The Untold Story - Chapter 8

Published at 17th of December 2018 11:13:31 AM

Chapter 8

Doctor Zhang returned with the medicine very quickly, bagged them and handed them over to Chen Mingsheng .

“I’ve given you medicine for both internal and external use, you know what to do . ” He made another attempt to get Chen Mingsheng to stay, “Xiao-Chen, don’t force yourself . Come back if it continues to be inflamed after a few days . This is no joking matter . ”

Chen Mingsheng nodded . “Got it . Thanks . ”

Doctor Zhang sighed, sat back at his desk, and scribbled something . Chen Mingsheng unrolled his pants and heaved himself to his feet with his crutch . Yang Zhao looked to him . “Do we leave now?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Doctor Zhang declared . “Wait here . We’ll have to get him hooked up to an IV first . ”

Yang Zhao watched as Doctor Zhang wrote a prescription and left . He returned shortly with an IV bag . After prepping the IV catheter, he passed the IV bag to Yang Zhao .
“Here, hold this for a sec . ”

Yang Zhao took it instinctively . She watched as he skilfully inserted the catheter into Chen Mingsheng’s hand while Yang Zhao lifted the bag . Just when the insertion was completed, the phone on the desk rang . Doctor Zhang took the call, hung up after a few words, and said to Yang Zhao and Chen Mingsheng: “There’s been a problem downstairs . I’m going down to take a look . I’ll be back soon, so just stay put till I come back with the IV stand . Wait for me . ”

Doctor Zhang exited the room, leaving Yang Zhao and Chen Mingsheng alone .

Chen Mingsheng sat resting against the wall . His clothes were a little damp . After being pressed down for a night, they had begun showing signs of wear and tear, and clung onto Chen Mingsheng’s body .


Yang Zhao could see how worn out he was .

Yet try as she might, she could not settle on a conversation topic . Comforting others had never been her strong suit .

And so silence continued to hang over them in the room . It didn’t take long for Yang Zhao’s arms to start aching, but Doctor Zhang remained nowhere in sight .

Chen Mingsheng stirred . He raised his head, glanced at Yang Zhao and said: “Sit . I’ll hold it . ”

Yang Zhao said: “How’re you going to do it, the way you are now? Just leave it to me . It’s almost done at anyway . ”

”…I’ve caused you a lot of trouble today . ”

“It’s nothing . ”


How long would it take to use up an IV bag?


Yang Zhao watched as the liquid in the bag began their downward descent, drip, drip, a drop at a time .

It’d probably take around twenty minutes . She remembered it clearly: one time, when she was sick, hospitalized, and had to be put on a drip, she had dragged her IV stand to the smoking area to light up . From the moment they first hooked her up to the moment they took out the catheter, she had smoked two cigarettes altogether . Yang Zhao would always take ten minutes per cigarette . It was accurate like that .

By the time Yang Zhao came to herself, she found, to her surprise, that Chen Mingsheng was sleeping . The hand that had been inserted with the catheter rested on the stool to his right while he leaned against the wall, head bowed, sleeping .


The room was quiet, hushed .

Yang Zhao shifted her attention from the IV bag to the sleeping man .

The way he looked while sleeping, with his head bowed, had a certain gloom to it . As a matter of fact, the vibe Chen Mingsheng gave off was one of stifling restraint, a feeling Yang Zhao could not concretely put into words .


Not long later, the sound of urgent footsteps emanated from the room outside . Yang Zhao jerked her head at the source of the noise . With a “swish” motion, Doctor Zhang entered the room . Reacting rather quickly, he did not make a sound . Yang Zhao signalled to him that Chen Mingsheng had fallen asleep . Doctor Zhang nodded in understanding . He pushed an IV stand over and whispered to Yang Zhao, “Sorry, was held up longer than expected . You must be tired from holding it up .

Yang Zhao shook her head . “I’m fine . ”

Despite her claims, she could not help but stretch her shoulders when Doctor Zhang took the bag from her hands .

Doctor Zhang whispered, “It has pain relief and sleep inducing properties . Falling asleep is normal . ”

Yang Zhao nodded .


