It was an old couple. Both of them had their backs hunched slightly. They each sported the same grey hair and ragged clothes. The old lady was clutching onto a walking stick made from bamboo, whereas the old man carried a large haversack on his back. At a glance, one could tell that the seemingly travel-worn and weary old couple were beggars in Zhonghai.
This kind of low-income earners was not uncommon in such a big city like this one. Most people became numb to the sight of them—many would just ignore or themor pity them from afar.
Right now, the old lady was standing at the entrance of Starbucks. She was staring at an advertisement signboard placed beside the window. A colorful piece of advertisement poster was pasted on top of the signboard.
The advertisement featured a cup of aromatic white mocha and a cup of green tea Frappuccino with tempting white cream on top.
The old lady’s eyes betrayed a hungry desire for the beverage. The pair of murky eyes on that dry, wrinkled face was lost in a daze.
The old man beside her knew what she wanted. He heaved a heavy sigh and reached out to softly pull his partner’s hand, then said with resignation, “Once we’ve earned enough money, I’ll be sure to buy one for you to let you have a taste.”
Upon hearing this, the old lady hurriedly shook her head and said, “I’m just looking. I don’t really want to drink it. It’s not worth it.”
“I know you’ve got a sweet tooth.” The old man grinned.
The old lady pretended to be angry and reprimanded him, “Don’t waste your money. Let’s go.”
The old man had nothing else to say. Although he felt guilty towards his partner, the couple truly didn’t have money to spare. It was already rare for them to be able to eat three consistent meals in the city. How would they ever have enough for a drink that costs more than what their meals were worth? Besides, going into the shop would also pose a problem.
Right at that moment, Rose, who had been watching from the side all along, appeared in the path of the old couple. She smiled and said, “Granny, this is for you.”
As she spoke, Rose presented the strawberry lemon juice which she had only taken one sip from before the old lady’s eyes. She wanted to give it to her.
The old lady was taken aback. She didn’t understand why a beautiful young lady would appear out of nowhere and suddenly wanted to give her a drink. Then, she realized. She shook her hands quickly and said, “Young Lady, there’s no need. This is too expensive, I can’t accept it.”
To the old couple, a drink that cost less than ten dollars a cup was a luxury that they could not afford.
The old man beside her was also touched. “Young Lady, we appreciate your kindness, but we really can’t accept it.”
“Just take it as my act of filial piety towards you, my elders. Please allow a nasty woman like me to do some good in her life. Do me a favor and don’t reject this.” Rose ignored the old lady’s rejection, and forcefully stuffed the drink into the old lady’s arms.
[TL note: In Confucian philosophy, filial piety (Chinese: 孝, xiào) is a virtue of respect for one's parents, elders, and ancestors.]
The old couple was deeply moved, especially the old lady. Tears welled up in her eyes, and her wrinkled face was filled with joy. Her strong reaction wasn’t for the drink that she had been yearning for, but rather, it was for her soul which had been deeply touched.
Both of them were around 60 years old. They were wanderers who moved from place to place begging for enough money to have a meal. They had been despised by many, and had suffered many hardships. If not out of desperation, they would never have chosen to spend their lives in such a pitiful state.
It was as if just when the entire world had forgotten about old people like them, suddenly a lady appeared and gave them a sweet drink with a smile on her face. The kind of consideration that was showed for them was too much for the old lady to handle.
“Lady, thank you. But don’t go saying things like that. Why would such a kind lady like you need to accumulate any good deeds? That is something done only by vicious people,” the old man said sincerely as he held onto his partner.
Rose smiled weakly, her heart filled with bitterness. If she chose not to bring it up, who would’ve guessed that she was a leader in the underworld? Who could tell that she was a woman with bloodstained hands? Her actions would’ve sentenced her to multiple death sentences in this year alone.
Just as Rose was about to say goodbye to the old couple, Yang Chen who had been watching by the side walked over and said, “You can’t give them this drink.”
The old couple and Rose were bewildered. Rose couldn’t understand why Yang Chen would oppose to it.
Yang Chen winked at Rose and stepped forward, handing the drink in his own hands to the old man, “I haven’t touched my cup yet. Take mine. The one in the old lady’s hands was already drunk from. Please return it to my woman. She likes it.”
The moment he finished his sentence, not even waiting for the old couple to react, Yang Chen had already stuffed his cup into the old man’s arms, and took back the one that was in the old lady’s hands.
