Oh man, such a dilemma. How to not drag out that first time? How to make it special? How to not make it seem forced? Darn it, when’s a good time?! (LOL, Jia He, I get you.) What do you guys think? Did Jia He do okay?
Chapter 15.3 — To Dote Even a Bit More (3)
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After stating this one sentence, he straightened himself in his seat and carried on replaying that film clip. When the girl on the screen was bowing her head and holding out an embroidered pouch, there was suddenly a light knock on the door. It was a very proper-sounding knock, like a very tentative inquiry. Jia He threw a flustered look at Yi Wenze. He, however, merely composedly watched the screen and said in a mild voice, “Come in.”
Pushing open the door was the person who earlier had very astutely chosen to step out of the room. As if to defuse any awkwardness, he deliberately brought in two cups of tea. “Teacher Yi, what do you think from what you’ve watched?”
Yi Wenze took the two cups from him and arbitrarily handed one to Jia He. “The woman’s voice sounds too young. We need to redub it with a voice that sounds around twenty years old or so.” He paused, then brought a soliciting look on Jia He. “What do you think?”
Cupping the tea mug in her hands, Jia He, her words purposely well-enunciated, replied, “This girl’s voice sounds too immature.” To prove that she truly had listened to the clip, she even deliberately added another comment. “It feels like the person talking is a girl who hasn’t even reached the age of majority. This whole scene that’s about love and emotions feels kind of weird when you’re watching it.”
And then, with a proper, serious demeanour, she took a sip of her tea.
Oh no, he said “I love you,” but I didn’t even say anything back…
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The next day when she awoke, this incident had already completely become a knot in her heart.
Clamping her toothbrush between her teeth, she stared at the picture in the mirror: Yi Wenze was rubbing his hair dry with a towel while she, in contrast, was there with half her mouth full of foam—talk about spoiling the scene. Eventually, she could not help herself and ended up calling Xiao Yu.
“You’re the screenwriter. Do you really need to ask me the best time and place to say it?”
Xiao Yu was presently in Xinjiang filming a car commercial. The whipping sound of the wind in the phone made Jia He’s ears hurt. “It’s so weird. Why is it so hard to say it the first time?”
On the other end of the call, someone was making some sort of suggestion. Xiao Yu gave a few sentences of instruction, then afterwards finally seemed to find a spot where the wind was not as strong. “It’s actually not hard. The first time you guys kissed or the first time you stayed overnight with him, you had all the chance to say it. That day at the recording studio, you could have just gone along with the moment and said something, too. How did you end up missing all of those?”
Jia He was bemoaning this as well. You say, just why didn’t I think of that?
Women truly are such strange creatures. They will remember every one of their “firsts” very clearly and will intentionally try to make it unique. In fact, everyone knows that after the barrier of the “first time” has been broken through, that sentence will just become a synonym for each day’s greeting of “good morning.” That night, Yi Wenze had merely followed his heart and did what he desired to do, but now that she was the one to do it, it had become a formidably difficult task.
Luckily, Yi Wenze was born in the fall, on October 17.
She considered many different programs on which to do it, but after taking a look at their post-production schedules, she decided in the end to not go through the hassle.
When Xiao Yu saw the 7-inch cheesecake, which was blanketed with a layer of mangoes and strawberries, her lips twisted into a smirk and she mocked that once anyone finished eating that thing, he’d definitely die from the richness and heaviness. Jia He turned her nose up at that. “Yi Wenze loves cheesecake.”
Of course, she liked it, too.
“What other extra, fun little things do you have planned on the program?”
Facing the glass display case, she shook her head. “Nothing. He’s been really busy lately. I don’t want to cause him any more exhaustion.”
“This is your first time celebrating his birthday with him. How come you’re making the celebration so old-married-couple style?”
Jia He took the cake box that was handed to her and carefully held it in her hands. “What if I told you, tonight he’s going to first celebrate his birthday with his Beijing fans and won’t be back at the office until really late; what would you say then?”
With a pained look, Xiao Yu reiterated those same words: “It’s not easy being the wife of a celeb, so not easy.”
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The birthday celebration with fans started at seven o’clock. Worried that Yi Wenze might come back early, she had bought a hot dog at the shop and, after returning to his production company’s office, also made herself a cup of coffee, hence solving the matter of dinner for herself.
