Li Chuan’s Past (沥川往事) : Chapter 35 6


rain

CHAPTER 35

I stood below the roof and shouted through the heavy rain, “Li Chuan!  Li Chuan!  What are you still doing here?”
“Get in the car first.”

He opened the car door and helped me put on my seatbelt.  I was worried as I saw his body completely wet, with rain dripping from his hair.  The weather was so cold, yet he was only wearing a wool coat; the kind that did not shield well against the wind and definitely not waterproof.

He returned to the driver’s seat all wet.  He closed the door, turned on the heat, and asked, “You didn’t get wet, did you?”

My bag was big and waterproof.  I had been holding it above my head, “No.  What were you still doing here?  You didn’t leave?”
“I went to the convenience store to buy a few cans of cat food.  I saw you waving your arm on my way back.  I didn’t know you were trying to catch a cab and thought you were looking for me,” he said and couldn’t hold back his sneeze.  Before he was about to say sorry, I quickly handed him a tissue.

The rain was so heavy that it made the road blurry.  It hit rhythmically against the windshield.
“Quickly take your wet clothes off,” I grabbed a towel from the side and gave it to him to dry his hair, “don’t catch a cold.”
“I’m fine.”  He said, “How did it go?  Did all of them show up?  Did any one of them catch your eye?”
“Um…Do you care that much about my happiness and future?” I asked feeling a bit angry.
“Yeah, hurry and tell me.”
“…One of them was not bad.”
“The one with a Ph.D, right?”
“How did you know?”
“I guessed.”
“He’s pretty good looking,” I said, “but obviously that’s not the main point.  The main point is that I think he’s quite sincere in his words, and straightforward.”

It stung him.  Someone became awkwardly silent.  He quickly changed the subject, “Do you want me to drive you home, or do you have somewhere else to go?”
“Can you drop me off at a restaurant?  I’m hungry.”
He decelerated, turned towards me, and asked, “You were on a date with two guys, and not one of them treated you to lunch?”
“No.”
“Did they treat you coffee?”
“No.”

I waited for Li Chuan to express his criticism, but he kept his eyes straight on the road in the heavy rain, “There’s a Yunnan restaurant in the front, do you want to go?”

I was especially hungry at the moment, so I quickly nodded my head.
He stopped the car, walked me to the front of the restaurant, and then said, “Go in to eat yourself.”

I looked at him flabberghasted.  That couldn’t be right.  Li Chuan, who had always been a gentleman, could not possibly be in a hurry to leave, right?  Li Chuan had never walked me to the front of a restaurant and then turned around and leave… Furthermore, I had been good and accommodating, hadn’t I?  I had already shown him that I had “moved on” by my proactive actions.

Although I understood him, I still decided to be thick skinned and asked to confirm, “You’re…not coming in with me?”
“No,” he said, “you enjoy yourself.”
“I’ll treat you, how about that?” I asked unsurely with my voice shaking.  My desperation could clearly be seen.
“I still have some business to tend to,” he said without any expression.

If I had continued to ask him to stay, it would have been ill-mannered of me.  Li Chuan had already made it explicit many times that we had broken up.  Whom was I trying to persuade?  I couldn’t even watch myself any longer.

At that moment, I had already lost all appetite.  I even wanted to vomit.
I smiled forcefully, “Hurry back then.”
“Goodbye.”  I heard him press the car remote, and his car nearby started itself up.
“Goodbye.”

The bus stop was just across the road; I’d just need to ride a few stops to get home.  After I watched Li Chuan turn around and get into his car, I didn’t go into the restaurant.  Instead, I walked into the rain.  My mind was completely blank.  I only wanted to keep going forward, hoping that the rain would wash away my anger.  I was in a bit of a daze when I got to the other side of the road.  The buses drove in and out of the stop under the rain.  Li Chuan’s words were still resonating in my ears: “No, you enjoy yourself…I still have some business to tend to….”

I looked up into the sky; it was bright despite the rain.  Why did it have to be winter still?  It even snowed last night, and yet it’s raining today.  The ground was all muddy with the rain washing the roads.  It would have been so much better if it was snow; everything would be in white and clean.

