Xi Men sits at the square table alone; with his upper body turned slightly to the right while boringly taking sip after sip from the glass of water in his hand.
‘Am I ready?’
‘I am not ready,’
‘But I need to do this, right?’
‘Yes, I need to do this. Regardless if I am ready or not,’
‘I will never be ready…’
SCREECH… (chair pulled)
Xi Men immediately turned his head at the speed of lightning to look to the seat on his left due to the horror of the sound, and apparently, it is Mei Zhuo’s fault.
Mei Zhuo had pulled the chair out from underneath the table without lifting it up, thus he dragged the legs of the chair on the floor and generates the chilling screech.
And both Lei and Ah Si reached the table at the same time, probably just two steps slower than Mei Zhuo.
“Could you say something to announce you are here instead of scaring me with that screech?” Xi Men asked in annoyance as he puts down the glass of water on the table and he straightened his position now.
“I didn’t want to get you out of your reverie,” Mei Zhuo said, sitting down now.
“And you planned to get him out of his dream with a screech instead?” Ah Si asked Mei Zhuo, causing the latter to roll his eyes and Lei chuckled.
“I wasn’t dreaming,” Xi Men said. “I am bored,”
“Bored? Of?” Lei asked, as it is his turn to sit down, on Xi Men’s right.
“Bored of waiting,” Xi Men said. “I ask you guys out for lunch and you are all LATE! Why wouldn’t I be bored?!”
“Late?” Ah Si asked, lifting his hand up to look at the wristwatch. “You are the one that’s early,” he sits down too.
“I said 12pm,” Xi Men said.
“It is 12pm now,” Mei Zhuo said, flashing his wristwatch to Xi Men.
Xi Men frowned. “Now? It is 12pm now?” he extends his hand and grabbed Mei Zhuo’s wrist to look at his wristwatch. “It means I have just waited for you guys for 5 minutes?”
“5 minutes and already making a big hoo-hah,” Mei Zhuo said. “So not you,”
Xi Men glared at Mei Zhuo.
“Lost track of time?” Ah Si asked.
“Not that I know of,” Xi Men replied.
“You have urgent things to do so you felt you are running out of time?” Mei Zhuo asked.
“Not for today,” Xi Men said.
“You look weird,” Lei said. “And you are sipping water instead of coffee…”
Xi Men looked at the glass of water in front of him, and just right on time, the waiter puts down Xi Men’s black coffee in front of him, and three glasses of water for Mei Zhuo, Ah Si and Lei (since they have just arrived).
“Should we order food first since the waiter is here?” Ah Si asked Mei Zhuo and Lei.
“Yeah, we should,” Mei Zhuo and Lei said simultaneously.
“Have you ordered food?” Ah Si asked Xi Men.
“Yes I have,” Xi Men said.
“Okay, then we’ll order ours,” Mei Zhuo said, looking at the menu.
The waiter stood there waiting to take down their orders.
Xi Men took up the cup of coffee for a sip, only to have his lips being burnt by the hot coffee. “OUCHHHHHHH!!!”
The ‘ouch’ that Xi Men had uttered gained Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si’s attention.
Three of them looked at Xi Men putting the cup of coffee down onto the saucer and grabbed the serviette on the table and pressed on his lips.
“Are you alright?” Ah Si asked.
Xi Men nodded although it is obvious that he is still feeling shocked and the burnt on his lips still lingers.
Lei stared at Xi Men for a bit more, before he returned his sight to the menu and ordered his food.
After the waiter had collected all the menus and left,
“Burnt your lips?” Mei Zhuo asked.
“Yeah. Mild one,” Xi Men said, putting down the serviette on the table, after the scalded feeling on his lips subsides.
“That is so weird. You knew it is a hot one but yet you just take it up and sip it like it’s an ice cold drink,” Ah Si teased.
Xi Men rolled his eyes.
“Are you seriously alright?” Lei asked, looking at Xi Men.
“As in, seriously?” Lei repeated.
“My lips are good,” Xi Men said.
“I mean, seriously? Seeeeee-riously?” Lei asked again.
Xi Men looked at Lei, immediately understood it is a different kind of question Lei is asking. “What do you mean?”
