Chapter 1 High Quality

April’s a cozy month, it’s not too cold, not too hot. Today’s weather wasn’t too bad; the sun’s shining brightly, but Gu An Ran’s mood isn’t good. Yesterday’s draft submission was sent back early morning today, without an explanation. The director only said one golden word: Fix it! Concerning what needs to be fixed wasn’t said at all.

Gu An Ran, discouraged, puts down her pen and blueprints, and presses down on both temples. She leans against the back of the chair. The cellphone on her desk rings at this time. She grabs the cellphone. The screen flashes brightly for the incoming call. She wrinkles her brows. She doesn’t want to pick up this call, however, it seems there’s no other choice but to answer.

Taking several deep breaths, Gu An Ran connects the call, “Mom.”

“This evening, Da Cheng Restaurant’s coffee shop, table 2, Lin An Jie, Male, 31 years old, Bachelor’s degree, civil servant, has a house, has a car, 173 cm, no addictions, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink. At 7, you’ll go meet him, have a meal.” Lin Xiao Fen said in one breath, speaking rapidly without a pause.

“Mom~!…” Gu An Ran drags out the last vowel. She is really quickly getting beaten down by her mother, day-after-day, week-after-week, practically without a break. She doesn’t know exactly where her mother gets this much ‘goods’!

“An Ran!” Lin Xiao Fen exclaims. Knowing her daughter, she decides to put in a little bit of pressure. “You’re 28 this year, not 18. Women can have several years of youthfulness, now is the time when you can still choose well, if you wait until next year, then suppose someone else will choose you. Mom’s almost 60, I’m still thinking of waiting for you to marry, have a child, after that, take advantage of your healthy mind, if there’s time I’ll help you take care of your child. If you’re delaying this again, I really won’t take it anymore, besides….”

Gu An Ran listens helplessly, she’s afraid she’s memorized her mother’s speech by heart. If these words were directed towards you everyday, you really don’t realize how hard it is. She interrupts her mother’s chant and says, “Mom, 7 pm right? I’ll be on time.”

“OK, and go freshen up after work. Aunt Zhang recommended this time’s date, his character doesn’t seem too bad. If you guys hit it off, you guys can move in together, ah!” Lin Xiao Fen won’t forget to bring up this suggestion.

“Alright, alright, alright, I get it, mom. I haven’t finished my blueprint. I gotta go, I’ll be there on time, don’t worry.” She ends the call. With a long sigh, the situation isn’t very favourable. The cellphone in her hand was still warm, when it suddenly lights up again. Gu An Ran, not expecting it, jumps from the startle. She looks at the screen, and answers the call in contempt, “You better not be calling me because of the blind date!”

“An Ran, congratulate me! I’m getting married!” The girl on the other line, An Ran’s best friend from university, Lin Li, announces loudly.

Surprised, Gu An Ran immediately responds mockingly, “Your Cheng Xiang family has finally agreed to marry you and let you enter their doors!” Cheng Xiang was also their university classmate. Lin Li, upon stepping onto campus, became enchanted by him, and wasted tremendous strength in order to make it mutual and have him in her hands. Counting up the years, it’s been nearly 10 years since the two of them have been together.

“Yeah, the wedding pictorial will be the day after tomorrow. The wedding is next month, remember, it’s next month on the 5th. You better free up your time on that day, you’re going to be my bridesmaid.”

“What’s the hurry!”, considering how long they’ve been together, a month is nothing.

“Uh, about that… I’m pregnant. Cheng Xiang’s family is superstitious. It just so happens that next month is the fourth month of the lunar year. If I don’t marry on the fourth month, then I’ll have to wait until the eighth month… Where am I supposed to live until then! I won’t be able to hide my stomach until that time.”

“You’re pregnant!” Gu An Ran suddenly raises her voice.

“Ai ya, be quieter.” Lin Li rebukes. She may be pregnant, and won’t be able to stand getting frightened.

Gu An Ran sighed with regret and said, “How is it that in a blink of an eye you’re going to be a mother.”

“Yes, I’m going to be a mother. You better pay special attention to me. Never mind marriage, you should find someone to date, ok?” Lin Li said, actually concerned with this problem. She doesn’t know how many times she’s talked about this. But with her, she hasn’t listened to a word. She’s still single. Ever since they’ve graduated from university, she’s been single for a few years now. “You better not be thinking about that heartless rat!”

An Ran’s heart throbs. She conceals her pain, and quickly says, “I.. I still have to work on my blueprint. I.. I gotta go,” she quickly hangs up after speaking.

That man’s face is still fresh in her mind; his guilty and apologetic eyes that day would always come before her from time to time, making her despise him, yet also feel powerless.

She grabs her draft and pencil, her thoughts in turmoil. Directing her thoughts to where she should edit her draft, her anxiety pacifies.

Later that evening, at 6:55 pm, An Ran parks her Chery (car manufacturer) in front of the restaurant. This car was bought with last year’s company bonus. Actually, she’s an idiot when it comes to mechanics. Anything related to mechanical stuff is a difficult problem for her. As a result, to this day, out of habit she draws her plans by hand, and avoids using the computer. And because of work, in addition to sitting in her office to landscape, she has to go to the site to examine it. So, she persuaded herself that it would be more convenient to have a car. However, when it came to the time when she had to take her driver’s licence test, it really took all her time and energy.