Rose finally understood what he was doing and smiled. Her eyes glimmered as she stared at Yang Chen—they were filled with a thick passionate love.
The old couple were speechless at his act. Gratefully, they thanked Yang Chen and Rose repeatedly. They were trembling so much that one couldn’t tell whether they were happy or sad.
Yang Chen passed the drink to Rose and said, “Let’s go and find somewhere to eat for dinner.”
With a wide smile, Rose nodded her head. She followed Yang Chen back to the car, whereas the old couple stood behind them waving their bony arms to bid them farewell.
After they got into the car, Rose was still staring out from the window. The old couple was pushing the drink towards each other by the streets.
The old lady wanted to let her husband try the first sip, but the old man insisted that she drank first. They acted as though it was a rare treasure and were afraid to deplete it of its worth.
In the end, the old lady gave in and finally took two sips, then passed it to the old man for him to try.
The old man took a small sip. A smile emerged on his dry, wrinkled face. He nodded, probably to say that it was indeed tasty, then insisted that his partner finish the rest.
Rose saw everything with her eyes. With deep thoughts, she said, “Just look at them. Although they have led difficult lives, at least they have each other forever. And they’re still so in love with each other even at old age. No matter how tough life gets, being able to look into each other’s eyes with their kind of love trumps it all.”
“Envious?” Yang Chen had mixed feelings as well. Instead of starting the car, he just looked out of the window with Rose.
“Yes, a little.” Rose softly said, “For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish each other for an entire lifetime. Many have spoken these words on their wedding day. But how many of them actually see their vows through to the end?
“I was just thinking, if I can live with you forever, but in return I would have to work a lowly job and earn enough just to live, I would still feel that life is still worth living.”
“You’re letting your thoughts run wild again. Aren’t we together now? I never even thought of ever abandoning you.” Yang Chen’s heart ached for her. He reached out his hand and held on tightly to one of Rose’s slender hands.
Rose turned her head around and looked at Yang Chen apologetically, “Sorry, maybe I oversimplify things. Or maybe I’m not easily content. If we really had to worry about our livelihood, perhaps I wouldn’t even be thinking about all this.”
Yang Chen took a deep breath and suddenly snatched over the cup of drink from Rose’s hands. Then he sent the tip of the straw back to Rose’s red lips, saying, “Come, have a sip.”
Rose just assumed that he was trying to cheer her up. So she smiled and took a sip.
Right after she had taken a sip, Yang Chen took the drink back. He, too, bit on the straw and took a sip.
Rose blinked her watery eyes and asked curiously, “Hubby, do you want to drink it too? Why don’t you just buy another cup?”
Yang Chen placed the drink back into the drink holder in the car and smiled, saying, “Why? You don’t like me using the same straw as you?”
“No, that’s not what I mean.” Rose pouted. “I just—.”
“Then what? Worried that I have a disease? Or do you have a flu and don’t want to pass it to me?” Yang Chen asked all at once.
Rose helplessly said, “You know that’s not what I mean. I was just thinking that if you like it, we can always buy another cup.”
Yang Chen extended his finger and gently scratched Rose’s tender face. He said, “Babe, I’m trying to tell you that, even if I can’t be like that old man and accompany the women I love all the time, I’m still willing to share everything I have with you. What’s mine is yours, and vice versa.
“Even if you contracted hepatitis, I wouldn’t hesitate to share a drink with you. I’ll contract hepatitis with you. If we have anything, we’ll share it together. If we don’t have anything, then we’ll do without it together as well. That simple.”
This man’s casually spoken words made Rose’s lips feel a little dry. Her heart that originally felt slightly desolate was suddenly warm and fuzzy. It made it difficult for her to breathe, yet she was willingly suffocating in it.
“How can you say something like that? I don’t want to contract hepatitis with you.” After a while, Rose finally calmed herself down. She rolled her eyes at Yang Chen shyly.
Yang Chen scratched the back of his head awkwardly. “Hey, I was trying my best to be romantic. You didn’t even bother to play along, Dummy.”
Rose let out a laugh. She swiftly hit Yang Chen for a few times. “Stop teasing me. Let’s hurry up and find something to eat. I’m hungry. Also, don’t call me ‘dummy’!”
“Alrighty, let’s go, Dummy!”