“You are different today,” Lei said. “I think for 33 years that we’ve know each other, this is the first time you actually sip HOT coffee like that and gets your mouth burned. You are not the careless type,”
“Hmm… makes sense,” Mei Zhuo said, snapping his fingers at Lei.
“Or rather, you won’t be careless for no apparent reason,” Lei said.
“I do agree that you are a bit different today,” Ah Si said, frowning at Xi Men. “You seem to lost track of time and thought you’ve waited for a long time when it’s just 5 minutes,”
“And then complains,” Mei Zhuo adds. “Not to mention you sips water instead of coffee,”
Xi Men wordlessly just looked at Lei, Ah Si and then Mei Zhuo.
“It seems that something is bothering you,” Lei said, tilting his head.
“Since when you guys are so attentive towards these,” Xi Men said.
“I probably should say what you did are very obvious,” Lei said.
“I agree,” Ah Si said, looking at Lei.
Xi Men took a deep breath and he lowered his head down, looking at his clasped hands.
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si exchanged glances.
“I have an announcement to make,” Xi Men said, without looking at them.
“Announcement?” Mei Zhuo asked. “Like… Xiao You is pregnant with your second child?”
Xi Men shook upon hearing that. But he couldn’t help to smirk briefly upon hearing the ‘second child’ part.
“How is it possible that he will look like that if Xiao You is pregnant?” Ah Si threw the back of his hand and smacked Mei Zhuo on his arm.
“Ouch!” Mei Zhuo rubbed his arm. “Well, he could have looked like that because the pregnancy is an accident? That he didn’t want to have second kid now or anytime soon?” he said at Ah Si.
Ah Si rolled his eyes.
Lei lifted his finger up and pointed at Mei Zhuo but looked at Ah Si, “Mei Zhuo could be right about the unplanned pregnancy,” and then he turned to look at Mei Zhuo, “But Xi Men and Xiao You already have Emily now. He won’t look like this, as though burdened, if he has another kid on the way,”
Mei Zhuo and Ah Si looked at Xi Men, and Xi Men rolled his eyes as to seeing his buddies evaluating him.
“Nevermind about that. Xi Men, what is it that you want to tell us?” Mei Zhuo asked.
“Yes, Xi Men. What is it?” Lei asked.
Xi Men slowly lifted his head up and looked at his buddies one after another, starting from Lei to Ah Si and then to Mei Zhuo.
After considering the matter for two weeks, he still didn’t know how to voice out. He still didn’t know how to tell.
“Looking at his expression like this… I think it is something… terrible,” Lei happened to blurt.
Ah Si and Mei Zhuo looked at Lei, before returning their gazes at Xi Men.
“Really? Something… bad?” Mei Zhuo asked.
Ah Si tilts his head and waits for Xi Men to speak.
Xi Men swallowed the lump in his throat, and after taking a deep and long breath. “Xiao You and I are getting a divorce,”
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si gaped for a really long time after hearing what Xi Men had said.
Xi Men felt uneasy at the gapes and stares the F3 is giving him.
He keeps switching glances from Lei to Ah Si and then to Mei Zhuo.
“Guys…” Xi Men uttered the first word after the shocking announcement.
“What the f*ck is wrong with you?!” Mei Zhuo lambasted immediately after Xi Men said that.
“There is nothing wrong with me. Our relationship changed. It just happened,” Xi Men said.
“But divorce is a huge thing! Did you guys sit down and talk, and discuss… and finding ways to mend your relationship rather than divorce?” Ah Si asked.
“Divorce is a HUGE thing!” Mei Zhuo repeated.
“Did you guys happen to just decide this like… last night? This morning?” Lei asked.
“Wait, wait, wait. Too many questions. He didn’t answer a thing yet,” Mei Zhuo said.
Xi Men swallowed another lump in his throat. “It didn’t happen last night or this morning. It happened approximately 2 months ago,”
“2 months ago?!” Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si are all shocked.
“What do you mean by 2 months ago?! We saw you both just 2 weeks ago at Grand Solutions’ corporate dinner and… and you guys are still okay!” Lei said.
“We lied to you,”
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si stared at Xi Men.
“You… lied?” Ah Si asked.
Xi Men pressed his lips together.
“Seriously? 2 months?” Lei asked.
