Meng Shengnan felt a bit out of it during the self-study session that evening. She read the English text three times yet couldn’t even comprehend the central message from it. This state lasted until she went home that night and was discovered by Sheng Dian. Meng Shengnan was in a daze in her room, and the door was pushed open.
Sheng Dian came in, closed the door, and sat on the edge of the bed.
“What’s the matter with you tonight?”
“You have been quite abnormal during this period, is there something on your mind?”
“A conflict with a classmate?”
That was when she finally shook her head.
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“Mbld obyv’p oasdt, vlzz xl, xyucl R nyd tkhl usw y tsse pwttlpvksd.”
Fkdnl pbl oyp uswdt, pbl jdlo yzxspv yzz bla vbswtbvp okvbswv twlppkdt. Vlabyrp kv oyp clnywpl pbl bye clld y vlynbla qsa xsal vbyd 20 ulyap, pbl oyp hlau tsse yv nsxxwdknyvkdt kelyp okvb Yldt Fbldtdyd. Mblka qyxkzu xllvkdt sdnl y xsdvb oyp yzps dsv esdl kd hykd.
“Ysx.” Yldt Fbldtdyd vakle vs calyvbl swv vs alzym.
Fbldt Pkyd bye y nyzx nsxrspwal.
“R vbkdj R zkjl y csu.” Fbl prsjl pzsozu.
Mblal oyp pkzldnl kd vbl yka qsa y qlo plnsdep.
Sheng Dian asked: “What kind of ‘like’, is it just a crush or is it ‘I can’t have anyone else but him’?”
Meng Shengnan thought about it for a while.
“Your heartbeat races when you see him?”
“A little bit.”
“Do you dare to chase after him?”
Meng Shengnan immediately shook her head.
“Does he have a girlfriend?”
Hearing this sentence, Sheng Dian slowly laughed.
“You aren’t laughing at me, are you?”
“A little bit.”
Meng Shengnan: “…”.
Sheng Dian moved forward towards her.
“It’s normal for you to feel this way at your age, but you can’t let it go wild. At this time, a lot of these feelings end up fizzling out, do you understand? And almost every high school student experiences a crush, so you can’t take it too seriously.”
“However, this feeling is sometimes very weak, sometimes very strong.”
Sheng Dian slowly said: “It’s okay to date, but don’t let it affect your mood and academics.”
Meng Shengnan was silent.
Sheng Dian also said: “Let’s not say whether he has a girlfriend, just one question, does he like your type?”
“I don’t think so.” Li Yan was so good at acting cute, she couldn’t copy it.
Sheng Dian breathed a sigh of relief: “Then I can rest assured.”
Sheng Dian rubbed her hair and smiled: “Ah what, aren’t you missing the topic idea for your first draft of your manuscript? I think this is a good topic.”
“Can it work?”
By the end of the evening, there wasn’t a substantive result that came out of their conversation. However, Sheng Dian’s words were a wake-up call and Meng Shengnan began to go all out to write this story that involved ‘him’ and ‘her’. Every time she typed a word, perhaps, without even knowing herself, she hid a part of her crush within. In her second year of high school, she was only 16 years old. Sheng Dian told her, if he likes you, then he won’t care if you are a good or bad student.
She didn’t quite understand it.
Sheng Sian smiled and rubbed her hair.
“Your pride and your hard work will cause many boys to be afraid to approach you, they will also have no heart to pull you down to earth, but in this way, they will know to cherish you even more.” The woman said.
One week after the beginning of winter, the cold wind passed through.
Meng Shengnan was wearing a thick sweater and doing the English mock exam in the classroom, each question harder than the next. In the study room, the surrounding windows were all tightly closed, even the slightest breeze that blew in would cause one to shudder.
“Why is it so cold all of a sudden?” Nie Jing rubbed her hands while doing her question.
Meng Shengnan tried to solve the question while replying: “It will start lightly snowing in two days.”
“Changing of seasons.”
“Oh, Meng Shengnan.”
Nie Jing leaned closer: “Your writing is quite nice.”
Meng Shengnan glanced at her and laughed.
“Have you practiced calligraphy?”
Meng Shengnan said: “I did for a while.”
After class, the three girls and one boy at the desks were chatting. Of course, Fusong was just listening quietly and occasionally expressing his opinions. Compared to him, Nie Jing was very active, full of vigor.
Meng Shengnan was listening when someone knocked outside the window next to her.
“Come out.” Qi Qiao called.
Meng Shengnan went out and asked: “What’s the matter?”
Qi Qiao said with a bitter face: “I remember you got 123 last time for Chinese, right?”
“Let me borrow it.”
“Two weeks have passed already, what do you need it for?”
“Who knows what craziness the Chinese teacher is going through, he said he wants to talk through the essay or something, quickly give it to me, you talented girl.”
Meng Shengnan pursed her lips, “Wait.”
