Our central storyline has reached its conclusion but what about the fates of the other characters?
Someone once advised me “Never gossip about your colleagues in the washroom.” Apparently, this was rule number seven in a famous guide to surviving the corporate world. I’ve always abided by this rule but there are others who pooh-pooh it.
“ … Look at you. Your lipstick is too over the top. You better not get caught by our supervisor!”
“What are you afraid of? The supervisor doesn’t have the time to concern himself over such nitty-gritties. If we women don’t even have the freedom to put on make-up, then where’s the fun in life?”
“Funny you should say that. There are women who don’t care about make-up.”
“Haha I know who you’re referring to. Is it Mo …”
The two young nurses giggled uncontrollably before one of them said “Considering the kind of woman Dr Mo is, do you think she’s ever been in a relationship?”
“Who knows? Though I can’t imagine any man tolerating her razor sharp scary looks.”
“The way I see it, most likely some boy has broken her heart before that’s why …”
“Haha! Keep it down. We don’t want other people to hear us.”
“What are you afraid of! She’s not on duty today.”
I stood quietly in my cubicle. Many people derived pleasure from gossiping about others and I was glad I was able to be their source of amusement. Before they left, I unlocked my cubicle and walked out to the wash area where they were. As I was washing my hands, I felt I owed them an explanation so I said to the nurse whose lipstick was frozen in midair “I’m sorry to say I exchanged shifts with Dr Wang today.”
After carefully wiping off every last drop of water from my palms, I walked round the two nurses who were still staring at me dumbfounded and exited the washroom. However they choose to insult me upon my departure doesn’t matter.
After all, they weren’t exactly wrong.
I’ll never forget that night after the National Examinations had concluded. That dark, empty KTV corridor echoed with the singing from the various lounges and that did little to calm my racing heart.
I never thought that I would bump into him while returning from the washroom. His face was ruddy as he made a mad dash for the washroom. Obviously he had drank too much. When he passed me, he didn’t even glance in my direction. But I knew, it was my last chance; I didn’t want to graduate with regrets.
“Zhou Zi Yi!” I yelled out.
He took another step forward before looking back puzzled. He looked past me as he tried to determine who had called out to him.
I told myself, Mo Yu Hua, count from 1 to 7 and calm down.
I could sense my feet making its way slowly in his direction as a faraway voice enquired “Could I take up some of your time? There’s something I have to say to you.”
He stared at me baffled.
I confessed “I like you. For three years now, I’ve liked you.”
To be perfectly honest, I never once held hope that he would reply “So have I.” In fact, I had prepared myself for the worst. But when he stared at me incredulously and said “You have got to be kidding … Oh please let me off.”, I knew my emotional shield wasn’t as strong as I had hoped it would be. So now, even after more than a decade has passed, I still remain resolute in my belief that the most hurtful of words often emerge from the prettiest people.
Yun Jin always found it unfair. “Why?” she would question me, “Apart from a handsome face, what do you see in him?” I was never able to answer her.
Love never made sense but bystanders always strove to tease out a plausible reason. Most people are able to find their soul mates while others fall for the imperfect. I belong to the latter.
I had been classmates with Zhou Zi Yi ever since Year One. The first day of my senior high schooling, I sat in the newly renovated classroom feeling out of place as the conspicuous country bumpkin in the spick and span environment. Then, I saw him stroll in casually. It had been a stormy day and many school mates looked bedraggled. However, somehow, he managed to avoid the fate of the other drowned rats. His uniform was immaculate and his shoes was pristine white. He seemed just like an angel that had descended from heaven. I never thought a boy could look so perfect.
I don’t know how many other female classmates ogled him as I did. When he walked passed me, I bent my head low such that my eyes were trained on his dirt-free sneakers. Funnily enough, I suddenly recalled all my past brushes with the opposite gender like my uncles and male friends. They spent years barefeet working hard in the fields up to their waist in mud and their feet always had grime which couldn’t be washed off. A pair of six dollar boots could last my father three years and he would wear that same pair faithfully throughout the seasons. Perhaps I fell for him at first sight; he was like a dazzling bolt of lightning that split open my sky such that I caught a glimpse of another world that was far removed from my home in the fields.
There I stood in the dirt desiring after the one in the clouds.
