t/n: All chapters of this novel will be unedited from now on. Feel free to comment any typos you may find.
Turn of the Century Nokia
The last message on the Nokia was from 2007.
Hi Clare, (in English)
Everything’s fine. How about you?
2017, May 7
The city had been shrouded by a drizzle of light rain since the night before. The office was both damp and stuffy, like the beginning of the yellow plum season a month prior.
She didn’t know whether her boyfriend had been rained on. Looking out the window upon waking up, she began to feel annoyed that she should have returned home to sleep. Now, she had to go through the whole city to get to work and didn’t bother to eat breakfast.
Thinking of this, He Shiyu couldn’t help but smile.
“Doctor Auntie,.” A young lady knocked on the open door. Seeing her gesture, she jogged over and put the small bag in her hands on her desk.
“Daifuku.” The young lady was round, at a slight risk of obesity, but still within the healthy range. She mentioned this to her mother last time, but the other party was frightened to death. He Shiyu still remembered how her eyes instantly widened and she hastily pulled out her phone to ask if the doctor had any dieting suggestions. She also felt the child ate too many snacks but never thought she’d become overweight.
He Shiyu could only begin to comfort her, there was nothing wrong, she was still in the healthy range, but her snack consumption should be controlled……but everything still needs observation, this body fat percentage is still healthy, Chen-jie doesn’t need to worry.
“Where’s mom?” He Shiyu patted her head and asked.
“In the back.”
While talking, the woman also followed into the office and took a box of wagashi out of her bag. “Today her school had testing so school ended early. I brought her over on the way home. I brought this back from a business trip last week, have a taste.”
He Shiyu rested her chin on her hand.
She was over thirty years old, short haired, wearing half-rimmed glasses, with faint wrinkles at the corners of her eyes. On her chest hung her company’s work badge, printing her picture and name: Chen Yuan. He Shiyu still remembered the first time they met two years ago, she had led her child in, sat down, and said: This child’s father died in a car crash last month, but she doesn’t cry or make a scene, she just can’t sleep at night.
At that time she was in this state, on the surface appearing calm, collected, yet her heart smelt of dead ash. He Shiyu was Sheng Xia’s psychologist for two years. The child had slowly shown signs of improvement, but she was always like this. To He Shiyu, she was the one that truly needed treatment.
“Thank you Chen-jie.”
He Shiyu narrowed her eyes and smiled, revealing her two canines. This smile was too contagious, and the corners of Chen Yuan’s lips involuntarily curved. Thanks to this smile, she was quite happy for the rest of the day. Sheng Xia felt that she was in a good mood and asked her mom if she could eat tomorrow’s share of daifuku. Chen Yuan replied: “Then you can’t have any tomorrow.”
“Then, then that’s fine.” She revealed a pleading expression.
“You’ll have indigestion tonight.”
“……” Sheng Xia’s eyebrows hung down.
Chen Yuan patted her head: “So you can’t.”
“……Then can I watch an extra half hour of TV?” She continued to bargain.
Chen Yuan laughed and stroked her daughter’s head: “No.”
So at 9, Sheng Xia still gloomily went to bed as usual.
When Chen Yuan finished showering, she sat in the dining room and turned on her computer. That morning, she had received a second email and still hadn’t looked at it. She thought of Xie Jiayang and Deng Fei’s expressions that night. The scene was just like a wife suddenly finding out that her husband had an affair and looking to her friends for advice.
She first heard of Sheng Xiyuan in college through Xie Jiayang, her lab senior, but she only knew that this person existed. After graduating, she attended graduate school and worked without ever meeting Sheng Xiyuan. On her twenty sixth birthday, Deng Fei asked if she had time to have dinner together. That night, Xie Jiayang brought Sheng Xiyuan.
That night was truly the first time Chen Yuan met Sheng Xiyuan.
She vaguely sensed that Xie Jiayang and Deng Fei wanted to play matchmaker, otherwise why would they try so hard to guide the topic of conversation to marriage. Sheng Xiyuan originally didn’t realize this, thinking they were just going out to eat, but the more he listened, the more he felt that something wasn’t right, and simply said: “I need to leave early, my daughter’s home alone.”
This caught Xie Jiayang and Deng Fei off guard.
A week later, Deng Fei treated her to a meal as an apology: “Sorry, I didn’t know. Sheng Xiyuan that boy got married after college. He’s divorced now and even has a three year old kid.”
Cheng Heng smiled and signaled for her to continue. Deng Fei laughed and stretched her neck to say: “What do you say, dinner, drinks, and shopping are all fine, but I’ll accompany a gentleman at all costs.”
Chen Yuan calmly replied: “That’s fine, plan another meal with Shen Xiyuan.”
Until the two got married, Deng Fei didn’t have the heart to say that their fated marriage was to her credit. Sheng Xiyuan always laughed at her: “Deng Fei is really muddle-headed. Good thing it’s you, good thing us two tortoise and octopus see eye to eye, otherwise there’d be more complaints.”
At that time, she slapped his back and reproached what tortoise and octopus, I’m not.
Thinking of this, Cheng Yuan smiled once again and opened Clare Chang’s new email.
I didn’t think you’d reply to my email. I thought it’d be too presumptuous of me.
Are you married now? How’s Sheng Xia?
Chris also misses you and asked if you kept the phone he gave you, haha.
2017 May 10
Under the light of her desk lamp, Chen Yuan bit her fingers, reading the email over and over again.
She knew about Sheng Xia and seemed to have had a good relationship with Sheng Xiyuan but didn’t know that Sheng Xiyuan died two years ago, not even knowing he was married – or she should say, remarried.
