Chapter 9: A Brand New Simple Life
1. The Start of First Year*
*[First year of high school]
In the past, my favourite movie star was Brad Pitt. It had nothing to do with his acting skills, it was only because of his handsome face, perfect body and an unrestrained personality that bewitched me.
Nowadays, my favourite movie star is Kate Winston. It has nothing to do with her acting skills, it was only because in the show business circle that went crazy for beauty, she still admitted that she had flab on her belly and and that her breasts sagged due to breastfeeding.
She loved her imperfect self with confidence.
How to love yourself with confidence is a question even more profound than how to love someone else.
*[Quick reminder that the school names are usually in numbers eg. No. 1 High school, being No. 6 doesn’t necessarily mean the school is 6th in the city.]
The class name sheet for the first year new students was out. Altogether, there were nine classes, and each class had fifty or so students.
Guan He and Zhang Jun were divided into Class (4), I was divided into Class (5) with Shen Yuan Zhe and Tong Yun Zhu.
Our class monitor was naturally Chen Yuan Zhe and our arts monitor, Tong Yun Zhu. Class (4)’s arts monitor was Guan He and their class monitor was actually…Zhang Jun.
When I heard this news, I really froze for a bit but when I thought about it some more, I felt it was actually quite suitable for him. Zhang Jun’s probation points were cancelled before the high school entrance exams and his results for that was quite good. Added to the fact that he had experience being a class monitor, choosing him was pretty normal.
The high school department had three buildings, each building had four levels and each level had three classrooms. Every year level had their own building and because there were only nine classes in the first years, the fourth floor was completely empty.
Class (4) and (5) were both on second floor meaning that not only was Zhang Jun one class away from me, we were only separated by a wall. I can’t really express what kind of feeling I have being so close to him. On one side, I felt an irrational secret happiness but on the other side, I wanted to hide far, far away.
As No.1 High School was the top high school in the province and had an exceptional reputation, apart from us students who got in through exams, there were a group of specially enrolled students.
This group was special. Some of their families were very rich and they paid their way in, some were very powerful and with one phone call, the headmaster let them in and others got in because they had a special talent such as dancing, singing and sports that bought the school reputation.Thus, in the top school, not all the students were good at studying.
Class (4) had the best teaching staff of the year level and the few that came in through power were all in Class (4). The student that attracted the most attention was the vice governor’s only son. As his last name is Jia, everyone called him Prince Jia. He was considered as not studious nor skilled but he wasn’t considered as a rich playboy either. I heard his father was very stern so he was very obedient and never stirred up trouble. He was also very respectful to the teachers but no matter how he tried, his grades never rose.
Our Class (5) was the worst class in the year. According to the gossip from students, none of the teachers were good. The maths teacher was infamous in the high school for being sloppy, the English teacher was a female university graduate who had just been allocated to the school, and she would blush when she talked. Our biology teacher was a fat man who would make himself dizzy just by talking about the topics. Our homeroom teacher was an inexperienced politics teachers.
Thankfully our class monitor was good. Chen Yuan Zhe was historically, the most prestigious president of the student committee in our middle school. Technically, it should be a breeze being a class monitor then but it was not so.
In No.1 High School, there was a traditional division between the old No.1 students and the new No. 1 students. The old No.1 students were students who had been here since middle school, such as me, Chen Yuan Zhe, Tong Yun Zhu, Zhang Jun, Guan He and so on. The new No.1 students were students from other middle schools who got in through the entrance exam.
No.1 Middle School didn’t accept boarding students so the old No.1 students all lived close to No.1 and were considered as people from the city. Also, because we had already been in No.1 for three years, were were quite familiar with the school teachers, especially people like Chen Yuan Zhe, who the teachers all recognised. Naturally, they would find him for everything whereas because we all knew each other, and may have even been in the same class once, it was easy for us all to become close with one another. In the new No.1 students’ eyes, they thought we formed a clique and the teachers were also biased towards the old students so it was hard for them to blend in, especially for boarding students. As they were far away from their parents, they became close and bonded with one another both day and night. They really despised us old No.1 students and always tried to make things difficult for us. Mysteriously, this started accumulating and the conflict between the new and old students because a tradition in the high school department.
Due to this conflict, the new students all disliked Chen Yuan Zhe and tried to make things hard for him so his life as a class monitor was exhausting.
We also had a few students in our class who got in through money, the more money they had, the lazier they were. Especially a boy called Ma Li who was the worst. On the first day of school, he stuck a little mirror on the tip of his shoe. He raised his hand to ask the English teacher a question and while the young English teacher explained the answer to him in detail by his side, he stretched out his foot underneath her dress and saw her underwear. After he saw it, he told all the boys in the class. The next day, none of the girls who sat around him dared to wear skirts or dresses.
