“This is different!” Xi Men exclaimed as he stared at the HUGE building in front of her.
Xiao You smiled. “La Grande Arche de la Défense, located in the business district of La Defense. I love its shape; like a cube,”
“I can accept this compared to Center Pompidou!” he said.
She laughed as he couldn’t really let Center Pompidou off the lips or his mind. “I know, Xi Men,” she then pulled him and turned him around to the back. “Look far,”
“Hmmm?” Xi Men turned around and looked far as asked and his jaw dropped. “Arc de Triomphe!”
“Yes, cool, right?” she said. “It was said that this architectural centerpiece is built in a straight line linking the Louvre, Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triomphe and few more places which I am not sure,”
“Oh really? This is nice,” he said, turning his head around again and looked at the Grande Arche in front of him, and then again at the Arc De Triomphe far away.
“There is an observation deck in Grande Arche but they have permanently closed it for public because of some non-injury accident in the elevators,” she said.
“Oh,” he replied. “Oh well, it is okay. It is nice to look from this angle as well,” he smiled.
“I do agree,” she smiled. “Let’s take some pictures,”
“But… this is too close. We need to walk a bit further so that we can get the whole Grande Arche in the frame,” he said.
After hearing that, she turned and looked at the building, and realized Xi Men is right. “Oh, okay,” she said. “We’ll go over there then,” she pointed at a huge plot of flat land a bit further from the arch.
“Sure,” he holds her hand and walked.
“What are we going to eat later?” Xi Men asked.
“Umm…” she turned her head around, trying to see if there is anything to eat here.
And then she saw one.
“McDonald’s?” she asked.
“Umm… that is what I saw here,” she said. “It might take us an approximately 30 minutes to go back to Paris city to look for food… I am worried you’ll be too hungry, since we need to factor waiting time, cooking time…”
He laughed. “I am fine. If you want to eat in Paris town, I can wait. But if you want McDonald’s, it is okay with me. I have no problems,”
“In fact, there is one thing that I like about McDonald’s in different country is that their outlets in every country have one or two items in the menu that are specifically sold in that country only,”
She smiled. “Quite interesting that you knew,”
“Ah, you mean you knew too?” he asked.
“Yes, I do,” she said. “So… I assume we are going to eat McDonald’s later,”
“Okay,” he smiled.
“Wait, wait… let me see if the angle here is nice for photographs…” Xiao You stopped him from walking and she turned around.
He also turned around and looked at the Grande Arche, “We still need to go further,”
“Okay,” she said, and now, he dragged her.
After walking for another 30-40 steps, they stopped again.
Xi Men took his phone out and check if the Grande Arche will fit nicely in the frame.
“Yes, it is good here,” he said. “Let’s take photos,” he turned around again and posed with the Grande Arche at the back.
“Okay,” she smiled as she leaned to Xi Men, looked into Xi Men’s camera and smiled.
Xi Men also smiled, and he snapped the photo of both of them together with the Grande Arche at the background.
“So, what do you think about your food?” Xi Men asked.
“Delicious,” Xiao You smiled as she is holding the bacon wrap; which is the local item sold in McDonald’s.
He smiled. “That is good to know,” he said. “So, we are not going anywhere anymore after this, right?”
She shook. “No more. We’ll go back to hotel,” she said.
“Alright,” he said, taking a bite on the bacon wrap he is holding as well.
“Why, do you have any places you want to go and see at this time?” she asked.
“No, I don’t have any. I was just asking you,”
“Oh,” she smiled. “Places are all closed and the weather is chilly. It is best to stay in the suite with the heater on,”
He smiled. “Alright, whichever you prefer,”
She smiled and then takes a bite on her wrap.
Xi Men looked at her and he smiled faintly. “Xiao You, can I ask you something?”
“Sure, go ahead,” she said.
She looked at him. “Lifestyle? What lifestyle?”
“Umm… the one you sleep with random people…”
Her gaze strayed. “What do you want to know about that?” she said, looking back at her wrap.
“How long has it been?”
“Two years,” she said.
“Two years?” he asked.
“Yeah. Why? Sound too little for you?” she asked, taking a bite of her wrap.
“No, I don’t mean that,” he said.
‘But you said you ended your relationship with your boyfriend 2 years ago!’ he thought to himself.
“How many guys have you slept with?” Xi Men asked curiously.
“Like I have told you, I didn’t count. But I know it is not more than what my fingers on my hand can count,” she said. “So my record is definitely not as high as yours,”
It is not like he is comparing, and he didn’t want to do that. It is not a good comparison after all.
“So you don’t have to feel intimidated that your record will be challenged,” she said.
He smirked, “Intimidated? I don’t care about that,”
She smiled briefly, and then the smile goes away.
“Xiao You… can I advice you something?”
