Xiao Hua’s plans didn’t work out in the end. This was because she didn’t get a break the entire night.
It wasn’t clear if that person had been starved for too long or what, but he tossed her around like a wild bull the entire night. Whenever she tried to ask him something, he would use his mouth to block hers. In the end she couldn’t hold out any longer and fell asleep. When she awoke, he was already gone.
Ding Xiang was the one who told her the Jing Prince had left. He had left around midnight. Before he had left, he told Ding Xiang that there was a lot to do back at the estate, probably intending for her to pass on the message to Xiao Hua.
Xiao Hua’s expression was ugly enough. She sat on the bed and pulled angrily at her blankets.
To think that she had waited so long for him to come give her an explanation. To think that she had let him in the door, and even let him fumble his way into bed in the end. How great of him, wiping his mouth clean after having eaten, and running off without a word.
Xiao Hua felt that she had lost out big time. She also had a weird feeling of “how did this person become this way, is this still his highness the Jing Prince?”
In the courtyard, the two children were asking Chun Cao “Why isn’t mom awake yet?”
Chun Cao foolishly replied “madam is tired.” The two curious children asked follow up questions such as “why is mom tired?” and “did she get tired from cooking?”
Xiao Hua clearly heard them while sitting in bed and was a little speechless at Chun Cao’s foolishness while also dying of embarrassment.
Ding Xiang saw madam’s obviously embarrassed expression and said “water is prepared in the bathroom” before running off.
Xiao Hua put her clothes on after taking a bath and went to the courtyard.
Zhuo’er and Yi Yi had already been dragged off to play with their little playmates. Ding Xiang and Chun Cao, who were in the courtyard pretending to be busy, kept sneaking glances at her expression. Xiao Hua felt indescribably awkward in her heart and put on a show of going to chat with Auntie Ma next door.
Who would have thought that her situation didn’t improve at Auntie Ma’s place? Last night’s events had been seen by quite a few people in the alley. They had all discussed in private how Miss Tao wasn’t a widow at all. She clearly had a man.
“Really now. You clearly have a man but you insist on calling yourself a widow. What happened? Had a falling out with him and ran off?”
Cui Zhi grabbed a small stool and let Xiao Hua sit down on the side. She was peeling pea pods. Zhuo’er and Yi Yi were playing in their courtyard with little Hairball.
Xiao Hua’s expression turned rigid.
Cui Zhi understood, “Pretty big falling out? Your temper seems so good, I really didn’t expect you to have such a side. You actually took the children and moved out with your relatives!”
Cui Zhi’s understanding was based on what Xiao Hua’s group had told them. One older sister, one younger sister, no elderly since there were no old folk in their family, and two children. Now the man had come looking, and the natural explanation was that he came running back after their falling out. They must have purposefully moved so it wasn’t easy for him to find.
Xiao Hua stammered: “……he’s often gone for business…..”
“Have you guys made up?” Cui Zhi smiled and said: “I heard your man is very handsome.”
Xiao Hua chuckled awkwardly, “Ok, I guess.”
“Really now. How can you call yourself a widow after just a falling out? Now that he’s found his way over, are you going back with him?”
Xiao Hua also didn’t know what to say, and could only make up an excuse: ‘There’s only him in his family, and he’s often gone for business. I’ve moved everything over here this time, and our original house was also getting old. It’s about time for a change….”
Cui Zhi nodded and didn’t ask for more details. She patted her hands and said: “It’s normal for a couple to argue. As long as he admits his mistakes, it should be enough. Don’t keep giving him attitude.”
The problem was that he never admitted his mistakes. He didn’t say anything, and ran off after eating his fill!
Seeing Xiao Hua’s expression turn ugly again, Cui Zhi asked curiously: “What’s wrong?”
“Ah? He’s that busy, and could only stay with you and the children for a single night? Then you should give him some attitude….”
After the three children played on the side for a while, Zhuo’er took out a small paper package from his bib, “My dad earned some money and bought some tasty things for me and my sister. I’ll give you a piece.”
