It’s been many years and the Yun Jin we were introduced to at the start of the novel has changed. But is it for the better?
“Sister Su, I don’t understand. If you can’t forget him, why don’t you go find him? No matter the cause of the separation, if two people are deeply in love, and living in the same city, they can surely find their way back to each other.” Yun Jin’s inaction baffled Lu Lu.
Yun Jin replied “In the initial two years, I refused to look for him because I couldn’t forget how he hurt me. I thought so what if we got together again? No one forced us to part; we did so because we didn’t know how to love each other. My breaking up with him was no mistake or coincidence; it was only a matter of time. Later on, I gained insight into many matters but I no longer dared to look for him because I feared that he already found someone else. I was afraid that he found happiness after leaving me. The person who was once a huge part of me and was always within my vision now leads a separate life. Even thinking of it makes me sad … In that case, it’s better that we don’t meet. At least, I can lie to myself. Anyway I’m already used to living alone. Even without him, I have and will survive.”
“But, I still believe that two people in love should overcome all ends and stick with each other no matter what.” The young, naive girl who had never been in love was adamant.
“You’re probably right. I’m not a good role model. I shouldn’t affect your outlook on romance.” Yun Jin said self-mockingly.
As they were speaking, one of their colleagues, Xiao Mo, who had been singing on the third floor approached them “Manager Su, so this is where you are! It was so hard to find you. Someone’s looking for you.”
Yun Jin was puzzled. Following closely behind Xiao Mo was a young lady she had never met.
“Excuse me, may I know which one of you is Ms Su?” the young lady asked as she approached them. On closer inspection, she was at least over thirty but her make-up was nicely done and her attire was classy. Even her voice was sweet.
“That would be me. And you are …” Her words had just escaped her lips when Lu Lu’s remaining half-shot of Jack Daniels on the bar counter was splashed onto her face. Lu Lu screamed in horror and the other patrons came crowding around.
Yun Jin wiped away the alcohol that was dripping near her eyes before taking a good look at the hand that was gripping fiercely onto the glass, a hand that was immaculately painted in red nail polish. She was fairly certain of the woman’s identity now.
“My husband’s family name is Xu so you may call me Mrs Xu. It’s nice to meet you Ms Su.” The lady’s tone was gentle, as though she was making an ordinary introduction.
At this, Lu Lu and Xiao Mo finally recovered from their shock and hurriedly passed wads of napkins to Yun Jin who slowly wiped off the excess alcohol on her face and hair as she tried to compose herself. This was an all too familiar scene; she too had once splashed cold water in Cheng Zheng’s face. This must surely be retribution.
“Mrs Xu’s greeting sure is unqiue.”
The lady who proclaimed herself as Mrs Xu smiled demurely as she sized Yun Jin up. Then she spoke harshly “You don’t look bad, certainly not a slut. Xu Zhi Heng’s taste has improved. I never understood it though, why are good-looking Mainland women like yourself okay with being a kept woman?”
The alcohol was finally cleaned off and Yun Jin deftly swept aside a clump of hair that was plastered to her forehead. She smiled as she retorted “I am equally puzzled; why do you Taiwanese become abandoned wives when you hit middle-age?”
“You’re too much!” the smile vanished from Mrs Xu’s face as her beautiful hand came swinging round again.
Yun Jin was quick to grab the hand that was on the offensive as her tone became icy “Mrs Xu, I was in the wrong so I’ll accept the alcohol you splashed at me. But sorry, I’m not about to let you slap me in public. If I were you, I wouldn’t do that either because you’ll soon realise that even if it makes you feel better, it would make your situation worse off.”
The strength in Mrs Xu’s arm drained as her hand dropped to her side. She gritted out “To me, there can be nothing worse than my husband having an affair.”
“If you are angry, you should take it out on Xu Zhi Heng before cutting ties with him cleanly because he’s the one who has done you wrong. If you wish to win him back, then you should spend more time trying to understand him instead of being indifferent to him all year long. Even if I weren’t in the picture, there would be someone else.”
“I don’t know of anyone else but I know there’s you. Su Yun Jin, leave him alone!”
When a woman is at her wit’s end, even the most extensive make-up cannot disguise her weariness.
Yun Jin felt her heart constrict in her chest; she knew this day would come sooner or later. Ending the affair was inevitable but she never expected to be humiliated like this. But what was the difference really? She still had to end it.
“I promise you if he leaves me of his own volition, I won’t cling onto him.”
Mrs Xu paused. She had expected to fight it out so she was taken aback that her opponent was so quick to surrender. But that was for the best as she was not a confrontational woman herself.
“Okay. You better remember what you’ve said today.” Before her tears could fall, she turned and made her exit.
“Hey! Who do you think you are? Thinking of leaving after causing such a scene?” Lu Lu felt injustice for Yun Jin and was about to prevent Mrs Xu from walking.
Yun Jin grabbed Lu Lu “No matter what, she’s Director Xu’s wife. Offending her wouldn’t do you any good. Let’s go. Isn’t there enough people gawking at us?”
She quickly fled the scene with Lu Lu close behind and pretended not to see the nosey bystanders.
When they boarded her car, Lu Lu asked her curiously “Sister Su, that woman just slandered you. Are you going to let the matter rest like that?”
