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Dr. Wu’s attitude towards Danny had changed when Danny went from being his patient to his daughter’s apparent boyfriend. He and Mrs. Wu—Lucille—came from old-fashioned, conservative people, ethnic Han. Both had assumed their only child, Cindy, would marry a pure Chinese man and have pure-blood babies. Now, this Danny Eagleton was upsetting their plans.

Cindy, at 24, still lived with her parents in their large, gabled home, in a leafy Oakland neighborhood near the Piedmont border. On the day after Danny was brought to the hospital, she came home from her Lyft job at dusk., after taking a customer to Oakland Airport. She’d been driving for eleven straight hours, and was exhausted.

She knew something was up as soon as she came into the foyer. Her parents were waiting, Dr. Wu erect and alert in his big stuffed chair, Lucille small and fragile, with a tight frown, on the edge of the sofa.

“Cindy, your mother and I would like to talk with you,” Dr. Wu began. “Have a seat, please.” Cindy took a side chair, covered in red-and-black chintz. On the coffee table were trays of cookies and other dainties.

“Have a pineapple bun, dear. Your favorite, from Tao Fung,” Mrs. Wu suggested, lifting a plate of the golden pastries and offering it to her daughter.

“No thank you, ma,” Cindy replied. Whatever it was that was happening, she wanted to get it over with, not prolong the ordeal with pastries and chit-chat.

“I met the young man you are seeing,” Dr. Wu declared, peremptorily. It caught Cindy off-guard. She recalled mentioning seeing someone new to her parents.

“What? Do you mean Danny? How did you meet him?”

Dr. Wu explained. Cindy was shocked, and concerned. “Oh, my God,” she cried, leaping from her chair. “How is he?”

“He’s fine,” Dr. Wu explained. “Or he will be, once the wound heals. A slight concussion. We’ll keep an eye on him for a few months. But that’s not what your mother and I want to talk to you about.”

Cindy’s gaze shifted to her mother. Mrs. Wu wrung a silk handkerchief as though it were a lizard she was trying to strangle. She was obviously upset. Yet she and Dr. Wu, by prior arrangement, had decided that she would be the one to deliver the initial message.

“Cindy, you are our only daughter,” she began. “You know how your father and I wanted to give you brothers and sisters. But the Good Lord decided otherwise.

“We want only the best for you: to be happy, to have a good marriage with many children, to be successful. But never in the history of either of our families—the Wu’s or mine, the Lee’s—has anyone ever married a Westerner.”

Mrs. Wu let the meaning of that sink in. Cindy blinked. “No one is talking about marriage,” she said. “Danny and I are just friends.”

“Such things evolve. These friendships, unguarded, often lead to marriage. I know the signs. I was young once, too.”

Cindy’s mind was spinning. She was a dutiful girl, respectful of her parents, indeed all elders, aware of the conservative Confucian culture that had bound her ancestors for millennia. But this wasn’t China in the year 1815, or 1915. They lived in America in 2019. She had been born right here in Oakland; so for that matter had been her parents. Their Chinese traditions, beautiful as they might be, had no choice but to change in a diverse, eclectic America.

Her parents were watching her. She had to say something, to justify herself and ease their worries. So she just opened her mouth and the words tumbled out.

“Look, Mother and Father, I’m not getting married to anyone anytime soon. I don’t want to. It’s not even in my mind. Besides, when I do get married—and I want to, someday—what difference does it make who I marry, as long as he’s a good man, and we love each other? Even in China, for centuries it was forbidden for a Han to marry outside the clan. But today, Han can marry Manchu, or Hui, or Yao. The tradition loosens, and changes. You can’t just freeze yourself in time.”

Mr. and Mrs. Wu glanced at each other. Then Mrs. Wu turned back to Cindy. Her eyes were moist and shining. “Do you,” she asked, in a tremulous voice, “love him?”

The question surprised and confused Cindy. She hadn’t thought about Danny in those terms. What was she supposed to say? She looked from father to mother, and back again, while they waited for an answer. From the next room came the tick-tock-tick of the grandfather clock.

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