Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
"Alright, I'll come right over."
Lu Ze did not hold back at all. After all, the two had been neighbors for a year and knew each other quite well. Moreover, he usually ate whatever he could get his hands on, and his cooking was nothing to shout about. He was not going to be stopped if there was good food involved.
He put on his slippers, turned off the television, and glanced in the apartment across him — red-cooked cutlassfish, sweet and sour spare ribs, fried prawns, green pepper scrambled eggs, and a bowl of tomato egg-drop soup. It was no wonder his room smelled so good!
Yang Dan was sitting cross-legged on the brick platform as she put chopsticks in her mouth. She shot a glance at Lu Ze and asked, "Why aren't you sitting? Milord, have you been spoiled? Are you waiting for me to serve you?"
"Today's dinner is so extravagant! Ha! Four dishes and a soup for one? It's quite brilliant! Is it your birthday, Sister Dan?" Lu Ze sat on the brick platform, beaming with smiles. He poured out the remaining water in the wine cup before biting off the cap from the bottle of white wine with his teeth to pour himself a drink. He could not be anymore used to doing this.
"I'm leaving tomorrow."
These words froze Lu Ze for a moment, but his expression soon returned to normal as he clinked his wine cup with Yang Dan's with a smile.
"Are you moving out? Is this like your farewell party? Not bad at all! Thank you, Sister Dan, for your kind consideration this year, and good luck for your future acting career."
"I'm saying that I'm going back home… to Hebei. I've already bought the ticket to leave by 2 o'clock at noon tomorrow."
After taking a huge gulp, Lu Ze let out a loud sigh and asked while taking a bite, "Are you giving up on acting?"
"Is it because of Second Fatty?"
"That's part of the reason. Hengdian is too harsh! I've been stumbling around as an extra for three years, and I've seen too many such days."
Lu Ze took out a cigarette packet from his pocket and gave one to Yang Dan. He lit the cigarette for her before lighting his own, and both of them sat silently on the brick platform, puffing out smoke while lost in their thoughts.
"For over a month, I haven't received a single role. Second Fatty is messing up behind the scenes. I haven't made a dime for nearly two months. I can't keep on living like this! I'm scared."
Female extras in Hengdian don't earn much; these words could not ring truer. They were not like males who did not have much to spend on aside from food and rent. They had to be mindful of their appearance, continuously make themselves look younger and more beautiful. It was only then that they would earn more.
Their expenses were much higher than those of males. They had to spend thirty to possibly even seventy percent of their earnings on skincare products. Lu Ze knew that Yang Dan was indeed at the end of the rope after having had no work for nearly a month.
Lu Ze didn't say anything and finished his cigarette in silence before putting it out in the ashtray. If Yang Dan only had this month's expenses as a shortfall, he would not have minded helping her. However, if she could no longer find any more work, how could he continue to help her?
Yang Dan downed her cup of wine in a single breath. The bite caused by the wine caused a pained expression on her face, and the shining scarlet fingernails on her slender, white hands made it look rather enticing.
As long as one did not experience being in Hengdian, one would never imagine the kind of pressure on the backs of female extras. They had to ensure so much hardship just to become a star. Desiring to be a star to earn some money… was it so wrong?
"You really don't know how hard this is for me! From the age of ten, becoming a star was my dream, and money is just a byproduct. I want to feel what it's like to have my movie playing on the screen with my name floating in the credits. However, it would seem like it'll never come true… this decade-old dream of mine that is. When I refused Second Fatty, I knew I was finished. I should've woken up earlier."
"It's not your fault, Sister Dan!"
"I know it isn't my fault. He wants to bed me, and I've got to spread my legs willingly? For what reason? Although, I have to say I didn't expect it to turn out like this. When I looked for work, everybody ignored me. I was forced out and had to squeeze in lines with the men. Even then, everyone treated me like I was made of air and completely ignored me! Do you know how it feels?!"
Yang Dan was a bit too drunk as her cursing seemed somewhat hysterical. The anger of a woman carried a kind of frailness that even her tears seemed to be on the verge of spilling out.
Taking another gulp, she extended her slender hand and clenched her fist, pressing the pinkie with her thumb while sneering.
"Just a troupe leader… All it took was just a troupe leader in snuffing me. Why should I do what he wants? I know I didn't gain a single thing in these past three years… I'm fully aware of this! However, this guy wants me to sleep with him? He might as well give sleeping with his mother a shot!"
Lu Ze immediately held her wine cup in his hand, forbidding her from drinking more. Even now, she was unable to sit correctly. If she drank anymore, there's probably going to be an accident.
"Don't stop me! Let me drink today. You know how tired I am! Lu Ze, my dreams are dead! Do you know what makes one feel the greatest sadness?! When one is hopeless! I tried so hard, for so long but, raise your head and see for yourself! F*ck! Today seems so dark that I can't even see the light at the end of the tunnel! There's no hope! Do you know how much despair I'm in?!"
"Sister Dan, don't shout! We've got neighbors. They come home tired from an entire day of work. Keep your voice down!"
"I don't care! In any case, I'm leaving tomorrow. I'll have nothing to do with anybody here! What should I be afraid of?! If they want to cuss me out, they can do so! Why do I have to care if they're tired from their jobs?! I'll be as loud as I want!"
