Li Chuan’s Past (沥川往事) : Chapter 26 7


coffee

CHAPTER 26

I sat there for a whole two and a half hours in Li Chuan’s room explaining each poem of Xie Ling Yun’s to him. In the beginning, I thought it was needed for work. Then, gradually, I started suspecting that he was just using me as amusement. In the end, I was both tired and hungry, and yawned in front of him.

He had been taking notes with a pencil on my translated manuscript the entire time and rarely raised his head. When he heard me yawn, he finally asked, “What? Did you not sleep last night?”

“I slept.” I was so talented, was there need to ask me to do better? Was there need to pull an all-nighter for work?

He then asked, “Then have you eaten lunch yet?”

When I came in, it was already one in the afternoon.

“…No.” I was starving.

“We’ll stop working here for today.” He put away the pencil, stood up, and walked to the door to open it for me.

I ran to the snack bar outside and wolfed down a scallion pancake. Then, I returned to my room, took a bath, lied down and fell asleep at once.

I slept until the afternoon of the next day. No one came to look for me.

I got up.  I ran into Xiao Ding from the design group. Even though we weren’t too familiar with each other, we went to the dining room to have a meal together. After eating, I asked him, “Xiao Ding, I rarely go to the design department to play. I’m sorry to ask, but what is your full name?”

“Ding Chun Qiu.” (Ding Spring Autumn)

After he said this, he studied my expression, “What, you don’t think this name is somewhat odd?”

“Ding Chun Qiu is quite a good name! Isn’t ‘Mr. Zuo’s Annals’ called ‘Mr. Zuo’s Chun Qiu’? (Mr. Zhou’s Spring and Autumn Annals)

“Do you read Louis Cha?”

“I don’t.”

He shook my hands, “Annie, you are the only girl who I have met who hasn’t been corrupted by martial arts novels. Let me express my extreme respect for you.”

I secretly laughed inside. Turns out he was afraid of others calling him “Old Demon of Xing Xiu” [In Demi-Gods and Semi Devils, Ding Chun Qiu, also known as the Old Demon of Xing Xiu was known for his treachery and deception.]

“Where did everyone else go?” I looked behind him, sweeping the dining room. There weren’t many CGP employees to be seen. I also couldn’t see Li Chuan.

“The majority of the people are working in their own rooms. The couple directors all went to the construction site with Mr. Li Chuan. We are all very nervous, the deadline is really close. We have to redo everything we’ve done for the past two months and complete it in ten days in order to compete for first. Everyone is extremely busy.”

I found that everyone in CGP liked to call Li Chuan, Mr. Li Chuan and not Mr. Wang. Because there were five Wangs in the company.

But then, honestly, I didn’t feel that Li Chuan was that busy. At this time, he was still studying up on Xie Ling Yun.

“Then, has the overall design drawings and proposal taken shape by now?”

“There have already been many of Mr. Li Chuan’s drawings. Some of the hand-drawn drafts for the important landscape rendering and the major detailed perspective drawings have been completed. Traffic and landscape analysis diagrams will be done by Director Jiang and Director Zhang. The general layout, bird’s-eye view, vertical space design, and profile space have yet to be completed. Finally, he still needs to complete a written case: creatives explanation, functionality description, and more. The rest of us only need to do several late stage renderings.” He paused and then said, “But the fix for everything is really up to Mr. Li Chuan. He is known for working fast and never procrastinating. He even frequently finishes designs early. With him here, our anxiety is halved. — It’s only whether his health can take such burdensome work.”

I felt my smile freeze in place, “His health? His health seems pretty good.”

“I heard that he was injured while skiing. Add that with him being anemic, makes it that much harder to heal. When Director Jiang made the call to ask for him, he was still in the hospital. It seems like it’s become more serious after being so busy these past two days. He originally said that after completing the design, he would build the model together with everyone. Now Director Jiang says that he doesn’t dare have him do any of that.”

“Why?”

