Ahhh…the time has come. What a way to meet each other again after six years though…
In the blink of an eye, year end came. CGP invited employees and their friends and family to a formal Christmas party every year. I found a few items in the closet that I hadn’t used for a long time: a black dress, a silver grey bag with green lacing, a pair of denim flats decorated with gems. Li Chuan bought me the last two items when he came back from Switzerland. Furthermore, he had also bought me an exquisite and shiny Rolex watch which had three rings of diamond pellets around it. You could tell it was expensive. I didn’t want to lose it, so I only wore it on special occasions. But I rarely had any special occasions. I had only worn it once at a classmate’s engagement party before.
After breaking up with Li Chuan, my body stopped growing. My menstrual cycle was completely messed up for a whole year. It finally slowly got back to normal after eating many bottles of Tongren Wuji Baifeng Wan (medicine). Strangely, the thing that changed the most was my vision. From being 20/20 six years ago, my left eye was now 4.5 and my right eye was 4.0. I usually wore contacts, but often forgot to take them out before going to bed. I rubbed my eyes a lot during work, so I often lost them. As a result, I had a pair of agate colored resin glasses as a spare that I carried in my bag.
On Christmas day, my female colleagues were all dressed up and captivating, while I didn’t wear any makeup. I sat by myself and drank three glasses of wine. When I craved for a smoke, I quietly walked out to the balcony and smoked. Dinner began right when I came back inside, so I quickly took my seat. Emma smiled and deliberately sat next to me.
“You see? Besides Director Zhang, whose wife is on a business trip, you are the only one here by yourself. What happened? Did you have a fight with Xiao Guan?”
“Did you know how many people were screaming in their hearts the moment you walked in?”
I immediately pulled out my mirror to check, “What, is there something wrong with my face?”
She rested her head in her palms and looked at me. After a moment of silence, she said, “Tell me honestly, what is your background?”
“What background? I don’t have any background…look at me. I eat fast food for lunch, hang out at pubs at night, and my phone never rings. Does it look like that I have any background?”
She pointed at my bag, “Did you buy this LV purse yourself?”
I never took any interests in bags and didn’t know what LV meant, so I shook my head, “It was a gift from someone.”
“Also from your ex-boyfriend?”
I was getting annoyed and didn’t say a word. Emma’s biggest interest was reading fashion magazines to browse the latest brand name clothes.
She pouched her lips and asked while gazing off to a distance, “Who was your ex-boyfriend?”
“You wouldn’t know who he is.”
Emma had been in many relationships, so she knew many people. I avoided the question and changed the subject, “What is LV?”
She raised her eyebrows, “Annie, do you really not know or are you just pretending you don’t know?”
I looked at her with my eyes wide open, “I really don’t know, please educate me.”
“I’ve seen your LV bag before. It was priced at $14 thousand,” she closed her eyes and sighed as if her dream was broken, “in US dollars.”
She paused and looked at my shoes, “Those shoes are also from LV. They cost $6,400 US dollars. Your big sister here was already the highest paid in the industry when she started her job. But I never had the money to spend it on these items.” She pressed her lips and took a sip of wine. The purple and red wine swayed in her glass, “What is wrong with Jiu Tong? What is wrong with CGP? Why did they pick you of all people, huh? S University is only a second-rated school. Peking University and Beijing Foreign Studies University students are just as good. But once they are here, they are just small fish in a large river. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t make it, yet you say you have no background? Who would believe?”
I giggled, “How about you, Emma Jie? Where did you graduate?”
“I entered Peking University’s Youth class when I was 14, and then I graduated with a master’s in French. I’ve won first place at a national competition before.”
“I was Yunnan’s champion for the entrance exam. I didn’t go to Peking University not because of my score, it was because of money. I also have a master’s and have gotten first prize at a national competition before. Emma Jie, a person of talent should appreciate another, why mind so much about where I came from?”
Seeing how I was getting worked up, she grinned, “Emma Jie is only caring about you. Since you don’t have a boyfriend, I thought I’d introduce one to you, so I was only trying to understand you more. Like the saying, ‘once you’ve seen the ocean you can’t settle for a pond.’ Your ex-boyfriend has raised the bar too high, so even though we want to help you, it’s a bit of a challenge.”
I felt relieved after learning her motive. I slouched into my round-backed armchair and continued drinking, “Emma Jie, I’ve been heartbroken before, so I’ve decided to never fall in love again for the rest of my life.”
“Oh my, you’re so young,” she smiled, “why make such a cruel promise? How many good men are there in this world? You shouldn’t be too serious with them. Once you become serious with them, you’ll only hurt yourself. I bumped into Xiao Guan a few times this month, and he asked about you every time.”
Xiao Guan had helped me a lot, especially on improving my English. I really wanted to thank him for it. Furthermore, he was good-looking and had a high-paid job. Most people would fawn over him. I didn’t dislike him, but I had already gotten used to Li Chuan’s gentleness and affection, so towards someone who was controlling, I refused to accept it.
I pretended to concentrate on slicing my medium-rare black pepper steak and didn’t speak. After a while, something came to my mind so I asked, “Emma, let me ask you something. Yesterday, a software engineer came over and made a copy of all of my computer documents. Do you know what it was for?”
She answered quietly, “I heard that it’s because something happened to the bidding at Wen Zhou. Someone leaked our designs to Jia Yuan.”
Jia Yuan was CGP’s biggest competitor in bidding for the Wen Zhou development plan.
I was a bit shocked.
“The directors were mad, so they asked a team to investigate and find out who had seen the designs before.” She glanced at me, “You were responsible for translating all of the design sketches, so of course they would search your stuff.”
