Is it odd that even though the disciplining arm of the school finally catches up to this, uh, non-couple, it remains one of the more light-hearted scenes in the book? How our two leads react in such a situation is completely in line with their individual character … which means silence, silence and more silence on Yun Jin’s part. I swear I’ve never spelt silence/quiet with such irritation before.
Senior high was an age of sensitivity, especially for teenagers surrounded by couplings all around. They weren’t the awkward adolescents anymore but they were far from the maturity the university students possessed. For these 17, 18 year olds, no one was spared from crushes. Once it was revealed however, no one can avoid the horrible fate of being the latest sensational gossip.
In Form 3 (3)’s Science class, news of Cheng Zheng and Su Yun Jin spread at an incredible speed. It became the latest topic on everyone’s lips and was brought up repeatedly in idle time.
At first, many expressed doubts that the smart, athletic, handsome Cheng Zheng who usually wanted nothing to do with the female gender would be involved with Yun Jin who was so much a wallflower that people had trouble coming up with her name.
But with eyewitness accounts of what had happened on the soccer pitch, the past interactions they had where he treated her with special care seemed to line up. All the times he had seemed irritated by her presence previously were now seen as the consequence of a lovers’ tiff.
Despite the rumour mill churning and all the underground gossiping raging around them, the two protagonists seemed unmoved by the flurry. Cheng Zheng went about his daily schedule as per usual, focusing only on what he wanted to do when he felt like doing it. If anyone mentioned it, he would shoot a sharp look of mind-your-own-business. Similarly, the usual low-key Su Yun Jin was indifferent to all the rumours that reached her ears. Neither of them did anything to address the swirling talk and they also did not speak to each other from that incident forth.
Finally, Zhou Zi Yi couldn’t contain it any further. One day when no one was around he cornered Cheng Zheng before asking hesitantly “Hey, everyone says you have a thing for that ‘little miss’. Don’t .. It’s not true right?”
“What ‘little miss’? Don’t spout nonsense.”
“Hey, are you defending her! Ah Zheng, you couldn’t really have fallen for her could you?”
“So what if I did! She doesn’t even feel the same way about me.” Cheng Zheng replied melancholically.
Zhou Zi Yi studied Cheng Zheng’s low-spirited expression carefully and after deciding that he was neither joking nor being sarcastic said “I say, Ah Zheng, this isn’t all because of that silly sanitary pad incident right? You and her, it’s just …”
“Don’t be ridiculous. You’re the one hung up on that. What about me and her? Oh yes …” Cheng Zheng suddenly recalled and looked at Zi Yi in askance “That day, why was she looking at you?”
“Oh my God, how the hell should I know? I’ve never even spoken to her all my life, not even a word. Not everyone has .. such unique taste as you do. But since you mention it, it must be that she thinks I’m better-looking than you.”
“Pffft” Cheng Zheng rolled his eyes at the narcissistic fellow and was about to walk away with a can’t-be-bothered with-you expression on his face. Zhou Zi Yi added deviously “Poor Meng Xue. Knowing that you’ve fallen for that country bumpkin, how devastated she must be.”
Cheng Zheng turned back and warned “Don’t stir nonsense.”
“You can ignore Meng Xue, but what about Old Sun? You can’t ignore his opinion. Everyone’s talking about you and Yun Jin. It’s not possible that he hasn’t heard yet.”
This observation was true though. Old Sun was their form teacher and his name was tacked on with an ‘Old’ in front by the batch. He wasn’t particularly old and had only been teaching for five years after graduating with a teaching degree. He mostly left the disciplining to their Biology teacher. Old Sun was a bachelor and after lessons, would often hang out with the boys to unwind and even participated in their soccer friendlies as an equal. But as a teacher, especially their form teacher, he would definitely not approve of young love.
“Just shut up.” Cheng Zheng’s heart sank even further.
That evening during self-revision sessions, when he saw Su Yun Jin getting called out of class to have a private conversation with Old Sun and returning even paler than usual, he knew that Zhou Zi Yi’s unfancied foretelling was being fulfilled. He wasn’t scared of having such a conversation with Old Sun himself but he wished that she was spared. Ever since that day, she treated him as invisible. Now, she would only hate him even more.
As expected, Yun Jin had not returned to her seat for more than a minute when Cheng Zheng was called out of class by Old Sun as well. Old Sun led him to a nearby artificial mound for the interrogation. Cheng Zheng stood up straight and jammed both hands into his trouser pockets, preparing for the worse and waited expectantly for Old Sun to begin. Old Sun stared at his manner and felt a surge of frustration. A wonderful top student who was diligent and self-disciplined, never warranting any attention from the teachers, why did he lose focus with only a month to spare to the national examinations?
Old Sun cleared his throat and settled on an appropriate opening “Tell me what’s been going on between you and classmate Su Yun Jin?”
“Mr Sun, are you asking me to explain or is this a rhetorical question? If it’s rhetorical then I have nothing to say.”
Old Sun snapped back “Whatever it is, just tell me honestly, do the rumours about you and Su Yun Jin being in love have any basis to it? If not…”
“It’s true.” Cheng Zheng interrupted him calmly.
Old Sun nearly collapsed in anger. He crooked a finger at this student who was almost half-a-head taller than he was and demanded “Why?! Don’t you know it’s against the school rules to have a campus romance? This would affect your academic performance and your future do you not understand?”
“I’m also not sure why. Sir, do you know?”
Staring at Cheng Zheng’s sincere face of askance, Old Sun forced himself to take in deep breaths “Do you grasp the gravity of the matter?”
Cheng Zheng innocently replied “I have always treated this matter respectfully.”
Old Sun looked up at the heavens. Although he did not have years of teaching under his belt, he had previously encountered quite a few campus romances. When they were called out to talk, some readily denied it, others were embarrassed beyond words, but there was no one like the two of them today.
When that Su Yun Jin was called out, it began normally at first. He had yet to say a word and she was already beetroot and pressing her lips into a thin line, a perfect picture of regret. But slowly, he discerned that something was off. No matter how he expounded on the consequences and negative facets of young love or how he showered her with rationale, the lips never relaxed once. She remained silent throughout and her expression didn’t even change until even he felt stupid for talking to himself. It was only then that he released her back to class. Now this topped even that experience. Cheng Zheng may be answering and asking questions in turn, but Old Sun no longer had the heart to lecture him.
“Ah Zheng, with your qualities, you can get any girl you want in university. Why must you be overeager now?” Old Sun sighed in exasperation.
Cheng Zheng wallowed in momentary silence. Old Sun continued “At your age, infatuation is pretty common …”
“But I’m at a loss while she’s unaffected. Is this normal?”
“You mean to say Su Yun Jin has no interest in you whatsoever?”
“Sir, when you spoke to her just now, what did she say?”
“She didn’t say anything.”
“Not even a denial?” Cheng Zheng’s eye flashed with hope!
Old Sun stroked his chin “Denial? Nope she didn’t … Hey hey now wait a minute…” He finally realised his blunder “What is this? I’m telling you the cons of being in a relationship now. I’m not here to be your love consultant.”
“But let’s be honest here. Sir, what do you think of her?” Cheng Zheng was relentless.
“Hmm this Su Yun Jin. Well she’s not particularly outstanding but on closer inspection she does have good looking features .. Okay that’s enough Cheng Zheng, go back to class this instant!” Tonight, he was no match for these two.
Cheng Zheng relaxed and obediently headed back to class. He suddenly stopped with an air of defeat and said “Don’t worry sir. I know what I’m doing. The examinations, I’ll do my best.”