Idiocy and foolishness were traits one would not normally associate with my high intellectual capacity. Urgency only further acted as evidence to my ability of forming quick and reasonable judgments of an uncertain circumstance, and so after a moment of thought, I came to a staggering conclusion.
With a steely gaze, I asked him, “Is this arranged by the man who impregnated me?”
The man simply smiled, his expression neither giving way to denial nor agreement. Our conversation was cut short by the sudden swinging of the door as a woman in her forties came out, a pleasant grin taking over her features while she appraised me with great deference, “You must be Miss Xia. Come on in, it’s freezingly cold out here.”
Bafflement struck me in a daze as I assessed both unknown individuals. At the persistent ushering of the newcomer, I finally succumbed and compliantly let her welcome me into the massive household. The nameless man did not follow suit and only whispered a few imperceptible words to the lady before taking his leave. As the door shut gently behind me, I took in the scene with widened eyes full of wonder; the sight was mesmerizing, what with the enormous living hall being enough to resemble the size of a basketball court. It was so huge that even the softest tones of voices would surely echo in the colossal chamber.
The offer of a comfy pair of slippers shook me out of my reverie, a confused glance urging the woman to explain her worries, “Miss Xia, please change your shoes. You’re soaking wet. You must go upstairs to take a shower before you get a cold. I’ll go to the kitchen to cook some hot soup for you in the meantime.”
Nodding in comprehension, I asked while changing into the footwear, “Who is he?” The woman furrowed her eyebrows, prodding for a clarification, “I mean, the one who just left?”
“Oh, that is Mr. Dong, the assistant.”
“Assistant? Whose assistant?”
She shook her head in apology, “All I know is that his surname’s Dong, and that he’s working as an assistant.”
I hummed in recognition, tailing after her in silence as she led me to the staircase. Suddenly she stopped, seemingly remembering something, “Oh, and my surname is Cai; you may call me Mrs. Cai. And the other girl is called Jin.”
She pointed to the beaming young woman by the top of the steps, “She does the cleaning and I do the cooking.”
I gave the girl an unsure smile as a response to her joyful expression; completely lost by the unexpected simultaneous turn of events.
It was proving to be a bit hard to take in the longer I pondered over my thoughts. It barely registered in my mind that I was pregnant, and then the unforeseen state of affairs led me to this gigantic estate. With no one to confide in inside this unfamiliar place, I was left to harbor questions with no hopes of arriving at answers.
Dejected, I went to take a shower as recommended. The streams of hot water seared the coldness away from my flesh and brought back a much needed warmth to my stiff body.
Afterwards, I went to sit in front of the dressing table. Robotic movements spurred my hand to dry my wet hair with a small towel, my eyes absent and clouded in thought at the reflection in the mirror.
I had always been a person of strict morals and values. My love for Ho Cong had not affected the philosophies I held so dearly to myself; the boundaries I had set up between us served as an immunity against the temptations of crossing certain forbidden lines. What more, we had just recently received our certification for marriage. I would be far from my usual self if I had so much as thought of sabotaging the long awaited matrimony.
However, I could not ignore what had happened that night; the fateful day when Ho Cong took me to a dinner party.
Specific details were blurred out from my memories due to heavy intoxication, but I knew that I had spent the evening in the hotel as consequence to my uncontrollable behavior.
The shock was immense and immobilizing when I woke up to see that I was alone and naked in a room without Ho Cong.
The scattered clothes on the floor, and the lingering scent of an unfathomable liquid staining the bedding had warning bells ringing inside my throbbing head.
I pleaded for Ho Cong to solve my queries once I had regained my bearings, but he only evaded and gave me an ambiguous reply in return.
I had chosen to let it go with the thought that it was him who took liberty of me while I was inebriated. It would have caused no qualms, seeing as he was my legitimate husband after all.
But now, the unclear happenings that I was currently dealing with only cemented the vague feeling I had: the assumption that it was not Ho Cong that I made love with—It was someone else.
A horrible sensation crept up in my stomach, sending goosebumps trailing down my bare, trembling arms. I huddled, embracing myself in a futile attempt to minimize the dread slowly dawning upon me.
I had not even realized that Jin had been helping me dry my hair until I heard her hurriedly asking, “Are you feeling cold, Miss Xia? I’ll turn up the temperature here if you are.”
“No, thank you,” I stopped her, forcing a timid smile on my face. A brief silence permeated the atmosphere before I casually broke it with a musing of mine, “Do you know who the owner of this house is?”
“I have no idea. When Mr. Dong hired me, he just mentioned that I was to serve someone here,”Jin refuted.
I frowned, finding the overall predicament to be weird and perplexing.
Nonetheless, I have faith in myself as a journalist, and in the many bizarre experiences I had seen and gone through.
There was only one deduction I could formulate that was befitting of a press writer. However, It was an outcome that was borderline insane:
I most likely became the aftermath of a famed celebrity who desperately wanted an heir, no matter what the stakes were. Thus, after our intercourse, he sought out a place for me to comfortably conceive his wish of birthing a son.
I scoffed at the peculiar setting I had conjured. News of that kind was rarely seen, let alone happening to an ordinary person like me.
Later in the evening, I was granted a meal of fine?cuisines. Mrs. Cai was an excellent cook. Her dishes had been the most scrumptious home-cooked food I ever had the opportunity of tasting.
It was an appreciated distraction from the turmoil growing in my chest—my consciousness still daunted by heavy doubts.
Yet, my determination to stay had not wavered in the slightest. I had settled with my decision of finding the father of my unborn child; I needed to see what kind of person he was.
