For The Rest Of Our Life – Chapter 96

Let me be the one secretly in love with you

After dinner on Sunday, Lin Xian and Xiao Wanqing left the building to take a digestive stroll in the neighborhood. The weather was pleasant, and they were far from the only ones out for an evening walk with their dogs.

As they passed the greenbelt lawn in the community, a snow-white Samoyed, dragging a long leash, bounced over to Xiao Wanqing, bobbing its head merrily. It circled around her feet and displayed its signature, angelic smile.

Captivated by the little fellow at her feet, Xiao Wanqing couldn’t resist letting go of Lin Xian’s hand to crouch down, eyeing it childishly eye-to-eye with round, luminescent eyes, tentatively reaching out to gently stroke its fluffy little head.

The Samoyed didn’t resist and seemed to revel in the attention. Xiao Wanqing’s gaze became even more tender.

Lin Xian also crouched down, attempting to follow suit and pet the Samoyed, but the little guy didn’t give her the face, darting away in a flash as soon as she extended her hand.

“She actually doesn’t like me?!” Lin Xian doubted her personal charm for the first time.

Watching Lin Xian’s incredulous face as her pride crumbled, Xiao Wanqing couldn’t help but chuckle. She stood up, looking towards the direction where the dog had run off to, and comforted Lin Xian, “It’s not that. Its owner is coming.” Indeed, the dog had scampered over to two young women standing side by side.

Seeing Xiao Wanqing’s gentle gaze toward the little dog, Lin Xian guessed that Auntie Xiao must like little dogs. She tentatively asked Xiao Wanqing, “Auntie Xiao, do you like little dogs?”

Xiao Wanqing smiled and nodded, saying, “Yes, I quite like them. When I was younger…” She paused for a moment, suddenly seeming a bit strained.

This was the first time she went on to speak to Lin Xian about her childhood, about the times she spent with her parents. After a brief pause, she continued, “When I was little, my dad gave me a puppy. I loved it very much and kept it for several years. Then one day, when we had guests over, we didn’t pay attention to the door, and it wasn’t until later that we realized it had gone missing. We never saw it again, and I haven’t kept a dog since.”

For a long time, she would wake up from her sleep in a startle, haunted by dreams of the little dog barking at her, barking while shedding human-like tears. She was plagued by guilt for not having taken good care of it, tormented by the thought that her momentary neglect could have led to the puppy’s tragic fate.

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Her voice tinged with a hint of melancholy, Lin Xian too felt a sinking in her heart.

Collecting herself, Lin Xian momentarily averted her gaze, then mustered a smile, lightening the mood jokingly: “Auntie Xiao, you don’t need to keep a dog; keeping me would be better.”

She continued in Xiao Wanqing’s silent shallow laughter to praise herself: “I’m much cuter than a little dog, and more obedient, too.” Extending her hand to take Xiao Wanqing’s again, she added half-jokingly and half-seriously: “And you don’t even need a leash; I’ll never run far away. Even if one day you let me get lost, no matter how far, I’ll find my way back to you.”

Though it was meant as teasing, Xiao Wanqing felt a tremor in her heart. Just a joke, isn’t it?

Unconsciously, she raised her hand to gently stroke the girl’s soft, jet-black hair, but the next moment, she heard the girl exclaim indignantly, “Ah, Auntie Xiao, your hand has just touched the dog!”

Finally, Xiao Wanqing couldn’t help but curve her lips and laugh out loud.

After their walk and returning home, it was customary for the two to spend quality time in the study.

Lin Xian had passed CET-4 last semester and had registered for CET-6 coming up in June. Therefore, in recent evenings, with the test just over a month away, she would spend time strengthening her weakest skill—listening comprehension—by doing some practice tests.

She carried her laptop from the bedroom to the desk, set up the CD, and plugged in her headphones, ready to take on a set of past exam papers to gauge her current proficiency level. Just as she was about to put on the headphones after pulling out the test papers, she turned her head for a last glance at Xiao Wanqing at the neighboring seat and found Xiao Wanqing propping up her chin, embracing a serene smile, leisurely browsing a recreational forum.