Before getting off, she grabs her makeup bag and takes out her mirror, carefully inspecting her makeup. Even though she kind of hates these kind of pointless dates, subjecting oneself to a complete stranger to chat and dine with, but the hate withers, because she still takes these meetings seriously each time.

Entering the restaurant, because of the waiter’s direction to the appointed seat, she sees that the other party has already arrived. Crew cut, wears glasses, eyes not too big, not too small, nose is not too high, not too straight, not to mention handsome. When he saw An Ran coming, he got up. Being gentlemanly, he stretches out his hand instead of shaking it, “Gu, right? I’m Lin An Jie.”

“Gu An Ran.” An Ran nodded, taking back her hand and sits on the opposite seat.

Lin An Jie passes her the menu, to be exact, the drinks menu. There’s all kinds of coffee and milk tea, and of course, alcohol. An Ran orders the caramel macchiato, as she’s fond of sweets, as well as the flavour of coffee. So, the caramel macchiato is the best and only choice for her.

Lin An Jie orders the cappuccino, and returns the menu to the server. An Ran opens her mouth to speak. The thing is, she hasn’t had anything to eat yet; she thought that they would have a meal. But seeing how he has no intention of dining, she quickly closes her mouth, not having the nerve to speak out.

“What industry are you in, Gu?” Lin An Jie starts, once the coffee has arrived.

“Something like construction. Right now I’m working at a construction-related company.” An Ran replies naturally, bringing up the coffee and taking a sip of it.

Lin An Jie nodded, and said, “It’s rare for a girl to be in construction, must be quite tiring, is it not?”

An Ran smiles, “There’s no helping it. The constructing business requires a lot of expertise, it’ll be hard to change professions,” she takes another sip after speaking. Because she spent the noon on editing blueprints, she didn’t have the time to eat lunch. She’s been feeling starved ever since the morning.

Lin An Jie nods, he sees that An Ran is not too bad, but her age is a bit too old. With her qualifications, there’s no reason that she ought to rely on blind dates at her age. “Gu’s qualifications are very good, why haven’t you married yet. Are your expectations that high?”

“Not at all. Normally it gets quite busy at the company, so I’ve never had the time to think about it. Thus, in an instant, I’ve reached this age,” An Ran answers.

Lin An Jie smiles, nods, takes a sip of his coffee, and says, “Actually, what I look for in a wife isn’t that much either, so long as they have a stable career, and can do the housework, that’s enough for me. However, after marriage, I would like my parents to come live with us. After all, raising me is not an easy task. They’re old now, it’s time that they should be cared for by us. After marriage, I feel that it would best that our wages be combined and given to our parents to take care of. This kind of arrangement is most beneficial; there actually isn’t much that we can spend on. We can eat at home, and when we really need to use the money, we can get it from my mother. What do you say.”

An Ran smiles dryly, without a word. Leaving aside what it would be like after marriage, this is the first time that they’ve met. To discuss this kind of stuff, to go this deep is too excessive, right?

“Furthermore, my mother’s legs are not good, so after marriage, the housework may have to be your responsibility. It’s actually not that much, just cooking, sweeping, laundry. It won’t be too tiring. If I have time, I will help out too.” Lin An Jie continues, not noticing An Ran’s change in expression. “Actually, my mother and father, they…”

“That.” An Ran interrupts his incessant chatting, pointing to her already empty cup, “Can I get a refill?”

Lin An Jie looks at her, nods, and pushes the service bell. The waiter came quickly, wearing a smile as he appeared before them, asking, “What can I get for you.”

“Can I get a refill, please?” says Lin An Jie, and points to An Ran’s cup.

“I’m sorry sir, we do not do refills for this kind of coffee,” the waiter puts on a professional smile.

Lin An Jie creases his brows for a good moment, and asks the waiter, “Then, what would be free?”

“Uh…” The waiter was surprised; he quickly thinks of a reply, holds his professional smile as best as he could, and says, “Boiled water is free of charge.”

Hearing this, Lin An Jie replies, “Then, give us boiled water.”

An Ran sees that the corner of the waiter’s lips start to twitch. Actually, she also feels that something is amiss. This time around, she actually met such an outrageous man!

The two of them sat for a while, until An Ran was finished with her cup of boiled water. Lin An Jie hasn’t even finished his lecture about his demands in a future wife etc. An Ran excuses herself to the washroom. In the washroom, she calls Lin Li for help. After that, by the time she returned to her seat, not a minute later, Lin Li calls back. An Ran makes an excuse saying that it was an urgent work call, and that she has to go back. Lin An Jie nods, and asks the waiter for the bill.

Knowing what she owes, An Ran absolutely will not leave, and waits until she has finished paying the bill, and leave together. She believed him to be that kind of petty person, but she didn’t expect him to take out his wallet and give the waiter a coffee coupon. In the end, the total cost of this blind date was the 5 yuan of service charge (T/N: ~$1 CAD or $0.75 USD LOL). The waiter gives a hateful glare as they leave the restaurant.

What An Ran didn’t know was that behind her, two men had witnessed the entire ordeal. One of them, a flower boy, began laughing incessantly upon her leaving. To the man in front of him who had his head down, looking over a document, he says, “Haha, Yi Cheng, I somewhat sympathize with that person.”

The man shot a glance, the corner of his mouth half raised. Without a word, he continues to look over the document. Actually, he’d seen the woman before; yesterday, at another coffee shop, seemingly also on a blind date.



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