Lost in Taipei: Chapter 5

Charles Avatar
taipei, city, story

Unexpected Feast of Surprise

Xing, Wen, and Charlie arrived at the Taiwanese restaurant, greeted by the enticing smell of authentic Taiwanese cuisine that filled the air. The place exuded an intimate ambiance. The simple design created a clean yet inviting atmosphere, allowing the focus to be on the delicious food and enjoyable company. The warm lighting and carefully chosen furnishings added a sense of coziness, making it a perfect setting for a relaxing evening after a long day at work. 

Xing eagerly took charge and explained why he picked this place for dinner. “Don’t be fooled by the simple decor of this place,” he exclaimed. “The true beauty lies in the incredible flavors of the food they serve here. Trust me, it’s an authentic Taiwanese culinary experience.”

He leaned closer to Charlie and proudly claimed what he knew about this restaurant, “And let me tell you about their Lu Rou Fan, the braised pork rice. It’s an absolute must-try. The tender, melt-in-your-mouth braised pork belly, richly flavored with spices and served over a bed of fluffy steamed rice, is simply to die for.”

Aware of his limited ability to read Chinese, Charlie turned to Xing with a smile. “I trust your taste, Xing. Why don’t you go ahead and order what you think are the best dishes for the table?” he suggested, appreciating Xing’s knowledge for good Taiwanese cuisine. Xing’s eyes gleamed with excitement as he eagerly took on the responsibility.

“I’ve got us covered, Charlie,” Xing happily complied, his voice brimming with confidence about his dinner choices. “We’ll have a delightful feast tonight.”

Charlie glanced around the table, noticing one empty chair, and wondered if they were expecting someone else to join them for dinner. With a polite smile, he asked his companions, “Are we all here for dinner?” 

Xing grinned mischievously and answered, “No, Charlie, we invited another colleague to join us for dinner. We thought it would be a great opportunity for everyone to get to know each other better. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Oh, of course, I don’t mind. You took the time to organize this dinner, so you should invite whoever you want,” Charlie couldn’t help but chuckle inwardly as he thought, “Xing, you certainly know how to keep things interesting. One day in the Taipei office and already full of surprises.” 

As Charlie, Xing, and Wen made small talk, Ming entered the restaurant, scanning the room for Xing and Wen. Spotting their familiar faces, he made his way toward their table. 

Meanwhile, Charlie turned his head, catching sight of a familiar figure approaching. Their eyes met, and a moment of recognition passed between them. 

Charlie’s eyes widened as he recognized the person standing before him. It was the same guy whose shirt he had accidentally stained with coffee earlier today. Ming’s expression mirrored Charlie’s surprise as he realized that this was the person he had collided with, resulting in a coffee catastrophe.  A moment of awkwardness hung in the air when Charlie and Ming shared a sheepish smile, acknowledging the amusing twist of fate that brought them together again.

Xing, ever the observant one, noticed the exchange between Charlie and Ming and swiftly stepped in. He introduced Charlie to Ming and vice versa, breaking the awkward silence. “Charlie, meet Ming. Ming, meet Charlie. Charlie is visiting from the New York City office and will work with us for the next few months. Ming is our Director of Sales, a rising star within our company.” Xing tried to ease the tension with his playful tone and made Charlie and Ming exchange greetings.

Charlie’s voice carried a hint of embarrassment as he spoke, “Actually, I think we might have met earlier today.” He couldn’t help but recall the coffee mishap between them.

Ming couldn’t help but let out an ironic smile at the memory. “Ah, yes, we did meet earlier,” he replied, wondering about the odds of encountering this stranger, now named Charlie, in the same place, with Xing and Wen by his side. The coincidence of Charlie joining their office for the next few months seemed almost too unlikely.

Xing couldn’t contain his excitement. This was the moment he had been eagerly anticipating. Having already guessed what had transpired between Charlie and Ming, with the coffee-stained shirt and an empty cup, Xing was eager to hear their accidental encounter firsthand. With a knowing smile, he leaned in closer, his eyes gleaming with curiosity. “Oh, really? How did you two meet? Do share,” Xing prodded, his playful tone indicating he wanted to hear the story directly from Charlie and Ming.

Sensing that Xing was behind this impromptu dinner arrangement, Ming felt a hint of annoyance at his request. While Xing and Ming shared a close friendship outside of work, Ming couldn’t help but find Xing’s persistent curiosity to fulfill his own amusement a bit vexing at this moment. 

Ming said, his voice tinged with dry humor, “I have a feeling you already know what happened this morning between Charlie and me.” Ming looked at Xing, his eyes narrowing slightly as he awaited a response.

Xing giggled at Ming’s keen observation. He raised his hands in mock surrender. “Alright, you caught me,” Xing admitted. “I may have had a small hand in planning this little get-together, but it is all in good gesture. We wanted to do something nice for Charlie, since today is his first day in our office.” Xing glanced at Charlie, who was observing this banter with fascination. “I thought this dinner would be a memorable way for you two to meet officially.”

Charlie couldn’t believe he was caught in the middle of this but smiled shyly at Ming and Xing. “Well, it’s certainly a unique way to meet this morning,” he remarked, trying to lighten the atmosphere. “I apologize again for the coffee incident this morning, Ming. It was truly an accident.”

Ming’s expression softened slightly, his annoyance giving way to amusement. “No worries, Charlie. Accidents happen, and it’s all in the past now.” He extended a hand toward Charlie, offering a handshake. “Let’s start fresh and leave the coffee mishap behind us and welcome to our office.” Charlie gratefully accepted the gesture and shook Ming’s hand, relieved by his amicable response. “Thank you, Ming.” 

The dinner finally arrived, and each dish was elegantly presented on the table. Just as the group was about to dig in, Ming couldn’t resist adding one more playful remark and pointed his finger at Xing. With a huge grin, Ming turned to Charlie. “One last thing, Charlie. Don’t believe a thing this jokester says in the office about anything,” he said, emphasizing his words with a playful wink.

Charlie chuckled, “Noted,” he replied, playing along. “I’ll take everything he says with a grain of salt,” as Charlie looked into Ming’s eyes and realized that he wasn’t as unfriendly as Charlie thought he would be. 

Xing feigned offense, placing a hand over his heart dramatically. “Hey, I’m hurt! Can’t a guy have a little fun at work?” he protested, a twinkle of amusement in his eyes.

Observing the whole exchange from the beginning, Wen smiled, “Oh, Xing, we all know you can’t resist stirring shit up. Let’s eat. I am starving.”

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