I continued walking and heard a car screech from braking.  Someone suddenly grabbed onto my arm and tugged me forcefully to turn in another direction.  I saw a face in the rain.  It looked familiar, but it was unfamiliar at the same time.  I was stunned by his frightened expression.

“Xiao Qiu, where are you going?”  Li Chuan couldn’t walk very fast nor run.  I didn’t know how he was able to catch up to me.  Seeing how I didn’t respond, he shook my body and almost scolded, “It was a red light, what were you thinking?!”

“Let go of me!” I shook off his hands, “Let go!  I want to go home!”  His hands held on like pincers.  They wouldn’t let go no matter how hard I shook.  He embraced me, “Don’t do stupid things!  If you want to go home, I’ll drive you home.”

“Don’t touch me!  Don’t touch me!” I tried to get away, but then realized that I couldn’t budge at all.  He hugged me tighter and tighter, almost suffocating me.

“How many times do I have to say it, Xiao Qiu?  (English) It’s over!  Let it go!
(English) It’s not over!  Every person in the world can say it’s over to me.  My mom is over, my dad is over, but you!  Wang Li Chuan!  I poured out everything I had for you, so you can’t, you can’t…say it’s over to me so easily!”
(English) Please!  I know it’s not been easy.  Please, working on it!
“No!  Why?  It has been so many years already, why won’t you tell me the truth?  Am I that fragile in your heart?  You think I would faint from the truth?  What’s more important than six years of my youth?  Tell me!  Tell me!  Why?  Why?”

He wouldn’t let go of me.  I kicked him, punched him, twisted his arms, hit him with my bag, and then I ran off in the rain.

(English) Over is over.

I requested a week of vacation and didn’t go to work.  I lay at home by myself like a zombie and didn’t eat or drink.  I unplugged the home phone and turned off my cell phone.  I slept during the day, but had insomnia at night.  I felt that the sky was dark and my heart was cold.  Mia walked around me.  The room smelled like something was rotting.  All the cat food was gone by Saturday, so I got up reluctantly to go to the supermarket.  I went to the food court and ate lunch.  It finally lifted up my spirit a bit.  I spotted the schedule on the wall and went into the gym.  People in the yoga class saw me and greeted me. All the moms came and asked how I succeeded in my diet.

“What diet?  I’m not even fat!”  I wasn’t in the mood to chat.
“Stop lying.  Your chin is all pointy now.  Xiao Qiu, don’t be so harsh on yourself.  Last time, Xiao Ma ate tomatoes for her diet, she lost eight pounds in five days, but she fell sick on the sixth day.  She rested for a month.  Not only did she regain all of her weight, she also packed on an extra five pounds.  Listen to me, don’t go on diets like this.  You have to take it slow.”

I sneered.  It had only been a week since we last seen each other.  They were already making fun of me since I was younger.As a result, I weighed myself in front of everybody.  I was speechless afterwards.  I had really taken the harmfulness of love too lightly.  I had actually lost ten pounds.  No wonder my body felt so light.

I got to work on time on Monday.  My colleagues all came to ask how I was.  I said I caught a cold and that it wasn’t serious.  I told them I didn’t want to infect others, so I didn’t go to work.  They stopped asking after that because I often worked over time, so taking a rest every now and then was only normal.

I didn’t see Li Chuan at lunch.

But I came to learn that Xiao Wei, who wasn’t into gossip before, had joined our translation team’s gossip table.

“Sigh, Xiao Qiu, it’s only been a few days that I haven’t seen you, how come you’ve lost so much weight?” Emma said with a smile, “Is it because you’ve gone vegetarian?  I bumped into Xiao Guan last Monday.  I purposely mentioned you, but he was so angry, so I quickly said that you were sick.”

I breathed in a breath of cold air from being shocked.  Xiao Guan had asked me to meet him at Lingbao Temple at 7pm on Saturday.  I completely forgot about it!  I quickly explained, “Hm, he was looking for me, but I didn’t go because I got sick and forgot to let him know.  He must have been mad because of that.”

