Looking at You
If you didn’t think too deeply about it, everything seemed normal.
But once you did, everything was not right.
During the weekend, in a small restaurant.
“What would you like to eat?” Pei Xuan flipped through the menu in his hands.
“Anything will do.” Ning Ning looked down shyly. She was like an obedient student in front of him, she had her legs put together, placing her hands on them.
Pei Xuan glanced at her with a smile, then he told the waiter beside him, “Then we will have spicy chicken cubes1, boiled fish, poached chilli and a spicy and sour vermicelli…is that enough?”
Ning Ning nodded with a smile, but her heart sank.
Yun Lin was a person who could not live without spicy food.
Ning Ning did not know this in the beginning, she only found out after she went out for a meal with a colleague. Her colleague exclaimed and asked her, “Did you have a change in taste? Are you not going to add chilli to your rice?”
She was the kind of person who even needed to add chilli oil on her rice.
…How did Pei Xuan know about this? Did he know her? Or did he investigate her beforehand?
First was the spicy chicken cubes. Ning Ning had a piece, but her eyes were locked on Pei Xuan. She discovered that he could not handle spicy food. It didn’t take long for him to be gulping down water due to the spiciness, thus she took the opportunity to ask, “Do you not like spicy food?”
“They are alright.” Pei Xuan’s mouth was slightly red, he took another swig of his glass of water.
“I, on the other hand, like spicy food quite a bit.” In actual fact, Ning Ning hated spicy food, but she added a spoonful of spicy chicken cubes along with the chilli oil onto her rice without a change in expression, as if she was the real Yun Lin. She mixed the rice and oil together, took a bite then asked as if she was joking, “This meal really suits my taste, how do you know what I like to eat?”
“Yan Qing had mentioned you to me.” Pei Xuan said with a smile, “She said that you were her best friend.”
This was a passable excuse.
But if you think more deeply on this, it would make you feel uncomfortable…
Exactly what kind of person would go after his wife’s best friend after the former had passed away?
“…Did you love Yan Qing?” Ning Ning asked suddenly.
Pe Xuan fell silent for a long time. He only smiled when all the dishes were served, the smile had a trace of sorrow and relief.
“I loved her.” He said.
“…Oh.” Ning Ning slowly lowered her head, looking a little down.
“…After all, I am but a regular man, there will be times where I get smittened by a beauty.” A wide palm slowly reached over and covered the back of Ning Ning’s hand. She looked up and saw Pei Xuan smiling at her, his smile was gentle and fragile. “But now I’ve realised, I need someone who is gentle and reliable inside rather than one who is unreliable outside… I need you.”
Pei Xuan sent Ning Ning back to the school after the meal.
“Your face is bright red.” Pei Xuan said while laughing.
Ning Ning looked down with embarrassment, she pulled her hair behind her ear to reveal her bright red cheek.
Although her face was red from eating the chilli, it suited her expression and gesture in this moment, it was enough for people to mistake her as a young girl passionately in love.
…Though from the way she was dressed, one could also say she was an auntie passionately in love.
He gave her a hug when they parted ways.
Although it was the summer vacation and there were not many students going in and out of the school—there was only a few students who were there to play basketball—but Ning Ning’s body still stiffened, she pushed him away and said in a soft voice, “Don’t do that, someone will see us.”
“A while more.” He hugged her tightly. It was as if he was absorbing the will to live from her, he only reluctantly loosened his grip after a long while. He smiled at her gently. “It’s the weekend tomorrow, I’ll come and pick you up.”
Ning Ning could not help but hug herself tightly as she watched him leave. She felt like her body was entwined by a snake, it was numb and uncomfortable.
The most difficult part of the movie titled <<Yun Lin>> was Ning Ning’s true feelings. It was the complete opposite of what she was supposed to portray.
She knew that there was something wrong with this man, but she had to act as if she was infatuated with him, she also had to act as if she was slowly getting conquered by him. Honestly, that was a really disgusting feeling, but she could not show it on her face, she could not even show it in her eyes.
She rubbed the goosebumps on her arms as she turned around and returned to the dormitory. She wished that tomorrow wouldn’t come, she wished that he would not come tomorrow.
But he still came.
He stood at the entrance of the dormitory with a bouquet of lilies in his left hand, a bag of breakfast in his right hand.
“Let’s have breakfast first.” He shook the bag of breakfast at Ning Ning.
He was very considerate. He bought two sets of breakfast—one for Ning Ning, the other for Li Ping Ping who stayed in the same dormitory—but the meal was very unpleasant for the both of them. Ning Ning did not like steamed buns with chilli fillings, Li Ping Ping stared at Ning Ning the whole time they were eating. She seemed to want to mince Ning Ning and stuff her into a steam bun then eat it.
“Will you come back today?” Li Ping Ping asked Ning Ning as she was about to leave, “You won’t come back late into the night right?”
“I won’t, I won’t.” Ning Ning thanked Li Ping Ping in her mind, she had a reason to come back today. “I will come back after dinner, don’t lock the door.”
Li Ping Ping smiled at her in a weird way then waved at her.
Pei Xuan’s car was stopped at the foot of the building, he opened the door for Ning Ning then entered by the driver’s side.
“Where are we going today?” Ning Ning asked as she put on her seatbelt.
“My house.” Pei Xuan said.
Ning Ning was stunned for a moment. She turned around and looked at him. Perhaps it was an illusion, the rear view mirror reflected the side of his face, it was cold and lustrous, like the scales of a snake.