Xi Men nodded. “Approximately 7 weeks,”
“That means… you guys have already separated before my daughter’s birthday?” Mei Zhuo asked. “But you guys attended together!”
“Didn’t they fight that time at the car park?” Lei asked, looking at Mei Zhuo.
“Ah, right…” Mei Zhuo replied.
Lei and Ah Si looked at Mei Zhuo, and then at Xi Men.
Xi Men takes a deep breath upon recalling that fight.
“I hope… it wasn’t at that time…?” Mei Zhuo said, presenting his words carefully. “I mean… the fight did not get you both to…”
Xi Men shook. “No, it wasn’t at that time. It’s before that,”
Mei Zhuo exchanged gazes with Lei and Ah Si again.
After swallowing the lump in his throat, Xi Men said, “Actually, the dinner we had at the Japanese restaurant in Xinyi district is the first dinner we had together after we’ve separated,” he said. “And we just pretended we are still together in front of you and your wives,”
Inadvertently, all three of them gaped in shock to hear that.
“WHAT?” Lei asked, the first among the three to escape from shock. “You mean, you guys have split up even before that?”
Xi Men nodded. “I am sorry for keeping it from you guys,” he lowered his head. “And I told Xiao You to give me time until I am ready to tell…” he said. “And I found out… I will never be ready,” he sighed.
“You pretended both of you are still okay in front of us for 2 months? Why do you have to do that?!” Mei Zhuo asked.
“Xi Men, we are your friends! Why is it so hard for you to tell us?” Ah Si asked.
“I… I just don’t know how,” Xi Men said.
“And so it is better for you to act in front of us?” Lei asked.
“I am sorry!” Xi Men said, lifting his right hand up and covered his face. “I really didn’t mean to!”
Lei took a deep breath while Ah Si tilts his head and Mei Zhuo just pressed his lips together in respond to what Xi Men has said.
“So what makes you decide to tell us now?” Lei asked.
“Xiao You had reached the breaking point two weeks ago after she attended Grand Solution’s annual dinner with me,” Xi Men said, removing his hand from covering the eyes. “She was with me the whole night… and she is feeling a lot of pressure having to pretend as my loving wife… so…”
“So because she couldn’t take it anymore, you decided to tell us?” Lei asked.
Xi Men closed his mouth, and then briefly nods.
Three of them exchanged glances.
At least, Xi Men is doing this because of Xiao You.
“Fine,” Mei Zhuo said. “I’ll accept that,”
Ah Si and Lei nodded in agreement with Mei Zhuo.
“So, you said the relationship changed. What happened?” Lei said, looking at Xi Men who is staring at the cup of black coffee in front of him.
“Did you guys fight?” Mei Zhuo asked.
Xi Men shook.
“You have a mistress?” Ah Si blurted that out.
Xi Men lifted his head and rolled his eyes. “NO,” he firmly responded.
Hearing that question from Ah Si, “You have returned to your playboy days?” Mei Zhuo asked.
Xi Men glared at Mei Zhuo. “NO, those days are over,”
“Then?” Lei asked.
Xi Men took a deep breath. “We do not have anything to talk anymore,” his finger suddenly circles the brim of the cup, as though the cup is a glass of alcohol.
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si frowned.
“Everything is very predictable. It became mundane,” Xi Men said.
“It happens. When you live with someone and shares a life together, it is definitely going to be predictable after many years down the road,” Mei Zhuo said.
Xi Men looked at Mei Zhuo. “You experienced the same thing?”
“Yes, I do,” Mei Zhuo said.
“Are you telling me that is the reason you both decided to divorce?” Lei asked.
“If that is the reason, then we are not too late to stop him, since he hasn’t sign the papers,” Ah Si extends his hand out to Lei.
“No, it is not…”
Ah Si happened to interrupt before letting Xi Men completes his statement, “I experience the same thing too,” he said. “I already had it since many years ago. Does that mean I am supposed to divorce because things are predictable now?”
“No, I said…”
“Just like Mei Zhuo said, marriage is like that. Things get predictable and it may become mundane if you do not know how to handle it. It is part of the journey. You just gotta put in more effort and do something else to boost your relationship,” Ah Si said. “That is how you are going to keep your relationship alive,”
“Awesome. That is correct,” Lei said, pointing at Ah Si.
