Conflicted – Chapter 15

Lei looked at Xi Men taking a deep puff of that cigarette in his hand.

Lei carefully studies Xi Men’s actions.

Xi Men hasn’t said anything since they sat down at the 24-hour McDonald’s outlet.

This is probably the least likelihood venue for the F4 to come, gather or meet up.

Especially without kids.

They usually meet up at a pub or a coffee house.

But never a fast food outlet.

Why the exemption tonight?

Just like what Lei has said, after seeing Xi Men’s utterly serious and bothered face, he didn’t want to talk with Xi Men with a glass of beer in hand.

Seeing Xi Men’s face like this, there is a chance that Xi Men will end up going after glasses and glasses of alcohol, despite not knowing the reasons.

It is not that Lei is afraid Xi Men will get drunk; in fact, Xi Men has great tolerance towards alcohol.

It’s just that Lei didn’t want Xi Men to have the opportunity to down the alcohols and not talking to him.

Where as for Xi Men, he didn’t want to go for coffee.

Although he favors coffee, he is afraid of the effect of coffee that may kick in that causes him to stay up all night.

Well, it is not like he can sleep…

Since Lei did not want alcohol and Xi Men did not want coffee, Lei jokingly suggests McDonald’s since it is his son, Alex’s favorite place (although the son did not go), and now, both men are sucking at carbonated drinks at the smoking area of this fast food outlet.

And Lei has been waiting for Xi Men to say something, since Xi Men is the one asking him out.

Puff after puff.

Lei folded his hands on his chest.

Looking at Xi Men like this, he realized that there is no use in splitting Xi Men up from alcohol.

Even if Xi Men is not downing beers, he ends up smoking more than he used to.

Maybe he should have agreed to beer night, so that Xi Men gets to drink, more than the lighted stick in his hand.

Xi Men took another puff of the cigarette, and finding the cigarette stick has reached the end, he kills the butt at the ashtray.

And then his hand reached for the pack of cigarettes and took a stick out.

He puts it to his lips and then reached for the lighter.

“Another cigarette?” Lei asked right before Xi Men lighted it up.

Xi Men paused, and then gazes at Lei.

“I have been sitting here, watching you lighting up the few sticks of cigarette… which I supposed is more than what you took for 3 days,” Lei looked into the ashtray. “And I don’t remember you told me to watch you smoke. I remember you said you wanted to talk to me,”

Xi Men flips the lighter in his hand, and then eventually lifted it up and then lights up the cigarette on his lips.

“Looks like a serious case,” Lei said, seeing that Xi Men still decides to light up another cigarette.

After taking the first puff of the newly lit cigarette, “Lei,” Xi Men then turned to look at Lei. “I saw something. And I don’t know what to do now,”

“Saw something?” Lei asked.

“This morning… before the conference start… I head to the washroom…”

“Yeah. You looked different after you came back from the wash…” Lei paused, and then gazes at Xi Men, “Did you see… umm… ghosts?”

Xi Men glared at Lei, deadpanned. “No,”

“Oh, okay. And for a moment, I thought Ah Si’s building is haunted,” Lei said.

Xi Men rolled his eyes.

“Back to the story. You were saying you saw something,” Lei said.

“After I leave the washroom…”

=====

*Flashback.

BEEP.

Xi Men had just walked out from the washroom and walked along the corridor when his phone has a message.

He dives his hand into his pants to take the phone out, looking at the new whatsapp message that has been sent to the F4 group chat.

Ah Si: LING MEI ZHUO! Where are you! Conference will be starting in 15 minutes!

Mei Zhuo: I have just reached the carpark. Damn the traffic today.

Xi Men smirked as he reads the message while he walks.

“Actually…”

Xi Men slows down his footsteps and then gazes to the closed door on his left.

Just as he halted walking briefly, he heard someone uttering from inside the room again.

“Your wife did not suspect at all?”

After hearing it, Xi Men had no intention to mind people’s business, so he took his first step, wanting to go back to the auditorium, until he heard again…

“No, she didn’t suspect at all. I just told her I have meeting,”

He lifted his head up as the voice sounds familiar.

In just a mere second, he stopped walking.

His eyes widened.

He turned his head to look at the closed door again.

‘This is not what I think it is… right?’ he thought to himself.

He hopes he got it wrong.

No, not the type of conversation.

But the owner of the voice.

