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When Mrs. Cheng opened up her online shopping cart, she was surprised to find the items inside missing. After standing astounded for a while, she suddenly remembered reading on the microblogs about a husband who’d bought all the things in his wife’s online shopping cart as a wedding anniversary gift. Mrs. Cheng’s face turned red…could it be that Chen Youlin was finally going to get romantic?
But when she turned around to see the snoring man laying spread-eagle on the bed, she realized that idea wasn’t realistic. Mrs. Cheng narrowed her eyes and mused, did this guy think I bought too many things and left them all out?
At this, Mrs. Cheng couldn’t keep still anymore. She climbed onto the bed and pinched Mr. Cheng’s butt. “Chen Youlin! Did you do something bad again?”
The sleepy Mr. Chen turned over from the pain, groggily issuing a reply. “I’m a good person.”
Mrs. Cheng kept pinching his butt. “Why did the things in my shopping cart disappear! Did you take them out?!”
“Ng…” Mr. Chen impatiently rubbed his pillow as he avoided her hand. “I bought them.”
Cheng Yiran gave a start. “What?”
“I bought them, mhmm…”
Cheng Yiran fell silent as she quietly lay by Mr. Chen’s side, leaning against his back with a mournful tone. “There were lots of things inside that I just wanted a look at. Why did you buy them? It’s a waste of money.” After a while, she rubbed Mr. Chen’s back with an extremely sweet smile. “It’s rare to see such romantic cells in your body. I don’t regret marrying you.”
A few days later, the express mail delivered some items that Mrs. Cheng happily opened up before her expression fell. “What are these?”
Mr. Chen was lying on the sofa watching TV when he swept his eyes over to reply. “The things from your online shopping cart.”
Mrs. Cheng took the items out one by one. A necktie, suit, and leather shoes–these were all men’s items, making Mrs. Cheng rather confused. “But why are they all men’s things? Where are my clothes? My shoes?”
Mr. Chen munched on beef jerky as he mumbled out a reply, “I know you women like to look at things you don’t have, but a lot of things you never end up buying. There were so many things in your shopping cart that I only picked a few useful things and bought those. Ah, it’s still my wife who treats me well. You put in so many things there for my sake, so nice.”
Mrs. Cheng turned expressionlessly to stare at Mr. Chen. “What standards were you using to pick them? How do you know these things would definitely be useful, rather than something I was just looking at?”
“Because my wife loves me!”
“Go die!” Cheng Yiran threw the clothes atop Chen Yulin’s body. “Tonight, you can sleep on your own with Meatball!”
“Aye? Why are you mad, wifey? I’ll scram for you again, all right? I’ll act cute!”
“Ahhh! Why did I marry a wretch like you?!”
Today Mrs. Cheng got mad at the office and went home in a bad temper. Mr. Chen had yet to return, so she began to clean up the house and make dinner.
“Wife!” Mr. Chen opened the door and started shouting in the entrance hall before he even took off his shoes. “There’s good news!”
Mrs. Cheng tied her apron as she walked out of the kitchen with slice in hand, not caring in the least. “What, you picked up some gold?”
“That’s poor taste,” Mr. Chen was in high spirits as he spread out the poster album in his hands. “The photography studio by our neighborhood is having a promotion.”
Mrs. Cheng’s reply was placid. “Oh, they’ll take artistic shots of our dog for free? We can take advantage of it with our Meatball.”
Mr. Chen was rather wounded, and indignantly tossed his briefcase on the sofa, scaring the snoring Meatball into trembling as he stared as his male owner. His owner pursed his lips and huffed, “You only have Meatball in your eyes!”
Mrs. Cheng raised an eyebrow. “Or else what, then? You can try rolling over on the ground and play cute. Oh, I almost forgot, you know how to do that too.” So speaking, she went back to her business in the kitchen.
Mr. Chen’s face turned green with anger as he sat on the couch feeling stifled. Seeing that no one was coming to comfort him, he adjusted his feelings and groveled his way to the kitchens, watching Mrs. Cheng as her back bustled about. “You don’t love me anymore, you won’t even come comfort me,” he faulted her.
Mrs. Cheng didn’t even turn around. “I love you. Bring the bowls and chopsticks over, it’s time to eat.”
Mr. Chen felt even more discomfited by Mrs. Cheng’s attitude, and walked over to stick to her shadow. “You don’t love me anymore! You’re not even taking me seriously!”
“Have you made enough of a fuss? If you’re not getting the utensils, go clean up the table.”
“You’re ignoring me! You treat me so coldly!” Mr. Chen’s lip trembled. “Cheng Yiran, you betrayed me.”
Vexed and annoyed, Mrs. Cheng turned off the fire and spun around with a cold look. “Do you believe me when I say I’ll make Meatball lick all the meat dishes before feeding them to you?”
Chen Youlin squinted at the steaming stir-fried meat with green peppers, sucking in a breath as he stuck out his chest. Then he turned to take out the bowls and chopsticks and walked briskly out of the kitchen. “Wife, the table’s been arranged. Hurry over, I’m starving to death.”
After he filled his stomach, Mr. Chen placed the photography studio pamphlet on the table and pointed out a certain activity listed on the paper for Mrs. Cheng to see.
“What? Searching for memories from a previous life?” Mrs. Cheng pouted. “Did we know each other in a previous life? Why don’t I remember anything?”
“That’s why, ah, that’s why. You have to find your memories from a previous life,” Mr. Chen said with interest. “They say that before the artistic shoot, they’ll be a scriptwriter to give us a play for the two of us to act out. Then they’ll record it and take photographs. Doesn’t it sound like lots of fun?”
Mrs. Cheng dropped her head as she picked at her good. “Not going, I don’t have time.”
