Stood and leaning against his CEO desk, Xi Men looked out of the window to the billboard on the building.
Lei looked at the dazed Xi Men as he (Xi Men) looked at the view.
Lei walked and then stood next to him, before joining him, leaning his butt against the teak table and then looked out of the plain view, which meant nothing to him; with Xi Men.
It has been silence for a really long time now.
Lei couldn’t believe what he had just seen. Especially from Xi Men.
He has never seen Xi Men cried like this, ever.
Firstly, to see a guy to cry like this, it must meant he felt utterly terrible and that he probably could no longer hold his emotions and feelings that he ends up crying.
And secondly… this is Xi Men.
Xi Men is someone who hardly shed tears.
He will hold everything in and pretend that he is okay and nothing bothers him, and at most, he will only allow himself to shed a few drop of tears but he will be quick enough to wipe them before they reached his cheeks.
That’s what happens when his parents signed the divorce papers.
And right now, to see Xi Men wept like this… he (Xi Men) probably felt devastated.
Lei lifted his eyes up to look at Xi Men, whose eyes are red as the aftermath of sobbing, looking out of the window.
“Are you alright?” Lei asked, putting his hand on Xi Men’s shoulder, gently squeezing it.
Lei finally saw Xi Men’s gaze went down.
Xi Men then turned to look at Lei, giving him a forceful smile, “Yeah, I think so,”
“It is just me. You don’t have to pretend, you know?” Lei said. “I swear to keep this just between you and me,”
Xi Men smiled and then he nodded. “Thank you,”
“That’s what buddies are for,” Lei smiled.
“Say it from the person that threatened me to reveal or he will hire a PI,”
Lei chuckled, “At least everything makes sense now,”
Xi Men could only smiled faintly, before he sniffs and then returned his gaze to the view.
“You said… this is the best week you’ve ever had,” Lei said.
Xi Men smirked as he remained looking straight. “I have had so many weeks with so many women in my life. I had never had a week like this,” he said. “This is the only week I didn’t want to end,”
“I think the week must have been amazing,” Lei said.
Xi Men smiled upon hearing it as his gaze is fixed with the billboard.
“It is the best. It is more than amazing to me,” Xi Men smiled. “This is a very special trip. I have never enjoyed Paris to this extent…”
“I am sure you know it wasn’t Paris. It is the person you have spent the time with,” Lei said.
Xi Men turned his head and looked at Lei.
Lei smiled. “Because you have been talking about her and only her, not Paris. Would you like to admit to that?”
Xi Men smiled faintly, and then he nodded. “Yeah, the person I am with,”
Lei remained smiling.
Xi Men took a really deep breath, with the smile still on his face. “I still remember the moment when I met her at the airport. She is just… beautiful. I really couldn’t recognize her if not for her to approach me,” he said, and then closing his eyes, imagining their first meeting that day. “I am delighted that I am going to spend a week with this beautiful lady next to me. She is going to be my girlfriend for a week,”
Lei smiled briefly.
“Xiao You told me she wants a hotel with a view of Eiffel Tower. Although Grand Maple could provide that, and like I have said, I didn’t want to go to that hotel, so I look for another hotel with great view. I still remember her face when she entered the suite and when I show her the awesome view. She loves the suite,” Xi Men said, opening his eyes. “We were basically struggling to communicate with each other. I mean, not because we don’t understand each other’s language, but because we have nothing to talk… nothing to share. We were quiet most of the time, and trying hard to find some topics to talk to get rid of the awkward silence between us,”
Lei looked at Xi Men smiled at the thought of his Paris trip.
“But well, things get better as time goes by, of course,” Xi Men smiled, looking at Lei. “We are getting more and more comfortable with each other. So comfortable that I have gotten used to having her around,”
“There was once she wasn’t next to me… I begin to panic… I searched around for her… but she is just nearby… and since then, if she walked away from me, I will always look around for her,” Xi Men said, recalling the incident in Saint Chapelle.
Lei looked at Xi Men.
