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Too-bad It's Your Spring!

(This is my translation of the Chinese piece, 可惜的春天)

THIS IS TOO-BAD, an authentic Chinese girl.

Many when they first see my name will ask, what's too bad? I smile, but still cannot give an answer. My mother gave me that name. Having come from my parents and having received from them, I cannot really express discontent at the name I was given. After all, names are rather arbitrary.

From a little toddler, I grew up to become a pretty girl. Friends around me joked that I was born with a golden key between my lips—“great living conditions, the most expensive food and clothing—it’s just that you always seem a little down, as if you don’t see the blessings because you are so used to having them.” Wen always spoke of me this way. I would say, “But not really, I don’t feel like I’m not well.” Wen would then close in, gaze into my eyes, and inspect them, as if wanting to determine whether I am speaking against my heart. Before long, the examination would end inconclusively, and ill at ease, he would turn away, seemingly ready to leave. “But I’m not feeling great either.” I would add. Wen would seem stunned and turn back. I would look at him. Wen would seem unsure whether to laugh or cry. And I would be calm, like always.

Yes, since mom got divorced, I stopped smiling. How many years had it been?

When I was four, mom got divorced from that person. Thereafter I refused to call him by that sacred name. He didn't deserve it. He had committed a great sin when he abandoned such a cultivated wife, and such a delightful child. He would rather be with a person who had set her foot in someone else’s family. He was wrong. Oh yes, I needed to show him: he had been wrong for seventeen years.

Ever since I was a toddler, a flame of hatred had been insinuating into my heart. These seventeen years, mom and I had been accepting his subsidies, which were a sizeable sum. I knew that without his help, it could not have been such an easy ride for me to get accepted into university, to afford the associated expenses, and to live without worries about shelter or food. I had learned how to conceal that feeling of repulsion. I knew that he must be rich materially, and perhaps, emotionally as well. I held back a rush of sickness, and phoned him up: “Dad, I want to transfer to a university in Shanghai.”

The transfer proceeded surprisingly smoothly. Once that person heard me call him dad after all these years, and that I was willing to live with his family, he must have worked hard to make the transfer possible. Mom had always encouraged reconciliation between that person and I. She used to say, “When you love someone, you will accept everything about him, even his mistakes”. I had never wanted to respond to her encouragement. I didn’t want to recognize that person, but neither did I want to hurt mom. I knew that even now, mom still loved that person. As well, I knew it was very difficult to get into a Shanghai university, even though my grades were already tops where I was.

But, I was not sorry for him. This was a compensation that I deserved to receive.

The first day I arrived in my new home, I said I wished to switch majors. I wanted to be in the same class as Fong.

Fong was that woman’s son, three months older than I was.

That person agreed.

Come the beginning of the semester, I began a new life as a classmate of Fong. Not sure if his mother had told him not to approach me, or if his personality was so, Fong’s attitude towards me could only be described as bland. I was also not quick to surrender—I wanted him to speak to me first. I knew, in that class, classmates had nicknamed us “frosty folks.”

Even though Fong and I were both non-residential students, our grades were better than everyone else’s. Every exam, either he got the top score or I did. Regardless we always held the top two marks. It gave me a strange feeling. We seemed to have started a wrestling match since we first met, and neither of us wanted to be counted out.

Fong’s mother was very courteous to me. She probably felt that she owed mom too much, and so she was extra good to me. Every time I would only thank her with a slight nod. Never did I call her by that holy name. She did not deserve it. She would be capable of spoiling even the title of auntie.

At first I thought Fong and I would just live like that, calm and cool. But in my heart I was getting anxious. Without him becoming anxious, my plan would not be able to reach its next step.

Fortunately, that day, something happened. The direction of this story took a sharp turn...

It was a Friday afternoon. Our class had invited a senior student to come in and share his learning experience. I was to buy some tea and cups for the event. It just so happened that the supermarket was out of these items. I could only think of a nearby convenience store that sold them. While the sky darkened, an unexpected thunder storm fell. Holding the tea bags, I ran for cover along the wayside, while praying that the rain would soon stop so as to not delay class activities. Suddenly, I felt a creeping chill. Turning back, two men were staring lewdly at me. I was wearing a white blouse, which must have been stuck to my body due to the rainfall, and which might have unveiled my undergarments. Alertly I looked at them. I knew they were famous for being rascals in the neighborhood. Relying upon their families' wealth, they did whatever they wanted in school. All my life, people like that were who I hated most. And I could tell clearly what their eyes had signaled. Right now there was no one near us. I figured running away was likely my best call. It would be useless to try to reason with people like these. The best way was to avoid them. Just when I was about to take off, it was too late.

