Quarrelsome But Loving Couple
Night shrouded Hai-Zhu City and the lamp lights glowed as traffic flowed and strangers trickled by Xia Lei. The city was at once familiar and alien to Xia Lei.
The cool evening breeze blew and carried Xia Lei’s depressed mood away. He wasn’t going to get angry over the matter of Ren Wen-Qiang’s ridicule and mockery, especially since he’d slapped him in the face with his unexpected knowledge of foreign languages.
Ring-ring-ring, ring-ring-ring went his mobile phone all of a sudden.
It was Jiang Ru-Yi. “You ass. Till when were you planning to hide it from me?”
Xia Lei paused and asked, confused, “Hide what from you?”
“One million! You made one million! How come I was the last to know of this?” said Jiang Ru-Yi.
“Oh, so you’re talking about that,” Xia Lei laughed, “Sorry I forgot to tell you.”
“You did it on purpose, didn’t you!” Jiang Ru-Yi spoke indignantly, “Even the female worker you’d just hired got 20,000 as a bonus but I didn’t get a cent!”
“You’re not even an employee of our Thunder Horse Workshop so what should I give you a bonus for?”
“I don’t care! I want clothes, makeup and bags! You have to buy them for me.”
Xia Lei was speechless.
“That’s a promise. I’ll be waiting for you at home.” Jiang Ru-Yi hung up without waiting for Xia Lei’s response.
Xia Lei stared at the phone in his hands, at a loss for words. He then talked to it as if it were Jiang Ru-Yi, “You! What am I to you? I have to buy you clothing because you want it? You want makeup and bags so I have to buy them for you? Really!”
Xia Lei wandered the streets and made a big round but, as though he owed Jiang Ru-Yi from his previous life, he finally stopped in a ladies’ clothing shop and spent over a thousand yuan on a dress for her.
Back in his neighbourhood, Xia Lei did not go home but went straight to Jiang Ru-Yi’s door. He reached out and knocked on her door.
There was no response from inside.
Xia Lei frowned and used more strength to knock on the door while saying, “Ru-Yi? It’s me, Xia Lei. Open up.”
Jiang Ru-Yi’s voice finally came from beyond the door, “It’s the middle of the night; who’s knocking on my door?”
“It’s me, Xia Lei,” he said.
“Xia Lei? I don’t know anyone by that name,” came Jiang Ru-Yi’s voice.
Xia Lei was speechless.
“I’ve broken all ties with you,” came her voice again.
“Well then, I’ll give the dress to Xue,” teased Xia Lei.
The flat door opened with a crash.
The instant the door opened, a Spring-like wind blew and Xia Lei was temporarily transported to a field full of flowers in bloom; he felt not himself.
Jiang Ru-Yi stood in the doorway dressed in a bathrobe. Her hair was wet and she looked like she had just finished taking a bath. It looked like she had rushed out upon hearing the knocking and had not had time to wipe herself dry. The thin, dampened bathrobe clung to her skin, and a mesmerising sight presented itself. The bathrobe had dry spots and wet spots, darker places and lighter places, some parts flat while some parts stuck out, and some places… The body of a woman in a bathrobe was like abstract poetry; every reading brought fresh novelty and mystery.
Xia Lei froze, unsure of how he should interact with her.
Jiang Ru-Yi behaved as though she was wearing a down jacket and quilted cotton pants. She bowed at the waist, as though greeting royalty and had a smile on her face, “Boss Lei, please come in. What would you like to have?”
Xia Lei’s lips were dry, “Anything. Beer, give me a can of beer.”
“What beer? You know I don’t drink beer. Will tap water be okay?” Jiang Ru-Yi’s line of sight was focused on the box in Xia Lei’s hand. She couldn’t wait to put on the dress inside.
This was Jiang Ru-Yi after all. Xia Lei grinned and his feelings settled. Wasn’t it just Jiang Ru-Yi in a damp bathrobe? He’d even seen the naked Jiang Ru-Yi! He walked past her into the flat, then sat on the sofa in the living room. He did not put the box on the table but behind himself. Jiang Ru-Yi was usually the one to tease him so he was not going to let it pass when the opportunity arose to tease her.
Jiang Ru-Yi closed the door and walked over. She seated herself opposite Xia Lei, not even getting him the tap water.
She crossed her legs, and two-thirds of her white legs were exposed to the air. Her back pressed into the sofa and her arms spread to rest on the armrests, opening up the bathrobe to reveal a patch of white softness below the collar; amazing cleavage. Her posture was quite open and she was at ease. Opposite her, however, Xia Lei appeared uneasy and didn’t know where to look.
“Where’s the dress you bought me?” Jiang Ru-Yi spoke carelessly, “Why hide it since you bought it?”
This attitude she displayed was that of a spoilt daughter of the landlord in ancient times and Xia Lei was her family’s sturdy young indentured worker.
Xia Lei smiled and said, “Call me Big Brother. I’ll give it to you if you call me Big Brother.”
“Big Brother, your a…” Jiang Ru-Yi quickly changed her words and said sweetly, “Big Brother.”
“Good girl.” Xia Lei held his chin, “Do a runway walk for Big Brother.”
Jiang Ru-Yi froze, then suddenly snatched up a pillow and rushed at Xia Lei, fierce as a tigress, “You! You think you’re a patron of a brothel?”
Xia Lei froze too. Patron? Why did she use such a word as ‘patron’?
Jiang Ru-Yi also realised her slip-up in words and her face turned pink. She hurriedly changed the topic, “Hand over the item now or don’t you think about stepping out my door tonight.”
These words were also very ambiguous and Xia Lei could not take it any longer. He threw the box he’d stashed behind himself to Jiang Ru-Yi.
