When we got back to my place, he took a small basket containing chocolate and a large bundle of cookies he made, pulled me to the door across the hall, and knocked.
He handed the bowl back to Grandma Guan, handed her the basket of gifts and also two red envelopes, and solemnly thanked her. And then said, “Grandma Guan, thank you for taking care of Xiao Qiu when I wasn’t here. This is a greeting gift for your granddaughter. Please accept it.”
“Oh! You are too polite. There’s no need for two red envelopes, I actually only have one granddaughter.”
“The other red envelope is for you, just as a token of thanks, please use it to buy new clothes.”
Grandma Guan accepted delightfully and even asked in the end, “Mr. Wang, your outfit is that of wealth. You must not be an hourly worker, right?”
“Then how much money do you charge per hour?”
“I…am a volunteer.”
Grandma Guan understood what was going on, smiled, and said, “Xiao Qiu is very lucky!”
“It’s not her who is lucky, it is I.” Li Chuan corrected with a slight smile.
We returned to my place, hand in hand. Li Chuan handed me a piece of paper. I looked, there were ten math problems on it.
“I’ll give you ten minutes, can you finish it?”
“What’s with this? I’ve forgotten all the math already.”
“You were the high school champion of Jiu city.”
He pressed the stopwatch, I took the pencil and finished within five minutes. Li Chuan glanced at the answers once and said, Your IQ is fine. Don’t know what’s wrong. How come you have a bit of a foolish look to you?”
I took the remote and proceeded to watch tv.
Li Chuan held me, so I lay in his embrace, watched a melodrama, and shed huge tears. At night, we went to bed early. Li Chuan treated me sincerely and we recovered our old sweetness.
Halfway through, a quiet rustling came from underneath the bed. Li Chuan sighed towards the ceiling, “Xiao Qiu, besides cockroaches, you also have mice here?”
“Uh-huh, there’s two, probably mates. I’ve even fed them cookies. Weird, how come there’s only the sound of one of them today?”
“Shoot.” Li Chuan quickly covered my eyes with his hand.
“You caught one? Killed it?”
“During the daytime…” Someone didn’t dare continue.
“Li Chuan, you’re completely heartless. The one underneath the bed must be singing.”
“What is it singing?”
“Ask the world, what is this emotion that people will die for…”
“Let it sing what it wants to, let us continue what we were doing.”
The second day, Li Chuan still dropped me off at work and still prepared a boxed lunch for me. This time, there was a piece of paper stuck on each box:
“I am pork congee, number 1, heat for a minute.”
“I am eggplant, number 2, heat for forty-five seconds.”
“I am red-braised fish pieces, number 3, heat for thirty seconds.”
“I am fruit salad, number 4, eat raw, no need to heat.”
All my female coworkers were extremely envious, saying that Li Chuan was treating translating work as going to kindergarten.
When Li Chuan came to pick me up after work, they all said, “Xiao Qiu, your parent is here.”
From what I knew, Li Chuan had always been served by people his whole life. He had never served anyone else before. When Li Chuan did this everyday, I would wonder how long this prince could last.
Even after a year, he still did this everyday. I started having a feeling of happiness, the splendid kind. Of course my happiness is never long lived. I never had any expectations towards Li Chuan’s return this time.
Just like this, without hope, I lived with him intimately for a year. It felt great! In this year, Li Chuan did not work, he didn’t draw a single drawing. Besides making me meals, picking and dropping me off, accompanying me on walks, and watching tv with me, he didn’t do anything else.
It’s just that in my narrow apartment, it wasn’t convenient for Li Chuan to move around. So one day, I said to him, “Li Chuan, let’s not live here anymore. Let’s go find a larger house.”
He immediately picked up a pencil and said, “What are you looking for? I’ll draw one for you. Tell me what it should look like.”
“A bit larger.”
“Just that request?” He became depressed.
“Uh-huh, with more handicap installations in the bathroom.”
“Any other requests?”
After two days, Li Chuan finished designing a white two story house. He hand drew every diagram and had me look at each one.”
“Isn’t that too unique?” I frowned. “What company would build one-off just for you?”
“For example, my own company?”
“Oh…then you will be tired. Your health isn’t good, you can’t work too much.”