Xi Men took a deep breath.
“Relationship is about two people. You’ll do the same damn thing every single day. And it is more fruitful and interesting even though it might be mundane because she is the person you love and…”
“I don’t love her anymore,” Xi Men interrupted Ah Si.
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si stared at Xi Men.
“That is reason why we are divorcing. Because I don’t love her anymore,” Xi Men said, looking at the dumbfounded friends in front of him.
“Oh…” Lei said.
“My…” Ah Si said.
“Gosh…” and lastly, Mei Zhuo completes it.
“I can’t bear doing the same mundane thing over and over again with someone I no longer love anymore,” Xi Men said, swallowing the lump in his throat. “We’ve just married for 7 years and I’ve already stopped loving her. How many more years do I need to put up or wait to actually split with her? And how long more do I need to put both of us into such torture knowing we are never going to be as happy as we were anymore?”
Ah Si turned to look at Lei and Mei Zhuo, whom they returned the gaze.
“Love no longer involves in this situation. Discussions are not necessary. Divorce is the only way,” Xi Men said, reaching for his glass of water for a gulp. “The only solution,”
Ah Si exhaled a deep breath. “I can’t believe you are the last one to get married… and be the first, and hopefully, the only one, getting a divorce,”
“I didn’t want to make it into the statistics,” Mei Zhuo waves his hand.
“Me too,” Lei said.
“It just happened,” Xi Men said. “I didn’t want my marriage to end in divorce. But I cannot help it that I no longer love her,”
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si looked at each other before looking at Xi Men.
“Then there is nothing else I can say,” Mei Zhuo said, taking a deep ‘giving-up’ breath. “Because it seems that you have made your decision,”
“It’s been 2 months, dude,” Ah Si glared at Mei Zhuo.
“Right. I forgot. It felt like a couple of minutes,” Mei Zhuo said.
“That’s how long we’ve found out, dude,” Lei said.
“Stop bullying me,” Mei Zhuo glared at Lei and Ah Si.
“Fine,” Ah Si and Lei said at the same time.
“If one no longer wants to put in effort, then the marriage will definitely not going to work anymore,” Mei Zhuo said, switching his glance over to Xi Men now.
Xi Men returned the gaze to Mei Zhuo. “I know,”
“I’ve moved back to the mansion,” Xi Men said. “Xiao You and Emily stayed at the penthouse,”
“I see…” Mei Zhuo said.
“So… have you…”
Xi Men, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si looked at Lei for uttering incomplete sentence.
“I mean… since both of you are splitting… I wonder if both of you discussed unofficially about who owns what or who gets what,” Lei said.
“We didn’t specifically discuss,” Xi Men said, lowering his head as he swirls his fork on his plate of spaghetti that he is struggling to finish. “I just told her what I will give her,”
“She didn’t ask for anything?” Mei Zhuo asked.
Xi Men shook. “She didn’t,” he said.
“Oh…” all three of them said.
Xi Men swallowed the lump in his throat. “I am not asking for anything back from her. I’ll continue supporting and providing for her,”
“Continue supporting and providing?” Ah Si asked.
Xi Men nodded. “I’ll still support her financially,” he said. “Everything will remain the same as it is now. I will still pay for everything,”
“Everything?” Mei Zhuo asked.
“Yes. Everything. She will still have the maids, Butler Pan, Jin… the ballet studio…” Xi Men said. “I’d probably transfer the ownership of the penthouse to her name… but that will be later… now is not the right time…”
“And Emily? What about her?” Ah Si asked.
“Joint custody. But she will stay with Xiao You. I’ll make some time to spend with Emily,” Xi Men said.
“Seriously, Xiao You didn’t ask anything from you?” Lei asked.
Xi Men shook, as he slowly turned to look at Lei.
“You have been saying you stopped loving her, but what about her? Did she stop loving you as well?” Lei asked.
Xi Men’s eyes widened by slight as he didn’t expect to get that question from Lei.
Lei caught that expression on Xi Men’s face. “Did she say she stopped loving you, Xi Men?” he asked again.
Xi Men turned away, looking straight; to the glass of water in front of him.
Biting his lips and looked straight at the glass of water, he then shook.
Ah Si and Mei Zhuo frowned at that respond for they don’t understand.
