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Fake nuptials. Real attraction.
I need a fake wife to protect my father’s legacy.
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I read the text again. The words were burned into my retinas.
That was the last text I’d received from Jin, over a week ago now. But what could it mean? Was it a warning to stop driving in the erratic way I did, always in a rush to get somewhere? Or was he warning me about what I really feared—the article I’d written that got me fired last week.
Who was I kidding? It had to be about the article. From the churning of my gut while I’d been researching and investigating Peter Khan, the famous Chinese Politician, tech-mogul, and businessman, I’d known. Publishing this article was the riskiest thing that I’d ever done in my life. This was the kind of story that got people killed. I knew the risk, but I did it anyways. The world deserved to know the truth.
I thought back to that initial moment when I had decided to pursue a tip from my old colleague Melinda. A tip that immediately piqued my interest. Digging deeper and deeper, I found enough to realize that what she was saying about Peter’s nefarious acceptance of bribes and dealings with corrupt parties and government officials was true. This man was dangerous. And I’d do whatever it took to alert the public—whatever the cost.
I hadn’t become a journalist just because I kept a diary and read the newspapers voraciously. No, I’d become a journalist because, from a young age, I was obsessed with the truth. With questions and their answers.
One question that had been at the forefront of everyone’s mind in Shanghai, mine included, had been: where exactly was Peter getting his money from? And now we knew—well, I knew. But I wasn’t sure everyone did. What was the cost?
Jin had helped me throughout the entire investigation. I’d even named him as a collaborator, and now… He’d just up and disappeared.
I took a sip of my bubble tea, enjoying the sensation of the bubbles sliding through my lips. It smelled and tasted reassuring and yet I felt uneasy. It was impossible to relax with this craziness going on.
I knew there’d be blow-back on the piece, which is why I avoided my boss’s questions when he asked about it. I only said it would be a showstopper. I managed to avoid outlining any specific details about the article itself. I just hadn’t thought I’d get fired for it.
When I’d gone to see my boss, Mr. Harry Lin, in person, the same boss who’d told me only weeks before I was his star reporter, going places, talented, who—if I kept up the good work—would make it to editor one day, he had looked at me and told me without a hint of apology, “That’s it, Kandice, we can’t work with you anymore.”
“This is about Peter Khan, isn’t it?” I asked.
He looked at me with steady, opaque eyes. “You have until the end of the week to remove your personal effects.”
I laughed. It had been a Wednesday night; just like that, five years of faithful work, from the minute I’d graduated from University, fresh-faced at twenty-one, until now.
Down the drain. Gone.
Five years of going into work early, staying late; busy weekends and missing Skype chats with my best-friend Jen. Three years of being apart from my parents since they moved back to Orlando, Florida in the United States.
Then the most unbelievable, incredulous, and now, embarrassing fact of all resurfaced in my mind. Why had I renounced my U.S. citizenship for a Chinese one?
It was now a funny memory, how at fifteen I had stoically declared that “Shanghai will never be my home. I want to go back home, to Florida, as soon as we can.” Because that wasn’t how it ended up. I’d managed to make it through high school, get a decent hold on Chinese, and I had loved University.
It seemed all too fast that my parents told me they were moving home, back to the U.S. But I’d just gotten my job at Rayli, the second most popular newspaper in Shanghai. How could I possibly have left it all to go and just start over?
Maybe it had been the way Harry had phrased a question once, asking me why I thought I wasn’t getting anywhere with my contacts, or with my job. All casual, and yet, in it was a blatant hint about why I wasn’t a complete success: “Chinese trust Chinese. You have lived here quite some time, and while you may know our culture…”
I could see the answer in his eyes. I wasn’t one of them, and he made it easy for me to become one.
Obtaining a Chinese citizenship was notoriously difficult—nearly impossible—and yet with Harry’s contacts, he got me one in a matter of weeks. Goodbye U.S. citizenship, hello Chinese one.
I swigged some of my tea so hard some of the bubbles shot to the back of my throat causing me to cough. I frowned bitterly. Yup, gave my U.S. citizenship up, all for a job… A job that let me go as soon as I started to actually prove myself as a reporter. Yeah, prove myself—to be more inconveniently concerned with the truth rather than gossip and clickbait.