This story is by Kenneth Tan and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Peter!” A loud voice snapped Peter out from his day dream.
“Can you tell me about Mercles achievements?” The lecturer eyed Peter through his lenses, demanding a quick answer.
Peter felt annoyed. He couldn’t believe the lecturer picked on him again. Every student focused on him, waiting for his answer. He heard a faint sniggering sound in the lecture room.
“Well, er… Killing Medusa?”
The class exploded to laughter. The lecturer grinned, having successfully picked on Peter.
“There is no Mercles, Peter. It’s Heracles or Hercules in Roman.”
Peter frowned his eyebrows. His face told everyone how he felt annoyed by the lecturer a million times. He unintentionally caught a view of Li who feels no sense of humour, her face looked as though she disapproves the lecturer’s way of entertainment.
“Peter, I know what you are thinking.” The lecturer grinned.
Peter let out a loud gasp, his eyes swiftly returned to the bald lecturer. He couldn’t dare to believe the lecturer knows of his crush. It was obvious to anyone to know including the lecturer.
“Dreaming about killing Medusa,” the lecturer’s voice was muffled by his own laughing.
Another roar of laughter. Some students couldn’t take it that they banged their hands on the table.
Luckily the lecturer hadn’t known of his crush. Yet Peter turned his head away from the lecturer, feeling loath of the mocking.
“Aw, how I hate that baldy,” Peter said to Adam as he sat, bending his body and clasped his hands.
“You always dream in class. He will always pick on you unless you pay attention to his class.”
“I don’t think that baldy will ever stop picking on me even if I pay attention. Besides, many other students also slip out from his lecture but he never picks on them. Although his class is boring, there is no need to make the whole class to laugh at me. He just can’t make his lecture interesting. He’s a terrible lecturer.” Peter shook his head when he spoke about the lecturer.
“So, how’s her? You think of her every time.” Adam changed the topic so fast that it changes Peter’s mood.
“Ah, she will not like me.”
“Everyone laughs at you but she never laughs.”
Peter raised his head once he heard the words.
“It shows that she’s either disappointed at the lecturer or at you. If she disappointed in you, you may have some place in her heart. Otherwise, why did she chooses to disappointed in you rather than joined the laughing team? If she disappointed in the lecturer, this proves her thought is different from everyone. Either way, she is worth your attention.”
Peter didn’t answer but brought his view a distant away, spotting Li with her friends chatting. She was pretty in her light-brown shirt and khaki pants, an unattractive colour for a girl. Her classmates prefer rather bright and attractive colours. Her choice of colour was similar to the surrounding tree trunks, making herself like a chameleon camouflages itself from the surrounding. Possibly, her intention was to avoid being at the centre of attention.
She had a feeling of being eyed and it made her turned her head over to meet Peter. She presented Peter a friendly smile as if she is saying hello. Peter returned the smile but she had turned her head back to her friends.
“See? I think she likes you.” Adam playfully punched Peter’s elbow to grab his attention.
Peter just gave Adam an awkward smile. “We will be graduating in few months’ time and once she graduated, she will return to China. It’s not even a happy ending. Better if she has a guy from China.”
“At least you can befriend her. She’s different, you know. Even when she is in China, you can still stay contact with her.”
Peter gazed at Adam, looked disbelieved at what he had spoken. “Are you sure? China blocks everything from the outside world. Including Wastebook!”
“No worry. Although she studies in the art programme, she’s good at tech. She knows how to bypass the blocking.”
Peter’s face now looked as if he’s wondering if Adam has been stalking her all the time.
But Adam gave Peter a friendly smile. “You just need to move out from your comfortable shell and make contact with other people.”
Peter nodded his head.
Adam then said, “I feel she sort of like you. Either you or she has to make the first move. If she’s a Westerner, she’s probably will. But, she’s a Chinese. Don’t worry, I will help you.”
Peter had made his decision to ask her out. As he strode slowly towards Li and her friends, he felt the nearer he comes to Li, the stronger his heart beating and his breath and leg heavier. Li turned to look at Peter, her face looked welcoming, encouraging him to come.
“Li… Li, how… are… you free… tomorrow? How… about lunch… at Moonstar Café… Twelfth pm…” His faltered words distance like the rhythm in the heartbeats.
“Sure, Peter. I love too. See you tomorrow. Bye.”
Her answer made Peter felt like he is the king of the world. He imagined himself embracing Li at her waist as her hands spread wide, both standing on the cruising Titanic, as the strong wind howling on them.
“Peter, Peter!” A voice woke Peter.
Peter opened his eyes. He saw not Li but Adam, looking dumbfounded.
“Peter, how’s it?”
“She accepted my invitation.”
“See, I told you.”
He arrived an hour earlier at the café and took the time to rehearse his dialogue in every possible scenario so that his date wouldn’t have any awkward moments. Even the night before, he had prepared and rehearsed the script.
Li’s entrance to the café marked the date had begun. She looked exceptionally beautiful in her casual reddish outfits.
Without pushing the chair backwards, Peter stood suddenly and the chair thudded onto the wooden floor. Everyone there turned around to give him the first embarrassing moment.
Li smiled and greeted Peter. Her smile diminished his awkwardness and he recalled he should pull the chair for Li to sit.
Once they settled down, Peter waved for the waiter and both of them ordered the same meal and drinks. Peter stuttered all the way during the lunch. He wasn’t in his normal speaking manner because his dialogue wasn’t in the script. Soon, Peter felt no more awkwardness and he dumped everything from the script which to his amazement, he enjoyed a smooth conversation with Li.
The enjoyable moment halted when the lecturer who enjoys making fun of Peter entered the café. He spotted Peter and Li and sat at a table so he can have a nice view of them. The look on the lecturer’s face made Peter felt they are mocking him. The presence of the lecturer had changed the dating atmosphere.
“I don’t like that lecturer. He always picks on me and makes everyone laugh. And now, he makes me feel uncomfortable.”
Li said no word, but shook her head and smiled as if telling Peter to ignore such a trivial matter to enjoy the moment. Her simple gesture had turned the unpleasant atmosphere into a jovial one.
After the lunch, they went to a park within walking distance from the café. They bumped into Li’s female friend who called her ‘QiuQiu’ and this made Peter confuses about her true name.
Peter said, “You have two names? Li and QiuQiu?”
“Well, Li is my surname. Because I was born in the autumn, my parents named me Qiu. In Chinese, it means the autumn. My friend calls me QiuQiu because she likes the way it sounds. It is sweeter.” And she tilted her head to let herself being sweet.
“Li Qiu, What a beautiful name you have!”
Li’s face turned pink, her lips smiled shyly.
“Li, do you have any English name?”
“No, I can’t think of any suitable name.”
Li widened her lips to hint Peter she likes the name.
Then, red-yellow leaves began to fall as if the nature cheers for Peter and Li.
“Peter, it is so beautiful!” she said as she glanced around the falling leaves. Her hands open wide as to hugging all the leaves.
Peter glanced at her face as the leaves falling, marking the start of the autumn season. Her crimson hair and outfits stood out from the falling leaves. He couldn’t be sure either the falling-leaves scenery beautifies her or her herself beautifies the scenery. She looked like a forest goddess.
Peter said, “QiuQiu, my parents will be transferred to China for company business next year. So, it will not be a problem for us to be together.”