Their becoming a couple is a hard-earned victory. But will that triumphant feeling last?
Were other couples like them? Their love would soar to the skies but just as easily crash to the ground.
Yu Hua would tease “This is the hell you’ve chosen.”
After Cheng Zheng was discharged, he stayed in Yun Jin’s city for two day before reluctantly making his way back to his campus. Yun Jin took a day to realize with horror that they had not taken precautionary measures in their two days of intimacy. She became ashen-faced at the thought but had no idea what she should do to remedy the situation. She’d rather die than go to the pharmacy to buy medication alone. With no other alternative, she looked up Mo Yu Hua and stammered her way through the recounting. Mo Yu Hua did not pass comment but dragged her to the pharmacy immediately.
She took the medication but since it wasn’t downed in the most opportunate moment, even Yu Hua couldn’t clear her of the risk of consequences. Yun Jin spent the entire week in fear. It was only when her period came right on time that her apprehension was finally eased. She felt extremely lucky that the melodramas in which babies were frequently born out of wedlock was not as likely to occur in real life. She would never be as careless again.
The moment Cheng Zheng returned to Beijing, everyone in the hostel knew that Yun Jin was attached once again because Cheng Zheng was diligent in calling. To quote Xiao Wen “I can’t possibly pick up the phone more often than I already do!”
So it came to be that the usual reticent Yun Jin was often on the phone even till late in the night. Initially, Yun Jin basked in the lovely honeymoon phase of their romance. However, as time passed, Cheng Zheng’s domineering ways caused her much distress.
Little things like calling when she wasn’t in and disagreeing on certain matters would set his temper off. Luckily, his temper would quell just as quickly as it came. Yun Jin would merely give him the silent treatment so that his temper was not fuelled any further. Ultimately, he was always the one to end their cold wars.
Su Yun Jin was used to being by herself. Now that she had Cheng Zheng, she still found it hard to give all of her time and energy unreservedly to him. Even when she was with Shen Ju An, a boy she was infatuated with, she still maintained her independence. In this regard, Ju An and her were like two parallel lines; they were similar in appreciating times of solitude as they walked the same course closely. They were two separate entities that never crossed each other, figuratively. She had felt secure even in that manner of dating.
Cheng Zheng was different. He was dying to envelope Yun Jin in his affections and wanted nothing more than for them to become so close that they became one. Simultaneously, he expected Su Yun Jin to give him the same amount of attention. He wanted all of her. It would be best if even her dreams only contained him.
Yun Jin, what are you doing?
Yun Jin, what are you thinking of now?
Yun Jin, where are you?
Yun Jin I miss you. Do you miss me?
Yun Jin, why aren’t you replying?
Yun Jin, Yun Jin, Yun Jin!
Day in and out, he flooded her with texts which hinted of both his possessiveness and his child-like insecurity. Initially, Yun Jin accommodated him and would reassure him. But eventually, she lost her stamina and would keep silent on her end. However, the more unresponsiveness she was, the faster and more furious his texts came. Su Yun Jin felt that Cheng Zheng was like a ball of yarn a kitten was unravelling; he encircled her and made her feel bound yet at other times he made her feel warm and fuzzy inside.
The two of them were separated – one in the Northern and the other in the Eastern part of China. Whenever Cheng Zheng had a stretch of spare time, he would race over to Yun Jin’s area. Yun Jin’s heart ached over his plane fare though he couldn’t be bothered with financial considerations. He felt nothing was more important than the two of them being together.
Before the first semester of their fourth year in university wound down, he gave her a cell phone so as to make it more convenient for her to find a job. Yun Jin recalled an earlier episode where he tried to give her a handphone but she had refused. In a fit of anger, Cheng Zheng dropped the new phone from his apartment window down eighteen stories. She flinched at the memory and accepted it this time round. With her new phone, it became even more convenient for him to contact her but whenever Yun Jin heard the personalized ringtone that Cheng Zheng purposely set for himself, she felt annoyed. Yun Jin just couldn’t make sense of it; how could a cool person be so clingy to one he loved?
