“Hi dear,” Jing smiled as Lei hugged her after he enters the house while the butler closed the door of the living room.
He heard that, and his eyes immediately strayed.
“Alright, I get that… I’ll go and shower now,” Lei said, immediately releasing his hands from the hug and eventually takes a step back from Jing.
“Smells pretty strong. He smoked a lot tonight?” Jing asked.
“Yeah, I’ll go shower first and we’ll chat after that, alright?” Lei said.
“Sure,” Jing smiled. “But how come I didn’t smell any alcohol? You didn’t take any?”
“We went to McDonald’s,” Lei said, walking straight to their master bedroom.
Lei sits down on the bed and then crashed his back against the headboard.
“My gosh, I feel so tired!” he complained.
Lei immediately chuckles and turned over to look at Jing.
Jing smiled as she leaned over and hugged him, “Now you smell good,”
He wrapped his hands around her shoulder. “Top up more on your floral bath gel, alright?”
She laughed. “That’s MY bath gel!”
“Yes, I am using it so that you’ll come close to me because I smell like you,” he chuckled.
“What kind of logic is that!”
He laughed. “Alright, I’ll learn to shed skin if you want to skimp on sharing your bath gel,”
She smacked him painlessly. “I am not being skimp on that. And it’s not like I am paying for it,”
Lei frowned. “Ah, right… I paid for that…”
She chuckled. “And if you are becoming a snake (shedding skin)… please tell me first,”
Lei looked at her, “Why?”
“I didn’t want to die bitten by a snake,”
He laughed. “You won’t die. You’ll be Mrs. Snake, and then you’ll just learn how to shed skin so we can save a lot of bath gel and also money,”
Jing laughed out loud. “Oh gosh!”
He remained laughing too, and then kissed her temple. “I love you,”
“I love you too,” Jing said.
And then she briefly had her eyes strayed.
She lifted her head to look at him, “What is that for?”
“What is what for?” Lei asked.
“Suddenly saying you love me?”
“I indeed love you,” Lei said. “Who else do you think I love?”
“I know. But that’s so not you to say that all of a sudden as you only say that when we leave for work,” Jing said, and then she pointed at him, “Did you do something wrong and you want to apologize?”
Lei smiled as he holds her hand and puts it on his chest. “I didn’t do anything wrong,”
“I’ll make more effort to say that to you,” Lei said.
Jing tilts her head. “Something had happened?”
Lei exhaled his deep breath. “I think, after seeing Xi Men… and Xiao You… I will appreciate what I have even more now,”
“Huh? Xi Men and Xiao You? What happened to them?” Jing asked. “Is that why Xi Men asked you to meet up? Something happened between them?”
“No. Nothing happened between Xi Men and Xiao You. I am saying, two of them, separately,” he slowly rubbed Jing’s shoulder, “You already know Xi Men and Juliana’s relationship…”
“Yeah,” Jing said. “Xi Men married Juliana because their parents asked them to get married,” she sighed. “He isn’t the happiest groom on his wedding day,”
“I still can’t believe over Xi Men’s decision in this marriage…” he sighed too.
Jing could only press her lips together in defeat.
“And I actually haven’t seen Xi Men smiled sincerely since dating Juliana,” Lei said. “And I thought that (their dating) is just going to be for a while… and that they won’t last… but… they got married…”
“I know. I think none of us had expected that,” Jing said, and then looked at him, “Then… why do you mention ‘Xiao You’ (earlier in the conversation)? Is her appearance somehow already triggered Xi Men to do something…?”
“I mean… no,” he shook his head, and then slapped his forehead. “I hope it is a no,”
“What are you talking about? Why are you giving so many answers?” Jing asked.
Lei then scratched his forehead, “Here’s why,” he took a deep breath and then leaned his head against the headboard.
Jing sits up straight to look at Lei.
“The reason Xi Men called for a ‘beer night’… which had turned to ‘carbonated drink night’… was because he saw something at Ah Si’s conference this morning,” Lei said.
“He saw Mark with Ivy,”
Jing’s eyes widened in surprise. “Mark with Ivy? Ivy? You mean, Juliana’s flirty cousin?”
