3 We Who Grew Up

"Thank you for the ride."

Yimeng slowly stepped off the car, not waiting for Mu Zhe to open the door for her nor expecting him to. In front of a simple white house situated a good distance away from the busy city lights, Mu Zhe's pitch black sportscar remained the only sign of life on the street due to its low growling.

All the neighboring houses remained still, the quietness of the street eeriely silent. Winding his window down, Mu Zhe reached for the side compartment of his car to grab a simple brown paper bag and handed it to Yimeng.

A confused look on her face, Yimeng parted her lips to speak, only for Mu Zhe to interrupt her.

"Chengyou had a cooking class today. All the children made cakes for their parents."

Not knowing what to say, Yimeng slowly sealed her parted lips together, only nodding at Mu Zhe's words before taking the bag. As she stepped away from the car, Yimeng allowed a small smile to plaster itself onto her face and softly told Mu Zhe, "Wish Chengyou sweet dreams for me. Tell him aunty misses him."

Nodding his head, Mu Zhe shifted his gear to drive and sped off into the darkness of the night, leaving behind a trail of smoke and dust.

As Yimeng watched him disappear into the night, she sighed to herself and reached into the hidden compartment of her coat for her house keys.

When she found them, she turned to wooden doors of her house and unlocked it, then entered.

The day had been long but she was finally home.

"Why did you call me? Aren't you in a different country at the moment? It should be night time currently. Quickly go to sleep."

Yimeng sat on her kitchen countertable, dressed in sleeping shorts and a white t-shirt. Her hair was messily done into a bun and on her face, a pair of gold rimmed glasses nestled in the top of her nose, drooping slightly.

Her eyes were closed, a serene smile gracing her lips as she listened to the person on the other side of the phone speak, making drowsy sounds of compliance every once in a while as a reply.

It was still early in the morning and through the open glass windows that gave view to her small backyard, Yimeng could see the slowly rising sun as in the background, the cacophonous songs of birds began to stir her neighbors from their slumber. On the grass, fresh morning dew glistened as rays of light reflected off the dew.

"You know I don't want to get involved. How many times have we gone over this?"

Yimeng waited silently, her brows scrunching together as she listened to the person on the other side of the phone speak. Gradually, she found her pleasant mood ruined, no longer finding her morning as scenic.

"Does it even matter now? What use is it to pretend after so much time has passed. Why not just let things remain as they have been for the last eighteen years?"

A somber mood encased Yimeng whose soft smile had shifted into a nuetral expression. Her eyes were stormy, clouded over as if her soul had drifted off. Her brows remained scrunched together, hands clasping onto the phone tightly as a smooth voice sounded from the phone.

"Can't you do it for me?"

"...."

Yimeng pursed her lips together, displeased by the reply she had been given. She did not like it when others tried to coax her. It reminded Yimeng too much of the past.

"Do you have to force me like this?"

"...I just want you to let go of the past. It has been a long time since you have been back home."

"...Home...?" Yimeng asked in a ridiculing tone. She rarely lost control of her emotions, but everytime that cold place was mentioned, the bitterness and hatred buried deep within her heart would burst through. She had not visited that hell hole for a long time now.

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It had been so long that she no longer had a room of her own in that place. But perhaps, even back then, she was merely a guest, a stranger living off of the charity of its owner.

"Paternal grandfather is there. How could it not be home? Paternal grandfather is not as young anymore. You can not always inconvenience him to meet outside. Paternal grandfather's birthday banquet...just think of your presence as a birthday gift."

"Don't threaten me with paternal grandfather. You know I don't like talking about this matter. I have already sent him a gift. He will understand."

Yimeng's chest felt constricted. As if her lungs had been crushed, she felt herself heavily heaving for fresh air. Her nails dug into her skin as they clammed into fists and a small trail of blood trickled down before making impact with the white marble floor, tainting its previous pristine image.

"Do you really have to force me like this, ge?"

Reigning in her emotions, Yimeng gradually slowed her breathing and loosened her grasp on the phone. She felt tired and exhausted8.

Her beautiful morning had been ruined and she was no longer in the mood to open up her shop.

"...Ge just wants you to let go already. What is the use of keeping those painful things inside your heart? Meng er, we are no longer children."

Yimeng merely stared blankly at the phone in her grasp. She did not know what to say. No longer children?

Indeed, they had grown up. But when had they ever been children? When she had turned three years old, there was no birthday cake, no mother and father giving her kisses, only the accompaniment of an awkward old man whose figure seemed so worn and a helpless older brother whose tear filled eyes fought the urge to cry. That day, the mother she had loved so dearly never returned even when the clock stroke midnight as if signaling the end of a beautiful dream.

When she next woke up, the three year old her had traded in her white princess gown and pretty pink shoes for a black dress.

"I didn't want to grow up, ge."