8th August 2005.
Xiao started to bring me to work, I was no longer alone at home.
Being able to follow him to work was a happy occasion. He had specially arranged a seat for me in the office and whenever he looked up, I was within his line of sight. I was also able to see him with a lift of my head. When he worked, I would watch movies and trawl the web. During the lunch break and after work, he would drive somewhere to take me out for a meal. The restaurants he chose were always good.
One of the restaurants was called ‘Leaf’. It wasn’t big, but the interior was arranged extremely intricately. Xiao said that the restaurant only served VIP guests. He asked me if I liked it. I said I did.
He was constantly asking me whether I liked it, he would ask me multiple times a day. And every time he asked, it would be for a different matter. At that point, I finally understood. Every place we went to, everything we did, were all matters he had painstakingly planned.
When the weekend arrived, we would stay at home instead of going out. In the morning, he would embrace me as he read his newspaper. In the afternoon, he would embrace me and watch movies. In the evening, he would embrace me as we sat in the balcony to chat. At night, he embraced me as we slept.
One day, I was lying on the bed and Xiao was in the middle of a shower. I listened to the sound of trickling water as I stared at the ring on my left hand. It seemed as though its surface was even brighter and glossier as compared to before. I fixed my eyes on it for a long, long time. This diamond represented the idea of ‘everlasting’, and as it shimmered and sparkled, it was exceedingly beautiful.
He bought it during our wedding. I recall that back then, he was very busy and had no time to bring me along to choose the ring. He had gone to the jewellery shop alone and told the store assistant to pick out a big diamond ring, one that would satisfy a woman’s vanity. Price is not an issue, I’m tight on time, quickly recommend me one. Then, he carried two boxes back and when we got married, we used this pair of rings. What was interesting was that this ring fit my finger perfectly. At that time, he had grinned mockingly. After the marriage officiant finished speaking, he held my hand and said, Cheng Si Ying, marry me! I will look after you for your entire lifetime!
As my thoughts wandered to this point, I couldn’t help but smile. Was it true that if someone was on the brink of death, they would enjoy reminiscing the past? I raised my hands and gazed at this cold and beautiful ring. I kissed it gently and the diamond brushed against my lips like a teardrop.
I pressed my lips against it, not putting it down for a long time.
Suddenly, a tug on my hand hauled me backwards. My cry of shock only lasted a second before a fiery hot lip sealed my mouth. Xiao Huan’s hands locked me in place tightly. This kiss was too passionate, too impetuous, completely knocking me out. I only regained my consciousness when a metallic clink sounded in my ears, I turned my head to have a look. At some point in time, Xiao had removed my ring and flung it on the ground.
“I’ll buy you a new one!” He lowered his head and pressed his lips against my neck. “It’ll be a pretty one. This time, I’ll bring you along to pick it!”
I stared blankly at the ceiling, his wet hair seemed to have soaked my neck as well. I patted him on the back, just like someone comforting a child who did wrong. I said,
“Xiao, that’s enough…”
Love versus sympathy. I never dared to bring this subject up in front of him. If I was still healthy… If I was still healthy, and if I had the fortune to receive such care from him, I would greedily bicker with him about this. Do you cherish me because you love me, or do you cherish me because you pity me.
Alas, on this earth, everyone has different views. If I wanted Xiao Bei to answer this question, Xiao Bei would say: It doesn’t matter whether its love or sympathy. As long as he cherishes you and cares for you, I think it’s enough. If I wanted Mr Mei to answer this question, Mr Mei would say: A man’s heart can only love once. After which, everything is settled with logic. As long as you are valuable enough by his reasoning, then you already have a place in his heart. That is enough.
But Xiao Bei and Mr Mei both don’t know. It’s enough like this. I’ve already repeated this line to myself countless times this lifetime.