I once spent many months trying to get rid of the stubborn dirt entrapped beneath my fingernails from the many years of laboring in the fields. I also spent those months scrutinizing my round face in the mirror and trying all sorts of ways to improve it. But eventually I had to face up to reality – I was destined never to become a person of his class. Thus I had to work hard and even harder at my studies because I knew apart from that, nothing else could change my fate. Even if I couldn’t become the flawless swan like he was, I refused to remain an ugly duckling
Even though we had been classmates for three years, up until that moment, we had never once talked to each other. I don’t think he even knew my name. He was just like Cheng Zheng – everyone was envious of him. If Cheng Zheng’s cool attitude towards women caused them to stare from afar, then Zhou Zi Yi’s generous smile easily earned the delight and ire of many. Of course, his smile was reserved only for the pretty ladies.
He was both the most considerate boy as well as the ringleader in teasing girls. His grades were poor and when he created mischief, he did not hold back. But both the principal and teachers were extra forgiving of him because apart from his likeable face, his father was the head of the province’s largest real-estate company.
Later, I found out he was also a kid that nobody loved. In all three years in senior high, it was his father’s assistant who attended all the parent-teacher conferences in his parents’ stead. According to hearsay, there was only him and his nanny living in his mansion most of the time. In fact, whenever he had the chance, he would invite friends over to his place to enjoy unbridled fun.
In our second year at senior high, I heard someone mention that his father had made a rare visit to the school to meet with the principal. Even more shocking was his luxury car had been smashed beyond recognition in that same visit. It was the most sensational news in a long while. However, because they never managed to capture the perpetrator, the matter died down. No one ever knew that I had witnessed him in the school’s parking lot smashing every window of what appeared to be an expensive drive. It was coincidence on my part really.
So even the world up in the clouds wasn’t perfect. When a woman’s love has some traces of maternal love mixed in, it would become even more irretractable. I pitied him but I was also aware that if he came to know of it, it would be the most absurd situation – my pity wasn’t worth anything. I was a nobody not only to him but also to the rest of the world. Nonetheless, he became the softest spot in my heart.
My love was a secret and it was hopeless. I am not Yun Jin, I cannot control my feelings. My rational mind warned me to stay clear of him, but my treacherous heart always betrayed me. Thus, I chose to confess that fateful night. I didn’t dare dream that any result would come out of it. All I wanted was to leave my teenage years behing without regrets.
I loved a handsome boy in my youth. Even though he viewed me as a monster and fled terrified upon my confession, even though I became the laughing stock in his circles, I never regretted it.
The effort one invests in his academics always has better returns as compared to the attention one invests in people. My diligence paid off and I entered my dream university, becoming the first female in my county to successfully escape the fate of a farmer. With my poor father’s full financial support and overflowing expectations, I began university life in the city. My life in university can be summarised as stints in one laboratory to the next. I’m not an exciting person by far and was a born introvert hence it comes as no surprise that I don’t have many friends. Thankfully I had Yun Jin. Us being in the same city culminated in the establishment of a close friendship.
The summer of our first year in university, Yun Jin hesitantly brought news of his having a girlfriend. Frankly, I already knew. I rarely left comments in my friends’ social media but I was always lingering on the various platforms to see what he was up to. His was an open relationship that was well documented online. From the many photos posted online, I could tell the girl was just like him – another pretty face. Seeing his contented and blissful smile, I knew he was truly in love. He wouldn’t remember me. Perhaps when the couple was joking, he would mention me – how this unknown country bumpkin had professed her unwanted love for him.
I assumed that was how I would spend the rest of my life – secretly watching him live happily from afar. I never expected that when I next saw him, it would be the sixth year post graduation. By that time, he had carved a name for himself in the real-estate world. More importantly, he had become engaged to his sweetheart.
When he made a stopover at G-city and organised a gathering, Cheng Zheng rang me up to ascertain my attendance. I knew Cheng Zheng’s motivations – he was afraid that if I didn’t attend, neither would Yun Jin. He badly needed an opportunity to heal the cracks in their relationship. Cheng Zheng couldn’t have known that even if he had not made that call, I would still have attended. I am not one to hide from reality. Another way of putting it would be I desired to meet Zhou Zi Yi confidently.
That night, Zhou Zi Yi had approached me to make small talk. He told me “Yu Hua, you’ve become prettier.” I was flattered. Even though I knew his words could never be taken seriously, my heart was making somersaults; at least he knew my name!
