#9. Not Too Late
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It was a Friday night in the middle of December. The weather had gotten colder recently. The weatherman even predicted that there would be a chance of snow in the next several days. 


Shanghai seldom had snow as the city was never cold enough but this year was different. Snow would be coming and it would be a nice addition to the Christmas holiday that everyone was looking forward to, everyone except for Jin Ling. 


Jin Ling used to love snow but after experiencing it in Shanghai, she started to detest it. Things never worked out in the ways she wanted when it snowed; there were more accidents, more traffic jams, and more delays.

Snow was beautiful but it wasn’t practical.

On the void streets of a quiet neighborhood, nothing was to be seen except for row and row of luxury houses, aligned neatly next to each other. Everything and everyone was in a slumber, deep in sleep, when the only disturbance that could be detected was a black Mercedes. 

It had been driving around the quiet streets in a circle as if it was lost and was distraught to find the exit. 


But it wasn’t lost. On the contrary, this car had visited this neighborhood many times in the past. The owner of the car had known the layout of this district like the back of her hands.

She couldn’t be lost― she was just not able to make up her mind.  

She came back to Shanghai two weeks ago after the project in Beijing was wrapped up. Although she was back she didn’t feel like she was home. 


Shanghai was not her hometown, she was from a small town near Guangzhou. She had moved to Shanghai after she graduated. Growing up in a small town, Jin Ling was used to the warm and friendly neighbors surrounding her. She wasn’t used to the fast pace of the metropolitan city. 


She had to work fast so her boss would know she was capable. She had to eat fast so she could go back to work more. She had to move fast, otherwise, the others from behind would knock her down so they could pass through.    

She couldn’t get used to it when she first came here but now it was as if she was just breathing in the second set of air. Maybe she finally learned how to play the game. To reach the top, some things needed to be sacrificed.   

She was still lost in her thoughts when suddenly lights flashed behind her. She looked through her mirror and noticed it was a police car that was flashing her down. Her expression didn’t change but she did proceed to slow down and drove to the side. 


“Good evening, officer.” Jin Ling said after she rolled down the window.


Without looking into the car, he extended his hand to the opening. “I.D.”


Jin Ling handed the card to him and patiently waited. He looked over at her name, address, and date of birth before settling on her picture. It piqued his interest.  


The officer crouched down to look into the car and was a bit surprised when he saw the woman. The picture didn’t do her justice.  


She had a beautiful oval-shaped face: high cheek-bone, a pointed chin, and a high nose bridge. It was a rare combination for an Asian person to have, where East met West.

Her skin was also beautiful, it had a honey color that was free of blemishes and wrinkles. 


However, what stood out was her pair of eyes, they were sharp and narrow and the color of her irises wasn’t the usual brown that he would see in any Asian person. He could tell they were light chestnut brown. 


After observing her, he concluded that she must be a model or at least of that sort. It would be a waste if she was not. 


“Do you live around here?” he asked. 


“No, I’m visiting a friend.”


“Visiting a friend?” He looked down at his watch, “At this hour?”


Jin Ling smiled at the officer and explained, “My friend and I just came from a party that ended not long ago. I didn’t get a chance to talk to her at the party. I thought I would drop by her house and talk for a bit before heading home.” 


The officer knitted his eyebrows, “If both of you attended the party and didn’t even get a chance to talk then you guys must not be close. Why visit her then?”


Jin Ling tightened her lips in a fine line. 


“It was a big party, she was one of the hosts. We didn’t have time to talk.”


The officer questioned further, “Where is the party?”


“In Ritz-Carlton.”


He raised an eyebrow at the answer and then he realized a conversation he had with his colleagues earlier. He gave a surprised look to the woman in the car. 


They mentioned there was a grand party tonight hosted by the Wei Enterprise for its anniversary. Some of them groaned and complained that they had to work overtime tonight, to monitor the event in case of an emergency. 

“What emergency can there be? Just a rich people party!” 


Now the woman in the car, named Jin Ling, said she came from the party and even said she knew the host, he suddenly felt anxious. 


If she was who he thought she was, someone with high status, then a small potato-like him wouldn’t be smart to bring trouble to himself. What if she got mad and decided to file a complaint against him, then his clean record would be done for. He thought for a moment and decided to let her go. He was just answering a complaint call from one of the residents, he fulfilled his duty, there was no need to investigate further. It was not like for someone her status would go and do something illegal, right?


