Falling Leaves Without Trace chapter 7

Chapter 7

End September, the weather was a little strange – one moment it was cold and the next moment, the temperatures soared. However, the parasol trees [1] along the streets have started to shed their leaves. During this season, I’m sure very few people would have noticed such changes. As I sat in Xiao Huan’s car, I loved to watch the leaves as they fell.

Xiao Huan would take me wherever he went. I rarely went for my medical follow-up appointments, and neither did I plan to start any aggressive chemotherapy. I wanted to bid farewell under the most natural of situations, and he too understood my wishes. Hence, no matter what decision I made, he would silently give his agreement.

Xiao Huan was a strong man, and whenever I was with him, an inexplicable sense of courage would bubble in me.

Days passed by slowly just like this. I gradually grew accustomed to my frailty. Occasionally, I would suddenly lose my sense of hearing, my vision would blur, my body would become hemiplegic [2] and my consciousness would fluctuate and wane. I no longer found this frightening, because every time I regained my consciousness, I would already be in his arms.

At this point, I was willing to say my goodbyes.

1st October, the National Day holidays. [3]

Xiao Bei visited me while propping up a bulging belly. Mr Mei obviously came along as well. The four of us went to ‘Leaf’ to have a meal.

At the table, Xiao’s handphone buzzed continuously as a stream of text messages came In one after the other.

“Who is it?” Xiao Bei asked. Then, she tapped me and said, “Si Ying, in the situation, you can ask him. You have this right, don’t be so guileless!”

Xiao turned his head to look at me. He smiled without saying a word.

Xiao Bei rapped the table impatiently. “Quick, ask him!”

My face flushed red and I lowered my head while nibbling my lips. I have never asked him about his personal matters before!

At this time, Xiao leaned towards me. I could feel the warmth of his body and instantly, I felt a sense of reassurance wash over me. Hence, I asked him in a soft voice, “Who is texting you?”

Xiao Huan chuckled loudly. He extended an arm and wrapped it around me.

“Nothing much! A senseless woman!” He said, before helping me pick some dishes out onto my plate.

“Who did you call a senseless woman!” Unexpectedly, a voice immediately responded to his words.

The four of us turned to look out of our partition. It was a beautiful woman, a woman who always upheld such unchanging beauty.

Luo Qing’s arms were folded as she stood right there, smiling coquettishly.

“I was referring to you!” Xiao replied, his expression haughty.

The moment I saw Luo Qing, I felt awkward. Hence, I immediately pushed Xiao Huan away and instinctively shifted slightly. Xiao Huan was stunned and stared blankly at me.

“When was I ever senseless. I’m merely greeting an old friend of mine, and yet you’re still as indifferent as before!” When Luo Qing walked over, she very naturally took a seat right between me and Xiao.

She lit a cigarette and looked at him. “I miss you, when will you come to find me again?”

At this time, Xiao Bei stood up. She picked up a glass of wine from the table and flung its contents all over her.  I watched as her lighted cigarette got extinguished, her eyes staring dumbfounded at Xiao Bei. Just as she was about to speak, Xiao Bei cut right in, “You motherf**ker, sitting between a married couple and openly trying to seduce someone else’s husband!”

Luo Qing tossed her cigarette aside and brushed her clothes, before turning to look at Xiao.

Xiao remained seated with an expression that seemed to be holding back his laughter. He didn’t say a word.

Xiao Bei continued to bellow, “You b**ch, f**k off!”

Luo Qing ignored Xiao Bei. She merely turned towards Xiao. “I am a senseless woman?” She asked.

Xiao took a sip of wine and replied, “Now, you are one!”

Luo Qing stood up and lit another cigarette before taking a puff. “Xiao, I have only won you once. But you’ve already repaid me with countless successes.” After she said this, she glanced at me before whispering, “So, when will be the next time?”

Xiao Bei pulled me behind her and glared hatefully at the pair. She enunciated each word clearly, “The both of you really disgust me!”

Xiao smiled without a care. He lifted his head to look at me. “Si Ying, wait for me in the car! I’ll come out soon.”

I nodded my head.

However, Xiao Bei held me in place. “On what basis? Si Ying, we shall sit here and wait. Let’s see what they’re up to!”

I tugged at Xiao Bei. “I’m begging you, let’s go!”

Xiao Bei glared repulsively at Luo Qing, before leaving with me.

I sat in the car and rolled down the tan car windows, staring at the occasional leaf that fell from the parasol trees lining the streets.

“Are you tired?” Xiao Bei sat at my side and dabbed away the sweat on my face.

Originally, the four of us had made plans to go out and have fun together. Because a long time had passed, Mr Mei had to leave to send Xiao Bei to the hospital as she was approaching labour. And I didn’t know where I would be.

“Xiao Bei, I picked this out with Xiao. They’re for the twins, please take it!” I fished out an embroidered purse crafted out of real silk. Auspicious intricacies were stitched onto its surface with gold thread. Xiao Bei received it and opened it to have a look. Two golden figurines were inside, each wearing a red romper – One girl, one boy.

“It’s so heavy!” Xiao Bei picked up the two figurines and said. “They’re so heavy! If Xiao Huan doesn’t appear in the next three minutes, I would take this pair of figurines and knock a giant hole in their heads.”

I laughed. Xiao Bei has always been this adorable.

