Chapter 1: Earnest Instructions before Admission to School
My mom said, “Linlin, look at how lucky you are! You can even get into Peking University! After you get to college, your first mission is to make sure you aren’t kicked out of school, your second mission is to lose weight, and your third mission is to find an excellent college boyfriend, so that even if you don’t have this kind of luck in the next generation, you can still lean on our genetic inheritance and allow your future generations to go to a great college.”
This was what my mom said to me when she sent me off at the train station.
Why did my mom only send me to the train station, and not go with me to the school? That was because my mom saw our whole town’s top student on television. The person who had tested into the exact same college as I had was a guy, and he was even a pretty guy. My mom loved pretty boys- her old idol had been Won Bin. She went through numerous channels to get that person’s number and then she called him herself.
“Hello? Is this classmate Fang Yuke? Hi. I am Zhou Linlin’s mom. It’s like this: didn’t my Linlin test into the same college you did……Oh, you’re not familiar with the area…… No problem, no problem. After you go around a bit you’ll be familiar with it. As for my Linlin, this is her first time going to a far away place, but her dad and I just happened to join a tourist group. Thus, could you do me a favor and keep an eye on my Linlin for awhile? Please. If there’s time you can come to auntie’s house.”
I sat next to her, feeling bashful. I had no impressions of a tourist group. If she was willing to pay money to go traveling, the sun might as well come up from the western side.
And then there was Fang Yuke- even though we were classmates, our rotten school emphasized on the importance of the sciences. Their sciences building was built into something that resembled a palace, while us liberal arts students were put in a lonely corner, with about the same amount of land as where the palace maids would have lived. Even though we were classmates for three years, I had never met him face to face, and could only spot him from afar when the school awards were given out. I only knew that he had been named the most excellent boy on campus by our school girls, and that he was our principal’s grandson. He, of course, never lost the principal’s face. He didn’t even have to move and he would receive some first place award. The glass display window in our school always posted an inchlong photo of him on it, and next to that was written his birthday, 7/18/1984, which year he had been named one of the top three students of the year, and on which month he had received an award, etc.
I used to make fun of it with my friend, Yao Zi, “Look at that photo- it looks so much like a first generation ID card. With those remarks, it all resembles an obituary. It’s fortunate that our little town doesn’t have a recommended-for-admission quota, or else this kind of person wouldn’t even need to take the Gao Kao , and would immediately go to Tsinghua University or Peking University. I heard that when the Gao Kao grades were posted, Peking University called him and let him choose his major. Going with this person to university increases the pressure on me; plus he’ll definitely despise someone like me. Alas, after I go to Peking University people everyone will be like him. I feel my head hurt whenever I think about it. As the saying goes, I would rather be a chicken’s head than a phoenix’s tail , so what’s the point of registering for Peking University for the honor of my ancestors only to do wrong to myself?”
Speaking of this, before the Gao Kao, my grades went along a wavy line. Sometimes it would be twice the amount of my valleys. I had even drawn a line chart for every time I tested. According to the direction of the line chart, my Gao Kao grade should have dipped into a valley. I didn’t think that my Gao Kao grade would exceed my daily trend, and rush to the top of Mount Everest, so when I received my Gao Kao grade via a short text, and saw the number of zeros and the two digit number, I kept feeling that the text could have made a mistake.
At our household meeting, I repeatedly asked my mom, “I was 28th in the province? Really? Really?”
My mom stared at me, “You’ve thought about examination places to the point of being crazy right? How could it be possible, it must be that your school is in 28th place.”
That was when my prudent father spoke up, “She’s in front of so many 0’s, it looks like it should be out of 100 of 100,000s of students, so following this line of thinking, it should be the provincial rankings.”
After the whole scene quieted for about a minute, my mom quickly took the phone and called my big aunt, “Big sister, a big meat pie  has hit my home’s Linlin!”
I had managed to hack into the Gao Kao and as well as the system by which we filled out our college preferences.