“At first, I felt responsible for her to be there in Paris with me. I felt that I need to make sure she is safe and sound until the day she leaves back to Toronto. But soon… I didn’t want her to be away from me. I want her to be close to me,” he said.
Lei inadvertently smiled even more as he began to analyze Xi Men’s facial expression.
“When she is happy, I am happy. When she sulked, I persuaded her. When her hands are cold, I get her gloves. When it rained, I bought her an umbrella…” Xi Men smiled. “Oh, did I mention I bought her things too?”
“You do now,” Lei said.
“Oh,” Xi Men chuckled. “Yeah, I bought her things. Handbag, dress, boots…”
“We had dinner on a cruise. She had no proper attire for it, so I bought for her,” Xi Men said.
“Oh? Dinner on a cruise?” Lei asked.
“Yes. Overseeing the beautiful City of Light,” Xi Men said. “From the cruise,”
“It is. And it is a great experience too,” Xi Men smiled.
Lei smiled. “How is her life in Toronto?”
“She told me it is good,” Xi Men said.
Lei nodded. “Alright…”
“Mentioning about her life… I asked her about her past relationships… and well, she is single now, which is why she is willing to take up the week in Paris…”
Lei nodded. “Okay…”
“She was with someone for 3 years… and then she broke up with him when he proposed to her. Caught me by surprise,” Xi Men said.
“Ah? She broke up with him when he proposed to her?” Lei asked.
“Yeah,” Xi Men said.
“Did she mention why?”
“She said… she couldn’t love him as much as he loves her. She thinks it is not fair for him, thus she breaks up with him,” Xi Men said.
“She said that?” Lei asked with a frown. “It sounds… weird,”
Xi Men nodded. “I find it weird too, but that is what she told me. I think she is not comfortable sharing the details… based on her body language,”
Lei tilts his head. “Hmmm…”
Xi Men smirked.
“Xi Men, can I ask you one thing?” Lei asked.
“Can I say no?” Xi Men replied, looking at him.
Lei smirked after hearing that.
“Just ask,” Xi Men said, looking straight to the view again.
“In that one week you spent with Xiao You…” Lei said.
“Yeah?” Xi Men asked, without looking at Lei.
“Is it just a plain one week vacation, or the week based on your policy?” Lei asked.
“I think it is both,” Xi Men said, turning his head to look at Lei. “Depending on what you actually mean. That is, if you care to explain,”
Lei pressed his lips together, and then he said, “Did you… sort of… dated her in the week?”
“Did you hug her in the trip?”
“You did?” Lei’s eyes widened.
“Yes,” Xi Men replied nonchalantly.
“On the cheek?”
“And forehead. And… lips,” Xi Men said.
Lei’s eyes widened even more.
“And probably everywhere else,” Xi Men murmured.
“What did you say?” Lei looked at him.
“Do you want to ask if I slept with her too?” Xi Men asked, turning his head to look at Lei.
“Err… well… did… did you?” Lei asked.
Xi Men smirked, turning his head and looked at the view. “It is the whole package of playboy Xi Men’s policy,”
Lei is stunned. He didn’t know what to say.
Xi Men glances at Lei, and then returned his gaze to the view. “So yes, I slept with her,”
“She… she allows you?” Lei asked.
Xi Men took a deep breath as he clasped his hands together. “I think the word ‘allow’ is not suitable in the statement,”
“I just want to know if you took advantage of her. Like… without her permission or…”
“In some ways, I did,” Xi Men interrupted.
“But before you reacted, mind to hear me…” Xi Men turned his head to look at Lei and then suddenly he got interrupted by Lei’s abrupt punch.
Due to the force of the punch on Xi Men’s left cheek, Xi Men had turned his head to the right; and almost tumbled down to the floor if he had not been leaning steadily against his desk.
“XI MEN! She is a woman. SHE IS OUR FRIEND! How can you do that to her?!” Lei yelled at Xi Men and stared at Xi Men angrily.
Xi Men raised his left hand and touched his immensely painful cheek.
