Sometimes the best way to mature and improve is through the mistakes we make.
4. The first shake of the chessboard.
As a youth, we like to discuss our ideals and we like to make plans. We assume that as long as we’re smart and work hard enough, we will be able to make it a reality however, we don’t know that we are only a tiny, tiny chess piece on the chessboard of fate. With a small shake of the chessboard, we become off track from our plans.
Xiao Fei’s grades continued to slide down, for the midterm exam, she was no longer in the top ten. If she slightly ‘works harder’, she’ll be on par with me.
I dropped her a few suggestions but she didn’t care the least and ignored me as if she had even given up on her pretend happiness. Her attitude towards the guys also became more abominable. Sometimes, when I saw the way she shouted at them, I really feared they would fly into rage from shame. However, they were reluctant to part with Xiao Fei’s beauty. Even if they walked off today, they would still come back tomorrow.
I was puzzled and couldn’t understand why Xiao Fei became even more downhearted. Enchantress told me that Wang Zheng had left to Guang Zhou a few weeks ago with his drum kit. He didn’t even say farewell to Xiao Fei, just like that, he suddenly disappeared from Xiao Fei’s life.
I didn’t know whether to celebrate or to be worried, perhaps Wang Zheng’s leaving without a farewell had hurt Xiao Fei once more but after the major pain passes, it should be the recovery process of the wound.
I thought about it for a long time and decided to properly discuss it with Xiao Fei. I wanted to tell her that she isn’t the only one who is heartbroken over someone but we can’t give up on ourselves just because the other person doesn’t like us.
When I wanted to look for her, she suddenly disappeared from school. I asked her class monitor who told me that her mom had come to get her long term sick leave.
Xiao Fei was sick?
I searched for her house to go see her. Her mom stood by the door and politely said, “Xiao Fei is currently recuperating from her sickness so it isn’t convenient for her to see classmates.”
I was extremely puzzled, I didn’t understand what kind of sickness it was that she wasn’t even able to meet people. I worriedly asked, “Auntie, is Xiao Fei’s sickness very severe?”
Her mom was very thin and also very haggard, she replied with certainty, “It’s not severe, after a period of time, she’ll be able to go to school again.”
She refused to let me in so I could only leave. However, I didn’t give up so I decided to use my pestering tactic and I went to her house every few days. Her mom’s change in attitude was really interesting, at first when I started going frequently, she was very impatient and shut the door after saying two or three sentences. However, gradually, she became kind again and asked in puzzlement, “It’s nearly the end of term exams right? Aren’t you busy with your studies?”
I gave her a lovely smile, “I am busy but I am still able to find the time to come see Xiao Fei.”
Her mom asked, “Are you and Xiao Fei very good friends?”
I tried to get on her good side, “Auntie, did you forget? When we were young, Xiao Fei even slept over at my house once. That time, you and uncle searched to my house at midnight and met my parents.”
“Ah? It’s you! Later when you moved away, Xiao Fei cried for a long time. I never thought the two of you would be in the same school again, Xiao Fei didn’t even tell me.”
I quietly stood there without speaking, auntie also became quiet as if in thought. After a long time, she said, “Come and visit Xiao Fei after you finish your end of term exam.”
I hurriedly said, “Thanks auntie.” I was able to be at ease now that I have a confirmed date.
After returning to school, I continued to be absentminded, quickly, we were going to be in our third year.
It has only been two years time but it was pretty much the age where things might get out of control for middle school students. During primary, we respected the teacher and our parents’ authorities and were rather obedient. When we got to middle school, we started to look at them with disdain yet we weren’t able to take grasps of ourselves, we didn’t have the slightest fear and we were willing to try new things, from dating, smoking, drinking and fighting to going to karaoke bars, dance halls and mixing in [the bad parts of] society, we dared to do anything.
People who have gone out and mixed before will know that during fights, the person who fights the most ruthlessly actually aren’t adult hooligans but us ignorant teenagers. Because they already know fear whereas we don’t know anything so we aren’t afraid of anything to the extent that because of a few bad words, we would smash a brick onto that person’s head.
In this rebellious period of confusion, those who are lucky may perhaps only bring a few bitter but interesting memories with them on this path of growing up whereas those who are unlucky will pay a heavy price that to them would have been unforeseen.
After two years of studying, some people who didn’t have good grades when they first started school will have risen and some who had very good grades when they first started would have dropped. Although it was a key middle school, there weren’t much difference between the bad students here who didn’t have the heart to study and the ones from normal middle schools.
To welcome next year’s high school entrance exam, the school will use results from term two’s final exam to redivide the classes, from the fast class to the slow class, or, it can be called the key class and the very key class.
Everyone were all very nervous and worked hard, fearing that they would be divided into the slow class if they weren’t careful.
Our carefree days seemed to be at an end and the heavy burden of studying started to slowly weigh on everyone’s shoulders.
My grades were very subtle, it was possible that I could be divided into the fast class to be a bad student and it was possible that I could be divided into the slow class to be a good student. A person’s mind is very strange, they’d rather enter the fast class and be a bad student. My parents naturally also thought this way, as if as long as I entered the fast class, I would definitely get into a key high school.