Was she his ex-wife? She suddenly thought. She once asked Sheng Xiyuan why he got divorced, but he only said that the other party wanted the whole family to immigrate and they had clashing personalities so they got divorced a year after marriage.
These days, as long as you look, you can find anyone. Social media, email, live chat tools, phones, anything works. No matter how you looked at it, an ex-wife with a clashing personality who never communicated after so many years of divorce didn’t seem like the right person to have a long and peaceful conversation about the past with.
She gave Deng Fei a call and asked: “Do you know the last name of Sheng Xiyuan’s ex-wife?”
Deng Fei was bewildered: “Ah……?”
“I think this email might be from his ex-wife.”
“I also don’t know……He got married quietly, and I was still in America at that time.”
Chen Yuan settled down, “Then do you know who Chris is?”
“Guizi? What guizi?” Deng Fei didn’t know anything and continued to ask, “Did you get another email?”
She didn’t want to keep asking, so she casually said some perfunctory words and hung up, staring at the screen in a trance. Only when she suddenly felt a sharp pain on her fingertip did she realize that she’d bitten through her fingernail and had started bleeding.
There was a first aid kit in the house, but it only had antiseptic solution, bandaids, and gauze. These were all bought by Sheng Xiyuan and were probably all expired. Chen Yuan thought in disappointment.
Sheng Xiyuan’s temperament was like an old mother, he knew how to do everything, he could do anything. When she first moved in with him, Sheng Xia was four years old. His parents had died long ago so no one could help him, but he could do everything methodically: Wake up at seven, wash his face, brush his teeth, make breakfast, hang the clothes out to dry, wake up Sheng Xia for breakfast at seven thirty, send her to preschool after eating, and go to work. In the afternoon, the nanny would make dinner and pick up Sheng Xia from school. No matter how busy he was, he would get home by six for dinner even if it meant working overtime at home after eating.
Back when Mrs. Fan Shuzhen heard that Sheng Xiyuan had been married before and even had a daughter, she was very displeased. When Sheng Xiyuan invited his future mother in law to stay over for a weekend, his ability to do the laundry, cook, clean, and other household chores left her speechless, even secretly telling her husband: “Xiao Sheng is pretty capable.”
What was even more to her liking was that Sheng Xiyuan could recycle anything like an old person, an old T-shirt could be pajamas, old pajamas could be used as dishcloths, the pinnacle of the virtues of diligence and frugality.
After getting married, Chen Yuan couldn’t handle this habit of his and directly threw out a large pile of old clothes to desensitize him, though there were still a bunch of old electronic products that were Mr. Sheng’s treasures.
An idea suddenly struck Chen Yuan.
Sheng Xia was awakened by the sound of her digging through the cabinet and stood by the door to ask her: “Mom, aren’t you going to sleep, I’m tired.”
“If you’re tired, go to sleep, I’ll be quieter, sorry.” She apologized. Then her fingertip felt a hard package at the bottom of the box though her bandaid. Fishing it out for a look, it was a Nokia popular at the turn of the century with a charging cable and spare battery neatly arranged in the box beside it. The phone obviously couldn’t be turned on anymore. She thought of charging it, but after sitting there waiting for twenty minutes, the screen remained silent and dark.
This might not be it, she comforted herself.There were still lots of old phones in the box, Motorola, Samsung, iphone, all phones used over the years were in that box.
But for some reason, she had a subtle hunch.
The next day, Chen Yuan took the phone to a cell phone repair shop. The cell phone repairman looked at the box and smiled: “This is an antique.”
Chen Yuan exhorted him: “Don’t mess with the messages inside.”
“I’ll try, but this old phone might not be fixable.”
Chen Yuan became irritated in an instant and could only force a smile. That evening, she ran straight to the cell phone repair shop after work. From afar, she saw the repairman holding a food box with a smile on his face: “It’s fixed, it’s fixed!” Only then did she breathe a sigh of relief.
After eating dinner and cleaning the dinner table, she urged Sheng Xia to shower and rest. Sheng Xia was not pleased: “I already finished today’s homework, can I watch TV?”
“You already said I can watch until eight every day, it’s only seven.”
Chen Yuan also thought it wasn’t good to go back on her promises so she could only concede: “Ok, watch until eight, then go shower, ok?”
Her daughter sat in the living room watching cartoons. Chen Yuan was finally free.
The repairman was true to his word, the antique was working, but the screen was really too small, looking at it strained her eyes. Chen Yuan quickly scrolled through the phone’s contacts, looking for Chris, Clare Chang, and the surname Chang, but no matter how she looked, she couldn’t find anything.
Like a madman, she looked through the remaining communication records and text messages in the phone one by one but still couldn’t find anything. Sheng Xiyuan got a new phone later so the last message on the Nokia was from 2007.
The phone she left in the dining room suddenly rang, and in a trance, Chen Yuan almost pressed the answer button on the Nokia. It was Xie Jiayang, on the other side of the phone, he said: “Chen Yuan, I remembered that Chris you were asking about.”
 older sister
 我舍命陪君子 It means to accompany and follow each other at all costs. There is a touching story from the allusion of “Yang Zuo”. During the Warring States period, two people, Zuo Bo Tao and Yang Jiao Ai, met each other and went to Chu to see King Zhuang of Chu. In order to help their friend, Zuo Bo Tao gave all the clothes and grain to Yang Jiao Ai, while he himself hid in an empty tree and committed suicide. In later times, the friends who had a deep friendship were called “sheep left”. Ma Lianliang, a famous Peking Opera artist, also compiled a new play based on this story called “Sheep-horn Mourning”, also known as “Shedding Life and Friendship”. The friendship of life is now called “life with the gentleman”. Don’t really know how to translate this phrase. Copied the baidu explanation into deepl
 guizi means cabinet. He thought Chris sounded like guizi