“Kang Xue, I think we should eat inside, the patio will be too cold for you.”
“No, we can sit by one of the space heaters, it is always too crowded in the shop.”
“Yeah and once we have a couple beers and the steaming noodles it will be warm. Okay. I see a table over there.” Shen Qiqi points to the left then chuckles, “See that Auntie? I drew her a couple months ago for a character at the beginning of my last arc. The manager at the convenience store where Fan Bai met Wang Ru.”
Kang Xue glances at the plump woman with short frizzy black hair and a round red face drinking a bottle of coke. “Oh my God, that is funny.”
Shen Qiqi walks over, “Auntie Gu! How have you been?”
The woman wipes her mouth covered in red sauce with a napkin then takes off the plastic gloves she is wearing. “Woo Chang added a new dish, Flaming Hot Pig Trotters.” Fanning her greasy mouth she drinks her coke. “Ahh..sooo spicy” She shows them the menu.“The old man has some new competition down the block so he had to change up his menu.”
“I am surprised, Grandpa Woo is so stubborn..” She is interrupted by a short elderly man with white hair and a long sparse beard. He is wearing a sauce splattered apron and carrying a box of napkins. “Little Girl, who is stubborn?”
“Haha..Grandpa Woo! You know the old man at the fish market. The one that will only take cash.”
“Oh, yeah he is a stubborn old fart. Shen Qiqi I haven’t seen you in awhile, you brought a friend? She looks cold in that skimpy dress.”
“You girls come inside. I will give you a basket of Flaming Hot Pig Trotters.”
“Thanks Grandpa but we are going to sit on the patio. I will try the new dish next time, I have been craving your delicious beef noodles.”
He raises an eyebrow looking at Kang Xue’s thin bare arms, “Ok.”
After they sit down they order a couple beers and the beef noodles. Kang Xue pulls the wool scarf tighter around her neck and moves her chair closer to the outdoor heater. “Qiqi, how do you know Zheng Si? Because his grandmother lives in your apartment?” But they seemed rather intimate and Qiqi only moved there three months ago. Zheng Si would have been in Tunisia.
The beers arrive and Shen Qiqi takes a gulp, “Ahh.” She eats a few of the fried tofu appetizers they ordered. “Brother Si? Do you remember the first year of Middle School when my parents went to England to reorganize the management of Shen Entertainment Europe? I stayed with Auntie Han and used to go to Uncle Ji’s Private Hospital to volunteer after school and on weekends. I met Brother Si there. Try these they are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, yummy!”
Kang Xue sips her beer, Zheng Si would have been a senior in High School.”So he volunteered there too?”
“No. He was a patient.” Shen Qiqi drinks her beer. When she sees the steaming bowl of beef noodles her eyes light up. She uses her chopsticks and moves quickly to eat the piping hot food. Sweat forms on her forehead as she devours her meal. When she takes a break she notices Kang Xue isn’t eating, “Xue, I thought you liked Beef Noodles.” She waves at the server, “Ming’er could we have two more beers and two glasses of Baijiu. Thanks.”
Kang Xue bites her bottom lip wondering if she should ask more questions. After the look Zheng Si gave her she doesn’t want Qiqi to become curious about her interest. “Why was he in the hospital?”
“Well I can’t say. The only reason I know was because I sneaked a peek at his medical chart. I might get in trouble from Auntie if she knew I looked.” She waves her chopsticks, “Not that I think you would tell but to be honest I felt really guilty after I did it. Like prying into someone’s personal pain.”
“So how did you become friends?”
Qiqi laughs, “Are you interested in Brother Si?I have never seen him with a girlfriend. I should fix you up with him. Brother Si is completely dreamy..gentle..smart..kind and he looks like an Immortal. Especially when he wears a Tang suit like today.”
Kang Xue’s face pales, are we talking about the same person? He is a damn devil! “He isn’t my type, I was curious. I never heard you mention him.”
“I guess he never came up in conversation. I did use the sketches of Brother Si for Ming Jason.Do you remember that character? Fan Bai’s friend who came back from abroad, the tennis champion.”
Qiqi gets lost in thought remembering Zheng Si in the hospital. He had been in a horrific car crash and his mother died from her injuries. He had facial bruising and a leg injury but the worst problem was he had traumatic blindness from seeing his mother’s bloody body. Qiqi saw him sitting in a wheelchair with no one else around so she asked him if he needed her to push him somewhere. He didn’t answer and she didn’t know he was blind. It looked as though he was staring at her so she smiled brightly and asked him again. Her aunt came out of her office when she heard Qiqi’s voice and told her to take some magazines to the common area.
The next time she saw him she overheard him being insulted by a middle aged man for being a useless blind man. She rushed over and interrupted saying it was time for Zheng Si to go to the garden for fresh air. Once they were outside she put a milk tea into his hands she had just bought exclaiming what a horrible man his Uncle was. After that incident they slowly became friends over the course of his stay at the hospital.
“Oh sorry Xue I was thinking about Brother Si.”
Kang Xue eats her noodles wondering why Zheng Si was hospitalized. She didn’t meet him until she was a Sophomore at A University. She had a crush on him when he was the TA in her Statistics class, openly pursuing him never believing he would reject her advances. Being the school flower she couldn’t accept the embarrassment then made a big mistake by dating his step brother Chu. She ended up being a pawn in Chu’s revenge plan against Zheng Si.
Qiqi slams down her glass of Baijiu and her eyes water, “I am going to call Sun Zhi.”
“The handsome man who has my laptop.”
Before she calls her phone rings, “Brother Si?”
Kang Xue grips her napkin. Why is he calling?
“Qiqi, I have an invitation to a Jade Auction tomorrow night. I heard they will be auctioning a Flawless Mutton Jade carved bracelet from the Han Dynasty.”
“Really! If I get my laptop back I can go!”
Zheng Si crosses his legs sitting on his Grandmother’s balcony. He has been watching Shen Qiqi on the patio of the Noodle Shop across the street. He lights a cigarette.“What happened to your laptop?”
“Long story but it has important files on it and if I don’t get it back I need to redo my work.”
“Maybe I could help you. What software program did you use?”
“Thanks but I am calling the man right now who has my laptop in his Land Rover.”
He crushes the cigarette he just lit in the ashtray, “What man?”
“Well this is where it is a long story. His name is Sun Zhi. I will call you after I contact him. I really want to go to the Auction.” Qiqi hangs up the phone before he asks any more questions.
Zheng Si calls Sun Zhi when he answers he says, “Zhi, I just returned from Africa do you want to go to the Club for a drink?”
“Sure. Should I call Old Third?”
“He is in France on business. The Han brothers said they can join us.”
“Okay I will shower and be there.”
Sun Zhi’s phone rings again. It is an unknown number so he doesn’t answer. Tossing the phone on the table he goes into the bathroom.
At the Noodle Shop Shen Qiqi frowns, “He isn’t answering.”
“It probably comes up as an unknown number. Where are you going with Zheng Si?”
Shen Qiqi is a little drunk and she holds Kang Xue’s cold hand as she teases, “ Xue, I have never heard you ask so many questions haha.. I think you do like Brother Si. Love at first sight!”
Kang Xue’s face turns red and she snaps, “Shut up! I just want you to finish the arc. You don’t need any distractions.”
“I was kidding, don’t be so serious! There is a Jade Auction I want to attend, Brother Si has an invitation. I still have my birthday money from Uncle Feng on my card.”
Shen Qiqi orders another beer. “I think I will look on Baidu and see if I can find information about Sun Zhi. Maybe I can find out where he works or an address.”