Brig, Happy, and Yellow sat outside a Xining No.1 People’s Hospital room where doctors were working feverishly to save Tommy’s life. Yellow tried to comfort Happy but was rebuffed in no uncertain terms. Privately she would have welcomed his embrace, but she could no longer afford to show weakness, especially being a woman. She was the Dragon Head of the 14K. Her road ahead was perilous, and for her survival she would have to be cold, cunning, and ruthless.
In the days to come, the 14K would likely lose more than half its members as the fraternity splintered into smaller gangs. Most triad men would never accept a woman as their leader, but an influential and significant number of 14K’s upper management were loyal to Happy, including The Yellow Anaconda. Yellow was a charismatic young soldier who had the admiration and friendship of many of the younger generation of the 14K, the “millennials,” who would be eager to show their value in the new hierarchy.
There was little conversation between the three. Brig kept his distance, unsure of his status. Was he a hostage? An accomplice? A tourist? Should he stay and make sure that Tommy lived, or should he continue his journey, as he originally intended, on his own? He was tantalizingly close to his objective, Mount Everest, but without money, or a traveling companion that spoke Mandarin, he wasn’t sure how far he would get. He decided to stay and see how things played out for Tommy.
After a few hours, a doctor came out of the hospital room to speak with Happy. They had stabilized Tommy, but he was still in grave danger. Brig stood off to the side. He could tell by Happy’s reaction to whatever the doctor was saying that Tommy was still alive.
In an unexpected and uncharacteristic act of kindness, Happy walked over to Brig to update him. Brig’s heart raced, and he fought the urge to hold her. He still loved her but knew she didn’t feel the same.
“How is he?” Brig asked.
“He’s fighting, but the doctor isn’t optimistic.” Happy said as she sat down. There was a long, but not awkward, silence, as Brig and Happy looked down at the floor.
“I’m sorry,” Happy finally said.
“So am I.”
“I don’t know how much my father told you, but I’m deeply involved in a world I can never leave and that you could never be a part of.”
Brig nodded his head, “I know.”
“You deserved none of this,” Happy said as she stood and returned to her seat next to Yellow.
Hours passed. Happy arranged for a doctor to examine and treat Brig. Brig had multiple lacerations, a broken nose, two broken fingers on his left hand, and a cracked rib. They cleaned and bandaged his wounds and reset his fingers and nose. There wasn’t much they could do for his ribs except give him something to manage the pain. It was Brig’s decision not to take any narcotics. He had not gone this long without some form of opiate-based drug since the last time he had tried to get clean and determined he would face the rest of his days, however short that may be, opiate free. The hospital pharmacy supplied him with a bag full of antibiotics, stressing that he must complete the entire course, and a second bag of “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs” (NSAIDs) that would help suppress the pain.
Later that evening, another doctor approached Happy to advise that there had been no improvement in Tommy’s condition, but he was resting comfortably. They would know more in the morning, but for now the worst had passed. He suggested that they return to their homes, or wherever they were staying, and get some rest. If Tommy’s status changed, he would call them immediately.
Yellow proposed that he stay and that Happy and Brig return to the hotel. Brig and Happy caught a taxi at the hospital’s entrance. They were close to their hotel, and fewer cars littered the road at this time of night. It would be a short trip. Happy broke the silence.
“Brigham. You have every right to hate me. You did nothing but treat me as any woman would want, and I rewarded you by…” she stammered, searching for the right word.
“I could never hate you. I loved you. I still love you. I realize you don’t love me, and that’s just the way life is sometimes, I guess. Maybe that’s why I love you.” Brig emphasized the word ‘why.’ “My entire life people have fawned over me, supported me, never allowing me to fail or succeed on my own. They had their agendas and ideas about who I should be, and what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to be a good example. I’m supposed to go on a mission, be a pillar of the community, lead the company, get them high, give them money. But you?” Brig paused for effect. “You were so fucking hot!” Happy burst out laughing, the tension they had both been feeling evaporating. “You were. Are! The irony is that for one of the few times in my life, I wanted something desperately and I couldn’t have it. I knew, or at least sensed, you weren’t willing, or able, to give it.”
“Look at you getting all philosophical and shit.” Happy teased and punched Brig playfully on the shoulder. “Which self-help book is this coming from?”
When they arrived, several 14K men, assigned by Yellow to guard Happy, met them at the hotel’s entrance. Though there were only a handful of people that knew of Chang’s demise and Happy’s ascendance to Dragon Head, Yellow wasn’t taking any chances. They were weak, and hundreds of miles from their territory. It also concerned Yellow that Happy was alone with her ex-lover.
Despite being escorted by men with guns, Brig walked Happy to her room.
“Shall I come in and we can have make-up sex?” Brig suggested.
“Thanks, but no.”
“Pity sex then?”
“Good night Brigham,” Happy smiled and disappeared behind her hotel room door.