Special Appearance in “Jie Ai”
Pi Pi got a phone call after work. It was from a neighbour who she hadn’t seen for a long time asking her if she could help take care of their cat while they are out of the country for two months. It was the same subway station as He Lan Jing Ting took to get to their place; only that one would go East and one would go West.
The neighbour, Miss Xie, was very close with Pi Pi’s grandma. Grandma called her Xiao Qiu, and Pi Pi followed suit and called her that as well. The Xie family was also on the list of people whom Grandma would send her homemade bean paste to. Later, Xiao Qiu moved to a high-end residential area after getting married; she even invited Pi Pi’s whole family to visit and have fun at her place. Every New Year or special holiday, as long as they stayed in the city, Grandma would make them bean paste and call them over to get it. When the cherries that they planted become ripe, they would also send some over to Pi Pi’s family. But it had been almost two years since they last contacted each other. Nonetheless, Pi Pi’s grandma liked them very much; she often mentioned them while chatting, so it felt like they were always around.
There was one main reason why grandma liked Xiao Qiu so much. Before Pi Pi took her college entrance exam, Xiao Qiu tutored her in English for a while. She became too busy, so the last two sessions were completed by her husband. Just from their two months’ worth of lessons, Pi Pi got an unexpectedly high score in English, putting her third place in the entire grade. Without it, she would have not made the score for even the lowest college entrance requirement. Xiao Qiu’s husband was Mr. Wang. He could be considered the most handsome man Pi Pi had ever met to date. He was the kind that Chinese women liked; he wasn’t about the latest styles or casual with his romances, but was calm and dependable with a tint of innocence; he was noble and reserved, but was also friendly and gentle. He had a face of a model; no matter women of young or old, they would blush from seeing him. Pi Pi was no different. The two times that Mr. Wang came to teach her English, she was in a daze the whole time and didn’t hear a thing. Jia Lin later asked how it went, and her face couldn’t help but turn red.
It had been a few years now, so Pi Pi’s impression of Mr. Wang had become blurry. She could only remember him being handsome and that his leg was not well, so he limped as he walked. He also got sick often. Every time Pi Pi visited Xiao Qiu’s home, Xiao Qiu was always the one busy with house chores. He would sit and watch and didn’t talk much, but he was very friendly. If they chat too long and it was late, he would insist on driving her family home.
From afar, Xiao Qiu’s white house on the hill was very eye-catching and easy to spot. In order to save some taxi money, Pi Pi walked up the hill in the cold wind; her hands were numb from the cold when she arrived at the door.
The door finally opened after many rings. It was Mr. Wang holding a cane. He was probably in the middle of washing dishes as he was wearing a waterproof apron over his shirt.
“Hi, Pi Pi,” he said in a bit of a surprise, “hurry and come in, it’s cold outside.”
A warm breeze came from inside the house. Pi Pi took off her coat, and Mr. Wang helped her hang it, “It’s snowing so hard outside, how come you came alone? Didn’t your grandma tell you that I would drive over and drop Mia off at your place?”
“Oh? She didn’t say. My grandma’s ears are not good, so she probably didn’t hear you clearly.”
“I’m sorry, I’m giving the babies a bath right now. Please have a seat and wait.”
“Do you need my help, Mr. Wang?” Pi Pi followed seeing that it wasn’t easy for him to move around.
“Don’t worry, Xiao Qiu is here. Oh right, did you come visit when Xiao Qiu was pregnant?”
Mr. Wang smiled politely, “Come and take a look at my babies.”
She could hear the sound of the babies babbling. Pi Pi looked towards the bathroom, but realized that the sound was coming from the kitchen. There were two sinks in the kitchen, and a baby girl sat in one of each while having fun playing with water. The babies were smiling like angels. They had to be twins as they looked exactly like each other.
Mr. Wang pointed to the one on the left, “That is An An,” and then he pointed to the one on the right, “That is Ning Ning.”
Xiao Qiu chuckled, “Wrong, you’ve got it reversed.”
“I can’t be wrong, unless you switched them.”
“I didn’t switch them. You have been calling them the wrong names since the start, I was just too lazy to correct you.”
Mr. Wang smiled and didn’t talk back. He said to Pi Pi, “Well then, that’s Ning Ning, and that’s An An.” He then lifted one of the babies out of the water, wrapped her with a towel, and held her in his arms. After wiping her dry, he patted her bottom with baby powder like he had done it many times. Just as he was about to put on her diapers, he pointed to a bruised area on the baby’s bottom, “Look, I was right. This is An An!”
Xiao Qiu lowered her head and looked closely, “Okay, you’re right.”
Mr. Wang was very satisfied and helped the baby put on some clothes.
