Yun Jin and Cheng Zheng finally have a heartfelt conversation. (She even says so herself!) But what would that lead to?
What does it feel like attending your own mother’s wedding? Naturally, many people wouldn’t know the answer to that.
The eve of the wedding, Yun Jin’s mother promptly fell asleep after a busy day of handling all the last minute tasks. But listening to her mother’s even breathing made Yun Jin more awake than ever.
As her room was loaned to Cheng Zheng, she had been bunking in with her mother the past two nights. Yun Jin dared not toss and turn for fear that she would awake her mother who was smiling even in her sleep.
After an agonizing period where she tried to will herself to sleep, she finally tip-toed out of bed and headed to the living room for water. It was only after the heat of the warm water diffused through the cup and warmed her palm that she felt she had a grip on something real in her life – a life that was about to change forever.
In a small neighbourhood like hers, even the street lights go to sleep at night and not a sound could be heard in the stillness of the night. In the dark, Yun Jin sat down lightly on her worn-out sofa. The darkness helped her imagine her father’s presence. Previously, the relationship that her mother and late father had was what she aspired towards in life but even that had changed. Could anything last in this world?
The door to Yun Jin’s room opened softly with a creak. Apparently, he couldn’t sleep as well. When Yun Jin’s eyes finally adjusted to the darkness, she saw Cheng Zheng beckoning her towards him. She mulled it over before placing her cup down and following him onto the small balcony.
Yun Jin studied his side profile quietly as she waited for him to speak first.
“You can’t sleep too?” he asked.
“What do you mean by ‘too’?” her only relative was marrying into a new family the next day and it didn’t involve Cheng Zheng so why should he have insomnia too?
He bowed his head and laughed before saying gently “Yun Jin I was turning in your bed while trying to fall asleep when I saw several strands of your hair. I thought to myself, yes this is indeed where you’ve slept previously. Even if you weren’t physically there, at least there’s traces of you left behind. I was actually quite happy.”
Su Yun Jin mumbled under her breath “It’s late. Did you seek me out to tell me such nonsense?”
Cheng Zheng leaned on the railings “When I was very young, my mother teased me ‘Ah Zheng, when you grow up, mommy will give you everything she owns’. I replied ‘But if you give me everything, what would happen to you?’ Mother continued with ‘By the time you’ve grown up, daddy and mommy would be very old. At that age, we have no need for anything.’ I persisted, ‘What’s the big deal about growing old?’ Mother said ‘We will die.’ At that instant, I had cried and begged. I said I wouldn’t grow up so they needn’t grow old or leave me behind. Mother was very helpless as she said ‘Regardless of your wishes, everyone will have to part one day.’ When I finally grew up, I realise my mother was right. The only person who would accompany you till the end of time would only be yourself but the scars of those you’ve met will forever be imprinted on your heart.”
“Can I take it that you’re comforting me?”
Cheng Zheng smiled at her innocent return, “I just can’t bear seeing you look like an abandoned puppy.”
“You don’t understand how I feel.” After had father had departed the world, her mother was her only kin. While she knew that her mother’s remarriage didn’t alter their blood ties, she would also not belong solely to her anymore or be associated with the family established by her dad.
“Su Yun Jin. Don’t be so dismissive. You’re not me so how would you know if I understand or not? You’re always going on about our differences and how we’re incompatible but no matter a person’s background, rich or modest, we’re all the same when it comes to wanting to be loved. Be fair to me.”
This was the first time in Yun Jin’s memory that she was able to have a calm heartfelt talk with him. Maybe she was weary, all the thoughts she had been suppressing bubbled to the top.
“What is fair Cheng Zheng? Why is it that because you like me I have to return your affections? I can neglect to mention whatever that happened in the past but why do you keep appearing? In school, at home? Why do you repeatedly disrupt my life! You’ve never once asked me if I wanted any of it. All you do is force your feelings on me. Is this what you call fair?”
No one had ever talked to Cheng Zheng in that manner. Since young, he was used to being the object of envy – a respectable family, good looks, excellent grades. There were only things he didn’t want, never things he couldn’t get. Thus, he had always thought it natural for him to get what he wanted.
