When Mr Lao, as in Xu Ai's father-in-law announced that she was to move in to her husband's home, she felt an immense need to protest. The idea of living alone, except for housekeepers and guards, with that emotionless jerk didn't appease her. But one little factor kept her from actually voicing out her problem. She was married to that jerk and hence, stuck with him.
The car ride was an excruciating one, Xu Ai who was dying with awkwardness decided to pass her time by gobbling down the sweets her mother-in-law has made.
She had to admit that she was wrong in her perception of her mother-in-law. It was wrong of her to judge her before even knowing her, especially based on TV soaps which are meant to dramatic. Her mother-in-law was sweet and caring, her father-in-law was childish and her brother-in-law and sister-in-law were the cutest pair she has ever seen. Basically she had no problem with the Lao family, except for her husband.
Actually Xu Ai was a judgmental person. This wasn't entirely her fault. Due to her illness, she was forbidden from traveling to different places or interacting with anyone outside her family. The list people she knew was very short. So, her only way of knowing people was through books, TV soaps and movies. They were her guides. And she developed a habit of comparing real life situations and people with her guides.
Meanwhile Lao Fei had a major problem. He, by nature, is a quiet and sensible. While his brother did the talking, he was the one who did the observing. He was shy to the point of silence, facing his wife was indeed very difficult for him.
At last he instructed himself to talk to her. He turned to look at her and found her munching on various sweets. The scene was so irrevocably cute that he found himself dazed. He has seen many beautiful women before, different kinds of beautiful but none appeared so ethereal to him. His wife had an unique charm, a charm that was causing him to blush every now and then.
Their first talk was thus postponed.
By the time they reached Lao Fei's mansion and settled in their respective rooms, it was afternoon. The housekeeper, Mrs Ran had served the food on the dinning table where the couple occupied the furthest possible seats from each other.
Lao Fei refused to look at his wife cause he was still blushing. But Xu Ai misunderstood his intentions and grew self-conscious about her table manners. From what she heard about her husband she knew that he studied in America and had impeccable manners. Feeling insecure Xu Ai, who is infamous for her huge appetite, no longer felt hungry.
As a result, in the evening Xu Ai started feeling starved. She felt too embarrassed to ask for food, if new bride gluttonously asks for food every second, what would become of her reputation.
To forget about her hunger, she distracted herself with playing guzheng. She thanked her mother a billion times for sending her beloved guzheng along with her luggage.
She started playing guzheng from the age of six. It was her greatest delight and salvation. When her parents and sister were busy, guzheng was her only companion.
She placed her soft hands on the thin twenty-one strings, the familiarity attached to the 64 inches long wooden instrument, made her heart swell. She leisurely plucked a few strings to test to the sound and also to decide what she was going to play.
Finally she decided to play 'painted heart', a song her sister liked very much. She smiled remember the days when her sister would plead her to play it saying that there was no melody sweeter than the one she played. And it was, indeed, sweet. It was calm and serene, purifying everyone's hearts from every trouble and distress. The melody pulled it's listeners in a trance, making them imagine a world that is beautiful and free from all problems. Making them feel refreshed. Lao Fei, who was listening from outside her room, wholeheartedly admitted the same thing.
If there is anything Lao Fei missed more than his family while he was in America, it was the Chinese music. The sweet, touching music was very different from the western music. He missed listening to the different melodies he used to listen all the time in his home. He missed not being able to play on his own.
When he heard Xu Ai's playing the guzheng. He immediately recognized the melody. It was one of his favorite, it was very close to his heart. So, he hid in the shadow, afraid of disturbing her. He was afraid of damaging such a beautiful tune. When the song was over, he silently returned to his room forgetting about his plan of talking to Xu Ai. He didn't want to ruin her mood.
The dinner was the same as lunch, Xu Ai ate half's half's half of her usual appetite while Lao Fei silently ate to hide his flushed face. Discovering his wife's talent did something to his heart, it refused to obey his command of beating at a normal pace.
The result of not sating her appetite was well visible by midnight. No mater how much she tossed and turned on her soft as cloud bed, sleep was far from coming. She planed her paining stomach and reluctantly conceded to her empty tummy.
Tiptoeing downstairs, she quietly entered the kitchen and thanked the god for letting her be undetected. Mrs Ran had gone home earlier in the evening and Xu Ai had no other choice than cooking for herself. After rampaging through the kitchen she found a pack of cup-noodles. She concluded that it was the safest option for her( someone who has only made tea once) and hence, truly perfect for the moment.
Xu Ai saw a video on the topic and followed it with diligence. The spicy smell of the recently made bowl of noodles, made her salivate. She rubbed her hands impatiently and excitedly picked up the tray. She intended to eat on the table and was about to go to the dinning area. But as soon as she turned, she heard someone call her. Shock filled her entire system, making her drop the trap and the bowl on top of it.
Steaming hot noodles along with it's red, spicy gravy fell on the floor. Some of it landed on her bare feet making her wince.
When Lao Fei came to the kitchen to get some coffee, he didn't expect to see Xu Ai there. He also didn't expect her to react so violently when he called her.
The place where the gravy landed grew red. Lao Fei became worried upon seeing her hurt. He led her to the living room and placed her on the sofa. Then he rushed back to bring the first aid box, he apologetically tended her wounds.
"I am sorry. So sorry, I really didn't mean it." Lao Fei's voice was gentle and earnest.
Xu Ai was distracted from her pain by his voice. She didn't expect him to be so courteous and chivalrous. She counted the times he said 'sorry' and found that it exceeded the number of strings in her beloved guzheng.
"It's OK" she said to make him feel less guilty. "It wasn't your fault. I shouldn't have reacted so much."
"I shouldn't have called you so abruptly." Lao Fei said.
Xu Ai opened her mouth to protest but her stomach beat her. Her poor empty stomach made weird sounds to gain attention.
Xu Ai's face turned a deep red color. It was too embarrassing. Lao Fei being the perfect gentleman said nothing.
"I will cook something." He said and went to the kitchen.
Xu Ai intently watched her husband first carefully clean the broken bowl and wasted food. Then he took some vegetables and eggs out of the fridge, also some rice from the counter. He flawlessly chopped the vegetables, mixed the eggs and added those in a pan with rice. In Xu Ai's eyes he was a pro, she felt jealous of his skills.
Within minutes the smell of the delicious fried rice filled the room, Lao Fei carefully placed the plate in front of Xu Ai and gestured her to dig in.
Xu Ai happily picked up a spoon and began eating with great gusto. After finishing she gave him a soft smile.
"It was delicious." She said, somewhat shyly.
"I am glad." Lao Fei also felt a bit bashful.
That late night dinner made two things clear to Xu Ai. A- She really needed to learn cooking. B- Lao Fei was anything but a black-belly jerk.