Fortunately, Xiao Huan came out not long later. Luo Qing followed right behind him, she tugged at him and then fished out a cigarette. Xiao laughed and stretched out an arm to help her light her cigarette. She glanced at him before putting on her sunglasses and leaving without looking back.

Xiao Huan brushed his clothes and walked in our direction.

The moment Xiao Bei caught sight of him, she exclaimed, “Do you have a conscience? You actually had the guts to ask your wife to wait outside!”

Xiao only looked at me. He said, “You must be tired, let’s head home!”

I nodded my head.

On the road, Xiao Huan remained silent for a very long time. I felt as though he was waiting for me to open my mouth and ask him. But as always, I failed to meet his expectations. I didn’t ask.

The car drove along the expressway at high speed. The scenery around us had become a colourful blur, and it felt like we were charging onwards into a different dimension. As long as I closed my eyes, we would be the only ones left in this world.

“You’re still not going to ask me?”

After a long time, Xiao Huan lowered to volume of the car speakers and the agonising and depressing violin solo came to an abrupt pause. I heard him ask me.

I don’t know why, but the moment I heard these words, an inexplicable sweetness sprung out from the depths of my heart. He was hoping I would ask? In the past, he only wished that I was a mute. I closed my eyes, and the corner of my lips slipped into an involuntary smile.

“Pft! Look at this silly girl! At this rate, you have no prospects! [4]” He froze for a moment, but since he was so smart, he immediately knew what I was thinking. He laughed, the sound of his laughter was especially nice to hear. It was captivating, haughty and elegant all at the same time. Just like this, we laughed together. We would laugh for a while, take a break, and then the moment we recalled that moment, we would laugh again.

On the road back home, we passed by a lake. The October lake was extremely beautiful, especially at sunset. The rays of the setting sun dyed the expanse red as it glistened on the water surface. As we drove by the lakeside, he would slow down. The colourful streams of light would reflect into our car, casting dancing strands on our figures.

Xiao parked the car and we strolled along the lake.

“You’re still laughing!” He looked at me.

The more he mentioned it, the more I felt like laughing. Why was it difficult to hold back my laughter!

We walked to a secluded place where there was no one else. He hugged me, and as he held me, we admired the rippling lake and tottered on. He plastered his face onto mine, and after taking a few deep breaths, he said, “Even one line like this can make you happy. What was I doing in the past?”

Our faces appeared red as they stuck closely to one another. I loved the smell of tobacco from his mouth, and the refreshing smell of his cologne on his clothes.

“Si Ying, all these years, I never told you anything about the life I lived outside. I never told you, and you never asked. You don’t know anything, and you also didn’t want to know anything. Hence, I was unable to put my heart where you were. I yearned for that adrenaline rush. Luo Qing, or other women – Those that were pretty, smart, poisonous, or even those innocent and sprightly ones, whenever I was with them, I would feel relaxed. That is called ‘pleasure seeking’. Do you understand? I was really happy!”

We looked at the lake. The rippling waters were still as splendid as before.

“But, after the happiness subsided, I would feel empty. I could spend the entire day, or the entire month admiring the intelligence and arrogance of those women, and I could give them space to exhibit their charms with me. I was even subdued by their enticements. But such would never last forever. I would never consider marriage with any of them, and I would never consider leaving you…”

He locked me in his arms.

“I once believed that love required some form of balance. A balance of capabilities, a balance of intelligence. Because love that could not command mutual appreciation would never be able to last. Take me and Luo Qing as an example. We are all arrogance people who believe that we have the universe in our grasp. We like playing each other, and even give credit to cunning tricks we pull on each other. We make fun of the world, and are addicted to the lonely feeling of standing at the highest peak. But Si Ying, did you know? Every time I see you, I regret. I regret my stupid persistence. I truly regret, do you believe me?”

I shook my head, still in his arms.


[1] Parasol tree: Also known as the ‘Chinese parasol tree’, native to Asia.

[2] Hemiplegic: When half of your body is paralysed, in this case, most likely due to a transient ischemic attack.
[3] Also known as the ‘Golden Week’, a weeklong holiday period celebrating the National Day of China.
[4] In this case, Xiao meant it as a joke. Ironically, it’s true that Si Ying has no prospects (she’s literally dying), which is the crux of the joke, albeit a rather bad one.

 


Falling Leaves Without Trace

Falling Leaves Without Trace

叶落无痕, 我心盈盈
Score 7.2
Status: Completed Type: Author: Artist: Released: 2006 Native Language: Chinese
The leaves have fallen and I know spring will return again soon. Then, it will no longer be my season.The array of the setting sun filters through the window bravely, Rosy clouds coalesce to form an extraordinary orbit — They say, after a person dies, their spirit would pass by, And have a final glimpse of the world they’ve left behind…—On the 5th of March 2002, he wore a white shirt with tattered sleeves and a pair of old, ash grey trousers as he came running into my home. It was evening and rays from the setting sun filtered through the window at an oblique angle, casting dark shadows on his left cheek. He stood ferociously before my family’s dining table. My father and I were in the middle of eating when he suddenly bellowed, “Let’s get married!”That day, he received a stern beating from my father. He didn’t retaliate and was beaten black and blue, his face all swollen.That year, I was 21, and without any hesitation, I married him.Because when he looked at me, nothing else mattered. It was as though he was drowning, and only I could save him.

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