Everville, New York--it's the town where Tiffany Cheung grew up, and the last place she wants to be. But after losing her job in Manhattan, that's exactly where she finds herself. Worse, she's working at her family's Chinese diner and feeling like the outsider she once was. The only bright side is that Chris Jamieson, the boy she used to tutor, is still around. Her high school crush is hotter than ever, and he needs her help...again.
Tutoring Chris's son is the perfect temporary job. Except, Chris finally seems interested in her--and is hinting about a less temporary arrangement. Talk about bad timing! Because Tiffany's not staying and nothing will stop her from getting back to her real life. But maybe what's real is about to change....
Tiffany knew the exact moment when her family arrived in the E.R.
"Sayjoh may-ah?" Poh-poh's voice creaked.
"No, Grandma, she's not dead." She heard Daniel reassure in that too-smooth voice of his. Tiffany grabbed the edges of the pillow and stuffed them against her ears. With her family hovering on the other side of the curtain, the pleasant buzz of the painkillers evaporated, and her stomach churned.
Shadows streaked into her cubicle from beneath the partition. "Tiffany?"
For a moment, she considered pretending to be comatose, or ducking away and hiding somewhere until they left. But there was no avoiding the inevitable. Sighing, she propped herself up in the hospital bed, smoothing the blanket over her knees. "I'm here," she called in a rusty voice.
The rings on the curtain railing clattered as the partition was yanked aside. Mom, Dad, Daniel and Poh-poh took her in with dark, wide eyes.
"Ai-ya!" Her grandmother began speaking rapidly in Cantonese, waving her hands.
"Bah, she's fine. I told you she was fine," her father said impatiently, giving her a cursory once-over. His stained white kitchen apron still clung to his narrow hips, the front dangling to his knees, and he smelled strongly of fryer oil. "You're fine, right?" he asked.
She didn't reply, knowing any answer apart from "yes" would cause only more trouble.
"What were you doing driving so fast in the rain?" Her mother placed her dry, papery palm against Tiffany's forehead as if she had a fever. Her fingers brushed the bruises along her cheek and jaw and Tiffany flinched. "It's that car, I bet. I told you not to buy used."
"There's nothing wrong with used cars," her dad said. "She's just a bad driver. She should have learned from me instead of paying for those classes. 'Defensive driving'--bah." He snorted in disgust. "Daniel learned from me, and now he teaches driving."
Poh-poh cycled through relief, exasperation and hysterics as she berated her only granddaughter in her native tongue. She was reckless; drivers today were careless; the weather had cursed her; her face was all bruised and now she wouldn't be able to find a husband and why hadn't she stayed in Everville with the family instead of moving to New York City?
"I'm sorry, Poh-poh." She felt bad for making her grandmother worry.
"Sit down, Grandma. Don't work yourself up." Daniel pulled the cubicle's lone chair next to the bed, but their grandmother argued that her dad should sit after his long day in the kitchen. Tony insisted his wife sit. Rose insisted Daniel sit. Tiffany closed her eyes as they argued, voices rising until a nurse asked them to quiet down. Grudgingly, Poh-poh sat.
The E.R.'s attending physician interrupted to talk to the family about Tiffany's condition. Dr. Frewer was a nice-looking middle-aged man with salt in his dark hair and a fat gold wedding ring on his finger. Tiffany bet he was wondering the same thing she did whenever her family got together: How did four people manage to make such a racket? He greeted each family member and ran through the list of Tiffany's injuries: a few bruises, a sprained wrist, but nothing serious.
"Sounds like nothing she can't sleep off," her dad said once the doctor finished speaking. "You don't need to stay here, right?"
"For God's sake, she was in an accident," her mom said in exasperation, adding in Cantonese, "Have some compassion. The doctor will think you're...