“What?  You actually stood Xiao Guan up?!”  Emma was elated, “Hahaha!  Prince Xiao has always taken himself so highly.  You should stand him up a few more times to help us get back at him.”

I smiled forcefully and ate my salad.  You couldn’t really consider that I stood him up.  Didn’t I tell him that I was busy?  He didn’t even let me finish before hanging up.  How could you consider that as asking someone out on a date?  It was more like he asked himself.

I asked Xiao Wei, “How come you’re so free today to join our gossip?”
Before I heard Xiao Wei reply, Emma responded on her behalf, “Xiao Wei is very free this week.  Li Chuan also took the whole week off like you.  Xiao Wei has nothing to do, so she’s been playing poker online every day.  We were just comforting her that although Director Jiang has a new secretary right now and even if Li Chuan goes back to Switzerland, she wouldn’t be laid off.  We don’t need to look any farther, our translation department definitely needs a secretary.  Why don’t you request to transfer over?  We’ll digest this internally.”

My heart trembled slightly, “Li Chuan didn’t come to work?  Why?”
“Don’t know,” Xiao Wei frowned, “Don’t you think it’s funny?  I’m his secretary, yet I don’t even know why he hasn’t come to work for a week.”
“Were there no signs of it at all?” I asked, “That can’t be possible, right?”
“Signs…Of course there were!” Xiao Wei said, “Mr. Wang’s brother suddenly came on Thursday.  He took a few rolls of sketches from his office.  And then I heard Xiao Tang say that Director Jiang and Director Zhang were going to Switzerland on Friday.  They haven’t returned yet.  So…I don’t know what happened at the head office in Switzerland.  I think Mr. Wang must be in Switzerland with them.”
“No way.  Mr. Li Chuan didn’t even send you an email about it?”  Ming Ming continued, “The Boss left without leaving a word to his secretary and it’s been a few days now.  That’s very strange!”
“Nope, he really didn’t!  My mailbox is already full of emails from others to him.  I told Director Jiang and he said for all emails to Chief Wang, forward the overseas ones to Mr. Wang Ji Chuan and forward all the China ones to himself.  I suspect that his mailbox is also full by now.”
“Full?  How can there be so many?  Xiao Wei, you’re exaggerating, right?” Emma was clearly shocked.
“How could it not be full?  There are at least a hundred emails a day in English, French, German, and Chinese.  For the longest time, I thought Chief Wang’s main job was to reply emails.”

….

I wasn’t listening after that.  All I heard was my heart pounding.

I opened my MSN when I returned to my seat.  Whether it was Li Chuan or Rene, they were both offline.  I immediately sent a message to Rene:
“Rene, I heard Li Chuan has returned to Switzerland?  Nothing is wrong, right?”

I was in a daze for the whole afternoon as I waited for Rene’s response.  But his avatar — that silly tangerine — was grey the whole time.

After I got home, I sat and stared blankly at the computer screen.  I opened MSN, went to a music broadcasting site, went to the online novel site, opened a ridiculous romance novel, and stared at the screen to wait for Rene’s reply.

I went to the washroom once during this time.  I waited until 2am, but no one responded.  I made myself invisible and continued waiting.  Meng Meng, Ming Ming, Xiao Guan, and the rest were all online, but I didn’t know whom they were chatting with.

Now that I thought about it, I had been living a dull life for the past six years.  It wasn’t like I couldn’t afford the tools needed for a translator such as a computer or subscription to broadband internet.  I would have been able to get these things as long as I save up a bit, but I just couldn’t find the interest to chat with others.  Whenever I chatted with someone online, after it goes over thirty minutes, I would get annoyed.

I still did not receive any response at 3am.  I lay on my bed and finally slept.  I had the scariest dream that night.  I dreamt that Li Chuan was lying in the emergency room with a bunch of tubes plugged into him.  He coughed up blood non-stop.  His pillow and blanket were covered in blood.  A bunch of doctors wearing white coats were holding surgical knives.  They stood beside his bed and didn’t move.  I was behind a glass door.  Under the lights, I saw blood drip down from Li Chuan’s fingers.  His body was having spasms under the pain.  He struggled to sit up, but was forced to lie down.  And then, he suddenly tilted his head with his face covered in blood and shouted towards me, “(English) Help me!

