There is an endless crowd in the vast airport departure hall, and broadcast updates for the passengers every few minutes. This place is like the rest of B City: prosperous, busy and surrounded by strangers.
Li Xunran lights a cigarette in the smoking room. He takes out his mobile phone.
It’s a photo of Jian Yao which he took a few days ago. She was smiling brightly in the sun. And he was standing behind her, with one hand on the railings and the other over her shoulder.
He gives a small laugh. He puts out his cigarette and stands up.
As he opens the door of the smoking room, he sees her. Jian Yao. Their eyes meet. She smiles at him, like she normally would, warm and gentle.
Li Xunran feels like someone has poked his heart with small knife as he sees the smile.
After a moment, he walks up to her. He smiles: ‘Why are you here?”
This time, Jian Yao voice has a little sadness in it: “You don’t plan to say goodbye before you leave?”
Li Xunran is quiet. Behind them, people are hurrying past to get the departure gates.
Both of them smiles at the same time. Li Xunran reaches out to pull Jian Yao into his arms. Jian Yao rests her hands on his back. He has a comfortable and broad chest, with a faint smell of sweat.
Even though Li Xunran is three years older than Jian Yao. Jian Yao has never called him “Ge”.
(NOTE from TB: just in case you are not familiar… Ge which means brother - a term the chinese uses for people in the same generation as them but older. It’s a term used amongst friends and acquaintances as well as family)
Li Xunan is Li Xunran. When she needs him, he is always there. He is always encouraging her - “You can do this. It is not that difficult.” “Yes, that’s more like it. Well done.”
Nothing more needs to be said. Her most important friend. Someone she never wants to lose.
Li Xunran cradles her in his arms. His hands feel her soft waist, her floral fragrance in his nose. He tightens his grip, then lets her go.
“How did you come into the departure lounge? It’s restricted area.” He asks.
She holds up her police identity card: “That’s quite handy. Now I know how you feel to have a pass that gives you access everywhere.”
Li Xunran laughs. He puts his hand on her shoulders: “Go. I need to board the plane.”
“Mmm…” Jian Yao laughs too. She walks with him. They are at the start of the corridor that leads to the departure gate.
“Your new boyfriend is not with you today?” He asks.
“No, he is at home.”
There are many kinds of love. Li Xunran’s love to Jian Yao is in between friends and lovers.
From young, they hang out together. As Jian Yao was growing up, a lot of boys were interested in her. They wanted to go after her, but they were blocked by Li Xunran. Others used to say to him: “Hey, you are only protecting her so that you can have her all to yourself.” He used to say to them: “That’s my sister. I am not going to let her get into a relationship in her teens. It’s too young.”
But is she only a sister to him? At least for eighteen year old Li Xunran, that’s what he thought. Then a year later, he finished his last year of secondary school. He got into the Police academy. He needed to leave town. On his last day at home, he went to her house.
At the entrance of their house, he heard Jian Xuan crying: “Sis, are you really ok with Li Xunran leaving?”
At the time, Jian Yao was fifteen. Jian Xuan was twelve. Li Xunran overhead their conversation.
“Of course not…. I will miss him so much.”Jian Yao says: “Actually, I want to go to the Police Academy too.”
Li Xunran felt like something was pricking his heart.
Jian Yao was a strong girl. He seldom saw her in tears. She must really like her ‘Xunran Ge’.
That night, Li Xunran made up his mind. He wanted to tell her that he will wait for her. He will wait for her to grow up. When she is eighteen, he will be her first boyfriend. When he steps into their house for the second time though, he overheard another conversation. This time, it’s between his mom, and her mom.
“You won’t let Jian Yao go to the police academy?” Li Xunran’s mom asked. “Actually it’s pretty safe to be policemen nowadays. Times are different.”
Jian Yao’s mom shook her head: “I don’t. And I will be frank to you. I don’t want my daughter to find a boyfriend who is a policeman either. I don’t want her to keep remembering what happened. She is still young. I don’t want her to carry the burden for the rest of her life.”
Li Xunran’s mom pads her back: “I understand. Don’t worry. Xunran is like a brother to her. Both of them are good kids. We are very lucky.”
Li Xunran had one girl friend when he was attending university. But she didn’t want to live in a small town. When Li Xunran returned to his hometown to work, they broke up.
Last winter, he met Jian Yao again. He was very happy to see her. Then Jian Yao became Bo Jinyan ’s assistant. He felt a hint of jealousy.
But he didn’t persist. He was sure he would get over it.
They were good friends. They lived in different cities. Her mom didn’t approve of a policeman boyfriend. And most importantly, she was not interested in him.
Until two months ago. He was badly injured while investigating a case. Stabbed by one of the criminal several times.
People say you see visions before you die. At the verge of death, he remembered seeing a flash of white light. Then blood speared all over a dull and confused world.
He saw his parents. He was in his police uniform. They were smiling, hugging as a family.
Then he saw a room, full of blood.
A room that is decorated in 1990s, with a twenty inch LED TV. The sofa was the old fashioned type that had springs in them. There were a few people lying on the ground. A lot of people were in the room. Many of them, crying. As he entered the room, he stepped into a pool of blood.
Then he heard someone say:
“All dead, except for two kids.”
“The younger one is carried outside. But the older one refuses to leave. She is clinging on to Lao Jian (Jian Senior).
“She saw everything.”
“Xunran? How did you get in here? Bring both of the kids out.”
Then someone put a little girl next to him. She had blood all over her.
He looked down. His little face was pale. Her eyes were wide open. She was not crying. She was not making a sound. She used her little arms to hug him. He hugged her back.
They hugged each other for the next few days. They refused to let go. They slept together at night.