One of the two rogues was tall and slender, and had a crew cut. The other was chubby and short, and wore glasses. They did seem like a perfect couple.

The four-eyes grabbed my wrist: “Hey little sis. I’ve been seeing you around. You got wet? That’s too bad.”

The crew cut approached me as well, and squinted at my face: “Tender and fair, but you know, chicks don’t look good when they get soaked. What do you say if bro takes you home?” He tried to grab my other wrist.

The two scoundrels surrounded me from left and right. It looked as though they were going to take me by force.

I was a rather attractive girl -- that I knew. I had always planned to seduce Fong. I had wanted to make him fall in love with me. Then, I would dump him as my revenge on his mom. But Fong never responded to the way I dressed, which was now attracting quite something else. Then and there I felt such regret. What was a girl supposed to do in a situation like that? My lips didn’t want to just give in, and spit out a forceful "fuck off!". But my composure was already half gone.

The four-eyes one took in my response with a filthy smile: "Why is this little girl so angry? No wonder she's always by herself." Then he closed in and tried to kiss me. I turned my head, and tried to push him off. Every time I stood too close to a man, I would feel sickened to death. In my recollection, men were dirty animals, especially this particular monster.

The crew cut crept behind me, clutched onto my arms, and propped them up. I struggled in vain, twisting and turning while yelling out: “If you dare, I’ll bite your tongue off!” I smelled the odor of tobacco mixed in his horrendous breath. That breath seems to be gushing towards my face.

Then, I heard hastened footsteps; the scoundrels were running away. I was released. After that scare, my entire body weakened to a halt -- it only found enough strength to lean back loosely against the wall. Then, I looked up. Fong stood beside me, all soaked. He looked at me without saying a word. It was difficult to explain the feelings that stirred inside me at that moment, but I felt that a stomach full of grievances had finally found their support. However, it was Fong standing before me. So, I pressed back the rush of tears.

Fong looked at me calmly, his eyes surveying me over. Then, he took off his already soaked dark blue shirt and wrapped it around me. That move touched me. I squatted down and cried with my head buried deep in my arms. Fong stood by for a while. Then, he pulled me up, and drew me into his arms. I rested my head on his bare chest, feeling his warmth. This was my first time getting so close to a man. But strangely, I did not feel repulsed. Then, I heard Fong say: “Too bad.” I looked up to him with reddened eyes. “They got away.” I then understood: he was not calling my name.

My pride again filled inside me. I wanted to push him away. But he held on to me tighter still, saying: “Just now, I followed you to the store from a distance. I saw what happened so I ran over. But still it was a little late.” I didn’t speak. Fong looked at me carefully: “What, still scared?” He looked so worried. My line of defense collapsed. If his frosty mountain could melt away, why did I have to build a barricade between us? I had always prided myself on being a fair person.

I shriveled my lips together: “Aren’t you the one who never speaks to me? Why do you look so concerned now?”

Fong said: “I had wanted to talk to you a long time ago, didn’t you know?”

“Of course not. It's not like I'm an oracle.”

“When you first came, I thought the heavens were too good to me. It was as if...” He stopped halfway. We both paused.

“I was pretty scared just now.”

“I know. You look like an easy target for those scoundrels. Besides, you are a pretty attractive girl.”

“Well actually, now that I think about it, I wasn’t really afraid of them. But the four-eyes looked so nauseating.”

“When I saw what was happening, I was afraid they’d take advantage of you. Now all of a sudden, you were not afraid at all?”

“That was because I had already thought of a countermeasure. To rob me of my first kiss, they would have to pay a price!”

“Addy, I’ve always felt you were an extraordinary girl. You are very strong.”

I went quiet. After a while I said: “That was forced upon me. No one is there to protect me. If I don’t protect myself, would I not surely be bullied around?”

“I’ll protect you, from today on.”

“You? My older brother is finally going to show his aptitude in taking care of girls?”