“Making the model requires using a paper knife. If he accidentally cuts himself, it would be quite troublesome if the blood flow was unable to be stopped.”

I had never heard of Li Chuan being anemic. During the time we were together, he had only gotten sick twice. One of the times was pneumonia. He was admitted into the hospital, but from what he said, the doctor was making a big deal out of nothing. The other time was when he had a fever. He had taken a couple pills on my insistence. He normally seemed energetic and didn’t appear anemic at all.

I wanted to continue asking for more details, but Xiao Ding looked at his watch, “Annie, I won’t chat with you any longer. I have to go do my work.”

I returned to my room and proceeded to lie on my bed. An anxious feeling swelled up in my heart. While tensed up like that, my cellphone rang. I looked at the number, it was Director Zhang.

“Annie, are you still in the hotel?”

“Yes.”

“Can you go pick up two people from the airport? Foreigners.”

“I can.” I tried my best to make my voice sound very enthusiastic. I was the only translator here and wasn’t busy. If I didn’t go, who would?

“It’s like this. The people who are coming are Mr. Wang’s older brother, Wang Ji Chuan and a French designer called René. Mr. Wang was originally going to go pick them up personally, but we are still at the construction site right now and can’t get back in time. So we’ll have to bother you to go. Their accommodations have already been prepared.”

“The arrival time is…”

“Mr. Wang said he printed the flight number and time on a piece of paper on his office desk. He forgot to bring it when he left and can only remember that it was a six-thirty flight arrival in Wenzhou. I just gave a call to security. You can go to the reception desk to get a spare key and get the paper to pick up the people.”

I looked at my watch. Five-forty. There wasn’t much time. I hung up and went to the reception desk to get the spare key. I opened Li Chuan’s door, got the piece of paper, quickly went back to my room to change into a presentable outfit, put on makeup, took my bag and got a taxi to the airport.

In winter, the sky got dark early in Wenzhou.

The airport was completely packed.

I found the flight number I was looking for on a huge electronic board, discovering that “due to weather conditions” the plane was delayed in Beijing. It was a two hour flight from Beijing to Wenzhou, so I had to wait there at least two hours.

I bought a magazine and found a cafe to sit down at to pass the time.

After waiting for an hour, I went to see the board again and found that the plane had still not departed. Although the departure time had now been changed to 22:00.

I felt a bit regretful that I didn’t bring my laptop when I left. There were many e-books in there. How was I to pass this long time?

The urge to smoke flared up again, so I went to the store to buy a pack of cigarettes and smoked one under a tree by the entrance. When I got back again, I bought another magazine, continuing to wait.

At nine, I went outside and was smoking another cigarette when my cellphone rang. It was an unfamiliar number.

“Hello?”

“Annie.”

Hearing this voice, my heart started beating rapidly.

“…Chief Wang.”

“Was the flight delayed?”

“Yes.”

“Around when will it arrive?”

“Twelve o’clock.”

“Don’t wait anymore. Come back first.”

“I’m not going back, this is a task given to me by Director Zhang.”

“I am Director Zhang’s superior.”

“If I come back, then what about when the guests arrive? Who will pick them up?”

“There’s no need to pick them up, they can take the airport bus.”

“Airport bus? Chief Wang, us Chinese people are a friendly nationality filled with passion. As a Chinese person, I cannot allow foreign experts, here to work for CGP, to receive such a cold reception. I, Annie Xie, will carry out the assignment given to me by the company till the end.” I replied glib-tongued.

There was silence on the other side.

After a while, he said, “Where are you?”

“At the cafe in the airport departure terminal.”

“How come I don’t see you?”

“…I am in the bathroom.”

“Put out your cigarette and come see me!”

Li Chuan’s voice was nice no matter what he said. Mmhmm, such tones were rare to hear from him.

In order to prevent him from smelling the cigarette smell, I sprayed strong perfume onto myself. He was wearing his prosthetic leg, sitting on his wheelchair. His slim face, pure black suit, light blue shirt, and striped tie. All the women in the cafe, whether they were old or young, were secretly looking at him.