The unusual day ended with no additional incidents, and as the sun rose high the next early morning, I was woken up by servants to prepare me for work. A disorienting spectacle, perhaps. Given the position I was in, I had not really envisaged that I would be permitted to assume my daily routine.
A car waited for me at the gate, the driver being the same man as yesterday.
He got out of the ride and held the passenger door open for me in courtesy, “Miss Xia, please get in.”
His deferential attitude piqued my curiosity, beguiling me to heighten my inquisitiveness about his boss’ identity.
The humility and reverence shown to a woman like me spoke volumes of the power the mysterious man on top must wield.
And somehow, the idea formed a picture of a middle-aged bald bastard in my mind.
I cringed inwardly, the image immediately making me sick. I coughed several times to hide my treacherous notions and thanked the man as I slid inside the vehicle.
As I eased on the leather backseat, the driver introduced himself and told me that his surname was Ho.
I raised an eyebrow at the information; he shared the same surname with Ho Cong, my nominal husband.
Ho Cong was a man that was weak by nature. When conflicts appeared between his mother and me, he always chose to retreat instead of trying to mediate the strife.
I bit my lip at the recollection of him and tried to reach his phone on the way to work, but none of my calls had went through.
Sighing as I gave up, I wondered if he knew anything about my present standing, despite my lack of awareness on where or what he was doing.
It was just like the old times. Every time I had a dispute with his mother, he always hid and anticipated for the quarrels to die down before he came back—kneeling and begging me for my forgiveness.
It was the precise reason why we did not celebrate our wedding. His volatility took hold of his core, his fickleness winning over any desire to hold a proper ceremony.
Time passed in a flash, and soon, I had arrived at the office. My entrance had been greeted by my colleague, Tang, who had told me that the chief editor was looking for my presence.
Cold sweat started accumulating on my back due to the nervousness I abruptly felt at the news. I had asked for leave yesterday afternoon to go to the hospital, but had ended up spending the whole day out of the office. I was sure to be?yelled?at by my boss.
Anxiety pronounced the fumbling of my fingers as I walked into the editor's office. He looked up in acknowledgement before beckoning me to sit down.
"There’s an important interview today. I had initially assigned Zhang with the task, but since he’s on a business trip at the moment, you have to substitute for him.” He said, handing out a file on his table, “Here’s the question list.”
I took it dutifully and read it out loud.
“Interview with Sang Qi, the Vice President of Dayu Group,”I muttered, contemplating.
This was not an interview; it was a profile, and I didn’t do profiles. I was working for the front-line news.
I examined the paper in befuddlement. It was way out of my expertise; profiles were factual details of important people that were fixed beforehand. Calling it as an interview would only be a formality. Questions that delved deeper into their businesses were revoked, considering that it was usually too sensitive to be tackled upon.
Rejecting the proposal, I placed the document on my lap and said,“Sir, why don’t we send Tang for the interview? I still need to visit SPDA today.”
“Your mother-in-law came to the office yesterday afternoon,” said the chief editor, catching me off guard. I gaped, my heart instantly sinking down in apprehension.
“What for? What did she want?”
“Xia Zhi,” said the chief editor, solemnly staring at me, “You’ve been working for the magazine since you’ve graduated. You’re a good journalist, and I really commend that.”My shaking hands curled into fists as I desperately looked for stabilization as he continued on, “I know, I have no right to interfere in your personal life, but when your mother-in-law made a scene yesterday, it damaged our reputation severely. So—"
I felt a lump lodge in my throat. I had an inkling on what the fuss was about, and I could tell from the pity on the chief editor’s face what words would come tumbling out of his mouth next, “—either you accept the task, or get fired.”
I gritted my teeth and stared down, knowing that there would be no bargaining out of my dilemma.
An exchange of polite salutations marked my cue to exit the room, the draft clutched in my hand almost tearing as a result of my frustration.
I went to the parking lot; preparing to fulfill my assigned duty when I noticed the luxury car that had brought me here was still there. Pouting at the oddity, I leaned over the open driver’s window and asked, “Ho, don’t you have to work?”
“This is my work, Miss Xia,” the driver grinned, “My boss told me that you’re a journalist, so it’s your job to go around for interviews. He said to me that from today onwards, I have to drive you wherever you need to go.”I nodded in comprehension as the man prepped on his seatbelt, “So, where are you going, Miss Xia?”
Mulling over it, I gave him a murmur of gratitude and proceeded to go inside. Ho looked at me in the mirror, prompting me to respond to his prior question, “Dayu Group.”
He froze, giving me a dumbfounded glance.
“Too far away?” I asked, disconcerted by his reaction.
“N-no, of course not,” said him in a hurry, fumbling over the keys as he started the car.
As we headed on our way, I found myself dozing off; a side effect that all women during the early stages of pregnancy underwent. I only woke up when Ho had roused me from sleep.
Blinking blearily, I entered the building and sought out Sang QI's secretary; the one whom I had scheduled a meeting with in advance. She asked me to wait in the reception room for a while after confirming my appointment, saying that Mr. Sang was at a meeting and would come later on.
I read the interview draft in passing, finding it quite easy to understand since the writer’s writing was limited in some aspects in plain words. It was a relief, at least, that I could remember all the questions at first sight.
Just as I perused the question list for the second time, the door was pushed open and a man strode in.
He was of tall stature, his domineering aura gushing with the demand for authority and deep respect. It was without a doubt, the venerated Mr. Sang.
Out of politeness, I stood up and hastily held out my hand as a greeting,“How do you do, Mr. Sang.”