The six years had made his handsome appearance even more suave but it also helped me perfect the art of looking unaffected. We sat across each other and drank; if someone had told me years earlier that there would come such a day, I would have scoffed at him. When we were both sixty percent drunk, he teased me and asked if I had found the man of my dreams. I laughed and enquired if he had forgotten how I used to be infatuated with him back in senior high. My words made him double over in laughter as he pat my shoulders in approval of my sense of humour. For that, we toasted.
What he didn’t know was that the many years since the fateful night had confirmed it for me – I would never love another like him. The world is a place of cruel irony; the line between fact and fiction is often blurred. The person I loved was right before me but he didn’t even know it. He also didn’t know I would never lie about certain things.
That day he had too much to drink and he said many things. I was the same even though I was usually a quiet person. Eventually, he was completely wasted and I flagged a cab to see him back to his hotel. He rested heavily on my shoulders and slurred “Yu Hua, you’re an interesting person. If we could turn back the time, maybe I would have fallen for you heh.” My reaction was to laugh in unison. I wasn’t a fool. Zhou Zi Yi was a businessman through and through; even when he was drunk, he would not let himself be forced into a corner. He said “if we could turn back time” but we all knew that wasn’t possible. What he meant to say was, he would never fall in love with me.
When we reached his hotel, I staggered and stumbled my way to his room as I tried to balance both our weights. The other guests in the elevator caught a whiff of the stench of alcohol on us and took in the sight of us with hands around the other with unmasked disapproval. When the hotel staff unlocked the door to his room, I was so exhausted I dumped his body unceremoniously on the carpet of the luxury suite. I had done my duty as a former classmate. He lay on the carpet and struggled with loosening his tie. I couldn’t stand seeing him fumbling helplessly so I bent down and helped him. As I reached out, he yanked abruptly on the other end of the tie, causing me to teeter and I narrowly avoided falling on top of him.
“Don’t go …” He begged.
I got up and called the male staff on shift to watch over him.
As I made my way back to the elevator, I clasped my burning face in my cold, shaking hands. I had to admit, my heart was racing back there. Any normal woman will not be able to remain unmoved in the presence of the man she loved. I could have stayed and used drunkenness as the perfect excuse to spend a night with him. Then at least I would have memories to last me a lifetime. But I, Mo Yu Hua, am simply unable to bed a man who keeps chattering on about missing his fiancée. I couldn’t bear to lower myself to that level. I was destined to pine after him from afar.
The next day, he called to thank me and invited me out for a meal. I declined him, citing school as an excuse. I couldn’t cope with a second night whether he intended it or not.
In the end, he returned to Shanghai. The gathering changed our friendship and we kept in contact. Sometimes he would call to make small talk, other times he would pour out his frustrations concerning snags in his career or relationship. Chen Jie Jie was his fiancée and the one name he mentioned the most. She was indeed a fortunate girl to have Zhou Zi Yi the infamous player fall hard for her. She could leave him in the country without reservations as she studied in Europe. While I dare not say he didn’t sleep around in her absence, he was definitely emotionally faithful. I believe apart from her beauty, there must have been something particularly winsome about her.
My days passed in a blur as I shouldered more responsibilities as a resident. There was an advantage to studying medicine; it helped me forget the fact that I was single even at the ripe age of twenty-five.
In my seventh year of university, I had just assisted in a simple appendicectomy when I received an urgent call from Meng Xue – Zhou Zi Yi had been in a serious car accident in Shanghai and his life was hanging in the balance. She asked if I wanted to fly in to Shanghai with her but I declined. There was no meaning in going there. His family’s affluence would ensure his getting the best treatment if he didn’t die. If he died … If he died, nothing would have changed.
I stood rooted to the spot, stunned at my own heartlessness. My senior cum mentor, Dr Wu, was shocked “Little Mo, why are you crying?”
Was I? I wasn’t aware of it then. I touched my face, I was indeed crying.
“Nothing. My eyes was irritated is all.” I replied.
Dr Wu smiled and dropped the matter “Perhaps you should go to the washroom to handle your “irritated” eyes.”
In the subsequent days, I reported for work as per usual and went for my break as per usual. I refused to enquire about how he was faring miles away. However, in my dreams, I was haunted by an ocean of blood.