He swallowed the lump in his throat. “Xiao You, it is not a healthy lifestyle,”
“This is like… ‘the pot calling the kettle black’,” she said. (*because Xi Men is also leading the same lifestyle)
He smirked. “I know. But I am a guy,”
“So, does that make you different just because you are a guy?” she asked, looking at him.
He smirked. “Xiao You… you know me more than 10 years ago. You already know I am that kind of person since day 1. You know I am a playboy. You know I sleep with different women every week,” he said. “10 years on, I still sleep with different women, but the difference right now is that there is no weekly policy anymore; no relationships involved. No dates. And it happened randomly when I feel like it,” he said, and then he swallowed the lump in his throat. “But my point is… I am already someone like that long, long time ago,”
“Xiao You,” Xi Men said, looking at her, “You are not someone like that,”
She just smiled briefly and then returned her gaze to her bacon wrap.
“You were the one that tried to change me back then. You were the one that hoped I will let this kind of lifestyle go…” he said.
“That was 10 years ago, Xi Men,” she said, lifting her head up to look at him. “I am not going to do that anymore,”
He looked at her, slightly disappointed with what she said. “But I am going to do that to you. I want you to stop that kind of lifestyle,”
“Just like you, Xi Men. You have needs. So do I,”
“Xiao You, love yourself more, will you?”
“I love myself, very much in fact. That is why I go out and solve my needs,”
“By sharing yourself with so many guys?”
Instead of feeling offended, she replied, “Including you,” she looked at him.
He is taken aback with her respond.
He didn’t know what to say now.
It is true that he had taken her. He had a piece of her. But it wasn’t with intention…
Or rather he lost himself…
He then lowered his head, swallowed a lump in his throat.
She then smirked. “I won’t be in the field if I cannot afford it, so, don’t you worry,”
“Xiao You, you are a nice girl… I didn’t want to see you getting involved in a dangerous field…”
“You are also a part of it. Why not you convince yourself not to be involved first?” she asked.
He lifted his head up and looked at her.
She pressed her lips together as she looked at him.
He then swallowed the lump in his throat. “I can’t convince you more about letting that lifestyle go. It is your life after all…”
She takes a bite of her bacon wrap.
“You are stronger, prettier and more confident today compare to what I know about you 10 years ago. You have the perfect package of what a guy wants,”
She stopped munching, and then she looked at him.
“I hate to admit this but you’ve became very attractive right now,” Xi Men said. “So… don’t let that lifestyle ruin you and take away your best traits to find your right suitor,”
With a small smile on her face, she took a deep breath.
“Most guys can accept if their significant other is not a virgin, but not all guys can accept a woman who sleeps with random people. So… please don’t ruin your life like that,”
“I have given up in looking for a suitor, Xi Men. Every man I met and be with couldn’t gave me what I am looking for and the guy that could give me what I want does not deserve me,”
He immediately frowned. “Does not deserve you? What is that supposed to mean?”
Crap. Talk too fast.
“It is my private life. I refuse to divulge,” she said, taking another bite of her wrap.
ALMOST THERE! ARGH!
He took a deep breath. “Since you said you gave up looking for a significant other, so is that why you took up this lifestyle?”
Swallowing a lump in her throat, “It just happened,” she said.
“Two years are not a short period, but the number of men you’ve slept with is still considerably low… so it is best to withdraw from the lifestyle as soon as possible,”
“Xi Men, don’t talk about that anymore,”
“Guys will prefer girls who know how to take care, protect and appreciate themselves…”
“I know! I don’t need you to remind me of that!” she suddenly raised her voice.
Everyone in the fast food outlet looked at her.
Xiao You looked around and felt embarrassed, “Je suis désolé…” she immediately said. (*I am sorry)
She then returned her gaze to Xi Men who is also looking at her.
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore, alright?” she said. “Like you have said, this is my life. I am choosing what I want to do with my life. I am happy with what I am, is that fine with you?”
He looked at her, and then he shook. “No, I am not fine with that,”
“Then it is your problem,”
“I am deeply saddened with your pick of choice in your life,” he said.
“Your sadness is still not my problem,”
“It is 10 years and I know you will change. I can expect a dramatic change on you but not this; not to hear you change to become like me,” he said.
She stared at Xi Men.
“I am a rotten man, Xiao You. I can’t even trust myself. So why am I supposed to let you, and see you follow my path and damage yourself like that?” he asked.
Her gaze did not budge.
“I am a guy. So I am up for such game. I won’t lose much. But not for you. Your body is too precious to be shared by other men who would forget about you the next morning,” Xi Men said.
She lowered her gaze down.
“I know I am nobody to you. I know you don’t treat me as your friend. I know you won’t listen to me and you won’t give a damn about what and how I care about you. But I know what kind of game I have been playing for years so I am advising you to leave the field before it is too late,” he said.
She swallowed the lump in her throat.
“The choice is definitely up to you since it is your life, but the people that care about you would hate to see you chose this path,” he said.
