Xiao Zhiqing was confused but heeded her instructions anyway. She obediently turned around and allowed Wang Ma to inspect the back of her neck.
Shakily, Wang Ma extended an arm to gather Xiao Zhiqing’s loose hair into her fist. She lifted the hair to expose her pale neck.
It was then that everyone noticed that there was a small plum blossom-like birthmark on her neck.
The birthmark wasn’t visibly large, only about the size of a fingertip. There was no way anyone would have caught sight of it but Wang Ma had successfully seen it through Xiao Zhiqing’s hair.
“Wang Ma, could this birthmark be…” Lin Ruoxi seemed to have remembered something, gaping in awe at the sight.
The older woman was starting to get emotional. Face flushed, she grabbed Xiao Zhiqing’s hand tightly. “Zhiqing, your father… What is his name?!”
The younger woman was a little surprised at her sudden outburst. Xiao Zhiqing gulped and muttered meekly. “His name is Xiao Mozheng…”
Something flashed through Wang Ma’s pupils and her lips began to tremble. Without another word, she quickly turned around and pulled Xiao Zhiqing into a mad dash upstairs!
Everything had happened so suddenly, allowing no time for Xiao Zhiqing to respond to the situation. She could only stumble as she tried to keep up with Wang Ma’s pace.
“Hey, Yulan! What’s the matter?!” The sudden turn of events had Guo Xuehua utterly confused.
“Let’s go upstairs too.” Lin Ruoxi quickly chased after the pair.
Soon enough, everyone came to stand before Wang Ma’s bedroom, where a puzzled Xiao Zhiqing was seen standing in front of a closet. Wang Ma threw the closet door open and began to rummage its contents desperately.
After a while, Wang Ma finally retrieved an oil paper bag from a metal box at the very bottom of the closet. There was a photograph inside!
Yang Chen abruptly recognized it. It was the picture Cai Yan had found hidden between the old CEO’s book when they moved houses.
It seemed as if both she and Lin Ruoxi were familiar with the person portrayed in the picture, but Lin Ruoxi was very displeased when Cai Yan tried to bring it up.
After all that, Wang Ma kept the picture. Yang Chen had never once gotten a chance to take a good look at what that photograph was about.
“Zhiqing, look at this. Do you recognize this man?!” Wang Ma showed Xiao Zhiqing the photograph.
In one glance, Xiao Zhiqing’s entire attention was glued to that photograph!
It took her a moment before Xiao Zhiqing could mumble incoherently. “Why… Why is my father...in this picture?”
Hearing that, Yang Chen and Guo Xuehua rushed forward to study the photograph.
It was taken in some garden. The location had resembled Lin Ruoxi’s front yard back at her family’s old residence.
There was a couple depicted in it. The man was charmingly handsome, radiating the studious aura of a scholar. He had a little mustache and was dressed in a blue blouse and had his hair parted in the middle when this picture was captured.
It wasn’t difficult to identify who the woman beside her was. It was a younger Wang Ma, which meant that this photograph was most probably taken a few tens of years ago. Her hair back then was much luscious and there was not a single wrinkle visible on her youthful face. Wang Ma’s smile was radiant.
This yellowing old photograph was actually that of Wang Ma and Xiao Zhiqing’s father?!
As soon as Xiao Zhiqing had supplied Wang Ma with an answer, the older woman’s eye began to redden. Tears started to break free of its boundaries.
Wang Ma enveloped Xiao Zhiqing in a very tight embrace, feeling a violent mixture of melancholy and surprise. Her cries were heart-wrenching, effectively twisting everyone’s heart into painful knots!
Xiao Zhiqing was too shocked to realize what had happened. She stood within Wang Ma’s arms, frozen like a statue. The younger woman allowed Wang Ma to soak her wool sweater in tears.
Guo Xuehua tossed a questioning gaze to Yang Chen to which he responded with a confused shrug. The man wasn’t quite sure what the context was.
Watching the emotional display, Lin Ruoxi thought of her past. Along with Wang Ma’s tears, she too found herself wiping her tears away.
Minjuan carried a sulking Lanlan, extremely bewildered by the scene before her.
After almost a minute of tears, Wang Ma was abruptly reminded of something. The older woman broke into a very charming smile amidst her tear-stained cheeks.
“Zhiqing, I hope you’re not too shocked by this. I have wronged you…” Wang Ma’s speech was incoherent. Mustering a smile, she continued. “When you were born, there was a flower-like birthmark behind your neck. Your father was a gardener back then. He told me that his name was Mozheng, which was this man in the photograph. I had never once thought that his name wasn’t entirely true too… You’re the fruit of our love, you’re my biological daughter!”
