In Search of Lost Flavors in Flushing

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To get from Manhattan to Flushing by public transport, your best bet is the 7 train, though chances are it won’t be your only train. If you live downtown, like me, but hanker for candied hawthorn on a stick or chili-tossed duck necks or rooster testicles, you may need to take a stash of preëmptive leakproof grocery totes on a couple of connecting subways, not to mention a fat book. The journey is unlikely to be a short one.

Of course, many people make it twice a day, five or even six days a week. I encountered one of those people after boarding the 7 at Grand Central one day in early March. It was a little after 6 P.M. and I had nabbed a seat toward the rear of what turned out to be a local train. I can never remember which shape—circle or diamond—denotes the express, and the difference wouldn’t have registered immediately if I hadn’t heard a sharp intake of breath next to me, followed by a quiet but audibly exasperated “ai-yah.” For three days in a row, my seatmate told her companion, she had caught the express train home. She’d thought her luck might last through the week.

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The 7 is the only line on which a Mandarin speaker can almost always eavesdrop on the unself-conscious chatter of strangers for the better part of an hour. On this ride I couldn’t help overhearing my seatmate’s conversation. First, it was something about “bad breath” and “calloused knuckles,” and then a story about a man who’d come to see her earlier in the day, evidently in the delusional pursuit of a job: “Not only was he old, he wouldn’t acknowledge his very Chinese way of doing things.” This last line she kept repeating like the refrain of a melody. She used “old-fashioned” and “Chinese” almost interchangeably, which surprised me, maybe because her lilt and her style of narration—digressions, self-interruptions, and uncompromising certainty—struck me as very Chinese. Or maybe she just reminded me of my mother, who died in 2022, from complications of a progressive, degenerative illness, A.L.S. The train was, by this point, trundling past Elmhurst, where my mother and I had lived for two years, soon after her diagnosis.

“Are you nanfang-ren, too?” I broke in. My mother had grown up in Nanjing, and my seatmate’s southern Chinese accent was similar to hers, I explained. She blinked and then turned slowly to look at me. I half expected her to tell me to mind my own business.

Instead, her face brightened. “Oh, I’m a neighbor,” she said. “Anhui native here.”

It didn’t matter that Anhui was the next province over, or that I had never once visited Nanjing. Here was a toehold, something akin to common ground. My neighbor, it turned out, lived in Flushing and managed a massage parlor in Manhattan. For the rest of the ride, we chatted about job opportunities for middle-aged Chinese immigrants—according to her, such people could work only in nail salons, restaurants, or construction, or as health aides or masseurs—and the negligible difference between having a green card and citizenship. (New immigrants, she said, don’t care about voting for some irrelevant person on television; they just want health insurance and supplemental food aid.)

As we pulled into the Main Street station, the last stop on the 7, I asked her quickly if she had any recommendations for Anhui cuisine in Flushing. But she had a bus to catch and mouths at home to feed. She rattled off the Chinese names of two stores—or were they streets?—between which her recommended restaurant supposedly sat. I didn’t have time to write down either before she disappeared into the station’s almost uniformly dark-haired sea.

In our first years in the U.S., in the early nineties, my mother and I made monthly pilgrimages from the southwest edge of Connecticut, where we lived, to Chinese grocery stores in lower Manhattan. For us, new immigrants with barely enough English to understand signage, New York was Canal Street.

Manhattan’s Chinatown—with its Buddhist temples and its tangles of tenement housing—was first inhabited by immigrants from the Pearl River Delta, many of whom were laborers who had made their way east from California, and it retains some of its nineteenth-century roots. But, by the time my mother arrived, its main arteries were clogged with shops hawking tchotchkes and T-shirts that hollered “I Fucking Love New York City.” Every expedition there felt like an unpredictable game of hopscotch, leaping between a Cantonese-dominant China of the century past and one custom-built for American tourists. A decade later, we started going to Flushing instead. I was a teen-ager by then and regretted the change, regretted those fleeting, stolen glimpses of the city, the walk through Grand Central, with its marble floors and celestial vaulted ceiling. But, for my mother, it was a relief. Falasheng, as Flushing is known in Chinese, was more recognizably home, closer to the mainland she’d come from.