The car started, Ning Ning blinked continuously, this was what she did when she felt nervous.
“Why…did you suddenly want to bring me to your house?” She asked.
“It’s my house now.” Pei Xuan said ambiguously as he drove, “It might be your house in the future.”
Ning Ning looked down shyly, but in her mind she thought, “Let something go wrong, let anything go wrong! The car could run out of gas, get into a traffic accident—This will not do… quickly give me a call, Principal! Tell me the school is opening early!”
Nothing went wrong. The car safely stopped in front of a beautiful small villa.
“Don’t worry.” Ning Ning thought to herself, “Li Ping Ping saw me go out, so nothing will happen to me, because she was the first implication he would run into if something happened to me.”
She felt much better after thinking that. The car door beside her was opened, Pei Xuan smiled at her. “ Come, you can alight from the car now.”
They entered the villa together. It was a typical western villa. It had a fireplace, a European sofa, French windows, but there were no oil paintings on the walls, there were photo frames hanging on them instead. Ning Ning stood in front of one of the photo frames, there was a pretty girl in the photo. She was wearing a floral dress, sporting playful little curls in her hair. One would look like a village girl if they did not have the figure or demeanour while wearing this sort of dress, but she looked like a fairy in it.
“Yan Qing put them up.” Pei Xuan said from behind her. “She had hoped that the villa was filled with her.”
It would have been better if he did not say anything, Ning Ning’s had goosebumps again as he said that.
She even felt that the woman in the photo frames was blinking at her.
“Alright, let me give you a tour of the villa.” Pei Xuan pressed down on her shoulders and shifted her to a specific direction, his laughter rang out from behind her. “If you don’t like it, I can take them down later…and change them to your photos.”
“Better not to.” Ning Ning said frantically, “I’m not as pretty as her, it wouldn’t look good if you hung my photos.”
“No.” Pei Xuan said with a smile, “Your eyes are much more beautiful than hers, I like being stared at by you.”
“You say that as if you only like my eyes.” Ning Ning turned her head and looked at him.
“No, I like everything about you.” He smiled, but did he really mean what he said?
Ning Ning quickly toured the entire villa under his guidance. Be it upstairs or downstairs, the entire villa gave her a suspiciously familiar feeling. But where did this feeling come from? Ning Ning got her answer when he opened the door to a room.
It was a bridal chamber.
The word happiness was put up on the wall, it was also on the pillow.
The bed was bare, there were no groom or bride.
It was what was on the poster of <<The Person by the Pillow>>!
“Yan Qing picked this villa. I specially had someone renovate it the way she liked after buying it…Ah, apologies.” Pei Xuan turned around and smiled apologetically, “I should not have mentioned her, did I dampen your spirit?”
Mentioning another woman’s name in front of a woman, naturally Ning Ning expressed a little jealousy. She then very quickly pretended to be magnanimous. “It’s fine, I also want to hear about what happened to Yan Qing from you. To be honest, what happened to her was too sudden, I completely did not expect…”
Ning Ning lowered her head and covered her mouth, sighing heavily.
“That’s right.” Pei Xuan let out a sigh as well, he looked at the bridal chamber and said, “I also completely did not expect that she would die so suddenly.”
Ning Ning closed her eyes and thought: How could she be dead.
Yan Qing was the main character for <<Person by the Pillow>>. The movie would have ended if she was dead.
Since the movie had not ended, since Ning Ning was still able to stand here, it meant that Yan Qing was, in fact, still alive. She might be somewhere in the villa watching them right now.
Ning Ning opened her eyes and looked at the white wedding bed.
She might be hiding there, waiting for someone to turn off the lights and lie on the bed, so she could sing quietly to the person in the black of the night.
“Looking at you, person by the pillow.”
No matter what Pei Xuan said in his attempt to persuade Ning Ning to stay for dinner was rejected by her—as the villa gave her quite a bad feeling. She also thought of a reason beforehand, “If I don’t go back soon, it will reflect poorly on me if people were to gossip.”
Pei Xuan could only send her back to the school as he could not convince her to stay.
Ning Ning opened the door to her dormitory room only to find that it was pitch black on the inside. Ning Ning switched on the lights to find out that Li Ping Ping was not in the dormitory. She looked at the clock on the wall only to be aware that it was only eight plus in the night. She went over her teaching materials for a while, but maybe she was too tense previously, she was yawning repeatedly now that she had the chance to relax.
“Forget it, let’s wash up and sleep.” She told herself, “I will go over this tomorrow morning.”
She switched off the lights after washing and rinsing, lay on the bed and fell asleep in no time.
The clock on the wall slowly ticked until it was twelve. The door to her room slowly opened, a figure silently entered.
At first Ning Ning thought she was hallucinating until she heard someone else breathing very close to her, so close…as if it was by her pillow.
Ning Ning could not help but open her eyes and stared at the wall in front of her.
She was sleeping on her side, the breathing was now behind her and on her neck.
Should she turn back?
Ning Ning struggled in her mind for a very long time before turning around.
She saw someone else lying on her pillow, a person sporting playful little curls in her hair who was wearing a floral dress was looking back at her.
1This is actually a specific Chinese dish named Laziji. Laziji is a dish of Sichuan cuisine. It is a stir-fried dish, which consists of marinated then deep-fried pieces of chicken, dried Sichuan chilli peppers, spicy bean paste, Sichuan peppers, garlic, and ginger