On the sixth day, Meng Xue called. She sighed “Luckily he’s tough. He’s out of the woods but still not in a good shape. His ribcage is broken in three parts with one fragment narrowly avoiding piercing his lungs. His spleen is ruptured and one-third has been removed. His left nasal bone is fractured as is his left femur. Sadly even the rich are bound by circumstance; even in his state, his parents are held up by business and only managed to accompany him for two days before rushing off. His fiancée is slightly better and she calls everyday. She claims she’s preparing for a major examination and can’t make it back. His family has hired private, highly qualified nurses to care for him round the clock. But even then, nurses cannot take the place of family. Seeing him like this … it’s really sad.”
I hung up and mulled over it for a long time. Even before I came to a decision, I found myself already packing. I called Dr Wu to request a long leave of absence. His tone became serious on the other end “Little Mo, you should know that this residency is crucial. It affects your chance of employment with the better hospitals. You’ve always performed stellarly and our hospital has always been keen on signing you on. If you should take a long leave now … You really should think twice.”
“Senior, I’m certain.”
That very afternoon, I took all my allowance from my residency and flew straight to Shanghai. When I landed, I rushed to the hospital immediately. At the sight of Zi Yi wrapped completely in gauze, I simply couldn’t connect him with the carefree man I knew. I stood next to him and set down the luggage in my hand. He was so weak he couldn’t speak but when he saw me, a single tear rolled out of the corner of his eye.
In the subsequent days, I made arrangements with the staff there. The nurses would tend to him as usual but I would take over any specialized care that needed expertise. The nurses’ burden was lightened yet they enjoyed the same pay so naturally they were more than happy to accept my offer. As for the hospital, I told them I was a friend but I’m sure most of them treated me as his girlfriend. It was not surprising for who would believe that a simple friend would abandon everything to care for him so meticulously? Thus in the many days after, whenever the doctor on duty teased him “You rascal, your luck is pretty good huh. You managed to stay alive despite the horrific crash and you even have a professional doctor as a girlfriend to take care of you.” I never corrected him.
Zi Yi had always been physically fit so his wounds healed relatively quickly, After twenty odd days had passed, he could even sit up in bed and most of the casts were removed. However, his hands and feet were still in plasters and he couldn’t care for his own hygiene. Whenever I gave him a wipedown, he would blush furiously and his body would tense when I reached his lower half. To me, any part of the human anatomy, be it male or female, was exactly what it is, human anatomy. Thus I often reassured him “You don’t have to feel awkward in front of a doctor. I’ve seen some larger than yours and some smaller than yours. You can relax. Yours isn’t at all special.” However, a month later, as I was cleaning him as per routine, I found a portion of him had an unusual reaction. I have to admit, I felt no less embarrassed than he did so I coughed lightly and remarked “Seems like you’re really making a good recovery.”
For two months, we were in our own world. I even slept in his VIP room. Every night, I would converse with him before we fell asleep on our respective beds. He hated the nurses’ way of doing things and refused to let them near him. Even his meals were rejected unless I fed him. There was even once when I went roaming in the hospital grounds and returned a tad later than usual. I hadn’t even entered his room but I could hear him throwing a huge tantrum at my absence. I almost thought I was important to him until the day of his discharge. I had made a short trip to the hospital canteen to grab breakfast but when I returned, I could no longer squeeze my way into his room. His parents, friends, and even subordinates had swarmed the room. Even from a distance, I could smell the ugly fragrance of fresh flowers.
I sat at the other end of the hospital and finished both sets of breakfasts silently. When one is full, one wouldn’t be as sad. When I finally walked back into the room, the mass had long gone. It was so pathetic really; I had harboured hopes that he would be like the dashing male leads in dramas and make a reappearance just before I gave myself to despair. He would say “I’m still here.”
But of course, he too was long gone. Humans are like that. Even when they know it was impossible, they still hoped.
The only person remaining in the room was a middle aged man who claimed to be his father’s assistant. He expressed sincere gratitude on behalf of the Zhou family. One could tell he was an honest and kind man. When he said “We know that Ms Mo has taken good care of Mr Zhou on account of their close friendship. But as compensation for your time, we would like to present you with this. Should you refuse, we would assume that you don’t take Mr Zhou as a friend.” as he pushed a thick package towards me, I realised I didn’t have any reason to refuse him. Hence, I accepted it and weighed it in my hands. The Zhou family sure was generous. This sum was enough to hire the best doctor in all of China. I tore open the flap and counted twenty pink notes before returning the rest to him. “Could you please relay my thanks to Mr Zhou for paying my return airfare?”
