Green Plum Island Ch9
The house is silent. Grandpa isn’t home, probably off to buy groceries.
I’m so hungry that my stomach hurts so I head over to the pot where Grandpa keeps the tea eggs he’s selling this afternoon and wolf down two eggs.
Afterwards, I lie sprawled on the couch, scrolling through the comments left on last night’s social media post. A lot of people have left good ideas, but who knew that in just the span of a single night, I’d be heartbroken?
Life can be so fickle.
I put the phone down and sigh heavily. Right then, a loud noise erupts outside the window, sounding like something falling over.
I leap up and rush outside, phone in hand. The pole Grandpa uses to hang salted fish has fallen over, and in the middle of the wreckage is a dainty-looking little calico, fish dangling from her mouth. She’s poised to run but with the sound of my arrival, stares up at me, our eyes meeting.
I stay still, so does she.
The cat looks hilarious, so I silently bring up my phone and snap a few photos. As I’m browsing through the pictures I’ve taken, the sound of a motorbike braking loudly outside the yard breaks the silence. A moment later, Grandpa comes in, his little “Tortoise King” by his side.
When I first arrived on the island and Grandpa said he’d be picking me up, I assumed he’d come to the pier via public transportation, but when I disembarked from the ferry, there in front of me was a gauche, hot pink motorbike.
“Get in.” Grandpa flicked his thumb back, indicating the seat behind him.
If it weren’t for the fact that he hadn’t changed much and was still the same old man who loved wearing flower print shirts and large canvas shorts, I wouldn’t even have recognised him.
The bike revved up, flying off chaotically thanks to Grandpa’s insane driving skills. I clutched tightly onto my luggage with one hand and clung onto his waist with the other. The island’s hot, afternoon ocean air whipped around my face so violently that I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
“Grandpa, why’d you buy a pink bike?” I hollered the question into his ear, gulping in a mouthful of wind as I did. Ew3oDN
“Huh? The bike? Your Granny wanted to get rid of it so I took it. It works perfectly and the colour is perfect,” Grandpa said, “except its name is weird. It’s called ‘Tortoise King’ or something.”
Grandpa often uses Tortoise King to go to the market or run errands around the island, and sometimes uses it to visit Granny. It’s a convenient way to get around, but because Grandpa is so old, I always worry when he rides off with it. I’ve told him hundreds of times to wear a helmet and drive slowly even if there’s no one around, but he never listens.
“Oh, you damn cat, stealing my fish again!” As soon as he catches sight of the cat carrying his fish in its mouth, he charges off on his pink motorbike to chase after it.
Except, the cat is much more agile with its four legs, and it leaps easily up over the flower hedge, leaving Grandpa grasping wildly at air over the bushes.
“Thief! You thief of a cat! Stealing my fish every damn day!” he hollers, hopping and lunging forward futilely.
“Never mind, Grandpa. You won’t catch it.” I pick up the bamboo pole on the ground and place it back on the racks.
He stomps his feet in frustration, then goes to grab the just purchased groceries from his bike. I help him carry some, and we head back into the house.
When I finish putting the frozen goods into the freezer and shut the fridge door, I turn just in time to catch Grandpa carrying a bowl of water outside. After he comes back in, he catches me looking at him suspiciously and avoids my stare.
“The salted fish is so salty, if it eats it all, the stupid cat is probably gonna come back and look for water. I poured it some ice cold water so it… so it causes it diarrhea!”
It’s clear you’re just saying that, I think. Softie.
I pause in my dishwashing for a second, confused, but then catch on. Nodding, I say, “Yeah, much better.”
“Don’t push yourself too hard, if you still feel sick, I’ll go tell our neighbour you need more time off.”
“Time off?” I ask, startled.
Grandpa doesn’t hear me and leans his ear over. “Huh? What was that?”
“You asked for time off for me?” I repeat, louder this time.
He hears me and nods. “Yeah, since you didn’t wake up in the morning, I was worried you were sick so I asked Ah Shan to give you the day off.”
So that means… Yan Kongshan didn’t abandon me because he was mad, it was because Grandpa asked him to give me the day off?
