139. Just So Happened to Be a Man
“Male?” the old Mr Bai questioned. “Jiang Hua…Jiang Hua…I remember now. It’s your secretary! He seduced you?”
The word “seduced” reminded Yan of the stolen kiss just now. “No,” he guiltily said. “He still doesn’t know.”
“He doesn’t know what? Of your feelings?” the old Mr Bai angrily said. “Yan, I didn’t know you could be so perfect in every aspect of life but you’d be an idiot in this. If he doesn’t even know of your feelings, then what relationship is there? He’s your secretary. You’re close to him. It’s such an easy and convenient situation! You have to court him. If you don’t despite liking him, are you waiting to regret things once he’s someone else’s lover? You’re so not like me in this. Back then when I fell in love with your grandmother, she was a beauty while I was ugly. Even so, I wasn’t afraid or self-conscious at all. I bravely wooed her. Look what happened. In the end, she married me and gave birth to your father. What a happy ending!”
“Grandfather,” Yan stammered, “aren’t you…mad? He’s a man.”
“Do you think your grandfather’s some outdated old man?” the old Mr Bai huffed in disdain. “You think too little of me. Say, you’re so stupid. By the time you act, the food would’ve gone cold! Why don’t I find you some advice articles or guides?”
“It’s fine, Grandfather,” Yan said, struggling to keep his tears and laughter in. “I’ll handle it myself. I think I stand a good chance in that.” Jiang Hua had stolen a kiss from him already. He must hold some romantic affections for Yan. Tee-hee.
“Really?” the old Mr Bai asked. “Alright then. Act early. Aah, you have a future partner now. I can feel a weight lifting off my shoulders. I’ll stop the chatter. I have to tell your grandmother so she’d stop worrying too.”
With that said, the old Mr Bai immediately hung up with a bang.
Yan looked down at the words “call ending” in exasperation and let out a chuckle. Should he court Hua now? He’d have to plan it through.
Yan turned on his computer and looked up a few articles and guides on chasing after a potential romantic interest. He found a mountain of them. Once those unreliable articles were eliminated, Yan took out a notebook and began to get serious, taking notes as he went.
As the man was hard at work, someone began knocking on his door. From that knocking pattern, it should be Jiang Hua. He hurriedly closed off all the tabs he had open, slammed his notebook shut and threw it into a drawer. He paused, thinking for a moment, before opening the drawer again to shove the notebook to the bottom of the drawer.
Then and only then did he call out, “Come in!”
Hua entered the room, pushing the door open with an armful of documents.
“Mr Bai,” Hua softly said, “you have a meeting this afternoon at three. This is the information for the meeting.”
Yan accepted the folders, opened one, flipped through it and said, “Mn, I got it. Anything else?”
“No,” Hua replied. “I’ll be heading out then.”
“Wait!” Yan quickly called.
Hua turned around. Yan had stopped him from leaving but he couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“Get me a cup of coffee,” Yan finally said.
“Mr Bai,” Hua said with a frown, “it’s not good to have coffee on an empty stomach. How about I get you some freshly squeezed fruit juice or honey water?”
The man cared so much for him, Yan thought. Surely it meant Hua was in love with him.
“Alright,” Yan replied with a confident little smile. “I’ll leave it to you.”
Hua was somewhat bewildered. Why was Yan being so easy-going and easily persuaded today? However, it was good for him to not drink coffee. Afraid that Yan would change his mind, Hua rushed out to get some fruit juice. While Hua knew there’s an 80% chance Yan wouldn’t drink the juice, there’s at least 20% chance he will. Right?
Hua dug out the juicing machine from the tea room and rinsed it out thoroughly before juicing some apples. Then, after some brief contemplation, he added a teaspoon of honey into the glass. When he handed the glass to Yan, he thought the man wouldn’t even take a sip out of it. To his surprise, Yan took a sip, frowned and still downed the whole glass!
Hua accepted the empty glass, filled it up again with hot water and placed it on Yan’s desk. The secretary shot his boss a weird look only to be met with a smile.
The man left the room, mind full of questions.
That evening when Yan stepped through the doors of his home, he was met with the sight of his entire family sitting in the living room. They were sat in a weirdly formal manner with stern faces. The second he walked into the room, everyone’s heads snapped to look at him. Yan sighed internally. He just knew Grandfather would tell Father. All Yan could hope for was for his parents not to be too angry.
Yan took off his jacket and handed it to Aunt Yang. He then slowly approached his family and sat down on the couch. YiHan secretly tug at Yan’s shirt and kept giving him glances.
“YiHan, you don’t need to shoot looks at him,” FuRen said in a low voice. “Your brother is smarter than you. He should know what’s going on.”
“I’m sorry, Father,” Yan said.
“What are you saying sorry for?” FuRen rebuked.
“Grandfather told you, right?” Yan sincerely asked. “I thought I was a heterosexual too. I just hadn’t met the right person. However, I recently discovered I’ve fallen in love with Jiang Hua.”
“And?” FuRen asked, his face still cold.
“I’ve thought about it a lot this afternoon,” Yan said. “I might not be homosexual. I don’t feel any interest in other men. I just like Jiang Hua and he just so happened to be a man.”
“I’m asking you, then?” FuRen pushed.
Yan closed his eyes and solemnly replied, “I know this is a great shock to you and Mother but I can’t change it.”
“Did we tell you to change?” FuRen’s flat and stern voice said. “Your mother and I are asking you this. You like Jiang Hua, what then? How far along are you in courting him?”
“Huh?” Yan was confused.
