Zhang Qingling slept soundly until the middle of the night. In a daze, she felt the wind blowing on her face. She was woken up by the night wind. Frowning, she opened her eyes and saw the raised curtains of the French window. The glass door was open ajar, and there stood a man who was reaching out to close the door.
Zhang Qingling was taken aback. She quickly got herself together and pretended to be calm as she sat straight up on her bed. “Who are you?” She asked while one of her hands secretly fumbled on the bedside table next to her, trying to find some tools to defend herself. Her eyes were fixed on the blurred figure.
The man smiled gently. After he had closed the door to prevent the chilly night wind from blowing in any further, he raised both his hands up and stood by the door to show his harmlessness. “We meet again, Qingling.”
Zhang Qingling was sure that she wasn’t familiar with this man at all. He didn’t look like a robber who’s breaking into someone’s house… but who knows? After all, one cannot judge someone by their appearance. Maybe this man was here planning to do something with her? Although she was twenty-seven this year, in any case… she was also a female, and meeting such perverts would be scary for anyone.1
The longer she looked at the blurred figure, the clearer it became. Zhang Qingling got hold of the fruit knife that she used to peel the apples before going to bed. Finally finding a tool for self-defense, she felt a bit safer and gained some courage in her heart.
At the very moment, only the sigh of the man was heard in the quiet room. “Qingling put down the fruit knife. You wouldn’t want to hurt your hand in such a dark room.”
Zhang Qingling was startled, the edge of the knife managed to scratch her hand a bit. If it wasn’t for the man’s surprisingly quick speed to hold up her hand from it getting cut any further then, there might have been a puddle of blood and quite the wound on her hand.
“Fortunately, there was no bleeding this time,” the strange man who was standing by the bed, grabbed her hand and carefully looked at her hand before he said with a sigh of relief. Zhang Qingling was still immersed in her thoughts of the man’s extremely fast speed. Quickly returning back to her senses, she immediately shook off his hands and backed away. But she forgot that her single bed was not wide, so when she backed off to the other side of the bed, she lost her balance and fell off. The glass that was next to her also fell down and now there were broken glasses lying on the floor. As soon as she yelled internally about what terrible luck she had, instead of the painful feeling she thought of, she fell into a warm embrace.
“Don’t be afraid, I won’t hurt you.” The man who was just on the other side of the bed seemed to have come behind her in the blink of an eye and was now holding her from falling down. Holy sh*t, were humans supposed to have such speed?! Zhang Qingling was somewhat frightened. Could it be that she… met a ghost?!! Or was she actually just dreaming?
The dumbfounded Zhang Qingling remained still as she allowed the man to gently carry her back to bed. She watched as the man covered her with the quilt as if he had done this a million times. “Sleep well, don’t you have to go to work tomorrow.” Sitting at the bedside, the man spoke in a doting tone as he turned on the bedside lamp. The dim light allowed Zhang Qingling to clearly make out the face of the man in front of her. A feeling of strangeness and familiarity immediately filled her heart.
“Don’t turn off all the lights if you’re afraid, just leave at least one on.” The man looked to be about twenty-two or twenty-three. He had this gentle smile and seemed to be a good-natured person who is always friendly and easy to talk to2老好人 [Lao hao ren] which is a term used for a person who always tries to not offend anyone.. He got up and went around the house as if he had been there countless times and found the broom, he swept the shards of glass she had broken into the shovel.
Zhang Qingling laid stiffly on the bed, watching the familiar movements of the strange man. She concluded that she was definitely dreaming and she just needed to verify that one last time to ensure that this was merely a pipe dream… or not. Peeking at the man who was carefully sweeping the floor, Zhang Qingling sneakily got up and walked towards the toilet as though she was sleepwalking. She must be definitely dreaming, otherwise, how could such a man who looks familiar but yet feel so unfamiliar appear in her room in the middle of the night or even walk around like he had been here numerous times! Like, she considered herself to be pure-hearted with limited desires and doesn’t indulge herself in such passions. She didn’t believe she had reached the point where she was so hungry to see a man in her dream.
“Remember to wear slippers when you go to the toilet.”
Zhang Qingling heard the man heave a sigh with a hint of helplessness while he told her in a doting tone. Then, she felt her feet leave the ground: the man had picked her up and placed her on the bed to sit.
The man skillfully took out the pair of slippers she liked from her cabinet, accurately took out the towel she usually used to wipe her feet with, then walked back and squatted in front of her to wipe her feet and put on the fluffy slippers. While doing so, he had also put a loose coat over her shoulders. “The slippers you used before got wet. I will wash them for you tomorrow so just wear these for now. I recall you being fond of these very much. All right then, go ahead.”
Zhang Qingling’s mind still couldn’t process her thoughts. She rigidly walked to the toilet.
Now, only the man was left inside the room. He stood there with an expression as if he was recalling a fond memory; the nostalgia, then the sadness, and yet a hint of joy still lingering around. His eyes conveyed thousands of heartfelt feelings which eventually turned into affection.
“I’ve come, Qingling. In this lifetime too, please be happy until you grow old.”