In the days past, Lin Xian seldom disturbed Xiao Wanqing when she busied herself in the study, the two maintaining an intimate yet respectfully distant routine of each tending to their tasks. But today, seeing Xiao Wanqing relaxed, Lin Xian couldn’t help but yearn to be close and to talk with her.

She paused the audio playback and inquired, “Auntie Xiao, are you good at English?” She remembered her mother mentioning that Auntie Xiao was rather adept with languages.

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Xiao Wanqing stopped scrolling with her mouse, glanced sideways at Lin Xian whose eyes twinkled with a sort of mischievousness, and smiled. Without false modesty or boasting, she objectively replied, “I suppose it’s decent enough. But it’s probably not as good as during my study years.” This was honesty. In university, she had won a national award for English proficiency among college students, which counted as being quite good. However, learning a language requires constant practice and accumulation, and she had forgotten most of what she had once learned in her second and third foreign languages due to lack of use after graduation. English, at least, was still manageable because she had a strong foundation.

A sly smile danced in Lin Xian’s eyes. She unplugged her laptop’s headphones, switching to the speakers instead. With a twinkle in her eye full of eagerness, she said to Xiao Wanqing, “Auntie Xiao, why don’t you come and test your current level? Let’s do a listening exercise and see who has the higher accuracy rate?”

Observing the girl’s eager expression, Xiao Wanqing fondly chided her, “Are you trying to take advantage of me? You’ve been practicing listening exercises recently, haven’t you?”

“But my listening skills are particularly bad, which is why I focused on practicing them. Don’t be scared,” she cajoled, reaching for Xiao Wanqing’s arm and gently shaking it, putting on a cute act. For Lin Xian, the results of the test didn’t matter—she simply wanted to do something together with Xiao Wanqing, to share an experience.

“If I lose, I’ll do something for you,” Lin Xian coaxed, half in jest.

Xiao Wanqing pondered for a moment, playfully serious, “But I can’t think of anything I want you to do.” While teasing Lin Xian with her words, her hands candidly pulled a signature pen from the pencil holder and drew a piece of paper closer, moving her chair nearer to Lin Xian.

In truth, she didn’t mind doing practice exercises with Lin Xian. There wasn’t much room for Lin Xian to contribute in her work, lacking experience in employment and worldly matters; and as for Lin Xian’s studies, the difference in arts and sciences, plus Lin Xian’s already stellar academic performance, meant Xiao Wanqing had little help to offer there. A rare chance for such a light-hearted interaction was naturally welcome.

As soon as Lin Xian observed Xiao Wanqing’s actions, she knew that Auntie Xiao was indulging her with a heart that belied her words. Delighted, Lin Xian pulled Xiao Wanqing’s arm closer and gave it a loud kiss, then, striking while the iron was hot, she placed the test papers between them and pressed play on the audio.

In the study, the quiet enveloped them as both settled deeply into their tasks, unconsciously leaning heads closer together. They stretched their ears to catch the newsreader’s tones echoing in the silence, while their brows furrowed in concentration on the test’s options, dots and circles marking their respective papers.

During the brief pause following the short dialogues, as the questions were being read, Xiao Wanqing quietly turned her head to glance at Lin Xian’s snow-white neck, her thumb absently caressing the pen as Lin Xian reviewed the questions seriously. Xiao Wanqing’s eyes softened gradually as she observed.

In her earnestness, Lin Xian seemed like a reliable and charming grown-up.

But, it was just that – a semblance.

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Xiao Wanqing silently concluded this in her heart as the next audio clip started playing, pulling her gaze away.

It had been a long while since Xiao Wanqing had concentrated so intently on English listening exercises. After their half-hour session with the audio, she felt a certain relief, as if she’d been emancipated.

The thought made her chuckle. For a brief moment, she felt as though she was back in the university examination hall, sitting for the CET-4 or CET-6 tests.

Lin Xian stretched her arms lazily and noticed Xiao Wanqing’s rare flush of exertion. With a mischievous smirk, she teased, “Auntie Xiao, how did you do?”

Xiao Wanqing pulled out a red ink pen, her voice smooth and warm: “I’m not quite sure, but it seems, perhaps, that you’ve done quite well?”