Xiao Qiu lifted the other baby out of the sink and said while helping the baby put on some clothes, “Pi Pi, you came at the right time. We made a plate of FBI. You’ll love it.”
“That is Fried Banana Ice-cream. We just fried it, so it’s better to eat it while it’s hot. What flavor of ice-cream do you like? I have vanilla, strawberry, mango, green tea, and chocolate.”
“Have a seat first, I’ll go make it.” Xiao Qiu was putting the baby into the baby seat when Mr. Wang said, “You don’t know how to make it, let me.”
In the end, both of them went to the kitchen counter; one of them fetched the ice-cream, and the other fetched the fried bananas. Pi Pi was facing the babies in their baby seats and didn’t know what to do. Ning Ning and An An were rather quiet; they were each holding a bottle, concentrating on drinking their milk. It suddenly reminded Pi Pi of something. When she went to Xiao Qiu’s place for English lessons, the couple would work busily at the kitchen counter during dinner time. They worked closely like a volleyball team. One time, they were even cutting the same cucumber. They talked softly while cutting and leaned against each other. Their intimacy would make others envy, yet they never cared about letting others see them like this. Pi Pi’s mom said that Mr. Wang was a Swiss and influenced by western culture, so he pampered his woman a lot, therefore, she couldn’t bear watching.
Pi Pi on the other hand, felt that Xiao Qiu’s family was no more different than other normal families. The couple was loving, and wasn’t that how things should be? Of course, every time she thought about love and marriage, Jia Lin would immediately flow into her mind, as well as the image of Jia Lin and her picking cucumbers. That kind of happiness could only be given by Jia Lin. From she was little till now, she had never thought of picking cucumbers with someone other than Jia Lin.
After she finished eating ice-cream, Pi Pi did not want to stay, so Mr. Wang insisted on driving her home. The roads were slippery, so Mr. Wang was very careful in driving. They chatted a little and Pi Pi told him that she was still studying English and even registered for TOEFL classes. Mr. Wang asked, “Pi Pi, are you planning to study abroad?”
“Not me, my boyfriend is. He has applied for scholarship at a college in America.”
“What is your boyfriend studying?”
“That’s not easy to get in. There’s a lot of competition in the program.”
“Yeah, but he has very good academic standings, so he has great chances.”
Mr. Wang thought for a moment and said, “What about you? What do you plan on studying abroad?”
Pi Pi said depressingly, “I don’t want to study abroad at all. I don’t like English, and I haven’t been studying it well in university, so it’s especially hard for me to pick it up again.”
“Actually, if you are studying at an average college, their criteria for accepting students aren’t as tough.”
“Hm, I’m thinking, if I really don’t get accepted, I’ll just wait for him here. It’ll only be four or five years for him to finish studying his Ph.D. I can wait.”
It was Pi Pi’s worst case scenario regarding Jia Lin studying abroad. She even felt that if Jia Lin could bring her along, she could suspend her studies and find a job first; she would make some money and brush up on her English at the same time. Or she could get married and have kids first; after their kids grow up, she could then go back to school and work at the same time. Pi Pi was quite ambitious about work, but when it came to Jia Lin, she was unable to reach all the minimum goals and all her courage would be gone. As long as she could be together with Jia Lin, she would be satisfied with anything. Besides, her mom and grandma were both housewives, so Pi Pi didn’t think there was anything bad about being a housewife. She also heard that it was common in other countries too.
The car drove down the hill and into the city. Mr. Wang kept silent, but suddenly said to her, “Pi Pi, I have some connections abroad. If your boyfriend or you have any troubles applying for college, I’m willing to provide financial aid to you guys.”
Pi Pi’s heart pounded non-stop, “Mr. Wang, do you think that I can apply with my level of English?”
“Aren’t you taking TOEFL classes? From what I know, our domestic TOEFL classes are very good.”
“Mm, I memorize vocabularies every day, and I’ve secretly applied for the TOEFL exam in June. I don’t dare to tell Jia Lin because I’m afraid that he will laugh at me.”
“How about this, if your boyfriend has any problems with applying abroad, you give me a call. As for you, I’ll help you apply after you finish your TOEFL exam. I guarantee that you’ll be able to study abroad. My dad used to be a college professor, so he has quite a few friends working at colleges. I can at least help you with this.”
“Mr. Wang——Thank you!” Pi Pi almost burst into tears.
The car arrived, Mr. Wang opened the door, fetched his cat from the backseat, walked her to the front entrance, and handed her his card and said, “If you guys love each other very much, don’t wait in sadness. You should use your best effort to try to be together. Waiting for someone is a painful task. Life is also full of changes and requires both sides to overcome the challenges, do you understand?”
Pi Pi accepted his card, looked at him in silence, and nodded her head firmly.