I’m unprepared for the happiness that suddenly shoots through my body. Overwhelming joy swirls within my ribcage, and even though my hands are covered in soap, I leap up to put my arms around Grandpa’s neck. “Thanks, Grandpa! I love you the most!” I declare loudly into his ear.
Grandpa is completely taken aback by my sudden display of extreme cheesiness, but he pats my back and laughs, saying, “I love you too, I love you too!”
All of my melancholy evaporates with the discovery that it was all a misunderstanding, flames of passion reigniting in my heart. I finish doing the dishes at lightning speed and borrow Grandpa’s bike, riding off towards Tianqi Used Books on the hot pink Tortoise King.
The afternoon sun is all torrid heat and blazing, causing everyone to seek shelter indoors. As a result, the bookstore is crowded when I get there. Wen Ying is so busy handling customers when I walk in that he doesn’t even notice me.
There’s no sign of Yan Kongshan anywhere around the store. I run over to the cash register to greet Wen Ying.
“Yu Mian, didn’t you ask for the day off? Why are you here?” he asks, startled. “Are you feeling better?”
Scratching my nose, I reply, “Yeah, it wasn’t a big deal. Just… heatstroke, probably.”
I leave him to work and go to the break room to change. I put my apron on and just when I’m about to shut the locker door, someone enters the room.
Wen Ying is currently busy outside, and there are only three people working here, so if it isn’t him, then there’s only one other possibility…
My grip tightens on the locker door. I’m at a bit of a loss, unsure what to do. Should I go out like this? And what will I say when I run into him? Greet him and pretend like nothing ever happened?
Time ticks as I stress over my options and Yan Kongshan gets closer and closer.
At the end of the row of lockers, a long shadow of a man appears on the floor; I swallow nervously, shutting the locker door slowly. The very next second, Yan Kongshan’s tall frame comes into view from around the corner.
His expression doesn’t change much at the sight of me. All he does is glance over briefly before going to open his locker.
I shoot a quick glance up at his mood index. It’s neutral, and the number is stable. At least he’s not still angry about yesterday.
I let out a breath of relief. Then suddenly, he speaks up: “I thought you weren’t coming in today.”
He’s grabbed his phone from his locker and looking down at it as he speaks.
I don’t know what to do with my hands so I stuff them into the pockets of my apron. “You said that breaks weren’t allowed,” I say, staring at the ground.
He doesn’t contribute further to the conversation, just shuts his locker and walks off. I look up instantly, confused.
What the heck? Did he leave after just saying a few sentences? Was he still mad at me then?
I assume he’s gone so I purse my lips and follow in his footsteps, but when I reach the corner, I nearly crash into him–apparently, he turned around to come back.
“Careful.” He grabs onto my shoulders to keep me from falling backwards.
The area isn’t fitted with an air-con and usually, there’s only an upright fan cooling the room down, but because cold air wafts in from the cracks of the door, it’s usually not too hot and we don’t sweat unless we’re carrying heavy boxes of things.
Yet the strange thing is, right then, my entire back is sweating even though I’m not carrying heavy books or partaking in strenuous activity. From the instant Yan Kongshan grabs onto my shoulders, all the blood in my body surges upwards towards my face and neck, hot and itchy.
“Thank you.” I lower my face, trying to gather my thoughts and lower my body temperature.
The other man draws back his arms. He doesn’t say anything more–he simply stands quietly in front of me, blocking my path, not speaking and not moving.
It’s a bit disconcerting.
I can’t resist sneaking a look up at him. He’s gazing down at me. When our eyes meet, I quickly look back down, afraid of staring at him any longer. My heart races with anxiety.
Why isn’t he speaking? Does he… does he want to fire me but is too embarrassed to say it? That can’t be possible, right? I mean we’re neighbours. Even if he doesn’t care about me, he still has to mind Grandpa.
Not to mention I didn’t even do anything…
Thoughts are still shooting through my head when a large hand comes insight with a small, round apple. The fruit is red and yellow and plump, adorably resembling a large cherry.