That year. He was ten. She was seven.
He thought, that he only had a crush on her. That it would eventually pass. But until he reached the point where he almost died, did he realise he had given everything within him to her. His love for her flowed like a quiet stream, one that had never stopped flowing for as long as he knew her.
Jian Xuan was home. She often visited him in the hospital. One day she picked up his mobile phone: “It’s a missed call from sis. She sent you a text. Are you not going to reply to her?”
He smiled: “No, if she knows about this, she will drop everything she is doing and come back immediately. She just started her new job.”
Jian Xuan looked at him. She keeps quiet.
But Li Xunran was well aware of the real reason. He didn’t want her to see him in pain. It would be too heartbreaking for her. He is a man. A police. If he has to sacrifice his life for justice, so be it. But he did not want to see the woman he loves to shed a tear for him.
He was seven years late in his confession. When he was well, he would go and find her.
At the departure gate. Most of the travellers have boarded the plane.
Li Xunran turns to looks at Jian Yao. He didn’t say much, just ruffles her hair with a smile.
Jian Yao laughs too: “I will come back to visit you during Chinese New Year.”
Moments of quiet.
Then he calls her softly: “Jian Yao.”
“Huh…” Jian Yao answers
“Look who is here.” He points to her back.
Jian Yao thought “No way…” She turns around, but there are only faces of strangers. There is no sight of the arrogant man.
She turns back to face Li Xunran. Suddenly a shadow covers her face. The next thing she knows, his lips are pressing on hers.
His hand wraps around her waist. His tongue going straight into her mouth. She tries to move her tongue away from his, but he is determined to chase after her. His kiss is hard and deep, like he wants to swallow her mouth and tongue.
Jian Yao tries to push him away. But before long, he lets go of her. They keep a safe distance between them. His face seems to be blushing too. His lips still wet from the kiss.
Jian Yao looks at him. She doesn’t know what to say.
He laughs and touches his lip with his hand.
“Just this once.” He says slowly. “To make my trip worthwhile.”
Jian Yao feels heaviness in her heart.
He has a big smile on his face. “Ok, I am going. Remember, you said you’d visit this winter.” He turns around walks to the gate.
“Xunran!” Jian Yao shouts out.
He pauses his steps.
“Have a good trip. Send me a text when you get home.”
He doesn’t look back. He waves to her and says his farewell in a warm voice: “Goodbye, Jian Yao.”
Goodbye, the girl that I didn’t know I’ve loved for so many years.
Jian Yao drove Bo Jinyan ’s Grand Cherokee to the airport today. When she left the carpark, it’s past 8:00pm.
The corners of her eyes starts to get wet. She lets down the windows of the car. The autumn’s breeze comes through. After a while, the tears are dried off.
When she gets back into the apartment. The TV is on, but there is no one in the lounge.
She takes off her shoes to change into house slippers. A sweet buttery smell is coming from the kitchen.
She walks into the kitchen and finds Bo Jinyan with a black apron over his shirt and trousers. He is wearing a pair of mittens, standing proudly in front of the kitchen table.
A combination of cool & chic, and warmth & family. Two images that don’t usually fit together. It’s a strangely comforting sight. He takes a look at her and turns to the oven.
Jian Yao walks to him: “What are you doing?
He is wearing mittens, so he can’t hug her. He leans over to give her a peck on the lips.
“As you are out saying goodbye to your secret admirer, your boyfriend is at home making cookies for you.”
She is stunned.
After work today, she told him she is going to the airport to send Li Xunran off. Bo Jinyan just say to her: “Ok, let’s go.” Then she corrected him: “I am going, by myself.”
She thought he would be upset with her. But he simply said: “Be careful. Don’t come home too late.”
Jian Yao didn’t tell him about Li Xunran’s feelings for her. She thought Bo Jinyan don’t really care about Li Xunran.
- So he knows about it. Well, of course he would.
He is a psychologist. Just because he is slow with his own emotions doesn't mean he doesn’t have feelings. In fact, since he met Jian Yao on day one, he quite liked her. But he thought that the‘like’ feeling was similar to what he had for FZY - friendship…. until he realised how much he wanted to have her all to himself.
Once he realised it is love (between a man and a woman), he was able to see that Li Xunran had the same micro-expressions on his face as himself when he was with Jian Yao.
When he heard that Jian Yao wanted to send Li Xunran off by herself, he was not entirely happy. But he is a gentleman and he knew he had to respect Jian Yao and give her the space she needed.
So.. he baked cookies for her instead.
Because, she made a passing comment before about a particular cookie recipe that she likes very much.
Their eyes meet. His gentle gaze melts away any remaining heaviness in her heart.
She wraps her hands around his waist: “Thank you. My hardworking boyfriend.”
Since they are together, this is the first time she has initiated a hug (although it’s only been three days, Bo Jinyan feels they have been together for a long time). His lips curls into a smile: “You don’t have much strength.”
Squeeze harder, woman!
But Bo Jinyan does not like to be interrupted when he is in action. This applies to baking too. After a while, he makes Jian Yao waits for him outside.
When the cookies are ready, he tried the first one. He is happy with it.
A plate of his cookies, some red wine, and a red rose. He carries the tray into the lounge but no one is there. She is standing in the balcony. She turns around to look at him. She has light a candle and placed it on the balcony table. She looks beautiful under the candlelight.
- Oh…. she is so romantic.
Bo Jinyan puts down the biscuits and give her a kiss.
“Can we chat?” She asks
“I want to tell you about my childhood.”
The Bo Jinyan that is focusing on the kiss pauses. Then he locks his hand tightly around her waist: “A good decision.” he says to her.