Chapter 295: Warmness come in the normalest places
The top commercial districts of Milan seemed to have been made for showing off and enjoyment as they lacked the vibe of normal living.
As Li Wan’er was about to take Xu Tingsheng along in continuing down that street, he asked her if there really wasn’t any district there in which people usually lived. Li Wan’er said that of course there was, and did he want to go see it?
Xu Tingsheng said, “I want to see you all settled down. After you’re settled down, I’ll be leaving.”
Li Wan’er was silent for a while before she looked up and sniffed, “You’re not allowed to pretend to be good to me. Hey, let me link my arm in yours. I’ve been thinking about this the whole night. I feel that I shouldn’t look like an auntie, at least.”
With that, she linked her arm through Xu Tingsheng’s, holding onto it tightly.
“How could you possibly look like an auntie?” Xu Tingsheng smiled, “You’re too confident, old auntie.”
Li Wan’er angrily pinched the inside of Xu Tingsheng’s arm. That place hurt easily as he could not help but cry out. Some foreigners who were nearby glanced over, smiling amusedly at this.
“We do look more like a couple, or at least that’s how they see it,” Xu Tingsheng said, “Fine, do it for a while then. I’ll help you to carry stuff later. That’s what men do when women shop, right?”
Li Wan’er thought about it. This did seem to be the case for others, just that she had never experienced it before. Therefore, she said, “Okay.”
Having returned to her home country to stay for some time, also just having moved, there were actually quite a lot of things that Li Wan’er had to buy. They even bought a bag of rice and and a few bottles of Chinese brand seasonings.
Li Wan’er was holding Xu Tingsheng’s jacket, this being the only thing that she was holding. As for Xu Tingsheng, he was carrying things on his hands, on his shoulders, between his arms too.
He could tell that Li Wan’er was very happy as they walked as she seemed to be brimming with joy.
It was nearly 10pm when the two returned to Li Wan’er’s new residence.
It was only in front of the door of her house that Li Wan’er tensed up once more.
After putting down the groceries, Xu Tingsheng went into the toilet.
Li Wan’er found a clothes rack and hung up his jacket. She carefully smoothed its creases and aligned it meticulously, as if it would be hanging there for very long.
She had forgotten that that person would actually not be staying behind.
As Li Wan’er was tidying up the jacket, her fingertips brushed past the air ticket that was inside a pocket. She hesitated for a moment but still took it out in the end.
15th November 2004, tomorrow, in the afternoon, Milan, Italy to Paris, France.
He was going to leave.
At this moment, Li Wan’er’s heart felt as if it was being stifled as she suddenly discovered that her greatest determination still seemed not a match for this tiny piece of paper which she held.
She was afraid that she would surrender just like that, losing the will to stand steadfast. Thus, she was instead even more in a rush to speak to Xu Tingsheng to express her determination, how she was definitely not going to cave in.
When Li Wan’er saw Xu Tingsheng, he was standing on a stool. Having dismantled the old light bulb in the toilet and placed it on the small windowsill, he was taking the small paper box which he was biting with his teeth, opening it and taking out a new light bulb…
“What, that…light bulb’s broken? When did you buy a new one?”
Li Wan’er forget what she had originally been going to say as she asked about a very normal thing.
“I tested all the lights here in the afternoon. The rest are all fine. This isn’t actually spoilt, just that it flickers from time to time. I don’t think it will last. I thought I should change it for you first. Otherwise, after I’ve left, you may not be able to do it yourself. The lightbulb? I bought it earlier when I was following behind you.”
Because there was no circuit breaker, Xu Tingsheng was cautiously installing the new lightbulb as he spoke normally.
The bulb lit up with a warm, gentle glow. Looking at it, he patted his hands before jumping off the stool and placing the old lightbulb inside the box, next throwing it into the bin. Wiping the stool which he had stepped on, he moved it over to the side of the wall.