He is really curious, and he wants to know if he is right about this.

But Xi Men can’t be standing still in front of the door like this although he is dead curious to hear more of the voice.

And not to mention the best would have to be able to see the face, instead of guessing based on the voice.

His eyes strayed, before he walked down the pathway, and then heads to the waiting area where there are many other attendees.

As he moved swiftly amongst the attendees in the waiting area, his eyes focused to the direction of the door; purportedly to find his perfect spot where he can look at the door from far.

And then he found it.

Right next to a table.

He stood there and casually grabbed a glass of plain water from a passing by waiter, placing the glass of water to his lips where he casually takes sips after sips while he waits.

He stood there for a long time… almost emptying the glass of water in his grip, and then the door opened.

He gazes straight to the door, using the ‘sipping water’ strategy to hide his face, and see a woman coming out from the room.

And then a man.

Xi Men stopped sipping as he stared at the man closing the door.

The woman made no effort to stop and wait for him, as she heads straight to the auditorium, pretending as though nothing had happened.

And the man then corrected his tie, and also walked to the auditorium.

But before he enters the auditorium, he casually wiped his lips with his thumb.

*Flashback ended.

=====

“It was Ivy…”

Lei looked at Xi Men.

“And Mark,” Xi Men completes his statement.

“Mark?” Lei asked questionably. “Which Mark?”

“Mark Liu,” Xi Men said. “Xiao You’s Mark,”

Lei, with his eyes opened wide, looked at Xi Men. “Are you serious?”

Hearing Lei’s question, Xi Men says, “I admit I don’t like Mark but that doesn’t mean I will simply create a story like this,”

“You… don’t like Mark?” Lei asked.

Xi Men took a deep breath, looking dejected. “Let me rephrase that,” he said. “I like Mark as a person or businessman, but I don’t like him for Xiao You,”

“Ah, that is more logical,” Lei said.

Xi Men gazes at Lei.

“For you, I mean. For you,”

“What are you talking about?” Xi Men asked.

“I don’t see any problem with Mark, but because Xiao You is involved, that is why you don’t like him. Sounds logical to me,”

Xi Men glared at Lei for saying that, and then lifted the cigarette in his hand up for a puff.

“Are you sure there is no one else in the room?” Lei asked.

“No,” Xi Men said. “Only both of them,” he exhaled smoke now.

“So… you are saying… Mark is suspected of cheating on Xiao You…”

“Not ‘suspected’. I am sure he cheats,” Xi Men said, looking at Lei. “I heard them,”

Lei exhaled a deep breath. “Gosh… I feel so terrible for Xiao You now,”

Xi Men took a deep breath as well.

“So, what do you want to do?” Lei asked.

“I don’t know,” Xi Men replied, taking another puff of his cigarette. “Maybe telling Xiao You,”

Lei’s eyes widened.

Telling Xiao You about this?

With just this?

This is when thoughts begin to run in Lei’s mind.

Opinions, options and decisions are firing everywhere in Lei’s brain.

But one thing is certain.

He did not want Xi Men to jump into conclusions and do things hastily.

And because this involves someone’s marriage; particularly, it is Xiao You’s.

“Dude, don’t do that until you are confirmed with it,” Lei said.

“I am darn confirmed with it, Lei,” Xi Men said.

“You only heard them. All you did is seeing them coming out from the room. You see nothing else,”

Xi Men is surprised upon hearing what Lei said. “Are you saying that is not good enough?”

“It is not good enough to prove anything,” Lei said.

“Are you saying I have to catch them on bed together to say Mark really cheats on Xiao You?”

“To be honest, if you get that, then that is a very valid proof,”

Xi Men looked at Lei and he belatedly lets out a small laugh in disbelief. “Gosh… I can’t believe I am hearing that,”

“I am saying that could be a very valid proof, but what I mean is you need something more than what you see now,” Lei said.

Xi Men ran his left hand across his forehead and remained chuckling in disbelief. “More? Seriously?”

Lei exhaled his deep breath. “Look,” Lei said, clasping his hands together. “You are going to ruin her marriage if you tell her like this,”

Looking unbothered, Xi Men says, “Mark cheated on her. It is ruined regardless I tell her or not so why not I just do it?”

Lei rolled his eyes. “Stop being obsessed for once, will you?”

“Obsessed? Obsessed of what?” Xi Men asked.