Autumn this year had arrived particularly early and was also especially cold, but it was still not yet the winter heating period. By the time it was past nine o’clock, she was already so chilled she was hopping up and down, and so she could only turn on the electric blanket, burrow herself on the bed in the bedroom, and continue watching television to burn time. The blanket had only just started to warm when she all of a sudden remembered that the cake should be placed into the refrigerator. Hastily, she slipped out from the blanket again and went to put away the cake.
The sitting area was not large to begin with, and currently, as it was his birthday, it was piled with gifts mailed from his fans from all parts of the country.
She had kept saying that she would tidy these, but simply had not been able to find the time to get to organizing them. Now, on this day, outside of her expectations, she ended up having the leisure time to do it. There were boxes big and small, as well as letters. When her head was feeling stuffed and seemed to spin from all the sorting, a knock was heard on the door.
He didn’t bring his key? That shouldn’t be.
Walking over, she opened the door. It turned out to be Wu Zhilun’s young assistant. Seeing it was her, he actually grew rather flustered. “Teacher Yi isn’t here?”
Jia He shook her head. “He’s still not back. Anything I can help with?”
Hemming and hawing for quite some time, the young assistant finally replied, “No,” and then was about to leave again, a box still clasped in his arms. From the packaging, she could tell that it was a gift. However, she simply could not figure out why this kid was being so bashful over simply delivering a birthday present, so she spoke up and asked him, “Are you here to deliver a birthday gift?”
Turning back again to look at her, the boy continued with his internal wrestle. In the end, he gritted his teeth and handed the box to her, saying, “I’m helping someone deliver a present to Teacher Yi.”
It was a pale-green box tied with a silver ribbon. Very exquisite-looking.
Right after she took the box from him, the young assistant was already dashing away. When she was back in the room and had shut the door, she at last realized the reason for the boy’s discomfiture. No card was attached to the box, but the instant she turned it over, she saw the words penned on the bottom: “A-Ze, happy 34th birthday!” The signature was written in an uninhibited scrawl, but she could still tell that it was the two words “Tian Chu.”
In the glow of the wall lamps, the words in silver ink exuded splendour and finery.
Jia He thought about the gift she had prepared. All of a sudden, she did not feel so good about it. Why didn’t I choose something that’s tangible and can be kept and stored away? That way, many years later, it can even be a keepsake.
The room was getting colder and colder. In the first place, she had purposely worn a short skirt, and now with this bit of suffering brought about by the temperature, her nose had become a little congested. After wallowing in glumness for a few minutes, she arbitrarily set the box onto the table and slipped back under the covers to continue warming herself. She went from wakefulness to grogginess, then from grogginess back to wakefulness. In this chilly bedroom, there was only the sound of the television. It wasn’t until the time was soon going to tick past midnight that a key was at last heard unlocking the door.
He’s back? She swiftly slid out from beneath the blanket. When she ran out of the bedroom, Yi Wenze was closing the door behind him.
As he had just come in from the frigidness of outside, chilly air surrounded him. Stepping just a little closer to him already caused uncontainable shivers to sweep over Jia He. The day was so cold that even Yi Wenze was garbed in a leather coat, but she was wearing only a short skirt. She shuffled up to him. “Have you eaten? Still hungry?”
Her hair was a little rumpled. A single glance was enough for him to tell that it was from sleeping on it.
Yi Wenze reached his hand over and helped her to smooth her hair. “I’ve eaten already. They bought a lot of stuff, and there was also a really big cheesecake.”
One sentence thoroughly extinguished all her flames of enthusiasm.
Originally, she had planned for the candle to be blown out in a darkened room, creating a setting filled with ambiance, and then she would say some sentimental words that were meaningful and worth remembering. But upon hearing that his belly had been fed full with the cake from his fans, her plan instantly went out the window.
It was not as if she could pour him a glass of warm water and say, “Happy birthday, dear. I love you,” right?”
Yi Wenze removed his coat and hung it up. Seeing that her eyes were fixed on him, he asked, “Hungry?”
Only now did Jia He’s mind give a start, and she hastily went and poured him a glass of warm water. “I told you earlier, remember? I went home for dinner today. My mom made a lot of food. I’m still stuffed, even now.”
Taking the water from her, he held the glass in his palms, warming them for a while before touching her face. “I’m sorry. They went a little bit late with their partying today.”
His palms were warm, whereas his fingers still carried hints of iciness on them, so when he contacted her face, it very much stimulated her tactile sense.
He had told her very early on that there would be a fan meet today. Her current gloominess was over the fact that she had lost yet another chance. Secretly sighing to herself,You’re being unnecessarily melodramatic, Jia He pursed her lips and said, “Your Beijing fans have always been the most ardent. This hour of the night is already considered early for them.” Since there was no longer any romantic setting anyway and “happy birthday” had already been wished when they first got up this morning, she finally, giving a little sniffle, just packed away all thoughts of doing anything and slipped back into the bedroom.
