Admittedly yesterday’s chapter came as a shock even to me when I first read it but colour me equal parts horrified and intrigued to find out what happens next. While I cannot condone what Cheng Zheng did, I’m too invested in this story to turn away. For those who’ve stuck around despite the hero being gasp an imperfect human, I hope just as much that Cheng Zheng will redeem himself. He’s lucky he’s fictional.
After Cheng Zheng had washed up in the toilet, he walked out to find Yun Jin dabbing hard at her trouser stain with a troubled expression on her face.
“Stop rubbing it. You’ve been at it for over ten minutes. Any more and your pants will tear.” He came to sit beside her.
Yun Jin ignored him and turned her back on him as she continued to dab relentlessly. The thought of it was so vile that she started to despise herself for getting into such a situation.
“I didn’t do it on purpose.” He felt a little embarrassed. “You hit me really hard by the way.”
“I wish I could beat you to death.” Yun Jin spoke through gritted teeth.
“Don’t you feel a teensy sorry for hurting me?” Cheng Zheng grabbed Yun Jin’s hand and placed it on his cheek “Feel it. It’s really swollen right!”
Yun Jin’s expression remained frosty; she refused to joke around anymore.
Cheng Zheng was nervous on seeing her reaction. He was almost afraid that the hand he was grasping would slap him across his face once again. When this woman put her mind to it, there was nothing she was incapable of. He certainly didn’t want to be on the receiving end again.
Seeing that she steadfastly ignored him, he continued “Aye, so are you and Shen Ju An truly done? I knew it right from the start. Hey have you lost your tongue? I hate it when you remain quiet.”
Yun Jin tossed the tissue in her hand and stood up abruptly. “I don’t want your affections.”
“Then whose do you want? Shen Ju An? I’m afraid he’s not as devoted as you think him to be.” Cheng Zheng followed her in standing up.
Yun Jin laughed coldly “Even if he’s not in the picture, I would still not consider you.”
Cheng Zheng was provoked “I just don’t get it! How am I not good enough for you?”
“With your temper, there is no …” Yun Jin stopped herself mid-sentence. “Forget it. You don’t have to change because you’re you and I’m me. There’s no need to change for the other.” She headed for the door.
“What’s wrong with my temper? At least I’m not like you who don’t mean what you say.” Cheng Zheng stood his ground and retorted.
Yun Jin sighed “You should return where you came from.” Without waiting for his response, she left.
“Yeah leave!” His voice trailed behind her.
Cheng Zheng flew off that night but Yun Jin did not send him off.
When the hostel lights had long gone out, Yun Jin received a call from Cheng Zheng. Set in a noisy background, his voice was faint. “… If I said I would change, would you admit that you have some feelings for me? Would you?”
Yun Jin clutched the receiver in the dark and ignored his relentless questioning.
“Would you? Would you? …”
The speed at which Yun Jin’s and Shen Ju An’s romance had blossomed and subsequently fizzled out was a shock to everyone. But it was hard for a graduating student to maintain a relationship anyway, they weren’t the only couple to have such an outcome. Since both of them kept their silence on the issue, no one gave it further thought.
Yun Jin’s heart was empty although she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. She was not exactly heartbroken. When she had first seen him after their break-up, she felt more awkward than sad. On the other hand, Shen Ju An had greeted her cheerily “Yun Jin, it’s been a while since we’ve met. How are you?”
Yun Jin had lowered her gaze and mumbled an excuse to take her leave.
“I thought we could still be friends.” He smiled as he looked at her.
On seeing his sincere and warm smile, Yun Jin had chided herself for being so petty and immediately smiled in return.
Yun Jin’s sophomore year in university ended with the graduation of Shen Ju An. During the vacation, she had initially planned to follow Mo Yu Hua’s lead in staying on campus and taking on more odd jobs. However, her mother called and summoned her home. She had wanted to find out more over the phone but her mother avoided her questions and said they would talk more when they met.
So Yun Jin took an almost twenty-hours long train ride back home. She was worried that something bad had happened. The moment she set her luggage down at home, she started to interrogate her mother. But her mother was unusually evasive and an unexpected blush coloured her cheeks.
Yun Jin knew instinctively. When her mother approached the clothing factory to find a job, the boss had interviewed her and discovered her background as an accountant so he sent her to the finance arm of the company. As the days passed, she and the boss fell for each other. The boss of the clothing factory was a year younger than her mother and was a divorcee with a daughter. He had recently broached the topic of marriage and this was the sole reason her mother had called her back urgently.
Seeing her mother’s expectant and anxious face, Yun Jin knew she had no right to stand in the way of her mother’s happiness. Her mother was already over forty, such chances would be hard to come by again. She hugged her nervous mother and said “I know daddy would want you to be happy, as do I.”
Her mother’s eyes glistened but this time it was due to joy.
That night, Yun Jin lay in bed alone. A sorrowful feeling of loneliness was gnawing at her. Her mother finding her second happiness meant that she belonged to another family now and Yun Jin would be all alone. She had hoped of building a future with Shen Ju An but unfortunately, she simply did not have the fortune of spending the rest of her life with such an outstanding man.
At her mother’s arrangement, Yun Jin met the guy a few times. He was on the opposite spectrum as her father. Her father looked frail but refine whereas he looked honest but ordinary. In fact, he appeared older than his age. He didn’t seem to have had much of an education but she could tell he was very considerate towards her mother and that was all Yun Jin asked for. Yun Jin went along with her mother’s wishes and greeted him as uncle. He had rubbed his hands and was so happy that his smile reached from ear to ear.
