Chapter 39: A Game of Cat and Mouse
As the dusk sun began to set, Jiang Zhengkai finally woke up from his dreamy slumber. He let out a yawn while still lying down in his reclined driver’s seat. He then shifted his gaze to A-Jiao’s window, where nothing had changed. Bored, he took out his cell phone, only to see that it was almost 6PM. He also noticed the text message icon flashing non-stop.
“Ugh, must more junk texts…” Jiang Zhengkai said as he opened his inbox. He was about to bulk delete all of his stored text messages when one line of text caught his eye, “Uncle Policeman, you look so stupid when you’re asleep!”
“A-Jiao!” Jiang Zhengkai exclaimed as he abruptly sat up in the driver’s seat. The drowsiness that had clouded his mind just a moment ago had completely dissipated. He called the number used to send the text message, but it went straight to voicemail. He then looked at A-Jiao’s window, but there still weren’t any signs of movement. Nevertheless, he decided to start his car and drove over to A-Jiao’s condo building. He then darted out of the car and went straight for the Unit 302 doorbell.
“Hello, Uncle Policeman! If you love me, please press 1; if you don’t love me, please press 2,” A-Jiao’s pre-recorded message came over the digital doorbell’s intercom system.
“Damn that girl!” Jiang Zhengkai cursed under his breath. He moved his finger over the “1” button, but did not press it. Instead, he changed his mind and decided to press “2.”
“Go to hell!” A-Jiao’s voice said over the intercom.
“Haha!” Jiang Zhengkai heartilylaughed at the response, but he was quickly disappointed by the beep, signaling that the voicemail function had kicked in. Whatever, I’ll humor this little girl’s vanity this one time, he thought to himself. He exited out of the system and rang the digital doorbell again. This time, he unhesitatingly pressed “1.”
“I’m going to hell!” said A-Jiao’s pre-recorded voice. Afterwards came the beep to voicemail again. Love or love not, apparently there was no right answer between the two.
“Goddamn it girl, get out here right now!” Jiang Zhengkai yelled at the doorbell, “I know you’re in there!”
This time, Jiang Zhengkai guessed wrong. He slept for way too long, so A-Jiao had already left her condo for a while now. However, she didn’t go very far. If Jiang Zhengkai weren’t so focused on the doorbell, if only he had paused for a few moments to look around, he would have found a young woman secretly observing him from a not-so-distant place. Even though she was somewhat hidden from view, it wouldn’t have been hard to find her if he had wanted to track her down.
“Ai!” Jiang Zhengkai sighed. He shook the metal security door in frustration before turning around and desolately walking towards his police cruiser. Behind him, A-Jiao really wanted to jump out of her hiding spot, shout out his name, then run into his waiting embrace, but she refrained from doing so. She liked playing this game of cat and mouse, but it was also a sense of insecurity that stopped her from chasing down Jiang Zhengkai. At the end, she quietly watched as this man she loved, this man who loved her, sadly walked away.
Jiang Zhengkai drove his car over to Uncle Cai’s noodle shop. “Uncle Cai, a large noodle of hand-cut noodles with extra paste, plus an order of thentuk!” Jiang Zhengkai yelled at the kitchen as he was finding a table to sit down at.
“Coming!” an elderly female voice came from the kitchen, “I’ll be right there!” After a short while, the old lady brought out Jiang Zhengkai’s entire order.
“Auntie, where is Uncle Cai?” Jiang Zhengkai asked the old lady in surprise.
“Him? His kid’s getting married, so he went back to his hometown. I’m looking over this place while he’s gone,” the old lady replied with an honest smile.
“Auntie Ma, a bowl of hand-cut noodles and half an order of thentuk, please!” a young woman’s voice came from behind Jiang Zhengkai. The voice was as cheerful and crisp as he had remembered it. Was this the voice that he had longed for all this time? Hearing that voice again, Jiang Zhengkai excitedly turned around, only to see A-Jiao’s alter ego Ren Ziyuan standing in front of him.
“Hi, Officer Jiang, you’re here, too?” A-Jiao calmly asked when she discovered Jiang Zhengkai was right beside her. Did she really not know Jiang Zhengkai was inside? After all, his police cruiser was parked right outside.
“Oh hi, Miss Ren! You like noodles, too?” Jiang Zhengkai asked. Right now, his head was throbbing, and he felt a bit light-headed. Perhaps he really should get some rest. Could it be he was seeing A-Jiao in every young woman that he encountered?
“Auntie Ma, remember not to add any paste. My throat’s been feeling sore lately,” A-Jiao purposely reminded the old lady, “Uncle Cai’s not back yet?”
“He’ll be back soon!” the old lady replied, “But you’ve got to drink more water.” She then walked into the kitchen to prepare A-Jiao’s noodles.