“That was because you portrayed yourself as a proud person. I am also a person of pride. I won’t easily give in, especially not to a girl like you.”

“Proud?”

“Yeah, and I have always felt that you have come to Shanghai with an intention.”

“...” I was speechless. It looked as though he had seen through me well before hand. I had always thought to have camouflaged well. Though I kept my distance from his family, I did not showcase any opposition. It seemed that Fong had strong observation skills.

“What intention did I have?!” I threw out some rhetoric. Because I was feeling a little guilty, I pretentiously took on a calm demeanor and looked into his eyes.

“Your intention was to... seduce me!” Then he leaned down a little. His lips covered mine.

I did not resist. I actually responded to his kissing. I could not believe myself kissing so theatrically with a personal enemy on a rainy day, by the wayside. Didn't I use to hate him down to the bones? I had come with a revenge, had I not? But reality dismissed all questions. When he gave me his all through his kiss, a yearning from my heart sprung loose. Perhaps long ago, I had already begun to like this outstanding boy. To think that I had been deceiving myself all along, what a foolish person I was! Really, his mother’s actions were not related to him at all. But then I thought, perhaps he was feeling so content right now, because I had finally accepted him. To that thought, I bit down on his lip. Fong did not stop kissing me. I felt a liquid that tasted a little like iron, so I pushed him off.

“Are you stupid? Don’t you know you are bleeding?”

I took out from my pocket some soaked Kleenex and pressed it against his lip. He could not stop smiling.

“Addy, is this the price you were talking about?”

I felt a little stunned. A warm rush covered my cheeks. What choice did I have but to nod.

“Silly girl.” Fong swept me into his embrace. He whispered by my ear: “But did you know? I’ve always liked you for your character. Since you first walked into our house, since you first came to my class, then and there I had already wanted to hold you and never let go.”

“Then why did you not give me any signs?”

“That’s because I felt I had met such a proud person. Seeing your bland attitude towards me, where was I supposed to find the courage to make a pass at you? You already reminded me of a princess of some fairytale. Although... I am not a bad candidate myself.” I tip-toed a little, and offered myself to him.

From that day forth, we got along at Fong’s house. We became good friends, and although our folks didn’t say much, I felt a sense of family growing strong. I actually began to feel that auntie was not a bad person. Perhaps she did not commit any wrongs. Perhaps dad and she simply regretted not meeting each other sooner. But I just had to stubbornly believe that their love had its roots in his infidelity towards mom. I found, my outlook had completely changed. Was it Fong that brought about the change? I did not know. I only knew that once love had brought me to him, the thought of revenge was all but gone.

Half a year later, I found an opportunity to tell mom that I was sorry. I could not conquer myself. For Fong, I needed to get along with auntie. I could no longer avenge on her behalf.

After hearing my speech, mom did not express any anger or disappointment. She passed her hand softly down my cheek: “Silly child, I had never wanted to use you to get revenge on your dad, because, I do not hate him. I know you love me. But you were wrong. I have never hated auntie. I love your dad. She also loves him. Even though I could not keep him here, he allowed me to keep you, and that was worthy of happiness through a lifetime. My silly child, the reason that mom named you Too-bad, was not because I did not like dad; it was because mom regretted not being able to give you a complete family. That's all.”

I held on to mom’s hands, mom’s slightly shivering hands. Her face was still so pretty, and made me feel such happiness and warmth.

“You must take good care of yourself. Studying out of town, mom can no longer take care of you. You need to get along well with dad and auntie.”

Having said this much, mom could no longer hold back her tears. Under a pretense to fetch some water, she left.

I sat there, awe-struck. I felt that everything that had come to pass was like a dream. Everything that I did was wrong. Perhaps, there was never any hatred between us. There was only love, one-sided love, and two-sided.

Suddenly, someone pulled me into his arms.

Fong said: “Once long ago, auntie talked to me about you. So I knew you came to our home with a plan of vengeance against my folks. I wanted to protect my family. But in the end I could not resist you. Thankfully now, you’ve given up the thought of revenge, otherwise we would have become its sacrificial lambs.”

I covered his hand with mine, turned my head back, and sealed his lips with a kiss.

I knew my blessings were beginning to never get away.

Too-bad, your spring has finally arrived!

 

 

Tai Meng | 孟泰 | Last Updated: February 07, 2018