Chapter 5 – I Thought of You as a Bro
Li Yiming saw Liu Meng’s tall figure approach him from afar as he walked out of the bus station. Clean, short-cut hair framed her enticing facial features and conferred to her an impression of capability that perfected her charm. Curvy legs wrapped tightly in cropped jeans, and translucent high-heels supporting feet with perfect skin. Her arms were crossed, and it did not seem like she realized just how much her posture accentuated her generous bosom, which was ready to burst out of her black blouse at any given moment.
When Li Yiming saw Liu Meng, the latter, of course, also noticed him. She extended her arms with a smile and walked toward him. A tight hug that made Li Yiming’s heart skip a beat at the softness he felt pressed against own chest. ‘Did I miss out on that before? I think I was too young back then.’
Liu Meng pushed on Li Yiming’s shoulders and slightly distanced herself from him to stare at him with eyes that revealed a myriad of emotions. Then, another hug that aroused the fantasies of onlookers.
“I’ve heard about it. That dumb girl, I won’t speak to her for five years.” As soon as Liu Meng spoke, however, her true demeanor was exposed; it was already the end of her friendship with Ji Xiaoqin, and, had she not known her to start with, she probably would have led a gang to her place.
“Is this the little girl you were talking about? How cute.” While Li Yiming was still trying to come up with an explanation about how he had already thought everything through and had already let it go, Liu Meng’s attention shifted to Bai Ze.
“Did you just notice me?” Little Bai Ze pursed her lips. Her cheap checker-pattern dress was not enough to make her any less conspicuous.
“Ah, moe~” Liu Meng pushed Li Yiming away, knelt down and wrapped her arms around Bai Ze. “Are you sure that you didn’t kidnap her from somewhere?”
Li Yiming sighed in semi-amusement. By now, he had become habituated to the treatment he received. That sudden feeling of emptiness, however…
“What’s your name, little girl?” Liu Meng produced a squeaky voice to make herself seem more affable.
“Bai Ze. Bai as in the color white, and Ze as in a marsh. I’m eight years old, I like to eat sweets and play computer games. I don’t know how to sing, how to dance, nor how to recite children’s songs… Did I forget anything?” Bai Ze rolled her eyes: the thing she hated the most was to be asked these kinds of stupid questions, and she had obviously heard enough of them on the way here.
“Ah? Did you teach her that?” Liu Meng was clearly surprised by Bai Ze’s answer. Li Yiming shook his head as hard as he could.
“Sis, can we leave? There’s a lot of people staring at us.” This was not much of a surprise, a sensual goddess and a cute little girl was enough to crane any neck.
“Let’s go, follow sis. I have a tablet in my car, and we’ll buy you some sweets later.” Liu Meng picked Bai Ze up and walked toward her car, a red Chevrolet. Li Yiming trailed behind with a suitcase, for which he had no real need, since he could use his storage bracelet, but at least pretense was required.
“Did you just buy this?” Li Yiming noticed that everything inside was new.
“A premature dowry from my mom. Easier to get married when you own a car,” answered Liu Meng casually. She glanced at Li Yiming. “You seem to be doing well.”
“How else? What else can I do?” Li Yiming understood the real meaning behind the question and shrugged his shoulders in self-derision.
“That’s good. Be a man. Sis will soon introduce you to a nice one. The ones I have are all of high quality.” Liu Meng sounded like a manager in a hostess club.
Liu Meng’s apartment was in a decent neighborhood right in the middle of the city. It was rather commodious too, equipped with a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom.
“This doesn’t look cheap,” remarked Li Yiming as he dropped his luggage and looked around.
“It’s called an investment. How can I attract good men if I don’t live in a nice place? Oh, feel free to take a drink.” Liu Meng’s kicked off her crystal high-heels carelessly and walked to the fridge. She took out two ice cream bars, one for herself, and one for little Bai Ze. Li Yiming wanted to laugh: she had not changed at all.
“You can sleep in my room, and I’ll sleep in the other one. I’ve talked to my roommate, and she’s going home for a few days and then staying at her boyfriend’s place.” Liu Meng pointed at a door and sat down right next to Bai Ze to help her open her treat. Li Yiming nodded and pulled his luggage into the room; there was no need for any formalities after this many years of friendship.
The room was very clean and it looked like Liu Meng had prepared it for his arrival, since it stood in stark contrast with the messy living room. The visible folding marks on the bed sheets indicated that they were newly replaced. The furniture in the room was simple, but had a cozy feeling: a desk, a workstation, and a make-up stand with the inside emptied out beforehand.
“Hey, by the way, I hope that your boyfriend won’t come here in the middle of the night, only to find me here,” Li Yiming returned to Liu Meng and poked at her jokingly.
“Have I ever hidden anything to you about my celibacy?” Liu Meng answered in her usual brusque way.
“Ah, no boyfriend yet?”
“You know what they say, quality comes with slowness. Why hurry?” Liu Meng finished her ice cream and wiped her hands with a tissue. “Go get your things set up, I’ll go take a shower. I’m all sticky from sweating. Let’s go eat somewhere after.”
“Okay.” Li Yiming acquiesced. He carried his luggage to a corner and dropped it down. The container itself was almost empty, so he turned around and opened the door, but his action came to a sudden halt when he saw Liu Meng busy removing her belt with her feet bare and the buttons on her blouse half detached, partially revealing a black laced bra. Her long, pale neck, the deep valley formed by her clavicles, the flat stomach, and above it… ‘The underwear must have been expensive, wrapping around like that. I feel like it’s going to explode! It’s not my first time seeing this, with all the time we’ve spent backstage and inside the studios, no one really noticed these things. But this close…’ Li Yiming gulped down his saliva, and, after doing so, his Adam’s apple was not the only thing that moved upward.