Li Chuan didn’t like the wheelchair and would only sit in it as a last resort. I’ve never seen Li Chuan sitting in a wheelchair in public.

I said “Hi”, walked up to him and sat down on the couch in front of him.

There was a cup of lemon tea in front of him. It was clear my perfume choked him. He turned around, lightly coughed, and then said a word of (English) sorry.

I was laughing silently inside. Li Chuan still had the old problem. Whether it was coughing, sneezing or accidentally bumping into someone, he would always say (English) sorry without delay. Sometimes, when he went to the ATM to withdraw money, he would say (English) sorry to the machine when he pressed the wrong key.

“What do you want to drink?” He asked.

“Coffee.”

“Two parts milk and two parts sugar?”

Six years ago, the coffee that I liked to drink was thick and creamy. Very sugary.

“Black coffee, no sugar.”

(English) Irish cream or Noisette?” These were the two flavors that I liked to drink the most when Li Chuan and I were together. Li Chuan wouldn’t say “(English) hazelnut”. He had to say it the French way, “(English) Noisette”.

(English) Columbia, please.” My taste had changed to the kind that was the strongest and darkest.

Everything had truly changed.

He swiveled around on his wheelchair and went to buy coffee. He paid and asked the barista to bring it over to me.

I didn’t wear my glasses, so I looked at him with eyes opened wide. His face was close to me. But since I couldn’t see clearly anyway, I didn’t feel the least bit apprehensive about gazing at him as if he was an alien.

“So,” he said, “you are very nearsighted?”

“A little, not too severe.”

“Long time no see, Xiao Qiu,” he said. His voice sounded dreamlike, “How are you?”

“Pretty good. You?

“Also pretty good.”

“It’s rare for you to come to China, why didn’t you bring the wife with you?” I asked.

“I’ve always been single.” He looked at my face. “You?”

“That’s a personal question. No comment.”

I blocked it.

It was clear, my words were a blow to him. Afterwards, he sat there without moving and not saying anything.

I didn’t say anything either.

He didn’t open his mouth. I didn’t open my mouth either. We sat there in a deadlock.

After a whole hour, we seemed like strangers. We each drank our own beverages and neither said anything.

At least, I opened my mouth first, “Li Chuan, why did you come back?”

He was startled. He hasn’t thought that I would ask this. After long time, he said, “For business.”

“Then when do you leave Beijing?”

He thought about it for another long time and added, “When work is completed.”

He looked very uncomfortable. The hand that was holding the tea cup was nearly going to shatter the cup. In addition, his face was firm. He was both ill at ease and nervous. Seeing him like this, I felt that if I asked a couple more questions that he couldn’t answer, he would faint right there in front of me.

Fine, I won’t make things difficult for him. I laughed and continued, “Then, may I ask, during this time of work, what is the relationship between you and I?”

Friends? Acquaintances? Colleagues? Supervisor and subordinate? Definitely not lovers.

“Our relationship is professional.

I took a deep breath.

Professional relationship.

At this time, my cellphone rang. My thoughts were in turmoil and I didn’t want to pick up, so I opened it and hung up.

After half a minute, it rang again.

I could only open it, “Hello?”

“This is Xiao Guan.”

“Chief Xiao.”

“I went to CGP today. Meng Meng said that you went to Wenzhou?”

“Yes.”

“An auction event needs to produce a handbook and it just so happens that Tao Xin Ru is sick. I’ve already accepted the work. Can you help out?  I will pay double the translation fee.”

“When do you need it by?” I fished out my notebook and looked my the schedule.

“Is the end of the month okay?” He said, “You can finish your work in Wenzhou first.”

“How many pages?”

“Fifty pages.”

“A lot of classical Chinese?”

“All of it.”

“Okay.”

“Thank you.”

I was about to hang up when he unexpectedly said, “Annie, I was being rude last time. Please don’t take offense to it. Meng Meng and I used to have a complicated relationship.”

