“Hello, do try one! This is deep fried squid and it is TWD$120 each,” the person manning the stall said, as she saw Xi Men walking pass her stall.
With his hands folded on his chest as he walked, he also looked at the many fried humongous-size squid on a stick that are displayed on the stall; right at the same time the aunty calls out to him.
He gazes at the fried squids for a while, and slowly his steps brought to halt.
Something triggers him.
“Sure,” Xi Men said. “One please,”
Upon the order, the aunty takes a fried squid, removed the stick and then she began cutting the squid into small pieces.
Giving it a quick fry again, she then scoops them expertly and packs them into a small bag.
Xi Men dives his hand into his pants to take his wallet out, and then paid for the squid when the aunty passes the bag to him.
“Thank you,” the aunty said.
“You are welcome,” Xi Men gave a faint smile as he also looked into the bag containing the superbly delicious-looking squid pieces.
The fragrant smell really attracts him.
He smiled briefly.
It is not that he has never seen this, but…
It is because of Xiao You.
Xiao You likes to eat this whenever she saw this at the night market.
And today, he saw this here; in Danshui old street night market.
Yes, that’s what triggered him to buy this.
Holding onto the bag with its smell lingering, he continued walking.
He could feel the breeze as he walked.
This place feels quite laidback. There is a riverside and benches are placed along the riverside; providing a place for people to sit down and eat, or enjoy the view.
After seeing the benches, he eventually walked to one of them and then he sits down.
He begins scanning each and everyone that passes in front of him, and then his gaze went further to look at couples walking hand in hand, and families enjoying some precious time together.
He was part of these.
He was part of a ‘couple’.
And he had a family.
Although he still has a daughter, but…
His gaze lowered.
Putting the bag of squid down on the bench, he dives his hand into his pants and takes out the phone.
His eyes brightened up.
“Xi Men, she is okay,”
Lei rolled his eyes and then exhaled a deep breath with the phone on his ear: YES, dude. YES. She is okay. How many times do you want me to repeat that?!
Xi Men: Alright… alright… don’t mad, will ya?
Lei: I am not mad. I am frustrated that you don’t trust me!
Xi Men: I am sorry! I am just concerned…
Lei: I know you are concerned. Let me tell you, she is good. She is planning to meet up frequently with Jing, Xiao Qiao and San Chai to cope with this tough period.
Xi Men: Oh. That… that is good to hear.
Lei happened to turn around and saw Jing looking at him from the door.
Lei: Gotta go.
He hung up the call immediately.
Jing looked at him, “Why do you hung up the call like that?”
“Because…” suddenly Lei also wondered why he hung up the call. It is not like he is doing anything wrong or forbidden. He swallowed the lump in his throat, “Because I didn’t want Xiao You to know I talked to Xi Men,” he oddly found a reason to give.
“OH,” Jing said, immediately realizing she is standing in front of the door of the room which is left opened, and Xiao You could really hear it if Lei continues to talk.
“Umm, looking for me?” Lei asked.
“Nah, not really,” Jing said. “I am starving. So I planned to go and get some food,”
“Oh, okay. We can go and get some food then,” Lei smiled.
“Sure,” Jing smiled.
Xi Men looked at his smartphone that the call he was on earlier with Lei had been hung up urgently by Lei.
He wondered what makes Lei hangs up the call all of a sudden.
But anyway, he already got the information he wants.
Xiao You is okay.
That is good.
Xi Men took a deep breath, “Hope she gets better…”
And then his gaze went to the bag of chopped fried squid that he had placed next to him.
Stuffing the smartphone back into his pants, he then reached for the bag.
The lingering smell…
Smells so damn good.
He took the given thin sticks and poked into the squid, and then puts one into his mouth.
The softness and freshness of the squid can be tasted in the mouth.
The seasoning is just perfect.
And the fragrant smell…
No wonder Xiao You loves this.
“Sometimes… you are like a kid,” he murmured and at the same time smiled briefly. “You love fries and when you have this, you will be happy like a kid…”
The joy for him is to see her being happy, and then he will be happy.
He smiled, “If you are here now… you will be eating this too…” he said, as he poked for another piece and eats it.
As he munches, he lifted his head up and looked at the view.
*Flashback to 4 years ago.
Sitting on the bench, overlooking the riverside,
“How do you like it here, honey?” Xi Men asked, turned and looked at Xiao You.
