For The Rest Of Our Life – Chapter 98

Sweet Secret

In the evening, Xiao Wanqing was alone in her bedroom, packing her bags. The itinerary was set, the hotel booked, and the tickets bought. Although Lin Xian couldn’t join her, she could still make the trip on her own.

She consoled herself, reminding herself that this wasn’t her first solo journey. In the past, sometimes, to ease her mind, she would even prefer to decline Wen Tong’s company and head out alone, roaming freely at her own pace, being her true self.

In fact, traveling alone has its perks. But with Lin Xian on her mind, a certain indescribable loneliness was unavoidable in the depths of her heart.

Her phone suddenly rang, interrupting her busy hands. Relaxing a bit when she saw it was Wen Tong calling, she causally answered and switched on the speakerphone, continuing to pack while chatting.

Wen Tong’s voice carried a light chuckle and an eagerness that Xiao Wanqing failed to notice as she asked her, “You were all mysterious when I asked about your plans for May Day. Can you tell me now?”

Wen Tong had been considering asking Xiao Wanqing if she wanted to visit Changze City for the holidays, offering to show her around. However, two weeks earlier, when she subtly inquired about Xiao Wanqing’s May Day plans, Xiao Wanqing had crisply replied that she had preliminary arrangements. When pressed for details, Xiao Wanqing deflected, saying she would disclose more when things were set.

Wen Tong knew she might be reading too much into it. Yet, she couldn’t help but imagine—recall, rather—those moments Xiao Wanqing had asked her, “How is Changze City?”

She couldn’t help but nurture a hope that Xiao Wanqing’s May Day, perhaps… might be a trip to Changze City to surprise her. After all, for many years, most of Xiao Wanqing’s holidays and festivals were spent with her.

Isn’t it said that habit is a terrifying thing?

She harbored a faint hope that during the months of her absence, Xiao Wanqing might have realized something, or felt something amiss.

To her disappointment and embarrassment, Xiao Wanqing only offered a faint smile over the phone, casually and cruelly shattering her vainly grandiose fantasy: “I’m off to Qi City to enjoy the flower sights tomorrow, right now, I’m packing my luggage.”

With or without her, it seemed Xiao Wanqing’s life was utterly unaffected. To Xiao Wanqing, she was not an essential person.

In a fleeting moment, the bright gleam in Wen Tong’s deep eyes faded. Gazing out at the myriad lights of this unfamiliar city, she began to doubt the very reason she had come here.

It seemed utterly meaningless.

Suppressing the tumultuous emotions welling up inside, with the last vestiges of a dying hope, she asked Xiao Wanqing, “You mentioned before that you were thinking of moving to Changze City for work, how are your considerations going?”

Xiao Wanqing paused for a moment, sighing so faintly it was almost inaudible, and replied to her, “I’ve decided to stay after all.”

Indeed, there’s nothing more ridiculous than wishful thinking. Wen Tong’s throat tightened, she clenched her teeth and pressed her lips together, her heart filled with despondency.

Xiao Wanqing took a deep breath, stood up, and suddenly felt an urge to confess. She wanted to say, “Wen Tong, I’ve made a very irrational decision.” However, before she could gather her courage, Wen Tong suddenly interrupted, her voice sounding a bit strange, “Someone’s knocking at the door; I’ll have to see who it is. Got to go.”

Xiao Wanqing’s courage, like a ball punctured, deflated utterly in an instant. She consoled herself, ‘Next time, I’ll tell Wen Tong next time,’ after all, truth be told, she wasn’t actually ready.

Little did she know that in the following month, she never received another call from Wen Tong again.

(If you're not reading on, it means this has been stolen)

The day after Lin Xian returned home, she was roused early by Zhou Qin and taken to her grandfather’s place. From there, she followed her grandparents to the countryside.

As she watched the scenery outside the car window rapidly retreat, the hustle and bustle of the city faded, and the simplicity of the rural landscape slowly took over, her mood began to clear up. She rolled down the window, gazing at the endless greenery and the white egrets spreading their wings, feeling the breeze on her face bringing waves of refreshing coolness. Any minor complaints she might have had from a poor night’s sleep dissipated. She couldn’t help but raise her hand and snap several photos to send to Xiao Wanqing.

