I waited for his return. When he came back, he would say: “Your eyes are getting brighter day by day, but your complexion is getting paler.” His words would stop here and he wouldn’t dwell on it.
Although this was his usual indifference towards me, I didn’t mind. Firstly, I knew that soon, this home would no longer have someone he could show this indifference to. Secondly, I no longer had the energy to mull over his musings, because my eyesight was getting worse and I was constantly suffering from tinnitus . Merely maintaining my usual condition during conversations with him was taxing.
However, Xiao Huan showed moments of gentleness as well. Only, his gentleness always made me feel even more lonely.
For example, he would ask me if I desired anything or if I had something I wanted to eat. And after I answered him, he would pass me money and tell me to buy it myself, eat it myself. What he anticipated the most from me was that one day, I would tell him I desired something of a certain calibre. It would pose as a challenge to him, so that he could display his incomparable capability. And I always disappointed him. I simply wanted to stroll, I merely wanted to eat cakes.
He was always extremely unsatisfied with my replies and would angrily storm out of the door like a child throwing a tantrum.
On this note, this was probably the matter that I was most stubborn about. Because I would never tell him, to be honest, I want to stroll with you, I want to eat cake personally baked by you.
I would never tell him, because from the very start this had never been a challenge. It had always been a failure!
I officially received my diagnosis at the hospital one month ago. Fortunately, falling ill was the norm for me and Xiao Huan did not have any suspicions.
The doctor assigned to my care was a professor around fifty year of age, surnamed Li. After she confirmed the diagnosis with me, she shook her head and said, Madame Xiao, you are so young. This is unbelievable to me!
At that time, I was already desensitised to it all. When I heard her say this, I only flashed a silly smile.
She looked at me and asked, “Do you have anything you want to say?”
I simply shook my head, and then said, “I want to head home quickly!”
I grasped the medical documents tightly in my hands. Truly, at that point in time, the only thought in my head was to go home and see him.
Qingming Festival , we went to the grave sites to burn paper money  for our parents. The four of them had all departed early.
Every year that this time, I would always feel especially close to him, for we are both people who have been left behind. We burned paper money in front of the gravestones. My parents and his parents were both buried together with their spouses. I watched the dancing sparks of fire as I tossed the yellow sheets of paper money in one at a time. As I tossed them in, tears flowed like a river.
“What’s wrong with you again, why are you crying?” He knelt at the side and asked me as he continued to burn the paper money.
I didn’t say a word and paid my respects to his parents together with him, before standing up. However, I was unable to control my sudden dizzy spells. Fortunately, his reaction was fast and he immediately caught me. Otherwise, I would definitely have collapsed backwards onto the gravestone belonging to another family.
“Anaemia again!” He furrowed his brows. A large warm hand covered my forehead abruptly. After massaging it gently for awhile, he said, “Forget it, let’s head home!”
He carried my down the hill and I leaned against his chest. I could not help but murmur in a soft voice, “Xiao, next year, will you come and visit me?”
He shoved me into the car and started the engine. I heard him say, “You are perpetually dizzy and faint, it is so troublesome to me. What is even on your mind?”
“I’m thinking of you!”
I mumbled groggily. Then, my tinnitus flared up again and I did not hear what he said later on.
It was April and Xiao Bei had just come to know that she was expecting twins. Because she had been taking care of me during this period, she had neglected herself. One day during a visit to her gynaecologist, the doctor told her that she was expecting twins: one boy and one girl. She immediately phoned me and at that time, I was sleeping on the sofa. It was four in the afternoon and the television was screening an old period drama about a young girl’s experience at school. I spoke to Xiao Bei on the phone while watching the show. Xiao Bei told me excitedly, “Si Ying, let me tell you. My son will be called Nan, my daughter will be called Ying. Agree to it, alright?”
I burst into laughter and said, “Your husband’s surname is Mei. If your daughter is called Mei Ying , wouldn’t that be too inauspicious! As the godmother, I do not agree!”
Xiao Bei remained silent for a while before saying, “Alright then! She’ll be called Mei Siying.”
I chuckled and said, “Then you must hold on a bit longer and give birth after I’ve departed. That way, I can directly be reincarnated as your daughter, how great would that be!”
The other end was quiet. Then, I heard sobbing.
So I said, “Xiao Bei, don’t call me anymore, and don’t meet me anymore. Pregnant women cannot keep crying. Xiao Bei, goodbye!”
From that day on, I never picked up Xiao Bei’s calls and refused to meet her. Every day, she would come knocking on my door but I would not open up. Subsequently, her husband brought her to her in-laws place to recuperate. Her husband gave me a call and said, “Si Ying, you are all good women, you are truly a good friend! Si Ying, thank you!”
These words alone were sufficient. For Mr Mei to thank me meant that Xiao Bei had already calmed down. Recuperating at her in-laws’ place for a period of time would help her truly come to terms with our impending separation and allow her to care for herself. Hence, I could finally be rest assured.
14th July 2005, it was my third wedding anniversary with Xiao Huan. Xiao Huan bought me an ivory white Qipao  made with real silk. I wore it and left the house with him.
We had our meal at a high-end restaurant. Dim ambient light lit up the surroundings and soulful music reverberated in the air. He had reserved the entire restaurant and his demeanour was elegant and noble throughout. When we clinked glasses, he didn’t say ‘cheers’. Then, he took out a box and placed it on the table, before pushing it over.
I opened the box. A key lay inside.