“I already signed us up!”
“Well then! Chen Youlin, you’re wasting money again!”
Mr. Chen fell silent for a while, feeling grieved as he rubbed at the promotional pamphlet and muttered to himself. “It’s almost time for our second wedding anniversary. Recently, you’ve been busy with work, so didn’t I finally find a way for you to rest a bit? If you won’t go…if you won’t go, then forget it. I’ll go find my previous life’s memories on my own. 50 years later, when you flip through the photos with me, you’ll only see my single solitary self, on my own…”
Mrs. Cheng kneaded her forehead. “All right, all right, I’ll listen to what you say.”
On the day of the photography session, Mrs. Cheng was speechless as she wore a school uniform from the 80s. “Chen Youlin, can you let me roast this previous life?”
Mr. Chen objected. “These clothes aren’t bad, they suit you and I very well.”
“The clothes aren’t the point! If I came from the 80s in my previous life, that means we only dated for a few years at most before we died. The two of us ought to be as old as our parents but died in our prime. Did we die for love or kill off each other last time…”
Mr. Chen looked off into the distance. “Maybe we had a very short but poignant love story.”
“…forget it,” Mrs. Cheng felt powerless as she dropped her gaze to study the script, only to twitch. “This…was this script custom tailored for us?”
“A story from the 80s between the son of a wealthy entrepreneur and a daughter from a great feudal family…you’re sure that China was just starting reforms and opening up to the outside world then? You’re sure that young ladies from large feudal families still existed then? You’re sure that the brain of the scriptwriter who wrote this…” Mrs. Cheng paused, before changing her words to something more affable, “Hasn’t had their head crushed by a door before?”
Mr. Chen was firm. “It’s much better than today’s drama series, right? Anyways, we’re only recording a few minutes’ worth of footage. The rest are just photos, so it’s no problem.”
Mrs. Cheng sighed, while Mr. Chen held her hand and pinched her cheeks. “Smile a bit, nothing else is important. The main point today is to make you happy. If you’re not happy then it’ll waste all of my efforts.”
Mrs. Cheng remained silent for a while before her expression relaxed.
The video was only three minutes long to explain the background of the story, while the rest of the time was reserved for taking photographs. As the film started rolling, Mr. Chen stood with his back to Mrs. Cheng and assumed a callous and merciless pose. “Let’s break up.”
When he spoke, Mrs. Cheng had yet to get into her role. She narrowed her eyes. “What did you say?”
Mr. Chen maintained his merciless visage. “Let’s break up.”
Mrs. Cheng crossed her arms. “Sure, you can pack up your luggage when we get gone.”
Mr. Chen was stunned. “Wait, wifey, that’s not how the script goes! And also, when I say ‘breaking up’ to you, how can you agree so easily? You’re not even a little reluctant! That’s not right!”
Mrs. Cheng was furious. “You didn’t even read what the script was about! Is that right? Chen Youlin, you dare talk about breaking up to me when we’re supposed to be dating?”
“These are things that happened in our last life. Maybe I dared to back then!”
“You dare!” Mrs. Cheng’s eyes widened.
Mr. Chen hung his head. “…I don’t.”
When the photography studio staff saw that things weren’t going well, they came over to coax the couple. Mrs. Cheng clutched her hair before asking for a break and walked over to sit on the lawn beneath a banyan tree. Alone, she looked up at the white clouds in the sky, her thoughts unclear. Mr. Chen stuck up his lip, face filled with grievances as he looked towards Mrs. Cheng’s back. He too, clutched at his hair before shuffling over.
“Wifey…if you don’t want to shoot it, then we’ll go back, all right?” So speaking, he went to sit by Mrs. Cheng’s side, only to see that her eyes were already closed. Her head nodded forwards again and again, a clear sign that she couldn’t resist her own sleepiness.
Mr. Chen saw the dark circles beneath her eyes and felt a twinge of distress. These days, Mrs. Cheng had been busy with work and didn’t get to rest well. He wanted to bring her out to play because she was in a bad mood, but forgot that what she needed the most now was a good rest.
Chen Youlin quietly sat by her side and rested Cheng Yiran’s head against his shoulder so she could lean there for a good nap.
In the end, their quest to find their past lives only left an image of Mrs. Cheng leaning on Mr. Chen’s shoulder for a nap. But years afterwards, Mr. Chen would always remember that the sunlight streaming through the boughs of the banyan tree had been very warm. The skies behind the white clouds were very blue, and the burden leaning against his shoulder kept his heart calm, steady, and incomparably happy.
Mr. Chen felt that the happiness of a “previous life” was way too far away. No matter how much he strove to chase it, he’d never catch it. But the happiness of a “future” was quite within reach. Because he knew, as long as he held on to the present, the future would always be happy.
The days went by until it was night on New Year’s Eve again. Mrs. Cheng and Mr. Chen stuck nondescript couplets on their door that they had written themselves. The first line read: Sour, sweet, bitter, hot, joyful, anger, grief while the second read: Vegetables, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, tea. Finally, there was the horizontal scroll above the door that flanked the two couplets, bearing the inscription: Without one, it’s no life.
The two of them looked at the couplets and burst into silly giggles for a long time.
“Another year’s coming.”
It’s yet another year. I’m very lucky to have you by my side.
 Sour, sweet, bitter, hot, joyful, anger, grief (酸甜苦辣喜怒哀) – suan tian ku la is an idiom for the joys and sorrows of life, xi represents its various happiness, nu its various instances of anger, and ai its instances of grief.
 egetables, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, tea (菜米油盐酱醋茶) – Cai and Mi represents staple foods and grain, You yan jiang cu is an idiom for the trivia of everyday life, and cha is the tea that’s often found accompanying all parts of life.
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