What does closure demand from each of them?
“… I will no longer be able to bear children.”
It was complete silence behind her.
Why did she say it? She was already prepared to carry this secret to her grave. He didn’t have to know about its existence or the fact that she had struggled through the terrible experience alone … it felt like falling into a deep abyss where the light became further and further out of reach until it was no more.
Her child, no, their child. It had survived inside her for a few days only. Even though it had wrongly sited itself, causing her to bleed massively, it was still their flesh and blood. An undeniably product of their love. Thus, it was fitting that it followed the fate of its parents’ romance – it existed but eventually died because it was a mistake.
But now, she blurted it unexpectedly. She was still that same old girl who tried hard to plaster on a brave façade although her anger was still easily piqued by Cheng Zheng. He had accused her of not loving him. So many years had passed but she still couldn’t break free of the emotional chains the words had placed on her.
Yun Jin didn’t know what Cheng Zheng’s exact reaction would be although she did know that it would definitely hurt him to his core. This was the lethal poison she carried around in her heart.
Lu Lu was absolutely right; burying a secret within was truly unbearable. Now, she finally had no more secrets but ironically, the gaping hole in her heart had widened despite the great reveal.
Cheng Zheng still hadn’t responded. Much time passed before Yun Jin heard a sound likened to sobbing. She looked back and saw Cheng Zheng crouching on the floor with his face buried between his knees. He seemed so vulnerable, like a little child crying.
He had never once cried before her. When they were together, there was once he injured his calf while playing soccer. His tibia had fractured and it looked sickeningly painful. When Yun Jin woke up in the middle of the night to check on him, she saw that his face was contorted in pain and his body was drenched in cold sweat. She had told him “Cheng Zheng, if it’s so painful, you should let it out. Crying might make you feel better.” He retorted haughtily “I’m not a woman. Crying would be a disgrace to my manhood.”
So, even when he suggested they break up and he saw her leave, he never once shed a tear.
Cheng Zheng didn’t like children. Most of the time, he seemed an oversized kid himself. At his age, he had yet to fully appreciate his own father’s love for him and he never envisioned himself as a father. But when Yun Jin uttered those words, the tears that fell came from within. Nothing could stop the tears from bursting its banks. If their break-up and the resultant four year wait was despair, then his emotion right now was that of heartwrenching grief.
Yun Jin took two steps towards him before stopping. She lowered her gaze. From this angle, she saw a vulnerable Cheng Zheng for the first time. Conversely, she didn’t feel like crying. It was actually quite ironic. When she saw him in pain, her hurt lessened. Apparently, it wasn’t only happiness that should be shared, pain had to as well. In fact, her pain could only be shared with him because half of it was rightly his in the first place.
When their paths had crossed once again, she knew the true reason why he constantly shadowed her. He could act distant all he wanted, or say as many hurtful things as he wished but she knew he still loved her. Cheng Zheng would always be transparent to her. She could see right through him – his every joy and sorrow. The only reason why she chose to keep back was because in the four years, she slowly came to realise that while Cheng Zheng was immature, her low self-esteem and cowardice played a significant role in the fracture of their relationship as well. Wasn’t bottling her emotions the main reason for their break up?
Both she and Cheng Zheng didn’t know how to love the other right. Perhaps if from the start they had met other more appropriate partners, they would probably be enjoying wedded bliss by now. However, they had once made a voluntary choice to be together despite the odds and they had to live with the consequences – their individual darkness had been forced to the surface by the other and their ugliness was laid bare. She was afraid that history would repeat itself.
Meanwhile, familiar neighbours continued to enter and leave the elevator. When they saw the strange sight of two neighbours who supposedly had nothing in common, they exited with a confused expression. Yun Jin could see that Cheng Zheng had grown tired from all the sobbing as he rested his face in his palms and refused to look up. She took a step forward before hesitating. Eventually, she pressed the button that would take her to her floor.
Cheng Zheng sensed that she was leaving him so he slowly got to his feet behind her. His face was tear-stained as he said bitterly “Su Yun Jin. You never liked talking but how could you have kept quiet about such a matter! You’re a selfish woman. Why must I always be the one to look for you? Can’t you come find me? It’s been four years and I’ve always been in the same place. But what about you? Where were you all this while?”