Before Chinese New Year descended on them, Yun Jin attended an employment drive organised by her university in which compatible employment companies and students were matched up. She had never been in such a populated venue before – people were packed like sardines. She was even swept along by the current and had no chance to scrutinise each stall properly. The more popular companies had such a horde of students crowding around them that Yun Jin couldn’t even approach the staff. Yun Jin couldn’t even gauge how desirable she was as a prospective employee so she headed for the exit and sighed.
Naturally, Cheng Zheng did not have to undergo such a discouraging experience. His credentials as a student from his prestigious school alone made his cv more outstanding than peers in his cohort. Adding his strong family connections to that, it was not at all difficult for him to get an enviable job.
He was more inclined towards his father’s architectural profession than his mother’s entrepreneur one. His parents were easygoing and left it entirely up to him to choose what interested him. They only hoped that he would choose a company that was not too far from their residence. Being their beloved only child, they wanted him by their side. As his father was the president of the city’s architectural union, it was even easier for him to pull strings to get his son the job of his choice.
However, Cheng Zheng had no intention of returning to his hometown. He confided in Yun Jin “There is no meaning in relying on my dad. Besides, if I returned to their side, I would have to endure his nagging. I much rather remain in Beijing. Yun Jin when you graduate, you can come over and we can be together forever.”
In all honesty, Yun Jin also had no intention of returning to her own county. However, unlike Cheng Zheng’s grand plan for her, she was more inclined to stay in this Southern city that had been her home for the past four years. She no longer felt like an outsider as she was fully immersed in the local lifestyle. She shared her thoughts with Cheng Zheng who merely remarked “Are you crazy? Of course you have to be with me.”
Of course they had to be together Cheng Zheng had stated so matter-of-factly. But Yun Jin just could not imagine herself graduating only to up herself to the North for the sole purpose of reuniting with him. It wasn’t that she didn’t miss Cheng Zheng but her pensiveness towards the future had cooled all thoughts of recklessness. She was unwilling to move to a completely foreign city because then all she would have was him and nothing else. If she should lose him, she would be stuck. Yun Jin was aghast at her own considerations; she now realised how selfish she could be.
Yun Jin was mind-boggled to know that a few companies had responded to her application during the fair. One of which was a company that she really wanted to work with. She decided to attend the interview with the mindset of giving her best and leaving the rest to fate. Surprisingly, the recuiter of the company was impressed by her composure.
Everyone in her faculty was envious of her good fortune when they learned she had signed such an elusive contract. In their society where graduates were numerous, to be able to sign on with such a well-received company was something to celebrate over. Yun Jin was delighted but also uneasy; she didn’t want to know how Cheng Zheng would react when he eventually learned of this.
She knew it was inevitable so when Cheng Zheng called that night, she told him about her recent contract.
“What did you just sign? … Please repeat yourself.” Cheng Zheng had voiced with unusual calmness.
Yun Jin felt her scalp tingle as she repeated herself.
He was furious “Su Yun Jin I realise you never once consider the feelings of others.”
“I …” Before she could explain, he had already hung up.
She dialled his number frantically but he refused to pick up. In the end, he even switched his mobile off.
Yun Jin knew that with his temper, anything she said would only serve to fuel his fury. She decided to leave him be and in a few days time after he calmed down, all would be well between them again. But two, three … five days passed and Cheng Zheng had not even contacted her once. Yun Jin finally sensed that he was really angry this time so she called him but even then, he rejected all her calls.
It wasn’t that Yun Jin did not regret her actions. In fact she had searched herself, had she known he would have such a huge reaction, would she have gone ahead single-mindedly? To be perfectly honest, she hadn’t considered many factors when she signed the contract. Now she felt she had been too rash. It was as he had pointed out, she never did consider his feelings… or perhaps, she had purposely chosen to neglect his position and had taken a gamble to determine if she really had feelings for him.
It was fast approaching the Lunar New Year. The school was already on winter vacation. The reason there were so many people left in the hostels was because they were waiting for news of employment just as she had once. Yun Jin was not a clingy person by nature. After she failed to reach him despite her many attempts, she gave up on him altogether. This was despite her anguish and sorrow at how things turned out.