“I like it,” Xiao You smiled, putting the strand of flyaway hair to the back of her ear. “Felt very relaxed,”
“That’s nice to know,” Xi Men smiled.
“Why do you bring me here?” Xiao You asked, looking at Xi Men.
“Well,” Xi Men reaches for Xiao You’s hand and he pats it. “We really need to spend some time together. Just the two of us,”
“And also, letting you get away from your daily busyness about studio and Emily,” Xi Men said. “To ease your stress,”
“Hmmm? What stress?” Xiao You asked.
“Since you gave birth to Emily, you have to manage the ballet studio and take care of Emily after work. I am sure you are tired, and maybe stressed too,”
Xiao You smiled, “I am not really stress up but I have to agree it is tiring, especially I have to wake up in the middle of the night. But I have you to help me take care of Emily at night, so it is manageable,”
Xi Men smiled. “There are times I didn’t wake up, but you need to do it every single night. You need to feed Emily, you don’t have a choice,”
“Oh, so, you know? I thought you don’t,” she smiled.
Xi Men chuckled. “Yes, I do, and actually, I feel guilty that I choose to sleep rather than helping you,”
Xiao You smiled. “It is okay,” she then leaned her head on his shoulder. “You have a tiring day at work too. You have to get businesses and projects. I am sure you have to deal with a lot of problems,”
He smiled, glad at how understanding she is. “I am sure you are tired at work too. Mentioning of that, if you actually need time to rest, you can choose not to go to work,” he said. “Or plan around your working days, maybe you can take a day off in a week to rest,”
“I love ballet. I still want to go to work. And I have classes to teach, so I MUST go to work,” she said. “And you do know there are times where I actually don’t go to work because I have no classes,”
“I know. But I wanted you to rest more. I don’t want you to tire yourself,” Xi Men said.
“I will be good. If I can’t take it, I will take a break, okay?” Xiao You asked.
“You said that,”
“Yes,” Xiao You said, looking at the riverside. “Well…”
“Hmmm?” he turned and looked at her.
She turned to look at him too, “Since you know that my hands are full now… let’s not have another baby until I can handle it. How about that?”
Xi Men looked at her, and then he chuckled, “You know that’s still doable if we just let one or two more maids to assist you,”
“Mentioning of that, I have you to assist me, right? Maybe you should spend even more time to assist me?” Xiao You asked. “When you have two babies…”
He interrupts. “Alright, let’s not have another until Emily has grown up a little bit, when she can feed herself and go to toilet on her own,”
She laughed at him – at his quick change of mind.
“Take all the rest you need, honey,” Xi Men said, patting her hand.
“Thank you, hubby. That’s so nice of you,”
“I thought you knew I have always been a nice guy,” Xi Men compliments himself.
She threw a playful smack on him, and he laughed.
She hooked her hand into his arm, and rests her head on his shoulder again.
“We could have gone somewhere further but since this is a last minute plan…” he said.
“It is okay. I appreciate it, even though it is just approximately 30 minutes away from home,”
Xi Men chuckled. “I hope this is good for you, because… to me, just as a few hours away from our usual routine, and just be with you; is good enough,”
Xiao You smiled and then she nodded. “Yes, it is, thank you for this short ‘break’,”
“I’ll plan a longer trip next time, okay?” Xi Men asked.
“I love you very much,” Xi Men smiled.
“I love you too,” Xiao You smiled.
He leaned over and kissed her forehead. “How can I ever live without you?”
She chuckled, “You know what will make me happy now?”
“Hmmm? You are not happy now?” Xi Men is slightly surprised.
“I am. I mean… will you buy me the famous ice-cream here?” she pointed to the back.
He turned his gaze to look to the ice-cream stall at the back, and then he laughed. “Alright. Anything my lovely wife wants,”
“Thank you. Chocolate flavor, please,” she smiled sweetly at him.
Xi Men inadvertently turned around and looked for the ice-cream stall that Xiao You once pointed and asked him to buy.
There are a few stalls selling ice-cream there, and since it’s been 4 years, he doesn’t remember which stall he had gone to and bought for her.
But just the thought itself brings a smile to his face.
“She’s happy even though it is just an ice-cream. She could find happiness in these little small things…” he said, slowly straightening his head, and looked straight to the riverside.
This is the view that he sees with her when they were here the last time.
Just sitting next to each other, enjoying the view and eating some night market food…
How can I ever live without you?
