Chinese Stories in English
The Love That Had Come
By Xiaofeng Qingfo
They worked at the same place, him and her, only she started after he did. He’d already worked there several years and was a leader with some authority when she started. For her, it was all a new beginning.
She thought he was a melancholy fellow, but a bit of melancholy didn’t affect her favorable impression of him. She even felt it was a likable trait. The guy was so distinguished, so classy, so dashing. Even though he was as high above her as a cloud in the sky, she could still admire him from afar. She did think to herself that it would be better if the guy smiled once in a while, or just showed a twinkle in his eye. It seems right for a man to have a heroic appearance, and makes people feel like golden sunlight is playing on his face. At that thought she seemed to see the handsome man’s face with a smile on it. She began to feel hot, a flower opening toward the hopes of a lifetime.
But this one just wouldn’t show a twinkle in his eye and was gloomy all the time. Deep inside she felt a maternal pity for him. Such a shame, this guy. It was as though not having a twinkling smile was really keeping him down.
And that wasn’t all. From the first she secretly examined his face on several occasions and saw indistinct scratch marks. What kind of a woman did this guy have behind him? In her heart she started to feel sorry for him. She thought how good it would be to extend her warm little hands to caress his injured face. But how would she ever be able to do that? His face was a world away from her. All she had was torment in her heart for the guy.
She knew she shouldn’t be having such thoughts. She was woman with a man and a family of her own, and was fettered by morality. But that man of hers, what could she say? She really didn’t know how to describe his ordinariness. He would never earn a lot of money and she didn’t push him to do so. Really he was just wooden, not affectionate at all, like he had no love in him and not even an awareness of love. She’d really started to doubt herself. When she’d first married him, she was just like him, wasn’t she, stepping with one foot into the unknown world of love. But she knew implicitly that our genes make our fate, and her fate was to have no affinity with the kind of men she worked with before she got married. And affection is crucial for a woman. Without it a woman is like a flower without moisture. Affection makes a woman so much more charming, so much more vivid. This is the reason she had transferred out of the place where her husband worked.
She didn’t know when it started, but she noticed that that guy was changing. He no longer had scratches on his face, and the way he acted toward people was like a breath of fresh air. Hesitating, she began to sense that the guy was acting warm and affectionate, empathetic, thoughtful and considerate, especially toward her. God had finally heard her prayers, and this was the man she had been waiting for. She was in ecstasy. She weaved a web of innumerable dreams for herself, and wrapped herself in their warmth.
Love makes us beautiful. She started to look like a younger woman, even delicate and pretty, but a bit like a siren, too, with foxy charm. Often the other women at work couldn’t help but stare when they saw her. They were astounded to realize that such a woman could actually be so attractive. They said to her, look at you, your man must be giving you what you need, you’re so pretty you make us a little jealous. And that insipid man of hers wanted her more often. So even he was a man with appetites.
In the spring the company put on a voluntary tree-planting party. She and the man both went and, unexpectedly, were assigned to a two-person team. Her heart was aflutter, she didn’t dare look at him. The hand she held the seedlings in was shaking. He knew at a glance what she was thinking. They puttered along to the end, until he and she were the only two left. She couldn’t tell whether what she was feeling was fear or joy.
The man saw the difference in her eyes, like she was uncomfortable and wanted to run away. She heard the man talking, his voice like a narcotic: I know I’m in your heart, and I know the heartache you’ve been through, love brought me here to your side, I will certainly save you. And then it was very still, the kind of quiet that makes people do things. What was the quiet brewing up? Her heart was racing and she felt she was about to lose control of herself, and she wanted to make herself run away. She could feel his passionate eyes burning into her and was afraid she’d be consumed by the fire. She heard the shovel she’d been using to back up earth around the seedlings drop to ground with a whoosh, then right away she felt swallowed up by his scalding lips. The two of them fell onto the still withered turf. She’d never felt kisses so rich with passion, fire-hot kisses that went straight to her heart. She was trembling under his body. She felt bubbly, all puffy and soft, light to point of nonexistence. Her face was the tender and beautiful red of a newly opened flower.
All of a sudden she felt a rock in the grass gouging into her back. It really hurt. She came to her senses and struggled to turn over her body, pulling out the hand that had been exploring deeply into her. Don’t, she said to him in fear, absolutely not. Resolutely she pushed herself away and, staggering a bit, broke free of him. He looked at her back, his clothing in disarray and an unfathomable look on face.
She’d rejected him, but he didn’t give up on her. She’d avoided him since that day she and he had planted trees together, but he pursued her with text messages on his cell phone. He texted her that she had renewed him, giving him the happiness that comes from finding something you’ve lost. She’s not an especially pretty woman, but it’s only her who gives him a hint of the fireworks of human life, the way life should be. He also said he had an overly suspicious woman who was rough and cruel to him. That woman, she was constantly fiendish, complicating things, starting fights without reason, accusing him of being involved with other women. She wouldn’t give him a moment’s peace, made his life a living hell. Besides, heaven only knows how unlucky he was. He was handsome, sure, and didn’t lack the necessary contacts at work. But she was the one who gave him hope, who taught him to be patient. She’d see, the day would come when he’d divorce that woman. He hinted that, when she rejected him, it was because she was afraid. Was she afraid he was toying with her? OK, he’d go ahead and get a divorce.
