Chapter 16: A man’s tears (pt. 1)
One waited, but waited too early; one returned, but returned too late. You can only blame their fate being too short, not reaching a thousand years.
Shu Yawang is currently online in her room when her mother pushes the door open, holding onto a glass of warm milk. Yawang takes the glass of milk and smiles to her mother.
“Thank you, Mom.” Her mother sits on a corner of the bed and looks at her. Yawang takes a sip of milk and turns her head.
“Why are you looking at me?”
“I can’t look at my own daughter?” She smiles.
“Look, look. Good-looking?” Her mother laughs and raises her hand to ruffle Yawang’s hair.
“Good-looking, how can my daughter not be good-looking?” She smiles as she shakes her head, maybe in just her mother’s eyes, she is good-looking.
“Are you really going to marry Xia Mu? Go to America with him?” Her mother asks.
“Yeah.” Her mother turns silent for awhile.
“You really want to go with him?”
“Yes, I do.” Her mother exhales out a sigh.
“I know you were just like when you were little, once you made your decision, you wouldn’t change it. It’s just that a big topic like marriage needs to be considered carefully, this kid Xia Mu likes you now, but he’s younger than you by six years. Until he’s your age, you will be old, what if he have a change of heart…”
“Mom.” She interrupts her. “You don’t need to worry about this at all, Xia Mu is not that type of person.”
“Alright, let’s not talk about that, but he’s not even in an university, he doesn’t have anything. How long are you going to wait for him to be able to support you? Besides, when you two go to America, neither of you will have a job, both of you will need to use money from his family, you can survive living those kind of days?”
“Mom, what are you doing? Why are you saying these things?” Yawang knits her eyebrows. “You don’t like Xia Mu?” Her mother grunts in a complaining tone.
“How can I not like him? Ever since the day he came back, if I dare to say one bad thing about him, you and your dad will eat me alive.”
“Mom!” She interrupts her again.
“Since your father owes them a life and you owe them a favor, I won’t stop you from using yourself to return the favor. I just missed that child, Xiao Tian. He’s great and he’s loyal to you, I really wanted him to become our son in-law, and I know that you still miss him.”
“Mom, don’t talk about Tang Xiao Tian.” She turns her head away, not wanting to hear anymore of it. Her mother sighs again.
“Look at you, I just said two sentences about him and you don’t want me to continue. What happens if you two bump into each other in the military compound, what are you going to do? Turn around and run away?”
“I won’t bump into him, he’s in Yunnan now, he won’t come back so soon. By the time he comes back, I’m already in America.” Yawang dips her head and holds onto her hands.
“Our fate has already came to an end.” She murmurs softly.
“Yawang, you’re really sure about this?” Her mother places her hand on top of Yawang’s. She still don’t agree to her daughter’s decision. For her, only Tang Xiao Tian is able to give her daughter happiness, she hopes her daughter can marry someone who can take care of her, be attentive to her, and who she can rely on. In her eyes, Xia Mu is just a child who her daughter needs to take care of. Yawang heaves out a long sigh, lifting her head up to smile at her mother.
“Mom, I thought carefully about this. I thought about this decision for six years, it won’t be wrong. Xia Mu looks cold on the outside, but he’s a very warm person. He’s really great and he loves me a lot, I will be happy.”
“Mom can’t beat you in this, if you think it’s good, then it’s good.” Her mother shakes her head and stands up to leave.
“Sleep early, don’t play so long.”
“I know.” Yawang nods her head. She lifts the glass off from her table and gulps down the milk that turned cold, the light from the monitor beaming to her face. The corners of her lips are slightly lifted, displaying a light smile that looks a little stiff and stubborn.
There are some things that you can’t say that you’ll be sure of; Shu Yawang said that she will not bump into Tang Xiao Tian, but then, they bump into each other in the military compound near the crossroads the next day. She stands there stunned, unable to give a response, and just stare at him. Xiao Tian is dressed in a 07-style military uniform, making him look slender and handsome, easily able to attract attention. Tang Xiao Tian didn’t think he will bump into her either. He stares back at her, his eyes showing greed. How long has it been since he saw her? Too long, it’s been too long that he don’t want to count. He unknowingly steps forward and extends his hand to hold on to her’s. From then, Yawang snaps back to reality and lightly remove her hand away from his, and steps back. Xiao Tian awkwardly put his hand back to his side and Yawang bites onto her lips as she stuffs her hands into the pockets of her jacket. She lifts her head and displays a stiff smile.