Jiang Ru-Yi opened the box eagerly. Inside was a long, black dress in tasteful style and material. She loved it at first sight and a sweet smile appeared on her face.
“Try it on. It’s 1,600 yuan, you know. It’s expensive,” said Xia Lei.
Jiang Ru-Yi looked at Xia Lei shyly, “You want me to get changed here? In your dreams.”
Xia Lei frowned, “Which ear of yours heard me saying to change here? You’re so ugly I wouldn’t even look at you naked.”
Jiang Ru-Yi was not mad at all; she gave him a small laugh, “Wait here for me, Lei. I’ll change in my room, then you see if I look good.”
“Shoo, shoo.” Xia Lei urged impatiently.
Jiang Ru-Yi went happily into her bedroom and reappeared a few minutes later, all changed into the dress Xia Lei had bought for her. The black dress clung to her body and made the lines of her figure apparent, accentuating its loveliness and adding a bit of cool elegance. The dress was a perfect match for her.
“Lei, am I pretty?” Jiang Ru-Yi asked, pleased.
No one replied. The living room was empty.
Jiang Ru-Yi paused, then rushed to the balcony just in time to see Xia Lei escaping through the green railing and to the stairwell. She yelled, “Xia Lei, you bastard! You still owe me makeup and bags! Buy them for me tomorrow or I’ll kill you!”
Xia Lei did not look back; he disappeared from the stairs in the blink of an eye.
A window on the third storey opened and a middle-aged woman looked down, then muttered, “These two sweethearts… When will they get together? Always dragging it out like this. I really worry for you.”
Neither Jiang Ru-Yi nor Xia Lei heard her words.
Back home, Xia Xue had already gone to bed. Xia Lei went to his own room to read till he got tired and fell asleep.
The next morning, Xia Lei went to Thunder Horse Workshop, went on the computer in the workshop and browsed Alibaba, picking out equipment and materials to order. He’d earned one million from East Wind Heavy Industries and this money was to be used on crucial things. He’d actually wanted very much to buy a car but he decided to first upgrade his machine shop. He would be satisfied if he could buy a cheap second-hand car with any leftover money.
Zhou Xiao-Hong made Xia Lei a cup of tea and placed it on his desk. She looked over his shoulder at the monitor, “Big Brother Lei, you’re buying more equipment?”
“Yep, our business will be doing better and better. The equipment we have now will not be enough to handle that volume of work. I’m not only buying equipment but also looking to hire more people. “ He turned back to speak, “Later, Xiao-Ho…”
Xia Lei had not expected Zhou Xiao-Hong’s head to be over his shoulder and his lips hit her cheek before he could finish his sentence. His lips had landed close to the edge of her lips and had almost become a kiss.
Zhou Xiao-Hong’s apple-face turned red and she stepped backwards, flustered. That instantaneous wonderous feeling made her embarrassed but her body seemed to respond subtly. That feeling made her even more embarrassed.
Xia Lei was also very embarrassed and he quickly apologised, “I’m sorry, I, I didn’t mean to.”
Zhou Xiao-Hong was also quick to respond, “It,It’s okay.”
Xia Lei coughed dryly and changed the subject, “I was saying… Xiao-An will manage the personnel in the future and you will be in charge of accounts, collecting money and paying the workers. What do you think?”
“Me? Accounts?” Zhou Xiao-Hong shook her head so hard it looked like a rattle. “I can’t do it, Big Brother Lei. I’m just a junior-high graduate. I can’t even use computers so how am I going to do accounts? No, no, it’s not good if I do it.”
Xia Lei smiled, “You can learn if you don’t know. Besides, we’re not a large company – we’re just a machine shop. The accounts are simple. You’ll do well for sure if you learn.”
“B,But I can’t.” Zhou Xiao-Hong was still doubtful of her own capabilities.
Xia Lei stood and pulled her to the desk, then sat her on the chair while directing her, “Use the mouse and click here to open OfficeSL…”
Zhou Xiao-Hong followed Xia Lei’s instructions step by step, full of nervousness.
Ma Xiao-An walked in and saw Xia Lei teaching Zhou Xiao-Hong how to use the computer. He said laughingly, “Xiao-Hong, don’t go to Japanese AV sites. You’ll pick up bad habits.”
“What is a Japanese AV site?” Zhou Xiao-Hong asked curiously.
“Keep going. Don’t listen to his nonsense,” said Xia Lei.
“Okay,” said Zhou Xiao-Hong obediently. She then glared at Ma Xiao-An with her large, dark eyes.
Xia Lei let Zhou Xiao-Hong practice on her own and called Ma Xiao-An to one side to tell him of his plan before asking, “It’s like that. What do you think?”
“You do whatever you think best. This workshop is yours. I’ll follow you no matter what you do.”
Xia Lei smiled, “We got to know many people while working at construction sites. Contact those whom you feel are pragmatic, hardworking and have good workmanship and ask if they’d be willing to come to us to work. As for the pay, we can give them higher rates so they can think about it.”
“Sure. How many?”
Xia Lei thought for a bit, “Five, just five. We’ll look for more if we need them.”
“I’ll go make some calls now,” said Ma Xiao-An.
Xia Lei nodded, “Yep, better to call early,”
Zhou Xiao-Hong was learning to use the computer while Ma Xiao-An was on the phone calling people up. Xia Lei paced up and down, pondering the placement of the new equipment.
A car stopped on the side of the road. The door opened and Ning Jing alighted. She was wearing a white T-shirt and tight-fitting denim shorts with light-coloured high-heeled sandals. She had a youthful air about her; sexy and charming.
At the sight of her, Xia Lei thought, ‘She isn’t here to ask me to pretend to be her boyfriend again, is she?”