Chapter 87: The Broken Person
A-Jiao arose early the next morning. She pulled aside the curtains to let the morning sunlight shine all across the bedroom. Then she opened the loft windows and stepped out onto the balcony, where she took a deep breath of fresh air.
Jiang Zhengkai was still in the bed, but between A-Jiao’s bustling and the piercing sunlight, there was no way he could remain asleep. He reluctantly got up and put on his clothing. Standing next to A-Jiao, he quietly asked her, “Why are you up so early this morning, Honey?”
“Hehe! To prevent you from sleeping in!” said A-Jiao, putting on her best cute face for him. “Go wash up now! I hope you didn’t forget that I plan on helping you go through Sister Xiu’s belongings today.”
“Oh, right!” Jiang Zhengkai helplessly replied. Whenever he was around her, he always wanted to forget about his work, however temporarily, and focus his attention on A-Jiao and A-Jiao alone.
“Come on! Hurry up!” A-Jiao stood beside Jiang Zhengkai and prompted him again, “Don’t just stand there! Don’t you have to work today?” Clearly, she wanted to use the morning pre-work hours to help him find the documents that he wanted.
“But…” hesitated Jiang Zhengkai as he looked at her. He then gently raised his hand and grabbed her shoulder. “Actually, Honey… could you… perhaps… hand over all of A-Xiu’s possessions?”
“Oh,” A-Jiao remarked in surprise as Jiang Zhengkai muttered his way through his request. She tightly bit down on her lips and stood silently still. A-Jiao hadn’t thought Jiang Zhengkai would ask this of her, but, sharp as she ever was, it only took a moment before she realized that she should have anticipated such a question from Jiang Zhengkai sooner. He was a detective, after all. True, A-Jiao was loathe to part with the belongings that A-Xiu had left behind, but she also knew that Jiang Zhengkai really needed them for his case. She cocked her head, blinked her eyes, and then softly said, “Honey, could you return these things to me once you’re done with them?”
“Yes!” Seeing how A-Jiao had agreed to his request, Jiang Zhengkai immediately nodded in response. “I promise!”
“Alright then. Now go and wash up!” said A-Jiao as she left his side. “I put them all in the storage room, but there’s a lot of stuff in there. Let me dig them up and help you load them into your car after breakfast.”
“Thank you, Honey!” Jiang Zhengkai chased after A-Jiao and gave her a tight back-hug. Naturally, her body leaned back into his. No normal woman would reject such a romantic act from the man she loved. A satisfied smile appeared on A-Jiao’s face: not because of Jiang Zhengkai’s hug, but because she genuinely felt his love for her.
After breakfast, A-Jiao led Jiang Zhengkai into her condo’s storage room. The fact that most Chinese urban dwellers lived in high-rise apartments or condominiums instead of townhomes or single-family homes meant that they didn’t have basements or garages in which to store things. As a result, builders of apartment or condo units usually included what was, in essence, an enlarged closet where residents could store their belongings. Inside A-Jiao’s luxury condo unit was a storage room approximately 160 square feet in size. Other than the corner that was right next to the door, where there was a pile of various leftover debris from everyday products, the rest of the storage unit was fully furnished as a whole other bedroom. This included a bed, vanity, chair, and television, as well as those pieces of furniture that a woman couldn’t live without: a dresser and a shoe rack.
“Alright, Honey, it’s all yours!” A-Jiao mischievously pointed at the room’s furnishings. “These all belonged to Sister Xiu!”
“Whoa, all of it?” Jiang Zhengkai looked at everything in the room and then turned around to look at A-Jiao. “You didn’t collect everything that belonged to her, did you?”
“Of course I did!” A-Jiao pursed her lips and laughed. “I’m not Sister Xiu, so how would I know what she wanted to keep and what she wanted to throw away? Plus, it’s not like I’m hurting for space in this condo, so I hired some guys and moved all of her things in here.”
“But…” Jiang Zhengkai laughed foolishly at A-Jiao, knowing full well that she was intentionally messing with him. “I only need her paper documents.”
“Uh uh, you’ve got to take it all!” insisted A-Jiao, leaving no room for negotiation. “These things all belong to your sub-bureau now. Take it, take it all!” she said as she pushed him into the storage room.
“Honey! Honey! How about this? I agree to take custody of the contents of this storage room on behalf of the sub-bureau, but could I maybe temporarily store them here for the time being?” pleaded Jiang Zhengkai when he realized the situation he had gotten himself into. His police cruiser wasn’t a pickup truck, so there was no way he could cart all of this back to the sub-bureau himself.