When I flew back to G-city, the first thing I did was to visit Yun Jin. There she lay on the bed with a deathly white face that was no different from the bedsheets. When she saw me, she took a long time before finally choking out “Yu Hua, the child is no more. The doctor says I’ll never have children in future.”
I sat by her bedside and clasped her hand in mine as her tears flowed freely. Even a girl so adept at protecting herself could be so stupid in the name of love. Could it be that every woman had to be silly once in their life before they learned to be strong? She was the same. As was I.
When I was still by Yun Jin’s side, I received a call from Zi Yi. He said “Yu Hua, I’m grateful to you. I’ll never forget this. If you should need my help one day, come hell or high water, I will get it done.”
I listened to him quietly before replying “What would I need that requires you to go through hell or high water? Don’t think so highly of yourself. I went to Shanghai not for your sake but for my own. You don’t owe me anything.”
When I hung up, I told Yun Jin “He’s such a shrewd person through and through. Everything has a price to him. Did you hear? He said to thank me, he was willing to go through hell or high water. That is the price he set on me … but what fault is it of his? He never made any request of me. Everything that I did, I was willing. I did it for myself, not because of compassion for him.”
When my tears had dried, I had an emotional breakthrough.
On my return to my hospital, I received a strict warning. Thankfully, due to my otherwise good performance, I didn’t receive worse punishment.
Half a year later, I received Zi Yi’s wedding invitation. It was clearly written – Groom Zhou Zi Yi and Bride Chen Jie Jie sincerely invite you, Ms Mo Yu Hua, to their wedding on xx/xx/xx.
She had finally come home. The prince and princess were destined to be together. It was just as well that the lovers had reunited.
The eve of the wedding, Yun Jin asked me “Yu Hua, will you attend?”
I replied “I will. Why not? Since I have to give a red packet, I might as well go and take a look for myself.”
“That’s good. If you go, you can pass them my red packet. I have work-related stuff tomorrow, I won’t be going.”
I agreed readily because I knew the true reason for her unwillingness to attend – she didn’t want to meet him.
The day of the wedding, I dressed simply because I knew better than to compare myself with the fortunate bride. Moreover, I wasn’t pretty myself. When I passed the couple my red packet, I offered my congratulations sincerely “I wish you eternal happiness.” I looked at Zi Yi and stared into his eyes but he broke the gaze and looked away. Then, I presented Yun Jin’s red packet “This is Yun Jin’s. She wants me to send her well-wishes on her behalf.” The dashing best man looked forlorn at the news.
I thought of Yun Jin’s deathly white face. Love was such a strange thing. It didn’t allow another to gain because one had lost. No, it made everyone suffer the same heartbreak.
I left the washroom and promptly forgot about the two nurses as I returned to my clinic. Doctor Zhang, who was in the clinic opposite mine, saw that I had returned and he leapt to his feet eagerly “Dr Mo, you’re back! Please handle everything while I go to the toilet.” Everyone had to grow old and die someday, isn’t this why the hospital’s “business” was always so prosperous?
I was reading a case note intently as I yelled out “Next!” Very quickly, someone occupied the seat before me. I looked up and waited patiently for the patient to begin.
He said “Doctor, I hurt here.”
He pointed at his chest. I advised him seriously “If you’re having chest pains, I strongly recommend a referral to Internal Medicine.”
“What if I’m also bleeding?”
“In that case I can stem the bleeding first.” I pretended not to notice the exaggerated and playful manner in which he was clutching his chest.
My patient grew silent as his mischievous grin slowly disappeared “Yu Hua, I’ve divorced.”
This wasn’t something new. I replied “If that’s the case, you can see a psychiatrist or a counsellor.”
“Yu Hua, can we talk as friends?”
“You’re spending good money to be here. This is the only way we can talk. If you’ve nothing else to add then I’m going to call for the next patient.”