“Why did you come back?”
“There are some things from the army that I need to come back to do.”
“Oh.” She nods her head.
“What about you? Why did you come back?”
“I came back with Xia Mu.”
“Oh, I see.” Yawang looks at the ground, not saying a word. Xiao Tian don’t know what else to say either, the two just standing there without saying anything. The two who wants to see each other, can’t even look at each other in the face when they actually meet.
“Oh right, I’m meeting up with Zhang Jing Yu tomorrow, do you want to go together?” Xiao Tian looks at her with anticipation. “Jing Yu said….that he misses you.” Yawang clenches her fists inside the pockets of her jacket.
“No, I need to head back to W City tomorrow, I have a lot of things to take care of at work.”
“We can do it today too, let me call him.” As he is about to call Zhang Jing Yu, Yawang puts her hand out to stop him, raising her head and looking at him with a sad expression.
“Xiao Tian, forget it.”
“Why forget it?” He looks back at her with a sad expression. “Why are you telling me to forget it?” Yawang lowers her head and speaks in a rushed tone.
“I’m going to America with Xia Mu and then I will marry him.” She tells him with her head down the whole time. No matter how long it has been, Yawang is unable to face Xiao Tian, can’t bear to see him get hurt. What’s funny is that the person who hurts him all the time is her! Tang Xiao Tian didn’t say anything for awhile and continues to stare at her.
“You made your decision?”
“Yes.” She continues to look at the ground, unable to face him.
“That’s pretty good, it’s a good decision for Xia Mu to go to America.” His eyes start to redden as he gives a forceful smile.
“I still have things to do, I’ll leave first.”
“Okay.” He dips his head down and walks past her and she is able to hear him murmur,
“Good-bye, Yawang.” Shu Yawang looks straight ahead, her tears falling down to the ground.
“Good-bye, Xiao Tian.” During the moment he walks past her, it seems like they both are thinking about the summer when they were both eighteen years old. At this crossroads, the flying red flower, the promise they made then…
“I will wait for you to return.” The girl said.
“I will definitely be back.” The boy said. But at the end…one waited, but waited too early; one returned, but returned too late. You can only blame their fate being too short, not reaching a thousand years.
Shu Yawang bites on her lips and keeps walking forward with her head down. Suddenly, a pair of sneakers appear in front of her. She lifts her head up, unable to see clearly because of her tears. She blinks once, making the tears slip down, and there, she is able to see clearly who is standing in front of her.
“Xia Mu…” He looks at her, his lips moving slightly, like he’s about to say something, but he didn’t. He takes a big step forward, holding onto Yawang as he uses his jacket sleeve to roughly wipe away the tears on her face. Then, he holds onto her hand.
“Let’s go back to W City.” She knits her eyebrows and steals a glance to see his facial expression. She wants to apologize, but doesn’t know where to start, so she just lets him drag her. Xia Mu pulls Yawang with a cold face, and as they turn a corner, he can’t help it but to look back, seeing Tang Xiao Tian standing in place, looking at them in sorrow. They meet each other’s gaze, Xiao Tian giving him a pleading gaze, hoping he will treat her well. Xia Mu avoids his gaze; he hates him, no matter when it was before or now, he hates him, hates him forever! Because the person he loves, loves him, even if he is holding onto her tightly, he still feels uneasy. He’s afraid that she will yank his hand away from her and run back to his side. So, he can only pull her away from here. Tang Xiao Tian sees them turn a corner and their shadows soon disappear. He gives a bitter smile and dips his head down, slowly turning his body to leave. He takes out the phone in his pocket and dials a number.
“Jing Yu, let’s go have a drink.”