“Only if you pay me a storage fee!” said A-Jiao as she extended her hand towards him.
“Is five yuan enough?” asked Jiang Zhengkai with an evil grin on his face, waiting for A-Jiao’s reaction.
“What? I’ll kill you!” A-Jiao knew that she had once again fallen into a hole that she had dug for herself. She hurled invective at Jiang Zhengkai, while also pushing and hitting his body.
A couple in love can turn a seemingly trivial matter into something special and sweet. That’s exactly what A-Jiao and Jiang Zhengkai were like, despite the fact they should’ve been natural enemies given their respective professions. Who would’ve thought that they could live together happily under the same roof? Life is beautiful indeed!
* * *
However, life was not so beautiful for Cui Jing today. She finally woke up, groggy and disoriented, well into the afternoon. Compared to Wei Xin and Feng Lina, though, she could be considered fortunate; her naked body was lying on a bed in a luxury hotel, not in some dirty ditch by the side of the road.
Cui Jing endured the searing pain in her lower body as she sat up on the bed. Her memories of last night were a complete haze. She only remembered accompanying Li Hongbin and his southern clients into a nightclub and then drinking a shot of cognac. As for what happened afterwards, she had no recollection whatsoever. Still, given the state of her body, did it really matter if she recalled what happened last night or not? As a woman of normal intelligence, she of course realized what had happened to her body last night. Even if she couldn’t figure it out just from the way her body felt, the blood-stained sheets and towels should have been more than sufficient to tell her that what had happened to her body could only happen between a man and a woman, and it had happened much more than just once.
With great difficulty, Cui Jing got out of bed and stepped onto the floor. She found a blanket and wrapped herself in it as she walked into the bathroom to take a shower. She knew that Li Hongbin had to have been involved in what had happened to her. Even though Cui Jing was very naive when it came to Li Hongbin, she wasn’t stupid. She wouldn’t be foolish enough to believe that Li Hongbin was innocent, that he was just a bystander. Right now, she felt heartbroken, as if her heart had been torn out and cut into a thousand little pieces. She couldn’t believe the man she’d trusted and loved the most would actually sell her body in exchange for money.
After Cui Jing came out of the bathroom, she picked up her torn and tattered clothing that had been strewn all across the floor. She sorted through her clothes and put on the pieces that had more or less managed to survive the wild orgy last night. The rest, she threw away. She then picked up her purse, opened the door, and silently left the hotel.
On the road, the warm afternoon sun illuminated Cui Jing’s entire body, yet she didn’t feel the slightest bit of warmth. She waddled absentmindedly down the sidewalk as she considered whether she should call Li Hongbin and report that she had “successfully” completed her mission. She also felt that he should be the one to call her. Even if she were a mere tool to Li Hongbin, he should still care about whether she was alive or dead. At that thought, Cui Jing took out her cell phone and helplessly looked at its home screen. There were no calls from Li Hongbin. It looked like she had already been forgotten by her erstwhile boyfriend.
Cui Jing threw her cell phone back into her purse and continued her aimless march forward. The sidewalk was filled with pedestrians, but none of them cared to notice Cui Jing’s expression, none of them cared about where this beautiful woman was headed. Life, the basis for a person’s existence, was also the entirety of a person’s existence, but to a third person, it was an abstraction that seemed less real than the tiniest speck of dust that flew into the person’s eye.
When the hour hand pointed at the number two, Cui Jing’s cell phone finally rang. The wandering Cui Jing, who seemed to have been lost at sea, acted as if she suddenly found dry land again. She rapidly grabbed her cell phone from her purse and held it with shaking hands to her ear. She hoped the voice that came over from the other side would be the one she longed for, but reality would disappoint her.
“Hello? Cui Jing? Where are you?” A-Jiao’s voice said urgently over the phone. “Are you not teaching your afternoon classes either today? Did you forget that one of our classes has an open-house today?”
“Oh! I… I’m not feeling well…” Cui Jing stiffly replied.
“All you do is spend time with that playboy boyfriend of yours!” A-Jiao continued saying over the phone. “Get here ASAP! The principal is starting to get pissed! Hurry back! I’ll do my best to keep Principal Li and them at bay!” The call dropped.
Work… that’s right! I need to go to work today… Cui Jing’s mind had turned to mush, but she managed to gather her thoughts and hailed a taxi from the side of the road. She then directed the driver to take her to the preschool.