Green Plum Island Ch 1

Sun Rui has come crying to me again.

Since I arrived on Green Plum Island two weeks ago, this is the third time she’s broken up with someone. It happens every five days. I don’t know whether to compliment her for her persistence in chasing after love or sigh over her insane recovery speed from heartbreak.

Not to mention, the mood index over her head always hovers around 70. Clearly, she’s never really that upset.

“He was so handsome, but as soon as he took off his pants, his manhood was as minuscule as his character…” Sun Rui grabs another tissue, wipes her nose, and continues, “I can tolerate anything, but not that!”

 

As she speaks, her mood index decreases five points and becomes 65. Its colour turns into a depressive blue. Evidently, this is a major tragedy for her.

“Alright, stop crying. It’s not as if you were so deeply in love with him. Just find someone else,” I advise her, taking a bite out of my tangerine popsicle as I flip through the manga on my knees.

An old stationary fan slowly moves its round head from side to side. It’s on the highest setting, but the wind it exhales is hot and stuffy.

 

It is hard to differentiate between seasons on Green Plum Island. In winter, the island’s temperatures remain above 15C. In summer, it can get up to 30C, but it never surpasses 35C.

Currently, it’s the beginning of July, the hottest time of year. The mornings and evenings are cool, but from noon until sunset, it’s hot—not to an unbearable extent, but still noticeably stuffy.

Especially for someone like me, used to the mild temperatures of the city. It’s difficult to pass the days without an air conditioner.

 

“Why don’t I ever come across good men?” Sun Rui had makeup on, but after all her sobbing, even her waterproof eyeliner is beginning to smudge. Her fake eyelashes are barely hanging on. With a sudden burst of emotion, she reaches up to pull them off. For whatever reason, her mood index falls by another five points.

Now, she finally looks like someone who’s “heartbroken.”

“Stupid man, to think I wasted so many fake eyelashes on him…” She balls up the tissues and eyelashes in her hands and starts sobbing again.

Sun Rui and I are childhood best friends. We met when I was eight, the first time I came to Green Plum Island with my parents to visit my grandfather and celebrate New Year’s.

She had a bowl cut back then. With her loud, boisterous personality, I had mistaken her for a “brother.” Similarly, she’d taken one look at my delicate features and calm disposition and thought I was a “sister.” It was only until she was about to swear me in as her sister before I left the island that we both realised the truth.

In the subsequent holidays over the years, I’d always hang out with her whenever I came to the island. And thus, our friendship remained solid through time.

When I was 14, my parents divorced and I went to live with my mum. Their divorce was messy and unhappy, and after my mother gained custody of me, she naturally forbade me from having anything to do with my father’s family.

It was only because of the complex paperwork involved in changing a name that she didn’t change my surname. And so, my name remains Yu Mian to this day, rather than taking on my mum’s surname Wang.

Were you supposed to use a friendship in such a way? And besides, that’s less of a boyfriend and more of a mascot you bring everywhere to show off.

“No thanks,” I retort without hesitation.

“Why?” Sun Rui asks, hurt.

I take another bite of my popsicle and deadpan, “Because my dick is small too, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.”

Sun Rui takes in my words dazedly. Then the numbers over her head begin to spiral downwards without warning.

 

“Heavens!!” She yells towards the ceiling overhead, “Why must you do this to me?!”

The open window brings in the loud resonance of the cicadas outside, their persistent calls reverberating in my eardrums and giving me a headache.

I give up on consoling Sun Rui and instead concentrate on the manga in my hands.

Suddenly, in the midst of the sounds of the undulating fan and the cicadas, there’s another sound: A car engine.

Sun Rui’s crying stops almost instantaneously. She practically flies towards the window and peers downwards.

I have a sneaking suspicion that her habit of coming to me after breaking up is not really about being heartbroken at all.

“Not that I’ve seen it before, but I’m willing to bet, that man’s little one definitely isn’t little…”

I’m not sure if I hear right, but I’m pretty sure she’s salivating. It’s like she’s a weasel that hasn’t eaten for three days and she’s seen a plump chicken.

I close my manga and join her at the window. Following her example, I stick just part of my head outside and look down.

I heard from my grandfather that three years prior, the house next door changed owners and a father moved in with his daughter. The father wasn’t yet 30, and he ran a secondhand bookshop in the village. His daughter was five and an adorable child. However, she was born handicapped—her legs don’t work well and she requires the aid of prosthetics.

There’s a black SUV parked in the neighbouring yard. A tall, broad-shouldered man wearing a white shirt and jeans comes out of the driver’s side. He walks around to the rear passenger side, opens the door, and reaches in. When he steps back out, there is a little girl in his arms, wearing a red flare dress and a butterfly headband.

The man’s sleeves are partially rolled up, revealing elegantly slender hands. The muscles on his forearms bulge from usage. He seems strong.