Lin Xian was not the type to feign modesty while secretly pulling top grades; she was always straightforward. If it was good, she said so; if not, she admitted it just as candidly: “It feels like I did pretty well. Shall we compare answers? I feel like I missed a trick here! I should’ve said that if I won, you’d have to agree to a condition of mine.”

Upon hearing her words, Xiao Wanqing’s eyes gleamed with a teasing light, and she glanced at Lin Xian but said nothing, only smiling. She reached for the answer key beside Lin Xian, bowing her head in focus as she earnestly began to check the answers.

Lin Xian rested her chin on her arms, lying prone, her gaze fixated on Xiao Wanqing as she made marks on the paper with dedication. She traced Xiao Wanqing’s features with her eyes—from the forehead to the tip of her nose, to her lips, and finally to her jawline, admiring the captivating contour. Lin Xian watched her eyelashes flutter, witnessed the unconscious biting of her lip when deep in thought, and became gradually mesmerized.

In her mind’s eye, she envisioned a classroom, buzzing with the restlessness of a lush spring day in April, where a girl sat with her back straight, a smile playing on her lips, tilting her head back, watching the teacher. With a toss of her hair revealing her profile, her face was even more exquisitely drawn than any heroine described in the youth novels.

Lin Xian bit her lip, breaking into an unwitting, foolish smile. Suddenly, she entertained the thought that, had she and Xiao Wanqing attended high school together, it’s likely, just maybe, she wouldn’t have made it to Jingnan University.

Hearing the cheerful laughter, Xiao Wanqing stopped her movements, her warm and gentle eyes filled with confusion, glancing at her, not understanding the reason.

Lin Xian reached out, pulling Xiao Wanqing’s hand towards her, and pressed her cheek against the back of Xiao Wanqing’s hand, wistfully saying, “Xiao Xiaowan, I wish we were high school classmates. Better yet, the classmate sitting right behind you.”

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A ripple of emotion shimmered through Xiao Wanqing’s eyes, and with her thumb, she gently caressed Lin Xian’s chin, softly asking, “Why the classmate sitting behind?”

With the tenderest of looks in her eyes that could soften any heart, Lin Xian gently replied, “Because that way, I could stare at your back during class and daydream without you ever finding out. In every lesson, I could secretly sketch your silhouette on my paper. When I couldn’t resist wanting to catch a glimpse of you, I’d pretend to accidentally brush against your back. Then, when you’d turn around to look, I would give you the most innocent look.”

Hearing this, Xiao Wanqing’s heart couldn’t help but soften, her thoughts twirling and dancing along with Lin Xian’s words.

“Then, maybe one day, I wouldn’t be able to help myself. As the dusk settles in, in the quiet classroom left to just the two of us, I’d gently poke your shoulder. And as you gracefully turn around, I would pull you close and kiss you, telling you just how much I like you.” The girl’s voice was clear and bright, yet seemed to grow soft and tender with boundless affection.

Xiao Wanqing’s eyelashes fluttered as she gazed into the eyes of Lin Xian’s tender face, which seemed to recede into a distant, misty dreaminess, soft and secretive.

For a moment she wanted to tell the girl, to reveal to her, “I’m taller than you.”

So, let me be the one sitting behind you.

Let me be the one watching over you.

Let me be the one secretly in love with you.

Let me tell you candidly how much I like you.

But in the end, she simply lowered her gaze, concealing the tender affection Lin Xian couldn’t detect, and asked reservedly, “Xianxian, which row do you sit in?” She didn’t need Lin Xian to struggle to attend her class; she thought instead of adjusting the clock of her own life, to go back to Lin Xian’s high school classroom, to be by her side.

A shadow passed through Lin Xian’s eyes, thinking Xiao Wanqing hadn’t responded to her straightforward confession. The next second, she buoyed herself—Auntie Xiao, being such a reserved person, surely wasn’t used to this yet. No matter, she would confess to her every day, and eventually, Auntie Xiao would also get used to it, would also become open and enthusiastic.

She didn’t know that deep in Xiao Wanqing’s heart was the thought, the wish, that even just dreaming of such a moment would be blissful.

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