The senior high chapter of their lives finally draws to a close. Yun Jin knows where Cheng Zheng is headed, heck we all do, but what does she intend to do with this nugget of information?
P.S. Might I add that Cheng Zheng’s family is too adorable? Frankly, I’m sick of haughty, stuffy rich families so this is a welcome change.
Post-examination, the students had to estimate the marks they would attain and apply for university accordingly even before knowing their true performance. Thus, choosing a university was likened to a gamble; good grades were not enough, one needed luck to enter the university of his choice.
Cheng Zheng was indubitably a lucky chap. He topped the city in Physics and was second overall in the school’s Science cohort. In addition, his university of choice was his father’s alma mater thus his getting into Q University, the country’s top civil engineering university, came as no surprise to anyone. But even as he was surrounded by the hearty congratulations of his peers and tutors, he felt an emptiness inside.
He had learnt from Old Sun that although Su Yun Jin’s university application results had not emerged, with her poor performance, she could only make it to a second rate university. Moreover, her choices were varied and were literally scattered across the country with the only common factor being that all were far from Beijing.
Cheng Zheng knew what this implied. It didn’t matter which university accepted her; in the subsequent four years, they would be thousands of miles apart. He had already made clear to her where he intended to go… that and his feelings for her.
The night of their second kiss, he had been jubilant because he assumed his feelings were finally being reciprocated. Now he could see how laughably wrong he was.
He wanted to contact her so he asked everyone but no one knew her household number or address. Even the address listed for the receipt of the university application results was the school and not her home.
The entire summer, Cheng Zheng’s home had no lack of well-wishers or opportunists who seized this opportunity to fawn over him. This included his relatives and father’s colleagues, subordinates and clients. Everyone was proud of this good-looking boy’s achievements but only he was privy to how he truly felt in the dead of the night when sleep eluded him and he could only stare at the ceiling.
Before university commenced, there were two frequent visitors to the Cheng household – Zhou Zi Yi and Meng Xue. Since they were acquainted early on in life, Cheng Zheng didn’t dislike Meng Xue. On the contrary, he found her one of the easiest girls to get along with. Moreover, their two families were close so he was considerably polite to her whenever she visited.
Meng Xue had been accepted into a third rate Beijing university. With her grades, she could have easily qualified for a better university so Cheng Zheng was baffled that she was delighted with this arrangement. Meng Xue had explained that this way, she could be his companion in the subsequent four years. Cheng Zheng found it absurd; he wasn’t a kid or handicapped, why would he require a companion?
Whenever Meng Xue visited, she always brought news of Su Yun Jin although it was not known if it was intentional or otherwise. Yun Jin had been accepted into a second-rate university in G-city. She had returned home after the university entrance examinations and didn’t even attend the teacher appreciation ceremony that their senior high school hosted.
There was an instance when Meng Xue magically produced the Su household number. To her surprise, not only did Cheng Zheng refuse the sheet of paper, his temper flared and he showed Meng Xue the door while demanding to know why she wanted to give him that country bumpkin’s number.
Meng Xue was vexed. Although she didn’t take offense at his behaviour, she visited less often though she still called every other day.
When Cheng Zheng finally calmed down and reflected on his actions, he knew he had over-reacted. Ever since he received his university application result, he had been feeling down. He apologised to Meng Xue but subsequently refused all her other calls by getting his parents to inform her that he was out. However, soon even the housekeeper felt it was too awkward to repeat the blatant lie so Cheng Zheng said irritatedly “Tell her I’m dead and to stop bothering me.” His mother who had been listening in on the side was horrified and she chided him on his ill choice of words.
Cheng Zheng’s parents were busy people. One made his designing firm his second home while the other was always hurrying to different locations to settle business. Despite their schedule, as parents, they were still able to detect their son’s moodiness. One day when the three of them gathered for dinner, his mother Mdm Zhang Jin Yan probed “Did you and Meng Xue fight?”
Cheng Zheng replied huffily “Why do you keep linking us together?”
His father, Cheng Yan Sheng, spoke in his typical stern fashion “I suggest you busy yourself with affairs of the heart only after you’ve completed your studies. At this age, you should put all your focus on your studies. When I was your age, I was never like your generation dating for the sake of it.” He paused before ending off with “But then again, only Meng Xue can tolerate your hot temper.”
