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“Sorry.” She hastened to apologize. The next instant, her hand slipped against the side of the pot and she burned herself, drawing a sharp hiss through her teeth.
Seriously, the more anxious she was, the more she messed things up.
Out of reflex, she pinched her earlobe. “Teacher Yi, let me wash it.”
Before her words had completely left her lips, though, Yi Wenze had already twisted on the faucet and put her hand under the stream. Water flowed along his fingers and down onto her hand. As he was blocking most of the light, Jia He could only see the running water before her and her own hand. She was utterly unable to control the waves of scorching heat already coursing through her body.
It seemed like it was a very long time before he shut off the water and, gently pulling her, turned her around.
Jia He dared not make any movement. Only her gaze flitted around, from the button of his shirt to the two bowls of noodles on the counter. Just a tiny package of sesame oil, about the size of a thumb, had been poured into each bowl, but its aroma suffused through the entire room. Simply looking at those bowls made her stomach rumble in hunger.
“If we don’t hurry and eat the noodles, they’re not going to taste good anymore…” She spoke up, wanting to turn to grab the noodles.
His back against the marble counter, with one hand, he drew her into the circle of his arms. Her frame was tiny and was nearly engulfed within his embrace. She did not dare move. The heat of her body rose incessantly, so hot it could sear.
His voice lowered. “Jia He.”
“Hmm?” She lifted her head.
“If you don’t want to, just let me know.”
Merely nine words. But before she had pieced them together into a cohesive sentence in her mind, he had already brought his face down and was kissing her.
In the beginning, he simply tested tentatively, his kisses sometimes light, sometimes firmer, inch by inch caressing her with his lips, waiting for her to adjust to this.
After quite some time, he finally gently teased open her lips and kissed her deeply. This was their first kiss, yet surprisingly they merged together so easily, so deeply. He was not hurried in the least. They had this suitable time, this suitable place, and this long night in which no one would disturb them… Until the tip of his tongue ever so lightly feathered across the roof of her mouth. A quiver raced through Jia He, and a faint moan escaped from her, so light it was barely perceptible.
But what this brought in exchange was his even more thorough assailment.
At first, it was not clear who was trying to escape and who was giving chase. In the end, though, there was nothing but surrender, to utterly submit and fall into this moment…
Only when he finally released her did she slowly open her eyes, the view before her going from stark white to the deep black of his eyes, but she merely stared blankly.
Extending an arm, he lightly flicked Jia He’s forehead with his finger. “Let’s have noodles.”
And then he was the one to pick up the two bowls of noodles and stroll out to the dining room first, turning on the lights.
She, however, still stood in the same spot, watching as he stepped out, her mind filled only with that scene from a moment ago—the scent on him of cigarettes, that embrace that nearly squeezed the breath out of her, and also… that very ungenerous sentence of his.
Her lips had already been sealed. Even if she hadn’t wanted to, how was she supposed to tell him? …
And then Jia He decided, that sentence had to be written into a script somewhere—it couldn’t be wasted.
“It doesn’t taste good?” Seeing that she was practically eating one noodle at a time, Yi Wenze could not help chuckling.
Jia He picked up another single noodle with her chopsticks and carefully put it between her teeth. “It tastes really good.”
This absolutely was not a lie; it really was delicious.
He watched her with a smile, not saying anything. Finally, when she grew abashed beneath his gaze, he asked, “So, just how many noodles are in that bowl, Miss Jia He?”
Jia He gave an “Ah?” Hearing him laugh aloud, she slowly, half a beat behind, caught on that she was being poked fun at.
The hanging light in the dining room, brand-new, was enclosed in a deep-red paper lamp shade.
Seriously, it tinged the atmosphere with absolutely the most suggestiveness possible.
Cradling her bowl between her hands, Jia He took a sip of the noodle’s soup. She was about to say something when a sound was heard coming from the entryway of the home. Straightaway, like she had just been a thief, she plopped down her bowl and rushed to get some words in before Wu Zhilun could open his mouth. “Why are you so late?”
Giving a start, Wu Zhilun looked at her with a bemused expression. “You guys are waiting for me?”
After asking this, he took in the current appearance of those two people and also the noodles in front of them and added, “You’re waiting for me to have a late-night snack with you?”
Embarrassed, Jia He at once stood. “There’s still a box of noodles. If you want to eat, I’ll cook some now.”