Of course, my mother meant the Chinese mainland. But Flushing’s distance from the mainland of Manhattan was a clear asset, four centuries ago, for religious dissidents fleeing Peter Stuyvesant’s persecution of anyone unwilling to submit to Protestant supremacy. Around the turn of the twentieth century, the construction of bridges and the electrification of the railroad significantly shrank that distance. Then in 1965, after the Immigration and Nationality Act repealed the United States’s discriminatory quota system based on country of origin, the number of Asian immigrants in New York rose sharply, and a sizable portion of them began building an enclave, near the terminus of the 7 train, that in some ways replicated the community they’d left behind. Although Manhattan’s Chinatown is the O.G., Flushing is now home to more than twice the number of immigrants from China.

When my mother and I lived in Elmhurst, I often visited Flushing, which was twenty-five minutes away on the Q58. But, in 2014, when it became necessary for my mother to have a ventilator and around-the-clock nursing, we decamped to a facility in Harlem. After she died, and perhaps without registering it as a conscious decision, I began to sidestep Chinatowns in any of the city’s boroughs—their bustling exuberance was too rawly resonant of everything my mother loved and would never see again.

My trip to Flushing in March was ostensibly research for an article on the neighborhood’s culinary diversity and authenticity, and was the first time I’d gone there in several years. From underground, I emerged somewhere near a bubble-tea kiosk and a window display offering fresh soy milk and pan-fried pork dumplings with crabmeat. On the sidewalk directly in front of me was a stout woman in sleeve protectors plaintively hawking discounted Chinese eggplant and overripe oranges from a half-filled grocery cart. Tall stalks of sugarcane, bundled like firewood, leaned against a traffic pole (ten dollars a bunch). A staticky Mandarin-speaking voice from a speaker bellowed in frenetic repetition, “Meatballs, fish balls, all balls on steep discount. Please check out our delicious balls!”

In Flushing, something strange happens, all the stranger perhaps because it happens every time I surface onto Main Street. It’s not that I want every one of those things per se. Rather, their ready availability confounds my senses. I confuse my astonishment at the plenitude of everything that is unavailable in Manhattan (and most of America) with acute, irrepressible desire. To live as a diasporic Chinese is to detach yourself, out of reflexive self-preservation, from those wants. But, in Flushing, my insides prickle with manic, maddening FOMO at the sight of all that I’ve told myself I no longer need. I am ravenous but also vaguely frightened of my own appetite.

I had somewhere to be but, across the street, a tabletop tree of bingtang hulu skewers—candied hawthorn berries—called out to me. If nostalgia can be condensed into a single snack, this stick of red marbles would be mine. Bingtang hulu is commonly found in China’s northern provinces during the winter months, when the temperature is low enough to preserve the hardness of its syrup-dipped shells. Over the years, I had searched in vain for these bamboo-skewered berries. I found them only once—under the Manhattan Bridge, in the middle of February, being peddled from the back of a bike by an elderly Fujianese. I bought just one skewer, because bingtang hulu is meant to be consumed immediately. Once the candy coating melts—which it begins to do after a few hours, no matter what you do—you are left with something less than the sum of the parts: a sticky wooden skewer and small bulbs of lacklustre, lukewarm fruit.

In Flushing, like a deranged toddler unsupervised at a state fair, I struggled to grasp all the elements of my carnivalesque reality at once. For this reason, it was only after I’d picked out a skewer that my gaze landed on the large glass case on which the bingtang hulu tree stood, which was filled with what looked like sugar-tossed hawthorns. I thought I had tasted hawthorn of every variety—syrup-coated, pickled, glazed, ground into tiny cylindrical flakes—but never tossed in oversized grains of sugar.

“Can I try one?” I asked.

The proprietor, a woman with high cheekbones and intensely drawn black eyebrows, blinked. I might as well have asked to spit in the case.

“I mean, buy one,” I hastened to add.

“They are sold by the pound,” she replied. “Five dollars’ worth. That’s how many you buy.”

I obliged and then, registering the existence of other merchandise, wandered deeper into the shop behind her. What I at first assumed were plastic bins of herbs turned out to be an assortment of dry goods and snacks. Instinctively, I began gathering an assortment of shredded squid, spiced yellow croaker, fish larvae. I was supposed to be going to dinner. More important, according to my doctor and my dentist, I was supposed to be cutting down on sodium and sugar. The deranged toddler did not care.