It was 5am when I woke up.  The moonlight was shining peacefully outside the window.  I felt my forehead and realized that my body was covered in cold sweat.  I then let out a long breath of relief.  Great!  Really!  It was just a dream!……Everything was not real!

When I thought about it carefully, I realized that some parts of my dream were scenes from the ER series, and some were like a replica of some medical horror film.  But, but, what did this signify?

I crawled to my desk and opened the computer.  I finally saw a notification blinking at the bottom.

My beloved Rene!
I anxiously opened the window and it said:
(English) Yes, and No.

It took me a moment to realize that he was answering my question: Yes, Li Chuan had returned to Switzerland.  No, he was fine.

But something was strange.  In my mind, Rene had always been very talkative.  How come his reply was so short this time?  Did they have a fight because of Mia and the scarf?  Did Li Chuan threaten him and not let him say too much to me?

I wanted to ask further, but the tangerine was grey; Rene had long gone offline already.

I suddenly remembered that when I met Li Chuan on Saturday, he had given me a few cans of cat food, saying that it was Mia’s favorite.  I searched the grocery bag and found the receipt.  It was dated 3:32pm.

I got out of the coffee shop at 3:40pm.  I thought that Li Chuan had waited for me outside because it was raining hard.  But it looked like it was really just a “coincidence.”

Li Chuan had never been weak.  When I met him, it had already been seven to eight years since his car accident.  Other than having difficulties with walking and needing to take calcium pills, Li Chuan spent a lot of time training his body.  He practiced yoga, swam, and did weights and pull-ups at his home fitness room every day.  Whenever he was free, he would take me out for a jog in the park downstair as the sun set.  We would jog far; so far that I would feel tired, yet he would still insist on continuing.  I didn’t feel anything would be wrong with Li Chuan’s body.  Furthermore, didn’t Rene say that he was fine?  Li Chuan must have returned to Switzerland due to work; the kind that was urgent and important.  Moreover, didn’t Director Jiang and Director Zhang also go after him?

The sun came out.  I felt that it would be best for me to not worry too much.

I went out for breakfast and took a stroll on the streets.  The morning was cold, so the few people that were walking on the streets were all wearing big coats.  I went passed a small Taoist Temple.  A few fortune-tellers were sitting at the front entrance.  One of them was wearing a robe; his eyes were closed, his long hair rested on his shoulders, his face was dirty, but his head was tilted high like a nobleman from the Qing dynasty.

I never believed in gods, but during desperate times like exams and interviews, I would go in and burn some incenses and pray temporarily.  It was nothing more but to calm down my nervousness and take away some stress.  When I walked past the old man, he suddenly spoke:
“Miss, please wait.”
My footstep stopped on its own.
“How about some fortune-telling?  It’ll only be ten dollars.”
“No, I don’t really believe in these.”
“You will come across a life-threatening situation.  You don’t want to hear about it?”

He slowly turned his face towards me.  He suddenly opened his eyes, blinked, and looked up into the sky with much effort.  His eyeballs were white, which meant that he was blind.

I gave him fifty dollars, “I don’t need my fortunes told, but there’s someone else that I would like to ask about.”
“I can read palms, birthdays, or trigrams.  Which would you like?”
“He’s not here, so I’ll give you his birthday.”

I told him Li Chuan’s birthday; he was born early in the morning.  I also gave him my birthday.
“What is his relationship with you?”
“Boyfriend.”
“What would you like to ask?  Marriage?  Wealth?  Health?  Children?”
“Everything.  Tell me everything you know.”
“I’ll start with one.  If I’m wrong, you can take your fifty dollars back.”
“Go ahead.”
“He was in an accident when he was seventeen.”

I looked at him with my eyes wide open.  I felt my legs go numb.