This was a scene which could not be any more ordinary. Yet, Li Wan’er was deeply captivated by it as she watched on. This seemed to be the life that she wished for, a life with him around.
“So he had already helped me to test all the lights here in the afternoon…” Li Wan’er thought.
The seeds of reliance and longing had already long since been planted within her heart, next growing frenziedly like vines as they wound tighter and tighter around her.
This man before her had once displayed his shameless, lovable side. On him, Li Wan’er had found what she had yearned towards but missed out on as a young girl, the passion of loving someone and the wondrous subtleties of the fluttering heart.
Then, there was also his maturity and competence and her feeling of having someone to rely on, someone to protect her.
On that day, just having seen his name appear on a corner of that elegiac couplet, she had felt reassured as she had known then that she no longer had to tide through it alone. He was there for her.
Now, this scene, this simplest warmness, instead caused her to feel unwilling to part with him.
Li Wan’er was willing to be subordinate to this man even if she lost herself as a result, becoming a quiet, virtuous housewife, serving her man, cooking, washing his clothes, passing him slippers when he reached home, hanging up his clothes for him…
She would make him look so nice everyday. He already looked nice in the first place. She could think of how she was envied by everyone as she sat at home waiting for him to return everyday, next starting to plan out what clothes he would be wearing the next day…
Third wheel, outside woman, mistress..these phrases went against Li Wan’er’s ethical bottom line. She had never let herself act in an unbridled manner before. How was she to accept this?
Also, he had not given her any time and space to ease herself at all, allowing everything to flow naturally…he had just been so direct and domineering…Li Wan’er even felt a bit vexed over this.
Seeing Li Wan’er in a daze as he emerged, Xu Tingsheng waved a hand in front of her face, asking, “What’s with you, Li Wan’er?”
Li Wan’er said rather flusteredly, “It’s, it’s nothing.”
“That’s good then. Having lived on your own for so long, you shouldn’t have any problem taking care of yourself, right? You’ve got to take good care of yourself in the future,” Xu Tingsheng said, “Let’s see if there’s anything else I can do. It’ll cost money if you find someone next time.”
Li Wan’er said, “There isn’t anything else. Xu Tingsheng…”
Xu Tingsheng asked, “What is it?”
Li Wan’er said, “I want to say that I don’t know why, but sometimes, I just feel like you don’t seem to be twenty. I feel like you are the same age as me.”
“…You’re right. Actually, I’m even a bit older than you,” Xu Tingsheng smiled as he replied.
Li Wan’er thought that Xu Tingsheng was mocking her. Old woman, old auntie, old bull-she had heard all these from his lips before. He was really terrible.
She glared at Xu Tingsheng before entering the bathroom and handing him a towel, next looking at her watch as she stammered somewhat due to her nervousness, “It’s 10pm now. There’s, there’s still time…how about I cook some porridge for you? Are you hungry right now?”
Having walked the entire evening and carried so many things, Xu Tingsheng found that he was indeed a little hungry. Also, he had not eaten any rice for the past two days, and it seemed like he would not be having any for the next few days as well…
Moreover, leaving someone wasn’t actually that easy. “The heck…she’s still so beautiful, and all silly and so good to bully.”
“Alright,” Xu Tingsheng said.
Li Wan’er went into the kitchen. Xu Tingsheng sat down on the sofa in the small living room.
The narrow kitchen was not completely restricted from sight. Xu Tingsheng was able to see inside as he sat in the living room. Seeing Li Wan’er’s busy, focused figure, it was really like a goddess had descended, washing her hands and brewing you soup. There would actually be a real sense of accomplishment there.
Xu Tingsheng saw her push her long hair to the side as she bundled it up with her hands, using a wooden hairpin to pin it up.
Then, she washed her hands and opened the cover of the pot with one hand whilst dispersing the rising steam with the other and checking if the porridge inside the pot was already cooked.