“Xiao You,”

“Excuse me, this is Mark right here cheating on Xiao You. I am just doing my part, and you said I am obsessed of her?”

“Yes, you are completely obsessed because this involves Xiao You. Will you react like this if it is not her?” Lei fought back.

“I can’t believe you are asking me to stay put and do nothing!”

“I did not ask you to stay put and do nothing! If you want to do something, do it right! Not being impulsive like now where you can’t prove nor show a thing!” Lei yelled. “You don’t know what kind of evidence you have now to say he cheats on her!”

Xi Men glared at Lei, and then he reached for his cigarette, smoking it angrily, only to get choked in his own breath (and smoke).

Lei took a deep breath, “Listen to me,”

Xi Men looked at Lei as he (Xi Men) coughed into the back of his hand.

“All of us know there is something between you and Xiao You back in the past which you did not tell us despite us asking you repeatedly,” Lei said. “With you uttering such thing without showing anything, and just saying ‘based on what you see’, you are already telling all of us again about how highly obsessive you are about her. Trust me, with you doing things like this, you will be seen as the problem instead of pointing out the problem. And you want to know what that means? If Xiao You trusts Mark, then she will trusts him even more and will never ever believe that Mark cheats on her. And if what you’ve said caused Xiao You to lose her trust in Mark, it means her marriage will be ruined, and on top of that, you became the one who ruins her marriage instead of Mark ruining his own marriage. She will hate you, Xi Men. Xiao You will hate you,”

Xi Men looked at Lei, and then was about to grab the drink but is suddenly surprised to see a straw on it.

“It is not beer,” Lei said to Xi Men, as he looked at Xi Men staring at the drink with partial shock.

“Oh,” Xi Men answered, and then grabbed the carbonated drink for a sip.

“Xi Men, what if what you’ve seen is not actually what you see?” Lei asked.

“I know what I am seeing,” Xi Men said, stubbornly believes what he sees is the truth.

“I know, I mean, what if? Do leave that option open,” Lei said.

“You just don’t believe in me,”

“Xi Men, I trust you,” Lei said. “I do,”

Xi Men gazes at Lei. “You don’t sound a tad bit of that,”

“Even if you invent that story up because of how you felt towards Xiao You, I will still trust you,” Lei said.

Xi Men looked at Lei in surprise, “Did you just say I invent…”

And Lei interrupts him, “No, I said IF. As a matter of fact, being your buddy, I know you are not a person that will really create that story to ruin her marriage and Mark’s reputation,” Lei said. “So, I do trust you regardless of what you have said,”

Xi Men took a deep breath as he looked at Lei.

“Besides, you looked completely different after you returned from the washroom this morning. So this information is worth to be trusted,”

Xi Men rolled his eyes.

Lei looked at Xi Men, silently evaluating his facial expressions.

Nothing.

He could not derive anything from Xi Men’s face.

What if Xi Men does not get any hints from Lei to NOT go to Xiao You with this news now?

What if Xi Men gets it but continued to be stubborn about this and proceeds ahead?

But if such matter has been relayed to Xiao You…

How will she react?

URGH.

Damn the inner turmoil.

In order to contain the situation, or rather, ‘containing’ Xi Men, maybe…

‘Maybe I need to point out even more…’ Lei thought to himself.

“But there are flaws in what you’ve said,” Lei said to Xi Men.

Xi Men looked at Lei. “Flaw? What flaw? I did not invent that story, alright? That is really what I saw,”

“What I meant was, all that you have said, there is a way to counter it,” Lei said. “And I mean, by Mark, if you happened to tell Xiao You and she asked him,”

Xi Men looked at Lei, as he (Xi Men) finally understands.

“That’s the flaw,” Lei said. “And don’t you forget; Xiao You is the one that picked Mark and be with him. He is her husband. You are just a friend. She will naturally trust him more than you,”

Xi Men took another deep breath, and then gazes to the stick in between his fingers, to finally realize he had briefly stopped smoking and listened to Lei.

He tapped the ash off the stick and then lifted the cigarette up for a deep puff.

“My advice is, trust what you see at only 50%. And find a new evidence to affirm it,” Lei said.

“50%? Just 50%?”

“Because there are rooms for ‘he is not what you see’. I don’t know if there is any part in your heart that you really want Mark to cheat on Xiao You, but I also hope there is a good part of you that hopes that the guy Xiao You picked to be with for the rest of her life is actually a very loyal husband,” Lei said. “And I also hope you do not need me to remind you that you are married to Juliana,”

Xi Men looked at Lei.

