Li Chuan’s Past (沥川往事) : Chapter 4 10


I love it when the female lead has a back bone and is her own person. Xiao Qiu does not disappoint in this chapter, and her reactions are swift and decisive. I am certain this is also partly what Li Chuan saw in her. I really hope the drama will keep that aspect of her in it. I don’t want to have my hopes up though, I don’t find the lead actress to really fit what I had imagined…On the other hand, I can always read the novel again. And you can too!

[Chapter 4]

I thought that I would be able to see Li Chuan the next day, yet he did not show up. I didn’t have any expectations of him, let alone any presumptuous beliefs. From what I could tell, his kindness was the result of a certain type of upbringing. He really wasn’t just like that towards me. Ever since the first time I laid eyes on him, my main impression of him was that he was refined and courteous. However, the next time I see him, I must treat him to a coffee in order to show my gratitude.

Gradually, a month passed by. No one on the night shift ever saw Li Chuan again. There were rumors that he had visited the café multiple during the morning shift. I’m never on the morning shift, so I couldn’t confirm any of this. Xiao Ye, on the other hand, constantly took morning shifts. But luck wasn’t with her and she never ran into him again. Even for the oldest customers, if they don’t frequently visit, they are forgotten. Besides, this street was commonly referred to as the financial street. Handsome men and pretty girls were not rare at all. The wealthy were everywhere. Gradually, Xiao Tong’s conversations changed to the Porche sports car of a middle aged, bald gentleman. The parking lot by the door got more and more crowded each day, to the extent that the boss finally removed one of the two handicap parking spots. He was going to remove all of them, but Xiao Ye stood her ground saying that the handicap spot had to exist, it reflected the broad-mindedness and inner quality of the Starbucks management. It was also a distinguishing feature of this café. Evidently, Xiao Ye did not understand the boss’ business nature. It was still Xiao Tong who came up with the idea to save her. Xiao Tong suggested that the handicap spot could also be an elderly parking spot. Since there were still many elderly customers in the area who drove cars. Once spot could be used by the elderly and the handicap to park, thus settling the dispute.

Xiao Ye knew that if there wasn’t a handicap spot, that young man called Li Chuan would definitely never come to this café again. He always drove when he came, which meant his work was far from here. His leg was an inconvenience, so he wouldn’t use so much effort to walk over for a cup of coffee. Plus, there were Starbucks everywhere in Beijing.

That night, Xiao Ye treated Xiao Tong to dinner. The next day, Xiao Tong told me that Xiao Ye drank too much. She was drinking and crying at the same time.

Xiao Tong gave me a summary of the night while sighing. He said that Xiao Ye could not extricate herself from the emotions she had sunk into. She had secretly been in love with him for half a year. It was foolish and crazy. In the end, she didn’t even know what his name was.

I originally wanted to tell Xiao Ye that Li Chuan had dropped me off that other night. Or perhaps tell her his name was Wang Li Chuan. But I thought about it and didn’t open my mouth. I really sympathized with Xiao Ye, but Xiao Ye wasn’t my friend. Xiao Ye very rarely took the initiative to speak to me. Once, she was in a bad mood and I made a mistake collecting money. I was ruthlessly reproached by her, making me feel extremely distressed. In fact everyone here knows that she frequently makes mistakes when collecting money and are scared of having her even touch the cash register. There was no need to not forgive me for just making a mistake once. The next day, she knew she had gone overboard and treated me to coffee. In short, she was a very emotional person. Unlike me. Since Mother passed away early, I was very rational and tomboy-like as a child. I wasn’t easily moved.

During this one month, I had to take the first three exams since the start of school. Despite me putting in great effort to memorize vocabulary, I was still spending not enough time on studies in relation to the rest of the girls in my dorm room. My average was only sixty-five. My listening skills were only tolerable and I was unexpectedly failing intensive reading. Sixty-five was a grade that I had never come across during my whole career as a student. I felt ashamed and humiliated. At one point I was extremely downcast, so much so that I didn’t even want to see the classmates in my dorm room because their scores were all higher than mine and didn’t really care about their grades. Only people like me who tested in from a “regional high school” worried about every score.

None of them had to study every single day. Instead, they were always going to parties, watching movies, and wandering the malls. Feng Jing Er was the most relaxed. She spent all her time dating and frequently skipped class. Yet, she had the highest marks in her whole department. She said that if she could continue being the best, by the end of the year, she would get four different scholarships. The largest scholarship was the “Hong Yu Fund.” That fund is given to the top ten students of the whole school. Since the competition was fierce, all the scholarships used grades as the baseline.

I needed money so badly, but I had no chance in competing for the scholarship.