Hairball immediately dropped the stick in his hands and leaned in.
There were three extremely fine treats inside the small paper package that gave off an alluring smell. Little Hairball couldn’t help but swallow a few mouthfuls of saliva and reached out to grab one with his hand.
Cui Zhi glanced meaningfully at Xiao Hua before standing up and saying: “You have to wash your hands before eating. Come, auntie will help you guys wash your hands.”
Xiao Hua sat there both embarrassed and shy. When did he come back with money? He even bought treats for the children.
After sharing with his little playmate, Zhuo’er and his sister each took a piece. Zhuo’er then brought his sister home along with his mom.
“When did dad give Zhuo’er the treat?”
The moment they got back, Xiao Hua crouched and asked her son.
“When it was still dark outside. He brought it over. Sister was sleeping. Zhuo’er was awake.”
So it was in the middle of the night before he left?
“Then did dad say anything to Zhuo’er?”
“Dad told me to make sure Yi Yi and mom behave. He said he’s going to go earn money, and will come see us after a period of time.” Zhuo’er furrowed his little brows, “Mom, why does dad always run off? Not well behaved at all. When will he be back?”
“He’ll be back once he earns some money.”
This round of money earning took almost four months before he returned.
During these months, Xiao Hua had missed him and wondered what he was up to. But since her knowledge was limited, she truly couldn’t figure out what was so dangerous he had to keep it hidden and avoid her. It was to the extent that he hadn’t sent any news over in a long time.
She would occasionally wonder if he had a new flame, and whether he had forgotten about her and the children. Deep inside she would never be willing to believe this, and she waited for him to come give her an explanation.
Quite a few things happened during these four months. The two children grew taller and became more mature. The people in the East Yuling alley were truly passionate. Since Xiao Hua wasn’t a widow, they shifted their attention to her “older sister”, the also “widowed” Ding Xiang.
The potential partner they introduced was, very coincidentally, Zhao Da who lived across from them.
Zhao Da was twenty-four or five years old and was still single. He was a bachelor living with several brothers. He couldn’t be said to be penniless, but also couldn’t be said to have a good background. As for Ding Xiang, despite being a widow she was hardworking and had a good personality. She was more than a good match for Zhao Da.
This was what the people were thinking, though they didn’t know what the two of them thought about it.
When the aunts and young married women got passionate about something, they truly forced one to yield to their superior strength. They kept taking turns to come over and hang out with Ding Xiang, helping her with her work. At the same time, the men of the alley were also ordered by their wives or old mothers to discuss things with Zhao Da. The people were extremely passionate but the two in question had a headache over the situation.
Perhaps it was due to this matter, but when Ding Xiang occasionally ran into Zhao Da when she went out, she would feel that her mood wasn’t quite the same. It was the first time she felt this weird and shy in front of a man.
As for Zhao Da, being spoken of as a pair with Ding Xiang by everyone and also teased by his own brothers, this manly man would also go red in the face when encountering the woman.
Xiao Hua observed all this and was quite cheerful inside. She was glad that she was no longer a widow, and also looked quite favorably on this pairing. She didn’t consider whether a palace maid could get married or not. She still felt that it was better for women to have a man by their side.
Xiao Hua would even tell Chun Cao while Ding Xiang was present “You aren’t young anymore. If you have someone in mind, or if you want to get married, you have to let me know. Women cannot delay in these matters.”
Whether Ding Xiang took her words to heart, Xiao Hua didn’t know. She just knew that Zhao Da started coming over more frequently, perhaps to try and get closer to do his job.
If he had just been trying to send over some finer things like in the past, naturally no one would open the doors for him. But unexpectedly, he brought over some rabbit meat once.
He said that his brothers had gone hunting, and brought it over so they could have another dish with their meal.
The rabbit was given to Ding Xiang, so who was getting the extra dish was self-evident. Therefore, Xiao Hua beamed and didn’t say anything about it, taking the opportunity to eat some rabbit meat for dinner.