“I thought you had at least a little love for me.”
“I’m just an ordinary person. For a boy of your calibre to like me, I may one day look back on this and feel very privileged. But it’s so hard for me right now. What I want is to be in love with an equal but you don’t even respect me. Ju An was right, I don’t dare love you. That day you asked me if there was any possibility between us if you changed your temper. My reply is you don’t have to change for me. You’re wonderful in your own way; it’s just that you’re not my type. If you were to get together with someone compatible, someone like Meng Xue or anyone else really, you would definitely be happy.”
“What nonsense!” Cheng Zheng laughed bitterly although his face was stiff. “What do you mean you don’t dare to love me? You’re just afraid of giving yourself to this relationship so you don’t want to try. You’re so selfish!”
Yun Jin nodded “You’re right; I am a selfish person by nature so I won’t try. I’m glad you know this.”
The ceremony was a simple but joyous affair. Friends and family of both sides all made it a point to attend and the venue was filled with a joyous atmosphere. No one sensed a young boy and girl growing further apart.
In his role as Yun Jin’s boyfriend, Cheng Zheng naturally won the compliments of the guests. But no one was more enamoured with him than Yun Jin’s eighty-year-old maternal great-grandmother who held tightly onto his hand and refused to let go. Throughout the ceremony, Cheng Zheng refused to interact with Yun Jin but concentrated on lapping up the atmosphere and praises. Who knew that the old lady would send for Yun Jin? Clasping their hands respectively in hers, she told Yun Jin repeatedly, “Ah Jin, this guy is not bad.”
Yun Jin didn’t know if she should laugh at the absurdity of it all or cry in indignation. The old lady had cataracts for a few years now and was unable to see anyone’s features, how would she know he was any good? So she knelt next to her and asked “Granny, tell me exactly which aspect of him is good?”
The matriarch replied benevolently “Isn’t he Chen Zhen? Chen Zhen is a good man, he helped Huo Yuan Jia defeat the Japanese …”
On hearing this, Yun Jin couldn’t help but burst into laughter. On the other hand, Cheng Zheng could only stare agape and was completely dumbfounded. Laughter aside, granny solemnly brought their two hands together and said “I’m old now and I don’t know how much longer I can live. If you two get married and I’m still around, you must personally come to inform me.”
Cheng Zheng looked over at Yun Jin who said nothing. Then, Yun Jin used her free hand to pat the old lady reassuringly on her arm and promised good-naturedly “Don’t worry granny, this I promise you.” Seeing the old lady break out into a wide smile, Yun Jin apologized internally I’m sorry granny. I’m afraid there’ll never be this day.
The day after the wedding, Cheng Zheng returned home. Not long after, Yun Jin returned to school as well. Her mother had naturally moved over to uncle’s place and Yun Jin had stayed there a couple of days.
His residence was far better than their simple flat and he was very warm and considerate towards Yun Jin although there was a hint of carefulness in his every action. Yun Jin sensed she was being subconsciously treated as a guest. Since she was a guest, then she should not outstay her welcome.
When her third year commenced, her young tutee also entered high school and no longer sought tuition from her. Both uncle and her mother objected to her applying for a school bursary and had insisted on paying for her living expenses and school fees. Initially Yun Jin had rejected their goodwill but that only made her mother cry.
“Yun Jin, take it that you’re easing my guilt.”
Yun Jin was not inflexible; she knew accepting their offer would make everyone feel better so she relented.
Now that she did not have to worry about her finances, Yun Jin had a surplus of free time. Since helping out at the administrative department had become second nature to her, she decided to continue with it. However, she no longer saw the person and his familiar, reassuring smile. She heard that he had successfully settled into life at Yong Kai. The person she once thought she could spend eternity with, now no longer had anything to do with her.
As for Cheng Zheng, she never saw him again that year. The little she learnt about him came from Yu Hua and talk mostly revolved around him winning more competitions.
He had always been outstanding. After they kept their distance, he was still the capable Cheng Zheng. Perhaps, he would slowly forget about the girl he once loved who had let him down.