“Not tired, not tired.” He said happily.”
“No, you still need to make me meals!”
“That’s true.” He contemplated and then, went to the bedroom to make a call. When he returned, he said to me, “My brother said that he will find someone to help me build it on the condition that he and Rene can design a room in the house.”
“Alright, I don’t object.”
“I object.” He thought about it and then his eyes lit up, “I’ll let them design the basement.”
“Wasting talent. Oh dear!”
Three more days passed, and Li Chuan was still doing hourly work. For the three meals a day, he made every single thing. The only housework I had was to watch tv and read novels. Sometimes I would clean the dishes, but he would say they weren’t clean and wash them again.
Our house was in a small neighborhood near a mountain that had many houses, with ours being the most beautiful. When it had been built, Li Chuan took me to go see it. On the way back, he asked me if I liked it, I said, “I like both the upstairs and the downstairs! I also like the garden!”
“What do you like the most?”
Li Chuan made a painful face and said, “It’s over, I’ve received a blow…I must find my brother to settle this.”
I felt that I had to console him.
That day, the sky was clear and the air was clear, the wind was free from worry.
I asked him, “Li Chuan, is the weather good today?”
“Is today a good day?”
“It also is.”
“Then let’s go register our marriage today.”
He was startled speechless. After awhile, he awkwardly said, “…Must we get married? Can’t we just stay like this? It’s not that I’m not willing, I’m just afraid that I won’t live for long and you would become a widow…”
“You’re being a bit serious.” I made a serious face.
“What does ‘uh-huh’ mean?”
“‘Uh-huh’ means, that if you really want to get married, I have no objections.”
“Just this carelessly? No getting down on one knee?” That’s not fair, why do I always get the short end! In the future, he will always say that it was me who rushed getting married.
“This person only has one leg…show some mercy.”
I pulled him into the Civil Affairs Bureau. There was a older lady processing marriages and was quite friendly.
“Do you have all the paperwork? Photos?”
I took out a few booklets from my bag, “This is my residential registration and identity card. He is a foreigner, this is his passport and residency permit. This is a photocopy, and there are also three recent 2in couple photos.” The couple photo wasn’t actually recent, it was from ten years ago. I took all these documents out and felt as if I was in a conspiracy.
The older lady took a glance at our documents, and seeing that Li Chuan wasn’t speaking, she asked me, “Can he not speak Chinese?”
“He can…he’s too excited. When he’s excited he can’t speak.” I held onto his elbow and made an intimate pose.
“He is Swiss, we still need him to provide a notarized “Marriage Situation Certificate” to prove that he doesn’t have a spouse right now.” The older lady was very familiar with her work.
Li Chuan and I were both flabbergasted.
“I told you not to come, yet you still wanted to.” He solemnly looked at me, “Hasn’t it become troublesome now?”
“Li Chuan, is it possible that you already have a wife?” I was driven mad.
“How can I dare?”
He took out his cellphone and called a number.
“Brother, I need a document…’Marriage Situation Certificate’.”
“You’re asking what it’s for?”
“Make it fast.”
“Uh-huh. Alright then.”
He finished in just four sentences, hung up, and said to me, “My brother will go handle it today, take a flight tonight, and arrive in Kunming tomorrow.”
“Alright, such great efficiency.” I gave the older lady a box of chocolates.
“Ma’am, we’ll come again tomorrow.”
The next day, I still went to work. In the afternoon, we went, hand in hand, to the Civil Affairs Bureau. Li Chuan said that Rene and Ji Chuan had already arrived and will wait for us outside the Civil Affairs Bureau with the “Marriage Situation Certificate”. When we reached the doors, we did indeed see them. They were both dressed in formal suits. Li Chuan and I were in our daily clothes.
I was a bit gloomy and said to Li Chuan, “Should we have dressed more formally?”
“There’s no need. Everywhere we go, we’re always a pair of handsome man and beautiful woman.”
Everyone hugged each other. Rene and Ji Chuan congratulated me. Li Chuan and I completed our marriage registration. When we came out, I suddenly found a crowd of people standing outside the door. There were old and young, men and women, and foreigners. All were dressed in formal wear. Everyone looked at us with excitement.