Since his method seemed to work, Zhao Da started bringing things over once every so often. It was all very ordinary things like a basket of vegetables, a few fish or a pork leg and what not.
Ding Xiang thought that he was acting on his highness’s orders and accepted it every time. This continued up until she found a flower hair ornament in the vegetable basket. Chun Cao smiled teasingly and the madam smiled meaningfully. Only then did Ding Xiang realize these things weren’t from his highness to the madam, but rather from that person to herself.
This showed that women were sometimes oblivious when it comes to certain things. The usually intelligent and steady Ding Xiang also ended up having such a day, and also revealed such a stunned expression, making Xiao Hua laugh uproariously.
Ding Xiang was fiercely shy, and hid inside without going out for an entire day.
Afterwards, there wasn’t any afterwards.
At least Xiao Hua didn’t see it. She only knew that Ding Xiang started interacting with that side more and more.
Zhao Da started sending things over more frequently and Ding Xiang would also send over the food she made using his ingredients for them to eat. Only afterwards did Xiao Hua find out that Zhao Da’s group across from them were “truly pitiful”. None of these men knew how to cook, and would always have to buy outside food to eat.
This was what Ding Xiang told her. How “pitiful”, Xiao Hua secretly thought. Turns out that men all knew this trick of acting pitiful to get sympathy! That time he came, he had also put on a pitiful appearance. Wasn’t he just trying to get her sympathy? Afterwards her heart had softened, he had eaten his fill, but he ended up running off…..
Once she thought up to this point, Xiao Hua got angry.
Fine, you’d better not come back again!
Of course she only thought this out of anger. Once her anger faded, she would think that if he showed a good attitude when he came back, she was still willing to forgive him….
Xiao Hua came up with all sorts of scenarios for his return, how she was going to give him attitude, how she was going to ignore him, how she would hold the children and keep him isolated. She also thought of how he had to act and what he had to do before she was willing to slightly forgive him a little, and how he had to coax her before she would show him a good expression….
She had thought of everything, and how she should react to everything, but she didn’t expect that when he really showed up, her reaction would actually be this way…..
On this day, Xiao Hua went outside to call her children home to eat. The moment she stepped out, she saw him holding their hands, walking towards her…..
The glowing sunset enveloped the three in a golden layer of light.
She looked dumbly at that person. He had become extremely thin, and wasn’t as fair as before. She could almost not recognize him….
Then her tears spilled out all at once, and couldn’t be stopped. She ran over and embraced him, crying her heart out.
Her cries were very loud and a little hysterical. It contained some panic and helplessness, and also the hidden worries in her heart….it scared the two children, and also scared the Jing Prince.
The earsplitting cries caused several of the neighbors to come out.
Cui Zhi explained quietly to the others: “This should be her man. He hasn’t come back in a long time, she’s probably overly excited….”
The Jing Prince’s expression was weird and he hugged her stiffly. He heard the commotion on the side but he couldn’t react to it, only holding her fast with his arms.
Auntie Ma couldn’t take it anymore and came over.
“Silly girl, what are you crying for? It’s a good thing he’s back. Hurry and go inside.”
She pulled Xiao Hua while saying to the Jing Prince reproachfully: “This lifestyle of yours, leaving for months at a time without caring for your wife and children. If you came back any later, the children won’t recognize you anymore….why do you have to be gone for so long. Young couples should spend more time together. Business can wait. How is money more important than being together with your wife and children…..”
The Jing Prince didn’t know how to respond: “This humble….er, I was wrong to do so.”
“Quickly stop crying, it’s a happy occasion.”
Only now did Xiao Hua snap out of it. Seeing everyone around, she felt extremely embarrassed. She wiped her face and smiled shyly at Auntie Ma before hurriedly pulling the Jing Prince and the children into the pavilion.
Only after entering did she think of how foolish she looked just now. She hurriedly released her hand. She wanted to lose her temper a little, but the mood wasn’t quite right. Her face was a mess from crying and Xiao Hua could only run off to wash her face.