Editor: merahmapple 🍁
Wang Bailu walked across the crowd and shook hands with Qu Zhengyan. While smiling, she apologised. “Sorry, I should have made an appointment in advance, but unfortunately the time is too tight this time. I have no time to come out in the next few days. You don’t have other arrangements, right?”
Qu Zhengyan also smiled when she spoke so honestly. “It’s okay, we were planning to eat too.”
Wang Bailu’s eyes fell on He Ziming’s face and asked, “This is your friend?” She smiled and greeted him. “Hello.”
Qu Zhengyan froze. He looked at her, and then at He Ziming. Suddenly, he found it interesting so he replied, “Yes, he is He Ziming and works in the computer center of our company. Ziming, this is my old classmate, Wang Bailu.”
He Ziming looked at Wang Bailu with unblinking eyes and responded a little slowly, “Hello.”
Perhaps she was often the recipient of men’s steady gaze that Wang Bailu did not show any disgust. She simply continued the conversation generously, “You’re also a professional staff. Welcome, welcome. You can give us advice at the same time.”
She did not recognize He Ziming.
After Qu Zhengyan realized this, he was both surprised and a little amused. Unsure of the reason, he decided not to explain. After a moment of astonishment, He Ziming immediately recovered his calmness. He just nodded and retreated quietly to Qu Zhengyan’s side, leaving room for conversation with the two old classmates.
Wang Bailu indeed did not have much time, so she chose a casual restaurant next to the convention and exhibition centre. Although it only offered some Western-style meals, it was very popular because of its comfortable and not too noisy environment. When ordering, Wang Bailu ordered mango cream pasta and Capri salad and added a vegetable soup and cheese pudding. Seeing Qu Zhengyan smiling, she stared beautifully. “What?”
“No, nothing.” Qu Zhengyan hurriedly shut up. After a while, he couldn’t help but say, “You are still the same. During our classmate reunion dinner, you have the best appetite.”
Wang Bailu spread her hands out. “I can’t control it. Running day in day out consumes too much energy. I can’t survive if I don’t eat hard. Eating this way hasn’t made me fat yet, right?” Although it was a question, her tone was very confident. It was no wonder that she was slender and fit, with a nice complexion, strong eyebrows and big eyes. With only a little makeup, she looked radiant.
Qu Zhengyan shook his head, “Not fat. Dong Shaojun is willing for you to be so tired?”
Wang Bailu laughed. “I was forced to take a long vacation last year. In the end, after a month I was thinner than my peers, and my face was yellowish and weak. It scared him, so he hurriedly sent me back to the company.”
Qu Zhengyan also laughed. “Some people are like this, the busier they are, the more energetic they are.”
“What about you? I heard that your company is going to occupy a site in East China. Are you here to open up the wasteland? When will you return to Beijing?”
“Not necessarily,” Qu Zhengyan replied, “I’m considering staying here for a long time.”
“Huh?” Wang Bailu tilted her head and looked at him. At this time, the meals they ordered were delivered one after another, and the topic temporarily came to an end. He Ziming ordered a fish roll. Qu Zhengyan reached for the seasoning bottle for him and placed the napkin on him. While eating, Wang Bailu looked at He Ziming a few times, saying nothing.
When they ate for a while, they chatted again. Wang Bailu did not continue to ask Qu Zhengyan about his plan to take root here but turned to He Ziming to ask him about his views on the Expo. TBC was an internationally renowned IT company. There were several new related products launched this year that He Ziming was very interested in. One asked the other answered. They had a very harmonious conversation. However, Wang Bailu watched him several times while listening to him, her expression was very focused.
He Ziming always felt that she remembered something, but she didn’t express it out from beginning to end.
This meal was considered to be a smooth meal without any awkwardness. After lunch, Wang Bailu was going back to the exhibition. The Qu and He pair went directly to the parking lot to pick up the car. Before leaving, Wang Bailu told Qu Zhengyan, “We will be sending an invitation next spring. It doesn’t matter where you are. Your red envelope is expected.”
Qu Zhengyan said with a smile, “Yes, yes, yes. Old Dong finally has hope.”
Wang Bailu raised her eyebrows. “What! I never show off. It’s because he can’t spare the time to propose.” She laughed as she finished speaking. She also said to He Ziming, “Come play in Beijing when you have time. I’ll be your host.”
“Hey, hey, hey.” Qu Zhengyan interjected, “I don’t think it is your turn?”
“Tch1Raws had 切. It means Cut but the sound is Qiè / Tch!” Wang Bailu ignored him, continuing to tell He Ziming, “Qu Zhengyan is a fool, there is no fun following him. When you come, just find me.”
He Ziming couldn’t respond. He smiled blankly and nodded his head.
Watching Wang Bailu wave her hand and leaving, Qu Zhengyan and He Ziming were silent for a while. They walked slowly toward the parking lot along the trail planted with sweetgum trees. It rained a bit the night before. The floor tiles of the sidewalk were still damp, the red and purple leaves were scattered around, like a colourful map.
“She didn’t change much, did she?” Qu Zhengyan broke the silence first.
He Ziming walked with his head down and after a while, he replied, “I didn’t know her well before.”
Qu Zhengyan smiled. Yes, these two people were very familiar with him, but for both of them, it wasn’t the case.
“She’s getting married?” He Ziming asked softly, “I always thought…She was your…Didn’t you two have a good relationship?”
“What are you talking about? Me and Wang Bailu?” Qu Zhengyan turned his head in surprise. His face was a little bit dumbfounded. “Why do you think this way? It’s outrageous!”
He Ziming glanced at him. His whole face written, “Isn’t it?”
Qu Zhengyan shook his head helplessly, seemingly too lazy to explain.
Was it so surprising? He Ziming thought. There was a place deep in his heart that was touched by an old wound, and a trace of pain came up – like the aching pain of rheumatism in his leg during a rainy day. This kind of pain, like bone gangrene, tormented him constantly over the years.
Nine years ago, when talking on the phone with Qu Zhengyan, he heard Wang Bailu’s clear voice from the other side: “Qu Zhengyan, it’s time to go.”
Qu Zhengyan replied, “Got it!”
Then, Qu Zhengyan hung up the phone, leaving him alone.
He Ziming smiled bitterly. In fact, he lied. He was very familiar with Wang Bailu. At first, he disdained to look at her, but then he desperately wanted to dissect her one centimetre by one centimetre to study, to discover every shortcoming of hers to tell Qu Zhengyan. He observed her with an unkind gaze. The only reason he did so was that Qu Zhengyan showed his appreciation for her.