.” She jabbed a finger at the boy.
He tossed his head haughtily as if to dismiss her statement. “Actually, we’re twins and I was born a full nine minutes before her so that makes her my clone, even though she’s going to deny it to death. And I have a name too. It’s Echo.”
“Cool names,” Lilly complimented them.
“Thanks,” Emmy said. “Even our middle names start with the same initials. Mine’s Kim, and his is Koki.”
“She speaks the truth on that,” Echo agreed before asking Lilly, “What’s your name?”
“It’s Lillian Hill,” she replied. “But you can call me Lilly. Everybody who knows me does.”
“O.K.” Echo said. “I think I’ll dub you ‘Lovely Lilly’ because you’re very beautiful.”
Lilly couldn’t stop herself from laughing aloud. “Well, I have my parents to thank for that,” she surmised.
The children grinned. “I didn’t know you’re a romantic,” Emmy teased her brother. Before he had time to respond, she took Lilly’s arm. “Come on. I’ll show you around.”
A door in the living room led into a pristine kitchenette. “This is our food lair,” Emmy said. “And Echo’s study headquarters. I study in my room and eat in here, while he eats in his room and dissects murky math problems in here. He’s even taken this raggedy red chair for his own. Nobody can sit in it unless we wish to suffer his wrath of making our words echo in our ears forever till we go crazy. Get it—Echo. His words; not mine.”
Echo did not dispute those statements.
Emmy opened a cabinet. “Anyway, Lilly, our food lair is the best because it houses rice cakes which are my favorite snacks. You should have one….or two…everyday that you’re here. Be sure to top them.”
“What are the best toppings?” Lilly asked.
“Well, I like natural peanut butter with sugar or marshmallow paste or strawberry jam on mine. You can probably tell I can’t decide. But it’s best to experiment because no two people’s taste buds are the same.”
“That’s no scientifically proven fact,” Echo said quickly.
Emmy bugged out her already big eyes. “Just like when you say that you’re the best twin. That’s no scientifically proven fact, either.”
Lilly switched her head back and forth from Echo to Emmy as they spoke.
“I can eat rice cakes alone for ages,” Emmy continued raving.
Echo ran his fingers through his hair. “Girls cannot live by rice cakes alone,” he sighed.
Emmy looked doubtful. “Yeah. Those aren’t the exact words of Jesus,” she said
“I think you should star in a commercial for the rice cake brand,” Lilly stated.
“That’s my plan,” Emmy agreed leading the way out of the kitchen into a small carpeted hallway which encased five doors. She pointed to the first two. “Behind these doors are bathrooms. Nothing much to see inside. This one on the right is our parents’ bath and this one on the left is mine and Echo’s. You can use ours while you’re here. Our’s is better because we have a whole cabinet of bubble bath soap.”
“Understood,” Lilly said.
Echo threw open the third door. “This is my room,” he declared proudly. “Whenever you want to see some fish, Lilly, you can come in here.”
Lilly surveyed his room with great interest. Everything was neat—almost too neat. The only defect was an open closet door. The bedroom walls were starch white and the only light shone from a disco ball, seemingly in riot against the stillness and serenity of its surroundings. A checkered bed was pushed against one wall guarded by two bookshelves on either side stacked with thick works full of tiny printed words. A lone faded Michael Jordan poster hung over the bed and Echo went to smooth its crinkled edges reverently. Lilly glanced at Echo’s impressive model of the solar system which swung from the roof. Then, she noticed a cardigan, a pair of black pants, and green-rimmed glasses in a chair. Lilly figured Echo was the type of person who laid out the clothes he would wear the next day the night before. She made her way over to the fish bowl and looked inside. Three little fish swam in circles. They seemed content.
“What are their names?’ Lilly asked.
“The orange fish is named Spock. The yellow one is named Uhura. The blue one is named Kirk—Captain Kirk,” Echo told her.
“Trekkie?” Lilly asked with raised eyebrows.
“You got it,” Echo confirmed. “I have almost all the DVDs under my bed.”
Lilly peeked underneath the checkered blanket. There they sat, with over a dozen astronomy magazines. “At my house we keep fish too, but in an aquarium,” Lilly said. “Only they have names like Graffiti and Lava.”
Echo made a fish face before letting out a low whistle. “I would love to have an aquarium,” he said dreamily.
Just then Emmy tapped Lilly on the shoulder. She was holding a stack of drawing papers. “Look at these. They’re Echo’s and they’re fantabulous! Aren’t they?”
Echo looked uncomfortable. “I entreat thee now, dear sister,” he pleaded. “Dost tell me why thou must shew my wretched talent to the world?”
“One person is the world now?” Emmy asked innocently before lowering her voice. “He goes all Shakespearean whenever he gets embarrassed.”
Lilly stared at the amazing manga artwork in her hands. “My brother would totally love these! They are all so, wow!” she exclaimed.
“Is your brother going to pop out of your suitcase or something?” Echo asked pulling his long stringy hair around his face.
Lilly laughed. “No. No. He stayed in America with our Mom. Besides, he abhors jack-in-the-boxes. Will you sign one of these for me to keep?”
“Yeah, sure,” Echo agreed.
When he finished, Lilly rolled the picture up and they walked back out into the hallway. “This door leads to our parents’ bedroom. We won’t go in there lest they catch us and think we’re snooping, but I have a big piano in there. It’s where I practice for four hours every day—well, almost every day, and sometimes I compose my own pieces,” Emmy said. “Do you play any instruments?”
Lilly shook her head. “My keyboard is my piano,” she joked.
Emmy laughed a laugh which sounded like rain drops hitting window panes.
“Seriously though,” Lilly began, “my Mom wants me to play the harp. I’m not so sure about it, but I’ll try and take lessons just for her. I love her so much. Right now, I’m just so busy with ballet class and gymnastics class and school and competition and trying to convince my brother that he’ll be a better football player if he joins me in learning ballet and all that stuff. But I’d love to hear you play the piano some time before I leave.”
Emmy clapped her hands before opening the door leading into her own bedroom. “I hope you like pink,” she said to Lilly.
“I love it. It’s my favorite color.”
“Splendid!” Emmy plopped down on the bottom bed of her silver bunk which was adorned with pink trimmings, stuffed bears and lovely crocheted blankets. She sighed. “I’m so happy that I kept this bunk bed now. At first when we were little, Echo and I shared this room, but then he grew a little bit taller than our bunk, so he moved out into his own room with a bigger bed. Meanwhile, I stayed in this same room with the same bunk because I grew no taller.”
“Well, you’re not short,” Lilly said. “Just fun sized.”
Echo thought this statement was especially hilarious.
“But why did you guys share a room when there was an extra one all along?” Lilly asked.
“Because at first our grandma lived with us and stayed in that room until…until she died…last year,” Emmy answered.
“I’m sorry,” Lilly said putting a comforting arm around Emmy’s shoulders.
“Oh, don’t be,” Echo said quickly. “Did you have anything to do with her death?”
“Um, no,” Lilly said rather surprised.
“See. You shouldn’t be sorry then,” Echo said.
“Go to bed, weirdo,” Emmy said tossing a pillow his way.
“Sure. I’ll take my leave now, ladies. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” Lilly said.