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2020 FALL

ROULETTE

STORY

Copywriter: Moce Carlos

Translator: Pamela Tsui Pui Yin

Their first encounter left in his mind a deep mark of her bright red back.

He could barely see her features, but her character had been embedded in his memory.

There was a heavy downpour outside.

She was sitting by herself in front of the French window, as if secluding herself in an isolated parallel space- time, being so contented as if she couldn't hear the clamor and laughter all around.

What was she thinking about?

For a moment, he wanted to come forward to strike up a conversation, but he just couldn't bear to ruin the serenity she was enjoying alone.

She was also unaccompanied when he saw her for the second time. She turned up in a casino, wearing a glamorous bright red dress.

He was a little surprised, as he had stereotyped her as "such a kind of girl" who wouldn't have come to such a place...but then a second thought emerged: how much did he know about her? He wasn’t even able to fill in as simple as the name field for her.

That night, she aggressively laid her bets in front of the roulette and domineeringly lost everything in her hands. Her arrogant attitude won the admiration and cheers of the guests.

She didn't say a word and replied with just a courteous but insincere smile. Turning around and leaving the scene, she silently disappeared in the crowd.

This should have been the last time, he reckoned, to see this woman who was like a tranquil lake.

But once again, he recognized her.

The rain never stopped that day.

He saw her sitting on the stone steps outside a hotel. With her luggage placed by her feet, she was holding an umbrella between her shoulder and neck while drawing and writing in a notebook on her palm.

"I know you," he said.

Being interrupted, she raised her head in astonishment.

"Many people recognize me," she laughed at herself.

He shrugged and joked, "after all, not many people can lose that much in one night."

She was silent for a few seconds, then answered with a smile, "really? I thought it wasn't enough."

Actually he didn't quite understand what she meant by "wasn’t enough".

So he changed the subject. "Kicked out from the hotel?" 

She hummed, as if sleeping in the park was no big deal.

"There is a room available in my place. If you don't mind..."

"Will you kill me?"

Well. It’s good to still have a little bit of alertness. But you always have to be fair.

"Will you?"

Hearing this, she let out a clear and resounding smile.

It was the first time he had seen her smile, one from the heart.

She was taken in and moved into his place.

The unused room, though had not been cleaned for a while, was definitely better than a bench in the park... or a carton on the roadside.

Between their rooms was a small bathroom. He could hear her every move when she got up and washed up.

She always woke up earlier than him. Then she would get a chair, sit in the balcony and write and draw under the sun.

"Do you want some coffee?"

"I don't drink coffee."

"Then...what would you like to drink?"

"Coke, thank you."

Drinking Coke early in the morning? He frowned and asked.

"What's wrong? There is also caffeine in it anyway."

Okay. This made some sense.

He was convinced. Since then, every morning, next to the coffee was a can of Coke.

One day, finally, he couldn't help asking.

"Is that your job?"

"Huh? What?" She recovered from the world in the notebook.

"You are always drawing and writing."

"Hmm."

"Can I see it?"

"No."

So resolute. He sighed to himself, guessing that it might be just a diary, which was sensibly a secret.

After a moment of silence, she suddenly asked, "am I causing you any trouble or inconvenience staying here?"

"No."

This was not a courtesy. He liked the feeling of being with her in the same space. He just didn't say it.

"I’m going to work. You can find the food bought yesterday in the fridge." As usual.

"Okay." Then she put down her notebook and saw him off at the door.

"Be careful on the way."

She adjusted his tie.

That night, she went to pick him up from work with an umbrella. Being a little surprised, he rejoiced from his heart.

They walked shoulder to shoulder on the wet stone sidewalk. Although it was late, the street was still bustling with people and cars.

"You seem to like red?" he asked casually. She always wore red clothes and the umbrella she was holding was also red.

She lowered her head and smiled, remaining silent for as long as a lifetime. He couldn't help wondering what he had just asked.

"Because that person doesn't like red," she uttered suddenly, mentioning "that person".