I was always in an out of it trance, during my spare time, other students would be revising but I was reading novels and practicing drawing. I liked to draw lotus flowers, during recess, I would sit by the school’s lotus pond and draw the lotus flowers. In my mind, they were the most beautiful kind of flower, no words could describe how beautiful they were.
One day, after English class, Treasure Bowl found Lin Lan and sadly told her that Chen Song Qing won’t participate in the end of year exam as he was leaving so Treasure Bowl wished for Lin Lan to organize a farewell party to send Cheng Qing Song off.
I was astonished and strained to hear, I heard Lin Lan ask in surprise, “Why?”
“He wants to attend technical school.”
“Why isn’t he attending middle school any more? Aren’t you only able to take the technical school entrance exam after you finish middle school?”
Treasure Bowl didn’t like to talk about things involving other people’s families so he refused to explain any further, only saying, “Their family seems to have some financial troubles, his dad wishes for him to get a job earlier. With his results, he would definitely be able to get in if he takes the exam now.”
Lin Lan’s eyes widened with shock as if it was the first time she realized that in this world, there are people who can’t even afford to go to school, even if perhaps she would only be able to buy two dresses with that school fee.
The news of Chen Qing Song leaving our class quickly spread. Although everyone was surprised, there weren’t many people who were sad since after all, Chen Qing Song wasn’t very social and was often alone. Everyone’s understanding of him was limited to the fact that he was number one in our class.
However, Lin Lan put lots of effort in it and didn’t hesitate to give up her studying time to arrange Chen Song Qing’s farewell party, she even used her influence to get everyone in the class to pool money together to buy him an expensive ballpoint pen and a beautiful diary as farewell gifts.
That year, I didn’t contribute to Chen Jing’s farewell gift but this time, I put in all my pocket money.
Chen Song Qing was silent and rather stiff but I think that inside, he was grateful to Lan Lin. His years of youth were forced to end early but Lin Lan used all her efforts to give him a pale but beautiful ending.
I seemingly watched this all happen indifferently from afar but inside, my heart was heavy. It wasn’t necessarily because of Chen Qing Song, perhaps it was only because of life itself as I once again felt the cruelness and helplessness of life. Many people don’t like studying at all, everyday they would smoke, drink, fight, steal their parents’ money to play games with, dye their hair and were proud of their rebelliousness even if their parents beg them to study. Whereas Chen Qing Song loved to study and worked hard, getting first every time yet life chose to not let him study.
This is life, seemingly everything you want, it won’t give to you.
The day Chen Qing Song left school, it started to drizzle.
I’ve always preferred the rain, when it rains, I hardly ever use an umbrella. I like the feeling of the rain falling on my face.
I sat on a stone bench in school and watched the rain fall like a silk curtain in a daze. I wasn’t unhappy but I wasn’t happy either. My mood is often in a blank state.
A person walk up to me and stopped.
I looked up, it was Chen Song Qing. He stood there silently, carrying a dark green canvas bag and a black umbrella that had faded to white.
We were both people who didn’t like to talk and we both stayed silent for a long while.
He suddenly said, “I’m not coming to school tomorrow.”
There was a small hole filled with rain water just next to his feet and he kicked at the water again and again.
He asked, “How is your revision going?”
“Not so well.”
He continued to kick the rain water, the water splashed onto his pants but he didn’t care at all.
“I originally wanted to leave after the final exams but my dad didn’t allow it. He said that with this time, I should prepare for the technical school exam and strive to get into field. Later on, go to a good office and get a higher salary. ”
I stayed quiet, not knowing what to say. He suddenly said, “Can I ask for a favor?”
“Sure.” I didn’t ask what the favor was and just immediately agreed.
He smiled, “Can you revise seriously and go all out for this final exam?”
I looked at him confused, unable to comprehend his strange request. However, I had already agreed so I had to keep my promise.
Actually, to this day, I still haven’t understood the reason for Chen Song Qing’s request.
“Okay, I will revise hard and take the exam seriously.”
He laughed and still kicked at the rain water. I quietly watched the water droplets he kicked up.
His shoes were already completely soaked. He stood there for a long time then said, “I’m going, goodbye!”
I sat on the stone bench without moving, “Goodbye!”
He carried his bag, turned and left. The skinny and tall frame slowly disappeared in the misty drizzle of the rain.
I sat there alone for a long time until my bottom was icy cold and my body was completely wet before I also carried my bag home.
That was the last time in my life that I met Chen Song Qing. Ever since then, I haven’t seen him again to the extent that I haven’t heard any news about him either. Whether or not he got into technical school, which field he got into, I didn’t know.
However, I knew that he would know my exam results so I kept my promise, I revised hard and worked hard in the exam. In the two or so weeks, I did nothing but study, from when I woke up in the morning right up til I went to sleep at night. He told me to go all out. Actually, I didn’t really understand what going all out means but I went and memorized my geography, history and politics textbooks, I even forced myself to memorize some random things from my most despised subject, English.