I translated many sketches, but I only looked for the English words on them, so I didn’t remember which were for what development plan. I was the least bit worried that I was the one who exposed them. CGP had a very strict procedure to walk through when translating the sketches and I followed the steps intricately, so it was impossible that they slipped outside from my end. I was more worried about others finding out that I was surfing the web during work although I always cleared my browser’s history before shutting down. In addition, I saved my drafts on a USB stick and did not make any copies on my work computer. Despite so, I still felt a little guilty.
Emma interrupted while I was in a trance, “It’s actually too late to investigate now since there are only twelve days left before the deadline. We’re at the end of the year and it’s the holidays, so there’s no time and mood to start over. They were originally pretty confident about Director Jiang and Director Zhang’s designs for C City’s $200 thousand budgeted redevelopment plan. It’s quite a big lost for our company. Director Jiang used to come to the year-end party every year, but haven’t you noticed that he hasn’t been at the office for the past few days?”
I’m no more but a translator who only cared about completing her own tasks, so I never paid attention to which director did not come to work. I finished eating quickly. When I saw that there were still a bunch of people chatting in the hall, I pretended to go to the washroom. I wanted to sneak out and go home to write my novel. When I approached the door, someone suddenly shouted my name, “Annie!”
I turned my head instantly and saw that it was Zhang Qing Hui.
“Annie, something has come up for the company, can you go on a business trip during Christmas holidays?” he said in a serious manner.
“Of course.” I looked at him and felt a little guilty, wondering if he found out about me writing novels during work hours.
“I’m very sorry, we really shouldn’t ask you to do this during the holidays,” he said, “but you are the only English translator who is single. Others have spouse and kids.”
“It’s alright. Where are we going and when do we have to go?”
“Wen Zhou, the flight is at 11pm tonight. We have already booked a hotel.”
I looked at my watch. It had just reached 7pm.
“I’ll go home and pack first then.”
“I’ll give you an hour to get ready, is that okay? I’ll send a car to pick you up at 8 and drive you to the airport.”
“Perhaps you’ve heard already, something happened to our company’s designs. We don’t have much time left, so that’s why this is so last minute.”
“I can totally understand.”
“Well then, I’ll see you at the airport in a bit.”
After I got back to my apartment, I changed into my casual wear and then packed my belongings as fast as I could. I still felt a little light-headed for drinking a few glasses at the party. I submerged my face in warm water and washed it carefully. Director Zhang was already waiting for me outside when I left my apartment. He must have waited for some time as he was already standing outside having a smoke.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know I was going on a business trip tonight, so I had a couple too many drinks.” I clumsily bumped my head on the car as I was getting in.
“It’s okay,” he laughed, “our previous translator, Miss Zhu, also had a good alcohol tolerance.”
We were silent for the whole ride.
We arrived to the airport. As I got out of the car, the cold breeze helped clear my head a bit. But I suddenly realized that everything looked blurry.
I actually forgot to wear my contact lens!
I must have dropped them when I was washing my face.
I dug deep into my bag but sadly, my spare glasses were left in the LV bag that Li Chuan gave me. I was carrying my cross-body canvas bag that I usually bring to work. It was light and had many pockets, so I liked using it.
I comforted myself that it was okay. Wen Zhou was such a big city, it must have places that sold glasses. I could go and get a pair first thing in the morning. I dragged my suitcase and followed Zhang Qing Hui.
Not long after, we met up with a few others at the terminal. I could only see a bunch of blurry shadows and heard Zhang Qing Hui called, “Director Jiang.”
The shadows with thick outlines walked towards us. I could just make out that it was Director Jiang and the other three architect designers and two graphic designers from CGP. Each one of them had a carry-on.
“The flight arrived already?” Zhang Qing Hui asked.
“Yes, they’re probably retrieving their suitcases right now,” Jiang Hao Tian answered.
It turned out that they were still waiting for some other people.
The arrival terminal was very crowded. I gulped the upwelling taste of wine and waited at the gate with the others. Thirty minutes later, the person we were waiting for had finally arrived and Jiang Hao Tian and Zhang Qing Hui rushed over to greet him. I could only see many shadows moving, hugging, and someone shouting. It felt surreal.
It reminded me of something.
Six years ago, I was also here waiting for Li Chuan. His flight arrived at 1pm but I was at the airport at 9am because I didn’t want to miss him. After a long and dreadful wait, Li Chuan saw me first. I hugged him tightly and didn’t want to let go. At the time, I really wanted to fold him into a handkerchief and carry him in my pocket forever.
How many years had passed since? I lost track of it already.
While I was in my own thoughts, the crowd in front suddenly dispersed. I raised my head and saw someone walking towards me. It was a shadow of someone wearing an overcoat. I immediately recognized him from the way he walked. And then, I saw a face very close to me but I couldn’t make out what he looked like. But I suddenly felt lucky that I didn’t wear my contacts today.
I heard Jiang Hao Tian introduce him, “Mr. Wang, this is our new translator, Miss Annie. She majored in English. She is Miss Zhu’s replacement. Annie, this is Mr. Wang Li Chuan, the President and CEO of CGP.”
A hand reached forward and I held out my hand as well.
His hand was cold as usual; it had the light scent of lavender as usual.
“Hello,” he paused, “Annie.”
I felt that my body temperature dropped to below zero. The sudden rush of blood to my head also became frozen. I heard myself respond coldly yet professionally, “Hello, Mr. Wang.”
A man behind him, who was pushing a suitcase, stepped forward and shook my hand, “Hi, Annie. I am Mr. Wang’s assistant, Su Qun.”