While the IV bag was still hooked up, Doctor Zhang struck up a conversation with Yang Zhao to pass the time .


“So you’re Xiao-Chen’s neighbor?”

“Yes, I’m Yang Zhao . You can call me Xiao-Yang . ”

“Ah, right, right . ” To avoid waking Chen Mingsheng, Doctor Zhang and Yang Zhao moved to the office to speak .

“Xiao-Yang, how long have you known Xiao-Chen for?”

Yang Zhao paused . “Not that long . I moved in recently . ”


Doctor Zhang nodded in understanding . “He usually comes to the center alone . It’s the first time I’ve seen him come with someone . ”

Yang Zhao asked: “So he’s always been coming alone?”

“Exactly,” said Doctor Zhang . “It’s a mess . Roughly half a year ago, he came to the center after his op, then ran away halfway through his physiotherapy . His wound hadn’t been treated properly, and his condition would often get better only to worsen again . He would only remember to come for medicine when he had nasty infections… I don’t know what his family members are thinking, letting him do this to himself like this . ”


Yang Zhao listened quietly to Doctor Zhang’s words . She looked to Chen Mingsheng . Looking from the side she could see his missing right leg . With his head lowered and his back against the balcony light, this sleeping man appeared a little frail .


Afterwards, Doctor Zhang kept the conversation flowing by airing his grievances— mostly to do with Chen Mingsheng not taking his advice seriously or Chen Mingsheng not knowing what’s good for himself and ruining his own body . Meanwhile, Yang Zhao assumed the role of a good listener .


The IV treatment was complete in moments . Chen Mingsheng awoke when Doctor Zhang removed the catheter, looking obviously surprised at having fallen asleep . He rubbed his face with his uninjected hand and straightened up .   


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Watching him settle back onto the wheelchair, Yang Zhao had the feeling that he was very drained .  

They said their good-byes to Doctor Zhang and left the rehab center .

At the building entrance, Chen Mingsheng said he wanted to hail a cab back . Yang Zhao shot down the idea immediately .


”How do you intend to walk when you can barely stand?” she said, before she drove her car over . She made to support Chen Mingsheng, thought better of it, then settled on opening the car door for him .

“I’ll send you home . ”

By this time, Chen Mingsheng no longer had the energy to object .

“Where’s your house at?”

“Qima Road,” Chen Mingsheng replied in a fatigued voice .

Qima Road was not far from Lingkong Police Station . Yang Zhao knew where its general direction was .  


The drive was very smooth, and the usual silence returned to the car .

Chen Mingsheng drifted off in the car again . Some fifty minutes were needed to go from the center to Chen Mingsheng’s home . While Chen Mingsheng slept soundly with his head at a crooked angle, Yang Zhao did her best to ensure the drive was as smooth as possible . As a result, the drive ended up taking over an hour .  


In this city, the area around Qima Road was not a busy one . An old district, its buildings mainly consisted of high-rises six to seven storeys tall, without elevators installed .

Yang Zhao pulled over to the side of the road, deliberated, and decided against waking Chen Mingsheng up .

Yang Zhao turned off the engines, reclined her seat, and drew out a pack of cigarettes from her pockets . She held the cigarette pack for a moment, cast a sidelong glance toward the sleeping Chen Mingsheng, and pocketed it again .


It was dark by the time Chen Mingsheng woke up . When he opened his eyes, they were  completely bloodshot . Chen Mingsheng pushed himself up and cast his eyes about groggily, still not fully awake .

Outside, the street lamps —already lit— glowed a dusky yellow .

Chen Mingsheng sniffed and got his bearings .


“Ms Yang…”

Having expected what he was going to say, Yang Zhao broke in: “It’s nothing . You were sleeping so soundly, I didn’t want to wake you . ”

A long pause . “Thanks,” he eventually muttered .

Yang Zhao asked: “Where do you live?”