During self revision class, he pretended to have a question to ask the girl sitting in front of him and purposely used his hand to push her back. Then, he touched her bra strap and pretended to be surprised, “What is this? Why do you have binding on your body? How weird!” Then, he intentionally asked the boys around him, “It’s really weird, why does she have binding?”
The girl was so embarrassed, tears started forming in her eyes. She ran out to find the homeroom teacher to change seats. When the teacher asked her for a reason, she was to embarrassed to say and only cried. The teacher swapped her seat with another girl’s who Ma Li also made cry.
This gave Chen Yuan Zhe a headache, he couldn’t run to the English teacher and tell her that Ma Li’s seen her underwear, nor could he tell the homeroom teacher that Ma Li’s touched a girls back.
High school students were half adults already and were long over the age of worshipping teachers. Not only were they over worshipping, they started to fight against the authority so when students fought, no one complained to the teacher any more. If Chen Yuan Zhe told the teachers, perhaps there would be a short term result but he would definitely lose the trust of the students and be looked down on by all the boys.
It’s better to do nothing than to choose a bad plan. Chen Yuan Zhe couldn’t do anything for the moment. He arranged for a boy to sit in from of Ma Li but naturally, Ma Li’s stream of dirty tricks was endless and every few days, there would be a girl who would end up crying of embarrassment.
I owed Chen Yuan Zhe a favor, plus, I really couldn’t stant Ma Li so I decided to voluntarily change seats with the boy sitting in from of Ma Li.
All the girls in the class looked at me in astonishment and could not understand my action.
During night self revision class, Ma Li stretched out his foot to mine. Maintaining my composure, I used my foot to pull out a compass I had put under my desk earlier. I stepped on the end of it so that the needle was pointing out. Ma Li stretched his foot closer and closer then grunted and quickly put his foot back. I smiled and continued revising biology.
A while later, he started pushing me with his hand, while pushing, he started feeling my back. I closed the biology textbook I was just reading and held it. Then, I turned back smiling. He also smiled back at me naughtily and just as he opened his moth, I whacked his face with the textbook.
The sound shattered the tranquillity in the class and everyone raised their heads to look at us. Ma Li was also completely dazed.
I refused to let the matter go and continued to slap the book on his face, while asking, “What are you doing? What are you doing…”
Ma Li finally responded. He clenched his hand into a fist but Chen Yuan Zhe quickly stood up and came over. I said, “I don’t need help from anyone! If he dares to make a move, we’ll go and settle things in front of the headmaster. I’d like to represent all the parents in asking the headmaster if he thinks money is more important than No.1’s reputation. Would parents want to put their children with this scum?”
There was another reason behind not letting Chen Yuan Zhe help me. I was a girl and even if I started fighting with Ma Li, none of the new No.1 boys would lend a hand. However, if Chen Yuan Zhe got involved, it could become a group fight between the new and old students.
Ma Li clenched his fists but didn’t move. I stared at him, “Don’t think that the girls are really scared of you. Everyone is just embarrassed to become dirty like you. However, my face is already infamously thick, so if you do something, I’m not scared of doing anything either. Do you want to do see the headmaster?” I moved closer, “Do you want to fight? If you don’t want to fight then let’s go back to revising!”
Ma Li was so angry his eyes became red but he didn’t dare to make a move. I I took the biology textbook and hit it on my other hand, “If you dare to bully girls again in the future, I’ll hit you every time I see it. Don’t blame me for not warning you.”
After I finished talking, I turned around, sat down, opened my textbook and continued reading.
Ma Li also went back to his seat. He put his head on the desk so that his face couldn’t be seen. I didn’t know if he was reading or zoning out.
Silence reigned over the class for the rest of the night.
After the night self revision class, I started to pack up my bag. When people walked past my desk, they would pretend to shoot me a glance by accident. Ever since school started, I’ve always been sitting in a corner of the class without attracting any attention so most of my classmates probably didn’t remember my name. However tonight, I put myself in front of the sight of everyone.
Just as I walked out, Chen Yuan Zhe chased up to my from the back, “Luo Qi Qi.”
I turned back, “What’s up?”
“Nothing, I just wanted to say hi to you. Although I’ve heard about you long ago, we haven’t talked even after school’s started so we haven’t properly met yet.”
I couldn’t resist smiling, who said we haven’t talked before?
Just as we walked past the door of Class (4), Zhang Jun and Guan He walked out smiling and joking.
This scene had already been played out a thousand times in my head but I was never prepared for the real scene. A stab of pain hit my heart and I quickened my footsteps.
Guan He shouted behind me, “Luo Qi Qi, Qi Qi……”
I pretended I didn’t hear but Chen Yuan Zhe had already stopped and turned around to look. He smiled, “Guan He is calling you.”
I pretended to just know and turned back with a dazzling smile. Zhang Jun greeted Chen Yuan Zhe smiling but didn’t look at me and naturally, I also pretended he wasn’t there.
Guan He asked, “How is it? Do you like the new year?”