She took a deep breath and takes a bite of the wrap.
Xi Men also took a deep breath, and then he lowered his head and took a bite of the wrap.
The entire dinner is spent in silence.
Xi Men sat on the couch in the living room of the suite spreading his toes and moves them to relieve from the tiredness he has been having since day 2.
Xiao You enters the living room from the bedroom, gripping onto her smartphone and she looked at Xi Men.
Xi Men exchanged glances with her.
They haven’t said anything to each other since the conversation at McDonald’s.
Xiao You then casually walked over to Xi Men, sitting down next to him, on his right.
“Painful toes?” Xiao You asked.
“Not really, more to being tired,” he replied. , looking at his toes
“Does the toe-socks help?”
“Yes, they do. The socks had greatly reduced the pain,” Xi Men said. “Thanks,”
“How are the blisters?” she asked.
“I still have them. It will be there for a while. I’ll probably start healing after I’ve gone back to Taipei because I wouldn’t be walking around to see things like I am in Paris,” he said, tilting his head to look at his moving toes.
“I see,” she said, and then she lowered her head.
Xi Men didn’t look at her as he replied to all her questions.
“Umm…” she unlocked her phone.
Xi Men turned his head slightly to her direction.
“The file sharing application…” she slowly extends her phone to him.
“Oh,” he immediately remembered and he took her phone. “Where is the icon for the store…”
“It is here,” she swiped the screen to a page and then she clicked on the icon.
Xi Men then typed the name of the application into the search bar.
“I’ll download the app, alright?” he asked, finally looking at her.
“Yeah, sure,” she said, biting her lower lip after that.
He returned his gaze to the phone, click to download the app and waits for the download to complete.
She looked at Xi Men from his side profile.
He still looked the same 10 years on.
Mesmerizing eyes, pointy nose, strong jaw.
Xi Men lifted his head slightly and grabbed his phone from the coffee table, which was when it has interrupted Xiao You’s fixed gaze.
“I will set up a folder now, and I will extend the share to you, and it means you can contribute files to the folder. But you will need to set up an account first before I can send the invitation,” he said.
“Okay,” she replied.
She looked at him opening the application in his phone, and then creates a folder.
Folder name: Paris Photos.
“So… I will start uploading the photos to the folder now. This is how you do it,” he said, leaning to the right to show her the screen.
Xiao You also leaned closer to him to watch how he does it.
“Okay… so, here’s how…” he said as he teaches her how to select the photos and share them on the folder of the application.
She listened attentively as he explained the steps.
He then raised her phone up and upon seeing the download has completed and the application installed, he passes the phone to her and guides her on setting up an account.
He also explained to her about the application and how to use it in general.
After she has successfully sets up an account, he then sends her the invitation and explained to her again like an expert.
After following all the steps that he taught, she is finally uploading the photos to their shared folder.
“So, right now, you will use this folder to transfer the photos to me, and I will do the same with my photos. Don’t worry, I won’t be deleting this folder until you have all the photos with you. You can download them when you get back to Toronto after the trip ends, so there is no rush to get them right now,”
“Okay,” Xiao You said, looking at the smartphone in her hand. “Thank you,”
“You are welcome,” he smiled. “Any parts of it that you don’t understand or want me to repeat?”
She shook. “No, you did a very good job in explaining it. Very detailed,”
“Because I was afraid you’ll lost somewhere,” he said. “So, the more detailed, the better,”
She smiled. “Thanks a lot,”
Both of them looked at each other, exchanging glances again.
Xiao You, with a faint smile on her face, lowered her head down.
Xi Men turned his head away as well. “No problem,” he replied.
Xiao You then looked at the phone in her hand as she looked at the photos are now uploading into their shared folder.
“Xiao You…” he slowly clasped his hands.
Xiao You lifted her head up and looked at Xi Men since he called for her, but he remained looking at his clasped hands.
“If I have been harsh to you just now during our conversation… I am sorry,” he said.
She lowered her head again with a small smile on her face.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. It is your life after all. It is your decision with what you want to do with your life,”
She just smiled. “I understand. You cared, or else you won’t said that to me,”
He just smirked. “Because you are my friend. I wish to see you having a nice… and good life,” he said. “But we may have a different interpretation about what a good life is. I guess, to you… this is probably the ‘good life’,”
“So, do you consider your current lifestyle as a ‘good life’ to you?” she asked.
He just straightened his head. “I wish for better,”
“If you wished for better, as long as you make the right move, you will get it,” Xiao You said.
He just smiled. “Probably,”
“So… have you ever contemplated leaving the field?” Xiao You asked.
He smirked, and then took a deep breath. “I have never given it a thought,” Xi Men said. “I have gotten used to such life,”
She took a deep breath.
“But I have wondered… what if I had never been involved in this field in the first place,” he said.
“You mean, not becoming a playboy?”