He came to realize that red was like blood seeping out of her wounds. What she wore were not gorgeous clothes but her bloodstained armour.

For a long time, she had not put on her favourite clothes and had taken off her beloved red shoes because that person hated red, she told him.

Who was that person?

He was about to ask, but was kissed as she raised her face.

Being stunned, every word he wanted to ask was knocked out of his mind by her sudden kiss.

The umbrella seemed lopsided and he could faintly feel the cold rain hitting on him, but nothing could distract him from her.

She still woke up earlier than him.

He opened his eyes and saw her sitting in front of the window, calmly staring out of the window. The view of her back reminded him of their first encounter.

Like a waveless lake, he kept his eyes on her, forgetting the time and forgetting to say good morning to her.

Actually, she had known that he was awake since long ago.

She suddenly seemed to be talking to herself, saying that she came here because something bad happened.

Forgotten from when, what she held in her hands had gradually become not hers, she said.

For too long, she had forgotten who she was. So she had come to this strange place, planning to lose everything not hers and then win back what should belong to her, she said.

"Have you won it back?" he asked.

She turned her head and smiled, "probably."

Then, like having an intuition, he seemed to know it and said, "so you are leaving?"

She did not deny.

She calmly stared out of the window. It started to rain.

She did not take French leave.

She packed her bags and waited for him to return from work to say goodbye personally.

He said, "I’ll miss you much."

Letting go of his pride, he took the lead in confessing, fearing that he would never have another chance in his life if he had not told her at that moment.

“I’ll remember you,” she said.

"Remember you" and "miss you much"…what an unfair relationship. Is this the end? He would never want her to go, but he didn't know how to make her stay.

Let’s leave it to fate.

He took out a coin. "'The head and I’ll find you; the tail and we’ll end here."

At the moment he was about to toss the coin, she reached out her hands to hold his palms firmly.

"Don’t toss," she smiled. "This time, I won’t let luck decide where I should go."

Staring at those beautiful but unfamiliar eyes, he was choked with the thousands of words in his chest.

He could only watch her leave in the frozen air.

The view of her back, gradually distancing, made him almost unable to recall her face, like a warm dream at the dawn.

After waking up, you could never go back.

So, she had really left.

She left him with all the memories everywhere in the flat and the notebook she kept with her all the time, which he once positioned as a diary.

Did she forget to take it? Or did she deliberately leave it there?

He selfishly hoped that she forgot to take it, so that she would return for it and he could meet her again, even for just one minute. Missing someone could make a person so petty and low.

Then the night passed.

Then the day, the week, and finally the month.

She would never come back.

What a cruel and bloody enlightenment, just like the red back that she left with.

So, could he unveil her secret?

He had a glass of spirit that night before opening the notebook she always carried, though there wasn’t such a need to be emboldened.

He expected to see something like “Dear Diary”, but what he saw were design sketches, one after the other.

Rings, earrings, bracelets...sketches of all kinds of jewellery that were drawn, crossed out and then drawn again.

It was really her job.

He had not known more about her until this moment, but it was already too late.

In the blink of an eye, there came spring, summer, autumn and winter.

Having her in his heart was merely a habit, and thinking about her was never deliberate. But whenever he came across a figure in red, he would always be caught off guard by all the memories.

Until he thought it was about time to forget all these, on the way back from work, he recognized her with just a glimpse.

It was her.

Not another stranger in red.

She walked up to him. "Long time no see," she said lightly.

How long had it been...? It took him some time to recover from his consternation, until he was able to say a few bad lines like "what a coincidence to meet you here."

She laughed and placed the umbrella over his head. "You still don't like bringing umbrellas."

Her attitude was so natural, as if she had never left.

All of a sudden, he came to realize that this was not by chance.

"...This is not a coincidence, is it?"

"Haven’t I told you?" She handed a coin to him.

He blankly opened his palm and took the coin. It was the head.

Did she still remember the rule of the game?

"As said, this time I won't let luck decide where I should go."

She remembered it.

She remembered it clearly.

© 2020 by Royan Jade