“Yesterday I was in a bad mood so I was a little brusque,” Yan Kongshan says at last, proving to me how off mark my thoughts have been. “Don’t take it to heart.”
I stare at the apple, then stare at him. “…This is for me?” I ask uncertainly.
Was this a gift of apology?
“Don’t you want it?” His voice is throaty, with a hint of laughter.
He moves to take the apple back, but I reach out with both hands and swipe it from him, hugging it close to my chest. I don’t even care whether he’s being serious or not. “I-I do!”
He laughs softly and places a hand on top of my head, ruffling my hair, leaving it a mess. “If you don’t feel well, then go home and rest. Don’t push yourself.”
I reach up to flatten my hair, guiltily commenting, “I’m fine, don’t worry.”
After such sincere treatment from both Grandpa and Yan Kongshan regarding my health, I feel guilty about the fact that in reality, the reason I didn’t wake up in the morning was because my alarm didn’t ring.
Apparently, Yan Kongshan finds my mussed up hair amusing because after I flatten my hair back down, he ruffles it up again. I glare at him, annoyed, only to see his mood index rise a few points suddenly, making me wonder if he’s into some weird kink.
“Can you…” stop rubbing my head?
If he keeps going like that, not only is my hair going to rise, but something else in another part of me is going to rise as well.
But I don’t finish my sentence, because Yan Kongshan’s phone starts ringing from within his apron. He takes it out, his brows immediately knitting together tensely. His mood index drops twenty points. If this were the stock market, investors would be having heart attacks. 03Mk n
Yan Kongshan picks up the phone and walks off to a corner. “Aunt…”
When he brushes past me, the fired-up voice of a woman going off on a tirade comes from the phone. Yan Kongshan’s mood index slowly starts turning red, but his voice is even when he says, “Qiuqiu doesn’t need his care, please stop telling him about us. Think of my sister, she doesn’t want anything more to do with Ding Baizhou.”
I don’t feel comfortable eavesdropping on this conversation, so I leave for the eating area and start chewing on my apple.
It’s safe to assume that this phone call is related to the sunglasses man I saw yesterday. I have a vague recollection of the man appearing in front of Yan Kongshan’s home the night before and the two men getting into an explosive argument. If I remember correctly, Yan Kongshan nearly called the cops.
No matter what, I think, going to someone’s house in the middle of the night is beyond creepy. And then it suddenly occurs to me that the first time I saw the man was right in front of Yan Wanqiu’s preschool. The guy isn’t a paedophile, is he?
The more I think about it, the more it becomes a possibility. But considering that whatever this situation is concerning Yan Wanqiu, it explains why Yan Kongshan is so vehemently against anyone gossiping around.
The phone call causes him to be tense all afternoon, his mood index value low. Even the girls who like to come into the bookstore to get a chance to talk to him back off and quietly leave at the expression on his face.
We close up shop and lock the doors when five p.m. comes around. Wen Ying takes the bus home, so he leaves us at the front of the shop to walk to the nearby bus station. Yan Kongshan and I make our way around the store to a side road where both our vehicles are parked.
“I’m off then.” I came on my own today and can’t have him drive me home, which is a pity.
“It suits you,” he replies about the bike. He stands next to his car, a hand on the door handle, smiling for the first time all afternoon.
His smile causes my heart to go haywire. My hand moves and accidentally activates the gas and I nearly rocket forward on the bike. Yan Kongshan immediately frowns and tells me to be careful.
I nod obediently. My heart still races, and I’m unsure whether it’s because of my bike scare from a moment ago or because of Yan Kongshan’s smile.
As I zip through the island’s small alleyways and intersections on the motorbike, the smell of dinner cooking in every house permeates the air. Sunlight lingers on the horizon, the wind finally rid of its heat. Everything is basked in the golden glow of sunset, making them seem like orange-flavoured sweets.
[Xiao Hua came to steal fish again today. If she keeps doing this, she’ll go bald eventually.]
Netizen A: She’s such a chonker! She must get a lot to eat, hahaha.
Netizen B: Look closely, she looks pregnant!
Netizen C: You’re right, her legs are skinny but her belly is so round. Congrats, OP. You’re gonna be a father!