Chapter 17: A Special Date
When there is something weighing on a person’s mind, time really seems to slow down. Being mad at each other, neither of them wanted to speak to the other. Jiang Zhengkai lay down on the guest bed reading his case file documents, but every so often, he would sneak a peek in A-Jiao’s direction. He had hoped A-Jiao would turn around, but alas, she did not.
When the clock struck eight, A-Jiao finally spoke up, not being able to bear the silence any longer. She once again laboriously sat up on the hospital bed, looked at Jiang Zhengkai, and angrily said, “Hey, Officer Jiang, I’m hungry! I want something to eat.”
Jiang Zhengkai knew this round went to him. He didn’t say anything, but struggled to contain his smile. He feigned disdain as he glanced at A-Jiao, before lowering his head once again to read his documents.
“Look at me!” A-Jiao furiously threw her pillow at Jiang Zhengkai. “Officer Jiang! You’re going to be in a world of hurt if you starve me to death!”
“I’m sorry,” Jiang Zhengkai coolly replied. “But I’m not on duty right now, so I can’t be held responsible if you starve to death.”
“Fine.” A-Jiao swiftly leaned back into her bed. However, because there was no longer a pillow to cushion her, her head smacked right into the hardwood headboard. Immediately, two streams of tears flowed silently down her face. Men who say they care about me are all liars!
“Did you hurt yourself?” Jiang Zhengkai heard A-Jiao’s head smacking loudly into the headboard. Since he really did care about A-Jiao, he put down the documents he was holding and sat on A-Jiao’s bedside again. She had her back to him, trying very hard to hold back her tears as she shook her head. “I guess not then,” Jiang Zhengkai said as he leaned his head over to look at her face. “Hey, don’t cry now. You’re a big girl.”
“I like crying, ok? And I’m not a girl! I’m a prostitute!” A-Jiao retorted as her tears started flowing once again. She wiped her face with her hand and said between sobs, “I’ll stop crying if you buy me dinner.”
“Done!” Jiang Zhengkai crisply agreed. “How about hot pot?” Perhaps he did feel a slight bit of remorse over what had just happened after all.
“Sure, I don’t really have a preference.” A-Jiao tried to get up again, but felt like she didn’t have any more strength left. Still, she gritted her teeth and got up anyways. “But you have to carry me!”
“Then you’re going to have to pay my service fee. Five yuan a step.” With a mischievous smile, Jiang Zhengkai looked into A-Jiao’s eyes as he extended his hand. “Pay up!”
“You’re so annoying!” A-Jiao exclaimed as she broke into a smile as well. “I don’t have any money, so deal with it!”
“No money? Well, if you don’t have any money, then I guess I’m not going to carry you. What am I, your slave?” Jiang Zhengkai imitated A-Jiao’s tone. “Hurry up and pay!”
“You… I… I’ll pay you back with my body when I’m better!” A-Jiao said with a full blush on her cheeks. She lowered her head then, not wanting to look at Jiang Zhengkai. She had wanted to say, “What kind of a boyfriend are you?” But just as the words were about to leave her mouth, she had realized their mutual professions and decided against it.
“Really? Is that so?” Jiang Zhengkai replied, more joking than angry. “Then I guess I’ll have to carry you for a while!” He had already grown somewhat accustomed to the way A-Jiao talked. Whatever, she’s just a prostitute. It’s not like I’m going to marry her, so I’ll just let her be.
“I hate you!” A-Jiao said as she extended her arm to Jiang Zhengkai. “Help me out of the bed. I don’t have any strength left.”
“Is it because you’re hungry?” Jiang Zhengkai carefully examined A-Jiao’s face. She seemed a bit pale but otherwise looked alright.
“Maybe.” With his assistance, A-Jiao slowly stood up. She tried walking a few steps but felt a large amount of pain in her lower body. Still, in order to have dinner with Jiang Zhengkai, A-Jiao did not let out even a whisper of complaint. She endured the pain and left her hospital room.
They found a window table at Hot Pot City and sat down. A waiter soon came by to give both of them a menu. “Mister, Miss, what will you be having today?”
At the sound of “Miss,” A-Jiao immediately whipped her head around from staring out the window to stare at the waiter. However, she did not lose her cool. She was just a bit sensitive to that term, that’s all.
“A-Jiao, what do you feel like eating?” From across the table, Jiang Zhengkai saw the discomfort on A-Jiao’s face. He fixed his eyes on her and asked, “What’s going on? Are you not feeling well?”
