Happy new year to all my readers!. 3.5 more chapters and one epilogue left 🙂
She flopped down on the small bed as she put down the canvas bag full of books. She looked up at the white unadorned ceiling. Shouldn’t her life be as boring and unadorned as the ceiling? She had already resigned to her fate. To be honest, she really had not been shocked when she saw him again. The calmness she showed was not pretension. But that was because she thought he was an illusion. Even after she recognised him and they talked, she still felt she was in a dream. As long as it was a dream, no matter how beautiful and coveted, at some point it would disappear and she would wake up. She had dreamt of him often. This particular dream had a thousand versions of how they finally met each other again. She had rehearsed this meeting so many times, why would she be shocked? She turned over and closed her eyes. Immediately, his handsome image flashed in her mind.
The years had been good to him. At the age of thirty three, he had only become more masculine. He had always been tall, but now he looked more solid. His presence and charisma was more pronounced, more sombre than that of a systems engineer many years ago.
Xiang Yu was the 33 year old president and general manager of the Asia region of a renowned company. Several business magazines had featured him and called him a business legend. A person like him, calm, determined and hardworking would certainly succeed.
Song Yu Shan smiled. She was the exact opposite. She had no expertise, a weak personality, a person who had been spoiled since childhood. Her only strength had been her family. Now ,even that advantage had gone. Her family had become the biggest joke. It was such a heavy burden on her that she could hardly lift her head and look straight
She was only twenty five, well, almost twenty six , but she felt old beyond her years.
“ Fine, fine..” she let out a long sigh. She closed her eyes and tried to sleep. She did not have dinner, but today she had not appetite as well. She should take a shower and change her clothes, but had no energy to do so. She just wanted to lie there. She didn’t want to think anymore. She needed a few hours rest. Tomorrow, she would wake up early, go to the library and spend a quiet day there…
Suddenly the harsh ringing of the door bell pulled her out of her stupor. Alarmed, she jumped out of her bed. She had stayed here for the last five years, and the number of visitors she had could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Moreover, a visitor would usually call before they visited, Who would come, unannounced, this late in the day ?
She came to the door and peeped through the eyehole. Her heartbeat immediately accelerated and she jumped back as if she had touched a livewire. Had her mind conjured him up from thin air because she had been thinking incessantly about him the last few days? He was dressed in an expensive business suit and looked fresh and unruffled inspite of what must have been a long and tiring business day. He seemed to peep at the eyehole as well, an she jumped back, then laughed at herself for imagining that he could actually see her from the other end
As soon as she opened the door, he was already admonishing her with a frown, “ Why did you not ask who it was before opening the door?”
“Because I saw you”, she pointed to the eyehole with a slight ridicule in her tone. She was twenty six, and had been living alone for so long. It was really unnecessary for him to treat her like a young and stupid little girl.
His eyebrows rose as he detected the ridicule. He decided to ignore it and walked around the house. It was a small and simple house. It had one bedroom, a living room and a kitchen so small it was almost a joke. The apartment was very clean, but also very plain. There were no chandeliers, no leather sofas, no white curtains and no swanky entertainment centres.
Was this where Song Yu Shan lived ?
“ How long have you been living here ?” his tone almost seemed to blame her.
“ Almost six years”, she smiled, “ How did you know where I lived? Why are you looking for me?”
Was she actually asking him why he was looking for her?
“I asked someone to investigate you”, he said, crossing his arms across his chest, “ I found out some very interesting things. Do you want to talk about it?”
His tall figure leaned against the door, and his cold eyes were looking at her as if she was a criminal being interrogated by the police.
Song Yu Shan’s eyes widened. “ You got someone to investigate me?” she asked incredulously, “ Why?”
That was a good question. He wasn’t quite sure how to answer it. So he expertly sidestepped the question .
“ Don’t avoid the question”. This was the tactic of a guilty man, to put the other person on the defensive. And he was far more experienced in negotiations than she would ever be. Song Yu Shan was not a worthy opponent. “ Answer my question first.”
“ What did you ask?”Song Yu Shang bowed her head and tried to remember, “ Please have a seat. Would you want to have anything? I only have instant coffee..”
“ Yu Shan”, his tone was a bit cold and demanding, “ Tell me, what happened to your family?”
She had been a little princess, an angel who seemed to have fallen from heaven to the mortal world. To be honest, Xiang Yu really could not understand her lifestyle. He always thought it was too profligate and wasteful. But this was so far to the opposite that it was ridiculous!
“ If you’ve had someone who investigated me, you already know it all. Why bother me?” She still looked down and avoided his gaze.