“I’m right, right?”  The old man fumbled for the fifty dollars and put it into his wallet.
“And…what about now?”
“He’s not well either,” he said.
“What…do you mean by ‘not well’?” I looked at him anxiously.
“Miss, it’s best that you don’t be together with him.  It’ll just bring you more troubles,” he said slowly.
“Why?”
“Your birthdays bring bad luck to each other.  Very bad luck.  The kind that could be harmful.”
I almost lost my voice, “What?  Bad luck?  Who’s bringing bad luck to whom?”
“He is water, and you are earth.  Earth brings bad luck to water.  And this year is the year of earth, so Saturn is the overseer while the white tiger is unleashed.  It is his bad year.  He is too weak and you are too strong.  Don’t look for him.”

I was dumb-found.  So it turned out that our birthdays didn’t match.  No wonder.  I spilt coffee on him the first time we met.  We first fought in bed last week, and then we fought again in the rain.  Li Chuan was always the one who got hurt.

I didn’t dare to ask anymore, so I quickly said, “Master, is there any way to avoid it?”
“Avoid it?  Didn’t I tell you already?  Just don’t be with him.  If you guys stay together, you will end up harming him.”
“…Oh, is that the only way?”
“Buy a jade to get rid of the bad luck.  The kind that is white and best to have some red veins on it,” he said.  “After you buy it, wear it on your chest.  Take it off after 30 days and let him wear it.”
“I can be with him then?” I pressed.
“No, no.  This will only help get rid of some of the bad luck.  But for the sake of his future and safety, it’s best that you two don’t be together.  There will be no good outcome.”  The old man shook his head, “Miss, you are still young.  You should find another man.  The harm you bring to him is too fierce.”
“Really?  That can’t be.  I’m not fierce at all…I’m very willing to take care of him,” I said depressingly.

The old man closed his eyes and returned to his seat.

I ran in madness.  I was defeated!  I didn’t go to work.  Instead, I went to different marketplaces looking for a jade.  I finally found a white jade from the Qing Dynasty; its shape was round, transparent, shiny, and most importantly, it had tiny red veins in its middle and bottom.  It was priced at 6,300 RMB.  I didn’t think twice before I swiped my credit card.

I had never bought myself any expensive jewellery before.  Besides my watch, the most expensive item on me was the ruby earrings that Li Chuan gave me six years ago.  I didn’t know how much it cost, but I knew it was not cheap.  It seemed like I had never bought Li Chuan anything before.  Seriously, Li Chuan had always been the one giving.  He gave me money, gave me books, gave me clothes, gave me purses, helped me with my assignments, and helped edit my essays.  Every time and in everything, he was always the one putting in effort.  No wonder my classmates said I was living off a rich man.  I had never even knitted him a scarf.  I really felt ashamed.  Once I got the jade, I immediately wore it.

I then told myself that I was never a superstitious person, so I should not believe in birthday readings!  I should not believe that I brought bad luck to Li Chuan!  Furthermore, I went to the dollar store and bought two wooden bracelets.  Didn’t the fortune-teller say that wood went against earth, and earth went against water?  I thought if I used wood on myself, that would do it!

Thirty-seven days had passed.  I didn’t receive any news about Li Chuan.  Rene never sent me another message.

CGP on the other hand, wrote an announcement regarding this: Due to two design projects in Europe that needs to be completed, Chief Wang Li Chuan has returned to Zurich and will stay there for several months.  The designs for the redevelopment plan for C City in Wenzhou will be managed by Director Jiang Hao Tian.

Li Chuan’s secretary, Tang Xiao Wei, had been temporarily transferred to the translation department.  Therefore, she ate and chatted with us at lunch every day.

Days without Li Chuan were quiet.  I used the time to finance a Peugeot 206 with a 15 thousand dollar deposit.  I had gotten my driver’s licence together with Tang Yu Lian when I was still working at Jiu Tong’s office.  One time, I wanted to rest and do something else after I had finish translating a super hard auction description.  Tang Yu Lian suggested that I go take the driver’s test with her.  We had a discount for attending class together.  I had always been interested in mechanics, so I passed my test the first time.