“This place is so beautiful, different from what I imagined the countryside to be like. If only you were here by my side.”

Xiao Wanqing, sitting on the high-speed train, leaned against the window, listening to music through her headphones. A faint smile appeared on her lips as she read the message, which, as she continued to smile, also carried a tinge of sorrow.

She lowered her gaze and replied warmly, “Then have fun, and remember to stay safe.” The music playing through her headphones was a playlist she had downloaded on purpose, a mix of ancient-style music and anime songs that Lin Xian liked. She exited the messaging app, and the screen reverted to the page she was previously looking at — the backend for ticketing to an offline exhibition event for the game that Lin Xian enjoyed playing.

If only you were by my side, Xiao Wanqing couldn’t help but murmur to herself in line with the text message.

But Lin Xian, it’s okay that you’re not by my side.

You’re not here with me, but you’re always, always on my mind.

Through these moments, I’m willing to try and enter your world, to feel you, to understand you, and to get closer to you.

On the first day at her grandpa’s old colleague’s home, Lin Xian’s life was very comfortable. In the morning, she strolled through the village with a few elderlies, admiring the flowers and the scenery. In the afternoon, she went fishing by the pond, listening to the older folks reminisce about the glorious days of the past. At night, she played with cats and dogs in the courtyard, sipping tea and enjoying the cool breeze. It was nothing short of delightful.

But still, there was a tinge of melancholy—if only Auntie Xiao were here, things would be better.

In the evening, Lin Xian glanced at the time and estimated that even if Xiao Wanqing had some sort of team-building event that evening, it should have ended by now. So she called Xiao Wanqing.

However, Xiao Wanqing was actually still at the music concert associated with the game exhibition. The venue was so loud that she completely missed the vibrations of her phone buzzing in her bag, thus missing Lin Xian’s two consecutive calls. Later, her phone ran out of power and shut down without her realizing it.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, Xiao Wanqing was like a stranger lost in a fantastical ‘second dimension’ world. She observed and studied this world that Lin Xian enjoyed in her spare time with curiosity, trying to grasp even a hint of Lin Xian’s pulse. By 10, she finally, somewhat dazedly, followed the young people around her from the second dimension back to the third dimension. On her taxi ride back to the hotel, she tiredly massaged her temples, feeling that indeed, she had really grown old.

But however tired and bewildered she was, when she took out the game peripherals she had bought from the exhibition—a pair of phone chains—and gently rubbed them, there was still a subtle sense of satisfaction and joy in the depths of her heart.

Does this mean she has finally seen a different landscape through Lin Xian’s eyes?

Back at the hotel, she charged her phone and upon turning it on, she discovered several missed calls and messages from Lin Xian.

Checking the time, she guessed Lin Xian might have already gone to bed, so she didn’t call back. Instead, she simply sent a message to Lin Xian, “Sorry, the place I was at was a bit noisy earlier, so I didn’t hear my phone. Then my phone died. I’m fine, don’t worry. Have you gone to sleep?”

After waiting awhile without receiving a reply from Lin Xian, she assumed she really must have gone to sleep, so she took some clothes to change into and went into the bathroom to shower.

Lin Xian made two consecutive calls to Xiao Wanqing, both of which went unanswered. Thoughtfully, she wondered if Auntie Xiao hadn’t yet wound down from the event, so she suppressed her own eagerness and waited another half an hour.

(If you're not reading on, it means this has been stolen)

Little did she know, when she called half an hour later, the phone had somehow become switched off. This sent her heart into a flurry of anxiety.

Indeed, she knew well that Xiao Wanqing was likely with her company colleagues—there shouldn’t and couldn’t possibly be anything bad happening. It might simply be that the phone had run out of battery and shut down automatically. Yet she couldn’t help but worry, a fear crept in, and she became frantic.

In all her years, she had never experienced such restlessness, such a tumultuous heart, such an irrational worry until now.

She never doubted her feelings for Xiao Wanqing. At this moment, her affection was even more evident.