“Huh, what?” Ma Bai asked in an exasperated, heated tone. “I didn’t believe it when your grandfather told us you were stupid. Now, it looks like it’s true. I know Jiang Hua. That child is a handsome man. He’s mature, steady and he doesn’t like playing around. He’s one who’s made for spending one’s life out together. Do you not know just how precious someone like that is? You like him but you just won’t act. What’s the use in telling us you love him then? Just what are you waiting for?”
“I thought…” Yan started.
“You thought what?” Ma Bai interrupted, side-eyeing him as she did so. “That we wouldn’t agree to it? Just as your grandfather said, you’re nearly thirty and this is the first time you’ve fallen in… No, you didn’t even have any sort of romantic or sexual interest in anyone before. We thought you were asexual! Furthermore, we’ve already agreed to your little brother’s relationship with JingYuan. Adding you into the mix won’t change anything. What’s there to disagree to?”
YiHan was sneaking bites of oranges, with JingYuan’s help, during this whole time. Upon hearing what Ma Bai said, he choked and sprayed out his mouthful of orange with a loud “pfft”. He later coughed so hard, trying to catch his breath, that his face went red.
Startled, JingYuan threw away the orange he was holding and patted YiHan’s back. He also handed YiHan some tissues and water. No one else had the chance to help at all.
Finally, when YiHan caught his breath, JingYuan softly grumbled, “You’re an adult now yet you can choke on an orange slice.”
YiHan didn’t dare look up at anyone else. He stared down as his fingers curled around the fabric wrapped around some legs. It took him some time before he realised those legs were JingYuan’s. He hurriedly shrank back and turned his attentions to poking at the couch.
“You all know?” YiHan mumbled.
XueQing was the first to cave in. She ruffled YiHan’s hair with all her might and chuckled, “Ma and Pa knew a long time ago. Everyone just kept quiet. What? You think we didn’t know?”
YiHan shot her a glare in protest. He knew she knew but he didn’t know their parents and older brother knew too. Ugh, what’s with that tongue-twisting sentence?
“Alright, don’t hang your head,” Ma said. “It’s been obvious for a while. Your father and I aren’t fools. How could we not tell? We didn’t expose it because you two looked like you were having fun sneaking around. Ahem. Erm, JingYuan’s perfect in all aspects. While it’s a pity for a flower like him to be planted on a cow pat like you, this counts as ‘keeping what’s good within the family’.”
YiHan: …Dear Mother, I don’t think those are the appropriate phrases.
JingYuan combed out YiHan’s hair, made messy by XueQing, and warmly said with glimmering eyes, “HanHan is very good.”
Ma squinted at JingYuan’s expression then pinched FuRen’s waist, hard. Her husband gritted his teeth. It took him a lot of effort to suppress the gasp of pain. He looked at his wife in question only to see her eyes darting from him to JingYuan and YiHan, indicating to him to look at their youngest son and his lover. He patted his wife’s hand in response and Ma calmed down.
FuRen gently cleared his throat and spoke, “Today is a very important day for our family. We don’t need to say any more about XueQing. She’s formalised her relationship with TianYang and that boy is a good kid. They’ll likely get married after dating for a year or two. He should be joining us in such an important family meeting but he had something to do at the last minute. It’s a shame. While all of us knew about YiHan and JingYuan but today is the day we’re popping that bubble of ambiguity. Most important of all is Yan. His future happiness had always been a major question. Now, his heart has finally been conquered by Jiang Hua. All three of our Bai family children have their own partners. It’s a load off of your mother’s and my minds Now, we have one last difficult but vital question. What does Jiang Hua think? If we just leave it to Yan and his denseness, the food would’ve gone cold by the time he acts. This concerns Yan’s future life. We must take it seriously. We must use all our might and help Yan conquer Jiang Hua’s castle. We have to brainstorm and strategise for him.”
His gaze drifted over his children several times over before finally settling down on YiHan. “YiHan,” he said, “you should have experience in courting someone. Tell your brother.”
“I-I don’t know how to,” YiHan stuttered.
“Don’t be shy,” Ma said. “This is a grave matter. No one will laugh at you. How did you woo JingYuan? Teach your brother.”
JingYuan turned to look at his lover. His shoulders were trembling. YiHan’s face was flushed red.
“Ma,” Yan said, face in his hands, “I don’t need to be taught. I ca–”
“If you really can do it yourself, Jiang Hua could be having dinner with us tonight!” Ma interrupted, dissatisfied.
Resigned, Yan took out a little notebook from his pocket and handed it over to her.
Ma stared at it suspiciously for a few seconds before accepting it and flipping it open. Her eyes swiftly scanned through the contents within before smiling and saying, “Not bad. At least you have an intention to improve. However, your methods are too old-school, too conservative. Are you certain?”
XueQing leaned over to look at Yan’s notes but was pushed away by Ma. “Shoo. What are you looking for?”
With a pout on her lips, XueQing went back to her seat.
Yan took the notebook returned to him and sighed, “Yes. If they don’t work, I’ll ask for more help. Okay?”
“Fine,” Ma relented. “You must act quick! Those who act fast get what they want; those who are slow, don’t. Got it?”
“I know,” Yan sighed once more. “I’ll do my best.” This was Ma’s experience. Yan knew she could take down his father all those years ago because she was fast, decisive and precise.
FuRen proudly held his head high and said with a wave of his hand, “Okay. Let’s have dinner! I had Aunt Yang add a few more dishes in today!”
Food would’ve gone cold: The phrase here is “the daylily (dish) would’ve gone cold”. The daylily dish is one typically served as one of the last dishes of a feast for the alcohol-drinking guests to nibble on.
A flower like him to be planted on a cow pat like you: Original idiom has “placed (in a vase)” instead of “planted”.
Keeping what’s good within the family: Original idiom reads “rich waters (fertilizer/fertilized water) shouldn’t flow to another’s (rice) field”.