“I don’t mind.”

“When do you return to Beijing?”

“Probably after ten days. Not sure.”

“Remember to let me know. I’ll come pick you up at the airport and then treat you to a meal. Consider it an apology.”

“There’s no need. You are being too polite.”

“Annie, have you ever been pursued by a man before?”

I blanked. Then, said, “Never.”

I was thinking. Who actually did the pursuing between Li Chuan and I? I couldn’t figure it out. At the beginning, it was definitely me doing the pursuing. I first invited him to go to the movies. Yet when I was abandoned, I still blamed him in anger.

“You can try with me first, as a warmup.”

I didn’t have time to reply before he hung up.

After hanging up, I picked up my coffee and took a drink. I then saw my hang trembling continuously and decided to go out for a smoke.

“I’m going out for a bit.”

“What are you going out for?”

“It’s none of your business.”

I really looked down on myself. Looked down on myself for not being able to let go even after all these years. Looked down on myself for losing my cool and becoming angry.

I quickly went out the entrance and found a secluded area, smoking one cigarette after another.

It was cold outside and even though I was wearing a coat, my hands were still frozen. But I didn’t want to return to the cafe. I didn’t want to see that person sitting on the wheelchair. I would rather stay in the foul black smoke I created. I stood outside for around an hour until I finally finished the last cigarette before returning back to the departure terminal. I went to the bathroom to wash my face. Looking in the mirror, I saw that my lipstick, facial cream and eye shadow hadn’t really changed. It was just that while I smoking, a few tears had fallen and the advertised waterproof mascara didn’t work well and smudged when I rubbed it. But when I used a paper towel to wipe it, it started being waterproof again and couldn’t be rubbed off.

There was half an hour before the arrival time. But my appearance was that of someone who had just gotten a blow. Sad and sorrowful. A lost soul.

I couldn’t let Li Chuan see me.

I called his cellphone. It only rang once before he picked up.

“Xiao Qiu…”

“Call me Annie.”

There was silence on the other end.

“I don’t feel too well. Since you are already here, I’ll return to the hotel first.”

“Are you smoking again?”

“What’s wrong with me smoking?” I said coldly, “Smoking is my existence.”

On the other end of the phone, only his breathing sound was left.

After a while, he finally said, “Then alright, you go back first. Wait at the entrance, I’ll call a driver to send you.”

“There’s no need. I’ll get a taxi.” I replied coldly and didn’t wait for his answer before hanging up.

When I returned to the hotel, I passed the reception desk and suddenly remembered that I still had the spare key to Li Chuan’s room in my hands and should return it to the reception desk. But then I remembered something. My “Li Chuan’s Past” was still on his computer. The opportunity was hard to come by. I must quickly find it and delete it.

Dear readers, if the following circumstance reminds you of MI1 or MI2, it is not my invention, nor am I imitating it. It only shows that if an honest person watches too many action movies, it will remain with their spirit.

There was no one in the hallway.

I swiped the electronic card. After a second, the red light became green and the door opened. I dodged in.

His laptop was on the bed.

A small desk lamp was turned on. I crawled onto the bed and opened the laptop. After a few seconds, a blue Windows screen appeared.

Then a small window opened asking me to enter in a password.

I was stunned.

I knew that it had to be a simple password. Li Chuan would never make things difficult for himself by choosing a hard to remember password.

I first tried: 0907.

Our shared birthdate.

Wrong password.

I thought some more and tried: xiaoqiu.

That’s right, I was narcissistic. Wrong.

I started thinking about what other things he could use as his password. I tried the singer he liked: roxette. No chance.

His brother’s name: jichuan.

No chance.

His cat in Switzerland: mia.

The author he liked: proust.

Also no.

At this point, I want to say, dear readers, if you love a person, yet cannot guess the password that he uses, as the lover, you would feel very defeated.