“She wasn’t slandering me … I should be glad she didn’t throw acid at my face.” Yun Jin guided her steering wheel and spoke calmly as though she was referring to someone else instead of herself.
Lu Lu was flabbergasted and needed time to digest her words “Do you … mean to say that the rumours of you and Director Xu are true?”
Yun Jin didn’t reply. Lu Lu finally made sense of it all; she had only been with the company for less than a year but she had already heard the rumours of sales director Xu Zhi Heng and marketing manager Su Yun Jin. However, Director Xu and sister Su always maintained a professional relationship and never revealed any hint of an illicit relationship. She couldn’t accept that a mature and charming man like Director Xu and the sister Su that she admired were adulterers.
“But Sister Su, you claimed you couldn’t let go of the person from before. Do you also love Director Xu?” Lu Lu felt her idealistic notion of romance was crumbling all around her.
“Although I can’t forget him, it doesn’t mean I still want to be with him. As for Xu Zhi Heng, I used to need him and he, me. That was all.” Yun Jin was expressionless.
“There are no buts. Don’t ask anymore; knowing too much won’t do you any good. We’re at your place already. Be safe.” Yun Jin pulled to a stop and let Lu Lu alight before heading home.
She couldn’t tell if she was being overly suspicious, but she noticed a silver-grey Volvo with an unfamiliar licence plate had been tailing her ever since she left Left Bank. Even when she turned out from Lu Lu’s place, the car continued to keep up with her though it never got too close. Yun Jin tried to speed up but she was unable to shake the stalker. She finally reached her condominium and passed the security guards. Only then did the car completely disappear from her rearview mirror. Her uneasiness dissipated and she started to chide herself for being so jumpy.
The distance from the carpark to the elevator was not a long one. Furthermore it was well-lit. However, her solitary footsteps echoed eerily in the deserted carpark, causing her pulse to quicken so she walked at a faster pace.
She was about to reach the lift landing when a shadowy figure sprang out from a corner and grabbed her. Her heart was already in overdrive and at this abrupt and unexpected situation, she screamed.
“What’s wrong Yun Jin?” On hearing the familiar voice, she calmed down and breathed deeply. “Zhi Heng. What are you doing? You scared me.”
Xu Zhi Heng positioned himself in front of the carpark elevators and said “I’ve been waiting a long time for you. Is your handphone battery flat? … She went to find you didn’t she?”
“That’s correct.” Yun Jin unlocked her purse and took out her phone.
“I’m sorry Yun Jin. We had a quarrel. I don’t know how she managed to do it but she found your department’s number and the receptionist informed her that the lot of you went to Left Bank. She was even given the number of one of your colleagues. Did she hurt you?” Xu Zhi Heng asked with genuine concern as he tenderly smoothened her hair.
Yun Jin brought his hand away “She can’t hurt me. Zhi Heng, it’s we who have hurt her.”
Xu Zhi Heng appeared troubled “Yun Jin, please don’t torture me with such an expression. Remember what I told you previously? All you have to do is say the word and I will leave her.”
“You don’t have to do that. There was a time when we both needed each other and we were both attracted to each other and I’m really grateful that you stuck by me all this while. You’ve given me comfort and happiness, this I will never forget. But now your wife’s back and she clearly still loves you very much. You don’t have to give up on your marriage for my sake.”
“But have you ever asked me who it is I loved?” It was hard to believe that the Xu Zhi Heng who was always composed and decisive would ever look so conflicted.
“Didn’t we make it clear right from the start? We would get together and separate without fuss.” Yun Jin said gently.
“And what if I say no?” He appeared to imbue the heavy-handedness he was renowned for that made him such a success in the businessworld.
“Then I can only say I’m sorry. If necessary, I don’t mind tendering my resignation.”
Xu Zhi Heng stared at her pensively before surrendering “You win. Till the end, you are still the same Su Yun Jin that inspires such affection and ire. Don’t worry, I’m still a gentleman. But I’m very disappointed that you never once loved me in return.”
Yun Jin’s expression changed instantly.
“… You still don’t love me. That’s why you’re always so calm … Yun Jin, let’s break up …” It had been three years. The memory she had tried so hard to suppress was being re-enacted right before her very eyes. That voice haunted her and wouldn’t seem to let her off. “… You still don’t love me …”
What right did you have to say that I didn’t love you? Yun Jin could almost hear her heart cry out.
His voice pulled her back to reality. What was with her today? He was Xu Zhi Heng, not that guy. No one would ever break her heart again.
“I’m sorry, I had too much to drink tonight. Go home. She’s waiting for you.”
“Are you sure of your decision?” Xu Zhi Heng held onto a tiny sliver of hope.
Yun Jin’s smile was gentle but firm.
He sighed as he opened his arms “Then, the next time we meet, we would be purely colleagues. Take this as our final goodbye.”
Yun Jin stepped into his embrace and hugged him tightly; this was man who had offered her timely assistance and comfort. It would be a lie if she said she didn’t feel sad.
“Zhi Heng, trust me, you don’t actually love me. what we had was merely a mutual attraction. We will always be the best partners at work.” She knew very clearly what her heart wanted. Some mistakes should not be repeated.