This seemed to be the kind of life that the 31-year-old Li Wan’er should possess. The vibe that emanated from this scene and the pot, her bearing and mannerisms included, spoke of a calm and simple yet warm and fulfilling life.
As the two ate porridge, Li Wan’er did not look at Xu Tingsheng even once. Even while speaking, it would be Xu Tingsheng asking a question and she only then answering it.
Li Wan’er was actually feeling very angry, “How can he act so nonchalant, so normal?”
To Li Wan’er, Xu Tingsheng’s normalcy was like silent footsteps that steadily drew near, using this warmest method to achieve the most domineering feat of pressuring her into submission.
Despite Li Wan’er eating very slowly, the food would surely be finished in the end. Then, she cleared the table, and Xu Tingsheng washed the dishes…
After that, she brewed tea, and after that…there was finally nothing else left to do. Li Wan’er could only return to face Xu Tingsheng, to face that problem.
Sucking in a deep breath, Li Wan’er ventured, “Xu Tingsheng…”
Xu Tingsheng asked, “Yes?”
Li Wan’er said, “I, I won’t be anyone’s lover. Not, not even if it’s you.”
After saying so, she gazed at him with her big eyes, perhaps expressing her determination, perhaps secretly hoping for an unexpected response.
Whilst taken aback, Xu Tingsheng could understand where she was coming from. Li Wan’er might indeed have been facing too many temptations and threats of this kind recently, while he…had done so much that he should and should not do. It was not like he had never once exhibited recklessness in that area before. Therefore, that she had thoughts and worries of this kind was actually very normal.
“That’s good then,” Feeling awkward, Xu Tingsheng felt that he had no way of remaining there any longer as he got up, saying, “I’ll be going back to my hotel then. I’m leaving Milan tomorrow afternoon. If there’s anything else that you need me to do, call me. It’s fine as long as it’s before noon tomorrow. Also, take good care of yourself in the future. If you meet someone who is very good, don’t be alone by yourself any longer.”
With that, cutting a rather solitary figure, Xu Tingsheng retrieved his jacket that hung from the clothes rack by the door and left.
As she watched Xu Tingsheng take away the jacket of his suit that she had carefully hung up just a short while earlier, Li Wan’er felt as if…he had taken and emptied the whole house with him. Right, it had all been completely emptied, even her heart.
Li Wan’er stood up and walked towards the door.
Xu Tingsheng pushed open the door again and looked over at her, “Li Wan’er, I won’t be caring about you in the future. You definitely must take good care of yourself. Don’t be so useless and silly in the future.”
Then, he paused for a moment, finding that he had run out of words as he closed the door and left.
“Clearly, clearly we agreed that I’d be making breakfast for you tomorrow. You’re throwing a tantrum just because you were rejected? Aren’t you very domineering? Won’t you…push me against the wall…why, this time…” Li Wan’er murmured to herself as she gazed at the already closed door.
Late at night, this old district resembled the surface of the calmest sea.
The wind was a bit chilly. Walking on the street, Xu Tingsheng put on his jacket, tugging it closer to him as his arms were brought close together…
“The heck! Such a pretty chick…gone just like that. Student Xiang Ning, hurry and give Uncle some encouragement! How about when you’ve grown a little older, you at least learn how to cook porridge too?”
Li Wan’er sat alone in the empty room. Actually, the small apartment was filled with her belongings. Yet, she still felt like it was empty.
This was the third time she was feeling like this.
The first time was when he had said ‘we’re even’ by the roadside.
The second time was when she had made that call, receiving a cold-hearted reply.
This was the third time. He had taken his jacket and left, and perhaps she would never see him again.
“Are we even? How are we even? I owe you so much, think about you…so much.”
The only thought in Li Wan’er’s mind now was that for her and this man to thereon be totally unrelated, having nothing at all to do with each other…was unacceptable. That definitely could not be allowed to happen. All her other thoughts had been suppressed by this issue as only this one thought remained, the thought that…this was completely unacceptable.
“Who asked you to rile me…”