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‘How can I forget him if he wants to steal Xiao Bao?’ Qiao Tan Yuan asked.
Qiao Tan Yuan wanted to forget Gu Jiao Wu. How could she forget him if he kept appearing in front of her? Each time she saw him, it reminded how foolish she was to love someone who didn’t love her. She didn’t want Shen Cheng to suffer like her.
‘Are you going to let him steal Xiao Bao?’ Shen Cheng asked.
‘No,’ Qiao Tan Yuan said and shook her head. ‘I would never give Xiao Bao to him.’
‘Tam Yuan, I want you to be happy,’ Shen Cheng said. ‘If you marry me, I’ll make you happy. I’ll give you everything and I won’t expect you to love me. Letting me love you is enough.’
Shen Cheng witnessed how Qiao Tan Yuan used to love blindly and abandoned her self-respect. Gu Jiao Wu and Qiao Tan Yuan were divorced. He wished Gu Jiao Wu would let go of Qiao Tan Yuan and Xiao Bao. Gu Jiao Wu rejected Qiao Tan Yuan and Xiao Bao, but he wanted to make Qiao Tan Yuan and Xiao Bao happy. He wanted to give Qiao Tan Yuan and Xiao Bao a happy family.
‘Tan Yuan, let’s get married as planned,’ Shen Cheng said. ‘I truly love you and I’ll love you forever.’
‘Shen Cheng…’ Qiao Tan Yuan said.
Qiao Tan Yuan didn’t know what she should say. In her heart there was only gratefulness toward Shen Cheng, she didn’t love Shen Cheng but she didn’t want him to suffer because she couldn’t reciprocate his love.
‘We’ll get married as planned,’ Shen Cheng said.
Shen Cheng turned on the radio to avoid an awkward silence.
Qiao Tan Yuan silently listened to the sad love song played on the radio and thought about Gu Jiao Wu.
Gu Jiao Wu used to be her everything. Her deep love broke her. It tore her to step away from Gu Jiao Wu, but it was the right choice. After they divorced she saw clearly Gu Jiao Wu would never love her. She didn’t want to make the same mistake and enter a marriage where there was no mutual love, she wasn’t selfish enough to make Shen Cheng unhappy.
Qiao Tan Yuan and Shen Chen listened to the sad love song. They both understood forgetting someone and loving someone were two different things.
Shen Cheng parked in front of the Qiao Mansion. He and Qiao Tan Yuan got out of the car and they saw Qiao Jie and Mrs Chu carry bags into the mansion while Mrs Qiao carried Xiao Bao.
During Qiao Tan Yuan’s pregnancy, the mansion was renovated to include a nursery next to Qiao Tan Yuan’s room on the second level.
Shen Cheng carried Qiao Tan Yuan upstairs into her room. Their conversation in the car made both of them awkward with each other.
Shen Cheng laid Qiao Tan Yuan on the bed. ‘Tan Yuan, you should rest.’
‘Um,’ Qiao Tan Yuan said.
Qiao Tan Yuan didn’t think saying thank you to Shen Cheng was enough. She owed Shen Cheng too much for everything he did for her.
‘I’ll leaving now,’ Shen Cheng said. ‘Make sure you rest. I’ll come see you and Xiao Bao tomorrow.’
‘Um,’ Qiao Tan Yuan said.
Qiao Tan Yuan watched Shen Cheng leave and regretted she couldn’t love him.
Mrs Qiao escorted Shen Cheng outside and walked to Qiao Tan Yuan’s room.
‘Xiao Bao’s sleeping,’ Mrs Qiao said. ‘I let aunty take a break.’
‘Yes mum,’ Qiao Tan Yuan said.
Qiao Tan Yuan was grateful Shen Cheng hired a good nurse maid like Mrs Chu to take care of Xiao Bao.
Mrs Qiao sat on the bed next to Qiao Tan Yuan. ‘Tan Yuan, before I asked Shen Cheng to stay for a meal. But he looked sad, declined my invitation and left. Did you and Shen Cheng have a fight?’
‘We’re not fighting,’ Qiao Tan Yuan said and sighed. ‘Mum, don’t nag me. I’m tired, let me rest.’
Mrs Qiao scoffed. ‘If you’re not my daughter, I wouldn’t care about you and nag you.’
‘Mum…’ Qiao Tan Yuan said.
‘Tan Yuan… Xiao Bao is Jiao Wu’s daughter,’ Mrs Qiao said.
‘Mum!’ Qiao Tan Yuan said. ‘Can you not talk about him?’
‘Not talk about Jiao Wu?’ Mrs Qiao asked. ‘Why did you divorce Jiao Wu if Xiao Bao is his daughter? Or did he divorce you because he didn’t want you to give birth to Xiao Bao? What did the elders of the Gu Household teach Jiao Wu? How can they let him abandon his responsibilities and divorce you while you’re pregnant?’
‘Mum, why we’re divorced is our own business,’ Qiao Tan Yuan said. ‘Xiao Bao has no relation to him.’
‘Not related to Jiao Wu?’ Mrs Qiao asked. ‘At least tell me if he knew you were pregnant. If he knew, how could he abandon you while you’re pregnant? Seeing Shen Cheng by your side the whole time you were pregnant, I believed Shen Cheng was Xiao Bao’s father. So I didn’t go to the Gu Mansion and give Jiao Wu an earful for getting you pregnant and abandoning you. Tell me, did you divorce Jiao Wu because he has a mistress?’
