Chapter 1: I will wait for you in memory lane
If you had asked: Xia Mu, who did you hate the most?
He will answer with no hesitation: Shu Yawang.
Yawang turned sixteen years old during the summer of her sophomore year. One afternoon, her father told her to go to his senior officer’s house to be his grandson’s private tutor. She was shocked from the announcement, knowing her father’s senior officer being the military troop commander of S City. She had seen the commander a few times, he is a very strict and strong old man. Everytime she sees him, she will immediately straighten her back out of habit.
Yawang laughs at her father. “Dad, your daughter has red marks all over her report card, how can you expect me to be someone’s tutor? Don’t play with me.”
Her father looks back at her. “Are you proud that your report card is full of red marks? If I tell you to go, you go. If you can’t handle elementary school student’s work, don’t take Shu as your surname.”
Yawang looks at her father, she really wanted to tell him to not belittle elementary school student’s homework nowadays, there are some math problems that she couldn’t solve.
“Dad, I’m busy. I have a lot of summer vacation homework to do.” Her father glance at her and straighten his back before shouting out a command.
“Attention!” Yawang immediately straightens her back .
“Reporting to general, Shu Yawang is in attendance!”
“Comrade Shu Yawang, you will be given a glorious but difficult mission. From today on, you will report to Commander Xia’s household at eight in the morning every day. You will teach in a serious manner and bring pride to our family, carry out your mission immediately!”
“Yes General!” She straightens her back once more and salutes, a standard Chinese soldier posture. She turns her body and starts to march, 1, 2, 1! 1, 2, 1! When she reaches the front door, she angrily turn back. Darn you old man, always using this tactic! She’s been forced to train like a soldier since she was little, and she never had felt sad about herself until now.
After she’s finished eating her breakfast the next morning, she walks to Commander Xia’s house while humming a small tune. At first, she is unwilling to go, but she starts to give some thought into it. I’m just babysitting the crowned prince, it shouldn’t be difficult. The old man said he will add more money to my allowance, but of course that’s not why I’m willing to go, hehe. Yawang’s house is located at the outermost part of the zone where the families of military officials live. Commander Xia’s house is located at the back of the villa, the walking distance being around twenty minutes.
She stands outside of the front entrance of the villa and knocks onto the door. A young man came out from behind the door, he’s not really tall, but he’s built and is wearing a military uniform. She looks at his shoulder stars, a row of three stars, a battalion commander.
“Hello Uncle, my name is Shu Yawang, my father sent me here.”
“Come in.” The man leads her in the villa. In the main hall, Yawang sees Commander Xia sitting on a mahogany sofa, his serious face showing a trace of warmth when he sees her.
“You came, Yawang.”
“Hello Grandpa Xia.”
“Little Zheng, go tell Xia Mu to come down.”
“Yes Commander.” The man that opened the door for her turns his body and walks up the staircase. Minutes later, there are two sets of footsteps that can be heard, one light and one heavy. She looks up to the staircase, this was the first time she met Xia Mu. Even to this day, she still remembers the moment. He held onto the ancient-looking railings as he walks down the steps, a kid around ten years old with no expression on his face, looking dull and lifeless. His eyes are like glass, so bleak with no trace of light. When he looks at you, you can sense a spooky feeling. He stops on the last flight of stairs and looks at Commander Xia. He beckoned him to come over.
“Xia Mu, Grandpa found a tutor for you, come say hi.” Xia Mu’s eyes wander to her. He didn’t say a word, didn’t move an inch, and didn’t give a smile, like an exquisite doll. Such a strange feeling.
“Xia Mu…” Commander Xia repeats. Yawang sense a nervous tension in the villa and tries to break it by waving her hand to him with the cheeriest smile she can make.
“Hi Xia Mu, my name is Shu Yawang. You can call me Yawang Jiejie.” Xia Mu looks at her with no expressions on his face. Yawang scratches her cheek as she looks over to Commander Xia helplessly. Commander Xia narrowed his eyebrows with an exhausted look on his face.
“Yawang, I’ll leave Xia Mu to you, Grandpa is going to work now. Please teach him well.”
“Okay.” Yawang cheerfully reply. In front of others, Yawang always play the good girl role.
After Commander Xia and Uncle Zheng leave, it’s just Yawang with Xia Mu in the villa. When she turns around, Xia Mu is no where in sight. She walks up the stairs holding onto the handrail and finds him in the room at the right. He is sitting on the carpet, concentrating on assembling a military tank model.
“What are you playing with, Xia Mu?” she asks him with a relaxed tone. Xia Mu lowers his head and keeps on assembling his model. She looks at him, his eyelashes fluttering like a fan and she notices he have dark circles underneath. Wow, he has dark circles already at this age? What is he, a robber at night?
“Xia Mu, didn’t anyone tell you that ignoring someone is disrespectful?”
“Hey! Can you talk?”
“Don’t make me, I will hit you!”
“I will hit you!”
“I’m really going to hit you!” Yawang raises her arm, then slowlys drop it back down. I will let this go because of the allowance! She smiles and tries to talk again.
