Just like her heart, which was also feeling jumbled and in disarray.
The guitar was set down beside the pool. Jian Bianlin patted the spot next to him.
It was neither a large nor small spot; there was just enough space for her to sit.
After pausing for several seconds, Chu Jian climbed over from the daybed sofa. That little platform area was against the glass wall, and only a few soft throw pillows were on it. As she tried to rest herself into the pillows, she was not paying attention and ended up leaning herself backwards at a very suggestively intimate angle. It seemed… she had leaned herself into his arms.
She had not expected this. Neither had Jian Bianlin.
He could feel that his arm, which was on top of the throw pillows, was brushing against the skin at the nape of her neck—soft, warm, and so real. Yes, that was it. Real.
He had actually clearly heard each word that Xie Bin had spoken earlier. For two days, more than forty hours, he had thrown himself into his work with intensity and focus, as if her arrival had not caused wild elation in him. Only he, himself, was most clear about the truth. Since that day when, sitting in the driver’s seat, he saw that one word on his phone’s screen, the sense of reality had left him.
But now, he had awakened again.
Jian Bianlin’s fingers hung down slightly to rest on her shoulder. Through a layer of cotton material, he could feel that her body was tense and uneasy.
Her personality had not been like this before. When they were kids, she had beamed with smiles all day long, always cheerful, simple, and carefree. After breaking his entry for a model plane competition, she had still put on a miserable look that was deserving of pity. Holding up the broken mess in her hands, she had worn that I-know-you-won’t-take-this-to-heart-so-just-hurry-up-and-say-you-forgive-me expression to apologize to him. Later, things gradually changed, especially in their last year of high school. She had treaded more and more carefully and had not really liked laughing and joking around with schoolmates anymore. When school ended for the day, she would leave alone. It was the same during rest time in gym class; she would sit by herself in the bleachers, staring out blankly, unlike other girls who would gather in groups and chat… He knew that at that time, Chu Jian had been very severely excluded by their classmates, and so gradually, her temper and spiritedness had been worn away. She later went to Hainan, and he would secretly go there and watch her as she attended class. Still, she would sit on her own in the back row, without a single person around her.
That had all been his fault.
He wanted her to go back to being what she used to be like.
To go back to being that girl who would dare climb a tree two storeys high and then shout at him in panic, “Jian Bianlin, Jian Bianlin, oh no, oh no, I’m done for. I just ripped my stockings. Can you buy help me buy a new pair? I’m scared my mom is going to beat me…”
What did he need to do?
His throat felt very tight, as if obstructed by those emotions that were continuously roiling upwards.
“It’s really boring being an artiste, isn’t it?” He restrained his breathing.
“Yeah, your work schedule is so packed.” Her gaze flitted all about and landed outside the window on that ocean view that was not the least bit beautiful. Other than working, artistes could only stay in places where they would not be surrounded by curious onlookers—and, truth to tell, that really was boring.
He moved in closer to her. “I’m free tonight. I’ll go out with you.”
“You don’t need to keep me company. It’s not like this is my first time here…” Unlike his previous night’s scent of toiling and exhaustion intermingled with perspiration, she now could very distinctly smell his clean, fresh scent.
Could he? Right here? His fingers were on her hand that was resting on the blanket, and as he slid them down, their fingers interlaced. He could feel that her fingers were a little wet. It was from touching the pool water earlier on.
He saw her throat move up and down once, ever so slightly.
He wanted to kiss her.
In this still room, the past relentlessly assaulted his mind like a crashing wave. To this very day, he could still remember every little detail of that scene on the ferry when they were teenagers. His heart that had palpitated in his chest, the lightheadedness that had come over him, and even the buzz in his eardrums when his lips touched hers—he had not forgotten any of these things. That day, she had been wearing yarn gloves, ones that she had bought last minute from a street vendor outside the bus stop, and touching them gave a similar sensation to touching a plush toy…
And also, when he kissed her, how the two older women beside them had tutted quietly, or when he let go of her, how she had been so upset even the bottoms of her eyes had grown red…
Even the smell on the ferry of kerosene intermixed with dust was very vivid.
In the space between his fingers, Chu Jian’s fingers curled in slightly.
This little action was infinitely magnified by the rational side of his mind and caused him to start abruptly back to his senses. His gaze cleared, and he noticed Chu Jian shrinking backwards as she nervously dug her fingers into the blanket beneath her.
He shifted his face away to the side. “I still have a shoot this afternoon. Go walk around nearby. Bring something to charge your battery. Don’t let your mobile phone die.”
Breathing softly, she made an almost imperceptible sound in response.
Jian Bianlin forced himself to leave, backing away, but his mind was a little unfocused, and he had forgotten that behind him was a heated pool. Just like that, one foot stepped into the water. Water splashed up—
“You want to soak in the hot pool? …” The sudden splattering of water left Chu Jian stupefied, and she stared at his sodden pants.