When one bag was full, I began to fill another with a sampling of monk fruit, sour black plum, dried bayberries, nine-spiced tangerine peels, fig strips, licorice wampees, and black-vinegar ginger. It should be said that this was also how my mother had shopped, decades earlier, when she came to Flushing: chaotically frenzied, a doomsday devotee stockpiling for her bunker.

My buying spree momentarily cheered Lady Black Brows.

“Won’t some shiitake mushrooms interest you?” She began trailing after me. “How about some premium red ginseng?”

The total came to twenty-seven dollars. I paid and asked for a receipt. This is the point in the story at which things began going south for both the deranged toddler and the food journalist.

A long pause as the dark eyebrows met in the middle like storm clouds. “Receipt? Why do you need a receipt?”

“I’m a food writer,” I said. “I’m writing a piece about the variety of interesting food and snacks in Flushing—” As I spoke, I was also beginning to hate the person speaking. “Interesting food and snacks?” I imagined someone walking into the Chinese restaurant where my mother had worked as a hostess and uttering a similarly foolish line.

Still, too late now to backtrack. Mechanically, I continued. “I need the receipt for—”

It occurred to me then that I actually did not know how to say “corporate business office” in the kind of casual Chinese that wouldn’t make me sound like an uptight asshole. I went with “editor”—then, when that was met with a cynical stare, “boss.”

“It’s a lot of trouble to print out a receipt for a few bags of snacks.”

I suggested that she could perhaps write it for me on a piece of paper.

“Your boss will believe a piece of handwritten paper?” Lady Black Brows snapped. “If your boss will take that, wouldn’t the smart thing to do be to go home and scribble whatever number you want yourself?”

Perhaps in an attempt to dispose of me in the most expedient way possible, the proprietor began halfheartedly rifling through what looked like stacks of notepads, but fastidiously refused my suggestion that a page be torn out for the creation of a makeshift receipt.

“You are lucky we aren’t very busy here. You are making a lot of trouble for twenty-five dollars’ worth of merchandise,” she muttered. “Also, what kind of boss-boyfriend requires snack receipts for reimbursement anyway?”

“Just boss, not boyfriend,” I corrected, knowing that anything I said would make little difference to her perception of things at this point.

Then Lady Black Brows thrust out her final question, pointing to my bulging pouches of dried fish and fruit. “Can I just write it on one of the bags? Won’t it all be the same to your boyfriend?”

Fifteen minutes later, I met up with two friends, Alex and Simon, at the New World Mall food court, a teeming warren of stalls reputed to be one of the biggest Asian food courts in the Northeast. Simon, a Chengdu native who moved to the U.S. at the age of twenty-five (his first home for a few months was in Elmhurst), is a computer programmer. Alex, a hardware engineer who has been a Flushing resident more or less continuously since he emigrated from Shenyang, twenty-seven years ago, lives a fifteen-minute walk from Main Street. My friends had been waiting for me for some time, so we immediately got down to business. From a stall run by an enthusiastic thirty-year-old woman from Guilin, we ordered bowls of river-snail noodles. “If it doesn’t stink, it’s not fragrant! If it doesn’t make you believe it will taste bad, it won’t taste good!” she counselled us, sounding like someone tasked with managing the culinary subdivision of the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s Oceania.

Alex, Simon, and I make an unlikely trio. I like to think of us as a mashup of the Three Musketeers and the Three Stooges—though none of us is American enough to have seen a Three Stooges movie and only Simon has ever read “The Three Musketeers” (in Chinese). It is not so much justice we seek (except of the culinary variety—wok-fried string beans that cost seventeen dollars a plate must arrive with more than a dozen string beans, and sweet-and-sour pork ribs must be made with fat-marbled, rather than bony, ribs) as a full belly. Ours is a friendship forged through and powered by the consumption of Chinese food. Nine years ago, not long after I’d written an article about Abacus, a community bank in Chinatown, I received two tweets from an account with a Kandinsky painting for an icon. The first one—“read ur piece in the New Yorker & delighted to learn u were from chongqing, Very proud as a decade-long reader & Sichuanese”—was followed by another: “there r some Sichuanese having hot pot every Thursday. U r welcome to join us. Bankers, musicians, artists, but no writer yet.” Never would I have imagined that, after some dozen meals of wok-tossed pork artery, duck-blood stews, and spicy pig intestines, the tweeter, Simon, would be the person I would trust to look after my mother when I was away on reporting trips, or that Alex would become my mother’s digital troubleshooter, uploading a dozen Chinese dramas for her to watch in her hospital room. Or that even though they never talked about anything other than Chinese food—its prices, preparation, regional variations, and ingestion—with my mother, who couldn’t talk at all for the last eight years of her life except with sideways movements of her eyes, they would be the people with whom my mother felt most at ease in her final years.

