She was new here and has asked someone the way to the washroom before excusing herself. But she mistakingly turned left, when she had to take a right. She walked a few steps and a balcony came in her view. She frowned to see the balcony in the place of the washroom.
She stood there, trying to recall the direction she was instructed when she spotted the side profile of a familiar figure that she has not seen in a long time. Her feet went cold and she froze in her place not knowing what to do.
She stood there in a daze until she realized the man was about to turn around in her direction. Out of instinct, she turned back hurriedly and walked back to the main hall as fast as she could afraid that he might recognize her. Being spotted by this man here was the last thing she wanted at this moment. He knew too many of her secrets, which she could not afford to be exposed out in public.
With her mind preoccupied, and because she kept turning back a few times until she reached the hall, she accidentally bumped into some person, whose face she didn't see on her way back, spilling his wine on her qipao.
"I- I am sorry mister, I didn't see you." She bowed deeply and apologized.
"It's alright mi-.... Ling?" Yue Ling lifted her head when she heard the familiar voice of Song Chen and looked at him. The fear of the man's presence intensified when she saw Song Chen.
Song Chen noticed her nervous expression and asked worriedly, "what happened to you? Why do you look so panicked."
"Ah? Nothing, nothing. I spoiled my dress, I feel a little embarrassed. Can we leave? I don't want to walk around in this dirtied dress." She had a good excuse to leave the place.
Thankfully the wine was red and not white. So even if her dress dried up, the patch of stain will still remain.
"I can't leave now, there are people I have to meet. It's important. But I have a solution for you. Come with me, I will ask someone to help you." He held her wrist and took her upstairs in a room to clean her dress. "Wait here, I will send someone to help you change." And Song Chen left immediately after that.
After some time a woman entered who looked like a waitress and helped her change into a new dress that she has brought along with her. After she was done helping her with the dress, she went to the dressing table and opened the makeup kit placed on it. "Let me help you with your makeup and hair."
"It's fine. I will do it myself. You may go." After being denied help from Yue Ling, the woman left the room giving her a nod, while Yue Ling stayed to touch up her makeup.
It took her approximately ten minutes and she was good to go. Her new cream colored vintage cocktail dress was quite pretty and suited her better than her qipao. She smiled after looking at her reflection in the mirror, feeling pleased with her beauty. But her smile immediately vanished when she remembered the man she has spotted downstairs. Just the flash of his image made her afraid.
Maybe she could just stay here a little longer, and leave once the party got over? She thought this was the best option she had so instead of going out she went to an armchair placed nearby and sat on it. However, the woman who has helped her with her dress returned soon after, "Miss, your husband is looking for you."
"Is he? Alright, I will come in a few minutes." She made an excuse.
"He said, it is a little urgent. He wants you to meet someone. Since you have changed, why don't you come with me?"
"Okay, let's go." Seeing no other option, her face fell and she went along with the woman. On the other hand, the waitress felt that Yue Ling's reaction was quite weird. She could not understand as to why would she refuse to go out.
"I hope you are fine, miss." She could not help asking out of concern. Maybe she was not feeling well and that is why she didn't want to go.
"Yes yes, I am fine." Yue Ling spoke and continued walking with her eyes looking around carefully. Afraid that she might bump into the man again. Thankfully he was nowhere to be seen.
After getting downstairs, she spotted Song Chen standing with a man whose back was facing her. Song Chen spotted Yue Ling and waved her to come over. She put on a graceful smile before reaching them as she knew the person was important.
Song Chen wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her closer before calling the name of the man who stood with him and whose face Yue Ling has not seen by now. "Mr. Yang Deming, meet my wife Yue Ling." He then turned to Yue Ling, whose smile had frozen in her face and introduced Yang Deming to her. "Ling, this Mr. Yang Deming, the famous textile merchant I told you about. Every person who wants to become a supplier of textile must sign a deal with him to get famous."
"Mrs. Song, it is my pleasure to meet you and Mr. Song you flatter me." Yang Deming spoke with a smile, looking obviously pleased with the butt-kissing.
Yue Ling had a stiff smile on her face. She could not believe her luck. She has been trying to ignore this person for so long, and here she was, served right into his platter.
"Mr. Yang." Yue Ling bowed her head awkwardly and smiled. Her heart was palpitating and the only thing she was worried about was what if he disclosed her real identity to her husband.
"Why are you empty-handed Mrs. Song?" Yang Deming frowned and then turned around to call a waiter who had a tray of wine filled flutes in his hand. "You have come to my party and if you don't drink here, I will feel really bad." He spoke and then handed a flute from the tray to Yue Ling.
Yue Ling rejected hesitantly, "It's alright Mr. Yang I have already drunk enough. Please don't trouble yourself."
"No No, it's no trouble. Please have it." Even though Yang Deming on the surface looked like he was making a suggestion, he was, in reality, ordering Yue Ling to drink. His eyes held the authority which she didn't miss. She was still a little hesitant but she suddenly felt a slight nudge on her waist. It was Song Chen, who was signaling her to accept the drink. Left with no choice, she reluctantly took the flute and to avoid looking rude, took it to her mouth to take a small sip.
"Mr. Song I must say, your wife is really pretty, just like a freshly blossomed lily." Song Chen smiled and thanked Yang Deming politely for his compliment. But Yue Ling's hand that was holding the flute of wine stopped in mid-air. It actually froze. Yang Deming smiled internally seeing her reaction from the corner of his eyes.
She had a small hope that she might be saved if this man didn't recognize her since she has met him two years back and that too only thrice. But her last hope shattered hearing the word 'lily".
This was the name she has told him of herself.
She coughed lightly to clear her throat and then murmured a thank you, complemented by a half-hearted polite smile.
All the time that she stood there, she could feel Yang Deming's scorching gaze falling on her every now and then. Finally, when she got too uncomfortable to bear his gaze, she excused herself and immediately went out of the hall to get a breath of fresh air. The man's presence was making her feel suffocated.
She walked around aimlessly admiring the view and trying to relax her mind. With the way Yang Deming looked at her like a hungry wolf, she was sure of one thing, which was that he had no intention of exposing her, which worried her even more. The reason behind her worry was that he was not a simple man and if he has decided to not to blow up her cover, there must be something he would demand from her in return. And she had a strong feeling that the bargain might be something too difficult for her to bear the expenses of.
Lost in her own thoughts she continued walking towards the dark garden behind the hall, that she has just come out of. Walking for a good few minutes, she spotted a swing placed at one corner of the garden that was spacious enough to accommodate three people at a time. Feeling her head aching from all the drinks she has downed inside, she went to the swing and sat on it.
Only when she settled down, she realised she was still carrying the flute of wine that Yang Deming has offered her inside, with her. She has been feeling very anxious after meeting him and to calm herself down, she bottomed up the glass in one go. The alcohol started kicking in and soothed her anxious heart.