Yet, once again, she came to a stark realization of just how little she truly knew Xiao Wanqing.

She was unaware of Xiao Wanqing’s past, except for Wen Tong. She knew none of Xiao Wanqing’s other personal connections, had no contact numbers of her colleagues or friends.

In a moment, she was overwhelmed by an immense sense of defeat.

Reason told her there was no need for such fear, but emotion still twisted her into anxious knots, so much so it pained her stomach.

Lin Xian patted her face, realizing she needed to calm down. She couldn’t continue with this negative spiral of wild thoughts any longer; otherwise, she would drive herself insane with all sorts of dreadful conjectures.

Forcefully, she put down her phone and went upstairs to the rooftop to catch the cool breeze and regain some peace. However cool the night, however strong the wind, her thoughts were irretrievably entangled with Xiao Wanqing, still distressed about the phone.

Before long, she could no longer endure and she resigned herself to fate.

Picking up the pace, she hurried back down the stairs, running impatiently into the room to eagerly check her phone.

The moment she saw the unread text from Xiao Wanqing, she clearly heard the sound of her own heart—constantly held high because of Xiao Wanqing and timid—settling down in peace.

It turned out she had indeed been overthinking. What a relief. She even felt a tearful joy, noticing that her eyes were slightly moist.

She sniffed and redialed Xiao Wanqing’s number.

However, unexpectedly, there was again no answer!

Lin Xian called three times in a row, each call mercilessly ringing until it stopped, with no one picking up.

She bit her lip, sitting quietly on the bed with her phone in her arms, waiting. It was a full hour before Xiao Wanqing’s message came through again, gently telling her, “Sorry, I just took a shower and didn’t hear the phone. It’s getting late, Xianxian, have you gone to sleep? Get some rest early, sleeping too late will make you tired tomorrow.”

Emotions suddenly surged within Lin Xian, a mix of unexplainable anger and grievance. Auntie Xiao had no idea what kind of worry she had just experienced, she had no idea how much Lin Xian had missed her all day long, she didn’t realize at all. She was clueless that Lin Xian was afraid to disturb her at the company during the day, not daring to call her, enduring until the evening to make this much-anticipated call.

She had promised to think of her. But why, why hadn’t she felt it at all?

It felt as though it was all just a one-sided passion on her part.

(If you're not reading on, it means this has been stolen)

It was as if that kiss they shared was merely her being forcibly indulgent, without a single hint of initiative from her.

She meticulously reviewed their past text messages and call logs.

Ever since they started dating, unless a necessary matter came up, it was always her who initiated calls or sent messages to Xiao Wanqing. And then, she would reply back to her.

She knew well that not answering the phone wasn’t Xiao Wanqing’s fault, but Lin Xian couldn’t help the sense of loss and sadness that rose from the bottom of her heart.

She didn’t reply to Xiao Wanqing; instead, she turned off her phone, laid down, and buried her face in the pillow.

Before drifting soundly to sleep, Lin Xian pledged resolutely: Tomorrow, she wouldn’t send Auntie Xiao any texts nor call her. She’d wait and see if that woman would take the initiative to call her! Hmph!!

Lin Xian, staying at someone else’s house with her grandparents, indeed feared that sleeping in might leave a poor impression and reflect badly on her grandparents. Consequently, she set an alarm to wake herself up early.

Upon waking, her first instinct was to send Xiao Wanqing a morning text, to wish her “Good morning.” However, as she reached for her phone, she suddenly recalled the strong statement she had made before going to bed the previous night.

No, she wouldn’t send one today! It was a struggle, but she managed to repress the eager stirrings within her.

Her activity for the day involved accompanying some elderly people to plant watermelons. Tormented by the self-imposed ban on texting Xiao Wanqing and simultaneously anxious for a message from her, Lin Xian was somewhat distracted through the day.

While planting watermelons, tiny insects flying up from the field were enough to startle the preoccupied Lin Xian into flustered gasps.

Seeing her exaggerated reactions, Lin Xian’s grandpa couldn’t help but chuckle while fondly reminiscing, “You’ve been around Xiao Xiaowan for so long; how come you haven’t picked up a bit of her composed coolness?”

