7

Slowly Stepping Forward

Cecilia clutched onto her phone and bit her lower lip. It wasn't like her to call the guy first and she usually had no problems with the 'waiting game'.

"Hello? Wei? Is anyone there?" Nick pulled the phone away from his ears and looked at the caller ID. The number was not on his contact list and the caller seemed to be within the same city. He called out a few more times and was about to hang out when a timid voice replied.

"It's...me, Cecilia. We um...met at the Museum and Tea House the other -"

Nick was excited to finally hear from her, "Oh it's you! How are you? It's great to hear from you. Thanks for giving me a call. I was wondering if I would ever hear from you again..."

Feeling less like an idiot at this point, Xiao Xiao continued talking to him on the phone as though they were good high school friends. Nick was a good conversationalist and she had no problems with any awkward silence.

"Do you have any plans for tomorrow?" He asked.

Cecilia glanced over at her calendar. "Hm. Good thing you asked. It looks like I have a follow-up appointment with my doctor tomorrow."

"Are you ill?"

"Well..." Cecilia was hesitant about disclosing information to someone she barely knows even if he had complete resemblance of Si Ye.

Sensing some awkwardness, Nick apologized, "I'm sorry I asked. It's really none of my business. You don't have to tell me if you're not comfortable."

"It's kind of a long story..." She spoke hesitantly.

"You've got both of my ears if you want to share." He waited.

Cecilia wanted to tell him everything, pour out her hard-to-believe story and hoped to feel better after having told someone; but she bit her tongue. "About three months ago, I got hit by a car and got electrocuted."

"...You're joking, right?" Nick sounded nervous on the other side of the phone.

Xiao Xiao laughed, "I wish I was joking too but no, it all really happened."

"...Then what has happened since? Are you ok?"

"I was in a coma for over two months. I spent a few more weeks recovering and well, we met shortly after."

There was silence for a few long seconds before he continued, "That's the most fascinating story anyone has ever told me. I knew you were cool when I first saw you."

Cecilia laughed again. Since the many tragedies of her previous life, Cecilia had stopped laughing for far too long.

"I was driving by a sushi restaurant the other day and thought of you and was waiting to hear from you. What do you say?"

"Sounds like a plan. Where is this place?"

And so the two of them arranged a date for Saturday noon, at a Sushi restaurant. Their phone call only lasted a few minutes longer since his phone was low on battery.

That evening, Zhang Xiao brewed some white, Jasmine tea. She turned the Iris tea cup in her hand and studied the wavy smoke dancing above her cup. She took a whiff and rotated the cup with her fingers. Under her breath, she recited a made-up mantra. "Gone are the past. Let past loves be bygone. And here, to new beginnings."

Since Meng Po's tea was ineffective, Zhang Xiao made up her mind to forget her past. She drank her tea slowly. As she breathed and swallowed the tea, the warm fluid cleansed her soul. She felt like she was slowly waking up from a long and dragging dream. "Come what may. No strings attached, no comparing, no expectations. Just sincere hearts with sincere hearts. Slowly, stepping forward."

The following day, Xiao Xiao went for her follow-up. Nothing significant became of it as she had been seeing him on a weekly basis. Her doctor's office was conveniently in the same building where she works.

Cecilia walked quickly to the entrance while checking her phone for text messages. Nick said he had arrived to pick her up. She blushed shyly at the thought of dating and thought how wonderful it felt to live in the 21st century. Most of the stress she lived with was no longer there.

She was walking towards his car when a construction man called to her, "Hey you there! Are you that girl that got electrocuted a few months ago?!"

He caught Xiao Xiao's attention. Her heart pounded loudly.

That was the man that argued with me before...that happened!

"Uh...yes...that was.." She replied.

"Long time no see! I thought I'll never see you again because you know, it was quite a freak show! I guess you're still alive. Your dead relatives must have pitied you. Although I have to say you almost deserved it for being such a brat that night."

She made an awkward face at him. Cecilia wondered how he could speak so rudely. If she was the same person from months ago, she might have barked at what he just said. Since she had changed, she remained calm. "It's good to see you too..."

Cecilia was about to walk off instead of sticking around to get insulted by this stranger when he continued the conversation. He spoke loudly and boldly as though he was a close relative. "You were really lucky the person who hit you was a famous surgeon. You might have not made it if he weren't there you know."

She quickly looked and ran towards him. "You mean you know who hit me?" All she could remember from that night was being hit by a car, flying into the air, hitting the billboard then losing her consciousness. She vaguely noticed who was in the car. Many times she had asked her doctor and even Huang Di but no one said a word. They kept their silence saying that person had paid for all her medical expenses and wished to be anonymous.

"Yeah of course. Who doesn't? He's so famous he's all over the news. Don't tell me you don't know Surgeon Cheung?" The construction man rolled up some wires as he spoke.

Cecilia was so shocked she was not listening to half of what he was saying. She completely missed the part about him tell her who had hit her. "No no. I'm asking about the driver, not the man that saved me."

"That's what I said. They're the same person! Surgeon Cheung was driving back to the hospital to check on his patients or something. I don't know! I'm not his mother or wife."

Surgeon Cheung...? Cecilia has heard of his name over and over in the news, on the announcements, in the elevator...but why could she not put a face to his name?

"You know, that man!" He pointed to a bus driving by with Surgeon Cheung posing on an ad for the hospital's upcoming, fundraising event.

At that moment, Zhang Xiao's face turned pale and everything started to spin. Surgeon Cheung was the person she was looking at in the elevator the other day.

He...he is...Ba Ye...

"Hey girl, are you ok? You look a little winded..."

A hand placed on her shoulder and made her jump. It was Nick. "I saw you coming out a while ago and didn't know if this man was causing you any trouble so I came to ...er your rescue if you needed it."

"I'm...fine," she stuttered a reply to both men. "Thank you Mister, for telling me who that was. It's been an unanswered question for me. I hope you have a safe day. My friend is here now. I shouldn't keep him waiting."

"Ok Miss. Have fun with your new boyfriend. I guess you dumped the other one! Or maybe he dumped you. I don't know. You were pretty nasty and loud the last time I saw you. Anyways, see you around next time!"

She was about to correct him for addressing Nick as her boyfriend when Nick took her by her elbow and motioned her to the direction of his car. Her heart continued to race as they walked to his car.


Author's Notes

Thanks again for reading! The next chapters will be posted soon. :)