The guy had it right. She was afraid he was playing with her, using her. He’d cause her to lose her reputation and then even the life she had now would be gone. Deeper than that, while she felt more like a woman than before, in her bones she still lacked confidence. Bottom line, she couldn’t move forward because she thought she wasn’t worthy of him.
The guy was as good as his word. He did get a divorce. But when he showed her the paperwork, like he was making a promise to her, it seemed to him that she wasn’t as happy as she should be. She was startled and stepped away from him a bit. She’d never thought that he would do such a crazy thing for her, turning his back on his family, his wife, his career. Could she ever feel at peace with such a man? No way. Maybe, after a few short years, he’d throw her away like he’d thrown away his first wife. A man can afford to lose, but a woman can’t, because women seem to get old faster than men do. But deep down she knew, after some time together, she wasn’t be able to leave him.
She didn’t dare be frank with him. Things had already gone so far that there was no way she could pull herself out. All she could do was go out with him. In some discomfort she told him that her heart still felt love for him but, at this time, she couldn’t, she hadn’t got divorced yet. She needed him to give her time. His love would have to go through what might seem like a long waiting process. Secretly he was not all that unhappy about it. She was giving him the hope of love, and love was worth waiting for.
Before they knew what was happening, things started to move very fast. Her husband came down with a terminal illness and had to stay in a hospital, his life hanging by a thread. It wasn’t that he couldn’t be saved, it was that the huge expense for medicine made her shudder. She held back from spending all their savings. It would take some time before his condition could be cured, and who knew how long it would be. When he heard this news, he ran all over collecting money for her. The contributions were limited, but surprisingly, he put money for all the expenses demanded by the hospital down in front of her. She just looked at him, her tears flowing, and couldn’t say a word. After a while she said, you, what’s all this?
He knit his brow as hard as iron and said, a little annoyed, don’t worry about it. I’m not very high up at work, but I’m still a leader, so I was able to come up with this little bit of money. She was taken aback and slapped him. A line of blood dripped from the corner of his mouth. Do you want to go to jail? Why don’t you just go lock yourself up? She took the money and threw it on the floor, like she was throwing it in the garbage. He just smiled. So you do care about me. Don’t worry, I borrowed this money from a bank. Never doubt that I can pay it back. Believe me, I can do it. This bit of money won’t be the end of me. I’ll have it all paid off in a couple of years. She took the money and used it to save her husband’s life. She knew she was indebted to the man for his love, and deeply feared that she would never be able to return it.
Miracle of miracles, after exhaustive treatment by the doctors, her husband made an incredible recovery. He even thought he’d recovered the love he’d known when he was young. She saw what he was feeling, but this time she didn’t shrink back from him, even though she was very apprehensive. People would no doubt think it unseemly if she divorced him now. She made the guy wait, then wait a little longer, then wait some more.
Time moves so slowly. They were both experiencing the erosion of time. Finally, one day, they could no longer restrain the feelings that were making them so restless. They arranged to meet in a bar for drinks. Their conversation was little more than decoration, and the alcohol became the language of their souls. They kept drinking and drinking until it was very late. They were both drunk. They leaned on each other as they left the bar and if anyone on the street had seen them, a drunken couple holding each other up, they might have looked like one well-balanced person. Nothing is as it seems. They walked toward the house where the man lived alone. He caressed her body and it was like he was caressing his aching heart.
The man was perfectly content when he woke up. He thought he’d found love and was happy. The woman was happy, too, having given herself to him. It was what he wanted, and, while it seemed a little like payment for services rendered, that was something she could do nothing about. She put her clothes on lazily and haphazardly, not even caring enough to button them up correctly. She turned her head and said, carelessly, you got what you wanted to get. What happens after this will be slower coming.
Suddenly he was completely awake. At first he was mad as hell, then hopelessly dejected, and finally he told her a normal tone of voice that she should leave as soon as possible. Get out of my sight as fast as you can, I don’t want to see any more of you, like you’d never made an appearance in my life at all. How can one console a broken heart? She didn’t know how. As fast as he could, he put in the paperwork to quit his job and move to a province in the south. He avoided her during this period, not seeing her even once, and in his heart he didn’t want to see her.
Everything returned to the normal calm. People didn’t even know that anything worth mentioning had happened between him and her. After he left their coworkers expressed concerns about his future, but before long no one mentioned him anymore. Her husband returned completely to a normal life. At first he questioned her closely as to the source of the funds that had saved his life, but when he saw that the questions irritated her he didn’t dare to keep asking. It looked like everything was OK between them. He knew that, to the contrary, she was just being tolerant, but he was happy with that. She no longer knew whether her life was her own, or whether it held any meaning. She had still had hope in her heart before she met him, hope that life would get better. But now she had no hope at all, and could only idle away the years in silence. But sometimes she would be thinking, and think of him. Such an able man, after all these years he must have repaid the money he borrowed; and was he getting along OK? Was he still single? And her heart was warmed by the love that had come.
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