“May I join you?” A-Jiao cocked her head and asked a stupefied Jiang Zhengkai.
“Oh, yeah, please!” Jiang Zhengkai responded as he snapped out of his daydream, “Please sit… please!”
“So what’s your full name, Officer Jiang?” A-Jiao asked as she sat down across from him, her face full of what appeared to be admiration.
“Jiang Zhengkai,” Jiang Zhengkai answered with a bit of uneasiness. He still felt for some reason that the woman across from him was in fact A-Jiao, but his rational mind forced him to accept the fact that this woman was actually Ren Ziyuan.
“Jiang Zhengkai?” A-Jiao slightly bowed her head and pursed her lips as if she was trying very hard to memorize his name. “So was Wei Xin a colleague of yours? Oh, and what should I call you?”
“Yes, we were colleagues,” Jiang Zhengkai nodded, “As for what you should call me, why don’t you call me Brother Jiang? I’m pretty sure I’m quite a few years older than you.”
“Alright then!” A-Jiao nodded. She thought to herself, you idiot, why don’t you tell me to call you Uncle Jiang? At the thought of that, she wanted to laugh, but she ultimately controlled herself. “Why aren’t you eating, Brother Jiang?” A-Jiao asked in a most gentle tone.
“Oh… yeah… right.” Upon hearing what A-Jiao had said, he immediately scraped all of the paste into his noodle bowl. He then picked up the bowl and started wolfing down the noodles.
“Hehe, Brother Jiang, isn’t all of that paste going to make your noodles too salty?” A-Jiao couldn’t help but laugh at Jiang Zhengkai’s embarrassed look. You are really cute in a stupid kind of way.
“Nope, not salty!” Jiang Zhengkai replied. He couldn’t explain it, but every time he looked at the woman sitting on the other side of the table, he felt a sense of discomfort within him. Shouldn’t he be pleased to be sitting across such a pretty woman instead?
“Thank you, Auntie Ma!” A-Jiao said as she received her order of noodles and thentuk. She looked at the speed eater in front of her and felt a slight pang of sorrow, “Brother Jiang, I know you’re hungry, but you really should slow down a bit. How about I give you some of my noodles?”
“I… ahem… ahem.” Ai, that idiot finally choked on the noodles he was trying inhale.
A-Jiao and Jiang Zhengkai ate their dinner amidst tension and relaxation, comfort and awkwardness. After they finished, Jiang Zhengkai insisted on picking up A-Jiao’s tab. They then left Uncle Cai’s noodle shop together.
“Brother Jiang, I need to get back home now. Are you working late tonight?” A-Jiao asked the person beside her.
“No, I won’t,” Jiang Zhengkai replied, “You take care now!”
“Umm, I live kind of far away from here,” A-Jiao said as she placed her hands behind her back and struck a bashful pose. In her mind, however, she was throwing a string of curses at Jiang Zhengkai. You idiot! Imbecile! You’ll never get laid at this rate! Would it kill you to take me home?
“Umm… I…” Jiang Zhengkai mumbled as he rubbed his upper lip with his finger. He then nervously looked left and right before swallowing a mouthful of saliva.
“Could you take me home then?” A-Jiao asked as she bat her eyelashes and stared at Jiang Zhengkai with her charming eyes. You stupid son of a bitch! Did I really have to ask you that myself?
“Yeah, sure!” Jiang Zhengkai finally agreed after A-Jiao’s direct prompt.
So you were waiting for me to ask the whole time, is that it? Just wait and see the payback I’ve got in store for you! A-Jiao thought in her mind, but her mouth said something quite different, “Let’s get going then, Brother Jiang.”
“Wait, my car’s that way,” Jiang Zhengkai pointed at his police cruiser.
“A cop car?” A-Jiao glanced at the car and then started giggling, “How about I sit in front, and you sit in the back?”
“You… hehe! You know how to drive?” Jiang Zhengkai started to laugh as well.
“Nope!” A-Jiao answered as she walked over to the police cruiser and looked at it with great fascination, “I’ve never been inside a police car before! I only know from all the cop shows I’ve watched that it’s the bad guys who sit in the back.” She then turned around and made a shy smile at Jiang Zhengkai.
“In that case, I’ll be the one sitting in the front, but I can let you play a bad guy for this ride,” said Jiang Zhengkai as he pointed at the car’s backseat. By now he was certain the woman beside him wasn’t A-Jiao, only a preschool teacher named Ren Ziyuan. Therefore, his mood became somewhat more relaxed.
“No way! I’m not a bad guy! Can I sit beside you in the front instead?” A-Jiao raised her face and expectantly asked Jiang Zhengkai.
“Alright, get in!” Jiang Zhengkai said as he walked over to the driver’s seat. A-Jiao stood where she was and let out a giggle. If only this stupid man could carry me to the front passenger seat instead!