I sat on the bed, racking my brains for about half an hour. It was because I know that the attempts were finite and I didn’t have unlimited tries.

Finally, I remember three characters: ldw Lao Dian Wei. Do you remember? He had to say LDW.

The blue light flashed and the desktop quietly turned on.

In that split second, my eyes were a little bit moist. There’s right, I was a little touched. Li Chuan’s computer was replaced at least once each year. He was still using this password, and it somewhat showed that he still remembered me.

The desktop was filled with documents. I went directly into “My Documents.” The documents folder was also completely filled. Clearly he had a lot of work items, all those files. Path after path, folder after folder. Jin Shan Dictionary was already installed. I searched in it’s path and found that it was placed into an unfamiliar folder.

I went back and forth in the maze of files, browsing repeatedly, but, no matter what, I couldn’t find those document names that I was familiar with.

And then, I slapped my head and promptly opened up “My Desktop” and used the keyword “lcws.doc” to search. This was the pinyin abbreviation for the novel name. It was hidden in the middle of my pile of e-books.

The file was quickly found. I was extremely happy. I right clicked and quickly clicked “delete.”

After half a second, a window popped up: “Error deleting file.”

NO!

I tried again, there was still “Error deleting file.”

I inspected the file properties. Turns out it was a read-only file. I clearly remembered that I had never converted this file to read-only. Could it be that Li Chuan did something to it?

Hmph, that wouldn’t stop me! Wasn’t it just a read-only file? I just have to open it and change it to not read-only and it should be good.

I opened the file, entered “properties”, and changed the read-only option.

After changing it, I deleted it once again.

It was “Error deleting file.” again!

It still can’t be deleted! Super depressing. I used Li Chuan’s pillow and smashed it onto my head with all my might.

The revolution had not been successful, yet the comrade had already used all the effort.

I sat on the bed, thinking with all my might, but still could not think of a method.

At that time, the door suddenly made a sound. And then, a few people entered. At the same time, lively chatter drifted over.

I couldn’t understand a word of it. Because it was French.

!?#¥%……—*()

Li Chuan was back!

No way! This quickly!

I quickly closed the document, shutdown the computer, and shut the lid. Sure enough, the few people stopped in the living room, speaking enthusiastically.

I couldn’t understand French. I could only make out that it was three people, one of whom was Li Chuan.

And then, I heard Li Chuan go to the kitchen, likely to brew coffee.

And then, my god, I heard him his wheelchair head towards the bedroom.

I quickly hid into the bathroom.

The shower curtain was closed. I jumped into the bathtub and hid behind the curtain. Right after, the bathroom light turned on.

Li Chuan Ge Ge, I beg you, please don’t go to the bathroom at this time!!!

The water from the sink sounded. He was probably washing his face. And then, as if it was too warm, he opened the bedroom window. The cold wind blew in. It was so cold, I almost sneezed. And then, he returned to the living room, continuing to chat with the guests.

Li Chuan liked to take showers. He had to wash every night. The bathroom was definitely not a place to stay. I quickly jumped out and looked around. Like every hotel, the bedroom was spacious with few pieces of furniture. There was no where to hide. I could only hide in his closet. There were suits and shirts hung in there. I felt around everywhere. Not bad, besides the clothes, there were no skeletons.

There was still chatter and laughter outside, and was still in French. I sat in the closet and nearly became claustrophobic. What time was it already, those people were still chatting! Hurry and finish, okay!

After a short time, one of the people finally left.

The room immediately quieted. The person who stayed accompanied Li Chuan to the bedroom.

I heard Li Chuan say, “Please help me draw these few diagrams. I already roughly finished the sketch. Add the details according to what I’ve written and it will be fine.”

That person laughed, “Alright, order your older brother around as a drawing employee.”

I guessed correctly, it was Li Chuan’s older brother, Ji Chuan.

“Are you making the model, or René?”

“Of course it’s him. I need to draw for you, how can I have the time?”

“Didn’t you say that you were going to take him to tour Yandang Mountains?”