After speaking, she began to sing a folk song, looking like a psychotic woman. After finishing her drink, she opened her eyes wide and glanced at Lu Ze. He could probably guarantee that he would not be able to forget that look as he was unable to utter a single word before that look.
"Lu Ze, I know I'm acting like an immature child. I'm twenty-six, but I'm far from being as mature as you, a twenty-four old boy. Right now, I, this little broke child, wonder how long you'll be able to go on for."
"I hope you become a star. I swear! I hope you succeed, really! You worked harder than me and invested more than me. That day, I saw the director cussing you out before you cried on the street. Don't blame your sister for being a coward. I didn't dare to speak out for you… I didn't have the ability to do so anyway but, keep your faith! I wish you well and maybe one day, I'll be able to see you on the screen… I'll be waiting to see your name everywhere in the media. By then, I'll be able to flaunt the fact that Lu Ze was once my neighbor to everyone else, that we were both lonely souls from a distant land that had nobody else apart from one another, and that we once shared the warmth of our bodies at the dinner table. I really, really hope that you'll be famous someday."
She fell asleep with tears still flowing on her face. Lu Ze looked at her for a long time before picking the half-filled cup of white wine and downed it along with another two bottles of beer. After finishing dinner, he sorted out the table and washed the bowls and chopsticks. He then lay out the quilt that was still perfumed by her fragrance. After covering her, he walked to her dressing table and fumbled around for a bit before eventually finding the makeup-removal oil.
Pouring a drop on a piece of cotton, he gently cleaned her makeup. Softly, slowly, and with extreme caution, he then washed her face with a warm, moist towel.
As Lu Ze walked to the gate while holding the washing basin and was about to turn off the lights, she suddenly asked, while being sober or possibly dreaming, "Lu Ze?"
"If I leave, will you hate me?"
"Just live well."
"This is also for you. I've got too much stuff to take with me."
Lu Ze took a gander at his room: a quilt, electric blanket, hot water kettle, washbowl, and even a half-filled bottle of shower gel was lying around. His room originally had a lot of space, but it now seemed like a pig's den.
"Sister Dan, don't give all this stuff to me. I don't need it either. In the end, it will all be thrown out." Lu Ze waved his hand and replied bitterly.
Yang Dan sent a glare his way, as if about to beat someone, "I don't care!"
By twelve, Yang Dan was done packing. Lu Ze didn't go to work today either so he would go to send her off.
Women indeed had too much stuff. Even after dumping so much stuff at Lu Ze's, she had still packed three big trunks and a big traveling bag.
"Tell me...how're you going to carry all this stuff? Who is coming to pick you up? Look at how tired I already am. I'm sweating all over!"
She called for a cab, and Lu Ze loaded about thirty to forty kilograms worth of stuff into the cab as he gasped for air.
"My sisters will come and get me there. Some of them are of your age. If you want, I can introduce them to you. None of my friends are lacking in the looks department."
"Spare me, sister!"
Upon arriving at Yi Wu train station, Lu Ze bought a platform ticket. They seemed like they were going back home for the new year's celebration. Among the crowd, they had the most bags.
At 2:17 pm, they did the ticket inspection, and Lu Ze helped her carry the luggage to the platform. As the train entered the platform, a light breeze made her hair flutter in the air.
They found the number twelve carriage but didn't hurry in. Yang Dan looked at Lu Ze with a faint smile on her face, making it seem as if yesterday was merely an illusion. She seemed to be in a good mood today.
"It's farewell, then?"
"Call me after reaching home, and keep in touch!"
"Then… Do you want a hug?"
Lu Ze didn't decline. After a passionate hug, he helped her bring the luggage into the carriage.
The train attendant whistled on the platform and waved the flag. The train was about to begin.
"Get inside. I've to close the door."
The train attendant urged Yang Dan to step back so he could close the door. He did not know where she got the courage as she suddenly grabbed the door and looked at him while shouting, "Lu Ze, here is your chance! Don't be a nameless extra anymore! Buy tomorrow's ticket and come home to me! Be my man! I don't want a house from you, neither do I want a car! I'll be satisfied as long as we can have dinner every day! I don't want anything more! Do you want to come with me?"
Lu Ze froze and remained that way for a long time. The train attendant wanted to drag her back, but she held the door firmly as she waited for Lu Ze's reply, He did not know how to react.
"Just kidding! I'm just teasing you. Act well! You'll definitely become a big star! From now on, I'll always keep watch over the TV and wait to see if you appear! Bye, bye!"
Then, she hurriedly closed the door and disappeared from Lu Ze's gaze. As the train slowly started moving, Lu Ze kept staring at the glass door without so much as a blink. When carriage number 12 was about to leave his sight, she suddenly appeared at the backdoor of the carriage and slapped at the glass door with a tear-stained face while yelling, "What I said was the truth. My words were genuine! They were true! Lu Ze, can you hear me? Those words were true!"
Unfortunately, the train was too loud and Lu Ze couldn't hear what she was trying to convey at all.
On 4th August, 2016, she left. It was a clear day, but in Lu Ze's memory, it was raining all around him.
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