This year her mother had made several calls to urge her to return home for the new year. Although she had no wish to return to a family that she was not a part of, she had no excuse not to so she packed up her belongings and boarded the long train ride home two days before the new year.
In the festive period, it was expected that trains were overcrowded. Luckily, Yun Jin managed to purchase a sitting ticket. Even if the carriage was stuffed to the brim by people and their luggages, at least she was better off than those who had to stand for over ten hours.
In the carriage she was in, apart from students like herself, the majority were migrant labourers. They maximised every spare space to sleep or sit. Even though they looked weary, their eyes shone with the anticipation of returning home, No matter how tough working life was, at least there was someone waiting for them back home. They had worked tirelessly all year for this very moment when they could return to their love ones.
Yun Jin stared out at the scenery that shot past the moving train. Who was awaiting her arrival back home? She couldn’t deny that her mother still loved her but now she also loved the new family. She thought back to all the times when her mother had called since the marriage and the way she spoke formally just as uncle would. She knew then she no longer had a family of her own.
This moment, she suddenly missed Cheng Zheng immensely. She missed his embrace and his warmth and sincerity. So, she was nothing without him. She laughed at her pathetic self and at her misplaced pride.
But he’s still angry, Yun Jin thought. Besides, he also had to return to his home for the new year. As long as he still loved her, no matter how angry he was with her, it would pass eventually. With him around, perhaps it wouldn’t be too difficult adjusting to life in Beijing, Unfortunately, breaking the contract would entail … As Yun Jin wove in and out of sleep, she was still pondering how to deal with the consequences.
When she awoke, it was already the middle of the night. However, the lights were still on. It was a hive of activity around her. There were people who played cards and those who were deep in conversation. She studied the name of the current train stop. After sitting for over ten hours, she was finally halfway back home. Almost as if well-timed to her arousal, her phone in her pocket vibrated as she was combed her tousled hair from the sleeping. Seeing the familiar number displayed, her heartbeat quickened.
“Where on earth are you? It’s so noisy.” Yun Jin could imagine Cheng Zheng frowning as he spoke.
“I’m on the train. You? Yun Jin yelled into the phone. She was embarrassed but there was simply no other way to be heard over the din.
“Train?” Cheng Zheng grew silent before continuing “What are you doing on a train? Where are you going?”
“I’m … going home.” Su Yun Jin suddenly felt unsure of herself.
“Hahaha.” Cheng Zheng’s exaggerated and bitter laughter could be heard over the phone. “I really don’t know what to say. It wasn’t easy for me to get here yet you are on your way home without so much as a heads-up.”
“I didn’t want to leave without informing you but you weren’t picking up my calls. Why did you come over at this time?”
“Don’t be stupid. If you refuse to come to Beijing, don’t I have to go over to you? Else am I supposed to break up with you?” Although his attitude was terrible as always, but Yun Jin could feel his warmth radiating through the phone. She had so much to tell him but she merely managed a “Wait … wait there for me.”
The train took a further two hours to reach the next major stop. Yun Jin alighted without hesitation. It was four in the morning and dark out. This was a city that Yun Jin had never set foot on before. In the eerie quiet of the morning, she found the board which stated that the next train bound for G-city would depart in seven hours. Yun Jin asked for directions before dragging her luggage and running for the bus stand.
Even in the deserted alley, she forgot about the fear of being in a foreign place and the chill of the early morning. All she could focus on was boarding the earliest bus to G-city that was departing in 1.5 hours. She clasped her warm face and realized her madness.
By the time the rickety bus pulled into G-city, it was already the evening of the eve of the new year. Yun Jin followed the crowd as she struggled her way to the bus terminal exit. In the mass of people, she spotted him instantly. In a split second, all the fatigue and tension in her body melted away as a smile came over her face.
Cheng Zheng had also spotted her but made no move to get to her as he studied her in a mixture of frustration and amusement. The two of them continued to stare at each other as the crowds milled all around them.
Finally, Cheng Zheng extended one hand towards her. Even with the roar of the crowd, she heard every word distinctly “Silly girl, let’s go home.”