Halfway mark! Coincidentally, Yun Jin and Cheng Zheng also achieve a relationship milestone of their own.
“Don’t write this off as another misinterpretation. Because even if it were, this time I’m never letting you go.” Back in the apartment, Cheng Zheng still held onto Yun Jin tightly as though if his grip laxed, she would disappear again. The pain she inflicted when she bade him farewell after the sudden kiss was not something he wanted to experience again. He thought that if he held onto her tightly, she would never be able to leave even if she wanted to.
Yun Jin couldn’t help but feel touched on seeing him like this. She sighed “Cheng Zheng, what’s so good about me? I’m not worthy of you treating me this well.” This was the question that had been gnawing at her for a long time.
Cheng Zheng pouted “Su Yun Jin, you sure think highly of yourself. When have I ever said you’re good? Your looks are just average and you have a difficult character. When you’re stubborn, I always have this strong desire to shake you. I cannot see what’s so good about you myself … But I just love you regardless.”
Yun Jin gave a faint smile. Cheng Zheng reached over and clasped her hand on his cheek “Don’t pity this fool, I don’t want your pity …” Having said that, he seemed to regret it “No, wait. If it takes you to pity me to stay by my side then pitying me is alright!”
What else could Yun Jin do other than hug him tightly? After all, lovers speak volumes with their action rather than with words.
Alright, let’s be together! Let’s cast aside all our reservations and fear of the future. Come what may, we’ll leave any regrets till tomorrow. Yun Jin was not ignorant of the irony – she had always been set on escaping, she couldn’t believe that there would be such a day.
It was just as Eileen Chang had written in her novel, it took the fall of Hong Kong to the Japanese Occupation for Bai Liu Su and Fan Liu Yuan to be reunited. Could the SARS epidemic be the catalyst for their relationship developing?
Don’t think me silly for giving in to self-deception for who can resist such sincerity forever? And don’t ask me why after holding back for so long, all my defences have crumbled. I just want to give myself a chance.
As they embraced, time seemed to fade from their consciousness. Yun Jin did not know how much time had passed; she could only see that darkness had descended outside the window. Cheng Zheng phoned for dinner takeaway. It was simple fast-food fare but both of them dug in heartily.
Suddenly, she sensed that it was rather late but Cheng Zheng’s watch reflected a time just past eight in the evening. She took it at face value but couldn’t shake her doubt so she forced Cheng Zheng to hand his handphone over. When she saw the time, she exploded in rage! It was actually 10:05pm.
Yun Jin was as stunned as she was furious. She leapt to her feet and tossed the phone angrily back at him “Would you care to explain this?”
He picked it up and looked at it intently “Oh my, how did it get so late? But this has nothing to do with me! My watch is slow. I was in the dark as well!”
“Reallyyyy?” Yun Jin stemmed her rising rage but still felt like slapping that ridiculously exaggerated innocent face. “Do you even comprehend the gravity of the matter? If I’m caught sneaking back to campus after 10, I would be punished severely!”
“Well in that case, why don’t you return tomorrow?” While he tried to sympathize with her plight, he couldn’t fully conceal the delight in his eyes.
Yun Jin wagged her finger at him in warning and couldn’t be bothered to interrogate him any further as she headed for the exit. He didn’t attempt to stop her this time but merely said coldly “So you’d rather go back and face certain punishment than stay with me for the night? You’re always so guarded around me. I’m not the monster you make me out to be.”
Yun Jin paused in her tracks as he continued “You can have the bed while I’ll sleep on the couch. It’s not safe to be walking the streets at this time anyway. It’s up to you to take my word for it.”
Yun Jin wavered at the door. Eventually, she shut it and returned unhappily to the living room. She then dialled her hostel where her bunk mate informed her “Yun Jin, we were just worrying about you! Someone had already checked our attendance but we managed to hide your absence by letting your mosquito netting down and stuffing a bolster under the blankets.” Yun Jin let out a sigh of relief and thanked her profusely. She lied that she had matters to attend to at her relative’s place and that she would rush back first thing in the morning.
After washing up, Yun Jin walked into the only bedroom in the apartment and shut the door right in his face. She had only just laid down when he pounded on the door with all his might.
“What do you want?” She put on her robe once again and opened the door. Cheng Zheng leaned against the door frame and said touchily “I knew you women had cold hearts. You’ll be comfortable sleeping here but you couldn’t even spare me a blanket and pillow?”
Yun Jin mulled over his words and agreed that it made sense. She went to the cabinet and searched for a long time. However, since this was not a permanent residence, there wasn’t any spare blankets apart from the blanket and quilt cover currently on the bed. Luckily, there were two pillows on the queen sized bed. Without hesitation, she grabbed a pillow and the quilt and stuffed them into Cheng Zheng’s grasp before locking the bedroom door once again.