He understands what Lei means.

After all, Xiao You is the one that chooses Mark to be her life partner.

One needs to trust and support her choice, right?

And even if Xiao You is single again because Mark cheats, Xi Men is still a married man.

Xi Men exhaled a deep breath.

“So… in this case…”

Xi Men looked at Lei.

“If Mark really cheats on Xiao You, either you keep your good guy image to Xiao You by keeping quiet until she found out about it on her own…”

Xi Men continued to stare at Lei.

“…or do it the most extreme way by showing her more evidences about it that there is no way Mark can defend for himself,” Lei said.

Xi Men remained staring at Lei, but reacts nothing to what Lei has said.

“What if she never found out about it if I never do anything?” Xi Men asked.

“Then that’s too bad for her,” Lei said. “Although I highly doubt so…”

Xi Men exhaled his deep breath. “What if…”

Lei looked at Xi Men.

“You tell her instead?” Xi Men asked, looking at Lei. “She’ll probably listen to you since…”

“The problem lies in what you can show her rather than WHO to tell her, dude,” Lei said.

Xi Men took another deep breath.

“Even if I am the one telling her, I will still need more concrete proof to show her,” Lei said. “If I can detect flaws in that, I am sure Mark will be able to find a way to defend for himself,”

Xi Men pressed his lips together, and then slowly brought the cigarette to his lips.

“Also…”

Xi Men looked at Lei.

“What will happen to Xiao You after they’ve split?”

“What do you mean?” Xi Men said, with smoke coming out from his mouth as he speaks.

“She is currently fully dependent on Mark, if you remember. She is not working. She resigned from her job in San Francisco to come here with Mark. Will she go back to San Francisco if she splits up from the husband?” Lei asked.

Xi Men’s eyes brightened up.

And then something came to Lei’s mind. “And what if she decided to stick with Mark despite knowing he cheats on her, purportedly because she loves him very much and hopes that he will change for better?”

Xi Men’s gaze has changed to a sharp glare.

Noting the sharp glare, “Anything is possible, Xi Men,” Lei said.

Xi Men slowly turned his head away and then lifted the cigarette in his hand up for another puff, not saying anything anymore, and at the same time, looking occupied with thoughts in mind.

Lei looked at Xi Men intently and again, begin to analyze the quiet Xi Men.

Why does Xi Men had to be this good in hiding his emotions?

Lei doesn’t know and wouldn’t know what is going on in Xi Men’s mind.

He felt guilty for advising Xi Men on doing a better job if he wants to expose Mark’s infidelity, as though he is playing a part in encouraging Xi Men to destroy Xiao You’s marriage although it doesn’t appear in that way, but still, he (Lei) felt that way.

But what can he really do?

This is a critical situation where Lei felt so hopeless because nothing will be the right thing to do.

Xiao You is a friend.

She is San Chai’s best friend, and not only that, she is someone really significant for Xi Men; although nobody knows how significant she is.

Lei can’t really watch Mark continued seeing another woman out there behind Xiao You’s back.

But even if he has solid proofs, Lei can’t bring himself to go to Xiao You and tell her the devastating news.

He can’t watch Xiao You’s marriage crumble in front of his eyes and by his words.

But if Xi Men…

The scary thought that Lei once had emerges; that Xi Men dares to do anything… even spoiling her marriage.

But…

Mark had already ruined his own marriage.

So… Xi Men didn’t… right?

Right?

Lei looked at Xi Men, digging for a new cigarette from the pack.

At least, he (Lei) managed to stop Xi Men from doing anything hastily.

And the question is… what is Xi Men going to do now?

“Urgh. I just finished my supply for the week,” Xi Men uttered, flashing the empty box to Lei, interrupting Lei from his thought.


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10 thoughts on “Conflicted – Chapter 15

  1. Who is ivy? F4 know this lady? Hmm.. i don’t know what to say there is no concrete proof that mark really cheated on xiao you. The few lines can mean others not affairs..

  2. huft…don’t know what to say…?
    just sad if mark really cheating…..ivy its one of juliana’s family, if i’m not mistake..

  3. Is Ximen concerned that Mark is cheating or rather happy that he is cheating so her marriage will fall apart

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