“What are you looking at?” Liu Meng turned around and saw Li Yiming’s baffled expression, and then she moved her eyes down. “Are you serious? I’m thinking of you as brother and you’re thinking about getting into my bed?”
“That’s not it…” Li Yiming tried to squeeze an explanation through his embarrassment.
“Go to hell.” Liu Meng did not try to conceal herself. Instead, she kicked at Li Yiming while keeping her blouse on her shoulders. “There’s a kid here. Can you be a little mindful?” She walked into the washroom and the clicking sound of the lock was heard.
Li Yiming looked rather dodgingly at Bai Ze, and his regard was met with an supercilious look from her. He walked to the balcony in humiliation and lit up a cigarette. ‘I don’t think that things will be very smooth at all during the next few days.’
Li Yiming had enough tact to remain on the balcony until after Liu Meng emerged from the bathroom with only a towel on her. However, he could not stop himself from imagining the luscious scene inside of his head. After Liu Meng finished changing, the three descended from Liu Meng’s home and went to a small family restaurant just across the street. Liu Meng was wearing a jade one-piece with straps on her shoulders, revealing the same clavicles that were sculpted out of her flesh and had an inexplicable attractiveness to them. Her legs disappeared and reappeared between the cover of her skirt, and they were magnets for the eyes of onlookers.
Liu Meng seemed to be used to all of this. She pulled Bai Ze toward a seat by the window and sat down right next to her. Li Yiming sat down in the seat across the table, somewhat sheepish. He thought of a family of three: the mother, beautiful and seductive; the daughter, lively and cute; the father… Well, at least he had a nice figure, owing to his height and the form he had trained through dance. Combined with soft traits but a chiseled jaw, although had an unshaven chin, he could be considered handsome enough.
“What do you want to eat? Pick anything you want, big sis will mend your traumatized heart,” Liu Meng pushed the menu toward Little Bai Ze. The latter’s eyes glittered with excitement: with Li Yiming, she could barely feed herself, much less be treated like this.
“When did you start smoking?” Liu Meng asked, true to her observant mind.
“I met a big brother. He said something along the lines of not being able to have kids if a man doesn’t smoke… So I picked up the habit.” Li Yiming lips quirked in a playful manner.
“What? That’s some wisdom if I’ve ever heard any. Maybe you can introduce him to me?” Liu Meng was astonished by such a deeply philosophical statement.
At that moment, the song which was being played by speakers in the restaurants finished, and another one started. The hoarse voice of a bald man was heard,
Free of suspicion or worries,
You suddenly appeared in my world.
Bringing to me surprised joy and a tempest of emotions,
But then, in the same manner.
You disappeared before I could notice it,
And you’ve left nothing but memories in my world. 1
Li Yiming listened to the song and ruminated on the deep emotion conveyed by the lyrics.
“Who are you thinking of right now?” Liu Meng gazed at Li Yiming and asked in a whimsical voice. Time was thought of as being the best cure for the ill of a lost love, but Liu Meng’s temperament judged it to be too slow. She liked the quick and violent method much better. To condense one’s grief and pain into a short period of saturation, and to be relieved of it afterwards.
“You want to hear the truth?”
“To be honest… I’m thinking of a man wearing shorts…” Li Yiming’s attention was fixated on the veranda of a building across the street. ‘You appear just like that in my life, gave me a surprise and then scared the crap out of me. And then you disappeared, and not even a godly beast knows anything about you, and the only thing I remember are those flamboyant shorts…’
“You’re completely fine then. “ Liu Meng grinned and lowered her eyes to check on the menu. Li Yiming’s long stare into the distance, with the setting sun’s shining dapples on his visage, the alternations between shadow and light reminded her of a long lost dream… Something strange… She was gradually sinking into it, losing herself into it… And a long slumbering memory was going to be awakened…
“Did you abuse her?” Bai Ze made her attention shift, however. Liu Meng read the order slip the little girl had produced, and, at first sight, she was surprised by the quality of the calligraphy: small characters traced with a sharpness and vivacity even she herself could not produce. And then, she looked at the content… Bai Ze copied down the entire menu, and the desserts portion twice…
“Ignore her, she’s just playing around.” Li Yiming jumped on the order slip and threw a menacing stare at Bai Ze.
“After you go rob a bank, I’ll eat a restaurant dry.” Little Bai Ze pursed her lips in irritation.
“Rob a bank?” Liu Meng was amused by what Bai Ze said.
“Yeah, she wants me to go rob a bank so I can feed her.” Li Yiming took the menu and ordered a few dishes here and there without thinking about being reserved, and handed the order over to a waiter on the side, who was also smiling at the whole scene.
“Don’t worry, sis will add a few more desserts for you.” Liu Meng’s heart once again melted at Bai Ze’s peevishness, and she rubbed Bai Ze’s head a few times. By the time she set her eyes back on Li Yiming, the fleeting thoughts she had earlier had completely vanished.
The dishes were served in a timely manner, and Bai Ze did not disappoint in proving Li Yiming’s remark right: she took a mouthful from each dish, and soon resumed playing her game on the cell phone. It seemed like she had tasting rather than eating in mind.
“A few words about the performance. The rehearsal starts tomorrow at eight. The song is Fang Shui’er new piece, “Chirping Poems From a Thousand Mountains.” Typical cadence, slow-fast-flow. Our main responsibility is to accompany the dance during the fast part, and we’ll simply be in the background for the slow portion.” Liu Meng squeezed a simple explanation between mouthfuls of the meal.
“What about the director and the choreographer?”
“One and the same. Fang Shui’er brings her own people. Rumor has it that he’s also a big shot.”
1. Original work by Qu Wanting, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNv32ZjcbAE