A yellow cab pulls up before a nondescript brick building. It lingers for the space of a heartbeat before tires screech against asphalt, and it disappears down the street. In its place stands a young woman, elegant and poised, a light smile curving rosy lips. A pink bud that unfolds its petals, blooming sweet and tender under the gentle touch of the sun’s rays.
Li Xian taps open her phone — there are still eight minutes left until their pre-arranged meeting time. That is enough time for her to make her way up to the tenth floor, she decides, and strides through glass doors.
When she reaches the landing, she can already hear scuffling on the other side. An indistinct yell is followed by the sound of something soft tumbling to the floor.
Li Xian draws closer, a small, involuntary grin tugging at the corner of her mouth.
“Baishui,” she hears now. “Don’t touch that! Be a good girl and— and Daddy will bring you home some sweets, okay?”
Another crash sounds, and Li Xian, whose hand is raised to the doorbell, has to suppress a laugh.
When the bell chimes its cheery greeting, the noises pause, only to grow more frenzied a beat later. Li Xian presses her lips together, lowers her hand, and waits, patient.
Sure enough, just a few seconds later, the door swings open to a slightly frazzled Lin Wanyue — hair pulled back in a sloppy bun, sleeves rolled up to reveal golden arms, and a dopey grin curling into place.
“Hey,” she says, breathy.
“Hey,” Li Xian responds, feeling just as breathless.
(Li Xian thinks Lin Wanyue looks like she descended from the heavens, like the sun and the moon and the skies embodied. She thinks her Ah-Yue can hold galaxies in her brilliant eyes, can outshine the brightest star with her dazzling smile. She thinks, in that moment, she falls in love all over again, just like that very first time.)
“Sorry,” Lin Wanyue is saying, scratching the back of her head with a sheepish expression. “The babysitter is running a little late.”
Li Xian smiles the special dimpled smile reserved only for her heart’s companion.
“That’s okay. I’m here.”
Absurdly, Lin Wanyue’s cheeks flush, and Li Xian cannot help but compare them to rubies. Lin Wanyue is a much more priceless treasure though, she thinks.
Li Xian steps closer, and tiptoes to press a fleeting kiss to the warm jeweled skin. Hers.
After the babysitter arrives and apologizes profusely for the tardiness; after Lin Wanyue rattles off another list of reminders until Li Xian has to point out that Lin Baishui is in capable, familiar hands; after Lin Baishui herself is pried off of her mother’s hips with a teary farewell and a promise to behave; when they are finally — finally — ready to set off for their dinner date, only half an hour late this time, Li Xian pulls Lin Wanyue back from the open doorway.
“Ah-Yue,” she starts.
“Hm?” Lin Wanyue looks back, head tilted to the side like a lost puppy.
“Ah-Yue,” Li Xian says again, keeping her face carefully even and composed. “Your boots are on the wrong feet.”
Scarlet blooms, more stunning, more magnificent, more beguiling, more fragrant than the freshest bouquet.