I was the last person to buy a car in the translation department, and the car I bought was the cheapest and the most ordinary.  Emma laughed very hard and commented that the car was too cheap and that I would be better off taking the bus.  Emma’s Toyota was from one of her boyfriends; she accepted it after pretending to turn it down.  That boyfriend later found a new girlfriend and bought her an even better car.  Emma was sick for a month due to anger.  But she still drove the car.  Emma said she would change it after her next boyfriend buys her a Mercedes.

I used my spare time to focus on practicing driving.  Every day after work, I drove around in the car, zooming through all the streets of Beijing.  Mid-February came in the blink of an eye.  CGP won a few other projects, so my workload suddenly got heavier as I needed to translate a bunch of sketches.  I worked through day and night.  One day, when I turned on my computer after getting home, I received a MSN notification.

I clicked on it.  It was Rene.
“Annie, how are you?”
“Not bad, you?”
“Good, thanks.  Can you give Alex a call today?”

I always had the feeling that Li Chuan returned to Switzerland this time because he wanted to avoid me.  Therefore, I was self-restrained, and did not contact him for the past forty or more days.

“Rene, him and I are over.”
“XXXXXXXXXXXX.  This is his phone number.  It’s up to you whether or not you call.  I need to go now.”

The tangerine quickly turned grey.

My head wasn’t clear yet, but my hand was already dialing the number.  Someone picked up after three rings.  It was a woman’s voice.  She spoke in German.  Besides the common phrase, “Guten Tag,” which everybody knew, I couldn’t understand a word.  I spoke to her slowly in English, “May I ask, can I speak to Mr. Wang Li Chuan please?”
She replied with not-so-good English, “Please wait.”

Ten seconds later, another woman came and spoke in not-so-good but better English, “It’s not convenient for Mr. Wang to take the phone call.  May I ask who’s calling?”
“I’m…Annie, calling from China.”
“Please wait, Mr. Wang just woke up.  I will go ask if he would like to take the call.”

After about two minutes, a very soft voice spoke, “Hi……”
“Hi…Li Chuan, it’s me.”

I didn’t know why, but the moment I heard his voice, my tears wouldn’t stop flowing.

“Hi, Xiao Qiu.”  His voice was very weak.  It was so soft that I could barely hear him.
“Li Chuan…What’s wrong?  Are you sick?” I asked in a teary voice, “Don’t lie to me.  This must be the hospital.”
“It’s acute pneumonia,” he said, “but I’m a lot better now.”
“I’m sorry…I was the one who caused you to be in the rain…I’m sorry…” I whimpered.  I didn’t know what I was saying and kept repeating that I was sorry.
“Nonsense, it has nothing to do with the rain.”  He was saying other things to comfort me, but I was crying too loud, so his voice was completely drowned.
“Li Chuan, are you coming back?”
“Of course, I promised you.”
“I’ll call you every day until you come back then.”
“Please…give me a break, Xiao Qiu.”
“I’ve moved on, really.  I’ve been going out to dinner with that Ph.D guy.”
“Hm…That’s more like it.”  I heard him cough on the other end.
“Is someone taking care of you at the hospital?  Have you been eating well?  Is there anyone helping you take a bath and get changed?”
“Other than people from the hospital, I also have three special nurses, a nutritionist, a chef, and a therapist.  They are all hired by my dad.”  He laughed lightly, “Don’t worry.”
“Mia loves the canned food that you bought her.  But they’re so expensive, what should I do?  I’ll let you have her back after you return.”
“If you like, keep her.  I’ll supply the canned food.”

He started coughing again and held the phone away.  After a while, he said, “I’ll bring you chocolate when I come back.  Which kind would you like?”
“Truffino.”
“Those are chocolate cookies, not pure chocolate.”
“I like cookies.”
“Okay.”
“Li Chuan, I love you!”
“You– {cough,cough}.  You’re at it again.”  I heard him sighing from the other end.
“Li Chuan, I love you!  Rest well!  Goodbye!”

I looked at the calendar.  It was Valentine’s Day.  Yeah!

My battle with Li Chuan in the level-playing field was over.  It was now in a guerrilla warfare state.  Therefore, I must persist in Grandpa Mao’s words of wisdom:
Withdraw when the enemy advances, harass when he hold his position, strike when he is fatigue, chase when he escapes.


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