Thanks to Sun Rui, I find myself unconsciously gazing towards the lower half of his body.

Although his size is indiscernible,  his legs are certainly long and straight.

In another two months, I’ll be 19. There isn’t much time left for me to grow, and no matter how hard I try, I likely won’t surpass 180 cm. I really want to ask the man outside what he ate growing up, considering he looks about 190 cm tall.

“He’s so handsome,” Sun Rui murmurs, “Hotter than any of my exes.”

I turn to peer at her mood index. The number had risen to 80, and the depressive blue colour had turned into a gaudy yellow.

She is clearly ravenous for the man’s body.

“Why aren’t you going to talk to him? My grandpa says he doesn’t have a wife.” I’d finished my popsicle and now there’s only the stick left. I suck on it until I manage to get a slight sweetness from the wooden fibres.

“Because I’m self-aware. A creature of that calibre… I can tell when I’m way out of my league.” Despite those words, the yellow over Sun Rui’s head doesn’t dissipate. “I don’t have startling beauty, and I’m not particularly talented. An average specimen like me should just admire from afar.”

 

I turn around and lean my back against the window, then scoff. “I doubt he’s that good-looking…”

“Oh my gosh, he’s looking this way!” Sun Rui yelps, dropping down to the floor.

Still chewing on the stick in my mouth, I turn in the summer heat and look to see where the man is at.

It’s only a brief moment: As I look over, he is moving his eyes away, and our eyes meet for maybe just a second.

Yet in that second, my heart seems to crash into something, because it begins beating so wildly and erratically that it feels like it will jump out of my chest.

My mouth slowly slides open; the popsicle stick falls out. I am, for lack of a better word, mesmerised.

He really is that good-looking…

The man swings the car door shut and walks into his house with his daughter in his arms, seemingly unaware of Sun Rui and my snooping. Or, he did notice but takes no interest.

“He’s the dream lover of every unmarried woman on this island, you know. You have no idea how popular his bookshop is with the women here.” At some point, Sun Rui made her way back up to the window, and is peering over towards the now empty yard. “Do you see that wind chime in front of his door?”

I rub a hand over my chest to calm it. “…What about it?” I manage.

She’s right, there is a wind chime next door. Whenever the wind picks up at night, it rings ceaselessly.

Sun Rui smiles conspiratorially. “It’s a ‘signal’. I hear that when there’s a woman inside, he takes the wind chime down. It indicates that someone’s already eating the cake so no one else bothers knocking.”

I pause for a long moment and let her words sink in. “Does he have lots of women?”

I suppose it’s to be expected. A healthy man in his twenties who happens to look like a celebrity… having multiple bed partners is hardly something to blink at.

Sun Rui replies, “A few. He’s hot and talented, heck, even just for the money there’re handfuls of women who want to sleep with him. But he’s particular. No one sleeps over, no one leaves their number, and personal conversation isn’t allowed. Also, anyone who wants to see him has to wait until his daughter is asleep.”

For someone who claims she isn’t going for the guy, Sun Rui has done an impressive amount of research. She sits dreamily for a while, then turns to leave. I escort her to the front gate, just in time to see my grandfather walking his cart in.

“Grandpa, you went to sell tea eggs again?” Sun Rui greets the old man.

“Xiao Rui, you came to play with Mian Mian?” My grandfather is getting on in years and going deaf; oftentimes conversing with him is like a chicken talking to a duck, but he’s always happy to carry a conversation on his own. “I still have a few tea eggs left, here, you take them. You should eat more, you’re too skinny.”

Grandpa’s a busybody. In the mornings, he busies himself in the vegetable garden in the front yard. After lunch, he usually pushes his cart to the street corner to sell tea eggs. He doesn’t make much from it, but it keeps him happy.

“Thanks, Grandpa!” Sun Rui takes two tea eggs and sets off happily with a wave.

 

I help Grandpa push his pot-filled furnace cart into the yard and park it against the wall. Then my eyes subconsciously shift over to the neighbouring yard.

Through the low rosebush fence, I see that there is indeed a see-through, finely crafted glass wind chime hanging in front of the door of the off-white, three-story building.

A small breeze drifts by, stirring up the nearby branches. The tinkling sound of swaying glass mingles with the sweet scent of roses and comes floating towards me.

The melodious sound of the wind chime accompanies me through the night until I fall asleep. I thought it would keep me up all night, but somehow, I slip into slumber. However, my sleep is restless, and all night long, I’m plagued with a plethora of strange dreams.

I dream of the year I was ten; falling from the tree onto my head, waking up to a completely different world. A world in which I could see other people’s moods. I had gained the ability to perceive moods visually, quantitatively, and it even came colour-coded.

In the beginning, I thought I’d been blessed with a special ability and was some “chosen one.” I was raring to go serve my country or something. But after my mum took me to the doctor, the doctor ultimately came to the conclusion that really, it was just brain damage.

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