Chapter 3: Crushing on the Mensao Man (3)
Trimming the excess off the square chiffon cake and slicing it into layers, Miao Yuan spread chocolate cream—made from a secret recipe—in-between each layer. Next, she moved onto frosting it: dusting half of the top with cocoa powder and pressing three cocktail sticks bound by the tips into it, creating the impression of bird tracks. As for the other half, she paused for a moment in thought, before using white icing to write the two lines:
Heaven is too far away,
‘Earth’ is just perfect.
Miao Yuan narrowed her eyes and looked at the results before releasing a long, slow breath. Using a cake knife, she moved the cake onto a white porcelain plate. She then opened the glass door of a refrigerated case, and placed the cake on the top shelf. This was her most elaborate work, and she hoped that many people would see it.
On his way out, Chen Mo took note of the cakes in the display case, and could not find the one that he ate. The square cake had been placed in the refrigerated case, and wouldn’t have been taken out for customers. Thus, he noticed the difference between heaven and earth.
Miao Yuan saw his gaze and misinterpreted it, thinking that he wanted the cake. Stammering, she tried to explain that the cake was made for the shop’s anniversary, and was not for sale.
She had anticipated seeing Chen Mo look crestfallen, but was left feeling a little disappointed.
Chen Mo simply nodded his head in response and pushed the door to leave. The door chime rang melodiously and bright as always.
Miao Yuan felt that the afternoon was indeed wonderful.
In this world, some will see newborn babies and cry, knowing that the babies will lose their childhood naivety and grow old with wrinkles upon their faces. Some will see a straight road and become sad, knowing that not all will be smooth sailing, and that a fork lies ahead.
But we still fall in love again and again. Sometimes we beg for love to no avail. Other times it answers our pleading, and yet by that time, it is us who have become indifferent. Sometimes we want to preserve what love we have, yet it’s the other person who wants to leave. We’ve been hurt. And at the same time, we’ve hurt others. Yet we never learn, losing control of our hearts again and again.
Perhaps, you cannot help who you fall in love with. If your heart is free from worries, it finds love on its own.
When we encounter love, we still feel that rush, but we already know better. We know that all love will eventually dissipate, and that all lovers will eventually split. The changes of time are not something us mortals can withstand.
But so what?
In a room illuminated by the glow of dusk and scented with intermingling coffee and cocoa aromas, Miao Yuan cheerfully whistled a tune. Precisely because this feeling was fleeting, it had to be fully appreciated before it faded away.
The evening anniversary celebration was lively. Shop employees from various branches all gathered together, and Miao Yuan’s new confection received high praise.
The boss giddily asked Miao Yuan while holding the cake, “Xiao Miao1, have you thought about mass producing this?”
Miao Yuan thought for a moment before giving an outrageous price.
Her boss left dejectedly, clutching her shattered glass heart.
This was Miao Yuan’s bit of selfishness. When the cake came into existence, that person had left his mark on it. Miao Yuan hoped that forever and ever, the cake would be savoured only by him—well, at least while this special existence between them hadn’t faded.
A special person fills life with joy. If someone loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows, in all the millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars. It’s as if a flower blooms on each star2.
Miao Yuan bid her colleagues farewell and then headed back home with a skip in her step. On the side of the road, she found a pebble and kicked it hard. The evening’s cool crisp air whipped past her face, causing a bit of nose congestion. This was an unfamiliar big city. She threw her arms open and spun, watching the myriad of lights that peppered the night twirl around her.
At first, because Miao Yuan lived at one corner of this city that was too big and old, she lacked a sense of belonging. She wondered, “Why must I stay here? What’s so special about this place? Why can’t I just leave?”
But today, everything made sense. In a city, if you had a special person there, you’d look at the myriad of lights with a slight smile. For he would be behind one of those windows, or in front of one of those lamps.
Today, he seemed to have quarrelled with his girlfriend, Miao Yuan thought. She hoped that the chocolate would cheer him up a little. That chocolate was able to light an explorer’s eyes up. It was as close as you could get to the taste of love. It was a delicacy bestowed by the gods!
Several days after that Saturday, Chen Mo did not show up. But Miao Yuan still maintained a chipper mood. Love dyed the world pink, and a moment’s dopamine spike had long lasting effects before slowly wearing away. Miao Yuan was still on that dopamine high.
She beat the yolks and sugar until it started formed a ribbon-like consistency. Using a wooden spoon, she folded in mascarpone cheese, which had been kept at a suitable temperature. The cheese stuck to the spoon, but everything slowly started coming together with a creamy consistency. The electric mixer then whisked it smooth.