“You can’t be serious… did he just… saw them… like, on the corridor or something… somewhere public?” Jing asked.
“A room. He said he passed by a room and heard them talking inside the room, and then from a distance, he saw both of them leaving the room separately,” Lei said.
“Umm… what kind of room is that?”
“It is a smaller meeting room next to auditorium,” Lei said.
“Oh. And what did he heard?” Jing asked.
“Just Ivy asking Mark if Xiao You knows. Xi Men saw Mark wiping his lips after they left the room,”
Jing gaped, but soon she felt disgusted. “Ewww…”
Lei gave Jing a frown.
“I am sorry, that image kind of just crossed my mind. I can’t believe he kissed her until he has to wipe his lips! URGH!”
“Come, let me try on you,” Lei said, leaning over already.
That prompted Jing to laugh out loud, extending her hands to stop him. “We don’t kiss until we have to wipe our lips!”
“Hmmm, you are right,” Lei said, and then chuckles as he sits straight up again and leaned his back against the headboard. “So, that must a very deep and passionate or lusty kiss if he has to wipe his lips,”
“No… stop it!”
Lei laughed. Some sort of image must be crossing her mind again.
Jing glared at him laughing.
“Alright,” Lei smiled. “I am just saying,”
“You are just bullying,”
“You are fun to be bullied at,”
He laughed as she smacked him again.
“I love you,”
“And you are saying it again!” she said.
“You know what we have now will never happen to Xi Men and Juliana,” Lei said.
“I think it is not good to compare like that,” Jing said.
“Well, you are right. That is why… I said I am going to appreciate what I have,” Lei smiled.
Jing smiled. “Anyway… back to the story, so, Xi Men saw Mark and Ivy…”
“Xi Men is contemplating telling this to Xiao You,” Lei said.
“I am slightly against the idea,”
“Against? Why? This is Mark cheating on Xiao You!” Jing said. “She deserves to know!”
“I mean, slightly against the idea, on Xi Men’s part,”
Lei sighed. “As Xiao You’s friend, I didn’t want her to be kept from this either. But for Xi Men… he might do this too hastily and he may cause damage; more than what one can imagine,”
“Tell me more,” Jing said, understand that her husband has a very good evaluation on these things.
“Xi Men is agitated about this because it involves Xiao You. From the way that Xi Men had said, and at the rate of he is going, he could have just gone to Xiao You and tell her about this without properly accessing the situation and also the events that may unfold as a result of his doings,” Lei said. “Which prompted me to advise him, for the sake of holding him back from doing this until his evidences is good enough,”
“You are saying what he sees are not good enough?” Jing asked.
“Good enough for us to know Mark has something going on with Ivy, but also good enough for a cheater to reason that whatever he is doing is not what it seems,”
“If Xi Men tells it to Xiao You, Xiao You will confront Mark, right? Mark will find a way to defend for himself,” Lei said. “He can tweak and refine those things that Xi Men saw to his advantage,”
“Oh. You mean, it is only because Xi Men saw him… and there is no physical or solid evidence…”
“Yes,” Lei said. “So… I sort of ask him to gather more evidences before he points it to Mark,”
“But I felt bad at the same time…”
“Nobody at the right side of his mind will teach people to destroy someone’s marriage. I felt like I did just that,” Lei sighed. “I happened to advise him because I didn’t want him to do things hurriedly and blindly,”
Jing looked at Lei and then she nodded. “I understand what you mean, but I think you did the right thing although it makes you feel bad, but I am sure you know it is necessary. If you could feel loopholes in those statements to be countered, I am sure Mark could too…”
“Although we know this is bad for Xiao You, I could only wish Xi Men wouldn’t rush. I can’t imagine what Xiao You will feel and do upon knowing this,” Lei said, sighing. “Although she will, or has to know sooner or later…”
Jing looked at Lei, “You still didn’t know what happened to Xi Men and Xiao You back then, right?”
Lei shook. “Other than knowing she came back and showed him the billboard 12 years ago… he did say that there is something else, but he never exactly say what that is,” he said. “So, I don’t know,”
Jing nodded briefly in acknowledgement of what Lei had said, “I am curious,”
“So is everyone,” Lei said.