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Chen Mingsheng replied: “Just turn a corner up ahead . I can walk the rest of the way back by myself . ”

Yang Zhao wordlessly started the car . Chen Mingsheng noticed that Yang Zhao had turned on the heat in the car to a very high temperature, and even the car seats were warm . His clothes were still slightly damp, but the cold was no longer as biting .


Chen Mingsheng stole a glance at Yang Zhao . Yang Zhao was fully concentrated on the task of driving .

The car turned off a main road and onto a small alley . The road was very dark . As Yang Zhao only possessed average driving skills, she had to lean forward and check her surroundings constantly while driving extremely carefully .

Noting the way she was driving, Chen Mingsheng said: “Just let me off here . ”

Without looking at him, she continued to focus on the road ahead . “Where’s your house?”
Chen Mingsheng pointed at a building . Yang Zhao nodded and said, “Okay . ”

Seeing that she had no intentions of stopping the car, Chen Mingsheng drew in a breath and waited patiently .


Yang Zhao took almost ten minutes to get through these two stretches of road . When the car stopped, Yang Zhao heard Chen Mingsheng heave an audible sigh, as though a boulder had landed on the ground .

She pursed her lips and looked sideways at Chen Mingsheng . Intending to thank her, Chen Mingsheng raised his eyes only to see Yang Zhao stare fixedly at him .

“…Miss Yang?”  


Yang Zhao raised a brow placidly, “Are my driving skills terrible?”

“What?” said Chen Mingsheng .

Yang Zhao said: “Did you just sigh because you thought my driving skills were terrible?”

Bewildered, Chen Mingsheng opened his mouth, searching for the right words to explain himself .

“Ms Yang…you’re mistaken . ”

Yang Zhao turned her head and pulled out her car keys .

“You can go now . ” 


Chen Mingsheng got off the car in a daze . The pain in his leg, though terrible, had become so familiar that he had become all but numb to it .

Fortunately, after a thorough cleansing courtesy of the rain, the weather now was very fine . Yang Zhao breathed deeply, then said to Chen Mingsheng: “Where’s your house? I’ll walk you back . ”

It was more than Chen Mingsheng could accept . Bracing against his crutch, he told Yang Zhao: “No need, I’ll go back by myself . ”

Yang Zhao asked: “Which floor is your apartment on?”

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Chen Mingsheng had zero intention of saying anything more, but the casual delivery of the question caught him off guard, and he blurted out instinctively, “Fifth . ”

Yang Zhao: “This building doesn’t have a lift, right?”

“…Right . ”

Yang Zhao: “I’ll send you upstairs . ”

Chen Mingsheng replied: “No need . I’ve troubled you enough today . ”

Yang Zhao: ”I’ve got nothing to do anyway . Let’s go . ”


Chen Mingsheng finally frowned . He muttered in a low voice: “I’ll go back by myself . ” Without waiting for Yang Zhao’s reply, he turned on his heel and left .

The irritation in his voice was not lost on Yang Zhao . In the end, she watched passively as he limped his way towards his housing estate alone .  


When she returned to her car, Yang Zhao lit up a cigarette instead of starting the engines .

“What’s the big deal,” Yang Zhao harrumphed, muttering to herself . “Haste makes waste . ”


Ten minutes and a cigarette later, the car’s interior was full of smoke . Suddenly, a thought came to Yang Zhao . She groped around her coat pockets and rooted out a wrinkled piece of paper .

She switched on the lights, and smoothed it out — the contents were a nebulous blur, illegible . Yang Zhao stared at the tattered paper, an indescribable feeling welling up inside her . She sighed and tossed the paper into the ashtray .  


As she turned around, something caught her eye — 


That prosthetic leg laid on the car’s backseat, quiet as could be .

Yang Zhao stared at the leg and gave a low chuckle .

She turned back to the front . At the farthest stretch of road illuminated by her car’s headlights, a crutch-using shadow was heading in her direction . Yang Zhao backed the car out of the alley without giving him a glance .

Chen Mingsheng never stood a chance . He tried calling a few times, but Yang Zhao feigned ignorance .


On the drive back home, Yang Zhao was in a relaxed mood .


“Like I said, haste makes waste…”