t/n: Hello readers. I translated this novel during my winter break last year. If you’re interested in editing this novel please contact me. Enjoy!
A Strange Letter Arrives
Xiyuan, how are you?
Since going to school on Friday morning, Sheng Xia seemed off, as if hiding something. She wouldn’t answer when asked, distracting Chen Yuan all day. That afternoon, when a colleague asked how her new project was going, she (Chen Yuan) didn’t react until called upon several times, saying: “I won’t work on it anymore today, I need to head home early to look after my daughter.”
It wasn’t even six by the time she got home. The dinner table was covered with pots and pans, and her parents were still busy in the kitchen. Chen Yuan saw an empty bowl on the table and frowned slightly: “You gave her ice cream again?”
Mother Chen came out with some dishes: “The child came home from school at four. If she waited for you to come home before eating, she’d be starving.”
Watching flames burn towards her, Chen Yuan quickly looked down and shut her mouth.
Arriving at the dinner table, Sheng Xia suddenly brought out a small cream cake out of the fridge. Only at this point did Chen Yuan remember that today was her birthday and her daughter’s strangeness all day had an explanation – she secretly let grandpa take her to buy a birthday cake with her own pocket money.
In an instant, Chen Yuan’s heart melted.
The next day was Saturday so they didn’t need to go to work or go to school. Chen Yuan took her daughter to stay the night at her maternal home as usual. At night, once Sheng Xia fell asleep, she stealthily snuck into the dining room and was caught by her mother, Mrs. Fan Shuzhen.
Chen Yuan put her hands together: “Looking for water to drink.”
“There’s a hot water dispenser in the cabinet.” Mother revealed a “when are you going to speak the truth” expression. She also couldn’t help it and helplessly confessed: “Couldn’t fall asleep, went to find some wine.”
Ever since Xiyuan’s accident two years ago, she hadn’t had another fitful sleep, but she couldn’t let her mother know this, because there’d be no point in worrying her more.
Mother Chen could tell what her daughter was thinking from her expression and hesitated for a moment before saying: “Are you free on Sunday? You remember Auntie Zhu right, her son returned to Xin Chuan recently and asked if you have time to share a meal.”
“Let’s take Xiao Xia.”
“Didn’t Xiao Xia say she was going to a friend’s house to play? It wouldn’t be good if she’s late. Let your dad send her. You can accompany me to eat out.”
“If Xiao Xia isn’t going then I won’t go.” Chen Yuan also revealed a “when are you going to speak the truth” expression similar to her mother’s.
Mother Chen couldn’t do anything more and pinched her daughter’s arm with annoyance and a bit of sadness: “I won’t mess with you anymore.” Saying this, she turned and left the room. Once the master bedroom door closed, the dining room returned to being a field of pitch-black. Chen Yuan could hear her parent’s indistinct voices in the bedroom. Dad said she wouldn’t go again? Mom was even angrier, saying if she doesn’t want to go then she won’t go. Would anyone want a widow like her?
After a while, a faint sobbing sound traveled through the door. Father Chen whispered words of comfort to his wife, and Chen Yuan moved over to listen. They seemed to be talking about how each child has their own fortune or something.
She understood what they meant. She turned 33 this year, a widow for two years with a ten year old daughter. No matter how you looked at her, she wasn’t the type who could be picky in the marriage market. Not getting married also wasn’t an option. Not to mention whether the child would have any problems from growing up in a single parent household, without a man to take care of the two ladies, they couldn’t relax.
In the darkness, Chen Yuan took a cup of tea and lay on the sofa, opening wechat. It was May, the weather was nice, one of the few good days in the year. Everyone announced their weekend plans in succession. Scrolling her finger up and down, she only felt tired.
The last time she saw Sheng Xiyuan was a clear morning in April. That morning, he finished making breakfast, even setting the table, before opening the door to wake her. Those five minutes, in Chen Yuan’s mind, in her midnight dreams, in those minutes she lost concentration at work, quickly and clearly replayed time and time again. That day, he was clearly just going to work, but in the complete opposite direction from his company, he was hit by a car at a street corner.
Just what was he doing, Chen Yuan asked in her heart countless times, why did he go there. In your last moments of life, did you want to say something to me?
This was a question that would never be answered.
Her phone vibrated, the screen lit up, and an alert for a new email arrived. Only then did Chen Yuan suddenly realize she had already been sitting there for an hour.