He chuckled, “The key to a safe in the bank. All these years I’ve been depositing some money for you. It’s not a small amount!”
“Oh!” I closed the box. Then, I lowered my head to eat.
After eating for a long time, I didn’t hear him say anything else. Just as I was starting to find it strange, I suddenly saw a hand wave in front of me. I raised my head and looked at him. Unhappiness was written all over his face and his lips parted and closed continuously. I didn’t know what he was saying.
I panicked and scrambled to pretend I was anaemic again. I put pressure on my forehead for some time and finally, I could hear again.
“Did you hear anything I told you!” As expected, he was angry.
“Yes… Yes. Just now I suddenly felt a bit faint so I didn’t hear clearly.” I explained at once.
“Mm, look at your frail state. How are you going to be independent!” He took a sip of the golden liquid  and continued, “I’ll give this sum to you. You can open a shop or start a company, it’s all up to you! If you have anything you don’t understand you can ask me!”
I raised my head and looked at him. “Xiao, if I involved myself in entrepreneurship, would you support me?”
“I will! I will teach you!”
“Then, will you be happy?”
“I will! And I will help you!”
I stared at him, at those eyes that were overflowing with mockery. It was as though he was certain that it was impossible for me to be successful at entrepreneurship. He looked at me with an expression that hovered between a laugh and that of solemnity.
Then I lowered my head and fixed my eyes on that small box before me. “Xiao, I want to donate this sum of money to charity. Can I?”
He was stunned. Then he said, “Are you sick in the mind! Do you know how much money this is!”
I bowed my head even lower. I said, “I am sick!”
That day, he was exceptionally angry and ignored me the entire time. At night, we lay on the bed. He was unable to sleep and kept tossing and turning at the side. Finally, he sat up and lit a cigarette. I was also unable to sleep. My mind was preoccupied with a myriad of things…
“Do you still remember how I confessed to you!”
“You don’t remember?”
“You really have nothing better to do!” He stubbed the cigarette butt and lay back down to sleep. He was never interested in speaking to me.
Still, I continued speaking because in the future, there would no longer be that opportunity. I said, “That day it was raining. You stood in the plaza at Yuan Sheng. Your entire body was drenched. It was the weekend and there was no one at the plaza, as I was taking out some documents on behalf of my father, I saw you standing there.
As I spoke, the past played before me like a movie, flashing before my eyes. I turned my head to face him. “Xiao, do you remember? After that…”
But he had already fallen asleep.
I stared at the ebony black ceiling, the steady sound of his breathing drifting into my ears. Inside this blanket, it was very warm.
“Xiao!” I called out to him softly. He obviously could not hear me. I said, “That day, did you breakup?”
Madame Liu at the charity organisation once mentioned, a relationship without mutual love is basically a plot of ruins.
I concede, but I hope that I will be just like a leaf lying in the ruins. After it falls, a passing breeze would blow it away, leaving behind no trace.
I thought, if someone else was in my shoes, they would already start to pen their will at this juncture. But after brooding over it, I had no idea what to write in the will. My Xiao was so outstanding, he had everything within his grasp. What else could I give him?
Apart from freedom!
“Have you made up with Xiao Bei?”
Once, he brought me to attend a banquet. That day, I wore that white Qipao that he had gifted me, my arms linked with his. When there was no one toasting him, he asked me this. He had always assumed that I had a falling out with Xiao Bei and that I had chosen to ignore her in a fit.
I nodded my head and said, “Pregnant women are the most unreasonable. I won’t pay any attention to her!”
He furrowed his brows. I know, he had always admired Xiao and had told me this in the past. He said, the fact that such an uncultured and dim-witted girl like you has such a friend really shocks me.
At that time, I had replied him with pride. That’s right, I am a failure at everything, but at least I have good taste. The things that other people spend a lifetime searching for, I have them all.
When he heard my words, he seemed even more unhappy. He immediately struck my hands away and grabbed a wine glass from the waiter’s hands, before gulping it down. At that time, a pair of jade like hands moved from behind like a snake and caressed his face. I saw him grin and a layer of satisfaction surfaced in his eyes. Then, he turned around and brought that beautiful women into his arms.
“Let’s waltz, Mr Xiao!” Luo Qing said with a laugh. She coquettishly leaned into his embrace and naturally stuck out her tongue, not really sticking it out fully. She was merely giving a glimpse of it, oh how seductive she was.
Xiao locked one arm around her waist as they danced while his other hand continued to hold his wine glass, occasionally taking a sip from it. He danced skilfully and easily with her, twirling round as they moved along the dance floor. He was really very distinguished, both graceful and distinguished.
My hands hung down by my side as I walked to the side alone. I sat on a platform to watch them, to watch this splendid world that belonged to them.
 Tinnitus: Ringing in the ear.
 Qingming Festival: Also known as ‘Tomb Sweeping Festival’. Traditionally, families would visit their ancestors’ tombs/urns and clean the gravesites as a mark of reverence.
 Traditionally, paper money is burnt during Qingming Festival as it is believed that doing so will provide for their ancestors’ afterlife.
 Anaemia: When you lack healthy red blood cells. It can cause fatigue and hypoperfusion, which in turn causes syncope (fainting).
 A pun on words. “Mei Ying”, when pronounced in Chinese, sounds like the phrase “Didn’t win”.
 Qipao: Also known as Cheongsam. It’s a traditional body-hugging Chinese dress.
 I’m guessing this is either referring to champagne or beer. But taking into consideration the setting, it’s most likely the former.