Note: All French names in this chapter are in Chinese phonetics.
Zu Zu is Aulde’s younger brother. I met them when I was in Paris. They are similar, both very warm-hearted people.
He is a 19 year old boy, tall and handsome. When he smiles slightly, he looks shy. Right now during break, he is helping his father and mother take care of the family bakery.
The Ferlande family is of Italian-American origin. Their bakery has several decades of history. It was created by Aulde and Zu Zu’s grandfather. Though it’s not very large in size, it is welcomed by the people in the neighborhood, and well-known in the area.
“But in our generation, the industry suffered a crisis.” Aulde said.
“You make it sound severe. What happened exactly?” I said.
Aulde pointed at her brother, “In our family, this skill is transferred from male to male, not to females. My dad wants to give the shop to Zu Zu, but he doesn’t want to inherit it.”
“Then what does he want to do?”
Zu Zu was preparing to close the shop. Blocking the windows with a block of wood.
“He wants to go to Africa. Put on a blue helmet and be a peacekeeper there.”Aulde laughed, “Who knows how children think these days.”
“He doesn’t think. You can learn the skills and take care of the store.”
“Me?” Aulde stretched out her hand and looked at it. Shaking her head, saying, “Using this pair of tar and nicotine-stained hands to make bread for other people to eat? Forget it, I have no enmity with the government and I don’t want trouble.”
We sat down and chatted. Zu Zu finished taking care of the shop and busily cleaned it up and organized it. Not long after, he prepared dinner for us.
He had prepared fondue. There was goat cheese in a small pot in the center of table, covering cooked potatoes. We ate it dipped on bread. It had a rich, mellow taste. I had a big appetite and ate a lot.
“In China, do you eat cheese?” Zu Zu asked.
“No, I don’t eat it.” I thought for a moment, “I don’t eat it a lot.”
I remembered the first time Cheng Jia Yang took me to eat Western food. I had tried authentic French cheese. At first I was not accustomed to the taste. Later, I started liking the scent and taste of it.
“China’s most famous food is dumplings.” I said.
“We also have that.” Zu Zu said.
“It’s not the same.” Aulde said to her brother, “China’s dumplings don’t have cheese as the filling, it has vegetables and meat.”
“It is tasty?” He asked, looking at me.
“In a few days I will make some dumplings and invite you guys over to eat them. Does that sound good?”
The boy laughed, “Don’t say a few days. Quickly tell me what time- my break isn’t very long.”
“Then how about two days? I will invite some other friends. We can have a little party.”
The siblings were very happy, Zu Zu said, “I will secretly bring some of my dad’s wine over.”
Aulde squeezed her eyes closed and said. “Haha, great, I wish you success.”
At that very moment, a big white dog sauntered out from behind and grazed my leg. I was very startled. It’s forelimbs climbed onto Zu Zu. Zu Zu stroked its forehead hairs out of its eyes and said, “This is Ou Luo Er, my little brother.”
It was obvious that the French loved dogs, even seeing them as part of the family.
He said to the big dog, “Ou Luo Er, this is Fei. Look, she’s so good at speaking French, isn’t she talented?”
The dog barked, as a way of greeting me.
Don’t say, he is really quite sensible.
We chatted for a while longer. When was late, I got ready to leave.
Aulde said, “What do we do? My parents took the car and left.”
Zu Zu said, “I’ll take her.”
Aulde said, “Forget it, don’t bring out your old motorcycle.”
“I’ll walk her home.”
“That’s good.” Aulde said, “Fei, he will escort you home. Rest assured, my brother is skilled.”
Nighttime in Southern France, however deep the sea was was how high the skies would be, on the deep blue dome screen, the stars would shine, some sea birds sang as they flew overhead, bringing a tiny bit of the salty wind over, blowing onto the leaves, rustling, these seemed to be the sounds in a young person’s heart.
Looking at it this way, Zu Zu was not like his sister. When we had walked all the way to the train station, he still hadn’t said a word.