His own words eat him up now.
He ends up swallowing the lumps in his throat.
Thoughts keep running in his mind.
And he gets sadder.
Raymond will take her away now.
He lifted his gaze slightly at that thought.
This Raymond just popped up out of nowhere, right when he (Xi Men) had just separated from Xiao You, and now is on the track to win Xiao You’s heart.
Oh my gosh…
Xi Men took a deep breath, and then exhaled it in frustration.
He then lowered his head and saw the bag in squid in his hand.
He had temporarily forgotten about it, so he reached for another piece and then stuffs it in his mouth, savoring its taste.
Xi Men’s eyes strayed for a brief moment and then, with his left hand holding onto the bag of squid that he is currently enjoying, he dives his right hand into his pants’ pocket to take his smartphone out again.
Xi Men looked at the screen of his smartphone.
After seeing the name of the sender and then glances thru the message, he just exhaled his deep breath and then stuffs the phone back into his pocket.
“Can’t you understand what I mean with ‘don’t call me anymore’?”
“Come in…” Xi Men called out as he writes things down on a piece of paper for a project proposal he is planning to submit.
“CEO Xi Men,” Secretary Xu called after opening the door.
“Yes, Secretary Xu?” he asked, without looking at Secretary Xu.
“You have visitors…”
Xi Men lifted his head up to look at the door and his eyes widened upon noting the visitors already standing at the entrance of his room.
“Mrs. Hua Ze,” Secretary Xu called, and then turned to the back, “Mrs. Ling, Mrs. Dao Ming, you can…”
And even before Secretary Xu had finished his statement, the three ladies had marched their way in into the room.
Secretary Xu then closes the door.
“Umm… h… hi,” Xi Men said, looking at each of the three ladies.
“Don’t ‘hi’ me,” San Chai uttered as she walked to his desk.
Xi Men gazes to Jing and Xiao Qiao, where the two ladies exchanged glances as a reaction to what San Chai has uttered.
“All three of you had never come to my office like this…” Xi Men said.
“Because in the past, there is no need for us to do this,” San Chai said, sitting down on the chair in front of Xi Men’s desk.
Xi Men looked at San Chai, “Umm… okay…” he then switched his gaze to Xiao Qiao who had also sat down on the chair next to San Chai, which is right in front of his desk, while Jing settles down on the couch in his CEO room.
“Umm… anything?” Xi Men asked.
“We just went out with Xiao You,” Jing said, turning her head to look at Xi Men.
His eyes brightened up to hear they went out with Xiao You. “How is she?”
“She is good,” Xiao Qiao said.
“How is she coping?” Xi Men asked.
“Very well,” Jing said. “After going out with her for a week now, her condition is getting better. I see no signs of depression now,”
“Ah,” Xi Men felt relieved. “That is good…”
“She agrees that it is not wise to stay at home and be alone. Going out with us helps,” Xiao Qiao said.
“What about her fever, flu and cough?” Xi Men asked.
“No more,” Xiao Qiao said.
“And she said she is going back to work tomorrow,” Jing adds.
“Going back to work tomorrow? So soon? Why don’t she rests some more?”
“She said she has rested enough,” Xiao Qiao said.
“Oh,” Xi Men smiled and nodded. “That is nice to hear…” he said, “So… your motive to come here is…”
Xiao Qiao raised a hand, and slowly pointed a finger to the direction of San Chai.
Xi Men looked at that hidden gesture from Xiao Qiao, and then his gaze went to Jing.
Jing lifted her head slightly, and her eyes turned to look at San Chai, whose back is facing Jing.
Xi Men knew what it means now.
All of them are here because San Chai wants to be here.
It means… just one thing.
San Chai is ready to give him an earful.
Or a kick.
He slowly turned his head to look at San Chai. “So…” he fearfully said.
“I came to see whether you can really live as though nothing had happened,” San Chai said, staring at Xi Men. “I seriously want to see with my eyes, are you really that heartless?”
Xi Men looked at San Chai, unsure what to say.
“San Chai, from the questions he had asked, you can see he isn’t as heartless as you think,” Jing said, from the couch.
Xi Men turned his head to look at Jing.
“I know,” San Chai said. “He still asks about her,”
Xi Men looked at San Chai. “I… well, even though divorced, it doesn’t mean I don’t care…”
San Chai nodded briefly. “Just in case you want to know, this meeting is so long overdue,”