Yun Jin has always been insecure about her social standing. In this chapter, she gets to meet Cheng Zheng’s family. Would that do her, or their new fragile relationship, any good?
While Cheng Zheng was cooped up in the hospital for a week, Yun Jin’s internal angel and demon clashed for 7 days. A small voice niggled at her Yun Jin, why were you so worried about him after knowing he was on the same train as the SARS patient? That paralyzing fear, is it normal to feel that for someone you claim you don’t love? When you dragged him to the hospital, why were your hands shaking? Compared with losing him, is the discrepancy in your social status so important?
Another voice countered, Su Yun Jin you’re just finding excuses. You knew matters were not that dire since he was never in direct contact with the SARS patient. In fact, you suspected that all he had was honestly just the common cold. With his connections with the Zhang family, he would indubitably receive the best care so you needn’t have interfered. If you continue to act like this, the last vestiges of your pride will disappear.
Both voices of reason had their points and their constant rebuttals made Yun Jin very weary.
Cheng Zheng called her from the hospital daily and would complain about the unfairness of his imprisonment and his boredom. Whenever he heard Yun Jin’s mild replies, he would question what went wrong – when he was admitted, she had been so anxious over him. What had happened since then?
The second day of his admission, Yun Jin finally received a call from her mother. Apparently, uncle had been so afraid of contracting the SARS virus in the populated city that he moved the family of three to his old place in the countryside. Traffic there was sparse and people few; it was an excellent hide-out till the SARS epidemic had passed and this was the reason her mother hadn’t been able to contact her.
“You won’t blame mommy for not giving you a heads-up right?” mommy asked worriedly.
“It’s alright mom. It’s great to know you’re okay. When I wasn’t able to contact you, I was really worried.”
“Of course not! You’re my beloved mommy.”
I’m just regretful that when I needed you most, you forgot about me.
The day Cheng Zheng was discharged, Yun Jin decided to go to the hospital after all. However, she didn’t enter the wards but waited at the hospital foyer. Just as she had expected, she wasn’t the only one there to see him; someone else had already attended to the administrative procedures for discharge.
There was an entourage that accompanied him as he entered the foyer. Amongst them was what looked like a thirty-odd stately lady who spoke in hushed tones with a middle-aged man beside her. Cheng Zheng walked in their midst with a beautiful young lady on his arm.
The chauffeur pulled into the porch but none of them was eager to leave. Neither had they noticed Yun Jin who was standing in a corner.
Yun Jin hesitated; she couldn’t decide if she should approach them or take her leave. Just as she was wrecked with indecision, a person she scarcely expected to see emerged to join Cheng Zheng’s entourage.
Ju An? It was hard to describe the shock Yun Jin was in seeing an unexpected person appearing in an unexpected venue.
In the past two years, Shen Ju An and Yun Jin still kept in contact but their conversation revolved around general wellbeing. Thus this was the first time Yun Jin had seen him in person post-graduation. He looked pretty much the same except that his work attire gave him an added aura of maturity. He was a shadow of the boy Yun Jin had met in the library, the boy who used to bend over his books in concentration.
Unexpectedly, Shen Ju An was the first to notice Yun Jin in her corner. If he was surprised, he didn’t show it. He appeared to consider Yun Jin’s appearance as within his expectations. He first sent her a smile before turning to speak to Cheng Zheng.
Then, the entire entourage looked Yun Jin’s way. Cheng Zheng appeared to attempt to shake off the young lady’s hand as he half-ran to where Yun Jin was, a huge smile spreading across his face. Yun Jin covered her mouth as she laughed. He looked energetic, completely unlike a “patient” who was being discharged.
“The hospital is an unsafe place now. Why are you here?” He spoke while purposely wearing a stern expression.
Yun Jin suppressed a smile “If you didn’t mention it, I would’ve completely forgotten about the danger. I’ll be off first in that case.”
Having finished speaking, she made a motion to leave but how could Cheng Zheng allow it? He deftly shifted his position and blocked her exit “Since you’re here, don’t leave.”
As the two were conversing, the rest of Cheng Zheng’s entourage walked up to them and several pairs of eyes descended on Yun Jin in her simple attire. The beautiful young lady moved closer to Cheng Zheng and held onto him affectionately as she cocked her head slightly and looked playfully at both Cheng Zheng and Yun Jin in turn.
Cheng Zheng reacted to her touch as one would to electricity and he yelled angrily “Zhang Yue do you want to die?”
Zhang Yue frowned “Xiao Zheng Zheng how can you speak to me like this?” Once again, she held onto him and this time her grip was tighter and she stuck closely to his side. Cheng Zheng dared not use too much force and was unable to get rid of her. He said helplessly “Zhang Yue you’ve been poisoned by all those lame dramas. This act is too fake.”
Despite saying so, he still cast an anxious glance at Yun Jin who looked at him expressionless. He couldn’t read her so he said “You can’t possibly fall for this? This tentacle octopus here is my cousin Zhang Yue!” Yun Jin was still quiet and merely looked quickly at Zhang Yue although her eyes betrayed a deep thoughtfulness.
Cheng Zheng was desperate now and even Zhang Yue could tell something was off. She stuck out her tongue and loosened her grip. The bystanders, including Shen Ju An, wore an interested look as they looked forward to the scene play out.
