After Cheng Zheng’s heroic reappearance, it’s now time for Yun Jin to reciprocate the concern he had for her.
During this period each faculty was given three special passes and all were kept by the respective faculty heads. Unless it was urgent, the heads would never loan the passes. Fortunately for Yun Jin, her persistence paid off and she managed to secure one of the coveted passes. Of course her helping out at the administrative department was a huge contributing factor.
The pass was only in effect from 0730 to 2200. That is, if she failed to return to school before then, she would be denied entry and be severely punished as a result.
Yun Jin hurried out the school gates and went up to Cheng Zheng. Although they were now in touching distance, she did not know what to say and they looked at each other cautiously.
It was Yun Jin who said the opener “It seems you’re used to making an entrance without so much as a heads-up.”
Cheng Zheng rebutted her in a pained tone – he had clearly stated last night that he was on his way over.
Yun Jin thought back to the events of the night before and realized the poor connection must have been at fault for the message not being delivered.
“You were crying so fiercely you worried me.” Cheng Zheng continued “You haven’t told me why you were crying. Did someone bully you? Or maybe a quarrel … with your boyfriend?”
Yun Jin picked up on his true motive in asking right away “Other than you, I don’t think anyone else would bully me.”
Seeing Cheng Zheng break into a grin she added “Besides, if I had really quarrelled with my boyfriend, how would your being here help in any way?”
Cheng Zheng had no comeback. After a period he said “Well whether you believe me or not, I came today with no other intention. I just needed to know you’re fine. Actually, back then, when I had returned home, I was so mad at you. What you said that night made me feel like everything I had ever done for you was foolish and unappreciated. I decided then never to bother with you again – you would have your freedom and I would learn from my stupidity. But as time passed, I actually found myself agreeing with your perspective. The moment I first laid eyes on you, I already decided that since I like you, you shouldn’t have any reason not to accept me. What you felt was unimportant as long as I could make you my girlfriend.”
Seeing Yun Jin smile, he continued “Perhaps I’m really not that bright when it comes to matters of the heart. After we lost contact, I finally realised why I was never happy. That’s because you were never happy. I cared too much about your every emotion. In the past two months, I’ve been following my architecture cohort to various places: Jiang Zhe, Xiang Xi, Yun Gui. All the places were beautiful and had architecture that complimented the landscape. Many times, I would look at these magnificent structures and wondered how perfect it would be if you were by my side at that very moment. What I really need is not you trailing behind me but you standing next to me so we can enjoy our every moment together. It’s a pity I realised this too late.”
Yun Jin saw that he had finished speaking but maintained her silence as usual.
Cheng Zheng repositioned his duffel bag that was slung over his shoulder as he bowed his head and said “I had just arrived in Beijing from Yunnan yesterday when I had a sudden urge to hear your voice so I called you. Now that I see you’re fine, I should make a move now.”
Although Cheng Zheng said he would make a move, deep down he hoped that Yun Jin would ask him to stay. He was disappointed at her non-reaction and he turned around dully to make his way back. He dragged his feet for a few metres before hearing Yun Jin call out “The airport and train station are places with high human traffic. You shouldn’t have come in such times. Since you’re here, why are you so eager to again risk getting infected? If you’re not in a rush to return to campus, why don’t you stay until the danger period has passed?”
Cheng Zheng smiled so broadly that his pearly whites could be seen “I was beginning to think you were really going to let me go.”
Seeing his lit up expression, Yun Jin said softly “Thank you Cheng Zheng; I’m very touched that you came all this way for me.”
Once again, she was back in the apartment where Cheng Zheng stayed in his previous visit. He finally admitted that the apartment didn’t belong to any relative but was really one of his family’s property. Yun Jin entered and couldn’t help recalling the incident on the couch which made her uncomfortable.
Cheng Zheng could see that she was consciously avoiding the couch and knew what was on her mind. The memory of their entanglement that day floated to the forefront of his thoughts and he felt a surge of warmth in his body. But, he didn’t dare act so recklessly again. He switched on the television before entering the kitchen to boil drinking water.
The noise emanating from the telly dissolved the awkward tension. Yun Jin surfed the channels but every one of them was reporting the SARS situation. As Yun Jin watched with gross disinterest, she suddenly sat up straight and stared hard at the details on the screen.
The rolling news at the bottom of the screen stated that a male passenger in the 16th carriage of yesterday’s Kxx train from Yunnan, Kunming to Beijing had been rushed to the hospital after contracting a high fever. He was eventually diagnosed with SARS.
As the passenger had been in the enclosed carriage for over twenty hours, there was a high likelihood that he had infected fellow passengers. Thus, the health authorities were appealing to the relevant passengers to admit themselves to the nearest hospital for a checkup.
“Cheng Zheng!” Yun Jin shouted at the kitchen.
He stuck out his head in bewilderment “What is it?”
“You said you returned to Beijing from Yunnan yesterday. Did you take the plane?”
“No I didn’t. My lecturer is so fearful of being in an aviation accident that he refuses to ride a plane. Besides, the school doesn’t have the funds to subsidise plane tickets for all of us. I took the train back. It was almost forty hours. I nearly died of boredom.”
“Was it a train from Kunming city? Numbered Kxx?”
“How did you know” Cheng Zheng smiled as he served her water.
A chill ran up her spine as her voice faltered “Which carriage were you in?”
Cheng Zheng racked his brains “Hmm I think it was carriage fourteen. Why do you ask?”
Yun Jin received the cup from him and her fingers brushed across his hand. She exclaimed “Why are your hands so warm!”
Cheng Zheng was thoroughly amused “I just held a warm cup of water, of course my hands would be warm.”
She ignored his reasoning and reached over to feel his forehead. It was equally warm. Cheng Zheng reached up to her icy hands and said curiously “What are you doing?”
Yun Jin shook his hand off and was so anxious that her voice was a pitch higher “Do you know that a passenger on the same train in carriage sixteen has been diagnosed with SARS?!”
“SARS?” Cheng Zheng stared dumbfounded before his face darkened “You’re worried I’ll infect you.”
“You … I knew you were crazy!”
Yun Jin paced the living room anxiously “Is there a thermometer? Have you experienced any symptoms such as coughing, headache or general malaise?”
When he shook his head, she grabbed him by his clothes and headed for the door.
“Where are we going?”
“To the hospital.” Yun Jin didn’t want to discuss this any further and pressed her lips tightly as she dragged him to the door.
“I wasn’t even in the same carriage as the SARS guy. It’s not that easy to get infected.” he stated helplessly.
“Keep quiet.” Yun Jin flagged down a cab and they were off to the hospital.
Cheng Zheng was no match for her and had no choice but to undergo a medical examination obediently. Because the doctor noted that he indeed had a low-grade fever on top of the troubling news that he had been on the same train as a SARS patient, Cheng Zheng was to remain in hospital for observation.
When Cheng Zheng heard that it was to be for no less than seven days, he balked at the idea “That’s too much! Come on, seven days quarantine for a thirty-seven degree fever? That is madness!”
“Do you even realise the gravity of the matter? You can potentially die!” Yun Jin’s eyes glistened.
On the other hand, Cheng Zheng was smiling “Are you concerned about me?”
“You’re unbelievable.” She ignored him and focused on obtaining the necessary details to fill in the relevant forms for his warding. The doctor had also taken her temperature which turned out normal. However, because she had been in close proximity with Cheng Zheng, she was advised to monitor her temperature religiously back in her hostel. Should she sense something amiss, she was to report to the hospital immediately.