I wasn’t a good student, but I was a good daughter. I could finally send money home and help pay for my younger brother’s tuition. With the remaining money, outside the cost of living, I bought a walkman and a tube of lipstick. The Starbucks boss required female employees to put on makeup, so I had been using Lin Qing’s lipstick. When I was going to give it back to her, she said she’ll give it to me as a present. Embarrassed, she also said that it was actually expired. “All makeup have expiration dates. You must finish using it before it expires.” She also advised me not to buy poor quality makeup. At the very least, I should use Olay. I bought a brand that she scoffed at. It was ten yuan and I had already thought it was really expensive. However, she said that the color was fairly alright, it matched with my skin. It looked like my sense of aesthetics wasn’t bad. I said I had learned watercoloring from Father. She looked disbelievingly at me and laughed. I had to tell her that my father was from Shanghai, was sent to the small town to teach, and then never returned to the city.

“Does that mean you still have relatives in Shanghai?”

“My paternal grandfather is still in Shanghai.”

“Are you close to your grandfather?”

“In order to marry my mom, my dad had a huge falling out with him. He never went back again, nor kept in touch.”

“What did your grandfather do?”

“I don’t know.”

The night after I finished taking the third exam, I took a day off and didn’t go to the café. All of a sudden, a huge group of guys came to the dorm room. I only recognized one of them, Lu Jie. It turns out Lu Jie’s dorm room and our dorm room were “friend dorms.” I had missed a lot of the activities of the friend dorms. From Ning An An’s introductions, it seemed like the main interactions between the friend dorms were for the guys to take the girls out to the movies or for the girls to teach the guys how to dance. The secondary goal was also to provide a chance to develop “friendships.” After socializing several times, only one Math Department male student — called “Xiao Gao” — obtained Wei Hai Xia’s affections. Most guys pursued Xiao Rui, and not all of them were within the friend dorms. As a result, Xiao Rui had it easy for many things. For example, I had to carry water at least twice a day from the hot water room by the dining hall to use for washing up during in the morning and at night. Xiao Rui never had to carry hot water. Someone always carried it to the dorm room for her. Moreover, she always had chocolate in her bag. They were all gifts.

That night, I went to the school dance hall on East Campus for the first time. The dance floor was about as big as the auditorium. There was a disco ball hanging above, and a band in front with a singer who would sometimes sing romance songs and other times rock to rock n’ roll. With the music on, one by one, everyone joined in, holding hands, and dancing like monkeys. The guy who asked me to dance was called Xiu Yue, a Philosophy Department third year. He said that in his department, you had to become a Ph.D. in order to find a job, so his goal was to get a Ph.D. If I tried dancing as a sport, I felt that I had a natural gift for it. I like to swim and like to play volleyball. I also took classes in Taichi before. So after a night, I was able to learn the basic dance moves. Xiu Yue asked me whether I wanted to review lessons at night with him because he had heard me constantly complain about my exam grades.

“Playing is playing. Studying is studying. You can’t mix these two things together. Otherwise, you can’t play well and you can’t study well.” He earnestly suggested.

Xiu Yue was qualified to say this because he was the head of studying in his department. There were already professors who had their eyes on him. To get into graduate school was something that would happen sooner or latter.

“Oh.”

“I heard that you often work part-time outside? As long as you have enough to use, it should be good. Don’t sacrifice your studies for working.” He said.

“Oh.”

“Even though I’m not in the Foreign Languages Department, I have passed the eighth level in foreign languages. It’s up to par with a foreign languages major. Although, my speaking isn’t too good, especially when it comes to retroflex constants.”

“Really?” I said.

“Yes. Every morning, I put a pebble underneath my tongue to practice rolling it.” He said with a look of unswerving determination, “That’s right, will you go to the English speaking practice group on Friday night?”

“No. Where is it?”

“West Campus gardens.” He was amazed at how someone who studied foreign language didn’t go to the English speaking practice group.

“Are you free this Friday night? We can go together. After practicing English we can go watch a movie with Lu Jie and the others. We can watch through the entire night.”

“Mmm…next week is mid-term exams. I have to prepare really well. Next time.”

“Don’t always be thinking about studying. You need a balance. Especially when it’s exam time.”

“I have to work.”

“Then next time.” He smiled faintly and didn’t insist any more.

After the dance, everyone headed to the video hall on the street to watch a movie while eating sunflower seeds and drinking soda. The friend dorm activity was finally over after hanging out until one in the morning.

The entire time, my mind was loaded with worry about my grades.

After that, I got up at five every morning to memorize vocabulary. Besides working and going to class, the rest of the time I spent studying.

Under the street lamps of autumn, I watched as the weather turn cold. Employees of the café had a ten minute “coffee break” every four hours. The day before my exam, I got a cup of coffee and sat in a corner, next to the window. I watched as the whistling autumn wind swept the streets. The street lights shined upon a few pedestrians leisurely stolling down the street. As I slowly drank my coffee, someone, all of a sudden, walked towards me.

