Today is also day one of our YASH finale week. Are you ready for its conclusion?
Yun Jin continued to stumble in the desert. There was sand all around her and it seemed to go on forever. The heat was so unbearable that she felt she would turn into ash at any moment. She was also parched and her head hurt. She didn’t want to continue forth any longer and would much rather transform into a cactus. But something in the distance was calling out to her so she had to plod on …
“Cheng Zheng … Get me some water …” Yun Jin uttered subconsciously as she slowly came. She was only half-awake. Then, she smiled bitterly as she touched her cracked lips which elicited a stabbing pain. She was mistaken; it was no longer back in the past when the two of them lived and breathed the same air. Why would that person be present to pour water for her? The name had come to her so naturally. Even worse, she was conjuring up his image lying next to her.
As she was trying to support herself and her heavy head up, a glass of cold water was thrust into her hands forcefully.
“You’re such a princess. The moment you’re awake, you’re ordering people around.” Such annoying jabs could only come from him.
Yun Jin stared at him for a few seconds as her memories played back slowly. Yes, it was in the hospital when she and her uncle had just sent her mother off. When the nurses pushed her mother’s body away, she had crouched in that position till the day slowly brightened. Then he appeared and said “Yun Jin, let it out.” She had actually laid in his embrace and sobbed till all her energy was spent. She had once again been thrown into the familiar abyss of grief of losing a loved one.
The person she was staring at unwaveringly started to feel uncomfortable “Has your brain been fried? Why are you … you staring at me?”
Yun Jin was in no mood to tease him at his sudden stuttering. She looked around the room and enquired “Where am I?”
“My place.” He answered so readily as though there was nothing strange about it.
“Which of your homes is this?” Yun Jin wrinkled her forehead slightly.
Cheng Zheng stared at the ceiling before answering “I’m not an orphan. I only have one set of parents and one home.”
Yun Jin’s response was to flip herself off the bed immediately despite how weak she was.
“My house isn’t haunted. What are you frightened of?” Cheng Zheng said huffily as he reached out to support her.
Yun Jin sighed “I have to get to the hospital. My mom just passed away; there’s a million and one things for me to see too … Oh right … Where’s my uncle?”
“Oh so now you remember about your mom after sleeping so soundly for one whole day. If it were left to you, it would have been too late. You can relax, your uncle has seen to all the administrative details. As for your mom … according to your uncle’s wishes, he’d like to cremate the body in the provincial crematorium. He’ll see to the rest after returning to the county.” She didn’t know if he was sparing a thought for her feelings over her mother’s demise, but his tone became gentler towards the end.
Yun Jin lowered her gaze; so she had been asleep for that long. Now that she was awake, she felt acutely that her mother had truly left her forever.
“Where is uncle now?” she asked again.
“He went home first. You were nursing a high fever and even stayed in the hospital for half a day. Seeing that you were otherwise okay apart from being unconscious, I decided to bring you to my place to rest.”
Yun Jin combed through her hair with her fingers “Oh I see. Thank you. I think I better head back first. It might not look too good if your parents were to return and see me.”
Cheng Zheng’s tone became sharp as he snapped back “I’m not even afraid so what are you worried about? It’s not like you’ve never seen my parents before. Would they gobble you up?”
Upon seeing Yun Jin getting up to hunt for her shoes as she ignored him, he added on helplessly “They’re not at home anyway.”
“No matter what, I should still rush back. Uncle must surely be tired.” Yun Jin tried hard to prevent Cheng Zheng from misunderstanding her intentions.
“Then you should at least eat before going. I’ll send you back later.” His tone was hard and it hinted that he would not take no for an answer.
Yun Jin didn’t argue with him any further. Truth be told, as she was getting off the bed, she felt her stomach grumble. There was absolutely no need to be harsh on her body and deprive herself of sustenance.
When she was getting up, she had quickly surveyed the room. Despite having known him for such a long time, this was her first time in this room. One could easily tell this was a boy’s room – the furnishing was simple but well thought out. It was also very clean. Actually, Cheng Zheng wasn’t very fussy; as long as his living environment was comfortable and clean, he was satisfied. The rest was not important. So even back when the two of them were living in that snail’s shell, it had been a blissful period to him.
Cheng Zheng passed her some medication which she swallowed obediently with the aid of the water he gave earlier. Then, she followed him out the room only to see that dishes had already been laid out on the dining table. Cheng Zheng was the first to sit as he emphasised “To give you a head-ups, Aunty Chen has returned to her hometown so these dishes are takeaway fare. Just eat what’s here okay?”
Yun Jin was not as particular about food as he was so she nodded at his request as she sat down opposite him. The memory of them dining together like this was so distant that it felt like it belonged in another lifetime.
Yun Jin picked up some vegetables with her chopsticks and ate it without hesitation only for a bitter taste to fill her mouth. She forced herself to swallow. She ate another mouthful just to be sure that her mood wasn’t affecting her sense of taste. She wanted to say something but eventually decided against it as she directed her chopsticks at another dish she couldn’t identify. She chewed at it before quickly taking a spoonful of soup. This time, she didn’t hold back and she sighed loudly before placing her utensils on the table and staring at Cheng Zheng. This fellow hadn’t even touched the food and was staring at her strangely.
“Cheng Zheng, where did you order this takeaway from?”
“From the Si Chuan restaurant below. How is it?” He had answered too quickly, as though he had anticipated her query.
“Have you ever offended their boss or chef?”
“I’m not crazy, why would I do that? Is the food horrible?”
“Very.” It was rare that Yun Jin was so forthright. Cheng Zheng took a bite himself before cursing softly under his breath.
“Can I take it that you are the Si Chuan chef?” Yun Jin asked calmly.
Cheng Zheng’s face immediately turned a bright beetroot as he placed his chopsticks down at lightning speed before grabbing the bowl of soup in her hands. He said hurriedly “If it’s so horrible, forget it. I’ll go down and buy again.” Having said that, he fled to his room to get his keys.
Yun Jin saw his frazzled state and said slowly in a low voice “Cheng Zheng, why do this to yourself?”
He froze with his back to her “This is my business.”
Yun Jin also stood up “Actually, what I meant to say is … I’m really happy.”
Cheng Zheng turned around slowly “That … actually it was the recipe’s fault. I swear I adhered strictly to its directions …”
“Are there any remaining ingredients in the kitchen? I think I better prepare the meal instead.”
Cheng Zheng gestured towards the kitchen and nodded his head furiously.
Yun Jin busied herself in the kitchen as Cheng Zheng leaned against the door frame and studied her wordlessly. The memories were slowly rushing back.
Yun Jin cracked an egg into the pot before sensing a pair of hands had quietly encircled her waist and she felt his warm breath on her cheek.
“Let go Cheng Zheng.”
“That’s not possible.”
Yun Jin was silent. It seemed from the moment they met each other, they had been repeating the same refrain: Cheng Zheng let go…. No I won’t…
But when he did let her go, she had hurt more than she had ever experienced in life.
“I don’t care what your reasons are. I will never let you go again.” His muffled voice came from behind her shoulders.
“But if you don’t let go … the eggs will be burnt. Aren’t you hungry?” Yun Jin smiled weakly.