The regulars had mentioned the huge improvements in the tiramisu, and upon thinking of that, Miao Yuan pursed her lips into a smile. That was because… tiramisu, please take me away3!
I wonder if he and his girlfriend have made up yet. If they haven’t…
Miao Yuan brushed coffee liquor onto the ladyfingers, and then prayed from the bottom of her heart. My dear, if you do not love him, please mercilessly dump him. Don’t worry, I will comfort your wounded soul. You absolutely must not feel guilty. Don’t force yourself to stay with him!
The flaky ladyfingers absorbed the coffee liquor and softened. Miao Yuan cut them into small pieces, layered those pieces at the bottom of plastic cups, and then poured in the mascarpone mixture.
Lately, the food she made had come out superbly. Because her heart was filled with love.
Miao Yuan knew that she had experienced the chance encounter of a lifetime. Some will burst into our lives and leave as suddenly as they came, leaving behind beautiful imprints that we constantly recall and ponder over.
Who else can remember the feeling of secretly crushing on someone? Of constantly sneaking a peek, and noticing his every word and expression? Just the sight of him made you happy, and his voice was enough to send your heart racing. His backside was worth obsessing over for a good half-day, and you would never dare look him in the eyes. He would call your name, and your blood would rush. When the final bell rung in the afternoon, you’d scamper down the stairs just so you could wait by the school gates and watch him for a moment longer. And you didn’t even know his name.
Supposedly, love at first sight was fated. You may come across it by luck, but never by deliberately searching for it. Miao Yuan frequently regretted that she grew up in a cocoon of innocent girls. She wondered, Can I consider this as the heavens giving me one last chance at a youthful spring?
Miao Yuan heard the door chimes ring. She looked up and imagined that God smiling slyly behind the person who had entered.
God said, “Sweetheart, believe me. There’s still more that I want to give you!”
Chen Mo walked directly to the counter and said, “Hot chocolate please.”
Miao Yuan nodded blankly, and then turned and dived into the backroom.
“Help me!” she shouted to Momo while scrambling to put chocolate chunks into a glass bowl.
Momo shook her head and sighed. “Tell me, what’s the use in raising a daughter? No help at all.”
There’s no wine! Miao Yuan frantically searched the backroom. She remembered she had brought her dad’s heirloom wine back to her room. Neither rum nor coffee liquor could replace that kind of taste.
Miao Yuan took the hot chocolate to Chen Mo.
“We don’t have any more of that cake,” she said, looking at his eyes. She tried to discern any disappointment.
“That’s fine!” Chen Mo nodded calmly.
Light streamed through the window. Under the sunlight, pupils will appear a sort of off-black. Miao Yuan thought that his eyes really looked like chocolate—rich and lustrous in color.
Is he disappointed? Or not disappointed? Or am I hoping that he’s going to be disappointed? Miao Yuan, you want him to be disappointed.
“Cover for me!” Miao Yuan placed heavy whipping cream into an ice bath, and then left the electronic mixer to beat it. She draped a jacket over her shoulders and ran out. Momo sighed helplessly.
Chen Mo heard the door chimes suddenly ring. He didn’t turn, but from the corner of his eyes, he saw Miao Yuan rush out. To think that it was a young girl! So brazen!
When Miao Yuan brought back the wine, she noticed that sitting across from Chen Mo was a graceful figure, whom she could only see the backside of. She didn’t have time to closely look, and the gracefulness was the only quality she noticed. The whipped cream had been done and set aside.
Momo looked at her mischievously, and Miao Yuan cautiously bribed her. “I’ll give you some good stuff to eat in a moment, okay? Very very good stuff.”
Momo said, “I don’t want very very good stuff. I just want this!”
Miao Yuan sullenly acquiesced. Momo then smugly told her that apparently this woman wasn’t the one that came last week. Miao Yuan paused in shock, and at this moment she saw that woman burst straight out.
Th-this… so then…
“He should be on a blind date!” Momo said with certainty.
Miao Yuan’s jaw dropped in shock.
- Xiao is a term of endearment, meaning ‘little/small’, nyaa~
- The rose and star is a reference to The Little Prince, an absolute wonder of a book.
- There are many stories about the origin of tiramisu. One of them goes like this: Once upon a time there was an Italian soldier fighting on the frontlines. His wife wished to send him something to eat, but in the war-torn times, there was little to go around. Thus she whisked together her mascarpone and ladyfingers into this cake, which she called tiramisu. In Italian, tiramisu means “pick me up” or “cheer me up” or “take me away”.