I saw Li Chuan once again.

This time, he had on a western style outfit. A brown jacket, a black turtleneck sweater, and a pair of fading jeans. His clear-cut face was very white. For the sake of my heart and my breathing, I didn’t dare look at his face more than once. It seemed as if he had just taken a shower, a faint steam was emitting from his entire body. With his wet and stiff hair, he could shoot an ad for men’s hair gel. I suddenly remember a vocabulary word I memorized today: “dashing.” I don’t know why everyone here calls him the “young man in the suit.” People in suits could be found everywhere. A more suitable term would have been “fashionable male.” It should be male instead, because there were plenty of fashionable young man on the streets, but he had an additional scholarly. (I have been translating “西装青年” as “young man in the suit” so that it sounds a bit better. But the direct translation would have been “suited youth”. Hopefully, that makes more sense in the explanation of why “时尚男生” or “fashionable male/man” would be a better term to call Li Chuan. Man vs. youth. *starry-eyes* :))

Hi.” He said, “How are you?

I am fine.

Do you mind me sitting here?” He pointed to the seat next to me.

No, no. Please sit, I’ll bring the coffee to you. What would you like for today?” I didn’t wait for him to answer before quickly adding, “It’s my treat this time. Thank you for dropping me off that night.” I promptly switched to using Chinese because, even though my speech in regards to coffee was pretty good, I would probably make a fool of myself with anything else.

“Oh, don’t mention it. You sit, I go get the coffee myself. What do you want?” He asked as he placed his computer bag on the chair.

“I don’t need anything. I’m on my coffee break and need to get back to work soon.”

He walked over to purchase coffee and I saw that he paid and came back.

“Where’s your coffee?” I asked.

“Your co-worker insisted on bringing it over for me.” Although he didn’t show anything on his face, his tone held a bit of embarrassment. Xiao Ye was probably overly attentive, making him unhappy.

I turned around and, sure enough, saw Xiao Ye’s face completely red. This was probably the first time she had seen Li Chuan in these few months.

Xiao Ye brought the coffee over to us and gave me a meaningful glance. Understanding, I said, “Look, my break time is over. This is Xiao Ye, Ye Jing Wen. A high achieving student in the Chinese Department of M University. She can recite “The Song of Everlasting Regret” and her foreign language is especially good. She got a 2200 on her GRE.”

He smiled gently, “This café is concealing talent. Miss Ye, so sorry for inconveniencing you to bring my coffee to me each time.”

I relaxed, it was clear that he wasn’t an aloof person. He knew of Xiao Ye.

I stood up and promptly went to the cash register to take over Xiao Ye’s work. I saw Xiao Ye sit down and chat with him. She even laughed several times. Her angelic smile was matchless. I felt gratitude for her.

She sat for half an hour and came back to the counter with a rosy face.

Xiao Tong came over to make fun of her, “Now you should finally know what his name is. Tell us. What big shot’s son is he? He’s so wealthy despite being so young.”

Xiao Ye said, “I don’t know. I didn’t ask.”

“You didn’t even ask for his surname?”

“I asked, he said it was Wang. That was it.”

“What does he do?”

“I don’t know. We’re just strangers, why would I ask in such detail?”

Xiao Tong wanted to continue asking for more, but Xiao Ye suddenly turned towards me and asked, “Xiao Qiu, do you know him?”

“No.”

“Don’t lie. He took the initiative to seek you out. It’s obvious he knows you.”

“…Of course he knows me. I once spilled coffee over him.”

“Do you know what his name is?”

“Don’t…don’t know.” Since he didn’t wish to say it himself, then why should I say it for him.

Xiao Ye looked at me with suspicion, clearly not believing me. She then turned her back to me and thought for a bit before suddenly turning back again and coldly asking, “It can’t be that you have your eyes on him, right?”

“What do you mean?” I didn’t bat an eye.

“I always thought that countryside girls were really sincere. It looks like it isn’t that way. You sure have skills to seduce men.”

Her voice was very low, very sweet, but said through gnashing teeth next to my ears. She then suddenly laughed. I raised my head and saw Li Chuan walk over to the counter in front of me.

“Hi.” Xiao Ye said.

“Hi.”

He looked at us in confusion. Both Xiao Ye and I were standing behind the cash register and he didn’t know who he should be speaking to.

“Mr. Wang, do you want coffee?” Xiao Ye sweetly asked.

“Yes, without sugar, ok?” he said.

I suddenly said, “Mr. Wang, are you free tonight?”

He looked at me. After awhile, he nodded.

“Can I ask you to go to the movies?” I went on.

He stared blankly for a bit, “Watch a movie? When?”

“Twelve o’clock.”

“Ok.” Surprisingly, he answered rapidly.


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