At the mention of Xiao Wanqing’s name, Lin Xian perked up immediately, ears alert. She quickly sidled up to her grandpa, brimming with curiosity and bombarding him with questions: “Grandpa, what was Auntie Xiao like as a kid? Was she always this calm and collected? Was she as pretty and charming back then too?”

Lin Xian was the picture of a CAPITAL letter fan girl. Her grandpa didn’t overthink it, assuming she simply adored Auntie Xiao as an elder.

Something came to mind, and he suddenly laughed, shaking his head, “Your Auntie Xiao was indeed endearing as a child, but not in a pretty way. She was round and roly-poly (short and pudgy), utterly adorable.”

Upon hearing this, Lin Xian’s grandma chimed in from the side: “Your Auntie Xiao had a childhood nickname that we folks from the south always found quite a tongue twister. Eventually, Old Xiao wasn’t too pleased about it,” she said with a slight huff. “He got it into his head that his daughter’s build was the result of everyone calling her by that nickname, so he changed it in a huff. Strangely enough, after the name change, the girl did indeed start to blossom bit by bit into greater beauty.”

Lin Xian was all ears, hanging on every word with bated breath. Seizing the chance, she cajoled and coaxed her grandparents, playfully urging them to share more stories about Xiao Wanqing’s childhood.

It was over 9 at night, and Xiao Wanqing found herself wandering alone in the snack street not far from the hotel. A faint discomfort and unease lay at the bottom of her heart. Lin Xian hadn’t reached out to her all day.

Several times, she could hardly resist the urge to send a text, but in the end, she always held back. Her guess was that if Lin Xian found it convenient, she would surely send a message. The absence of a text likely meant it wasn’t a good time. To send a text or call might just disturb her.

Standing in solitary on the bustling street corner, she watched the distant neon nightlife, the revelry and splendor, yet felt an exceptional solitude and loneliness. Suddenly, she remembered that day on Xiangnan Road, when Lin Xian had held her hand, wandering the streets, trying every delicacy.

Not far away, a young man and woman were eating ice cream, their breaths creating mist in the air. Unbidden, memories flooded her mind of a time when they stood face to face; Lin Xian reaching out, her eyes sparkling like crystal, her smile blooming like a flower as she fed her.

(If you're not reading on, it means this has been stolen)

And then, there was that sentence that made her heart flutter, tender and soft: “Auntie Xiao, the moon is so beautiful tonight…”

Xiao Wanqing couldn’t help but tilt her head up to gaze at the profound night sky.

Coincidentally, tonight, there was also a beautiful moon.

She unconsciously clenched her hand, but all she grasped was the icy chill of the empty air.

“The moonlight is beautiful tonight,” she whispers to herself, her eyes lowered in contemplation. “Xianxian, do you know that?”

She doesn’t know.

She’s unaware that the moonlight tonight is so beautiful.

Unaware that this is the first time she’s admitted her affection to herself.

Is this sweet secret hers alone to savor?

At 10, having not received a message from Xiao Wanqing, Lin Xian gave herself a final half-hour of patience. If, after half an hour, Auntie Xiao still hadn’t sent a text or made a call, then she would…

She’d take the initiative and call her herself.

She admits defeat, surrenders; what can she do when she likes her so much?

Without Xiao Wanqing’s messages, unable to hear her voice, it is she herself who ends up in turmoil.

While waiting, she casually opens WeChat, attempting to catch a glimpse of Xiao Wanqing’s recent activities through her Moments.

However, to her surprise, she saw two unread message notifications with little red dots at the top!

Lin Xian shot up from her bed like a carp leaping out of water, eager to open the messages.

Against the pure white chat background was a picture of a beautiful full moon.

Below it, a voice message.

Lin Xian’s throat inadvertently moved up and down with a tremor of nervousness as she tapped on the green message bubble.

Xiao Wanqing’s voice, tender and melodious, wove through the quiet room.

She said, “Xianxian, the moon is beautiful tonight, isn’t it?”

The author has something to say:

Lin Xian: Ah! Huh? Aha! Hahaha, can everyone guess what’s going through my mind?

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