“Alright, let’s meet at the usual place.” Xiao Tian walks to the parking lot to get his car, he still uses the old jeep that his father gave to him after he retired. He opens the car door and climbs onto the seat, igniting the engine. He stares ahead blankly, looking at the familiar roads going backwards. He drives for awhile until he suddenly makes a stop. He leans against the steering wheel and starts to cry out loud. He knows he’s a man, he can’t cry like this, he knows he’s a soldier, he can’t cry like this. But, she’s leaving, she’s really leaving. She’s leaving her home, the military compound, leaving S City, leaving China. She’s going somewhere far away, so far that he won’t be able to see her, won’t be able to see her again…
The same evening after they encountered Tang Xiao Tian, Xia Mu pulls Yawang away to go to W City. During the ride, Xia Mu have a sullen expression. Shu Yawang turns nervous, not knowing what to say. It’s not until they landed that Xia Mu’s expression turn more calm. When they arrived to W City, it’s half past midnight. Yawang turns more energetic and drags Xia Mu to the place she’s living. When she opens the door, she stands there in shock. The apartment is extremely messy, the couch is draped with women clothing, the floor is filled with snacks that were bought from the supermarket, and the coffee table is full with unfinished meals and dirty dishes. Yawang heaves out a long sigh and shakes her head.
“This Yuan Zhu, once I’m not here, she turns this apartment into this.” Xia Mu didn’t say anything and lifts up his leg to enter the apartment. Yawang quickly pulls him back, how can she have him stay in such a dirty environment? She turns her body and walks towards the kitchen to grab a stool, wiping off the dust with a towel then pulling him and having him sit on it.
“Sit here first, let me go clean up.” Xia Mu pulls her back and lowers his head, lifting his head back up after thinking silently for awhile.
“Do you have to take care of me so carefully?”
“Yawang, I’m already grown up.” Xia Mu holds onto her hand tightly and looks at her in the eye. “I don’t want to be the boy that you constantly sheltered.” Shu Yawang looks at him stunned, she just wants him to be in a clean and comfortable environment, she didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable. Does he feel unhappy that I want to do this for him? She don’t know what to say to him, so she only looks at him helplessly. Xia Mu stands up and pulls her to the stool and have her sit before turning his body to clean the apartment. He grabs the bowls and chopsticks filled with oil to the kitchen sink and throws out all of the styrofoam boxes that are lying on the coffee table into the trash can. There are many instances where Yawang wants to stand up and help him, but he will glare at her all the time. She looks at him cleaning the apartment with worry and amusement. When he is about to attack Yuan Zhu’s bundle of dirty clothes, Yawang can’t take it anymore and stands up to stop him.
“Xia Mu.” He turns around to look at her.
“Don’t clean anymore. You told me to not take care of you so carefully, but you’re just the same. Things such as cleaning are what girls supposed to do.” He shakes his head and replies in a calm tone.
“It’s not that, now you’re by my side, you don’t need to do anything.” Yawang lowers her head and smiles, she don’t know what to say, but the sweet feeling she feels in her heart is about to pour out. She knows it’s not sweet talk since Xia Mu doesn’t know how say these things. But it’s also because of that, she feels more touched. She doesn’t know what to say, so she steps forward and hugs Xia Mu tightly. She wants to send her feelings to him, wants to tell him that she also don’t want him to do anything, she don’t want him to be even slightly unhappy. Xia Mu raises his arms and hugs her back, burying his handsome face onto her shoulder, smelling her familiar scent.
They hug for a long time, and when they grow tired from standing, Xia Mu carry her to sit on the black couch. The two are hugging each other on the couch, his long fingers gently twirling her hair, and she rests in his embrace, listening to his heartbeat. He likes her scent, her warmth, he don’t want to let go. She likes his hugs, his warmth, she don’t want to leave. They will converse from time to time, with Yawang asking him in a soft voice,
“Xia Mu, do you still remember the almond blossom trees behind the school?”
“Do you know that you looked the most handsome when you’re standing right in the middle of the almond blossoms?”
“Do you like it?”
“I like it.” When Shu Yawang said she likes it, the corners of Xia Mu’s lips lifts up again, his beautiful eyes twinkling; this is different from how he normally is. The two look out of the window and see the bright, starry sky, the moonlight is very beautiful, very captivating.
The next morning, Yuan Zhu is standing right in front of Shu Yawang as she opens her eyes, Yuan Zhu’s eyes behind her glasses revealing a teasing expression. Yawang extends her arm to hit Yuan Zhu’s face away.
