Lying on the bed, Chu Jian watched him remove his top and pants. As he lifted up a corner of the quilt to slide underneath it, she was terribly anxious. This was unlike last night. Last night, she had not known what would happen and therefore had been fearless out of ignorance. Now, though… Chu Jian squeezed herself closer to the wall. When he pulled her with one arm against his bare chest, her entire mind was filled with snatches of images from the previous night and how he had tired her out for several hours and not let her sleep.
Out of reflex, her heart began to pound against her chest, and she was a little breathless. “This bed is too loud…”
Jian Bianlin: “I’ll be more gentle.”
Those words were simply too provocative. Gentle? How was he even going to be “gentle”? Jian Bianlin’s hand was fumblingly caressing her back, and though he tried to control himself, it was completely without success. However, he had only just shifted his leg before the bed had let out a couple of cries of creak, creak, like it was trying to join in with the spirit of the moment. Jian Bianlin could not hold himself back, and pressing his forehead beside her ear, he felt around on the table for the television remote control. His finger slid several rounds around the remote control until he finally found the red button and turned on the television.
Chu Jian protested, “You’re turning on the TV in the middle of the night. Isn’t that just ‘covering your own ears while stealing a bell’ [only able to deceive yourself]?”
The television was turned off again. The surroundings slipped back into stillness.
Afraid that she would get angry, Jian Bianlin dared not make any rash moves and could only slowly use kisses to torture her. From her lower lip to her upper lip to her tongue, he silently tormented her lips. Gradually, they became sore from his nibbling. Chu Jian shifted, gingerly trying to evade him. The bed once more gave squeals of creak, creak…
How could Jian Bianlin possibly curb himself at this point? But unexpectedly, Chu Jian, whose ears had been pricked up the entire time, suddenly broke out into giggles. “Oh man, I can’t. I really want to laugh.”
Jian Bianlin brushed his face across her lips, his kisses trailing down along the curve of her arched neck while his hands did not so much as pause. “Be good… be good.”
In the end, though, they were still interrupted by the creaking of the bed. Chu Jian shoved at him frantically. “Think of of a way to deal with that first…”
Deciding to simply yank the quilt onto the floor, he lifted her off the bed and then lay down with her on top of the quilt. After nuzzling for only a while, Chu Jian felt achy from the top of her head to her back from being pressed into the hard cement floor, and when her elbow slipped down and knocked against the ground, it hurt, too. Anyway, even with the quilt cushioning them underneath, it still was not good enough. The floor was just too hard… Jian Bianlin tried to accommodate her, but switching through a variety of different positions had no noticeable effect. Eventually, with nothing he could do about it, he held her in his arms and kissed her for a long time, from top to bottom. Then, lifting her back up onto the bed and wrapping her snugly in the bedsheets, he sat by himself on the edge of the bed, his head propped in his hands as he composed himself for a dozen or so seconds.
Under the lamplight, Chu Jian leaned in close and looked at him. “Jian Bianlin?”
She brought a smile to his face with this action, and in soundless mirth, he bit down hard on his lower lip. After a while, he heaved a sigh. “The blanket is dirty. Just wait.”
From the bedside, he grabbed his pants back over, slipped them on, and did up his belt. His upper body still bare, he put on his down jacket and walked out the door. Before long, he returned with a clean quilt in his arms.
Just go to sleep. Don’t think about anything.
Seven days later, filming out in the boonies finished, and the Lantern Festival also happened to be drawing near.
The lead actress had requested a three-day leave to shoot a commercial and go on a talk show program. On Jian Bianlin’s end, Xie Bin had also arranged to have the rehearsal and actual event for his birthday celebration during this time. This year, Jian Bianlin’s birthday had been spent in the hospital. In the end, he had actually been the one to suggest that, no matter how busy he was, he needed to have a makeup celebration for his fans.
Consequently, the night before the Lantern Festival, they hurried onto a plane and returned to Shanghai.
From the rehearsal to the actual performance, there was only three days’ time.
On the surface, Jian Bianlin, having very little interaction with his fans, appeared to not be very close to them. Even on his Weibo, he had only ever posted, “Hello, everyone, this is Jian Bianlin,” when the account was first registered and then had never posted again.
However, from many of the little details, it could be seen that, in his heart, Jian Bianlin very much loved his fans but was just not good at expressing it.
For example, this makeup birthday celebration. Or for another example, regardless of his destination, whenever he was coming and going from an airport, he would never use the VIP passageway, because he was afraid that the fans who had come to meet his flight would have made the special trip for nothing if they did not see him. Furthermore, the itinerary for each of his work trips was made public to prevent his fans from always having to spend time to investigate and figure out what his schedules and routes would be.
Hence, from when the airplane landed, he and Chu Jian had separated.
With her backpack on her back, Chu Jian stepped out of the exit. Seeing the people standing off on both sides with signs and mobile phones in hand, excitedly waiting for his appearance, she could not help turning around to take a look.