What’s with the silent respond?
Lei totally understands that respond despite Xi Men didn’t say anything.
“Is this an amicable split?” Lei asked.
“We didn’t fight,” Xi Men replied, looking at his spaghetti now.
“Are there TEARS when the decision was made?” Lei gritted his teeth as he firmly pronounced the word.
Upon hearing that, the whole scene played in Xi Men’s mind. He remembers how Xiao You reacted when he told her they are going separate ways. She cried so bad that night. He felt guilty to cause her like that.
Xi Men inadvertently takes a deep breath.
Lei immediately swallowed the lump in his throat upon seeing Xi Men’s reaction.
“Nobody is happy to divorce. It is a bitter decision for a better future,” Xi Men uttered.
Hearing what Xi Men had said, had reaffirmed what Lei thought it is. “Oh my gosh…” Lei closed his eyes and pressed his forehead.
“Why are you…” Mei Zhuo looked at Lei.
Lei lifted his head up and looked at Mei Zhuo, answering Mei Zhuo straight away, “It is NOT an agreed split between both parties! Xiao You still loves Xi Men!”
“You mean this is one sided?!” Ah Si said, and then turned his head to look at Xi Men.
“WHAT?!” Mei Zhuo turned to look at Xi Men.
Xi Men slowly lowered his head as he looked down, “I did not say she did not love me. I just said I stopped loving her,” Xi Men clarified solemnly.
“Oh my gosh…” Mei Zhuo, Ah Si and Lei sighed.
Xi Men nodded briefly. “Yes, this separation is my decision, I wanted out,”
Mei Zhuo squeezed his nasal bridge.
Ah Si sighed repeatedly.
Lei took a deep breath as he clenched his left hand into a fist tightly, only to spread his fingers about seconds later.
Things have come to this stage, and it has been 7 weeks now.
Lei firmly believes Xiao You had fought for it but failed.
If the two person in the marriage gives up on their relationship, then there is nothing he, as an outsider, could do.
Something doesn’t sound right either, causing Lei to glance at Xi Men, basically staring at Xi Men for a good minute while things run wild in Lei’s mind.
“So, what is going to happen to Xiao You after this?” Lei asked, calmer now.
“What do you mean?” Xi Men asked, looking at Lei.
“A divorce may be okay for you, and you can remarry in the future. But she is Mrs. Xi Men. She will always have that label even if she divorced you. Have you ever thought that she will never be able to find another man to spend the rest of her life with, anymore?” Lei asked.
“Why do you make it sound like a curse?” Mei Zhuo frowned at Lei.
Lei stares at Mei Zhuo. “The F4 names: Dao Ming, Xi Men, Hua Ze and Ling are huge names in Taiwan. Not something to mess with. Xiao You married Xi Men, and despite divorced, she is still once Xi Men’s wife. That label as Mrs. Xi Men will never be rubbed off from Xiao You even after she died. Hearing that name itself will prompt the guys to stay miles away. Nobody will dare to come close and woo a former Mrs. Xi Men to be his partner,” Lei said, and then switches his glance to Xi Men, “Unless that man didn’t know F4,”
“Who wouldn’t know F4?” Ah Si frowned. “Everyone in Taiwan knows us, and every single businessman out there knows us,”
“Just like you have said, everyone knows. The only people who doesn’t know, is perhaps someone who is not from Taiwan, and also not from the business background,” Lei said.
“Foreigners?” Mei Zhuo asked.
“Yes. And someone who will migrate Xiao You out of Taiwan,” Lei said.
“Sounds complicated,” Ah Si said.
“That will be the only way for Xiao You to find love again and remarry as well as settling down in another country, so as she and that guy will not encounter backlash here in Taiwan,” Lei said, and then switched his gaze to Xi Men. “That will be her only choice,”
“If that really happens, does that mean Xi Men has to make periodic visits to overseas just to see Emily?” Ah Si asked.
Xi Men glared at Ah Si.
“That’s possible. But it’s another issue,” Lei said. “Let’s not get that far now,”
“You’ve already reached ‘that far’,” Mei Zhuo said.
“It is just a possibility,” Lei said, he then turned to look at Xi Men. “What I am saying is… because of your status and since you are divorcing her, you’ve practically destroyed Xiao You’s life,”