Yes, where was she? Truth be told, she had never gone far. The only problem was she never dared look back once she left.
The lift door slowly closed and it hid Yun Jin’s expression from view.
From that day on, Cheng Zheng disappeared from her world. He had most likely moved out from her district. Yun Jin’s life returned to normalcy. Strangely enough, without his hovering, her relationship with Dr Wu also cooled. Dr Wu had called her twice to arrange another date but on both occasions, she had turned him down with a suitable excuse. Eventually they became estranged.
Yu Hua was right. Wasn’t this to be expected of relationships today? Everyone was busy; no one had the time for a relationship that didn’t hold any promise. It’s been said that independent women didn’t like being clingy and that was just as well. In this day and age, who couldn’t survive without a specific person?
* * * * *
Zhou Zi Yi had divorced. Four years ago, while he was in Shanghai, he got roaring drunk in the dead of the night. He sped along the highway and subsequently crashed into the road divider. Not only did his beloved Porsche become mangled like scrap metal, he himself became a ragged puppet. When he was sent to the Intensive Care Unit, his filthy rich parents had sought out the best doctors, the best treatment and the best physiotherapy for him. However, they only stopped by twice to see him. On the other hand, his fiancée would frequently make long distance calls but this did little to change his circumstance.
Initially, all his old classmates went to visit him except for Yu Hua. However, on the sixth day of his hospital admission, she threw aside her practice and gave her mentor a heads-up before flying to Shanghai personally. She didn’t care for her mentor’s approval; she knew she had to go to him no matter what.
When she was in Shanghai, Yu Hua learned about Yun Jin’s matter and she gave her a call. Yun Jin couldn’t comprehend Yu Hua’s foolishness. The sort of person Zhou Zi Yi was … Yun Jin would never forget the look on his face when Yu Hua had confessed. Even if she did not bring up the past, Zi Yi had not even bothered keeping in touch with them old classmates all these years. His career and love life were flourishing and he was so smug as he basked in his own glory. Now that he had his downfall, why should the very person he viewed as a monster sacrifice everything selflessly to go to him?
She rankled with injustice for Yu Hua. Sometimes, women were too foolish.
In that manner, Yu Hua took care of Zhou Zi Yi meticulously for two months until he could start walking. Initially, Zhou Zi Yi was embarrassed but he couldn’t deny that he needed her. With her professional knowledge and her meticulous care, she was his saving star. He grew to become reliant on her. When he awoke in the middle of the night and did not see her, he would grow anxious. If it wasn’t food that she made, he would have no appetite.
However, his injuries eventually healed. On the day of his discharge, his parents, friends, subordinates all came and crowded his room to the brim. He never even noticed when Yu Hua had departed. That night, he had given Yu Hua a call. He said “Yu Hua. Thank you very much. I will never forget this. If one day you should need my help, come hell or high water, I will get it done.”
Mo Yu Hua was no fool and she knew that Zhou Zi Yi was a shrewd person. Everything had a price. His “hell or high water” was the value he placed on her. But she didn’t need it so she stated clearly in the same conversation “What would I need that requires you to go through hell and high water? Don’t think too highly of yourself. I came to Shanghai not because of you but for myself. So, you don’t owe me anything.” She set him free of his debt. More importantly, she had set herself free.
Half a year after his recovery, she received his wedding invitation. His beautiful fiancée had returned from her studies overbroad. The couple had finally reunited.
Thus Yu Hua replied “Divorce? His marriage had nothing to do with me. Why would his divorce concern me?”
It was easy to pay lip service. Su Yun Jin wanted to comfort her, to tell her that it was okay and that there was no need to act tough in front of her. Why should she delay her departure again? If she didn’t do it for the person who “didn’t concern her”, then who was she doing it for?
* * * * *
On the 19th day of the 9th month of the lunar calendar, it was the festival of the Goddess of Mercy.
The majority of the Ling Nan county people were Buddhists. On this special day, all the believers paid a visit to the temples.
Zheng Xiao Tong wasn’t from Ling Nan but she was a Buddhist. Every year during this festival, she would fast before visiting the temple to offer incense. When it was still early, she visited The Temple of The Six Banyan Trees. After offering incense, she donated to the oil fund of the monks to keep the Eternal Fire burning.
