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Published at 16th of April 2016 10:45:02 PM


Chapter 4

The youth twisted his head to look at her . After a few seconds, a strange smile formed on his lips .


On lowering his eyes, he caught a glimpse of the two loaves of bread Chen Nian was holding in her hands . When Chen Nian caught him staring at her bread, she waved the white paper bag containing the bread in front of his eyes, and asked, “Do you want some?”

The youth furrowed his brows, making no attempt to disguise the look of disdain on his face .

The white paper bag was extremely crumpled, and had a layer of oil and water on the interior of the bag . When Chen Nian noticed the shabbiness of the paper bag, her face gradually turned beet red . Embarrassed, she retracted her outstretched hand, “It’s gone cold . ” It was no longer nice to eat .

Having walked a few steps, the youth suddenly asked, “You’re eating bread for dinner?”

Chen Nian nodded her head .

After a few seconds, the youth asked, “Are you deaf?”

Realizing that the youth had failed to see her nod her head, Chen Nian squeaked out, “Yup . ” As her reply had come out of nowhere, it was unclear whether she was answering his question about dinner, or his question about being deaf .

The youth slowed down and came to a stop, his brows furrowing in unhappiness . Chen Nian belatedly realized that the youth had been staring at her for some time, and raised her head to return his gaze . Unable to stare a response out of her, he couldn’t formulate an appropriate response and simply continued walking ahead .

Chen Nian didn’t bother to catch up with the youth before her, and trailed behind him slowly . By the time she reached the traffic junction, the youth was already halfway across the pedestrian crossing . As Chen Nian didn’t have to cross the road, she readied herself to turn around the corner and return home . Although she wanted to bid the youth farewell, she felt that there was no need to do so .

After all, there wouldn’t be any other interactions between the both of them in the future . It would be best if they simply parted ways here and now .

The youth slung his jacket over his shoulder . When he reached the midpoint of the pedestrian crossing, he turned back to look at her .

Chen Nian stood quietly at the edge of the curb, her posture upright and erect, as though she was a small tree sapling . Standing there, she gazed at him silently . Her skinny and frail frame was evident even under her large uniform, which billowed around her .

In the afterglow of the evening sky, the youth crinkled his eyes .

She pointed towards her left, indicating that her house was in that direction .

In response, the youth jabbed his thumb in the direction behind him, signaling to Chen Nian that she ought to continue trailing behind him .

Chen Nian’s hands slowly fell to her sides . She hugged her school jacket with both hands and simply gazed at him from afar, unmoving .

In the gentle glow of the evening sun, vehicles and pedestrians swarmed around them .

The youth didn’t bother waiting for Chen Nian’s response, and simply continued on his journey . When he reached the other end of the pedestrian crossing, he turned back to look at Chen Nian, only to discover that she was already in the midst of crossing the road .

He snorted to himself, the corners of his lips curling into a small smile . Sticking both his hands into his pockets, he continued walking forward . Before long, the youth reached the entrance of a small restaurant . Sitting himself down on a plastic chair at the outdoor dining area, the youth pulled out a cigarette and started smoking .

After some time, Chen Nian finally appeared before his eyes . She stood quietly at the side and looked at him .

He raised his eyes and returned her gaze . She had a small and pale face, and her hair was neatly tied into a ponytail . A few strands of hair had escaped her ponytail, and were shining like gold in the glow of the setting sun .

To him, Chen Nian was like a snail – she was extremely slow in all that she did, regardless of whether it was walking, talking, or some other task that she was focused on . He could even visualize how she would gradually retract her antennae into her shell whenever strangers gave her a slight poke .


After a few seconds had passed, he waved his hand at her and indicated for her to take a seat .

“What do you want to eat?”

“Any……anything’s fine . ”

“Order the dishes . ”

Chen Nian shook her head, and pushed the menu back to the youth . The ‘menu’ was, in actuality, simply an oily piece of laminated paper . The youth glanced at the menu, and casually ordered three dishes .

Chen Nian lowered her head and stared at the plastic table cover and the oil stains on it, the honking of congested vehicles and chatter of the crowd surrounding her .

The sun was about to disappear . The final, remnant glow of the evening sun shone on Chen Nian’s face, casting a reddish glow over her face . Chen Nian couldn’t open her eyes .

The youth placed his cigarette on the cheap disposable cup containing his tea . “Which Year are you in?”

Chen Nian lifted her eyelids . His face appeared fuzzy to her in the glow of the evening sun . In response to his question, Chen Nian didn’t say anything, and simply raised three fingers .