My smile was nearly oozing with honey, “I really like it, how about you?”
The four of us chatted as we walked. Just as we walked to the boulevard, someone chased up from behind. It was one of the new boarding students. Although it was a boy, he gave off a female presence so his nickname was ‘Xiu Xiu’*. Chen Yuan Zhe smiled, “Is anything the matter?”
*[Xiu means beautiful or elegant]
Xiu Xiu looked at me, “Be careful, after night revision classes, it’s best not to go home alone. Ma Li threatened that just then, it was because he didn’t want to make a move in school but he’ll take care of you outside.”
Chen Yuan Zhe was a bit taken aback but I smiled. It seems like everyone has a criteria between good and evil and the barrier within the new and old in our class has lessened.
Xiu Xiu worriedly said, “I’m being serious. I’m leaving, you take care of yourself.” After speaking, he walked back to the dorms.
Guan He asked in astonishment, “Qi Qi, what happened? Is there trouble?”
I carelessly said, “I fought with a guy during self revision, nothing big.”
Guan He’s eyes widened, full of shock. I didn’t dare to look at Zhang Jun’s expression, inside, there was a numbing pain. I’ve always admired Guan He’s elegance to the extent that I secretly copied her actions and words but today, I finally understood that I could never turn into her.
When we got to the school gates, Chen Yuan Zhe said, “I’ll send you home.”
I warmly declined, “There’s no need.”
Guan He persuaded me softly, “Let Chen Yuan Zhe walk some distance with you just in case.”
I really didn’t want to stick with her any longer, mainly because I didn’t want to see Zhang Jun, so I immediately changed my answer, “Okay.”
After Chen Yuan Zhe and I walked a distance away from them on to the road, I said to Chen Yuan Zhe, “I suddenly remembered that there’s something I need to do tonight so I want to walk aloe.”
My attitude was very firm so Chen Yuan Zhe could only urge me to go home quickly and choose roads with lots of people. If something happened I needed to shout loudly and not fear them. I smiled and agreed. If I was scared of trouble, the I wouldn’t have provoked Ma Li at all.
We waved farewell. I held up my school bag and strode into the night.
There were two roads home from school. One of them took further but it was very busy and there were shops all around. It even went past a night market. In the past, I could ride my bike through that road home but nowadays, I chose the other, closer road and gave up riding my bike.
This road was full of alleys. One one side, there were residential buildings and on the other side, there was a forest. It was very quiet and as it was already past ten, it seemed like there was only me on the road.
As I walked, I gazed up at the starts, my head full of biology questions. I already knew the answers but I wanted to remember the process of answering the questions better, this was what I wanted to do alone.
The twenty minute walk home was enough for me to completely examine a question. Although Chen Yuan Zhe was the prince as many girls’ crush and being able to be sent home by him was an honor, ever since the day I decided to go to high school, my only goal was the gao kao.
When I was nearly home, I suddenly felt like there was someone behind me. I quickly turned around but there was nothing there. I shook my head, even if Ma Li needed to call people, he still needed time.
After I got home, I first ate an apple then forced myself to eat two walnuts that I hated.
After I washed my face, I soaked my feet in warm water while memorising English vocabulary. I only needed ten minutes or so. It wasn’t long but as long as I could persist, even if I only remembered two words a day, it was still more than six hundred words a year.
After washing my feet, I got in bed and had a good sleep.
Ma Li wasn’t even worth thinking about. Actually, I’d rather he invited a few real gangsters out and make the situation big so that Xiao Bo would hear about it. I don’t believe that he would show no interest. Sadly, gangsters have their own protocol and no one would take action for such a tiny thing.
The second day, Ma Li smiled at me all throughout. I also smiled back at him.
On the way home that night, I kept feeling like someone was following me. My whole body was prepared to respond to the little gangsters Ma Li invited but all the way home, nothing happened.
In the morning, when Ma Li saw me, he stared at me as if checking to see if I had been ‘warned’. Discovering that my smile was normal, his smiled was quite forced.
Every night, when I walked home, I would feel that there was someone behind me but no matter how many times I turned around or secretly glanced back, there was no one. However, that lingering feeling refused to budge and I even started anticipating it.
Finally, I couldn’t hold it any more. When I walked, I didn’t turn around, I pretended that I knew everything and confidently said, “Xiao Bo, come out, I already saw you.”
I believed that I could lie against anyone but, there was no one. The only reply I received was the wind rustling through the leaves on the trees.
After doing this many times, I finally started to understand that I was being too overly sensitive. How could it be like those novels and movies? After I understood, I was a little sad, Xiao Bo had really left my life.
Quickly, a week past by and no one came to bother me. Ma Li also stopped mentioning that he would teach me a lesson and started being good in class. Of course, he would still stir up trouble but he stopped doing dirty tricks. Later, we even became close brothers. It really makes one sigh that fighting can blossom into friendship.