The train came, and I got ready to leave. Wishing him goodnight and goodbye.
He got on with me, “I’ll send you to the university campus.”
Apparently the day I arrived in Paris, he had gone to the young hotel. Now that was a dutiful military officer.
Until we had arrived to my dorm building, I pointed towards the window and said, “Look, this is my room. Two days later, you won’t get lost and not find it, right?”
“No,” He laughed, “But you’ll have to make more dumplings.”
I ran up the stairs, returned to my room, changed, rinsed myself, looked at the clock, and realized it was already very late. The last bus had just left a moment go, so how would Zu Zu return?
Cheng Jia Yang
Ming Fang gave birth to a child. It was a little girl with a round face and a small layer of hair. She was clutching onto my finger, her hands full.
I brought the gift my mother had prepared and went to see Ming Fang in the hospital ward. I also saw Wen Xiao Hua.
The child was in her arms, clutching my hand.
Afterwards, I escorted Wen Xiao Hua home. On the road, we talked about the child, who had not yet been named. Ming Fang called on us to work together on naming it.
I said that I would go home and look through the dictionary. Xiao Hua said, “An ordinary Chinese character is the best. The more common the name, the better the person.”
“There’s a theory like that?”
“Yeah. Look, Jia Yang and Xiao Hua, are very common names, and we are very good people.”
“Do you have anything planned later?”
“No.” I said, looking at her. She looked back at me.
“Why don’t we go drink some tea.” I said.
“Okay, I know a Taiwanese tea shop. They have many kinds of shaved ice.”
Two adults, like a little boy and girl, in a Taiwanese tea shop that had been renovated to look like a cartoon house, eating multicolored shaved ice. It made me feel young again.
Wen Xiao Hua ate a mango-flavored one and a mangosteen-flavored one, concentrating on the taste and enjoying it extremely. Mine had melted into ice water and was only half-eaten. She ate until she was satisfied, raised her head to look at me, and laughed, “Thank you.”
“What are you thanking me for?” I asked.
“You’re so patient, waiting for me to finish.”
“As a person, the one thing I definitely am is patient.” I said honestly.
“I sometimes think you are a polite and proud person. Not saying much, encouraging people wholeheartedly. In fact……”
“I don’t say anything because I am not good at speaking. Politeness is so that I don’t have to show any other emotions because I am lazy.”
She looked at me, then looked out the window.
“Ever since I was young, I liked gaining the upperhand and winning. I went to the best university and traveled to the farthest country. I have worked, completing difficult tasks that other people wouldn’t do, and been to the most dangerous and tricky places for interviews. Life is very difficult because the heart believes that as long as you work hard, you will achieve your goal.”
She drank a sip of water, a slight smile on her face, “Until I met you. Cheng Jia Yang, did you know, you are what the foreigners call, a difficult person.”
Is she started to reprove me in this manner?
“I didn’t know you thought that way. When I try to get close to you, I’m often found out. Then we go back to being like strangers again. When elders praise me, you smile along. When it’s just me, you won’t even glance at me once, nor say a word. You wouldn’t not know, that if you’re too polite, then it becomes impolite. Sometimes, you make me feel uneasy. For example, your mood will suddenly be good, and you’re willing to escort me home. I was so happy I left my car at the hospital. For example, you’re suddenly not busy one afternoon and you accompany me to eat shaved ice.
“I didn’t know you drove here.”
“I also forgot.”
She let out a chuckle, “When I’m around you, my IQ is 0.”
She worded it so clear, finally deciding to not wrong herself.
I didn’t know what to say. It was a difficult problem, and I didn’t know how to answer.
I couldn’t tell her I was sorry. What would I be apologizing for? She is sacrificing such a good girl.
I felt very embarrassed and raised my head. Wen Xiao Hua looked at my face.
My throat felt a little dry so no words were coming out.
She finally looked disappointed, picked up her bag, and left.