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She turned off the television and turned on some music.
It was only when she was preparing to lull herself to sleep that she realized there was no sound of movement in the sitting area. She wondered what Yi Wenze was doing. It was so cold, though, that she only raised her voice slightly and called to him, “It’s really late. Do you want to take a shower first?” Even after this question was asked, there was still no sound. She thus had no choice but to crawl out of her warm blanket for the third time. There was no one inside the sitting area. In the kitchen, the light was on.
When she, hugging her arms around herself, stepped into it, Yi Wenze was bent at the waist and getting a knife from the cupboard drawer. On the table was the cake that she had bought. Jia He was surprised. “Didn’t you say you’re full?”
The silver blade cut the cake into six neat slices. What was more, he had cut it extremely meticulously. On each little slice there lay a whole strawberry, adorning a light-yellow piece of mango, its own colour an enticing, brilliant red.
But the problem was, to someone who had just eaten cheesecake and, furthermore, was already full, this perhaps was not all that enticing.
“I was suddenly a little hungry.” Washing his hands clean, Yi Wenze picked up one slice between his fingers and took a bite from it.
The song “Forever” was being played on repeat. The low, husky voice of the lead singer drifted out from the bedroom, like that night in his study. This all seemed wholly as she had planned—except there was no candle and the person having the birthday was cutting his own cake… Resigned to all of this, Jia He stepped over and ate a slice with him. The slight tartness of the strawberries and mangoes cut the sweetness and heaviness of the cheesecake.
She ate very slowly. Then in a very soft voice, she said, “Happy birthday.”
Bending his head down, he gave her a light peck on her lips. “Thank you, honey.”
The overall effect was pretty good, wasn’t it?
Comforting herself in this way, she continued taking nibbles from the cake. However, halfway through her slice, she felt that something was not right. He had already picked up his third slice and was eating it very quietly, his expression like he was savouring every bite. As she watched him fixedly, she seemed to understand his intention, and for a moment she did not know what she should say. After a while, she finally spoke up. “If you keep eating like that, you’re going to die from the richness.”
That prediction from Xiao Xiao’s crow’s beak really did come true…
Yi Wenze picked up his fourth slice and fed the only strawberry on it directly into her mouth. “Why did you choose this song?”
Biting the strawberry, Jia He muttered, her words muffled, “You know the answer and you’re stilling asking…”
He carried on slowly chewing and swallowing. “The first time you stayed over at my place, this song was playing in my study.”
Jia He’s cheeks turned pink. Why, when it came from his lips, did it sound so… so strange?
While she was still immersed in her memories of that night, of how worried she had been that he would be despondent because of the hurts he had suffered in his past love, without any warning he pulled her into his arms and captured her lips in his kiss. A rich aroma assailed her sense of smell. The entire kitchen was infused with this pleasant scent, but still it could not overpower the taste that flooded her lips and teeth. She could not discern whether it was because the cake was too sweet and heavy or his kiss was too tender and gentle, but in a mere moment, she was already left breathless. She struggled to evade him. “There’s still one slice that hasn’t been eaten…”
He actually chuckled at that. “Honey, next time, don’t buy cheesecake.”
Her mind had not caught up yet. “Isn’t that your favourite type?”
“Including what was here, I’ve already eaten more than a 9-inch cheesecake tonight.” Looking still very calm, he casually took a drinking glass from the shelf and filled it to the brim with cool water. This wordless action very frankly told our friend Jia He, he truly was dying from the richness and heaviness of the cake… The song was repeating itself for the Nth time. This should have been very comical, but instead it caused her nose to tingle slightly.
Watching as he guzzled half a glass of water in one gulp, she finally stepped over and took ahold of his arm.
He tilted his face down and looked at her. The tenderness in his eyes was too intense, nearly causing her to forget what it was she that wanted to say. There was a long pause. Then, she at last willed herself to gaze straight into his eyes. “I love you.”
In Beijing, the winter heating period, the period in which the city’s public heating system is turned on, is from November 15 to March 15. There is leeway in these start and end dates, and authorities can choose to turn on the heating supply early if they judge the weather to be cold enough.
乌鸦嘴 “wu ya zui.” This literally means “crow’s mouth” or “crow’s beak” and is used to describe someone who speaks about misfortune or inauspicious things.
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