“Don’t you respect women?! Didn’t you say you wouldn’t do anything on a woman if she is not ready? Then why are you treating Xiao You like that?! Where is your respect to women?!” Lei asked. “Have you stopped respecting them because of your lifestyle?!” he yelled. “The Xi Men I knew is NOT like that?! What have gotten you to do that?!”
“Lei, I didn’t lose my respect towards women. I didn’t force myself on her,” Xi Men said, pressing his painful left cheek.
“What do you mean you didn’t force yourself on her?! You said you took advantage of her!”
“I said I did in some ways. I didn’t take advantage of her against her will. And I didn’t violate her in a way she cannot fight back,” Xi Men said.
“Huh?” Lei frowned and he is immediately confused.
Xi Men swallowed the lump in his throat. “It just sort of happened,” he closed his eyes. “We were talking. I was attracted. I leaned over for a kiss and that escalates quickly. The next thing I know, I have slept with her, without asking her if she wants it,”
Lei’s jaw dropped.
“Trust me,” Xi Men opened his eyes and said. “She could have stopped me anytime. But she didn’t. She let me… do it,”
Lei’s mouth remained ajar as he is in disbelief over what he heard.
“I felt like I have lost my soul in that moment because I didn’t know what I was doing, but I know I didn’t treat her disrespectfully. It’s just that I didn’t exactly get her permission for it. That is why I said… ‘in some ways’ I may have taken advantage of her, but I didn’t force myself on her,”
“That is why I said you should listen to me before boiling your blood unnecessarily…” Xi Men said, and then he massaged the cheek. “But man… I didn’t even get the chance to talk,”
“I am very sorry for the hit. I was surprised and…” Lei immediately apologized.
“It is your natural reaction. I know,” Xi Men said.
“Xi Men, I am really, really sorry…” Lei said as he looked at Xi Men rubbing his cheek.
“Nah, don’t worry about it,” Xi Men said, lowering his hand down. “I think I needed it too,”
“Ah? You mean… the punch?” Lei asked.
“I felt guilty after that,” Xi Men returned his gaze to the billboard. “I really feel like hitting myself. I am depressed and disappointed with myself. Just like what you have said, she is our friend. She is my friend. Why am I doing this to her? How can I lose focus and do that onto her?”
Lei pressed his lips together as he looked at Xi Men questioning himself.
“I didn’t want to treat her like that. But she assured me it is alright, which is why she didn’t stop me. She has no plans to stop me at all,” Xi Men said. “But that didn’t mean I am less guilty over what I’ve done. So… I think that punch you just gave me made me feel slightly better,” he turned to look at Lei.
Lei frowned. “That is just… odd,”
Xi Men smiled faintly, and then he returned his gaze to the view again.
Lei pressed his lips together.
Xi Men took a deep breath. “Xiao You had changed…”
“I know. You said it just now. She had changed for better,” Lei said.
“I mean…” Xi Men paused, “I… I don’t know what the right word for it is,”
“You mean, there is something else she had changed too?”
Xi Men smirked and nodded. “You wouldn’t believe it,”
“What is it?”
Xi Men took a deep breath. “She is now… like me,”
“Huh?” Lei frowned.
“After that unintended intercourse, she… umm… she revealed to me that she is adopting the same lifestyle that I have now,”
“Lifestyle?” Lei asked. “What lifestyle?”
“After she broke up with her boyfriend, she is now out to places… looking for guys to hook up for a night,” Xi Men asked. “For fun,”
“What?” Lei’s eyes widened in surprise. “THAT lifestyle?”
Xi Men nodded.
“Xiao You… is living that kind of lifestyle now?”
“Yeah. I was in disbelief when I heard that,” Xi Men said, and then a small laugh escaped his mouth, “I remember many years ago, I told her she is not this kind of person… she is not up for such lifestyle. So you can imagine my surprise when I heard it. That is why she didn’t stop me when I do that. That is why she is okay with it,”
Lei looked at Xi Men as Xi Men speaks.