Looking down, in her profile picture, Sheng Xiyuan’s smile was warmly captured in a certain moment, smile lines at the corners of his eyes and lips like dandelions floating in a spring breeze.
The family Xiao Xia said she was visiting were not outsiders. Chen Yuan, Sheng Xiyuan, and they were all graduates from Xin University. Deng Fei was Sheng Xiyuan’s classmate, and her boyfriend Xie Jiayang was Chen Yuan’s senior in one of her labs. After graduating, they went overseas together to study abroad and got married in America. They returned at age 28 to tie the knot for Chen Yuan and Sheng Xiyuan.
Their son Deng Kai was two years younger than Sheng Xia.
Downstairs from Deng Fei’s house was a large mall. After eating dinner, the three took the two children to shop together. The children climbed all over the playground while the adults sat and drank in the dessert shop next door. The Hong Kong style milk tea Deng Fei ordered wasn’t enough so she randomly ordered three or four more desserts. Chen Yuan pressed down her hand to say she had enough but she just rolled her eyes: “You’re still afraid of getting fat? You’re as thin as a bamboo rod.”
Chen Yuan laughed and waved her hand: “Not finishing would be a waste of money.”
As they were speaking, two orders of caramel pudding arrived. Chen Yuan thought that just the smell was too greasy and pushed them towards Deng Fei. The moment Deng Fei saw them, she opened her mouth as if to say something, but stopped as if the words were stuck in her throat. Staring at the pudding and then glancing at her, she pretended nothing was wrong and moved her line of sight. Chen Yuan sized up her “I have something to say but don’t know if I should say it” expression and simply asked: “Is something the matter?”
She smiled and said nothing was the matter, how could there be. Instead, Xie Jiayang sighed and spoke the truth: “She wants to ask if you’ve been alright recently. If you need any help, tell us. Don’t carry everything on your own.”
Chen Yuan nearly burst out laughing. What was that? She never meant that she was lacking money. What were these two so concerned about?
“I’m not lacking money. I have my own salary, my own house, my parents have their own retirement savings, and there’s Xiyuan’s life insurance.” She paused, obviously feeling the two’s sudden anxiousness, and joked: “What are you so nervous about, needlessly worried.”
Since Sheng Xiyuan’s car accident, seemingly everyone at her side, including her parents and friends like Deng Fei and Xie Jiayang always maintained a strange sort of nervousness when with her, especially when Xiyuan was mentioned, as if just mentioning him would make her immediately breakdown and try to jump off a building.
“But on the topic of help, there really is something I want you to look at for me.”
Xie Jiayang received her phone. On the screen was an email sent last night at 1 a.m, the recipient was Sheng Xiyuan’s personal mailbox, the sender was Clare Chang (in english), the contents were very simple, only two lines of words:
How are you?
Xie Jiayang appeared to have no reaction, but his heart quickly thought about this person’s relationship with Sheng Xiyuan.
In college, Sheng Xiyuan lived in the same dorm as him for four years, but he didn’t remember Xiyuan knowing someone named Clare Chang, and seeing Chen Yuan’s expression, she didn’t either. But Clare was a girl’s name, once he thought of this, this short email of two lines seemed ambiguous in tone – she knew Xiyuan’s name, and clearly didn’t have a shallow relationship with him.
More importantly, Xiyuan was already dead for two years. This email was too strange.
Deng Fei shouted what what let me see and moved over to take a glance, also immediately sinking into a state as quiet as a chicken. Chen Yuan saw the couple’s expression of trying not to cry or laugh as awkwardness seemed to solidify on their faces. Knowing that these two were also clueless, she took back her phone and smoothed things over: “Whatever, they might have just sent wrong.”
The email could have been sent wrongly, but the name couldn’t have been written wrong. The couple didn’t dare to say anything else and nodded in agreement.
After sending away Chen Yuan and her daughter, before going to sleep, Deng Fei and Xie Jiayang lay in bed side by side. Because Chen Yuan received that email, or they should say Sheng Xiyuan received that email, the two were anxious and silent.
“Turn off the lights?” Deng Fei asked.
In the darkness, she suddenly felt her husband reach over, hold her hand, and turn to hug her.
Deng Fei joked: “What’s wrong, you also have something to confess to me?”
Xie Jiayang buried his head in her shoulder and started laughing, laughing until she was itchy: “What are you thinking?”
 xiao means little but I’ll keep it in pinyin