“I’ve already said it has nothing to do with her!” Cheng Zheng’s temper boiled as he slammed his bowl and chopsticks on the table. “If you were really so focused on your studies back then, who was it who duped a younger version of mommy to his side?”
Seeing that the head of the family was starting to get angry, Zhang Jin Yan quickly stepped in to moderate the conversation “Let’s talk it over nicely shall we? If it isn’t Meng Xue then who is the source of your vexation? Your dad and I are only being concerned. My precious boy has been outstanding since kindergarten; only girls chase after him and never the other way round…”
“Just stop probing. I’m fine. Stop hovering over me like I’m a nut job.” Cheng Zheng was an only child who was doted on and spoilt so unsurprisingly he had the air of a tyrant and often spoke his mind freely.
Zhang Jin Yan covered her mouth as she laughed “Is this about the girl you cut out from your graduation photo? Since you cut out her face, I can’t tell… Is she prettier than Meng Xue?”
Cheng Zheng’s face burned as he sputtered “Wha … Why did you touch my stuff? That’s an invasion of my privacy!”
“Is that considered invading your privacy? You didn’t even hide it but merely stuff it under your pillow case. A few days ago, the housekeeper’s back hurt so I changed your bedsheets in her place instead. At first I wondered about the identity of the two persons you bore a huge grudge against that you would go to the extent of cutting out their heads from the graduation photo. But on closer inspection, I realised one of the headless persons was my beloved son! Judging from the attire, the other was a girl. From the attached name list, she was a certain Su something Jin…”
Cheng Zheng’s face was like a traffic light as he changed from red to white in seconds. He couldn’t even speak as his words were stuck in his throat.
Zhang Jin Yan continued teasing “If you hate that person, why did you also cut your own head out? That’s kind of twisted my son… Hey you’ve not finished your dinner, don’t leave yet!”
Cheng Zheng’s door slammed shut. He unlocked his drawer and pulled out a small card – Su Yun Jin’s and his face were stuck on millimetres apart. His mother was right, even he felt a little weird for making it but he did not have any picture with her… Even in the graduation picture, her lips were firmly pressed together.
In all his eighteen years of existence, he had never experienced such loneliness as he did when he looked at the card in his hand. More than that, he felt as if there was a hole in his heart. He finally understood that there were some things in life you couldn’t keep by your side no matter how much you desired to grab onto it. It had all been his wishful thinking. Even that kiss that gave him so much joy was only her form of piteous goodbye.
That day she had said “This I return you”. Cheng Zheng buried his head in his pillow. Su Yun Jin, how will you ever repay me?
Meanwhile, Su Yun Jin was in a different circumstance altogether. After Cheng Zheng had already received his university admission results for half-a-month, she finally headed back to school to get her own result slip.
She had performed average. With her grades, she was lucky to have made it to a respectable second-rate university that majored in public relations. People were all surprised to discover that this timid girl had applied for such a degree. Truth be told, she was merely pushing her boundaries. She wanted a new beginning and hoped to emerge from it a different Su Yun Jin.
Raising the funds for her university fees did not go smoothly. After her father’s illness and death, the mother-daughter pair had already borrowed all they could from their relatives. Although the school’s donations had helped tide them through a period, no one was willing to loan them more money, what with her uncertain future and dim prospects. Fortunately, her senior high school contacted her university which then reviewed her family’s difficulties and allowed her to pay her school fees at a later date till after the school financial board had approved of her bursary application.
During the summer before university, Su Yun Jin worked hard at a textile factory threading pearls and managed to earn some income. Adding that to her mother’s savings, she was finally just able to enter university.
The night she departed, the mother-daughter pair hugged and teared. Her mother felt regretful that Yun Jin had to start off life with a huge debt while Yun Jin comforted her saying it was better to owe the bank interest than to owe people a debt of gratitude. She was only upset that living in a different city meant her mother would be all alone at home. But there was a thought that Yun Jin never voiced – daddy was no longer around but mommy was still relatively young. She shouldn’t have to spend the rest of her life alone. Yun Jin’s leaving was her only way of allowing her mother a chance to pursue her happiness.
In that moment, Yun Jin thought of Cheng Zheng, that privileged boy. In his perfect world, losing out on a girl he had feelings for could very well be the only setback he would ever face in life.
A bug born in summer was never supposed to experience the chill of winter. Similarly, he could never be a part of her world.