That night, I called Yun Jin. Because of her mother’s matter, she had returned to the county. I hadn’t met her in a long while. She informed me that she had quit her job. Then I heard a familiar albeit unexpected voice in the background “Yun Jin, who are you talking to?” She covered the receiver and I could only make out muffled voices on my end. After some time she replied “Let’s continue.”
I couldn’t help but ask “Did you quit for him?”
“You can say that. Since I’ve decided to begin afresh with him, then I owe it to him and our relationship to leave the company. He claims he doesn’t mind but I don’t think I can continue working under Xu Zhi Heng. It’ll only make things awkward.”
“Are you really set on starting things over? Aren’t you afraid history will repeat itself?” I wasn’t being a wet blanket. I’ve seen for myself their many quarrels and reunions. If love could resolve all problems, they would never have separated in the first place.
“I can’t be sure of anything. Not all problems can be resolved even when we face them bravely as a couple. I’ve come to realise that we can’t be calculative in love. We can only be forgiving.”
Perhaps she was right.
Yun Jin continued “There’s something even funnier. I woke up last night to the sound of someone going through my things. I had such a scare and I turned on the lights immediately only to see that it was him. I asked him what he was doing in the middle of the night and he said he was looking for our household registration certificate.”
I teased “He can’t be thinking of proposing?”
Yun Jin also chuckled “That’s what I asked him too. He merely replied ‘Su Yun Jin, a man at twenty-eight is in his prime while a woman at the same age will start to show signs of ageing. Hence we have to get married right away.’”
“This sounds like Cheng Zheng alright.”
“Yu Hua, will you believe me if I said that sometimes love needs a bit of impulsiveness? I replied him ‘When does the office of registry open?’ Who knew that the office only opens at eight? The two of us started waiting outside at seven like the idiots we are. When they finally opened their doors, we discovered that they were only handling divorce cases that day.”
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. “Yun Jin, have I mentioned that I’m really envious of you?”
It’s true, no matter how many obstacles she faced, as long as she was willing to turn back, there would always be someone waiting and ready to help her. But where was my person?
After Zhou Zi Yi and Cheng Zheng became business partners, they moved their office to G-city. Since he was divorced, Zi Yi no longer had any reason to remain in Shanghai. Later the same year, I was sleeping one night when I received a call from a very tipsy Zi Yi. There was loud music in the background. He slurred “I’ve had too much to drink. Can you come get me?” I know I should have turned him down but I didn’t. I asked him where he was before changing.
When there was a first, there would always be a second time. I became his lifeline. Soon it came to be that whenever he had finished entertaining clients, he would drop by my place. He said it was because he loved the tea I brewed.
Zi Yi loved Bi Luo Chun green tea but its fragrance was too overwhelming for my liking. I preferred Liu An green tea. Whenever he visited, I would always serve him his favourite tea before brewing my own mix. Oftentimes, he would leave after drinking unless he was dead drunk. On such occasions, he would spend the night.
Back in the hospital, my mentor Dr Wu constantly reminded me “Yu Hua, transferring to Dublin is a wonderful opportunity. This offer won’t be extended to you forever. You must make a decision fast.”
Yun Jin asked “If you should stay, then it should be for someone who’s worth it. But what am I to make of the both of you right now?”
I didn’t answer her. I knew he depended on my warmth. Perhaps this was what his rich parents and beautiful ex-wife couldn’t give him. Eventually, I learned the reason behind his separation. It was a simple problem actually. She was unhappy that he spent too much time meeting clients whereas he was frustrated that she didn’t view family as a priority. Pretty people were all the same – they tend to be haughty and stubborn and both of them was no exception. What was originally a small issue became a bonfire out of control and both grew tired of the constant fighting and decided to separate due to “irreconcilable differences”.
Everytime I saw him off, I would sit quietly in the spot he had occupied for a long time until even the tea had cooled. Yun Jin was right; she said “Zhou Zi Yi is merely using you. He enjoys this arrangement because he gets to have your company but at the same time, is not beholden to any relationship responsibility.” Sometimes people choose to plunge into the deep knowingly.
Sometimes he would sigh “Yu Hua, you’re no longer young. Don’t drag it anymore. Find a good man and settle down.” Indeed, I was already thirty. How much time did I have left? Back in my county, a twenty-five year old unwed maiden would be a source of worry for her parents. If she was my age, she would simply be viewed as a freak. My parents who were once so proud of my achievements now dreaded my name coming up amongst my relatives. They called, nagged, scolded and even tried to matchmake me but slowly they accepted that it was futile and they let me be. They pretended that I didn’t exist to save themselves the worry.