“Oh, no,” A-Jiao said as she shook her head. “I… I’m fine.”
“Then what do you want to eat?” Since her expression had returned to normal, Jiang Zhengkai lowered his head and started perusing the menu. “You want to get a plain broth pot?”
“No! I want a spicy pot!” A-Jiao cocked her head, reading the menu. “I don’t want to eat any of that bland stuff.”
“You body can’t handle spicy food right now! You’re going to have to go with the plain broth,” Jiang Zhengkai said without a shadow of a doubt.
“Fine… then I want some lamb. Oh, and oysters and tripe, too,” said A-Jiao as she looked up at Jiang Zhengkai.
“No way. The doctor said you can’t eat any beef, lamb, or seafood right now. But I can order some shrimp balls for you. As for meat, you can have some pork. Oh, and I’ll order you some vegetables as well…” Jiang Zhengkai said to himself, completely oblivious to A-Jiao’s current expression.
“I’m not a rabbit! Why would I need so many vegetables? Maybe you were a rabbit in your previous life!” A-Jiao mumbled incoherently to herself as she stared at Jiang Zhengkai with eyes that could kill.
“Alright, fine. What else do you want to eat?” Jiang Zhengkai went ahead and ordered everything he had allowed A-Jiao to eat. After he finished, he raised his head and looked at her.
“I don’t want to eat anymore!” A-Jiao replied with a pouty face. You won’t let me order anything that I want to eat, so what’s the point of asking me in the first place?
“Okay,” Jiang Zhengkai said to the waiter, “I think that’s it. If we need more food later, I’ll let you know.” After taking the order, the waiter repeated it back to them before leaving to pass it on to the kitchen.
“A-Jiao, do you know a woman by the name of A-Xiu?” Jiang Zhengkai asked. However, A-Jiao’s attention right now was completely fixated on the night scene outside the window. Her thoughts lingered with the dim light of the street lamps, the red tail-lights on passing cars, and the neon signs of nearby storefronts. Life in the hospital was so dull, and she had been cooped up there for over a month now. But at this moment, everything outside was fresh and new, and if it weren’t for Jiang Zhengkai, she wouldn’t have had the chance to enjoy a night on the outside.
“A-Xiu?” After hearing Jiang Zhengkai’s question, A-Jiao turned away from the window and back to him. She pursed her lips and looked intently at him, obviously diligently searching through her memory for any recollection of this person. “What kind of a woman was this A-Xiu of yours?”
“Why don’t you see for yourself?” replied Jiang Zhengkai as he removed a photograph of A-Xiu from his file folder and handed it to A-Jiao. “Take a look. Do you recognize her?”
“Yes,” A-Jiao nodded, “I do. That’s right, her name was A-Xiu, but I called her big sister.” Once she had finished looking at the photograph, she handed it back to Jiang Zhengkai. “Uncle Policeman, you didn’t bring me out to dinner just so you could ask about A-Xiu, did you? Anyway, I think she’s been gone from the alley for a while now. If she’s more your type, I’m more than willing to make an introduction.” She winked at Jiang Zhengkai, her long eyelashes twinkling with sultry desire.
“Isn’t there anything you think about besides sex?” Jiang Zhengkai asked A-Jiao with disdain. “I’m not into interested in any of the women in your alley. That includes you!” He added with special emphasis.
“If you’re not interested, you’re not interested. Why are you getting all worked up anyway, damn cop?” A-Jiao muttered softly. Jiang Zhengkai could only see her lips moving, but couldn’t hear what she was saying.
“What was that?” Jiang Zhengkai asked her.
“I said, I got it!” A-Jiao glanced at Jiang Zhengkai for a second and then turned her head towards the window once more. “You’re only interested in that flat-as-a-board assistant of yours,” she said, clearly referring to Wei Xin.
“Who I’m interested in is none of your business.” Jiang Zhengkai felt a bit baffled by all this. Why was he discussing his personal life with A-Jiao anyway? Didn’t he come here to ask about A-Xiu? Remembering the main reason why he was here in the first place, he changed the subject back to the case. “A-Jiao, do you know why A-Xiu left the alley?”
“Nope,” A-Jiao shook her head as she continued to look outside the window. What Jiang Zhengkai didn’t notice was that a peculiar glimmer flashed in A-Jiao’s eyes. She was clearly hiding something, perhaps something related to A-Xiu after all.