To my disappointment, neither of them was especially fazed by my account of what had happened at the snack shop.

“Who asks for a receipt for dried fish and bingtang hulu?” Alex asked, between slurps of rice noodles that indeed smelled pungently like fermented feet but tasted like something I would gladly eat for dinner daily.

Simon, who is generally more diplomatic in his opinions, or at least in their delivery, said that the request probably confused the shopkeeper more than anything else.

“Look, you aren’t native,” Alex pronounced matter-of-factly.

“I am,” I protested. “I am natively Chinese.”

“You aren’t natively Flushing,” he replied.

After the snail noodles, I led us up Roosevelt Avenue. The last of the evening light had drained from the winter sky. Under the concrete L.I.R.R. overpass sat a masked granny, bundled in a gray fleece jacket, hawking packages of beef jerky, pickled duck tongues, and pickled duck feet. Sichuanese jerky is all about the tendon and the gristle. The pleasure is in the sinewy chew: gnawing through rubbery, meat-flavored resistance. In America, it is impossible to find legal China-made beef jerky, which has something to do with a U.S.D.A. policy that bans the importation of most meat products from China. Fair enough—but a Sichuanese jerkhead has her needs. Over the years, I have been known to be unscrupulously cavalier with customs declarations, happy to forgo clothes and toiletries in favor of cartel-worthy quantities of jerky in my checked luggage.

Prior to the pandemic, I thought I’d found a workaround by sending hundreds of dollars every few months to sketchy PayPal accounts that promised me contraband jerky. Thankfully, the goods always arrived, albeit many months later, presumably following lengthy voyages on industrial shipping containers. But, since 2022, the PayPal accounts have all but disappeared. Increasingly, I find myself beseeching friends on work trips or visiting family in China. “A few bags, will you please, just to tide me over,” I implore, like a fiendish junkie too far gone to be concerned with anything but the next fix.

The granny, who told me she was Henanese, did not have any spicy mala beef jerky, Sichuan’s signature mouth-numbing variety. But beggars can’t be choosers. I ended up buying about forty dollars’ worth of black-pepper jerky, duck tongue, and chicken gizzards. She was seventy-four, she said, and could be found at her little stool under the overpass from eight in the morning to eight in the evening, six to seven days a week. I knew better than to ask her for a receipt. But there were things I wanted to know, more as a fellow-immigrant than as a journalist. Where did she get the jerky? Did she have family here? Did they think it was safe for her to be sitting out here, alone, for so many hours of the day?

“All the meat must be smuggled!” Simon exclaimed loudly, almost giddily, in Chinese within earshot of the granny. “The police, do they ever come?” The granny didn’t make a sound. Her eyes remained impassive, the planes of her deeply lined face as blank as an untouched canvas. Afterward, I gently scolded Simon. “You don’t understand,” he hurried to explain. “To be able to smuggle so consistently is no small feat! It suggests she must be very capable!” Both Simon and Alex recollected the reverence they’d felt for those who could procure Western goods that had been smuggled into China in the eighties and nineties, when they were young adults living in the provincial capitals of Chengdu and Shenyang.

But I wasn’t sure a direct equivalence was so easy to draw. Those who could smuggle Western goods in those years were mostly the country’s powerful and well-connected élite. The privileged, or, at least, adventure-seeking, who could afford the risk of challenging Deng Xiaoping’s haphazardly implemented Reform and Opening policy. I did not know much about the Henanese granny, but her position, on a folding stool on that permanently dim stretch of Roosevelt, seemed a far more precarious one.

I remembered something Alex had said earlier. Why should the bingtang hulu proprietor indulge my request for a receipt when ninety-nine per cent of her customers made no such request? It isn’t just that Flushing residents are slow to trust outsiders. They are slow to trust one another. Few people in Flushing, the majority of whom are foreign-born, grew up together, and the solidarity of the neighborhood’s residents is fragile. Relationships necessarily begin tentatively, and most often in a transactional manner. It was logical, Alex explained. “Two outsiders living in the same geographic community aren’t automatically insiders to each other.”