I turned to look at Li Chuan and found that Li Chuan was also startled. And then two seemingly mixed blood, high school girls suddenly shrieked, “Alex! Xiao Qiu! (English) We love you!”
Li Chuan nodded at them, held my hand and said, “Xiao Qiu, let me introduce my family and relatives.”
My legs started to tremble a bit, there were more than thirty people in front of us. I quietly asked him, “This many…are all family?”
“This is around half…the most important ones are here.”
“This is my (maternal) grandfather and grandmother.” A pair of very kind looking old grandpa and grandma, “Your scarf was knit by my (maternal) grandmother. (Maternal) grandmother has five grandsons. She knit a scarf for each one of her grandson’s wife. Even Rene has one. Haha.”
LI Chuan’s (maternal) grandmother was French. She hugged me and said a whole bunch of French and then kissed me endlessly.
“This is my (paternal) grandfather and grandmother, and my dad.”
I already knew Li Chuan’s (paternal) grandfather. The elderly gentleman laughed out loud and said, “So Annie was Xiao Qiu! I’m done for, I offended her the first time I met her. That’s okay, (paternal) grandfather will take you to have fun all over Switzerland. Don’t think it’s just Li Chuan, out of everyone in the Wang family, I know how to have fun the most.” Li Chuan’s dad was thin and tall. I could see that he was very handsome when he was younger. (Paternal) grandmother was not very tall and was a bit chubby, her silver white hair was swept up. She was very cheerful and looked quite capable. (Paternal) grandmother held my hand and would not let go, continuously saying, “Such a beautiful girl. Good thing Li Chuan had you in these years. Li Chuan is really quite lucky!”
Li Chuan introduced them one by one, “This is uncle (father’s younger brother), auntie (wife of father’s younger brother), uncle (mom’s brother)…this is my cousin (younger female cousin through mom’s side), niece (cousin’s daughter through father’s side)…”
Everyone came up to congratulate me and hug me. Right after, I heard a young man wearing a backpack running towards me, calling, “Jie (older sister)! Jie!”
“Xiao Dong, why are you here?”
“Someone phoned our department’s office and said that he had bought me a plane ticket to have me come and take part in your wedding…I couldn’t really understand his Chinese, so I thought it was brother-in-law.”
I rubbed his head and said, “That was not your brother-in-law, it was Rene.”
Li Chuan came over smiling and shook his hand, “So you are Xiao Dong. I am Li Chuan. You sister always mentions you. We finally meet.” Immediately after that, a taxi arrived and four people Li Chuan and I were very familiar with came out.
We immediately went over and called out, “Auntie (maternal aunt)! Uncle! Cousin (older female cousin through mom’s side)! Cousin-in-law!”
After the wedding, Li Chuan insisted on taking me to Europe to travel. Due to his condition, I was determined not to agree. We continued to live in Kunming and went to Switzerland every half year to see the doctor.
The first time we went through customs in Switzerland as a couple, Li Chuan handed a red booklet over to the customs official with a serious face. The person studied it for quite awhile before asking, “Mister, your paperwork?”
“This is it.”
“Why does it have Chinese on it?” That foreigner actually knew what was Chinese character.
“This is a marriage license.” Li Chuan said, “My wife has my passport.”
The foreigner laughed, “Why did you give me your marriage certificate?”
“My wife had me hold it while we went through customs to prove that we were married.”
“Puah…” The customs official couldn’t help but laugh. When he calmed down, he also stamped our marriage license, “Wish you a happy marriage!”
After we passed through customs, Li Chuan earnestly put away the marriage license. I said, “Li Chuan, jesting with the customs official is not good. Let’s not play this next time.”
“Why should we not play? We’ll play every time.”
“It’s like watching a drama with a cliff hanger finale just to find out that it would end in a movie.” -tofudessert
Yup! That’s the end of the actual novel. A little disappointing, isn’t it? When I first read it, I was extremely unsatisfied with how the novel ended. What saved me from throwing this to the pile of books-to-never-read-again are the side stories. They don’t completely redeem the fact that we were thrown a cliche and a abrupt ending, but at least we can see some of the better times Li Chuan and Xiao Qiu have together. Stay tuned for more time with Li Chuan, and for our next novel announcement. 🙂