Jing laughed upon hearing that, and Lei smiled.
“He is pretty tight-lipped about it, so nobody knows. But I can say whatever they had back then; it is major enough to affect him,” Lei said.
Jing nodded. “I agree,”
“Actually, I am quite worried,”
“About? Xiao You?” Jing asked, looking at Lei.
“No, Xi Men,”
“Because I don’t know what he is going to do. And, since he married Juliana, I have not seen him reacting to something seriously. He doesn’t even smile sincerely anymore,” Lei said. “When he threw tantrum in the washroom last month at the annual dinner, that was when I know he had never let Xiao You go from his heart, although he had married Juliana for years now,” he sighed. “That was the first time in years that I see him with an outburst of any kind of expression. And it has to be related to Xiao You,”
“You are right about that,” Jing nods. “I remember he is always expressionless and doesn’t really care much about anything around him. And I couldn’t feel any kind of emotions from him. Even when he is laughing, it didn’t feel happy. I can’t even sense the emotion arises from within him,”
“I guess you know it didn’t arise from within,”
“I was trying to find a reason to say it did,” Jing looked at Lei.
“Then, found any?”
She shook. “And truth to be told, I don’t want to live like that. There is no joy at all in his life. Why would he put himself to live like this?”
Lei took a deep breath and then exhaled it. “I don’t know either,” he said, and then reached for Jing’s hand, and caressed it. “That is why, I appreciate what we have,”
Jing smiled. “I love you too,”
Lei chuckled, for he didn’t say he loves her but she already replied him.
“Now I understand why you said that,” Jing adds.
“Xi Men and Juliana, Xiao You and Mark,” Jing said. “Their relationship is somewhat not healthy, or in trouble. And you are glad ours isn’t,”
Lei smiled. “Yeah, that is what I meant,”
Jing smiled too, and then the smile fades as she sighed. “I can’t believe Xiao You’s husband cheated on her…”
“I can’t believe it either,” Lei said.
Jing exhaled a deep breath, “By the way,”
“Mark is invited for the conference?” Jing asked.
“Yeah, Ah Si invited him,” Lei said.
“And Ivy? What is Ivy doing there?”
“I don’t know. Maybe she attended because someone she is dating invites her?”
“What? Someone she is dating invites her, and then she went on and flirts with someone else at the conference?” Jing asked.
“Looks like it. She is like the female version of Xi Men,”
“She is worse than Xi Men as a playboy. And besides, Xi Men was a playboy with ‘fun’ in mind. She is going after money,”
“According to what Xi Men had said a while back… she hopes to land one that is rich and nice,” Lei said. “Purportedly triggered because of Juliana is with Xi Men,”
“So you are saying she uses Xi Men and Juliana’s relationship as an example? A benchmark? So that she ends up with someone like Xi Men? Does she even know Xi Men doesn’t love Juliana?”
“I don’t know about that,” that is all Lei can say. “Perhaps, for her, being nice and having lots of money is more of a concern; since you know she doesn’t share the same background as Juliana,”
“I know. Juliana is an elite. She (Ivy) is not. So that is why she is flirting around with the rich ones?” Jing asked.
“And nice ones,” Lei adds.
“She used to only go after single guys. If she wishes to be with one permanently, why is she targeting married man?” Jing asked, and then suddenly her eyes widened, “Don’t tell me she is going to ruin their marriage so that she will be with him!”
“I am Ivy-proofing you!”
Lei bursts into laughter upon hearing that. “I only have my eyes on you, sweetie. I have always been since I was sooooooo young!”
“Ah, you are right about that too…”
“She is not my type. Don’t worry. I already Ivy-proofed myself since the first time we met her,”
Jing smiled upon hearing his reply, and soon it fades. “But… she really changed her target to go after married man now?”
Lei looked at Jing, “I am not sure if she has changed her target completely, but I think you know very well she does go after them, if you remember the history,”
Jing tilts her head. “AH… right. She went after Aaron of A&N Enterprise in the past… but we all know Aaron has problems with his wife, that is why Ivy…” she paused. “Mark has problems with Xiao You?”