After Qi Qiao got the test paper and left, Meng Shengnan returned to her seat. Xue Lin and Nie Jing were chatting excitedly, and the topic ended up being about Song Jiashu. Meng Shengnan prickled up her ears to hear a bit of it, shook her head and smiled without saying a word.
Nie Jing stopped her and asked.
“I heard that Song Jiashu went through a hard time chasing after Qi Qiao back then, is it true?”
“They are so blatant about their relationship, do their families know about it?
Two questions in a row, Meng Shengnan didn’t know how to respond. At this time, Fusong spoke: “According to scientific research, people spend almost half of their lives worrying about other people’s affairs. They use their own views to judge, and this kind of judgment is often called the onlooker consciousness.”
Meng Shengnan: “……”
Xue Lin: “……”
Nie Jing was still dazed: “What views?”
“World view, view of life and values.”
In a second, the topic disappeared without a trace.
Meng Shengnan lowered her head to read her book, her mouth turning upwards. To be honest, Fusong was a very interesting person. Whenever he talked, the philosophical aura was strong, it gave off the feeling of a poor scholar who talked like a book. Plus, he would intervene when she was in need, he was a good friend.
In those few days, Meng Shengnan had stayed up late two or three nights, occasionally falling asleep in class.
One time Fusong caught her dozing off.
“I called you several times, did you know?”
“You aren’t concentrating.”
Meng Shengnan was thinking about the plot of her story, and asked him without thinking: “If you liked a boy, would you take the initiative to confess to him?”
The person being asked was stunned for several seconds.
“Why aren’t you speaking?” Meng Shengnan realized later what she had said.
Fusong stared at her for a long time.
The boy interrupted her: “Who do you like?”
Meng Shengnan’s head was buzzing, explaining while stuttering and hesitating.
Fusong just looked at her and said nothing.
Meng Shengnan sighed and thought about it for a while before saying: “I’ve been writing a review after reading a book, I’m a bit unsure so I wanted to ask you.”
After a while Fusong asked: “That’s why you have been lacking ambition in your studies?”
“Who is lacking ambition?”
“You want me to start theorizing?”
Meng Shengnan curled her lips.
Fu Song smiled suddenly: “I won’t confess.”
“The time has not come yet.”
Meng Shengnan didn’t figure out the meaning of his words, and suddenly heard him call out her name again.
“I don’t like boys.”
Meng Shengnan almost spat everywhere from laughing.
So during such a strenuous and chaotic period where the deadline was tight, Meng Shengnan finally finished writing the manuscript about her unrequited love for him on the 20th of November at two o’clock in the morning.
Just after typing the last word, the bedroom door was pushed open.
Sheng Dian walked in with a jacket on, and Meng Shengnan was taken aback.
“Mom, you’re still awake?”
“Did you finish?” Sheng Dian turned her chin towards the desktop computer.
Sheng Dian sat on the side of the bed: “Do you still have feelings?”
In the past few days, she would often deliberately go to the science building to find Qi Qiao to secretly see what he was doing. Almost every time she would come across him and a group of boys in the corner of the back door of the classroom, smoking cigarettes while boasting, wild and unrestrained.
“How much do you like him now?”
She shook her head.
Sheng Dian stretched out her hand and stroked the soft hair that had become unruly beside her ear.
“Forget it, take your time.” The woman said.
“Mom, don’t you object to my puppy love?”
Shengdian laughed: “Is this even puppy love? Unrequited love sounds more like it.”
Meng Shengnan: “……”
“But the person who is liked by my daughter can’t be that bad.”
Meng Shengnan: “……”
He smokes and skips school, he does ‘things’ with his girlfriend in broad daylight, he spends his nights in Internet cafes and the KTV is like his home. Meng Shengnan took a breath, not daring to say anything, but Sheng Dian smiled.
“To think that when your mother was younger, the men your grandfather introduced to me were all doctors, lieutenants, officials, but I fell in love with your dad. At that time, he was still a demobilized soldier. He didn’t work, nor did he have money, spending his days slacking off, but your mother fell for him. And it turns out that your mother’s vision was not bad, right?”
Meng Shengnan nodded and smiled.
“Dad slacked off a lot?”
Meng Shengnan laughed even harder, Sheng Dian’s expression was filled with amorous memories.
“But at that time, your dad was afraid that I wouldn’t like him, so there was no news after our first meeting. At that time, I was so anxious that I rode a bicycle all by myself to his house. He was sitting at the door smoking a cigarette and was so dazed to see me that his cigarette fell to the ground.”
“Then what happened?”
“I didn’t give him a good attitude, I immediately asked him if he liked me, and if he didn’t to just end my misery now.”
The voice of Sheng Dian was gentle.
“Then we got together.”
“Mom, you are amazing.”
Sheng Dian rubbed her hair.