The moment I entered the train car, I found that there was already a guy sitting across from me. His white, clean face, was framed by a pair of black rimmed glasses. He looked a little like the famous Khalil Fong. One of his hands flipped through a copy of National Geographic, while his other hand twirled a ballpoint pen. Seriously, who holds a pen while reading National Geographic?
I tentatively asked, “Are you Fang Yuke?”
He lifted his head, but the pen in his hand never stopped, “Mm, that’s me.”
I immediately threw out my biggest smile, “Hello, hello. I am Zhou Linlin. Please take care of me.” When I finished I immediately took out my stack of snacks and put them on Xiao Fang’s table  to let him eat. Fang Yuke coldly said, “Nice to meet you,” and continued flipping through his magazine.
Not too long afterwards, I heard a sound of knocking glass. I turned around; it was my mom. She blinked to me and protruded her lip towards Fang Yuke, and made a “You can do it!” gesture. I gave a hopeless breath, rolled my eyes, and angrily said, “Can you stop?”
This time, I startled the person wrapped up in his magazine, Fang Yuke. He stared at my angry face and said, “If a girl has a bad temper she won’t be able to marry.” He didn’t wait for me to reply before he went back to his reading again.
The train finally thundered forward. I couldn’t come up with anything to say so I grabbed a copy of Soulmate . I flipped through a few pages and felt extremely bored. I didn’t have anything to say but I tried to say something anyways, “Fang Yuke, how did you get into Peking University?”
Fang Yuke didn’t lift his head, and continued to twirl the pen, “I was always first in school so this is normal.”
“Oh. It’s so fortunate that I somehow also tested in, otherwise you would be the only person who made it in from the whole town. Then, you would be so lonely! Hehe.” I laughed, but in actuality, my wound had been ripped open again and sprinkled with salt.
Throughout the whole train ride, I lonesomely sent short texts, looked through Soulmate, and ate chicken feet. I had nothing else to do. On the other hand, Fang Yuke acted like a statue who sat opposite me, reading his magazine. If it wasn’t for his twirling pen, I would have suspected he wasn’t a living creature. In the end, I became drowsy, lay on the small table, and fell asleep. Within my haze, I was woken up by Fang Yuke, “Hey, you can go to the berth to sleep.” I wiped away the saliva on my mouth, and trudged to the back, I didn’t even take off my shoes, I just lay on the berth not conscious of anything else. When I woke up, Fang Yuke who was opposite me was reading again. What a nerd.
After more than ten hours had passed, the train finally reached its stop.
However, when we arrived at the train station early on a Sunday, the school didn’t arrange for anyone to pick us up. Fang Yuke and I looked for a taxi to take us directly to Peking University. The taxi driver and I chatted very amiably, Fang Yuke was like ice beside me, cooling the atmosphere. When I had someone to talk to, the time passed quickly and I felt it hadn’t passed too long before the driver said that we had arrived. I got off the car. When I looked up I could see the two classic words of “Peking University” that I had often seen on TV.
I threw my suitcase aside, and stood under the big plaque as I told Fang Yuke, “Classmate Fang Yuke, help me take some pictures. If the developed picture doesn’t have me in it, it will mean that I am really dreaming.”
Fang Yuke saw my idiotic expression and he shook his head saying to me, “Can you not be so childish?”
I laughed, “We aren’t the same. You guys look at Peking University like you’ve seen your family. When you were born it was already determined that you will be a Peking University student, and you don’t have any feelings for it. I am not the same. I am a stalk of grass that was married into this wealthy family. I don’t know if other wealthy people are regretful. If I’m kicked out, this picture will be evidence of my marriage, it can prove that I used to live a wealthy life.”
— Gao Kao: Chinese SAT  I would rather be a chicken’s head than a phoenix’s tail: Basically compare this to “I would rather be first at Purdue (an average college) than last in Harvard (an outstanding Ivy League college).”  Big meat pie: Luck  Xiao Fang: A lot of Chinese people like to nickname other people Xiao (insert surname) or Da (insert surname). Xiao means Little and Da means big.  Soulmate is a Chinese “love” magazine that focuses on melodramatic love stories. Domestically, its distribution numbers are number one.
Re-proofread by tranzgeek and libramuse