Xin-Xin had tried desperately all afternoon to calm herself but could not control the emotions of anger and betrayal swirling around in her head. It felt as if she had staked her future on a blue chip company that had suddenly declared bankruptcy, hopelessly shattering her dreams and security. And now the sweet romantic words spoken to her in passion seemed more like a wake-up call that she should have heeded; if they had not made her dizzy with delight and rendered her unable to use good judgment.
She knew that she had to find something to distract her thoughts and calm her emotions so she did not go back to her apartment. Instead, she checked into a room in the hot springs hotel where she could relax in a warm mineral water bath. She left her cell phone on hoping Mr. Li would call and explain the contradiction between his words and actions but, at the same time, fearing that whatever he said would only confirm her suspicions.
The phone rang and the caller ID displayed “Li Office”. She did not answer the call and deleted his message after listening to it. Even though she took no action to respond to him, he did not give up and repeatedly left the same message in a frantic and somewhat angry tone, “I’m so worried about you. Why did you leave the office so quickly without talking to me? You just disappeared and I have no way to find you. Call me back. I have to know what the problem is.” She wanted to shut off the phone but was afraid she might miss a call from her boyfriend Mo-Fan.
Outside, the spring air was cold and still but steeping her body in the black marble tub filled with warm water seemed to dilute and wash away the damning accusations directed against her by her gossiping colleagues in the break room. “Heartless bitch” was just too heavy a stigma to endure and she was happy to finally be able to calm her mind down a little.
Suddenly, Fu-Rong’s words intruded into her reverie, floating back and forth in her mind like a phantom in a dream. “True, love only is not enough, you need to trust each other. Do you trust him?” She was pondering the question when the phone rang. It was Li again and this time she decided to answer it.
“Where did you go, and why don’t you answer the phone? Do you know how much I worry about you?”
She replied with cold detachment in her voice. “It’s not your concern to know where I am. You should be worrying about your wife dying of cancer.”
“You know? Who told you?”
“It doesn’t matter how I know, facts are facts! You lied to me so I actually thought you wanted a divorce because you loved me. Why didn’t you tell me she had cancer? And what about the child? I can’t believe how calculating and ruthless you are!”
I really can’t explain this clearly over the phone. Where are you? Can we meet and discuss this in person?”
“There’s no need for that. If you have anything more to say you can say it now, over the phone.”
“Well ... why would I get divorced if I didn’t want to be with you?”
“Another lie! If you really loved me, why not get divorced a year ago instead of waiting until you decided to desert your wife because she had cancer?”
“My marriage is over and the divorce is in process. Isn’t that good news for you? Married, we can be together all the time with respect and you’ll enjoy the benefits of being the boss’ wife so, what have you lost? I don’t know what else you can expect from me. And, furthermore, you haven’t told you’re boyfriend that you want to break up with him so you can be with me. I have been tolerant, waiting patiently for you to make up your mind. And yet you berate me for not getting divorced sooner! Look in the mirror and you will see we are both the same selfish people. Otherwise we would not be together.”
“If you are a real man, how can you say such a thing? What if I get sick? Will you leave me and our children for another woman, not caring if we live or die? How can I marry you?”
“When we have sex do you ever stop to think that you are enjoying the services of another woman’s husband while you are moaning like a whore? And now you lecture me about morals? Either I misunderstand or my ears are failing me!” Xin-Xin did not expect to ever hear such harsh words from his mouth and was stunned.
Li never thought that there would be a day when he would have to pamper and comfort her. He had assumed she understood the rules of the game and would enjoy the pleasure of the passion, like him. But once a relationship begins to deteriorate, there is only pain and the inevitable disjuncture. The risk is the same for a woman as for a man. Both parties must always maintain their competitiveness and keep their skills sharp. He thought she understood this. But, he realized this was not the time to bare the truth of their thoughts and hurl insults that would damage their relationship beyond repair.
“Listen, we are both adults and we have to resolve this problem without letting our emotions get out of control. I didn’t tell you about my wife because I didn’t want to spoil our time together. I was afraid that you would feel guilty and become depressed like you are now. Did you avoid leaving your boyfriend because you were just hustling me and didn’t want to commit to me? Have you just found the excuse you’ve been waiting for to get rid of me for good?”
“That is not true!”
“Then tell me what you intend to do.”
The silence on the phone was intense but Xin-Xin could not respond with so many mixed emotions flooding her soul. Mo-Fan was not wealthy enough to provide her with a good life but, she was suspicious of Mr. Li and could not rely on him to provide for her if she ever got sick. And yet she still longed for the rapture of her stolen love. She could not decide which to choose and couldn’t help feeling despondent about her lack of ability to find an intelligent reliable man to be the love of her life. Finally she broke the silence. “Give me a little time to think about it.”
After she hung up the phone, she could scarcely believe what she had just heard. Not only had Mr. Li tried to justify his cruel and reprehensible treatment to his wife but had actually manipulated the facts to portray himself as the victim and her as a self indulgent mercenary. A wave of terror and futility swept over her and sobbing uncontrollably, she called Mo-Fan.