“A lot of things are not as difficult as you think. When the time comes, go chase after it and don’t be shy. But there is one thing, you have to become even more outstanding in order to have this sort of confidence, do you understand?”
Meng Shengnan seemed to understand, yet she didn’t fully.
Sheng Dian did not continue the topic, smiled and said: “Don’t stay up late in the future, it’s not good for your eyes and your health. Writing stories is one thing, but I’ll get angry if it harms your body. Back then, Lu Yao wrote The Ordinary World and yes, he gained a lot of fame, but how long did he live? He was gone by his early forties, do you know that it was caused by staying up late every day?”
“I see.” Meng Shengnan nodded.
Sheng Dian smiled and got up.
“Okay, I’ll stop talking, go to bed early.”
That night, Meng Shengnan finally had a good dream. She woke up the next day and the sunlight shone onto the bed at eight to nine o’clock on this Saturday morning. She rolled over lazily, squinted for a while and then got up from the bed. The tape in the repeater on the table was spinning, playing Love and Sincerity sung by Leo Ku, the lyrics going, “I’d rather be a cat, or a dog, but not your lover”.
The sun shone brightly in the sky at noon.
She copied the text from the desktop on a piece of white paper carefully and neatly, then put it into a pencil case with the registration form and ran out the door to the post office at the corner to get a spot to send her letter.
The weather that day was really good.
The post office auntie asked her to fill in the form, and Meng Shengnan lowered her head to write the address: Mengya Magazine, No. 675 Julu Street, Jing’an District, Shanghai. She smiled and wrote the zip code 200040 on the bottom right.
Her ears were too sensitive that day.
Someone came in to buy postcards, their voice sounding a lot like his. The auntie asked which style he wanted to buy, and he said whatever. Then he took a card, leaned slightly towards the side of Meng Shengnan to get a pen from the box. She didn’t dare to look up, frozen in her spot, her heartbeat was out of control.
They were very close, she could smell the cigarette scent from his body.
Meng Shengnan pretended to be checking the address and zip code, the person beside her scribbled a few words and then stood up and left. She immediately turned her head to look for the figure, and saw the boy slowly throwing the postcard into the mailbox that was up to his chest, and then walking away with one hand in his pocket.
The name on the postcard, she glanced at it from her peripheral vision.
To Lu Sibei
After sending the letter, she walked back absent-mindedly, trying to find the figure while walking on the streets, but she didn’t bump into him again by the time she went home. Under the afternoon sun, Meng Shengnan took a small stool and sat in the yard listening to Sheng Dian. Speaking of interesting places, Sheng Dian stopped her hands that had been knitting and smiled.
“I heard from your aunt that Kang Kai will be back by the end of the year.”
Meng Shengnan went ‘Oh’ and said, “I heard he has a girlfriend.”
“Who said that?”
“The auntie from Li Wan’s house said it.”
Meng Shengnan ran upstairs and closed the door while her mother was in a daze.
She got a headache every time Sheng Dian mentioned Kang Kai. All the parents in their alley were looking forward to setting up their daughters with Kang Kai. At that time, Li Wan, who lived opposite to them, was only nine years old. That’s when her lawyer mother began to arrange a betrothal between them. It seems that the influence of this top student at Peking University School of Medicine was really extraordinary. Later, when she started reading books, Meng Shengnan described him as a man fit to be written by the author Yi Shu, he was gentle and unassuming.
It was getting dark, and the penguin icon in the lower right corner of the computer suddenly went ‘ding, ding’.
Meng Shengnan put down the repeater that she was playing with to read the message, it turned out to be Zhou Ningzhi.
The boy asked: “Are you online?”
He said: “Today is the 21st.”
Meng Shengnan knew what he wanted to ask and sent a smiley face.
“Just mailed it over at noon.” She replied.
Zhou Ningzhi said: “I returned to Nanjing yesterday.”
“Then you can’t review my manuscript, great god.”
Zhou Ningzhi asked: “Jiang Jin1this is the real name of Scholar Jiang’s Talents Are Exhausted told you?”
Meng Shengnan sent a ‘shh’ expression, Scholar Jiang’s Talents Are Exhausted was not someone to be trifled with.
Zhou Ningzhi smiled at the computer.
“Genre?” the boy asked.
Meng Shengnan’s thoughts shifted for a moment and the boy came to her mind.
She said: “Old-fashioned romance.”
At that time, the wind blew the glass, and a shallow knocking sound spread throughout the room. Meng Shengnan’s head tilted into the darkness of the night, as if she could see the boy with his school uniform thrown on his shoulders, leaning against the wall, lowering his head and smoking a cigarette from afar.
On the desktop, the Penguin icon rang again.
Zhou Ningzhi asked what it was called.
“The Boy Under the Abysmal Sea.” Meng Shengnan returned.
[Translator’s Note: I really like the relationship FL and her mum has, it makes me very envious that they can openly communicate about things like this, it shows a very healthy mother-daughter relationship!]