I lay under his body, my fingers tracing the outline of his face. I want to remember him, remember everything about him, because in this life, only my love to him was so strong that even I am shocked, regardless of whether this choice was right or wrong. Or maybe it was just as he said, my dedication to him was simply a fantasy set in my inexperienced life. But I wouldn’t change a thing about this fanatical fantasy, even unto death.
Xiao’s fingers carried the scent of tobacco, and when my tongue licked it, I felt his fingers tremble faintly. He retracted his hand, and then kissed me gently. Compared to making love, I much preferred kissing. Because during this time, he wouldn’t lose himself in the passion and completely forget about me. Instead, he would treat me gently, and this makes me happier, it brought greater satisfaction.
“You don’t owe me. You saved me! Xiao!” In his arms, I told him this softly. Very softly, very softly. I needed to say this with sincerity as this was the only way he would understand. I never felt as though he owed me anything: Without his capability, he would not have been able to build his empire, without a warm heart, he would have tossed me into the wilderness without a care for my survival a long time ago. He let me accompany him as he build his dynasty and he succeeded, forming the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen in my life.
“I’m not…” After a long time, he said these words, but he never finished speaking. What was it that he struggled to say? I’m not what?
I hugged his head and ran my fingers through his hair. “Xiao, did you know? Everything I ever possessed, the wealth my father left me, I have only ever shared with two people. One of them is Xiao Bei. Since young, she had a thirst for learning, but her family was poor. So, I begged my father to sponsor her. At that time, my father laid down a condition: Xiao Bei was not allowed to make any other friends!” As I said this, I smiled. All the memories Xiao Bei gave me were happy ones. “Xiao Bei took that sum of money and told my father, I can go back on my words even after a promise is made, but once you give your money away, you can’t take it back. A fake friendship is a fake friendship, a true friendship is a true friendship. If this condition is manageable, then we can talk from there!” As I said this, Xiao Huan jerked his head up abruptly. He chuckled, “Haha, this woman was truly fearless ever since her childhood days!”
I nodded by head. “Xiao, of all the people who know her, there is not a single one who doesn’t admire and appreciate her. Whenever I was with her, I would be happy, but it also took a blow to my self-esteem.”
Xiao’s fingers started to undo my clothes. As he stripped me, he said, “Si Ying, let’s not talk about someone else. I know, we all know, who the real bastard is!”
My clothes fell off my body one by one, and before I could feel the cold air brush against my skin, I immediately found a safe place within his arms. It was an enchanting embrace, and I heard the enchanting sound of his heartbeat.
“Xiao, you are not a bastard. You are Cheng Siying’s husband!” Closing my eyes, I fell into darkness, but my consciousness continued to flickr. I said, “Xiao, in the past, we slept together regularly, right?”
“Right!” He said.
“Then, from now on, let’s not have sex anymore!” I said.
“…” He paused for a moment. “Did I make you uncomfortable?”
I opened my eyes and looked at him. His eyes were radiant, deeply staring into my soul. I smiled without saying another word.
Then, his arms embraced me firmly. “Did I make you uncomfortable?”
Shaking my head, I fell asleep. Recently, I was perpetually lethargic.
If I strained my mind too much, I would feel tired.
Xiao and I started to become used to this new, peaceful and somewhat disconsolate life. We spent more time chatting with one another, and he started to patiently explain some things I couldn’t understand. He also shared more about his past childhood experiences. He always listened and smiled, flashing a set of pearly white teeth. He was handsome, very handsome.
We no longer made love, and no longer dwelled on those profound subject matters, such as life and death, debt and obligations, rights and wrongs. We did not discuss what blessings were, and no longer calculated losses.
We lived our lives under the sun, just like an ordinary husband and wife.
9th of September, Xiao Bei and Mr Mei came to visit me.
Xiao Bei and I sat in the living room to chat, while Xiao moved his laptop into the study room. He was still very busy.
After approximately one hour, Xiao Huan’s head suddenly peeked out from behind the study room door, giving me a fright. I had never seen him act so adorably.