He smiled at Jin Ling, “Thank you for your cooperation.” He handed back her ID card, “You’re free to go.”


Jin Ling thanked him and then drove off.


The somber mood that was confined in the car before it was interrupted, had all dissipated. It was now filled with annoyance and desperation. Jin Ling was annoyed with his remark and was now desperate to prove him wrong. 


If both of you attended the party and didn’t even get a chance to talk then you guys must not be close.


What did he know? 


After a whole night of deliberation, but was only solidified by a stranger, Jin Ling finally made up her mind.

It didn’t take long for Jin Ling to arrive at her destination. She drove to the driveway and got out of the car. She walked toward the gate, into the front lawn and up to the main entrance. She took a deep breath and pressed the button on the monitor by the door. 


She was counting the seconds as she stood there…1...2...3…


She stuck her hands in her coat’s pockets and rocked herself back and forth to stay warm, as a sudden chill blew past. 




Maybe she was asleep, and she couldn’t hear the bell. Jin Ling cursed herself, well, of course. It was almost close to 2 o’clock in the morning, she was probably asleep already. It was not like she made an appointment before she came over. 


She blew out the hot air that formed into a white smoke that slowly dissipated into the air. Lost in a trance, Jin Ling didn’t hear the door unlock until it was open. 


Taken back by the movement in front of her, she instinctively took a step back. 


She looked to the door and standing in front of the door entrance was her


Jin Ling was surprised. She didn’t think she would answer the door this quickly or that she would answer the door at all.


The woman that stood at the door staring at Jin Ling, was her girlfriend. Her name was Wei Lan. 


Jin Ling observed the woman in front of her and saw that she was still as beautiful as ever. 


She had a smooth eggshell white skin. She had a rounded oval face with a pair of brown eyes that sparkled from the reflection of the street lights. Set above her eyes was a pair of plucked straight eyebrows. Her nose was not as tall and straight as Jin Ling. There was a slight curve on her nose bridge, but that just made her look more innocent. Underneath her pretty nose, were her lips. They were full, lush, and always had a glossy sheen to them. 


It had been two years since Jin Ling last saw her, she was still as beautiful as she remembered. Jin Ling regretfully admitted to herself that if she wasn’t so stubborn about her works, they wouldn’t waste so much time spent away from each other. 


Their relationship had never been clear and coherent. It always had a blot of inconsistency.


Just like now, Jin Ling couldn’t tell if she had made the right move to come to visit her when the younger girl’s face wasn’t that welcoming. 

Jin Ling plucked up her courage and asked, “Can I come in?”


Wei Lan scoffed and ignored the question. Instead, she asked, “Do you know what time it is?”


Jin Ling felt guilty and tried her best to answer. “I”m sorry. I know it’s late, I... just want to see you.”


Wei Lan folded her arms and leaned onto the door frame. “You saw me at the party.”


“But we didn’t get to tal—”


“Of all the time that you had in two years, you didn’t want to talk. Now in the middle of the night, you said you want to talk.”


Even though Wei Lan’s voice had been just above a whisper, Jin Ling could hear the anger from the tone. Jin Ling bit back down her words.


There was an ugly silence. 


Jin Ling fidgeted under the stare from the other woman and quietly let out a sigh. It seemed like she wasn’t welcome here and she didn’t want to force the woman across from her to act against her wish. She stared blankly into the ground below her and wondered if she was worthy to have a relationship when her selfish needs always prioritize themselves over her relationships. 


Jin Ling was about to bid her goodbye when the younger woman’s voice broke through the silence.


“Come in.” 


It was spoken in a soft tone that Jin Ling had almost missed it. She quickly looked up, only to find the woman missing. The door was left open. 

She could feel the goosebumps on her skin as she stepped into the house. The air around the house felt cool, it was only slightly better than the weather outside. 


They stood awkwardly around the front entrance. Jin Ling couldn’t just barge in the house when the host was standing still. 

After a while, Wei Lan decided to move to the living room. She didn’t invite Jin Ling but the latter shamefully followed. 


Wei Lan sat herself down on the edge of the couch, without looking at the older woman. “Why are you here?” 


