Chapter 1 – Pregnant with your child

It was a rainy evening, with cold wind swirling and leaves scattered in this city. Le Yao and I stood at the entrance of the Maternity and Child Health Hospital, holding umbrellas. Amidst the crowd, she looked at me with a slightly pale face.

“Zhao Yang, I’m pregnant.”

I was stunned for a moment, then stared at her and said, “Go find the person who got you pregnant. Why did you call me out?”

“I’ve only been with one man this past year, and that’s you. If not you, then who?”

“I can say I’ve only slept with one woman this past year. Do you believe me?”

“Zhao Yang, are you even a man?”

“We were just fooling around. Don’t drag me into this mess. If you want me to take responsibility, show me some evidence. Don’t play empty words with me. Who the hell wants to be a father without any proof?”

Le Yao fell silent for a moment and said to me, “I’ve already had an abortion. There’s no evidence anymore.”

I was getting angry. “Do you think I’m a fool? You had an abortion and then… ” I raised my hand, feeling speechless. “And then, you tell me the child is mine, are you pretending to be innocent or am I just stupid?… Le Yao, we’re both adults now. Can we do something decent?”

Le Yao bit her lip and looked at me. After a while, she said, “If you don’t want to take responsibility, I’ll go to your company tomorrow…”

“What the hell… Are you serious?” I said angrily.

Le Yao tightly bit her lip and looked at me. But I felt that she was a good actress. We met at a bar and had a one-night stand. If she claims to have only been with one man in a year, I would be a fool to believe her.

I didn’t want to get involved with her anymore. I took out my wallet, pulled out all the one hundred yuan bills and handed them to her. “You just want money, right? Take it, and don’t bother me again!”

Le Yao didn’t say anything or bother me anymore. She nodded and turned around, holding the umbrella as she walked towards the hospital, as if there were still some unpaid fees…

Watching her lonely figure in the rain, I suddenly felt an indescribable emotion. Although I didn’t believe that the child in her belly was mine, and although I was annoyed with her, I felt that her current life must not be easy. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have ended up in this situation with me.

I remained silent for a while and finally called out to her, “Wait…”

Le Yao turned around and looked at me.

I took out a bank card from my wallet and handed it to her. “This card can be overdrawn. You just had surgery, so buy something to replenish your body.”

But Le Yao didn’t take it. “No need… My purpose was to see if you were willing to take responsibility. I came to you because I didn’t want to be slept with and get pregnant without knowing who the father is!”

In the bar, I drank alone while waiting for my only close friend and colleague, Circle.

Since the first day I came to this bar, I have seen too many lonely women and empty men drinking various kinds of alcohol here. They were either silent or filled with desire, searching for something called “living in a drunken dream”.

In fact, when we cast aside our physical bodies during the day and let our souls get lost in this world of lights and alcohol, we were already living in a drunken dream.

I can’t remember which night it started, but I considered this place my home. I liked the women twisting their waists here, the swaying lights, the various colors of drinks, the scent of perfume mixed with tobacco. I liked the drunken dream here, and in that drunken dream, I engraved my messy past into a tombstone.

I lit a cigarette, peeled off the film on the cigarette pack, and covered it in front of my eyes. I looked at the flickering lights, and my body swayed along with them. In the light refracted by the film, I seemed to see a kind of decadence of living for the moment! I couldn’t help but get lost in it!

Circle took the film from my hand, and suddenly my world became clear again.

“Why are you so anxious to find me?” Circle put down his briefcase and took out a cigarette from my pack to light it for himself.

“Borrow me some money. I’ve been scammed!”

“Did you get another girl pregnant?” Circle said nonchalantly.

“What the hell! This time I really got scammed…”

“Who scammed you this time?”

“Why are you asking so many useless questions?”

“Every time I lend you thousands and thousands, can you at least let me know who scammed my money?”

“Le Yao.” I angrily lit another cigarette and said.

“The model?”

“Yeah, it’s her. The entertainment circle is so messed up. She claims to have only been with one man in a year. Do you believe that? Circle, if this happened to you, would you believe it?” I banged the table with my fingers, making a loud noise.”Such a thing could never happen to me. Besides, she wouldn’t scam you for just a few thousand yuan, would she? Last month, all the promotional posters for our department store were shot by her, and she was paid over ten thousand just for that…”

I snorted and interrupted Circle, “Don’t you see her usual spending habits? Can ten thousand yuan last her a month? Now she’s in trouble and out of money, she thinks of me, her cheap fling… I’m such a fool. I should never have introduced her to our company. I didn’t shortchange her, and now she’s scamming me. Is there any professional integrity left?”

Circle ignored my anger, lowered his voice and asked, “Did you use protection when you slept with her?”

I thought for a while, only remembering that I was almost blackout drunk at the time. I couldn’t remember if I used a condom or not. After a while, I said, “I did… otherwise, I wouldn’t say I was scammed!”

Circle looked at me suspiciously for a long time before sighing and saying, “Zhao Yang, we’ve been friends for almost ten years. Sometimes I really want to advise you. I know that breaking up with Jian Wei hit you hard, but it’s been two years. You really don’t need to degrade yourself like this… Youth doesn’t wait for anyone. Find a girlfriend and settle down, okay?”

When Jian Wei’s name was mentioned again, I subconsciously paused before saying, “Don’t worry about me. I’m doing just fine!”

“No worries, right?”

Circle tried to advise me for a long time, and I impatiently humored him. In the end, he left with a huff, saying “You can’t make a brick without clay,” forgetting about the money I borrowed from him.

Fortunately, I’ve been frequenting this bar for two years and often bring friends here. I’m quite familiar with the bar owner, so this time, my drinks were put on a tab.

Walking out of the bar, holding an umbrella on the rain-soaked streets, I truly understood what it meant to be alone. I’ve been struggling in this city for two years, and all I’ve gained is endless emptiness and loneliness. To escape this poisonous loneliness, I had to put on a mask of shame. With this mask, I could live in indulgence without guilt.

But no matter how much I struggle on the edge of pain, she will never come back!

I walked several blocks in a daze before returning to my apartment complex. It’s an old complex, so old that there’s no property management. In my first year here, I heard from the older women in the complex that it was built in the early 1990s. Over the years, each building in the complex has become dilapidated, but they all stand close together, as if afraid of being alone. This gives me the feeling that at night, when all is quiet, they might whisper to each other to alleviate decades of loneliness.

With a cigarette in my mouth and keys in my hand, I walked towards my building. It’s the only one in the complex covered in ivy. Every summer, the south-facing wall is very green. If these buildings had genders, this one would undoubtedly be a woman, a cold woman.

One that often makes people feel sad for her!

To my surprise, a red Audi Q7 was parked under this dilapidated building. In my two years living here, I don’t recall ever seeing a car worth over half a million in this complex.

Without thinking too much, I whistled and walked up the stairs to my apartment. When I reached the top floor, I was shocked to find the door ajar. I was sure I had locked it when I left. Instinctively, I thought there was a thief in the house, but then I remembered that I hadn’t paid my landlord, Old Li, rent for two months. It was probably him coming to collect.

I pushed the door open to find Old Li and a strange woman sitting on the sofa. An Audi Q7 keychain was on the coffee table, undoubtedly belonging to the woman who owned the Q7 parked downstairs.

A question flashed in my mind: How did Old Li, a commoner, manage to bring such a noble, untouchable woman like a white lily to this humble room? I was truly puzzled!

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