“Hey!” Cheng Zheng was displeased.
Yun Jin said firmly “You’re the guy of course it’s only right that you should take the quilt while I take the blanket.”
“I meant to say that we’ve not bid each other goodnight yet.”
“Goodnight!” On seeing his unamused expression, she understood immediately. With a slightly coloured face, she pointed to her left cheek with one finger. But why would Cheng Zheng follow her direction? At lightning speed, he leaned in and gave her a quick peck on the lips before yelling a triumphant “Goodnight!”
This rascal! Yun Jin returned to bed but her heart was aflutter. Even so, sleep descended on her quickly. In her stupor, she heard a familiar pounding at the door. At first, she ignored it but he was very persistent.
“Enough! Can you get any more irritating?” She pushed the door open abruptly and Cheng Zheng lost his balance and fell forward. He bargained with a pleading look “It’s too cold outside. Really! I’m not lying. Besides, the couch is too narrow for me.”
Yun Jin looked at the thin quilt in his hands. Indeed, the spring night still contained a certain chill. Out of consideration for him having just been discharged and recently recovering from a cold, she said emphatically “Alright, let’s switch. You’ll take the bed and I’ll sleep on the couch.” She snatched the quilt from his grasp and walked into the living room.
Cheng Zheng grabbed her wrist “How can I let a girl sleep on the couch? What kind of man would that make me?”
Yun Jin turned and looked him squarely in the eyes “Cheng Zheng for the last time, what do you want?”
“I don’t want anything.” He said grumpily. “Must you be so inflexible? Now that you’re staying here, the bed or the couch, no one would be any wiser. We can split the bed in half and we each keep to our side. Even if you begged me, I wouldn’t touch you. After suffering in the hospital, I’m too tired for any nonsense.” Having said his piece, he hopped into bed quickly and turned off the bed lamp before shutting his eyes.
For an agonizing period his heart was wrung in suspense. He waited on tenterhooks till he finally felt the mattress sink slightly. He didn’t look at her because he knew even though they were lying on the same bed, she would be situated as far from him as possible.
Yun Jin slept with her robe on as an added layer of protection and turned her back on him. She could hear his steady breathing and tried as she might, she couldn’t fall asleep. She didn’t dare move and was just contemplating moving to the couch when she felt a dishonest hand creeping up her bare back from under her shirt. She shot away as though she had been scalded and yanked his hand out “What are you doing? I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you.”
His voice sounded pitiful in the dark “Yun Jin, I can’t sleep. I keep wondering if this is a dream. Are you really here lying next to me? You don’t know but the same day I first laid eyes on you in the school corridor, I dreamed of us being here like this …”
Although he didn’t continue, Yun Jin knew that the dream did not have any healthy content. Thankfully, he was unable to see her blush in the dark. She swallowed and didn’t respond.
“Can we …? We don’t have to switch on the lights. We can do it in the dark. I … I …” Even he felt a little embarrassed as he stopped whispering in her ear.
Yun Jin froze. She was so flustered that she couldn’t speak. As she was still a young innocent girl, she couldn’t have known that I won’t go all the way and I love you were the same in that they were notorious classic lies that men spun.
“Can we? Can we …” He shook her shoulders relentlessly like a child begging for candy. She didn’t know what to do. She wanted to reject him but she couldn’t suppress the temptation and her curiosity.
Just trust him, as long as he doesn’t go all the way. He claimed not to have seen the opposite gender’s body before, how was she any different? She was equally curious.
Cheng Zheng eagerly took her silence as consent. He flipped on top of her as he kissed her and undid her clothes with his other hand. Yun Jin was so red-faced that she thought she would bleed from her cheeks as she allowed him to do as he wished. When she finally had a grasp on the situation, she was already cold all over which was in stark contrast to his warm skin. She realised then there was nothing separating them anymore.
“CHENG ZHENG YOU LIED!” Tears rolled fast down her cheeks but she couldn’t tell if it was from the pain or at the thought of having lost something precious.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I … I couldn’t help it.” He reached out to wipe her tears away.
“Get out now! It hurts.” She cried out.
He kissed her as he begged “I’m in pain too, please bear with it for a moment…”
Cheng Zheng was no different from her and had never experienced this before. Now that she was crying, he became more flustered.
However, even as Yun Jin cried, she felt strangely comforted by this turn of events. Perhaps, she would never be alone in this world again.
They tidied up sloppily. This time Yun Jin allowed him to rest on her like a little child. She had wanted to scold him but her body wouldn’t listen to her brain as her hands encircled his muscular back.
He laid on her chest and drifted in and out of sleep. The entire night, the young couple explored the forbidden pleasures of love as their bodies perspired and dried and perspired again. Eventually, Yun Jin nodded off into deep sleep while listening to Cheng Zheng repeat her name in his slumber.