Xiao Zhiqing’s beautiful eyes widened, then her face lost its flush of color. Her heart was enveloped in such an indescribable feeling that she found herself at a loss for words. She bit her lip hard, seemingly in a daze.
Lin Ruoxi was rather worried that Xiao Zhiqing was going to reject her claims. She swiftly explained, “Zhiqing, what Wang Ma said was true. I was a young child back then but I could remember this clearly. There was a man named Mozheng who was hired by my grandmother as a gardener, mainly responsible for gardening and husbandry jobs. If you’re still skeptical about this, you can ask the members of the Cai family about this.
My grandmother was the one who matched Wang Ma with Mozheng. After marriage, Wang Ma went back to her hometown and gave birth to you. However, on one rainy day, you and Mozheng had vanished altogether.
We went searching for the both of you high and low. Weirdly, no one could find any information on Mozheng. It was as if his traces were completely wiped away. The only evidence of his existence was this very photograph that my grandmother kept in her book.”
Hearing that, Yang Chen began to recall something vague. He could quite remember that when Cai Yan first visited the house, she had asked Wang Ma if ‘that person’ had returned or not. But Yang Chen paid no mind to their exchange back then.
No wonder Lin Ruoxi had reacted so vehemently when Cai Yan brought it up. Cai Yan’s action was akin to rubbing salt into Wang Ma’s excruciatingly painful wound.
To be lied to by your husband followed by the disappearance of your newborn daughter. Anyone who could live through that was undoubtedly tough.
Xiao Zhiqing’s voice trembled. “You’re… You’re… my mom?”
“Yes!” Wang Ma affirmed.
Xiao Zhiqing could no longer suppress her overwhelming emotions. She broke into a flurry of tears, quickly wrapping her arms around Wang Ma.
Witnessing the emotional reunion, Guo Xuehua was moved. She began to tear as she smiled.
“What a splendid surprise! Turns out Xiao Zhiqing is Yulan’s long lost daughter. Blood is thicker than water, the bond shared between a mother and her child could never be severed so easily!”
Guo Xuehua turned to look at Yang Chen. She gave the man a pat on the back. “Well done.”
Yang Chen was amazed at how things had progressed. He had returned to the Yang family and even brought Wang Ma’s daughter back from America completely clueless.
Ah, this must be destiny.
Wang Ma and Xiao Zhiqing cried, smiled, and embraced repeatedly for a while. When they were finally willing to let go of each other, Wang Ma quickly pulled Xiao Zhiqing to another closet on the side.
Under everyone’s curious gaze, Wang Ma opened up the closet. Its contents had everyone else dazed.
It was a complete closet full of girl shoes!
There was a vast variety of designs and sizes, all neatly displayed on the rack. An approximate count had proved that there were at least one hundred pairs of shoes, all of them brand new!
Wang Ma’s grip on Xiao Zhiqing’s hand was tight. She beamed, “Zhiqing, look. These are all the shoes I bought for you over the years. Though you were missing, I sincerely believed that you’ll return to me someday in the future.
When your birthday comes around, I’d always imagine how big your foot must’ve grown that year to select your size. I’d buy it in accordance to seasonal trends of the year, only buying the best quality shoes for you.
Look at this. This was meant for your first day in kindergarten. These red ones are for your dance classes during elementary years. And also, I was thinking that you would’ve probably hit puberty during middle school so I made sure to order these in a bigger size.
These four pairs over here were bought this year for you. Do you fancy it? Or is it a little too old-fashioned for your taste? I don’t know if you’d prefer heels or flats and I don’t know how tall you would’ve grown to…”
Watching Wang Ma showcase different pairs of shoes that corresponded to different growth stages of Xiao Zhiqing, the image of a solemn Wang Ma staring longingly at the unworn shoes in silence at the dead of night was fed into their minds. It was clear just how much Wang Ma had missed her daughter.
Yang Chen finally understood why the shoe seller, Ah Lian had hoped that Wang Ma would stop visiting the shop someday later.
Every shoe she bought was torture to Wang Ma’s sanity. It was a kind of absurd hopefulness that hung on to nothing.
Slowly, Xiao Zhiqing extended an arm to pick up a pair of leather boots that Wang Ma had bought this year. She dried her tears and smiled. “Mom, I like this one. Let me put this on.”
“Yes please!” Wang Ma nodded fervently and hid a trembling giggle with her palm. Her eyes glimmered with unsaid bliss…