“Why are you smiling like that?” Yuan Zhu raises one of her eyebrows towards what’s diagonal from her, so Yawang turns her head and look. She sees Xia Mu who she uses his legs as a pillow, awake. He is leaning against the couch, his eyes showing a clear expression, like he’s been awaken for awhile. Yawang sits up and smiles at Xia Mu.
“Mhm.” Yawang seems a little embarrassed to get up, and she don’t know why, but after last night, she feels something is different, they seem a lot closer now.
“Xia Mu, do you still remember me?” Yuan Zhu asks with a smile. Xia Mu nods his head.
“Miss Yuan.” She squints her eyes as she smiles, like Xia Mu remembering her is a huge event.
“Haha, that’s my student alright, having such great memory.”
“Don’t be so smug.” Yawang grumbles as she points at the messy apartment. “Look at how you made our apartment look so messy, hurry up and clean it.”
“I originally wanted to clean up, but now I don’t want to.” She smiles. “In order to have you two to enjoy your sweet moments together, I decided to move out.” She clasps her hands together, making a crisp and sharp sound.
“Of course, if you want to thank me, you can help me clean the apartment.” Yawang shakes her head in disagreement.
“You wish. You can leave if you want, but you have to clean up first.”
“Then I’m not going to leave.”
“Fine, I don’t mind.” As the two women continue to have their argument, Xia Mu is already standing up and starting to clean the apartment.
“Wow, Xia Mu really wants me to leave.” Yuan Zhu laughs out loud. Xia Mu moves slightly, his facial expression remaining calm, but also turning a little stiff. He is thinking silently, wanting to explain himself, but after thinking for awhile, he didn’t say anything. Yuan Zhu points to him and laughs.
“See? He agrees.” Shu Yawang pats her arm down.
“Don’t make fun of Xia Mu just because he don’t like to talk.”
“Look at how hurt you are, hahahaha.”
“Fine, I’ll go clean the apartment, get out of here.”
“Oh, Yawang also can’t wait for me to leave.” Shu Yawang raises one of her fists.
“There is a limit with my patience!” Yuan Zhu laughs out loud and walks into her room to grab her belongings, continuing to laugh as she walks out and giving Yawang a sneaky grin. Soon, she is gone like the wind, and the apartment turns silent. Yawang fixes up her hair and is about to reach for the broom that’s in Xia Mu’s hand, but Xia Mu successfully avoids her.
“Let me sweep.” She sees how stubborn he is, so she didn’t attempt to fight with him.
“Alright, so you sweep while I go make breakfast, okay?” Xia Mu looks at her and nods.
She rubs her eyes and walk towards the kitchen, opening the refrigerator and looking at the food stored inside. There are noodles, rice, eggs, mixed vegetables, canned beef, and ham. She ponders for awhile to see what she should make, then starts to scoop some rice out. She washes them, drains the water, and puts it in the rice cooker to cook. Then she takes out several eggs and starts to fry them into sunny side up. Xia Mu, who is in the living room, stops with what he’s doing and looks at her, the dark pupils reflecting her face; reflecting when she lowers her head, when she coughs from the fumes, when she flips the spatula.
The morning light shines into the warm apartment, and as Shu Yawang is busy cooking in the kitchen, Xia Mu is already walking towards the kitchen area, leaning his side against the wall. He looks at her silently, the corner of his lip lifting up slightly, displaying his faint blissfulness. Shu Yawang turns her body as she looks at him strangely.
“What are you doing standing here and watching me?” He didn’t reply back, so she extends her arm to push him sightly.
“Don’t come near here, I don’t want you to smell like fumes.” He didn’t budge and continues to look at her. She can’t help it, but to smile warmly at him.
“Hungry? It’ll be done soon.” She is about to turn her body back, but Xia Mu pulls her back and closes his eyes, planting a soft kiss on the corner of her lips. She stands there in shock with her face turning red, not snapping back to reality until she smells something burning. She quickly turns her body around and flips the spatula, placing the slightly burned eggs onto a plate. She pretend to ignore his staring, but when she sees him giving her a slight smirk, she can’t help it, but to squint her eyes as she flashes back a light smile.
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