When she walked up to the Guan Yin altar, she glanced around. All those who were kneeling and praying in earnest were all pitiful people. If reality went according to people’s wishes, who would wish to place all hope in deities whose existence have not been proven? Since young, she was not a smart child so even her wishes were limited. However, comparatively, she still felt she was more blessed than the majority.
The devotees were packed like sardines in the midst of the swirling incense. It wasn’t easy identifying anyone in that crowd but somehow, she spotted Su Yun Jin readily. Perhaps it was because while most of the attendees were kneeling, Su Yun Jin was standing. Or perhaps it was because for people as unobservant as herself, it was easy to spot the rare few who left an impression. Without thinking, she walked over.
Zheng Xiao Tong stood quietly behind Su Yun Jin at a respectable distance and stared dully at her. There were too many people milling around, Yun Jin never noticed her presence.
Su Yun Jin had a lithe frame but her back was ramrod straight. From an oblique back view, Xiao Tong could see her pale side profile and long slender neck very clearly. This was the woman that Cheng Zheng had loved since his youth. Zheng Xiao Tong was a bit slow and her thinking was innocent. However, she was no fool. That night, after Su Yun Jin had scurried off with Lu Lu, Cheng Zheng became very restless which was his usual state whenever it was the two of them. After he had sent her home, she sat on her swing and rocked herself for a long time. Suddenly she had an epiphany; he had found the person he had been waiting for.
Was she sad or surprised? In that moment, she had been confused. Perhaps her emotions would always be slow on the uptake. It was just like back when Cheng Zheng had asked her abruptly “Do you want to be my girlfriend?” Her first response had been to stare back at him dumbfounded.
She liked Cheng Zheng. It wasn’t because of her father’s good impression of him. Perhaps people with innocent characters were easily attracted to each other; after all, birds of a feather flock together. When she first met him, she felt as if her world brightened whenever Cheng Zheng smiled. Unfortunately, he began to smile less and less; he said he had lost the most valuable thing in his life. Her world darkened accordingly.
In Cheng Zheng’s darkest hour, she had been there with him every step of the way. He said he wanted to learn Go, so she taught him. He was smart and mastered the game quickly. Initially, she gave him a five move handicap, but eventually, the master was defeated by the student. When he won, he stared at the board heartbroken. Back then, she didn’t understand it. It turned out that he was waiting for someone he believed he would never see again. She personally didn’t mind being with him and attempting to fill the gaping hole in his heart as long as he would smile radiantly once again.
There had been one occasion when the two of them had given themselves to their lust. One late night in his apartment, he was playing Go online when she wrapped herself around him from behind with her breath lightly grazing his neck. His head whipped around at the sensation. It was rather dim and he stared at her in a trance. Before she could process what was happening, she was already pinned under Cheng Zheng on the couch. Her heart had thumped so hard she swore it was going to leap out her chest. Despite how dense she usually was, she knew exactly what was happening … and she welcomed this foreign thrilling sensation as his lips and hands travelled all over.
Just as they were almost undressed, she heard Cheng Zheng mumble “It can’t be …” She was so worried she asked “What’s wrong?”
Cheng Zheng shivered as though he had been caught in a hailstorm and his actions halted. He looked at her with an unfamiliar expression in his eyes – there was none of the passion he had possessed just a short while ago. He studied her for a long time before closing his eyes and kissing her with wild abandonment once again. But before long, he rolled off her wearily. He stared at the ceiling in despair “Why can’t I?”
Xiao Tong wanted to tell him then that she didn’t care much for the pleasures of the flesh; she sincerely enjoyed being with him. She couldn’t recall if she did make that confession ultimately but based on his emotional state that night, she knew nothing would have gone in.
That night she saw it. It was an odd pendant that was strung on a thin silver chain. It shimmered a faint blue on his chest.
They never had such physical contact again.
Although Cheng Zheng never said much to her, he treated her very well. She had never seen the version of him that spoke maliciously. Perhaps, some of him was only reserved for Yun Jin.
She continued to stare at Su Yun Jin in this manner. Many rounds of people had come and gone but Su Yun Jin still remained rooted to the spot. Xiao Tong had seen her planting a single joss-stick before standing there lost in thought. When the incense finally burned completely, Xiao Tong could fairly make out “… I was the one who went back on my promise. If there should be retribution, let it fall solely on me.”