I’m a huge sucker for meet-cutes. Some may be incredibly romantic, others simple and casual. Whatever form they take, I always take special note of it because it sets future events in motion. And while saving-a-damsel-in-distress is predictably common, distressing-the-damsel surely isn’t.
Our male protagonist Cheng Zheng makes a proper entrance in this chapter though regrettably he doesn’t make a grand, gallant one. But character growth is always essential to plot development so let’s be patient with our young lad shall we?
“Would it kill you to be gentler?”
When Yun Jin pushed her chair backwards, it had connected with the desk behind her and a boy behind grumbled in annoyance. Knowing that her actions had disturbed her classmate, she immediately sat up straight and apologized softly without turning her head back.
However, the boy had no intention of letting the matter rest so easily. Taking full advantage of his tall height, he rose out of his chair and snuck a glance at Yun Jin’s Chemistry practice questions laid out on her desk and said with a haughty air, “I wondered what could have provoked you, could it be a failed relationship? Turns out, it’s just a question that stumps you.” Having said that, he bent over Yun Jin again and said “Let me take a look. Ha! How can you not know how to answer this? You can’t be serious, come on!”
Yun Jin was embarrassed and annoyed. Still she maintained her silence as she consciously leaned away from his overarching head to keep a distance. However, that awful boy appeared fixated on giving her a hard time as he teased her relentlessly in a loud voice that drew the attention of classmates in their vicinity.
“Su Yun Jin, what’s your brain good for then? This is a whole new level of stupidity.” Su Yun Jin could not maintain her composure any longer as his words wounded her. She was extra sensitive of her grades.
She turned around in an instant with a face filled with indignant rage. She glared hatefully at that person. The antagonizer sat back in his chair leisurely and tilted his chin to meet her eyes with an defiant expression that was just begging to be punched. It was as if he was silently challenging her “What are you going to do about it?”
If looks could kill, Yun Jin’s death glares would have pierced his body multiple times over and each one at a lethal spot but she had no such luck in reality. She balled up her fist behind her back silently and forced herself to take deep breaths. She then slowly turned her head back, bowed her head and pretended to be deep in thought over the unsolved question.
He guessed right, she really didn’t dare rebut him and she certainly didn’t want to draw attention to herself by escalating the matter.
Cheng Zheng, you annoying fellow. Yun Jin had lost count of the number of times she had fantasized about shredding his dignity in front of all their peers.
Sitting in front of him was the worst mistake she had ever made and she kicked herself over it frequently. It all began as the second semester of year three commenced. The time required for the teacher to be physically present in class to teach was significantly decreased as students increasingly spent their time on self-revision. Hence, their young teacher-in-charge decided to change the seating plan according to the students’ wishes. Naturally, those who were chummier and had more things in common would group up and choose to sit in the same area. Since she wasn’t particularly close to anyone, Yun Jin let her peers choose their seats first before finally settling on one of the unoccupied ones.
When it was her turn to choose, there was not many seats left and most of them were at the back. She did not like to gather with students who were excessively noisy so she chose to sit beside Song Ming. He was an introverted short boy with myopia. For a Science stream student, his command of the English language was surprisingly excellent.
Sitting directly behind her was the “reason” why girls watched the nightly Sports news punctually and faithfully. The only reason why Yun Jin dared to sit in front of him was although he was often enveloped in the endless chattering of girls, he was not a noisy person himself. At the very least, he was described by most as frequently oscillating between active and passive moods. On the sporting ground, he was aggressive and superior. Yet when it came to studies, he was quiet and focused and his results were excellent. Although he had the aloofness of a top student, he was basically the sort who wouldn’t bother you unless one upsets him.
Having taken this into consideration, Yun Jin happily claimed that fateful seat as hers. In fact, while she was unpacking, she stole glances out of her peripheral vision to check everyone’s reaction. Song Ming merely glanced at her wordlessly. That guy behind her did not even react or acknowledged her existence. This was perfect for Yun Jin as she sighed with relief and took out her study material.
At that moment, a boy’s voice chimed in “Ah Zheng, don’t you dislike it when girls sit in front of you?”
Yun Jin stared blankly in the direction of the voice, at a boy named Zhou Zi Yi. He who was one of the few tight buddies Cheng Zheng had. Yun Jin had yet to react when she heard Cheng Zheng spit out “She’s considered a girl?” as he continued to pour over his practice book.
