“Who was that?”
“A friend asking if I’d like to apply to be an extra actor at the broadcasting company, together with her,” answered An Xiaoning.
“You wouldn’t go, without a doubt,” sneered Jin Qingyan.
“How are you so certain about that? Because I’m your wife? Or do I look like I love living in luxury?”
“It’s tough being an extra on a film set. You’re not going to be able to take all the injustice and unfair treatment. Besides, you don’t have to put yourself through that kind of hardship just for a bit of money,” answered Jin Qingyan.
Feeling that he was obviously belittling her, An Xiaoning could not take it lying down. “Wanna bet?” she taunted.
“Sure, why not?”
“If I win the bet and become an extra, what are you going to do as a forfeit?”
Jin Qingyan sat up straight, and looked into her eyes, “If I lose the bet, I’ll reward you with a hundred kisses.”
“Save it,” she cursed with a grunt. “If you lose, you are to grant me any one wish I’d like, under the condition that it’s perfectly legal and that it does not involve monetary assets and property or personal attacks. How does that sound?”
“An extra for a drama-series-production unit is far different from those temporary ones for action films.”
“Of course,” said An Xiaoning as she looked down.
“Deal. But, under what identity are you going to apply to be an extra? If you use your real name and identity, they’re going to be treating you differently, and there’ll no longer be a point in our bet.”
“Then, what do you suggest I do?”
“I suggest that you not apply to be an extra and just work behind the scenes with the rest of the production unit. You won’t have to appear on-screen then. Use a different name and try to disguise yourself with some makeup. I’m sure no one will be able to recognize you that way,” said Jin Qingyan. He was eager to see how well she could deal with hardship.
“For how long do I have to keep the job?”
“One month. Are you game enough?” asked Jin Qingyan as he inched closer towards her, such that they could feel each other’s breath.
“You’re spiting me. There’s nothing I, An Xiaoning, am afraid of doing. It’s just a matter of whether I’d like to or not,” replied An Xiaoning.
“Alright. Very gutsy and confident of you. You deserve to be my wife. I’m really curious to see how long you can last. I heard it’s tough to work behind the scenes. Not only are the hours long, you also have to bear with the scoldings.”
“Don’t belittle me, I’ll show you what I’m made of, you’re going to be surprised. Remember not to go back on your word when the time comes,” said An Xiaoning. She put on her clothes as she spoke and got off the bed.
“Why don’t we put it on paper? If you can last a month, I’ll agree to any request of yours, with no time limit. If you can’t…” suggested Jin Qingyan, who was particularly invested in their bet.
“Then you shall be my slave for a day. During then, you are to be at my beck and call at all times and follow every instruction I give. You’re not to go West if I tell you to go East, or use a washing machine if I tell you to wash the clothes.”
“Am I supposed to eat some feces even if you tell me to?” said An Xiaoning, though she could not help but laugh.
With a nod, he said, “Of course.”
“Are you afraid now?”
“Whoever’s afraid is a dog. It’s merely for a month. I will persevere, no matter how hard it gets. You shall see for yourself, how highly resistant I am to stress!” boasted An Xiaoning confidently.
“Mhmm, I shall wait and see. How about our honeymoon plans, though?” he asked.
“We’re not going anymore. You can transfer the money to be used for the honeymoon trip directly to my bank account,” said An Xiaoning, who was not in the mood for a honeymoon trip. Thus, she thought it would be wiser to exchange the trip for money.
“…” He asked, “You really have to be so money-minded, don’t you?”
“I’m just planning ahead for when you abandon me in the future. I’ll text you my bank account number later, you can transfer the money to it. Your wife is leaving for the production team interview after she’s done with her meal,” she retorted.
Watching the rear view of an An Xiaoning who’s full of gusto and confidence, Jin Qingyan broke into a smile. What a silly girl , he thought.
After breakfast, the newlyweds actually proceeded to draft an agreement for the bet, making two copies so they could keep one each.
Just like he had suggested, An Xiaoning disguised herself with some makeup. She concealed her fair and radiant skin under a layer of dull foundation makeup, and followed it with eye makeup that made her previously alluring eyes look unappealing and lifeless. These were coupled with a boring outfit composed of thick, shapeless athletic wear. Even Jin Qingyan found it hard to recognize her under that disguise.
She gave Mei Yangyang a call and they agreed to meet. “Sister, you’re really pretty, it’s just your skin that looks a little dull. But that doesn’t make you any less beautiful,” praised Mei Yangyang the moment she saw her.
“You’re the only one who would say that. I’ve never been to Yingshi Jidi[“Yingshi Jidi” translates to TV Land] or any other broadcasting company. Have you?”
“Neither have I. But there’s a first to everything. Let’s go have a look, Sister. What type of job are you looking for?”
“I want to work behind the scenes,” answered An Xiaoning as they boarded the public bus.
“Working behind the scenes is much more tiring than being an extra. I want to be an extra, but I want to stick with you and do the same things as you. At least we’ll have each other.”
“Sure, we’ll have a look when we get there,” said An Xiaoning, looking at the frank and outspoken Mei Yangyang who was beaming with happiness.
The two chatted merrily along the way, and before they knew it, they had arrived at the TV broadcasting company.
What made Mei Yangyang happier was that it was rather smooth and easy for an adult like An Xiaoning to land themselves a behind-the-scenes job. It was a production unit for a period drama series that they would be working with, with An Xiaoning working as the assistant of the makeup artist and Mei Yangyang as that of the clothing coordinator. Since they were still considered to be working together, they were rather pleased with the outcome.
“Sister, we will be paid 2500 yuan a month. That’s quite a lot.”
“It’s okay,” said An Xiaoning. She was not concerned about the paycheck at all. If she had not agreed to a bet with her husband, she would never have wanted to experience life working behind the scenes.
Possessing a considerable set of makeup skills, An Xiaoning found the task of putting on makeup for the actors to be a simple one. The makeup artist was rather relieved to see that there was no need to teach An Xiaoning the basics since she was already extremely familiar with makeup.
After an entire morning of work, An Xiaoning and Mei Yangyang squatted on the floor to have their lunch. Noticing how happy and unexhausted Mei Yangyang was, An Xiaoning asked, “What work have you done in the past?”
“I’ve done almost everything you can think of. I may be young, but I’ve worked all sorts of jobs before. Among others, I’ve been a sales assistant for a clothing store, a supermarket promoter, an operator of the assembly line at an electronics factory,” said Mei Yangyang while shoving a spoonful of rice into her mouth.
“You seem to be really young.”
“I’m already 20. I’m not very cultured nor highly educated, and I joined the workforce long ago. My family is not affluent, and I have a younger sister who’s still in school. Some time ago, my mother got knocked down by a car while riding on a motorbike to work, and we haven’t found the culprit since then. It’s been so long, we’ve given up hope on ever finding him.”
“How is your mother now, then?”
“She’s been bedridden for more than two years, while my father looks after her. He goes to work sometimes, but he can only get a job near home. So the livelihood of my family is entirely dependent on me.”
Watching the smile on her face, An Xiaoning really could not see how Mei Yangyang was still so positive and optimistic.
“Then, how did you learn how to read fortunes?”
Mei Yangyang answered, “I think I was born with a flair for it. I have a few books about fortune-telling. They were given to me by a beggar called Huazi when I was younger. I used to be so curious about them. I read them all day long, every day, without fail. I’ve committed their content to memory; I know them like the back of my hand. I’ve also tried reading and telling the fortune of some others, and I found my readings to be pretty accurate. Thus, I thought fortune-telling could become a means of living.”