“Xia Mu, if you talk to Jiejie, I will treat you to ice cream, okay?” When she said that, he look up at her, replying back with an indifferent tone.
“You’re annoying.” She clenches her fists together as she looks at him. This is why I hate kids! Especially arrogant ones! The next few days Yawang will report at eight in the morning and tries to make him talk by provoking him or teasing him. He is not interested in anything else besides his toy models. It doesn’t matter what Yawang says or do, she will not get a reaction from him. She suspects Xia Mu have a serious case of childhood autism.
Yawang reports her observations to her father, and he reply, “If he wasn’t autistic, I wouldn’t let you go! I want you to pass some of the ADHD you have to him.” Yawang twitches the edge of her lip.
“If I pass some of the ADHD to him, what will happen if he passes some of the autism to me?” Her dad looks at her with a relieved expression on his face.
“That would be great.” This old man! She gives up talking to him. Every day, she goes to Xia Mu’s place and does the same routine. She would go into his room, occupy his bed, read her comics, eat her snacks, and take a nap. He plays with his things, she play with hers. No interference, no disturbance. Then, one day, Xia Mu catches Yawang’s attention when he is playing with a toy model of the QSZ-92-5.8. This type of gun model is only given to the officers with some sort of rank. She remembers her father owning one. When she was little, she used to steal it from the safe to play. Don’t be fooled from its small appearance, it’s actually quite heavy. She just started to play with it when she was caught by one of the patrolling officers. The officer took her and the gun to her father. Her father punished her severely and ever since that day, she never saw that gun in her home.
She sees Xia Mu disassembling the gun quickly, as if he’s done it often. He takes out a cotton cloth and starts to wipe every area of the gun slowly. She looks at the disassembled parts: the sleeve gun, barrel, muzzle cap, recoil spring rod, connector, firing mechanism, bullet, and the hook shank. All of the eight parts are there, just like the ones she sees in the military magazines.
“Wow, toy models nowadays look just like the real ones!” He ignore her and continues to wipe the parts. After he’s done, he assembles the parts back together.
“Wow, let Jiejie look at it.” She takes it away from his hands. Wow, so heavy, just like the real one! Xia Mu, who has been quiet this whole time, suddenly jumps up and tries to grab the gun back. Yawang raises her arms so he can’t reach for it. Ha, finally got a reaction from this little guy!
“Let Jiejie play with it.” His eyes widen and he tries to grab the gun back. His eyes are full of anger and shock, like an untamed little beast. She continues to tease him by raising the gun higher above her head.
“Call me Jiejie and I will give it back to you.” Xia Mu glares at her and jumps up to reach for the gun. He only reaches Yawang’s chest, so he can’t get the gun no matter how hard he tries. He suddenly backs up and jump again, grabbing one of her arms when she jolts backward in shock, and pulling it down. Yawang didn’t give in to him and resists, moving the gun further away from his reach. He’s not physically stronger than Yawang, so he still didn’t succeed in grabbing the gun. Then, he opens his mouth and bites into her right wrist.
“Ow, it hurts!” She yelps, her eyes brimming in tears from the pain. She let go of the gun, having it fall to the floor, but he didn’t let go. She tries to shake him off, but he wouldn’t budge, like a stubborn dog. She can’t handle the pain and starts to scream. The maid, Auntie Mei, hears her cries and rush up the stairs to see what’s going on. She stands by the door in shock, and run towards them.
“What is going on? Xia Mu, let go!” Xia Mu won’t listen to her, his teeth digging deeper into Yawang’s skin. She cries in pain and Auntie Mei uses her hand to open up Xia Mu’s lower jaw, freeing Yawang’s wrist. Yawang pulls her wrist back, the two rows of bloody teeth marks with streams of blood flowing out. She glares at Xia Mu in anger. He bends his waist to retrieve his gun. He looks back at her, the corner of his lips covered with her blood, and said,
“Don’t touch my things.”
Another maid, Auntie Cheng, walks up the stairs to their room and cover Yawang’s wrist with a white handkerchief.
“We need to go to the hospital.” She presses her other hand onto the handkerchief and go to the military hospital with Auntie Cheng. The doctor gives her a shot and tells her not to worry. He said since the bite is deep, there might be a scar afterwards. Yawang look at the white bandages around her wrist, her anger boiling inside. I can’t believe I’m being bullied by a ten year old! When she arrives home, she show her mother the bandage. Her mother looks at her in sadness as she gently rub the bandage, glaring at her father.
“I told you to not have Yawang go into the Xia’s family home, look what happen to Yawang! That kid’s brain is not well you know.”
“What are you talking about? Xia Mu is fine, he’s a smart kid.”
“A smart kid will bite a person? He’s just like a dog.” Yawang nods her head and chimes in,
“A small wild dog.”
“What dog?!” Her father angrily hits the table and glare at Yawang.
“When your Uncle Xia took a bullet for me, he didn’t say it hurts. What’s wrong with being bitten by his son?!”
Yawang touch the bandage softly, it’s not you who was bitten, of course you don’t hurt. Her mother slaps her father out of anger.
“Can’t you see how pale our daughter looks from the pain?!” Her father heaves out a sigh.