‘Mum…’ Qiao Tan Yuan said. ‘He doesn’t have a mistress. We’re divorced, don’t involve him in Xiao Bao’s life.’
‘If Jiao Wu isn’t Xiao Bao’s father, I wouldn’t involve him,’ Mrs Qiao said. ‘The Gu Household is in the wrong. How can they turn their backs on you like this? I’m going to find w.a.n.g Tu Ya and tell her what an irresponsible son she has.’
‘Mum… stop making a racket,’ Qiao Tan Yuan said. ‘Do you want to make me more embarra.s.sed than I already am? Mum, if you go to the Gu Household and make a commotion, Gu Jiao Wu’s grandfather will force Gu Jiao Wu to marry me again. Mum… I’m begging you not to interfere. If you can’t stand seeing me live here, I’ll move out with Xiao Bao.’
‘This little girl, do you want to me to be angry to death?’ Mrs Qiao asked. She rubbed her chest. ‘How can you say I don’t want see you and Xiao Bao? What are you thinking? Why do you want to bring Xiao Bao into the Shen Household? Do you think the Shen Household are blind? They’ll take one look at Xiao Bao and know she’s Jiao Wu’s daughter, not Shen Cheng’s daughter. Do you think you and Xiao Bao will be happy if you marry Shen Cheng and be looked down on by Shen Cheng’s family?’
‘Mum, we won’t be living with Shen Cheng’s family,’ Qiao Tan Yuan said. She didn’t want to be lectured anymore. ‘Besides I’ll be marrying Shen Cheng, not his family.’
‘What about Shen Cheng?’ Mrs Qiao asked. ‘Do you think it’s fair on Shen Cheng if you marry him? Is it fair on Shen Cheng if he’s taking responsibility for Xiao Bao who is Jiao Wu’s daughter?’
Fair? Gu Jiao Wu never treated Qiao Tan Yuan fairly. But she didn’t want to treat Shen Cheng unfairly.
‘Tan Yuan…’ Mrs Qiao said.
Mrs Qiao regretted she and her husband spoiled their only daughter. But they hated seeing their daughter miserable while married to Gu Jiao Wu. She didn’t want Qiao Tan Yuan to make the same mistake and be unhappy by marrying Shen Cheng.
‘Tan Yuan… if you and Shen Cheng loved each other it wouldn’t matter if Shen Cheng isn’t Xiao Bao’s father,’ Mrs Qiao said. ‘But you don’t love Shen Cheng. Your heart knows you and Shen Cheng won’t be happy together. Tan Yuan… Xiao Bao is Jiao Wu’s daughter. I think you should take time to think things over. Think about if you want to marry Jiao Wu again…’
‘Mum!’ Qiao Tan Yuan said. ‘Do you think I’ll die if I don’t have a man? Mum, don’t nag me anymore. I’m not going to marry Shen Cheng or Gu Jiao Wu. For the rest of my life I’m going to raise Xiao Bao on my own, I don’t need a man. Are you satisfied now?’
‘Fine, I’m not going to interfere in your business,’ Mrs Qiao said. ‘Did I raise you for you to make me angry to death? Your love life is yours to deal with. But you’re divorced and now you’re a mother. If you don’t think about what’s best for you and Xiao Bao, you’ll regret making another irreversible mistake for the rest of your life.’
Mrs Qiao stood and strode out of the room.
Qiao Tan Yuan laid on the bed in her quiet room. She didn’t know what Mrs Qiao was thinking. Wasn’t it enough she was miserable in a cold marriage for three years? Marry Gu Jiao Wu again? Even if there were no other men left in the world, she would rather die of loneliness than marry Gu Jiao Wu again. She was tired of their fights and cold silent wars. She closed her eyes and wanted to forget Gu Jiao Wu existed.
The following two days, Mrs Qiao didn’t mention to Qiao Tan Yuan about marrying Gu Jiao Wu again, and Shen Cheng visited Qiao Tan Yuan and Xiao Bao at the Qiao Mansion. But since Xiao Bao and Qiao Tan Yuan was discharged from the hospital, it was awkward between Qiao Tan Yuan and Shen Cheng.
Qiao Tan Yuan didn’t want to give Shen Cheng hope if she knew she couldn’t love him. When Shen Cheng visited her and Xiao Bao, they exchanged pleasantries, Shen Cheng would play with Xiao Bao for a while and leave.
In the evening, Qiao Tan Yuan breast fed Xiao Bao, and Mrs Chu carried Xiao Bao to the nursery.
Qiao Tan Yuan laid in bed and tried to sleep. Her phone rang, it was a former cla.s.smate who invited her to an engagement party. She said she was recovering from childbirth and declined. But the truth was she didn’t want to be envious when she saw how her former cla.s.smates were happily married with children.
Love? Qiao Tan Yuan didn’t know what if felt like to be loved by someone she loved. For more than twenty years she pursued Gu Jiao Wu and his shadow imprinted in her heart. She felt restless, got out of bed and walked to the window. She wanted to open the window for fresh air to clear her head, but a familiar hand grabbed her wrist.
‘What are you doing?’ Gu Jiao Wu asked.
End of Chapter Twenty-Six
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