On my thirtieth birthday, Zi Yi took time off specially to celebrate the milestone with me. He said “Yu Hua, why couldn’t you have been my family?” I didn’t answer him. He was a practical and cruel person. He was clearer than anyone else that that wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
By this time, Yun Jin and Cheng Zheng had long since married. The two stubborn people still butt heads occasionally but having once lost each other, they learned to appreciate the other. Just as Yun Jin had mentioned, love needed perseverance and forgiveness. It was regretful that they couldn’t have children. In the past two years, they had tried all methods of conception but the result was always disappointing. Yun Jin didn’t say it but I could sense her stress. Cheng Zheng was not only an only child, he also hailed from such an affluent family. Perhaps this was the price they had to pay for the mistakes in their youth.
Two months after my birthday, Zi Yi formally invited me to dinner. When I reached, he was already waiting. I’d known him for such a long time and he was rarely punctual.
I sat down and observed that he was unusually serious and tense. Thus I decided to get to the bottom of the matter immediately “If you have something to say, you can just say it straight.”
He hesitated for a long while before raising his head to look at me.
“… Jie Jie has returned. I realise I still love her so … I intend to remarry.”
Because I just entered the warm restaurant from the wintry outdoors, my glasses were fogged up. I took it off calmly and slowly rubbed at it with cloth. Just as he reached the pinnacle of anxiety at my non-response, I replied “Oh.”
From beginning till end, I had always been a bystander. Apart from being privy to certain details, I had no other rights.
Before I left, I told him “I wish you happiness.”
I meant what I said; I truly wished him well. Perhaps only then could we both forget each other.
At night, I returned to the hospital. The patients were still as numerous. When I passed by the operating theatre, I heard a relative let out a heart-wrenching sob. After being accustomed to working in a hospital, one became immune to death. Day in and out, people died from road traffic accidents, physical assaults, cancer, virus … but no one ever died from sorrow.
Yun Jin dropped by to drink with me. When we were both tipsy, she cursed in a low voice “Zhou Zi Yi that jerk.”
In all the years I knew her, I had never heard Yun Jin scold anyone so I couldn’t help but smile.
Was there a rule that ordained that the person you loved must love you back? There wasn’t.
So I said “He’s not at fault. He just doesn’t love me.”
As the translator for this novel, I’m very heartened to read that most of you love our two leads. It wouldn’t have been such a fun ride if no one felt anything for our couple. It may come as a slight surprise then that neither Yun Jin nor Cheng Zheng are my favourite characters. Mo Yu Hua rocketed to the top of my list with this heartbreaking epilogue and mysterious Shen Ju An comes second. Which brings to mind, what is Ju An’s story?
Some of you have rightly pointed out that Xin Yi Wu likes her characters to make appearances in her other works and this is the case for many of the supporting characters here. This despite it being the first book she had ever written. Let’s take one moment to admire her foresight and literary talent. Peanuts and I have discussed this early on and we thought it best that I make a mention of certain supporting characters which also include Lu Lu and Zhou Zi Yi. Yes, Zi Yi’s story doesn’t end here. I’ve put all of it under an extra cut in case some of you want to read the original text. Having said that, for those of you who can, you should read the original texts because some things are just sadly lost in translation.
Before I end off, I would be completely remiss if I didn’t thank my mentor, Peanuts, for her patience and guidance. She has helped me to source for pictures as well as bridge any differences in content between the original text and the published version to maximise your reading experience and for that I cannot thank her enough. She has truly been a great help in easing my load. For all you aspiring translators out there, I would recommend you giving it a try right here on this platform (subject to tryouts)! You’ll be in good hands a la Peanuts for sure.
I also want to thank Hui3r for allowing me on her platform as well as all you readers for following the story, leaving comments and liking posts. It’s been wonderful interacting with all of you (please do continue to leave comments, I would drop by occasionally to reply them and that’s a promise.) You may not know this but the excitement you may derive as readers from noticing a new post is out is the same excitement we translators get when we receive notification of a new comment!