“Yawang, Xia Mu is a pitiable child, let him be.” He heaves another sigh before talking about Xia Mu’s life.
“Xia Mu used to be a very cute child. He loves to smile and laugh, really playful, and everyone adores him. When he was six, he already knows all types of weaponry in the world! Old Xia would always say how his son, Xia Mu, is his biggest pride. His father was a CAPF (Chinese Armed Police Force) stationed in the town of the Yunnan province. Half a year ago, he died in the line of duty from a drug enforcement task. After he died, Xia Mu’s mom locked Xia Mu and herself in the house, not letting anyone in. Everyone thought she was just depressed. After four days, Commander Xia ordered people to break in the house. When they arrived to the master bedroom, they found Xia Mu’s mother, clutching onto her wedding photo, committed suicide. And little Xia Mu, he was sitting in the corner, gazing upon her with red and swollen eyes. People guessed that she wanted to take Xia Mu with her, but at the end, she couldn’t bear to do it. No one knows even to this day, how Xia Mu lived with a dead body for three days. From then on, the lively Xia Mu is gone. We said his soul has gone with his parents, leaving behind a beautiful shell.” Her father looks at her after he finishes the story.
“Yawang, I owe my life to his father. Even if he’s not here anymore, I still want his son to be his biggest pride.” That night, Yawang keeps on thinking about Xia Mu’s story. If I was put into the same position as Xia Mu….no I can’t think about it. But this happened to Xia Mu, such a beautiful child, stuck in a room stenched with blood and decomposition. She forces herself to imagine the scene, then forces herself to not think about it. At the end, she is unable to sleep and keep on tossing to her sides.
The next day, Yawang arrive late to Xia Mu’s home, her dark circles evident below her eyes. Before, Yawang don’t know why Xia Mu have dark circles at such a young age, but after listening to the story, she thinks she knows why. When she arrives in front of Xia Mu’s room, he is sitting on the floor, playing with a J-12 fighter jet model. His fingers pause when he hears the door open, but continues on afterwards. She sits beside him, not knowing what to say to get his attention. She feels helpless whenever she looks at Xia Mu. She looks at his fingers as he play with the model; they’re beautiful yet pale, flexible yet skinny. She moves her body towards him, looking at him directly in the eye.
“Xia Mu, Jiejie heard that you stayed with a dead body for three days.” His fingers stop moving and his eyeballs starts to shift.
“I heard it’s your mother.” Xia Mu curls up his fingers tightly into a fist, maybe too tightly because his hands are shaking.
“Can you tell me how you spent those three days?” Xia Mu’s eyes widen and he pounce himself onto her. Her back is lying flatly against the floor and he is right on top of her. Her hand reaches his chin, preventing him from opening his jaw.
“You’re trying to bite me again, aren’t you?” She forcefully turn her body over, making Xia Mu lying on the floor.
“Xia Mu, you’ve been dreaming of your mother dying right? Every day, the scene just replays itself. You can’t fall asleep because of it right?” Xia Mu struggles to free himself from her. Yawang tightens her grip on him so he can’t escape.
“Xia Mu, you’re scared right? You’re scared every night right?” Suddenly, Xia Mu stops struggling. His beautiful eyes start to glisten in tears, then slowly, the tears stream down his face. He bites his lips as he cry, trying to not admit that he’s breaking down. Yawang loosens her grip on him and sits up.
“Stupid, should have cried a long time ago.” Her dad told her, ever since Xia Mu was saved that day, they never saw him cry. She think she made a mistake to do this, but reaffirm herself that having him cry will make him feel better. It will be like an old scar being torn harshly, letting the blood and pain flow out, healing the scar.
“Xia Mu, my dad told me to let you have your way. But I’ve been thinking the whole night, and I think I shouldn’t do that. I’m not going to pity you, because I really want to be your friend, staying by your side through hardships and joy.”
“I don’t need you to be by my side!” He strongly oppose. She ignore him and continues talking.
“Even though I can pretend I don’t know and try to be close to you by being nice, I know it’s not going to work. You’re a kid with a very strong self-esteem, so a friendship based on pity is not going to work, so I’m going to be honest with you. I am the one that knows your past, know what you’re struggling with-”
“Shut up!” He yells as he struck Yawang with his hand. She holds onto the hand that struck her.
“Cry, yell, get mad, hit people, great! Finally you’re not like a dummy!”
The next few days, Yawang finally knows a way to interact with Xia Mu. It is to constantly annoy him, making him mad and wanting to bite her. Of course after being bitten once by him, she will not let him bite her a second time. They will fight every two to three days, and Yawang always hold him down by grabbing both of his arms. From then on, whenever you ask Xia Mu a question, he will not answer. However if you ask him who he hates, he will answer Shu Yawang with no hesitation.
His family will ask him that question to hear him talk. Yawang feels happy when he says her name, even though it’s not for a good reason. His family pats her shoulder to reward her accomplishments, Commander Xia included. Whenever Commander Xia pats her shoulder, Yawang feels like she is receiving a medal from him. Yawang is proud of herself, after all, taking care of Xia Mu, is not an easy task.
Use arrow keys (or A / D) to PREV/NEXT chapter