Green Plum Island Ch8

My relationship with Yan Kongshan doesn’t change much after I confide in him about my sexuality. He treats me the way he always does, without prejudice or an ounce of apprehension. It’s nice and makes me feel at ease.

Yan Wanqiu’s preschool is a five minutes’ drive from the bookstore, also located on Nanpu Street. Every day when the shop closes at five, Yan Kongshan drives over to pick her up. Since we’re neighbours, I carpool along with him so I don’t have to wake too early in the mornings or call taxis–Wen Ying always remarks how envious he is of my situation.

Right after five, the outside of the preschool is crowded with parents. Because the island doesn’t have any corporations or white collar skyscrapers, most people get off work around half past four in the afternoon and bike their way casually to the school to pick up their kids.

Yan Kongshan parks the car by the side of the road and waits quietly for Yan Wanqiu to come out.

 

Summery Hawaiian folk music blasts from the radio, spontaneously evoking an image in my head of island locals dancing on the sandy beaches, twirling their hands in the air. Yan Kongshan taps an index finger against the steering wheel to the beat, and next to him in the passenger seat, my body subtly rocks with the music.

The little preschoolers come out hand in hand, wearing their bright yellow hats, heading off with their parents one by one under the supervision of the teachers.

I keep my eyes on the school gate, searching for Yan Wanqiu. She often comes out slower than the other kids, likely because of her unique situation. We often have to wait for the front of the school to empty out before seeing her stride into the spotlight.

 

“Is she out yet?” Yan Kongshan asks from behind me.

“Not yet.”

Then suddenly, the atmosphere in the car shifts. It’s hard to describe, but it’s almost as if the temperature has risen and it’s gotten hotter.

 

 

I turn back around hesitantly. Yan Kongshan’s face is dark, his entire body tense. He resembles a lion whose territory has been violated, poised for attack.

We haven’t known each other for long, but this is my first time seeing his mood index so red. Following the direction of his gaze, it doesn’t take long before I notice a young man with sunglasses standing in front of the school entrance. His Western attire makes him stand out amongst the casually dressed island locals.

The man looks to be in his early thirties, is of average build, and there’s an urgency about him. Every once in a while, he glances inside the school gates, seemingly also waiting to pick up a child.

“Stay put and don’t move,” Yan Kongshan says before pushing open the car door, his eyes still fixated upon the mysterious sunglasses man in the distance. “I’ll be right back.”

He’s so angry, he’s not about to start a fight, is he?

I watch him go around the front of the car and cross the street, anxious. Throngs of people are milling around and everyone has a mood index floating over their head; since I lack the ability to filter the numbers, the scene before me is slightly chaotic. Thankfully, Yan Kongshan’s height and presently abnormal mood colour makes him stick out.

Stuck myself within the small space of the car, my nerves get the better of me and I start anxiously talking to myself, acting as if I’m live broadcasting the situation unfolding before me.

“Daddy seems mad, the redness of his mood index is off the charts. Sunglasses Man doesn’t appear to be red, but he seems despondent. Hmm? It turned blue? His mood index is so blue, bluer than a Smurf. What has Daddy said that’s made him so depressed?”

It’s hard to fill in for what’s happening just based off the two men’s mood indexes, and the more I witness, the more confused I become.

Eventually, after a long conversation, the sunglasses man walks away with his head down, the numbers over his head a depressive blue. Yan Kongshan watches him, waiting until the man is gone for sure before coming back to the car.

The door slams shut, and he offers no explanation when he settles back in his seat. It’s as if he’s enveloped in a layer of ice, chilly air emanating from his body.

Hawaiian folk music still plays from the radio, but the atmosphere is no longer jovial.

I lean back in my seat, somewhat shaken.

The man next to me stares downwards into space and doesn’t seem to hear me.

I don’t know what’s running through his mind, except whatever it is makes his mood index turn even redder, and the number keeps going down too.

“A-Are you okay?” I reach a hand out apprehensively.

My fingers inch closer and closer to his shoulder, and right when they’re about to land, Yan Kongshan grabs my wrist and stares directly at me.

I twist my hand awkwardly, the coldness in his eyes shaking me to the core.

“Don’t concern yourself with matters that aren’t your business, little man.” He lets go of my hand.

The sheer strength of him renders me white as a sheet. Faint red marks appear and then fade on my skin.

“…Okay.” I rub my wrist and twist in my seat to increase the distance between us.

It’s not as if I was trying to violate his privacy, why’d he have to be so mean?

Keep it to yourself, I think. It’s not as if I even want to know. Miffed, I stare pointedly out the window and ignore him.

As expected, Yan Wanqiu comes out behind all her schoolmates, a teacher on one side of her and a little boy on the other. The little boy is quickly picked up by his mother, and after the two kids exchange farewells, the female teacher walks with Yan Wanqiu to the car.

Yan Kongshan gets down to open the door for her. After she’s settled into the booster seat, her teacher updates him on the girl’s performance at school.

“Qiuqiu has been much more obedient lately. She sleeps properly at nap time and isn’t so picky with her food.”

“Thank you, Ms. Zhao.”

“No problem.”

With her wire-rimmed glasses, Ms. Zhao looks gentle and elegant, and her cheeks are flushed when she speaks to Yan Kongshan.

She likes him too. And when it comes to gender in this respect, she has the upper hand.