“Yun Jin, don’t be angry. Really, I’m not lying. Here you can ask her yourself … ZHANG YUE! Come back! …” Cheng Zheng recalled Yun Jin’s cool demeanour over the phone in the past few days and his heart quickened. He feared that the bridge he had just established with her would crumble in the face of yet another misunderstanding. He dragged Zhang Yue over and harassed her to clarify the situation “Zhang Yue, this is all your doing. I’ll be ruined by you! Quick, explain yourself, come on!”
Yun Jin saw how frantic Cheng Zheng was and couldn’t contain her laughter anymore. Before Cheng Zheng could compute that she had laughed, she walked up to him and gave him a hug.
Cheng Zheng dangled his hands limply and for a few seconds his body was rigid as he did not know how to react. He could feel the warmth of her body enveloping him, proving what he saw was real. He slowly brought up his hands in mid air before returning the hug with all his might.
“Tsk tsk. Aunty, dad, would you look at the pair? They’re treating us as scenery. Don’t just criticize me in future.” Zhang Yue watched in satisfaction and didn’t neglect to remark.
He was hugging her too tightly and Yun Jin was finding it difficult to breath. She hurriedly pushed Cheng Zheng away and wriggled out of his embrace. The regale lady who didn’t look a day over forty was actually his mother! Yun Jin knew her reckless actions had made her the centre of attention and she was so mortified that she avoided everyone’s gaze and stared at the floor.
Cheng Zheng’s mother did not bother to conceal her obvious scrutiny of Yun Jin as her gaze swept up and down multiple times. Yun Jin felt uneasy as she was well aware that her humble attire and family background was far inferior to the powerful family before her. However, her pride forced her to raise her head and look Cheng Zheng’s mother squarely in the eyes.
She waited for aunty to reach an assessment of her. Unexpectedly, she laughed suddenly and exclaimed “So you are Su Yun Jin! I was looking so hard but I failed to see any traces of a cold-blooded person that Ah Zheng described.”
“When did I say that?!” Cheng Zheng interrupted unhappily.
“In the summer of year three, after labour day in your sophomore year in university, when you were about to progress to year three. You said so on all three occasions. Do I need to bring up more details?” Zhang Jin Yin rattled off drily as Zhang Yue laughed blatantly at Cheng Zheng’s predicament.
“That’s funny, when people ask your age you don’t remember, but things that don’t concern you you recall with such clarity.” Cheng Zheng deadpanned in return, angry at his mother’s betrayal.
“My precious son’s love life is of course a great concern of mine!” Zhang Jin Yin winked at her son.
Yun Jin thought to herself just as I was thinking mother and son don’t look the least bit alike… No one can deny their relationship; the way they speak, their mannerisms, they’re practically a carbon copy!
“Uncle, send them away! They’re nothing but a bunch of troublemakers.” Cheng Zheng pleaded with the solemn middle-aged man.
Zhang Jin Meng – a heavyweight in the business world whom Yun Jin was used to seeing on the Financial Times was now patting his nephew lovingly on the arm as he said “Do own up Ah Zheng. You did say such a thing before. Even I remember it.”
Yun Jin continued to smile, as she slowly let her guard down. She could tell that he was a blessed child to have grown up in a family that clearly doted on him. Perhaps it was this environment that helped him develop such unbridled confidence.
“Hello Yun Jin, it’s been a while.” Shen Ju An who had been watching the events unfold with a light smile finally greeted her.
Cheng Zheng appeared to be deep in thought and he suddenly whispered to Yun Jin “He’s my cousin’s boyfriend now.”
“Cheng Zheng what are you mumbling about? I haven’t had a chance to speak.” Zhang Yue held Shen Ju An’s hand and smiled at Yun Jin “It’s a little complicated isn’t it? That’s why I always say life has all these unexpected twists and turns just like a drama.” Shen Ju An looked at Zhang Yue quietly and his eyes reflected a softness in it.
Indeed real life imitated reel life; even the intertwining relationship web was so unpredictable. When she had traversed the school garden hand-in-hand with Shen Ju An, she never foresaw such a day coming.
“Yeah Ju An, it’s good to see you again.” Yun Jin replied.
Zhang Jin Yin smiled and nodded her head at Yun Jin who supposed this was the former’s style of greeting. “My useless child has been telling me all about you all this while. As his mother, even I have grown tired of his incessant droning on about you. This is nice. He was always so impulsive as a child, now finally someone gave him a taste of hardship. But the way I see it, all misunderstandings have finally been cleared.”
Yun Jin plastered a smile on her face in return.
Zhang Jin Yin said to Cheng Zheng “Since you’re fine I’ll make a move. Look at you, it’s as though your hand is glued to hers… I know what you’re thinking so tell me outright, do you want to return to your uncle’s place or back to the apartment I bought you?”
Cheng Zheng expressed his wish to return to the apartment and Zhang Jin Yin directed the chauffer to send them there while she took her brother’s car.
On the other hand, Shen Ju An and Zhang Yue had driven over in their own car. As she was about to leave, Zhang Yue instructed Cheng Zheng mischievously “Don’t be overeager when you reach the apartment. If you need any advice, be sure to ask me.”
At the sight of Cheng Zheng raising his fist at her in mock warning, she cackled joyfully as Shen Ju An drove off.