The longer we walked, the clearer it became that the landscape affected the three of us differently. At an open-air produce mart, tropical fruits, some of which, with their scaly skins and bulbous exteriors, resembled prehistoric creatures, occupied most of the sidewalk. After almost three decades, the bustle—its chorus of pitches, its kaleidoscope of color—held no appeal for Alex. Poking at his phone while deftly sidestepping the makeshift stalls, he didn’t seem to see them at all.

I, on the other hand, could not resist stuffing my already full totes with Korean pears, Taiwanese guava, persimmon cakes, lychees, kumquats, and a package of satiny-smooth, oval-shaped fruits whose name I didn’t even know. (They turned out to be loquats.) As the young cashier rang up my haul, I noticed a bag of what I thought were large unripe grapes—presumably his own snack. “Are they good?” I asked. Wordlessly, he nudged the opened ziplock toward me. When I plopped the tiny green orb into my mouth, I discovered that it was hard and bitter—in other words, not a grape but a fresh olive. I had never eaten (or, for that matter, seen) a fresh olive but did not think I would ever be tempted to have another. Simon, however, bit into one with gusto. In Chengdu, he had grown up nibbling on them.

Next stop: duck necks. During the pandemic, when the three of us met for picnics in Central Park, Simon had brought grapes, seltzer, sometimes cheese, and Alex had contributed plastic containers of chili-glazed duck necks. Now he led us to the narrow counter, inside a tiny food court, where those duck necks had been chopped, stir-fried, and seasoned. I wandered over to another counter that offered “Old-Style Mutton Stewed Noodles” and bought us a bowl. The only other diners, sitting on some forlorn-looking wooden benches, were young men, slurping with iPhones propped against condiment bottles. When I went to borrow the vinegar from one of them (a few drops of black Zhejiang vinegar cut the mutton broth’s richness), I saw that he was watching one of my mother’s favorite dramas, about a patriotic Chinese spy with a heart of gold.

As we slurped our own noodles, I mentioned the handwritten ads—in search of everything from long-distance drivers to film extras to dishwashers—that seem to be taped onto every surface in Flushing. I had been seeing them for twenty years but didn’t believe that they could be that effective for employers or job seekers.

Alex laughed and told me that that was how he’d found his first job, as a twenty-year-old new arrival living on Kissena Boulevard. Restless, with little English, he’d spotted a posting for a “kitchen hand” pasted to the entrance of a Cantonese restaurant. More enticing than the pay (five dollars an hour) was the fact that staff meals were served every day at 4 P.M. It was exciting to have Cantonese food for the first time, Alex recalled. “As a kid from the bitter cold of the northeast, I’d never been to Guangdong. Cantonese home-style classics like salty fish with Chinese broccoli and cod filet with creamed corn over rice—really, they were as foreign to me as anything else I was trying for the first time in America.”

Alex didn’t last long at the restaurant. One afternoon, he was assigned to prepare a leafy vegetable with thick healthy stems and curled green tendrils. He had never seen the vegetable, but industriously set to work. When he had watched his mother prepare vegetables in their kitchen at home, she had usually nipped off the sickly bits and kept the sturdiest portion. Alex applied the same principle to the new vegetable. The fragile leaves on top went into the trash, the big strong stems he painstakingly collected. An hour or so later, the chef came to check on his progress. As soon as he saw what Alex had done, he let loose a string of Cantonese invectives, most of which, fortunately, Alex couldn’t understand. The gist, though, was clear: What kind of idiot are you, throwing out the pea shoot and keeping its tough, inedible stem?

During the pandemic, for the first time since he’d immigrated, Alex had thought about moving out of Flushing. In 2020, he purchased a house in the suburbs of northern New Jersey. “I was a foreign-state resident for one month,” he said with mock triumphalism. Then he sold the property. “I thought I wanted a break from the noise and the clamor of this place, but I couldn’t sleep in my new house,” he said. “Nowhere else actually feels right.” He screwed the cap back on the bottle of vinegar. “I’ve lived in Flushing now longer than anywhere else in the world. But if you’d told me when I was nineteen that a city existed half a world away from the mainland, a place so full of Chinese people and food but also not really Chinese, I would have thought you were making it up.” As he gulped down the last of his noodles, he noted that, though this was “destination dining” for a “Manhattan hick” like me, it was where he had dinner at least two nights a week.