I look away and sit back, sulking even more.

After waving goodbye to Ms. Zhao, Yan Kongshan starts the car and we finally set off.

“Ah Shan, Ms. Zhao likes you.”

“Nonsense.” Yan Kongshan maneuvers the car through an intersection. He doesn’t sound surprised, but neither does he sound particularly overjoyed.

“Really? She even asked me today if you had a girlfriend.”

I can’t resist turning around to look at Yan Wanqiu, wanting to ask her how she answered, but at the same time I’m afraid Yan Kongshan will think I’m not minding my own business again so after a moment’s hesitation, I decide not to say anything.

Still, the girl seems to sense the question in my eyes. “I told her that Ah Shan is too picky and still hasn’t found someone to marry. I also told her what kind of girls he likes.”

“Yan Wanqiu.” Yan Kongshan’s voice is low, but it’s clear from his tone and the fact that he calls out her full name that he’s not happy with the fact that she’s said so much.

I glance up; his mood index is still extremely red.

Who was that man, and why did he make him so angry?

“What? It’s not like I’m wrong,” Yan Wanqiu retorts without a care in the world. Her boldness freaks me out a little. “Ah Shan likes girls that are bigger than him, and sexy, and super adult, and have long hair.”

With each description she reveals, my heart sinks a little further. By the end, I think it shatters.

Why does Yan Kongshan’s ideal type sound like the exact opposite of me?

In the depths of my heart, the little sparrow starts throwing itself around in a temper tantrum, yelling at me to not give up and to try harder. But aside from the last thing Yan Wanqiu mentioned, all the other characteristics are completely out of my realm of capabilities.

I’m wounded, my mood sinks. When Yan Kongshan parks the car in the yard, I get off without saying a word save for a quiet “goodbye” to Yan Wanqiu. I don’t look at him, heading straight for home like a ghost. doQ7La

At dinnertime, Grandpa notices that I don’t eat much and look pale, so he assumes I’ve caught a cold and lets me go off to bed without doing the dishes.

The room I sleep in used to be Dad’s. After he got married, it served as my bedroom whenever we came to visit the island as a family. Although for all intents and purposes, it’s now my permanent bedroom, I still can’t stand the heat while lying in bed here and hate it for being so far from the electric fan. Often, I have to resort to lying on a bamboo mat on the floor.

Downstairs, the TV is blasting at full volume due to Grandpa’s deafness. Even lying on the floor up in my room, I can hear the pew pew sounds of guns firing from the TV below.

He wanted me to sleep early, but how am I supposed to sleep like this?

I stare up at the ceiling for a while before flipping over to get my phone and update my status on social media.

[With this head of mine, how long will it take me to grow out my hair to shoulder length?]

Netizen A: I thought you were a boy?

Netizen B: Wow, nice looking skull you have (sorry off topic). I mean, why do you suddenly want long hair? Mian Mian, you look great with short hair. Long hair is high maintenance.

Netizen C: Depends on your natural hair growth speed, but I think half a year at least.

Half a year…

I lie back onto the mat like a zombie, completely hopeless. In two months, I’m going off to university. And once military training starts and we have to live in dorms, I don’t even know when I’ll make it back. Half a year… in that time, it’ll all be too late, won’t it?

***

In the middle of the night, the sounds of two men arguing rouses me from my dreams.

“Get out, don’t make me repeat myself.”

“You can’t take my right away–”

“You have no right!”

As I fumble my way out of the haze of sleep, the arguing continues at a lower volume, as if the men suddenly realise that disturbing the neighbours isn’t a good idea.

I pick myself up off the floor, rubbing my eyes as I head to the window to look outside.

In the neighbouring yard, the sunglasses man and Yan Kongshan are arguing viciously, one man outside the gate and the other behind it.

Without his sunglasses, it’s easy to see that the mysterious man is handsome, although he’s a bit round in the middle–probably due to years working at a sedentary desk job.

His tone is cordial towards Yan Kongshan, and he almost seems to be pleading, “I just want to see them once, just a glance…” As he speaks, his mood index turns blue again. Evidently, whoever he wants to see causes him sorrow.

Human emotions are complex and nuanced; to this day, there are times where I can’t figure out the instances where what I see doesn’t correlate with reality.

For example, Fu Wei clearly liked me, but he said he didn’t; or the man outside Yan Kongshan’s yard right now, seemingly desperate to see “them” despite the sorrow it brings him.

“No.” Yan Kongshan stands before the man like a mountain, blocking him from entering. He shoots a finger at a Benz car parked to the side. “Get out of here and don’t let me see you again, or else I’m calling the police.”

The man, clearly vexed by Yan Kongshan’s persistent rejection but not equipped to physically handle him, has no choice but to leave, albeit grudgingly.

The Benz starts up, then makes its way off into the distance. The fight is over.

I’m so tired I keep yawning, and when Yan Kongshan goes back into his house, I roll back onto my mat to go back to sleep.

When I open my eyes again, the room is lit with sunshine. Right away, it’s clear to me that it can’t be eight in the morning.

I rush over to the window. Yan Kongshan’s car isn’t in the yard.

He didn’t wait for me, or come over to call me…

Did he abandon me because he was mad at me?

“At least I provide unpaid labour, he doesn’t even want that?” I slide down the wall into a sitting position and hug my knees, annoyed. y

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