Mrs. Xiu entered my room and opened the box. I stretched my neck out and took a look. A beautiful dress was laid out inside the box. A matching set of accessories and heels were also placed inside.
What was going on? Why was Xi Qingchuan giving me gifts out of the blue?
I Mrs. Xiu to leave the box in the room. After thanking her, she left the room.
I slid my palm down the silky-smooth material of the dress, then called Xi Qingchuan.
He must be busy. His voice sounded like his phone was currently clamped between his ear and his shoulder.
“Did you receive my present?”
“Why are you giving me stuff?”
“As compensation. For yesterday.”
“So, you think you think my first time can be bought with a dress and some jewelry?”
“You don’t have to accept it. Then you won’t even have a dress and the jewelry,” he said, his voice hard. “If there’s nothing else, I’m hanging up.”
I was furious. How could receiving a gift be such an upsetting experience?
I still wore the dress and heels that Xi Qingchuan had given me to the dinner that evening. The clothes I had in my wardrobe were hardly befitting of a daughter-in-law of the Xi family. I was going back to my family home tonight. A tiny shred of vanity inside me wanted me to look presentable as well.
A chauffeur came and picked me up first before picking up Xi Qingchuan.
Bai Yu came along as well. The job description of a personal assistant included tagging along to all activities, from the smallest family gathering to large-scale commercial events.
He still looked extremely embarrassed when he saw me, and kept quiet after greeting me with a smile.
This was the first time I was visiting home with Xi Qingchuan since our wedding. My father was extremely happy to see Xi Qingchuan and greeted him with a strong hug.
“Xiao Sheng’s always talking about how busy you are. So, you finally found time today for dinner?”
My stepmother looked torn. She must have looked forward to Xi Qingchuan becoming her son-in-law. Yet, she had never viewed me as her daughter. Xiao Shi was the one she had wanted Xi Qingchuan to marry.
We sat in the living room, chatting. Xi Qingchuan and my father talked about business matters while I sat in a corner and ate fruits.
Xi Qingchuan was clearly popular with the family. No one had bothered entertaining me during my past visits back home. When Xi Qingchuan had arrived, my eldest sister and her husband had sat down beside him with bright smiles lighting up their faces.
I didn’t see Xiao Shi. I was thinking about her when I heard footsteps coming down the stairs.
I was about to turn around and check out who it was when Xi Qingchuan suddenly grabbed ahold of my wrist and pulled me to his side. He placed his arm around my waist, then turned and smiled at me.
“I’ve been talking to your dad the whole day and neglecting you. You’re not mad at me, right?”
He had always been nasty to me. But he was being so gentle all of a sudden. Something must be up.
It was then that I heard the footsteps stop behind our sofa. Then came Xiao Shi’s voice.
I raised my head. Xiao Shi stood before us, dressed in a silky mauve dress, her long hair flowing down her back—like a being washed aglow in ethereal light.
She didn’t seem to notice us, her cool eyes sweeping past us in a single glance. She had always ignored my presence. I was used to it.
Oh. I realized why Xi Qingchuan had acted like that a moment earlier. It had been for Xiao Shi. He had wanted to make her jealous.
Who would’ve guessed that he was so childish and would resort to such juvenile tactics?
But had he done it because he was still in love with Xiao Shi?
Wasn’t he gay?
The gears in my head spun furiously. I had been bored out of my skull earlier in the day and had went online and googled about homosexuality. It turned out that there were a few reasons for gay men being gay. One was due to their inborn sexuality. They only loved those of the same sex.
Another was due to curiosity. They thought it was a cool thing to be doing.
A third reason was because they had been hurt by those of the opposite sex and as a result, their sexual attention shifted to those of the same sex instead.
It seemed that Xi Qingchuan belonged to the third group.
Who could have imagined the domineering and forceful Xi Qingchuan being hurt so badly by Xiao Shi? Should I pity him?
No way. He just pinched me hard on my waist. It hurt so much I almost shrieked out loud.
I raised my head and glared at him. He grinned and patted my hair.
“My baby must be hungry.”
“Is that so? Let’s start dinner then.” My stepmother got up from the sofa immediately and summoned the butler. “Get the maid to bring out the dishes.”
The look on Xiao Shi’s face remained frosty as she glided past us.
Xi Qingchuan’s eyes seemed to follow her constantly. I suddenly understood what it meant when people say that everyone had a weakness.
Xi Qingchuan was constantly showered with affection and adoration in public. But when it came to the beautiful and distant Xiao Shi, he became the one who followed her around, panting after her, and who was eventually spurned. It was natural that he had committed misdeeds in the moment of fury.
Today’s dinner was going to be eventful.
I sat next to Xi Qingchuan at the dinner table. Xiao Shi took her seat opposite us.
Many of the dishes served were seafood. I would develop a slight allergy against seafood during spring. That was why I generally stayed away from seafood.
Xi Qingchuan picked up a prawn with his chopsticks and said warmly to me, “I’ll help you peel this.”
He had my gratitude for being so loving. He peeled the prawn as my family watched, then placed it in my bowl.
My eldest sister smiled at him.
“Xiao Sheng never has seafood during spring. I wonder if our sister-in-law’s tender care will make her change this dietary habit of hers.”
They knew I didn’t eat seafood, but they didn’t know why.
Xi Qingchuan didn’t know as well, but he obviously wasn’t interested in finding out.
He gave me an annoying smile, then leaned his cheek against his palm and stared lovingly into my eyes while whispering in a voice that only I could hear.
“I’m allergic.” I pretended to brush my hair aside as I leaned towards him and whispered back.
“Having one won’t kill you.”
My chest throbbed from the fury I was feeling. But Xi Qingchuan was a petty-minded man. I wasn’t sure how he was going to torment me in the days that followed should I embarrass him.
I gritted my teeth, stuffed the prawn into my mouth, and chewed loudly just so he could see I was doing it.
Xiao Shi, who had been silent all this while, finally spoke.
“Xiao Sheng gets an allergic reaction when she eats seafood in spring. Didn’t you know that?”
I thought Xi Qingchuan might be embarrassed by her sudden words, but a reply flowed from his lips smoothly.
“She’s been cured of that.”
Utter lies. I prayed for rain in the coming days. A tiny bit of sun was going to make my face swell!
Xi Qingchuan pinched me in the waist again. The pain made me look up. The smile on his face was mesmerizing.
“Isn’t that so, Sheng’er?”
I swore that hearing him call me that felt worse than shoving ten chunks of fatty meat down my throat. My waist was throbbing from all the pinches. But the show had to go on.
I nodded and muttered.
“Yeah, that’s right.”
Xiao Shi lowered her head and continued eating. She didn’t even spare a single glance at Xi Qingchuan.
Xi Qingchuan appeared distracted during the entire meal. He had quite a few drinks with my father, though.
I became increasingly confident that I had been right. He was bisexual. Xiao Shi breaking his heart had pushed him towards liking men instead. Even so, he still couldn’t let go of his love for Xiao Shi.
After dinner, everyone gathered in the living room for fruits and a post-dinner chat. I went upstairs to grab some of my belongings. The wedding had been conducted in a rush. I hadn’t been able to move many of my belongings to the Xi residence. My pillow, for example. It might be old and worn out, but my mother had made it for me. Just hugging it made me feel safe.
I packed my things and left my room. I heard Xi Qingchuan’s voice when I passed Xiao Shi’s room.