His mind was occupied with MingYu’s reactions to the new development. How would she feel? What would she decide? Or would her decision rest on his? Because of love? Or because of obligation, or guilt?
It was easy when she had no choice. She needed help, he would be his savior. It did not even really matter whether she really loves him or not. As long he did not feel he is taking advantage, such matter was not the most important issue at hand and can be settled later. But he can no longer push that away now. She is free. He never associates freedom with pain.
He can no longer wait. Not even for a single day, a single moment. He had to confront the truth, now. Who does she love more? (Boldly facing the truth, he has no doubt that she loves him too). Who does she want to spend the rest of her life with? (She will have difficulty answering that because she will not to able to remove the guilt and regret whichever ways she chose). Who will she be happier with? (This will determine his decision and he thinks he knows).
He heard a small voice asking him, “Shouldn’t you let her decide?” To himself he answered with an emphatic “No!” He will decide for her, right or wrong. For if left to her, he was convinced she will now decide one way. Let it be his regrets not hers for being the one making it. A thousand voices rose up in protests. For every decision he wanted to make, a horde of objections rose up threatening to drive him mad. But the fisherman had made up his mind, he beat these voices into submission with his resoluteness.
His legs brought him to the main doors of MingYu’s house and he woke up from his reflection. He hesitated and his eyes grew sad but only for a moment. He walked through and straight into the garden where he find MingYu sitting waiting for him to return. He tried to lighten his smile and sat down next to her.
The world around them froze. Though, the birds still sang, and the hustle and bustle of the kitchen continued with unabated fury; they melted into a separate, unreal world that has no relevance to the two figures facing each other. They spoke in slow heavy tone weighed down by heavy emotions and the gravity of the weighty issues. Flighty words have no place here. It was a funeral speech.
“You went to see EnXue?”
She wanted to ask what happened but changed at the last minute for this following question which may never be asked again if not now. “Why did you go and see her?”
“To find out how much I love you.”
Though not exactly an evasive answer, it was a convenient one and could mean any number of things. “And what did you find out?”
“That I love you.” This conversation was ridiculous, not in what was spoken but in the way they were spoken. It was so unnatural like two actors rehearsing a play. The fisherman moved to change that. “But I found that I can also feel strongly for others. But that is not important for I know I can control myself and be true to the one I love.”
MingYu was not happy to hear that. She was happy to hear the fisherman said he loves her and will be true to her. She was just not happy that he has to make effort to resists EnXue’s charms for her. He only met her yesterday, for heaven sake. Why can’t you lie to make me happy? While these thoughts were swarming her head, she suddenly felt that there was something amiss. She was missing something and it frightened her. So she searched his glum face, and then slowly forced those reluctant words from her mouth “She told you?”
His head was like a ton of concrete when he moved it to nod.
When WenCai sent his happy message and requested an urgent meeting, she forced herself not to feel anything. She will be true to the fisherman as she should. WenCai was her past. She was amazed and pleased with herself that she could so easily put aside troubling emotions and stayed orderly focused on doing the right thing with her life. But now, when she saw the fisherman’s reaction; she broke down. Her heart rended by conflicting emotions kept in check. Now freed, these feelings immediately proceed to tear her apart. She was sorry but she did not really know what she was sorry for. She intended to be true to him, didn’t she? Strangely, at the same time; she felt such an overflowing love for the fisherman that it can leave no room for doubts who she loves more. Why then is she crying so painfully? As if someone has torn out her heart.
The fisherman looked at her, and was pleased. He will want to remember her like this. Crying her heart out because of him. At the same time, he felt he had swallowed the bitterest gall. There was no need for the conversation they meant to have. Any words were superfluous now. He did not cry. She was doing the crying for both of them.
That night he slept alone. A pall has once again descended upon the Chen household, but for a different reason. Everyone in the household felt sorry to the fisherman and he found that unbearable. He made arrangement to leave on the next train but MingYu begged him to stay on for a few more days. She visited him and told him stories about herself. All her secrets she wanted to leave them with the fisherman for she knew that they will probably never meet again. Often in the telling of the tales, she will break down and cry; dabbed her eyes with her silk handkerchief and sobbingly continued. It happened randomly apparently for no reason, for she can cry even when the tale she was telling was a happy one. They did not speak about their situations or feelings, about WenCai or EnXue, about their past, present or future. They just recounted their tales to each other hoping to leave behind for the other as much memories as they could. They both wanted to be remembered.
Despite increasingly urgent messages from WenCai and EnXue, MingYu and the fisherman ignored them all without even reading. The time they have left was only for each other. They went for long walks and have long talks or just sat silent together for hours looking at the sun rays swimming on the lake. They climbed the hills again and surveyed the rapidly growing padi. He could not stay to watch it ripen and turned golden but he could see them already – a field of gently undulating gold. Because they knew all these will end soon and forever, they distilled and treasured every minute of it. And developed a bond that even time would no longer be able to erase. Sometimes, this closeness intruded and made them wonder if they could perhaps change fate. But these thoughts were fleeting and appeared like wishful thinking. The time has long passed to wonder if their decision was the right one.
Finally, there came a time when this has to stop. The fisherman told MingYu he will be leaving on the Sunday train. This time MingYu did not object. “That only leaves us two days” she said with tears in her voice.
“Tomorrow, I will go and see Grandma and XiaoYu. And I would like to go alone.”
MingYu was a little surprised but she said nothing, nodding her head in understanding. “It is just as well.”
He did not quite understand what she meant by that. But then there is no need to understand everything. Like there is no need to understand the reasons for their decision, just the feelings that this was the right thing to do.