Inspired by the story of Alex’s first job, we went in search of Cantonese food to round out the evening. It was a little after nine on a Tuesday night and most sit-down establishments had closed. Alex directed us to a slim strip of Fortieth Road, off Main Street, where the sidewalk was mostly canopied under aluminum frames. Once known as Restaurant Row, it had evolved in the past decade into the neighborhood’s unofficial red-light district.

At a place named King Crab House, tasselled red lanterns of various sizes and shapes hung from the ceiling, and an outsized imperial throne, crudely painted gold and flanked by budget-friendly porcelain urns, dominated the foyer, in a B-movie approximation of palatial opulence. The three of us appeared to be the only customers. Although a sign said that the restaurant was open until 11:30 P.M., the hostess assured us that, if we had arrived ten minutes later, we would not have been seated.

This block, with its riot of neon, always aroused complicated emotions in Alex. In 2017, across the street from where we were, a waitress turned sex worker from Alex’s native province of Liaoning had fallen to her death from a fourth-floor balcony, as she tried to escape an anti-prostitution police raid. She had been thirty-eight, a year younger than I am, and two years younger than my mother was when she landed at J.F.K., with two suitcases, a child, and little idea of how to make a life in this country, where she would forever feel like an outsider, no matter where she lived. From where we stood to look at the restaurant’s immense aquarium tanks crawling with lobsters, mantis shrimp, and sea urchins, we could see extravagantly made-up women outside, sauntering back and forth on the sidewalk. “That’s the thing about Flushing,” Alex reflected. “Some of the city’s most helpless, marginalized immigrants live here, and they can only make a living by tending to the crudest needs of their fellow-immigrants.”

There was only one waiter still on duty. He wore square wire-rimmed glasses and looked eager for us to order. From a multipage menu replete with magnified, high-resolution photos, I picked items that gave the waiter the impression that I was choosing for taste rather than appetite. For this, he gave me a wide grin and a big thumbs-up. After he left, Simon explained that the waiter meant I’d ordered expensive items that didn’t yield much meat: things like Emperor’s roasted squab, Dungeness crabs, sliced conch, clams with ginger, sea cucumber and oysters with scallions and black-bean sauce on the half shell. “That’s when he knows he has a high-flying customer,” Alex said, winking.

These were the items that, when I was young, my mother was never able to afford. We ate primarily to fill our bellies, and given her tenuous job options—from restaurant hostess to waitress to nanny—even that wasn’t guaranteed on some days. For this reason, maybe, eating seafood—the “most expensive” of proteins, as she referred to it—has always made me miss my mother. She spent the greater part of her youth in the seaside city of Xiamen and was proud of how cleanly she could debone tilapia with her teeth, or extract every last morsel from boiled crawfish. In Flushing, her favorite spots were always the seafood places, which we visited only on special occasions. Whenever we found a cheap buffet that served king-crab legs, my mother made sure not to fill up on anything other than succulent flakes of that white flesh. When she was losing the ability to swallow, the last solid food she ate was slivers of crabmeat that I’d shelled for her, purchased from a Chinese grocery across from the Elmhurst apartment where we lived, a ten-minute walk from the 7 train.

Now there were bright-red heaps of crustacean shells all over our table. We had not bothered with bibs. Splatters of sauce and wayward shreds of squab clung to our flushed faces and shirtfronts like confetti. Although none of us had been drinking that night, all of us felt slightly drunk. It was at that moment that a retinue of well-heeled diners emerged from a private room at the back of the restaurant. We were not alone after all. We stared like dazed children as they passed. One of them, a regal woman in an embroidered jacket and heels, looked a touch embarrassed when she met my gaze. She bowed her head for the briefest moment before speaking softly, in southern-inflected Mandarin, “Thank you, thank you for your hard work.” Confused, Simon, Alex, and I looked at one another. Alex figured it out first. “She thinks we are the kitchen workers having our staff meal at the end of the night!” he said. “I guess we worked up an appetite, after all,” Simon said, raising his water in a mock toast. There were still two crab legs on the platter. I pulled one from the plate and clinked it against his glass. ♦


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