Jian Bianlin was in a spot less than twenty metres away from her. As a way to promote this current drama, he was purposely sporting the khaki pants and military boots that the male lead in the drama usually wore, but because of the cold weather, he was wearing a black t-shirt and a black down jacket. His physique really was just too good for words…
She did not know if Jian Bianlin had spotted her as she watched him pull out his mobile phone, typing swiftly on it with his thumbs. The next second, her own phone vibrated. It was a message from him.
I’ll be home once I’m done with the dance rehearsal.
Soon after, he brushed right past her and walked out through the passageway.
Chu Jian watched as he and his two assistants strode into the crowds. After allowing her eyes to follow him briefly, she began making plans. Although this could still be considered the Spring Festival holiday period, since she was back, she would go to the nail salon to just walk through and have a look at how things were doing. By the time she left the airport, took a taxi, and arrived at the nail salon, it was just past lunchtime.
Inside the shop, there were only two or three patrons, all of them regulars, leafing through magazines as they waited for their turns.
“Boss, you’re back?” one of the nail technicians lifted her head to ask.
After giving a reply, Chu Jian brought the account book over to the sofa, sat down, and casually flipped through it. But while she was looking through, her mind shamefully began to wander.
The development of her and Jian Bianlin’s relationship to date had truly been very remarkable.
They had been too familiar with one another, so at the beginning, it had been extremely awkward. Later, the relationship had not felt the least bit intriguing, mysterious, or romantic. For instance, sometimes when she watched him getting dressed, she would think, Oh, so that’s what he looks like when he takes everything off, and would even eye him up and down a couple of extra times with great curiosity. In the most extreme cases, when he was caught up in a moment of passion and was fumblingly fondling and stroking her, she would suddenly, for no apparent reason, burst into laughter. “I can’t take it, I can’t take it. Jian Bianlin, do you know that sometimes you’re just so raunchy? …”
The more she called these thoughts up in her mind, the more caught up she became in them, until she could not hold back a laugh as she leaned back into the sofa. In the process, she accidentally knocked out two dolls from the neatly laid out row of dolls. Offhandedly picking them up, she set each one back in place. All of a sudden, she remembered the box that she had brought here along with these dolls. As she thought of this, she tossed down her account book, went into the storeroom, and dug it out.
Squatting beside a shelf, she opened it…
Inside were two stacks of card stock, each tied up neatly with string. On the first card was a written math problem. Copied in black pen was the original math question while in blue pen was the solution. The writing was fluid and beautiful—it was his handwriting.
Baffled, Chu Jian untied the stack. Looking over a couple of the cards, she realized that these were exercise problems from middle school. Which grade in middle school? She had forgotten.
Spreading out all of the cards, she discovered English questions, math problems, physics and chemistry problems—practice problems from every subject. There were even practice exam questions from the New Oriental supplementary classes they had taken outside of school, Mathematical Olympiad problems, Physics Olympiad problems…
The other stack consisted completely of cards with handwritten English words.
In contrast to all those exercise problems, these English words were deeply imprinted in her mind. They were all words that she had consistently gotten wrong.
Since she was a child, she had never had a very good memory and would repeatedly get the same problems and test questions wrong.
In particular, English spelling words, which frequently appeared on English tests, were basically her nightmare. It was as if her brain had a black hole. Once she spelled a word incorrectly one time, it was a given that she would continue to get it wrong, and even after seven or eight times, she still would not be able to remember its spelling. For example, this word “medicine” that was written on the card that she was currently holding, she, for some reason, would always spell as “medition” or “medicion”…
In regards to this issue of hers, her middle school English teacher had truly held a bitter hatred toward it. Ah, right, that English teacher was Jian Bianlin’s class advisor at the time, the same teacher whom they had bumped into in the hospital, Teacher Li… During that time, Teacher Li had been utterly exasperated with her lack of improvement and often would suddenly say to Jian Bianlin in one of Class No. 1’s classes, “That Chu Jian who lives across the hall from you, you should help her out with memorizing her vocabulary words. Oh dear.”
Chu Jian flipped through the cards. It was apparent that there was quite some age to them.
When did he write them? She didn’t know.
Why hadn’t he give them to her before? She didn’t know, either.
Perhaps it was because of their “breakup” in middle school, or perhaps it was because of that stolen kiss on the ferry. In any case, he had kept them for so many years but then gave them to her on this last birthday… Chu Jian could roughly guess what Jian Bianlin had been trying to take the opportunity to say to her:
Chu Jian, I’ve liked you for many years.
Chu Jian, if for nothing but the sake of all these years, could you let me try one more time? …
But she had not even opened the box for a look.
Crouching there on the floor, Chu Jian fiddled back and forth, over and over again, with those cards, seemingly like her soul had flown away somewhere beyond the heavens. Half an hour later, she carefully tidied up all the cards and put them away again in a most secret place. Leaving the storeroom, she walked straight out the main glass doors of the nail salon. She did not even have time to leave any words with anyone in the shop.
One of the nail technicians who was working right then gave a very nosy glance out the door. “She’s in love, I’m guessing.”