“Primary 3?” The youth asked, displaying a rare moment of playfulness .

Chen Nian knew that the youth had misinterpreted her signs on purpose . However, she still chose to play along, and slowly shook her head . “Year 3 of…… . High School . ”

“You have a very youthful appearance, like a little kid . ” His eyes swept over Chen Nian, his piercing gaze seemingly able to look past her clothes . He commented drily, “You’re malnourished . ”

Chen Nian felt a red hot wave of embarrassment rushing over her, as though it as a sudden rash that had unexpectedly broken out on her face . She curved her shoulders inwards even further .

Sensing her shame, the youth changed the topic, “Your graduation exams are nearing . ”

Chen Nian nodded her head .

Having finished his cigarette, the youth threw the cigarette butt into his cup of tea . He stared at her, “You don’t like to talk . ”

“When I…… . I talk, others……laugh . ”

The youth looked at Chen Nian calmly whilst she formulated her sentence . When she completed her sentence, he responded with a single “Oh . ”, without a single expression etched on his face .

After some time had passed, he resumed questioning, “Why do they laugh at you? Is it because you’re a Little Stutterer?”

“……”

Chen Nian was never angry with the youth no matter how many times he referred to her as “Little Stutterer” . After all, she was still able to differentiate different types of tones .

When the dishes were served, the youth ordered a bottle of iced beer . Leaning towards Chen Nian, he offered, “Want some?” Chen Nian hurriedly shook her head . The youth didn’t insist on his offer . The two of them proceeded to eat their meal in silence, and when they finished, the youth fished out his wallet to pay for the meal .

Chen Nian wanted to suggest splitting the cost of the meal equally between the both of them . However, just as she opened her mouth, she realized that she didn’t know his name . “Uh……”


He turned his head to look at her . His eyes were extremely dark, and there were hints of harshness in his gaze . He raised his thick eyebrows, “You called?”

“What’s……what’s your…… . your name?”

“You don’t know?” His piercing gaze pinned her once more .

Chen Nian was unable to comprehend why he assumed that she had known his name .

“My friends hollered my name before . ” He stated coldly . “Twice . ” Once when they were outside the walls of her High School, and once when they were on the street . However, Chen Nian failed to notice on both occasions .

The youth stared at her for a long period of time . He slowly raised himself from his seat, obstinately piercing Chen Nian with his stare all this while . Ultimately, however, he averted his gaze, a deep crease forming on his forehead . He kicked the chair and left .

Chen Nian tottered along behind him .

Their walk was spent in silence .

The youth swayed from side to side as he walked, whilst Chen Nian trailed behind him in an obedient fashion . Once in a while, the youth would intentionally turn back to glance at Chen Nian in a seemingly unconcerned fashion, so as to ensure that she was still following him .

As Chen Nian’s walking speed was terribly slow, the youth had to frequently wait for her . Once, he turned back and stared at her for a few seconds before spitting out his chewing gum and wrapping it in a plastic wrapper . With a flick of his wrist, the plastic wrapped chewing gum flew straight towards Chen Nian’s head . Stunned, Chen Nian froze on the spot as the plastic wrapper grazed her ear and ultimately fell into the rubbish bin right beside her with a loud ‘Dong’ .

“……”

Ah, boys . They’ll always enjoy tossing objects into specified targets .

Once the chewing gum found its way into the bin, the youth immediately turned back and continued walking . Behind him, Chen Nian rubbed her neck morosely . Due to his unexpected scare, she had accidentally swallowed the chewing gum which she had been munching on .

As they reached the alley near her house, it was time for both of them to part ways . The sky had already darkened .

Glancing at the alley, he turned back and asked, “Are you scared?”

Chen Nian raised her head to look at him, her gaze clear and bright . Her brows furrowed slightly, her honest expression betraying her internal feelings and thoughts .

The youth continued, “Let’s go . ”

Sticking his hands into his pocket, the youth continued walking ahead . Before long, his ears picked up the soft footsteps that were trailing behind him . The corners of his lips turned up in a wry smile .

After having taken a few steps, he managed to finish out a sweet from his pocket and offered it to Chen Nian . Chen Nian shook her head . Once again, the youth didn’t insist on her acceptance of his sweet, and simply returned the sweet back to his pocket .

Soon, they arrived at the entrance of Chen Nian’s house . It was an old multistory building, with the surroundings engulfed in total darkness . Chen Nian pointed towards a unit on the second story, indicating to the youth that she stayed there .