She stared at Cheng Zheng at the same time as he raised his head to glance at her. Now, Yu Jin was certain that he was talking about her.
Was this the kind of thing a model student would say? Yun Jin was perplexed and simply could not recall any incident where she might have upset this boy of few words.
“What do you mean?” She turned and faced him.
“What what do you mean?” He looked up at her innocently.
“Who were you referring to when you said she doesn’t count as a girl?”
“I was talking about you. Why? Do you need proof?”
Quite a few boys laughed deviously.
Yun Jin was burning with rage! It was the first time she felt acutely that a person’s image and his character could be worlds apart. This handsome face ignited so much hatred in her in an instant. The majority of the classmates who were tidying their new desks all turned and looked in her direction, eagerly awaiting what happened next. The boring, mundane life of a year three student lacked this kind of excitement but Yun Jin had no wish to be the lead in such a show. She hated being teased and hated even more being the centre of attention.
Forget it, she consoled herself, just take it as having been bitten by a rabid dog. She coldly turned her body and ignored him completely.
“Hey Su Yun Jin …” Someone simply could not accept her peaceable manner of dealing with things. “Why are you named Su Yun Jin? Is it the same Yun as pregnancy?” (*Su Yun Jin’s name is written 苏韵锦. However, 韵 which means harmonious and rhythmic, is a homonym to 孕 which means pregnant.)
Once again, there was a flurry of laughter. Yun Jin felt she was going insane! She was so used to being a wallflower in class and was happy to be relegated to the background. But the more you tried to avoid something, the more you had to confront it face-on as was happening right then.
Yun Jin stood up straight and looked down at him. “Cheng Zheng have I offended you before?”
By now, her eyes were red rimmed and she was trying hard to control her shaking voice. She was determined not to let the floodgates burst their teary banks.
“Oh no, Ah Zheng, you made our ‘little miss’ here cry.” Zhou Zi Yi yelled excitedly in his corner as he actively fanned the flames.
Hearing that, Cheng Zheng also stood up and bent his body forward ever so slightly. He studied her face carefully “Are you really crying?”
His expression was quite serious, as if whether she cried or not was very important to him.
Yun Jin could not figure out how a person can be so perverted, deliberately treated other people’s misery as entertainment.
“I will not cry over the likes of you.” Yun Jin fled the classroom and pretended not to hear the excited twittering from behind her.
From that moment on, Cheng Zheng and her established a feud. She had tried to swap her unfortunate seating but she could not bring herself to seek out the teacher over such an incident. She could only look forward to the next time they had another opportunity to change seats.
Yun Jin just didn’t understand. Cheng Zheng was not one to raise a ruckus so why was he so cruel only towards her and create trouble without cause?
The phrase “only towards her” would appear to suggest feelings of infatuation but Yun Jin was not so naïve as to think that Cheng Zheng felt that way towards her. She didn’t like reading romance novels, and she especially hated bad-boy characters who teased those they liked. The disgust Cheng Zheng had for her emanated from him in waves and could not be interpreted any other way. If a person were to try to convince her that this was how a boy was trying to show that he cared for her, Yun Jin would have thought that person was mental!
Luckily, no one even came close to such an abstract interpretation of their special relationship. “Special” was an understatement, he clearly hated her.
In that manner, three months of sitting on pins and needles passed. Everyday, other than feeling vexed over her revision, she also had to brace herself for whatever mischief he had up his sleeves to torture her.
She hated the stench that came from behind her when he returned from soccer and would scrunch up her nose in disgust when he deliberately tried to get close.
She hated when he stuck his long legs past the boundaries of his desk during lessons and rest them on her chair legs. He would also frustratingly rock himself such that her chair would wobble in tempo and she would get motion sickness.
She hated that he viewed disturbing her as natural yet when she troubled him just a pip, just like when she backed up her chair into his desk, he would react so aggressively and disproportionately to her crime.
How she hated him and his cronies calling her ‘little miss’, as though their being born in the city made them of a higher station in life than her. She especially hated his haughtiness when he mocked her “Su Yun Jin, you don’t even know this?”
Of course, Yun Jin knew that the best method of dealing with such people was to pretend they did not exist and treat their every prank with nonchalance.
She was no pushover but she did not want unnecessary trouble.