When she returned home, her mom was right at that moment, with an ashtray raised high in her hand, chasing after her dad, reprimanding and questioning him over whether he was actually smoking his cigarettes or just straight up eating them. In a mere morning, there were already four cigarette butts. Her dad played dumb all the way, tucking his head down as he fed the fish, all the while mumbling, “I’m telling the truth here to get a lighter sentence. If I had actually wanted to keep it a secret from you, I could have just gone to the bathroom, and a flush down the toilet would have solved everything.” The outcome was that this incurred an even harsher interrogation. Her mom’s berating, which originally began with how he had smoked too many cigarettes in the morning, switched over into demanding to know, just how many times had he dumped cigarette butts into the toilet in the past?
Chu Jian did not pay attention to them. Dashing into the kitchen, she pulled out from the refrigerator all the fruits that had been bought for the holiday period, peeling, paring, slicing, etc. each one until she had filled a big box.
“What are you doing?” Chu Jian’s mom was alarmed by this.
“I’m bringing some fruits to Jian Bianlin.” With her arms wrapped around the box, Chu Jian ran off.
“Those two kids. It would have been so nice if their relationship had been this good earlier.” Chu Jian’s mom felt incredibly moved.
When Chu Jian arrived at the office of Jian Bianlin’s company, she actually gave Xie Bin’s name to reception. The receptionist led her inside.
Along the way, Xiao Yu spotted her and gave a loud cry of “Sister-In-Law!” Hurriedly, he led her away, taking a roundabout turn and heading directly to the dance practice studio. Jian Bianlin also had shares in the company and hence could be considered one of the bosses. The word spread through the entire floor that the “lady boss” of legends had made an appearance. Nosily, everyone brought a mug along and flocked to the breakroom nearest the dance practice studio.
The result, though, was that they only got to see the door of the studio thudding shut and the dozen or so backup dancers all smiling suggestively and saying that they were going to go for afternoon tea.
The staff members who had rushed here excitedly now glumly left again, all of them, in passing, leaving behind instructions for the employee whose work area was situated closest to the studio: “If they come out, give me a call on my extension, eh…”
Outside the door, it was buzzing with liveliness, while inside the door, it was exceptionally quiet.
Jian Bianlin had just completed a segment of the dance rehearsal. His short locks that lay on his forehead had long been drenched in perspiration. Wearing only a black tank top and gray workout pants, he walked barefoot over to her side.
From top to bottom, he wore no accessories, except for the light-gold, couple’s-style bracelet that he and Chu Jian each had one of, which had now slid down slightly to hang over the back of his hand.
He had not expected that Chu Jian would come to his company office to visit him. Twisting open the bottle of mineral water that he was holding, he was about to take a drink, but Chu Jian stuffed a wedge of snow pear into his mouth first. Halting the motion of his hand briefly, he slowly chewed the fruit and swallowed it.
“Tired?” Chu Jian pickily rummaged through the fruits before pulling a half of a strawberry out and holding it up beside his lips.
Jian Bianlin did not make a sound. Opening his mouth, he bit down into that strawberry.
Chu Jian hugged the box of fruit, tilting her head upward to watch him eat.
Prior to seeing those cards, a question had stumped Chu Jian for a long time: Just when had Jian Bianlin started liking her? When they were kids, he had always found her very annoying. Later, when they were in middle school, apart from those rumours about them, he had actually not done anything like professing feelings or showing any intimate type of action. And things had always been like this, until the New Year’s after their “breakup,” when he stole that kiss on the ferry. Chu Jian had been a little panicked with that, but after… there was no “after.” He had carried on behaving normally, with nothing out of the ordinary. She had even thought that that kiss had been on a whim.
In high school, because of their difference in gender, Chu Jian became aware that she should prudently keep an appropriate distance. Except for the times when their two families would gather together for a meal, she had not really had much interaction with him, and the number of words that they exchanged had been even less than the rumours about him that she heard at school… until shortly after Xu Jing professed feelings for her. Jian Bianlin’s sudden, strong reaction had frightened her. How was it that Jian Bianlin was all of a sudden like this?
But now that she had seen those cards, she thought, actually, it had not been “all of a sudden” at all. He merely had never been good at expressing himself.
Chu Jian mused, what had he been feeling when he gave her the birthday present? And if Uncle Jian’s injury and his illness had not occurred, what would the two of them and their relationship be like now? People who were not good at expressing themselves were so hateful and annoying…
“Which one do you want to eat?” The more Chu Jian thought about this, the more irritated she became, and she threw a glare at him.
Jian Bianlin was a little bewildered. “Any one is good.”
She looked down, wanting to select a piece that was just the right size to feed to him. Jian Bianlin brought his head down. It was evident that there was an ulterior motive to this action. Tilting his head, he kissed the corner of her lips. The dampened hairs that lay across his forehead skimmed across Chu Jian’s cheek—a little tickly. Over and over, they kissed one another. He did not stop, and neither did she.
They continued with this coziness until eventually, the feelings that were roiling in Jian Bianlin’s eyes became increasingly thick and the provocativeness of the moment was making his throat dry.
Taking advantage of the moment, he asked, “Whose home are we going to sleep at tonight?”