“Once your main drawing is complete, the model can be finished in two to three days. We can go play for the remaining days.”

“Then you go tell him.”

“What is there to say. Last time you also helped him. He owes you one anyway.”

“…okay.”

After a while, Ji Chuan probably saw the few empty beer bottles on the desk and said to him, “You’re drinking again?”

“It’s only beer.”

“You can’t have any alcohol.”

“Alright, Ge Ge, are you done?” He whispered.

“It’s late, go to sleep.” Ji Chuan sighed, “I told Su Qun that you could only work at most five hours each day. Looks like you didn’t listen to him at all.”

“It will be fine after this current work. I’ll have to trouble you to help me keep off the work from headquarters.”

“I am also busy, only Dad is idle. Dad is vacationing in Hong Kong with grandfather and grandmother. One call from me will bring all three of them back.”

“If I knew Dad needed to be asked, would I need you to go ask?” Li Chuan said, “Tell me, who helped you keep off the work the last time you and Rene went to Rome?”

“Aren’t I here in person now? Hey, you’re stretching it too far. You made a call from Wenzhou asking me for help and didn’t I come without any objection? Not only did I come, I also brought a helper. Aren’t I quite generous?”

“Quite generous.” The voice said grudgingly.

“That’s right, is your waist injury better?”

“Pretty much better.”

“Then go to sleep quickly. I’ll leave now. We’ll chat tomorrow.”

I heard Li Chuan walk Ji Chuan out and shut the door.

I quietly relaxed. While doing so, I took off a shirt from the clothes hanger and held it, lightly smelling it.

Don’t laugh at me. I suffered for six years. Couldn’t I secretly be infatuated for a bit?

I happily thought about it in the closet. Afterwards, Li Chuan went to take a shower, and I used this time to hurriedly escape.

However, I waited for a long time and didn’t hear anything. There was no sound of water.

From the crack in the door, I saw Li Chuan return to the bedroom and arrive by the bedside. He took off his prosthetic limb, undressed and changed into pajamas. Afterwards, he got into bed. Then, I didn’t know from where, but I heard music. It was at a low volume but very noisy:

(English) I see you comb your hair and give me that grin.
It’s making me spin now,spinning within.
Before I melt like snow,I say Hello How do you do!
I love the way you undress now.
Baby begin.
Do your caress, honey, my heart’s in a mess.
I love your blue-eyed voice,like Tiny Tim shines thru.
How do you do!
Well, here we are cracking jokes in the corner of our mouths and I feel like I’m laughing in a dream.
If I was young I could wait outside your school course your face is like the cover of a magazine.
How do you do,do you do,the things that you do.
No one I know could ever keep up with you.
How do you do!
Did it ever make sense to you to say Bye Bye Bye?
I see you in that chair with perfect skin.
Well, how have you been, baby, living in sin?
Hey, I gotta know,did you say Hello How do you do?
Well, here we are spending time in the louder part of town and it feels like everything’s surreal.
When I get old I will wait outside your house course your hands have got the power meant to heal.

It was his Roxette again. When I was still around, he would often listen to that song. Li Chuan appeared somewhat depressed. Actually, he was easily cheered up. He liked light lively pop songs and also liked melodramas. Comparatively, I liked to listen to violin and piano sonatas and such. When I was together with him, I always disliked his noisy music.

But what I was concerned about right now wasn’t Roxette, nor was it him being noisy. It was when he would go to sleep. When he fell asleep, I could make my getaway. I withdrew into the closet and couldn’t help but yawn. I had waited for five hours at the airport. I was also tired. Li Chuan Ge Ge, stop listening to music. Please go to sleep soon!

COMMENTS

Sadly, Xiao Qiu and Li Chuan’s relationship is no longer what it was anymore. I’m sure it pains Li Chuan to see what Xiao Qiu has turned into because of his departure. He’s definitely no longer blind to the fact that she’s fallen into such habits. Questions is, what is he going to do about it?


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