He probably felt embarrassed and laughed awkwardly before gesturing to Xiao Bei. “Xiao Bei, can I trouble you to come over for awhile? I have something I need your help with!”
Xiao Bei was stunned. Ever since she left my home the last time, Xiao Bei had refused to acknowledge Xiao Huan. Regardless whether it was a phone call or if it was a meal together, she would ignore him. Xiao’s temper wasn’t good either, after the commotion, he refused to apologise. The two of them were at odds like this for a long time, causing me and Mr Mei to feel both upset and amused. Sometimes, I feel like the both of them are quite similar.
Xiao Bei glanced at him. Her anger must have subsided after being at loggerheads for such a long time. Hence, she took her own sweet time to stand up, before walking into the study room.
The door closed with a click.
Mr Mei and I were extremely puzzled and confused.
After some time, the hearty sound of laughter was heard from inside. It was a contented kind of laughter, it was an unimpeded laughter, it was Xiao Bei’s laughter. After that, Xiao Bei walked out of the room. I saw tears in her beautiful eyes, she had laughed to the point of tears.
She walked over and grabbed Mr Mei, saying, “Let’s go, let’s go! We’ll head back now!”
I hastily stood up. “You’re not staying for dinner?”
Xiao Bei held her bulging tummy and leaned against Mr Mei. “We’re not staying, laughter has filled my belly. You should head in quickly and have a look at your husband!” As she said this, she pulled Mr Mei away and took her leave.
I stood in the living room and threw a few glances at the study room. I wrecked my brains but still could not understand what had happened. Not long after, Xiao walked out on his own, his entire face blackened. He plonked himself on the sofa. “That stinky woman!”
“What’s the matter, what did the both of you talk about!”
“…” Xiao Huan did not speak, his face still a little unsettled.
“If you don’t want to speak, it’s fine!” I sat next to him and rested my head on his shoulders.
“I…” Xiao wrapped an arm around me and muttered, “I asked her if has she ever refused to let Mr Mei touch her!”
“She said she has! I asked her, when? She said, whenever her period came every month! I asked her, apart from this? She said, there were some other instances as well, and so I asked her, when? She said, when she first got pregnant. I clenched my teeth and asked again, then apart from those few days, and apart from what she just got pregnant, were there any other instances? Her eyes darted around me and said, there were! I hurriedly asked her when! She patted her tummy and said, when my husband can’t do it!”
At this point, he took a deep breath and sighed. I saw his adam’s apple undulate before he continued speaking, “Why are women so petty? She obviously knew what I was asking and she still continued to beat around the bush like that.” As he said this, he took a sip from the teacup on the table.
I looked at him. “Then what did you want to ask?”
“…” His eyes didn’t look at me.
“Xiao!” I called him.
He lowered his head. I stared at his collarbone, which was trembling slightly.
After a long time, he asked, “Si Ying, why… why don’t you let me touch you!”
I’m sure many people have experienced this feeling before. That is, suddenly failing to vocalise something that has always been on your mind. Maybe it was because these few lines were hard to express, or maybe it was because look at the opposite party’s face brought about a greater sense of reality, causing you to realise that everything you wanted to say was no longer important.
Just like me and him. I had originally wanted to tell him —
If I had a healthy and beautiful body, I would truly be willing to bring you pleasure. But I’m already withering, on the brink of falling. If the only woman in your heart was me, I would be able to love you without any restraint. But I’m not the only one, you have too many.
I’m not sure if anyone would understand, but when someone’s life reaches its tail end, they would become increasingly pure. They would slowly shed their outward filth and what is left behind is merely an unadulterated spirit, the only thing they’ll take along in the wake of their departure. You leave as you came, as innocent as a newborn child.
I had originally wanted to tell him, my dear Xiao, entangling myself in love before I die would be a form of tarnish, I shouldn’t indulge.
But when I saw his frustrated and puzzled eyes, I did not say a word. I know he thought: embracing you and giving you warmth was to cherish you.
I knew this, and so I didn’t say a word.