In haste, An Xiaoning wolfed down her meal, pretending not to understand what she just heard.
After breakfast, An Xiaoning and Jin Qingyan went ahead to the tailor for their wedding dress and suit. Not wanting to waste any time, they then proceeded to take their wedding photos as well.
They picked out a wedding dress, got her makeup done, and took a couple of outdoor shots at the beach, followed by a few other ones at the studio. By the end of it all, An Xiaoning began to feel like her legs were jelly – they were almost giving out on her.
“Put on your best dress tonight,” instructed Jin Qingyan while they made their way home.
“Why?” An Xiaoning asked.
“I’m taking you to a ball,” he explained.
She agreed without hesitation, thinking that it would not matter much since she could get a good rest before evening arrived.
Jin Qingyan then drove away after dropping her off at the doorstep.
She punched in the passcode and unlocked the digital lock on the door. Dog-tired, she quickly made her way to her bedroom upstairs and sprawled onto the bed, not wanting to move another inch.
“Boss, someone is calling you!” went her mobile ringtone. Looking at the caller display which showed a local unknown number, she picked up the call. “Hello?”
“Hey, cousin. It’s me.”
Instead of hanging up when she heard Wang Fangfang’s voice, An Xiaoning asked, “What’s the matter?”
“Cousin, I know I shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” Wang Fangfang apologized.
“Though I’m unsure of how you’d even have the cheek to ask for my forgiveness, I’m afraid I can’t. I’m not a saint nor God. I can’t be that magnanimous and forgiving,” An Xiaoning replied sarcastically.
“An Xiaoning! I apologized to you sincerely from the bottom of my heart, yet you’re still so unforgiving and obstinate. Who do you think you are? Marrying a rich husband does not make you high and mighty!” Wang Fangfang snapped scornfully.
“Look at you getting all worked up. Don’t embarrass yourself again by calling me. Watch out, don’t hurt yourself getting too upset. Otherwise, Shi Shaochuan might just go ahead and have another affair again,” mocked An Xiaoning. She ended the call right after, not giving Wang Fangfang a chance to retaliate.
Feeling much less exhausted, An Xiaoning laid down in bed again and sandwiched a pillow between her legs. After a big stretch, she set an alarm on her phone and dozed off in no time.
The alarm went off at 5 PM sharp, waking An Xiaoning up.
By now, she was already famished, and her stomach let out a low grumble. She quickly took a bath, dried her hair, and did her makeup — all in one go.
Jin Qingyan arrived to pick her up just as she went downstairs.
Clad in a pink qipao[qipao: traditional Chinese body-hugging dress for women] and a pastel-colored shawl draped over her shoulders, An Xiaoning looked more flawless than ever — what with her face boasting immaculate makeup and her long, curly locks cascading down her back.
“What ball is it? What are the people there going to be like?” asked An Xiaoning, trying to distract herself from her hunger.
“You’ll know when we get there,” answered Jin Qingyan.
“That’s as good as not replying,” scorned An Xiaoning.
All eyes were on An Xiaoning and Jin Qingyan as the couple entered the venue with their arms locked. They could already guess who the ravishing beauty was by their body language.
A bevy of single socialites stared at An Xiaoning with a look of disdain on their faces; all were green with envy.
“Is that Jin Qingyan’s new wife?” they began to gossip.
“Yes, they just registered their marriage not long ago. I heard they had their wedding photoshoot today.”
“She’s pretty good-looking, except she lacks class and elegance. What a shame. I heard she comes from a small village, with lowly status.”
“Exactly, it must be true love between them…”
Although the gossipmongers were careful not to be too loud, An Xiaoning still managed to hear everything they had to say — be it good or bad — thanks to her impeccable hearing.
As she continued to stride forward, she felt Jin Qingyan slowing down in his tracks.
Glancing ahead, she noticed a lady dressed in a violet gown with a goblet of wine in her hands, chatting merrily with other guests. Though her looks were not extraordinary, she had perfectly poised mannerisms and exuded a certain air of elegance, which were bound to leave a lasting impression.
Shifting her attention to the couple, she stood up and began to walk gracefully towards them, a gentle smile on her lips.
“Jingyan, I need a word with you privately,” said the lady while shooting An Xiaoning a glance.
Sensing something peculiar about the relationship between the lady and Jin Qingyan, An Xiaoning excused herself. “Excuse me while I visit the restroom.”
“Why did you do that? I know you don’t love her. You’re only trying to spite me and get your revenge because I got together with Bei Cheng,” questioned Chi Rui’er as she stared at the man before her.
“You said you wanted a word with me. Is this all you have to say?” asked Jin Qingyan, his eyes fixed on her.
“Jingyan, you can’t fool me,” Chi Rui’er said firmly, without doubt. “It’s not too late to turn back now. I don’t wish to see you acting like this, torturing yourself because of me,” she continued.
“We’ve already registered our marriage. Don’t you watch the news?” retorted Jin Qingyan.
“You…” replied Chi Rui’er, at a loss for words.
As she sat on the toilet bowl, it suddenly struck An Xiaoning that she was the lawful wife of Jin Qingyan. Why did she have to allow them to have a conversation privately?
Could there be a secret between them which was not to be divulged? she thought in her head.
She had no idea how long they were going to take.
After she was done with her business, An Xiaoning sat atop the toilet seat cover for 15 minutes straight.
Wondering where she had gone, Jin Qingyan began to look for her himself.
Since he could not enter the Ladies’ Room, he waited patiently for someone to exit or enter it, hoping that they could help him call for An Xiaoning. However, there was not a single soul in sight as time passed. He had no choice but to enter the restroom.
“An Xiaoning?” he called.
“Yes?” she responded, at the same time standing up and exiting the cubicle. At that very instant, she heard a female voice from outside, approaching the restroom. A quick-witted An Xiaoning frantically grasped at Jin Qingyan and shoved him into a cubicle.
Two women entered just as she closed the cubicle’s door shut.
Standing on tiptoe, she whispered in his ear, “Why did you come inside the Ladies?”
She was thinking that he could have simply given her a phone call if he was looking for her. Little did she know that he had forgotten to bring his mobile phone out with him that evening.
“To look for you, of course. Why else would I be in here?” Jin Qingyan asked teasingly. As he did so, he stroked her long locks.
“This is the Ladies’ Room, how daring of you,” she replied with a change of expression, trying to suppress her voice.
“What’s wrong with that?” he asked, his lips brushing lightly across her face. The warmth of his breath sent her into a state of nervousness. Her legs turned to jelly.
An Xiaoning gazed at him, speechless. Her heart was ricocheting against her chest. She could still hear the women chatting incessantly, along with the sound of water trickling from the tap in the background.
She stood rooted to the ground, afraid to even speak, for she was fearful that the women would find out about Jin Qingyan hiding in the Ladies’.
Initially, he had purely wanted to just look for her, nothing more.
Jin Qingyan likened An Xiaoning to an aged wine — incredibly addictive after savoring it just once, leaving one begging for more because it tastes better and better with each sip, while the aftertaste lingers in one’s mouth.
She had silky smooth hair, and a pair of eyes that sparkled like diamonds, coupled with a pair of luscious lips. What a fine woman, indeed.
For a period of time, no one entered the restroom, perhaps because the ball had commenced.
The pair of newlyweds exited the toilet, feeling like a huge load was lifted off their chests — there was no longer anyone within their vicinity. And thank heavens: Jin Qingyan would have surely made the headlines if he had gotten caught in the act of trespassing into the Ladies’ Room.