He stuffed a cigarette into his mouth before turning around and leaving .

Chen Nian had only taken a single step on the stairs when she heard his voice ring out, “Bei Ye . ”

Chen Nian instantly whirled her head around, the straight pony tail at the back of her head whipping around as though it was a black cotton dress .


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Greeted with such an unexpected sight, the cigarette in his mouth drooped down suddenly . He removed the cigarette from his mouth .

“My name is Bei Ye . ” He continued, “Remember that . ”

Bei Ye walked towards Chen Nian . Despite his slight frame, he was rather tall . His imposing aura was akin to a physical wall; when Chen Nian raised her head to look at him, she subconsciously took several steps backwards . Before she knew it, the back of her foot was pressed against the stairs, and with nowhere else to retreat to, she plopped herself down on the stairs and hugged her knees with her arms .

He stood in front of her and lowered his body . Squatting on the floor, he made sure that his eyes were level to hers before he instructed her, “Say it . ”

“Say……say what?”

“My name . ”

“Bei……Bei Ye……” Her gaze was locked onto his pale face under the dim moonlight .

He slowly shook his head carefully .

Chen Nian knew why Bei Ye shook his head . She rubbed her hands together, and focused all her energies on pronouncing his name . “Bei……” she opened her mouth helplessly, “……Ye……”

“Repeat after me . ” He said . “Bei . ”

“……Bei . ”

“Ye . ”

“……Ye . ”

“Bei Ye . ”

“……” Chen Nian stared at him, her eyes shining like black grapes in the night .

“……” He didn’t show any signs of impatience, and guided her slowly . It was as though he was teaching a toddler who had just started learning how to speak . “Bei . ”

“Bei . ”

“Ye . ”

“Ye . ”

“Bei Ye . ” He said .

“……” Chen Nian rehearsed the phrase mentally several times before opening her mouth . However, when she opened her mouth, she couldn’t produce a single sound .

He didn’t say anything in response, and simply looked at her . Chen Nian was unsure whether he was waiting for her, or whether he was trying to stubbornly compete with her stutter .


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Chen Nian’s mouth trembled slightly, “Bei, Ye . ” Bei Ye continued staring at her, silent and expressionless . Chen Nian took a deep breath, and prepared for a while before opening her mouth once more, “Bei Ye . ”

“Good . ” He continued instructing her, “Repeat ten times . ”

Chen Nian stared at him .

“Do it . ”

“Bei Ye . ” Chen Nian pronounced his name carefully, her voice soft and muted, “Bei Ye, Bei Ye, Bei Ye, Bei Ye……”

She shut her mouth tightly . Her gaze interlocked with his as the gentle breeze of the night drifted around them . The single step that she was sitting on had some remnant heat from the blazing hot afternoon seat .

He placed his cigarette behind her pale ears, his fingers lightly brushing against the side of her ears . The minute contact caused Chen Nian’s sensitive skin to flush red instantly . He instructed, “Continue . ”

“Bei Ye . ” She opened her mouth once more, and gradually slowed down, “……Bei Ye……”

Bei Ye listened to her quietly, the shadow of a smile flitting across his lips . He reached into his pocket and found the sweet he had offered her earlier . He tore the wrapper open and popped the sweet into his mouth .

She was still obediently repeating his name, “……Bei Ye……Bei Ye……Bei Ye……”

She had completed the repetition of his name . Ten times .

She looked at him . He returned her gaze freely .

After some time had passed, she finally spoke up, “Finished . ”

“Little Stutterer,” He cupped her pale cheeks in his warm palms, “You only said it nine times . ”

Chen Nian’s heart nearly leapt onto her ears, and she stammered, “Ten……Ten times . ”

“You have to say it one more time to make it ten . ”

“No……”

“Yes . ”

Chen Nian had no other alternatives, and simply wanted to be done with the repetition, “Bei……”

Suddenly, Bei Ye knelt on one knee and pinched her chin, forcing her to look at him . Lowering his head, he gently bit her lips .

It was different from the previous time . This time, his tongue slowly reached into her mouth . The sweet and sour taste of tangerine exploded in Chen Nian’s mouth, and a fire blazed across her face . Her tongue trembled and her face was reddening from her inability to breathe .

When the kiss ended, the youth sniffed her lips before straightening up . “Since you pronounced my name well, I thought I ought to give you a prize . ”

Chen Nian didn’t know where to put her hands and feet, an orange sweet quietly lying in her mouth .



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