“I don’t understand why she adopts that lifestyle. She told me she has no intention to find a man and settle down. She said she has needs, so she is doing this. I told her about appreciating herself and to stop doing this,” Xi Men said, lowering his head down. “I didn’t like what she is doing to herself. She is different. She is not meant to be in this field,”
Lei nodded really briefly
And then suddenly a small laugh escaped Xi Men’s mouth as he remembered she sat on his lap while still wearing her bathrobe. It took him by surprise, but he kinda like it; as a man of course, although, well, he didn’t respond to her at that time since he was still feeling guilty about the intercourse.
“What’s that laughter all about?” Lei asked.
“Nothing,” Xi Men smiled.
Lei looked at Xi Men who had no intention in sharing what he was laughing for.
“So… you felt guilty for the rest of the trip? And possibly until now?” Lei asked.
Xi Men looked at him, and then he lowered his eyes, “Now that you have mentioned…” his gaze returned to the view, “I realized it disappears…”
Xi Men tilted his head with a small smile on his face, “Yeah. It disappears. I remember I still have that guilty feeling the next day… but… but it is no longer there… by evening,”
“Yeah,” he straightened his head.
Lei folded his hands on his chest. “That sounds like you are not feeling terribly bad about it… or something had happened, that causes the feelings to vanish,”
“Nothing happened. We just spend time together… going places… seeing things,” Xi Men said.
Lei turned to look at Xi Men.
Xi Men took a deep breath. “The guilt is gone, but we are getting more intimate as days passed,”
“We hug even more, kiss even more…”
“And sleep together even more too?” Lei asked.
Xi Men chuckled at how Lei phrased that. “Well, we did,” he said. “This time… with permission,”
“So you are saying, she is okay with that?”
Xi Men nodded. “I guess, to her… I am just being treated as one of those random guys she picked from bars. After all… both of us are in the same field,”
“But you didn’t treat her as a player in the field,” Lei said.
Xi Men gazes at Lei. “Yeah, I can’t,” Xi Men belatedly replied.
Lei smirked. “So, how was farewell?”
He recalled the last day they were together. “Terrible,” Xi Men said, turned to look at the view again. “I felt extremely terrible. We were counting down the hours to the minutes. We spent every single minute together on that very morning, watching sunrise from the suite, just being next to each other. And I was holding her hand all the time when we were heading to the airport. I didn’t want her to leave me,” he swallowed the lump in his throat as he recalls the moment, “Our week ends at 10am on the dot. We were at the airport at that time. I looked at her walking away,” his tears slowly formed. “I can’t do anything. The week has ended. We are back to our own lives. I can’t go and hug her anymore. I can’t go and kiss her anymore. I can’t stop her from walking away because we have agreed for this. It… it felt painful. It is very… devastating,”
Lei looked at Xi Men blankly, and didn’t say a word.
Xi Men sniffs and then forcefully retained his emotions so that the tears wouldn’t fall.
“The most painful was seeing the way she treated me after that. When the clock struck 10am, she is reacting as though… the week had never happened,” Xi Men said, clenching his teeth afterwards.
“From the way you speak… you make it sound as though she is heartless…”
Xi Men shook. “I mean, the way she treated me is different compare to… just few minutes earlier,”
Lei nodded briefly. “Alright, I understand what you mean,”
“Gosh, it is still painful to me now,” Xi Men said, lifting his hands up and wiped the tears in his eyes. “I don’t understand why this time is so different. I have been with so many women before but none had made me feel like this. I have no problems letting anyone go when the week ends, but not this one. I dread for the day to come. I didn’t want it to come. I didn’t want the week to end,”
Lei looked at Xi Men, and then he (Lei) smirked.
“Is it because I have changed to be a playboy of one night stands that I no longer know how to deal with the weekly ones?” Xi Men asked.
“No. It has nothing to do with that,” Lei said.
Xi Men looked at Lei.
Lei stared at Xi Men. “Xi Men, it is because you had fallen in love. You love her. You love Xiao You,”