Jin Ling had hoped she wouldn’t ask that. She didn’t really have the right answer because the right answer couldn’t be explained by her brain but her heart. But everyone knew that the heart was always the worst at giving answers when it was needed the most.


The two stayed in silence. One was waiting, the other was fighting with her heart. 


In the end, there were no words that could describe her regrets and discontents, she could only settle for two.


“I’m sorry.” 


That wasn’t the correct answer to explain why she was here, but her heart told her that was a good start to fix the crack that had formed in their relationship. 


Wei Lan looked up to meet her gaze. Although they were a couple of feet apart, for some reason Jin Ling could see the details of the brown orbs. They looked glossy, swimming in the pool of liquid. 


Suddenly Jin Ling could feel the atmosphere and the air started to get warmer. She had the urge to take off the winter coat she was wearing. 


“What are you even sorry for?” she asked sarcastically. 


Jin Ling winced at the question.


She licked her lips and took the initiative to sit next to the younger woman. She could feel the temperature rising in the room, she really wanted to take off her coat.


“I’m sorry for coming here so late. I’m sorry for not saying goodbye when I left.” Jin Ling paused before finally saying, “And I’m sorry for not reaching out to you enough in the last two years.”


The more she spoke, the more Jin Ling felt her need to explain what had happened between them, to atone her wrongs.


“I’m...not a good person. I know my flaws and I have always put my career before our relationship. These past two years, I have many chances to reach out to you but I didn’t because I’m a coward and I’m selfish.”


Jin Ling reached out to grab hold of the younger woman’s hand. The latter didn’t reject her but she didn’t return the hold either. 


The living room they were occupying was not dark, it was illuminated by the floor lamp in the corner, but Jin Ling still couldn’t see clearly the features on her girlfriend’s face. The latter was also sitting an angle, away from her. 


“...I miss you.” Jin Ling whispered. I love you.

Up to now, Wei Lan hadn’t been looking clearly at the taller girl, but she was looking now. 


Wei Lan knew that she wasn’t lying when she said those words. Even though the older woman didn’t say it, Wei Lan knew she loved her. However, she also knew about Jin Ling’s ambition. 

She believed in her. But she also believed that she wasn’t her first priority either. 


Wei Lan let their relationship carry on like this not because she lacked respect for herself. It was because she loved her too much. Too much to a point that second, third, fourth, fifth, it didn’t matter. 


Wei Lan stayed quiet and continued to stare at Jin Ling. Under any circumstances, Jin Ling wouldn’t mind being stared at by her girlfriend but she knew she was being observed and evaluated, she couldn’t help but hold her breath. 


There was a moment of silence until it was broken by a voice. 


“It’s late. If you want, you can stay here for the night. I’ll bring you a pillow and a blanket.”


Jin Ling let out a breath of relief and rejoiced over the suggestion. She didn’t kick her out, Jin Ling knew she still had a chance.


Wei Lan came back a moment later and put the pillow and blanket on the couch next to the taller girl. 


She stood up and looked over to Jin Ling, the latter returned her gaze. They awkwardly stared at each other until Wei Lan broke it off.


“It’s late. Get some sleep," Wei Lan said.


She was about to turn around and walked to her room when Jin Ling called out to her. She turned around and faced the older woman. 


“Tomorrow morning…can we have breakfast together?”


Wei Lan didn’t answer but stood there in a daze until Jin Ling saw a slight movement of a head bob that she let out a full smile.


Wei Lan averted her gaze. The bright smile was hard against her eyes since they had been shrouded by late-night darkness. 


Wanting to quickly get back to her haven, Wei Lan swiftly turned around and headed back to her room. 




The taller girl watched as the younger woman walked out of the living room and down the hallway. She let out a sigh when she couldn’t see the silhouette anymore. 

It was a rough night for both women, each wondered what the next morning would be like. There was fear, anticipation, and uncertainty. Neither of them knew where their relationship would be like in the future. 


However, they knew that there must be at least some of the love left from before, which could be used to get them through this hard time. Every relationship had its problems, their relationship was not any different. It was just unfortunate that their relationship was put on a more challenging trail and they needed to put in twice the effort to hike to the summit.


Wasn’t that after every dark and bleak night, the sun would rise and light would illuminate the sky to welcome the brand new day? They knew that as long as there was love then things would eventually work out. As love had never been proven wrong when it was applied right.