“I want to hear from you. I want to hear your version of the story.”
“ My version is the same as everyone’s version,” she said after a long time in a low voice. “That year….my mom went to France – true. She was with her boyfriend – true. She had been having an extramarital affair for quite a long time and the two of them had been together for a long time. My dad, even knowing everything, was reluctant to divorce her. They did not want to wait for everything to become legal. And my father refused to divorce for a simple reason. Even you know that. My dad was working in his father-in-law’s consortium. He wasn’t sure what would happen if he divorced…”
She chanted this entire thing monotonously, but under the fluorescent lights, her face was bloodless. Her voice was low and calm, with no changes in tone as if she was just recounting something that did not affect her at all
“ Any way, they ultimately divorced. My mom stayed back in France. My dad continued working in the consortium, but he did not want to stay in Taiwan. The media speculations and the gossips among friend and relatives were too troublesome. So he relocated to Los Angeles. That’s all of it.”
“ Me? Not much to say. It was all a big mess, so no one paid any attention to me. Grandpa was very upset and felt that he had spoiled my mother. So he decided not to repeat his mistake with me. He would no longer pamper me to ensure I wouldn’t follow my mother’s footsteps.” She looked up and smiled, a smile that looked a bit like her smiles in the past, but sadder. “ I can appreciate my grandfather’s point. My mother is really too wilful.”
Her voice was low and even-toned. Her parents had abandoned her. Her grandfather had decided to punish her for her mother’s callous behaviour. Both her parents had decided to ignore his existence. As a result, she was stuck in a small apartment and boring and tedious job as a librarian. She was being treated as a prisoner who had been exiled to the frontier.
She used to be so delicate and pampered, how was she putting up with all this?
Yes, she wasn’t forced to earn her tuition or work for her family, but…
“You don’t need to look so sad. It’s not too bad,” Song Yu Shan smiled. “You used to tell me that I am too wilful and needed to be taught a lesson. Well, I have really learnt my lesson. Besides, I like my life right now…”
She paused and looked straight into his eyes, trying to explain in vain, “You really don’t need to feel sorry for me, because it’s not such a terrible situation.”
“ Is that so ? In that case…”, he interrupted her, “why are you crying?”
“ I’m crying? How is that possible?” Song Yu Shan looked up at him, her face strange
Yes, how was that possible? She had put in so much effort to keep a light smile hanging on her face. In the past few years, she had rehearsed this smile over and over again. How did she fail at the main event? Her smile was getting stiffer and stiffer, and finally she could no longer hold on to her smile. In addition, she tasted something salty. Why had she not realised this herself? It shocked her. She was actually crying. This was unbelievable!
But what happened next was even more unbelievable… She was pulled in a warm and powerful embrace.
He was just the right height. As he hugged her, his chin rested on the top of her head. Her face was buried in his chest and she could hear the steady beat of his heart as he soothed her in a low voice. He wasn’t saying anything meaningful. He was soothing her like one did to a child, “Don’t cry” and similar lines, but surprisingly, it brought a sense of peace and calm to her. Xiang Yu was actually cajoling her! She was lost in a trance. In the past, how many times, how many times had she tried to depend on him, tried to cling to him and get him to coddle her exactly in this manner? But he had been unmoved. He had never taken the initiative to soothe her, let alone hug her. Her emotions had always been one-sided. He had always been as cold as an iceberg with no room for any concessions towards her. Her tears in the past had no weight in his heart. Now because of the vicissitudes in her life, had they suddenly become more meaningful to him?
She hardened her heart and pushed him away, “ I’m sorry!”. She was not going to allow herself to be sentimental.” I don’t know why I’m behaving this way. ..I better go and wash my face.”
Xiang Yu did not force her. He let her flee.
When the door of the bathroom was closed, he clenched his fist and sighed. The corners of his mouth lifted in a reluctant smile. Was he being influenced by little Tang? As soon as he saw the tears of a little girl, he had not hesitated to step forward and hug her. But Song Yu Shan was no longer a little girl. His body seemed to remember how she felt. In the past, she had hugged him several times. With no inhibitions whatsoever, she had flung herself at him and hugged clung to him. But now she felt different. Her mature body seemed to fit perfectly with his rigid one. The moment he hugged her, he could smell that faint lavender fragrance which had haunted him earlier. His mouth became dry.
Song Yu Shan washed her face, sorted her emotions and opened the door only once she was feeling calm. She chose to go towards the kitchen, a safe distance away from him. She tried to adopt a causal attitude. “ Would you want some instant coffee/’
Xiang Yu cleared his throat, “ Some water please, preferably chilled. Thank you!”