“The water in this is too cold… I’m going to take a shower.”
Without a backwards glance, Jian Bianlin stepped out of the pool, grabbed a pair of long pants from the walk-in closet, and strode into the bathroom.
In the end, he still held unvented thoughts of wanting to be close to her. Midway through his shower, he began to feel abdominal pain, and Xie Bin also called. Forcing himself to bear through the pain, he dried himself off. When he answered the call, he immediately heard that evil, callous agent on the other end of the line smirk, “The hotel’s pretty nice, eh? I now understand why you specified that you wanted to stay in that one. A pool, and one that’s sized for two people. Tsk, tsk. What a shame you don’t do romance movies, Jian Bianlin, eh? I just got a script outline yesterday—”
Before Xie Bin could finish what he was saying, the call was hung up.
“You’re done your shower?” Chu Jian’s voice wafted in from somewhere outside the walk-in closet, the steam in the room filtering it so that it seemed to take on a suggestive air. He made a sound in response, not daring to say too much. As he leaned against the wall, he suddenly had a little thought that he wanted her to leave him. If the results from the surgery were not good, he basically had selfishly, forcibly tied her to him once more.
So, while Chu Jian still sat hugging her knees beside the pool, feeling embarrassed and deliberating between sneaking away while he still had not finished showering or continuing to wait here… Jian Bianlin’s body, which had just been toweled dry, broke out in another layer of sweat from gritting through the pain, and he had no choice but to go back in again and have another shower.
From afternoon to evening, Chu Jian strolled alone along the streets near the Ruins of St. Paul. She had bought some highly nutritious herbal foods and was planning on couriering them back to Hangzhou. While she was filling in the form, she received a message from him, saying that his work for the day had ended early. He asked her where she was. However, she was actually not really able to sort out north, south, east, and west, so she merely approximately described the relative position of a few landmarks.
Standing outside of a pork jerky shop at the corner of the intersection, she surveyed the seven, eight different types of jerky and then picked up one sample piece to try. The taste was pretty good.
A hand landed on her shoulder from behind her. When Chu Jian turned and saw his face that was covered by a black, surgical-style mask and his bright, black eyes beneath the brim of his cap, a smile came over her own face. “Would you like to eat this? We can buy some and go back to the hotel to have it?” Under the warm glow of the light, her smile was especially pretty.
His first reaction was to reach for his wallet.
Amused, Chu Jian wagged her hand at him. From her own sling backpack, she pulled out some money and grinningly told him, “I brought money.”
And then she bought a whole bunch and stuffed it into his hands.
Now that the waiting was done and he was here, things were much easier. Chu Jian’s shopping trip of buying, buying, and more buying completely commenced.
The one shame was that, during the entire process, he could only stay outside the shops, waiting in relatively dimmer places for her. When Chu Jian at last completed her shopping mission and dashed out of a shop, she saw him standing at the mouth of a very narrow alley.
Jogging over, she very prudently chose a spot where the light was behind her to shroud herself. “How are we going to go back? Where’s your assistant?” Logically, he should have his own vehicle. It would seem that taking a taxi would not be very safe.
“Wait ten minutes. The car’s coming soon.”
Chu Jian gave an “oh, okay.”
Earlier, he had already noticed that she had worn sandals to come out, and her toes that peeked out had been a little red at the time. Looking again now, they seemed even redder. Once women began shopping, did they all not really bother concerning themselves with their own physical limitations? Thinking this, he shifted his gaze up slightly and landed it on those clean toenails that were not adorned with nail polish. And then, his eyes did not move away again.
To him, every part of her was beautiful—beautiful in a way that could not be described with words.
Chu Jian, of course, did not know what Jian Bianlin was looking at.
She thus allowed her thoughts to wander and also experienced a dash of curiosity that she had never had in the past: If those fans of Jian Bianlin learned that, since he was a kid, he had always been like this—did not like to talk, did not say things to make people happy, was not romantic, was sometimes very stern and serious, and, anyway, was just vastly different from the image of him that was created onscreen—would they still adore him so much? …
“Why aren’t you saying anything?” Chu Jian asked softly, her voice endearingly gentle.
As she turned her eyes on a large billboard with a Western celebrity on it, she thought, this feeling of standing on the streets of an unfamiliar city while waiting for their vehicle was so very nice.
Not hearing a response from him, she looked at him puzzledly.
Jian Bianlin avoided her gaze, afraid that she would discover that he had been staring at her the whole time. Purposely putting on an unperturbed front as he watched the cars and people coming and going, he turned the question back on her, his tone detached. “What do you want me to say?”
She opened her mouth slightly, dumbstruck.
If she had not known, she would have thought that she was some little reporter who was trailing after him, trying to get an interview, but had been shot an utterly, totally icy, unwelcoming look by the big shot celebrity.
In this particular second, there was only one thought in Chu Jian’s mind:
Serves you right that you were never able to win my heart over before!