“I don’t know about that, but unlikely, if based on how Xiao You talked about him, their interactions and at the annual dinner last month…” Lei paused. “Wait,”
“Last month…” Lei said, and then paused again. “At the annual dinner…”
Images flashed into Lei’s mind.
At the annual dinner, after Lei went to console Xi Men in the lavatory after being triggered by the sight of Xiao You, both of them (Lei and Xi Men) heads back to the venue of the dinner.
And along the way, they saw Ivy talking to someone at the snack table.
“Who is she dating now?” Lei asked.
“I don’t know, and that’s probably her next target,” Xi Men said.
At the snack table.
And that someone… from his back… the shape of the back, looks like… Mark.
Lei’s eyes brightened up.
“Anything?” Jing asked, looking at Lei.
“My gosh. This is like a premonition,” Lei said, scratching his forehead.
Lei looked at Jing, “Xi Men and I actually saw Ivy talking to Mark at the annual dinner. That is perhaps how Ivy knows him,”
Jing stares at Lei.
“Since Ivy is only targeting rich guys… is Mark extremely rich?” Lei asked Jing.
Jing stared at Lei and she blinked for a few times. “How would I know?”
‘Why is Ivy there at the conference?’
‘How the hell did Mark knows Ivy?’
Xi Men, who is sitting at the patio and looking out to the garden of his mansion, turned his head to look at Juliana.
“You are not going to sleep?” she asked.
“Later. You go ahead, alright?” Xi Men said, bringing the cigarette in his hand up to his lips.
Juliana tilts her head. “You are smoking now? At this time?”
“Yeah,” Xi Men said, looking at the cigarette in his hand.
Because he had finished his pack of cigarette meant for the week during the talk with Lei just now, he ends up heading to a convenient store to buy another pack.
And he is already at the 3rd stick now.
Juliana doesn’t exactly agree with this habit of Xi Men, but she chooses to live with it.
Xi Men usually doesn’t smoke at this time, so to see him smoking, it means he is really stressed.
“Are you stressed at work?” she asked, approaching Xi Men.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“But I thought you went to the conference today,” Juliana said, standing at about few steps away from Xi Men. “And I thought it lasted the whole day. Do you have time to go back to office and face projects?”
His eyes strayed.
“Received a call about a project just now when I was driving,” Xi Men said, quick enough to give an excuse. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll come to bed soon,”
“Umm. Alright… don’t smoke too much, okay?” Juliana said.
Xi Men looked at the cigarette butts in the ash tray.
And then he remembered finishing the pack at McDonald’s which was meant for a week.
He had indeed smoked too much today.
Juliana lowered her head down as she turned to head to the mansion.
And then he thought of something.
“Juliana,” he called.
Juliana lifted her head up and then turned to look at Xi Men, “Yeah?”
“I saw Ivy at the conference today,” Xi Men said.
“Yeah. I am surprised she is there since none of us brought our partners for such conferences,” Xi Men said. “Do you know who is she dating now?”
“Hmmm…” Juliana pondered. “Ah. A general manager. It’s been 2 months already,”
“General manager? Who is that?”
“I don’t know. She said he works in Ah Si’s company,”
“Ah, that probably explains. Ah Si’s staff,” Xi Men mumbled, bringing the cigarette to his lips again. “That staff probably invites her,”
“But she said that guy is not as nice as she thought,”
“What else is new,” he continued to mumble.
“She said she recently met someone at a corporate dinner,”
Xi Men finds himself turning his head to look at Juliana, “Corporate dinner? Recently?”
“Yeah,” Juliana said.
Xi Men’s eyes strayed, but before he could think of any, Juliana continued.
“But I don’t know who,”
“Oh,” Xi Men replied. “Did she mention which corporate dinner is that?”
“No. I didn’t ask,” Juliana said.
“Okay,” Xi Men said. “It is alright, thank you,”
“Why do you ask about Ivy all of a sudden?”
Xi Men’s eyes strayed.
He never asked about Ivy.
He doesn’t care.
“Oh, I’ve told you, right… I was wondering why she is there at the conference,”
“Of course someone has to invite her,” Juliana smiled.
“Well, I was just wondering who would be inviting her. That is all,” he smiled back at Juliana.
“Oh, alright,” Juliana said.