With that, I take my bow from the translating world. Truth be told, I undertook this project because I love writing and the experience has only deepened my love for the art. I know I still have much to improve on and I will try to go over all my posts and make the necessary edits when time permits. Perhaps I will make a reappearance when the drama version of You Are Still Here is announced because the story means so much to me. I know I can’t wait for news of its dramatization, what about you?
P.S. Do rate the story over at You Are Still Here’s Shu Sheng Bar page!
Warning: Major Spoiler Alert
Shen Ju An 《山月不知心底事 – The Moon Doesn’t Understand My Heart》
Shen Ju An’s first love is Yuan Xiu and the gold ring was a gift from her. Because of a twist of events, Yuan Xiu becomes a social escort and Shen Ju An leaves for university. They separate.
Yuan Xiu gets involved with a man called Ye Qian Ze. However his wife, known as Xiang Yuan, is not to be trifled with.
Despite having broken up, Ju An still seeks her out because he can’t forget her and eventually Yuan Xiu becomes pregnant with their child. (Note, it was never explicitly stated that it is Ju An’s child and it may well have been Qian Ze’s child with the only clue being Yuan Xiu fought hard to keep the child.)
Unfortunately for Yuan Xiu, Zhang Yue is also not to be trifled with. When the latter discovers that Yuan Xiu’s child is most likely Ju An’s, she is livid. In a surprising show of cunningness, she approaches Xiang Yuan and informs her of Yuan Xiu’s pregnancy and misleads her into thinking the child is Qian Ze’s. Xiang Yuan eventually causes Yuan Xiu to suffer a miscarriage.
(This was an interesting show of devious brilliance from Zhang Yue because Shen Ju An grew to hate Xiang Yuan. He never once suspected that his wife was the mastermind.)
After a series of further run-ins with Xiang Yuan, Yuan Xiu is admitted into a mental asylum. However, it is not stated if Yuan Xiu has truly gone insane or if it’s Xiang Yuan flexing her influence. Most notably, Shen Ju An does not go to her rescue and does not assist in getting her acquitted from the institution.
Over time, Ju An begins to see the error of his ways and feels guilty for his mistreatment of Zhang Yue who genuinely loves him. When a quarrel causes Zhang Yue to leave for France, Ju An chases after her. It is hinted that their relationship improves gradually.
Zhou Zi Yi and Chen Jie Jie 《许我向你看 – Let Me Look At You》
Back in senior high, Chen Jie Jie bore a child out of wedlock with another man. Her parents were ashamed and they forced her to give the child up for adoption. She was even made to swear never to seek out the child again since she was already matchmade as a child to Zi Yi. Her parents subsequently arranged for her to attend the same university as him.
We know their marriage dissolved at one point. As for their remarriage, that Zi Yi loves her is no secret but on Jie Jie’s part, she had no choice because her family had landed in financial trouble. They desperately needed the Zhou family’s wealth to tide them through. Eventually, she and Zi Yi have a baby boy of their own.
Lu Lu 《马路天使 – Angel of The Road》《晨昏 – Evening Twilight》
Lu Lu is Lu Sheng’s step-niece. Lu Lu’s father and Lu Sheng are half-brothers with the former being the illegitimate son. Their almost non-existent brotherly ties become further estranged when both of them fall for the same woman with Lu Lu’s father ultimately emerging triumphant.
Being the twisted psychopath he is, Lu Sheng orchestrates the murder of Lu Lu’s parents under the guise of an accident. He then acquires guardianship of Lu Lu though he remains distant.
However, one day, something snaps in Lu Sheng and he rapes Lu Lu who was too weak to resist his vile advances. It becomes a vicious cycle. Initially, Lu Lu doesn’t escape because Lu Sheng is all the family she has.
Later on, Lu Lu meets a sweet suitor named Chen Lang though Lu Sheng goes all out to destroy their romance. However, they remain steadfast in their love and Chen Lang proposes to elope. Although Lu Sheng eventually agrees to give Lu Lu her wings, he reneges on his word and speeds after her in a bid to prevent her from reaching the airport.
Lu Lu notices his car in her rearview mirror and accepts that she would never be able to escape his powerful clutches. She smiles before ramming her own car into the divider, killing herself instantly. Lu Sheng himself is seriously wounded though he survives the crash.
Unfortunately, Chen Lang never learns of Lu Lu’s demise and the story ends with him misunderstanding that Lu Lu wasn’t willing to abandon everything to leave with him.