Wu Zhilun looked at her, then looked at Yi Wenze, then looked back at her again.
“Did the fever burn your fan’s brain and now she’s gone silly? Or did she suddenly discover that she’s actually more my fan?”
“You can just forget that. Jia He doesn’t like men whose looks are too girly.” Appearing like a wraith out of nowhere, Qiao Qiao, a glass in hand, walked over to the bar counter and poured some water. “I’m hungry, too. Just make both of ours together.”
Why… was everyone suddenly popping out?
Rattled, her scalp feeling like it was tingling, Jia He jogged into the kitchen, made two bowls of noodles for them, and carried those back out. Seeing that Yi Wenze had finished eating, she straightaway began tidying away his bowl and chopsticks as well and took them to wash, not daring to look anymore at any of the expressions on those several people’s faces. At last completely done with waiting on those two obtruders who had suddenly bounded into the scene, she returned to her room. Feeling terribly confused and twisted inside herself, she bunched the blanket into a mound, hugged it against herself, and stared with glazed eyes at nothing in particular.
What could that be considered as? An instance of being unable to restrain their emotions?
In the right place, at the right time, there was a stirring of feelings, so they had filled some of their loneliness?
Her heart was beating fast one moment, slow the next, and she was increasingly agitated.
So, she decided simply to pick up her mobile phone and look at the calendar, planning on calling tomorrow to book a plane ticket to Beijing.
“Can’t sleep?” Qiao Qiao walked in and closed the door, the smile on her face suggestive. “I can’t sleep either. How about we chat?”
Jia He glowered at her, a persistent feeling eating at her that Qiao Qiao had seen something but was just not saying anything. It was not as if she could outright ask her, though, so she responded only with a sullen “Humph!” and snapped, “I slept for the whole day. Of course I can’t fall asleep.”
Kicking off her slippers, Qiao Qiao clambered onto the bed and yanked the blanket from her arms. “Ask me! How come you’re not asking me?”
Jia He turned her back to Qiao Qiao, holding her silence. But in reality, her heart was flip-flopping rapidly, and she wished with all her might she could burrow herself beneath the bed.
“Were you the one who initiated it or was he?” Qiao Qiao shuffled up beside her.
Jia He almost tumbled off the bed. “You saw it all?”
“I saw the beginning and then put my ear against the door and listened for sounds and movement. It was a long time, eh… I waited for more than ten minutes.”
Jia He was even more mortified.
After a long moment of quiet, Qiao Qiao at last remarked unhurriedly, “You’re just too awesome. That day in the massage room, I saw him pick you up and put you on the bed, and I thought that you had already ‘savoured’ him. Never thought this! Gosh, I totally never thought! Progress is sloooow here.”
Click. Shutting off the wall lamp, Jia He only managed to grit out one word: “Sleep.”
Jia He earlier had already set an alarm on her mobile phone. The next day, she changed into her own garments, gathered up her bag, and prepared to leave. Qiao Qiao, seeing this seldom show of seriousness from her, did not dare say anything and only immediately pulled on her clothes to go out and refuel the car, hence leaving the house first. Alone in the room, Jia He dallied this way and that for a long time, all the while deliberating silently how she should say goodbye to Yi Wenze. However, no matter what she came up with, she still felt her manner would not seem sincere enough.
Forget it. Her arrival here and bumming a place to stay had been unexpected in the first place. Now that she was not sick anymore, of course she should leave.
And so, brainwashing herself like this, she pulled her bag onto her back and left the room.
To her surprise, aside from the housekeeper, who was wiping the floors, there did not appear to be anyone inside the house.
The housekeeper smiled and greeted her, “You’re up now? Would you like to have breakfast?”
Jia He shook her head. “No thanks. I’ll eat when I get home. Thank you, though.”
Saying, “Oh, all right,” the housekeeper bowed her head and continued scrubbing the floor, but then she seemed to think of something. “You’re going out now? Mr. Yi isn’t here.”
With this one sentence, it was as if the stone encumbering her heart had been removed. Finally, she no longer needed to come up with an excuse. She needed to take advantage of this opportunity and leave quickly.
In the entryway, though, as she put on her shoes, she felt she was being too impolite. No matter what, she should say farewell. However, when she pulled out her mobile phone, she only looked dazedly at it for a long while before, in the end, putting it away again. Asking the housekeeper for paper and a pen, she wrote a row of words: I’m going now. Thank you for everything in these last couple of days. In the future, when I get the chance, I’ll treat you to dinner.
