Li Du turned to look at the young man. Isnt this Marate? he thought.
They had met at the truck dealership. They had even made a bet, but Marate had lost the challenge and ran away without fulfilling the terms of the bet.
Marate noticed Li but acted as if he had not seen him. His eyes were fixed on Sophie.
Sophie put on a courteous smile but her voice sounded distant. "Its good to see you here, but are you actually glad about it? I cant see any happiness from your eyes."
Marate was embarrassed. "Why wouldnt I be happy about it? Im happy to see you every single time..." he fumbled to find the correct words. "I also dont know why, maybe God"
"Dont, Marate. Dont use God to cover for your lies. Thats not right. I hope you can respect my faith." Sophie instantly changed her attitude when she heard Marate mention God.
That certainly made Marate even more ashamed. But he still refused to leave.
Li Du also felt that this fellow was really thick-skinned. If he ran away from a lost bet in front of a girl he liked, he would definitely never see that girl again.
However, Marate apparently did not think like him. He appeared so confident in front of Sophie that he made Li feel as though he were the loser who had run away from the bet.
Both parties were not happy to see each other. Marate had not given up on Sophie. However, Sophie had adopted a more distanced and courteous attitude toward him; she used formal words when talking to him too.
Finally, Marate backed off. As he left, he whispered to Li Du, "Dont bother, pal, you wont get anything from Sophie. She wont marry a non-white."
Li Du countered back in a whisper as well, "Then she wont marry you either."
Marate sneered, "Not possible, Im a white"
"No, youre green," said Li Du. "Your heart is green from jealousy, and it dyed your skin green."
His words infuriated Marate. He gritted his teeth and said, "If not for the event here today, Id beat you to a pulp."
Li Du smiled and shook his head. If it were a normal argument he might be interested in continuing. However, this type of weak threat made him feel like he was pitted against a child. What was the point in fighting him?
Li Du declining the challenge caused Marate to think that Li was afraid of the threat hed made. He glared at Lis back and his eyes flashed.
American church activities were formal. Especially activities where there was a large number of participants, everyone would need to participate in the endeavor.
Sophie told Li Du that the organizers had been preparing for the event for half a month. There were people in charge of sending email invitations, others took care of the online registration and tabulated the number of participants attending the event. Some took care of the preparations for food and refreshments.
In addition, there were also church members who would perform at the event; performances such as singing hymns, playing the piano or other instrumentsall these need to be rehearsed prior to the actual event.
The priest would need to prepare his sermon. There were also volunteers who would help ferry people about. Arrangements for cleaning up before and after the event also had to be coordinated and so on.
Because this was a charity auction, it was more complex. Lynch and several other rich people were put in charge; they donated money, helped organize the event, or both.
The auctioneer who had the nickname "White Gloves" was a middle-aged man with a loud voice. Li Du knew himthey had met each other in storage auctions before. He usually hosted auctions for Smith Storage and Vagabond Storage Company.
His name was Lewis Luther. After seeing Li Du, he came over to greet him. "So youre from this church too. I didnt know that."
Li Du laughed ironically. "Sorry, Im not a Christian. I accompanied a friend here."
Lewis nodded and said, "I see. Its okay, I believe one day youll feel Gods calling and join us."
Flagstaff's Christians were more tolerant; Li Du had not seen compulsory missionary practices before. In the United States such instances were relatively rarereligious preaching was purely by family guidance and was completely voluntary.
When it was 10 oclock, everyone entered the church.
There were many rows of chairs, and Li Du followed Sophie and sat in the back. He was curiously looking at the furnishings and decorations in the church. There were many glass paintings of the stories in the Bible, statues of the Virgin Mary, statues of Christ could be seen, and so on.
The church activities started. The priest preached a sermon, and then the children's choir sang a hymn.
Sophie followed, singing in a low voice. Li Du dared not open his mouth, as he was worried that he could not help shouting some lyrics of a song he and Hans would sing in the car together: Check it out! The boundless horizon of my love...
There were a series of dull activities which the participants were clearly accustomed to.
Li Du saw that the believers were not all devout. Some were secretly dozing off, such as Mr. Martin.
Mr. Martin sat in the row behind them. He was sitting together with Terry and other old men. At first, they looked very serious, but before long, one by one, they began to lower their heads down to "meditate."
They soon closed their eyes and one could see their noses move up and down in rhythm.
Li Du nearly broke into laughter. This group of old fellas had fallen asleep!
After the sermon and the hymn ended, everyone relaxed. White Gloves Lewis appeared and began to prepare for the auction to begin.
Sophie explained the reason for the charity auction: "Some of our brothers and sisters in church lead difficult lives and need everyone's help, but if we were to extend a helping hand directly, it could hurt their pride.
"Therefore, we need to go through Gods hand to help them," said Sophie patiently. "The donations will be deposited into the church account. All usage will be approved by elders on the council. They will also publicize it after the funds are fully utilized."
Li Du smiled. "Since they need help, why should we be worried about their pride being damaged?"
Sophie replied in a solemn manner, "Yeah, we want to help them, but if it hurts their pride then what use is our help?"
This topic cannot be argued, he thought. Li Du nodded. "You're right."
Sophie gave him a light-hearted laugh and said, "I know you may not understand some of our thinking, but as long as we do not hurt others, harbor no evil thoughts, and have mutual respect for each other, isnt that good?"
Li Du nodded seriously this time. He held Sophie's hand and said, "Right, mutual respect. Sophie, I may be too confident and think that Im always right."
The lady doctor raised her eyebrows slightly and whispered, "No, youre never like that. Oh, also, the auction later is voluntary. If you don't see something you like, you don't need to raise the bidding paddle."
Although it was Li Du's first charity auction, it was an auction after all, which was his area of expertise. He decided to take part in it.
The auction was about to start soon and everyone took their seats.
Mr. Martin and Mrs. Martin sat next to Li, laughing, "Youre always participating in auctionslet us experience the exciting auction atmosphere as well. Care to share some tips?"
Li Du replied, "Its not quite the same, Mr. and Mrs. Martin. I attend auctions to make money, whereas everyone is here to help others."
Then, someone joined in the conversation. "No, the charity auction is not purely to extend our help to others. When we donate items for auction, we want the items to be useful to the people who buy them. The auction is not simply just to get people to take out their money."
Li Du did not have to turn to see who had spoken: it was that sore loser, Marate.