Now that Yun Jin had given her blessings, there was nothing else in the way of the couple and so the matrimonial preparations went underway. Originally, her mother intended to make it a simple affair with a straightforward solemnization at the city hall but he had insisted on giving her a ceremony however simple it may be. Regarding this point, Yun Jin was of one mind with him. Thus, she assisted her mother in the busy preparations.
Two days before the wedding, Yun Jin and her mother were returning home with bags and bags of stuff when their neighbour called out with a huge smile on her face “Yun Jin! Look who’s here.”
Just as she was wrapping her head around the fact that someone had come to see her, a familiar figure walked out of her neighbour’s place.
Yun Jin sighed “What are you doing here?”
“To see you of course.” He smiled and replied matter-of-factly.
“Oh Yun Jin, that’s not the way to treat your boyfriend! You should have been home to receive him; he’s been waiting for you the entire morning.”
“That’s a small matter aunty. It’s only right that I should wait for her. Besides, if it weren’t for her coming back late, how would I have the opportunity to drink such fine tea at your place?”
Her neighbor was pleased at the compliment and smiled widely.
Yun Jin observed this ridiculous scene in silence. This fellow was getting out of hand! How did he manage to get the sternest neighbor in the entire block eating out of the palm of his hand? Her neighbor even called him an endearing “Ah Zheng” which sent shivers down her spine.
“Yun Jin, this is …?” Her mother hesitated as she studied Cheng Zheng carefully.
“Hello aunty! I’m Yun Jin’s … senior high classmate!” Cheng Zheng was quick to introduce himself. Although this was the truth, the sly hesitation in his words made it seem like he was hinting at something more between them.
Her neighbour laughed with mirth. “My, he’s shy isn’t he? I say, Mdm Su, your Yun Jin has really landed herself a good catch. Casting Ah Zheng’s good looks and temper aside, he’s also a brilliant student!”
Her mother’s eyes brightened at the mention. Cheng Zheng’s handsome features and good manners had already given her a wonderful first impression. With the welcoming news that he was also very smart, she would be a fool to reject such an ideal son-in-law.
If looks could kills, Cheng Zheng would have long been vaporized by Yun Jin’s glare. He smiled smugly back at her, all try causing a scene if you dare.
“Let’s talk at home.” Seeing the look on her mother’s face, she knew that the unspoken exchange between Cheng Zheng and her was misinterpreted as affectionate.
After Cheng Zheng had cheerily bid her nieghbour goodbye, she trudged home with him close behind.
Back home, just as she was pouring him some tea, her mother quickly maneuvered her into the kitchen. “Yun Jin, why haven’t you mention your boyfriend before?” her mother asked in a low voice.
Yun Jin rolled her eyes, “He’s already said he’s my senior high classmate.”
“Don’t you lie to me! Since when has a classmate ever travelled all this way to visit?” While her mother’s tone was harsh, it belied the satisfied smile on her face. “But this is also for the best. I always felt that I’ve let you down and was worried you’ll feel alone. Now that someone’s looking out for you, I can relax a little.” She continued.
Yun Jin remained silent. She initially wanted to deny and air her grievances with that awful fellow but after her mom’s heartfelt speech, she no longer had the heart to do so.
Walking back to the living room, she spied Cheng Zheng looking intently around him. Yun Jin set a cup of tea in front of him huffily and said “You’re so used to living in luxury; I bet you’ve never seen such a bare place.”
Cheng Zheng took a sip of tea and replied “I don’t find it bare. I’ve lived in a flat before you know, back when I was younger. Your house is really neat and tidy. I can tell aunty puts in a lot of effort.”
“Oh it’s nothing much.” Yun Jin’s mother was both happy and bashful. “You two sit here and chat, I’ll go make dinner.”
Once her mother disappeared into the kitchen, Yun Jin said firmly in a low voice “Okay, you’ve acted all you want. Will you please leave now?”
Cheng Zheng replied “Why … is your house plastered with those matrimonial decorations? Could it be that aunty knew I was coming and wants us to quickly consummate our marriage?”
If not for fear of attracting her mother’s attention, Yun Jin would have flung the hot tea at Cheng Zheng’s annoying face. Her jaw clenched “It’s for my mom. She’s getting married again.”
Although she had prepared herself for Cheng Zheng’s teasing, none came at all much to her surprise.
Her mother served dinner in no time and it was a more thoughtful fare than usual. She was even attentive to Cheng Zheng and continuously placed more food in his dish.
Yun Jin had no appetite. After a few mouthfuls she said to Cheng Zheng “You better hurry and eat. There’s only one bus back to the city; you’ll miss it if you take any longer.”
On hearing this, Cheng Zheng placed his chopsticks down and turned to aunty sincerely “Aunty, since I happen to be here, I was wondering if I could attend your wedding?” He quickly tucked his foot under his chair to avoid any indignant kicking.
Yun Jin’s mother blushed furiously and replied “You’re more than welcome to! We don’t have many relatives anyway so it would be nice to have you as a guest. I wouldn’t mind you staying here till the big day either except that our house is very plain. I’m afraid you won’t be used to it.”
“Of course not aunty! I like your house!” Cheng Zheng got what he asked for and was grinning like a Cheshire cat. When her mother was not paying attention, he stuck out his tongue at Yun Jin in triumph.