But after she was done the note, she felt it was not very appropriate. Ripping that sheet off, she wrote another one: Things are really urgent on the Beijing end. I need to leave first. If we get a chance to see each other again in the future, I’ll treat you to dinner. Jia He.
She gave the note to the housekeeper and then, crumpling the other useless, spent sheet into a ball and stuffing it into her pocket, left the house. She had stayed here for two days, but this was actually her first time stepping outside during daytime. Crossing over the front entryway, she turned and took a look at the house. Many plants were placed on the balcony, a lush display of rich green.
“Jia He.” Qiao Qiao had pulled the car to a stop outside the door, and grinning, she called to her.
Hastily, Jia He pulled her gaze back, getting into the car in a slight fluster.
“Look.” Qiao Qiao handed her mobile phone over for her to see something. It was a snapshot of the previous moment. “Just look at that little expression of yours. That’s totally one of brokenheartedness at having to leave.”
Taking the phone from her, Jia He first, as if prodded by an unseen presence, sent the photograph to her own mobile phone before pressing delete.
The car drove onto Yangpu Bridge. Sunlight streamed through the front windshield, landing on her. She felt a little hot.
“Why did Shanghai just suddenly get hot?” She was wearing her clothes from only two days ago, but looking at the people in the cars beside them, Jia He felt as if she was from Mars.
Qiao Qiao did not answer, asking questions of her own instead. “Did you tell Yi Wenze? What did he say?”
Jia He lowered her window halfway. “He wasn’t home.”
A gust of wind suddenly blew in, whisking her hair so that her gaze was slightly obscured. When she was offhandedly smoothing her hair away, she noticed that, inside a vehicle driving in the opposite direction to them, there was a figure who appeared to be A-Qing. Her heart lurched. If they saw her at this moment, it would be too awkward…
She buried her head down, hoping to hide, but ended up whacking her head on something in front of her and crying out in pain.
“What are you doing?” Qiao Qiao gaped at her. Their car had already sped past that other vehicle.
Jia He gave an arbitrary, perfunctory answer. “Looking for my mobile. Booking a plane ticket.”
So long as it is not a working day, the Beijing-Shanghai route has the most available flights. Soon, she had booked her ticket on Ctrip, a flight for nine o’clock tonight, and after taking Qiao Qiao to her company office, she immediately went home to pack. There were still some items in the refrigerator, but she threw them all into the garbage. Every time she returned to Beijing, she would stay there for a lengthy period, so even if she kept these items for now, by the time she got back, they would not be edible anymore.
It was already one-thirty in the afternoon when she was done packing. Taking a few nibbles of a bun, she then sat on the couch and, once more, began to do nothing.
As long as she was not occupied with any sort of task, the memory of what happened yesterday would once again begin continuously replaying through her mind. Unable to settle her heart, she fished out her mobile phone, but her mind was flooded entirely with the words he had said, the expressions he had shown, and that kiss from him… After fiddling with her phone for half an hour, she still did not know what exactly she wanted to do. Eventually, she simply opened up a webpage and began randomly perusing the news.
Login to her QQ account was automatic, so the instant she was online, she saw Xiao Yu’s avatar flashing nonstop.
When she clicked on it, Xiao Yu had already typed a chunk of words: I’m in a meeting and not available to talk on the phone. Hurry and look at Wu Zhilun’s Weibo.
Given a scare at this, Jia He did as she had directed, doing a search and finding her way to Wu Zhilun’s Weibo. She brushed her gaze over the number of comments on it. Very high. However, other than this, she was unable to make out any hints of anything peculiar. She typed back a question: What’s wrong?
Xiao Yu’s reply: Check out the very last comment. Look for someone called “PurelyForBeingAGossip.”
Following her instructions, Jia He found that person’s Weibo page.
On it, there was only one photograph. It was as if this account had been created specifically for posting and commenting about it. Inside the photo, Jia He was getting out of her own car, her head turned to the side, talking to Wu Zhilun. The location was very obvious: outside of Yi Wenze’s home.
 携程网 Ctrip.com is a Chinese-based travel agency and is the largest online travel agency in China.
 Tencent QQ, otherwise known as QQ, is an instant messaging service in China with features such as text messaging, file transfers, voice and video chats.
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