The results for the final exam came out, I became first in Class(1). Other than not having a good mark for English, I got close to full marks for algebra, physics and geometry. I pretty much got first in the class in all my other subjects such as geography and such which were completely dependent on forced memorization. Because I got first in a few subjects, it wasn’t possible that I had cheated so everyone could only use surprise to face this unexpected result.
Mom and dad were beyond happy, during our parent meeting, they nearly bowed down in gratitude to Treasure Bowl. Treasure Bowl was very indifferent and calmly said, “I teach English, her worst score was English so her improvement has nothing to do with me.”
As we were about to part, I actually started to get along with Treasure Bowl. Although we had once fought bitterly, although he was biased to students that had good grades and lively personalities, but to be fair, he and Teacher Zhang were completely different. His care for Lin Lan, how hard he tried to get Chen Song Qing to stay, going all out to teach, everything that I saw with my eyes, made me forgive the pain he had once brought me.
Actually, as a newly graduated technical university student, he was only nine grades older than us. He himself was a not fully matured person. I believe that we, as the first batch of students he has ever taught in his teaching career, will definitely not be forgotten by him just like how we will never forget that he was our homeroom teacher. Because he has left a mark on our growing up lives, we have also left a mark on his maturing life.
After the final exams ended, I went to see Xiao Fei. Her mom kept her promise and let me see her.
When I saw Xiao Fei, she was lying on the bed reading. Her original shoulder length hair had been cut very short like a boy’s.
When she saw me, she put down her book and smiled at me.
I felt something strange, I can’t say it clearly, she was different. Her face was still pretty but the liveliness and passion on it had disappeared only leaving a light smile. Her life seemed to have…seemed to have… suddenly gone from mid spring to late autumn.
I saw that she was reading an English textbook. Relieved, I sat next to her, “Is your illness better?”
She nodded, “It’s better, how did you do for the final exams?”
“First in the class. I’m not sure about the year level, I’ll probably find out after they divide the classes next term.”
She was very surprised but also very happy. “I’ll have to work hard or else I’ll be thrown behind by you.”
All along, I didn’t feel extra happy about my results because it had seemed unrealistic but suddenly, I brightened up and excitedly said, “Okay ah, when next term starts, let’s compete and see who is better.”
I stretched out my finger, “It’s a deal?”
Her mom seemed to have been secretly listening outside the whole time and hearing that I got first and that we promised to compete made her at ease. She brought in a plate of grapes and said to Xiao Fei, “You should play more with students like Luo Qi Qi.” She then kindly said to me, “You’re welcome to come and play with Xiao Fei more often in the future.”
I tried to smile obediently, if her mom really knew what kind of person I was, I don’t know if she would still say these words. However, it was the first time I was aware that there are so many benefits from having good grades, even all the parents trust you.
Xiao Fei was quiet with her head lowered. Her mom seemed to be a bit uneasy and hurriedly walked out, “You two discuss study, I’m leaving.”
After she left, Xiao Fei winked at me. I ran out and looked then shook my head at her.
She pointed at me to sit beside her then became quiet for a while before saying, “Actually I wasn’t ill, I was pregnant.”
I’m not a very expressive person so I could only stare at her dazedly. To an outsider, I seemed extremely calm but actually, inside I was so shocked I had no idea whatsoever how to react.
She laughed, “Qi Qi, what can scare you? How come you can be so calm no matter what the situation?”
I didn’t know how to explain so I could only ask, “What are you going to do?”
She lightly said, “I’ve already gone to the hospital to get an abortion. Next term, I’m going to pretend that nothing happened and start afresh.”
I stammered, “You……This……What happened? Did someone bully you?”
She calmly replied, “The process isn’t important, the important thing is that it’s happened so there’s no point in chasing after the reason now. In the first few days, I cried everyday and hated myself for being so stupid but tears don’t turn back the clock or make our mistakes disappear. Qi Qi, this is the first time I’m telling you this, it’s also the last time. In the future, I never want to bring this up again, I only want to forget. You should also help me forget okay?”
I nodded, “Okay!”
We never brought up her pregnancy and abortion again. We talked about school, Xiao Fei inquired about what had happened in school over the period she’s been away and I told her all the gossip I knew in detail.
A middle school student getting pregnant was a big thing but perhaps it was because of Xiao Fei’s overly calm attitude but I absentmindedly thought that it wasn’t such a big deal, it was like a cold, as long as it passes, it will seem like nothing had happened.
We planned for the new term and what we’ll do. We hoped to get divided into the same class, then perhaps we would be able to be deskmates, go to class together, do homework together, go home together. We even discussed what we’ll do after we got into high school, whether we’d be in the arts stream or the science stream and if we should go to the same university. She laughed and said she liked Beijing, she wanted to go to Beijing for university, if not Peking University then Qinghua.
She knocked on my head and said, “If you want to go to the same university as me then you have to work hard. You have to stop playing so much and reading so many novels.” Seeing me look unconfident about it, she quickly smiled and comforted me, “Don’t be scared, I will oversee that you study hard.”
Xiao Fei was full of confidence for the future. I wasn’t the slightest bit doubtful she could achieve her dreams because her anxiousness and loss has already past. She was ready to start afresh and this time, she definitely wouldn’t make any more stupid mistakes.
Two parts this week to make up for last week! D: