It was the dead of night. Barefooted, she stood in the empty alley alone. With the wind howling through the pouring rain, chills seeped into her bones. Her long ponytail was drenched by the rain, and it almost weighed her entire body down. Her body temperature dissipated through her thin nightgown, which reminded people of unmelted snowflakes. Her youthful visage had lost all tenderness she once held proudly. All that was left was deathly white.
‘You really should go home.’ A well-dressed stranger approached her with an umbrella and talked to her gently. ‘Don’t make your mother worry about you.’
‘You know that witch?’ She squinted at him, her long, curly eyelashes shedding clear and heavy tears. She could barely see through her blurry vision.
‘No, I don’t.’ The man forced a smile. He was surprised by how ungrateful youngsters were nowadays. ‘I was just passing by.’
‘Then get lost!’ Harsh words spat out from that vile tongue of hers with ease, despite she was only fifteen. Her fiery presence made an amusing contrast with her flushing red nose.
The stranger didn’t leave, but instead he stood beside her capriciously and held out his umbrella for her. Yet, what he didn’t realise was that this natural act of kindness was not only the concept of ‘mercy’ he had learnt from books, but also a sense of superiority enough to save ordinary souls.
‘What the hell are you thinking?’ She took a few steps backwards with vigilance, standing in the heavy rain once more. Her fragile body didn’t feel any warmth from the man’s gesture. Instead, she was shivering with fear.
‘I want to see how long you can stand this.’ The man examined this poor little bag of bones with cold eyes, the thought of lending her his coat dismissed in his mind. Young people should suffer from their misbehaviour.
‘Ha! Yours truly is the toughest!’ She laughed her head off maniacally, mocking the man’s shallowness and how he had looked down on her.
‘Is that so?’ The man let out a dry chuckle. ‘Let me ask you this. What is the most bitter food in the world?’
‘The food my mother from hell makes.’ The thought of the acrid taste swarmed her mind, and her pride was wounded. Her vulnerability crept out. ‘Even the toughest person can’t deal with that.’
‘During these times, everything on people’s plates are the most bitter.’ The man wasn’t aware of the oddity in her smile and told her, ‘Nobody has tasted each other’s food. That’s why they only know theirs is the most bitter.’
She stood in silence, hanging her head low while going over the man’s words again and again.
‘Time for me to leave.’ He peered at his Rolex, his mind occupied with the thought of his lovely wife who had dinner for him. ‘Think this through.’ He made his exit afterwards.
‘What do you think is the sweetest food in the world?’ The girl blurted out.
‘Food at home,’ the man replied sincerely yet casually without giving her a second glance.
After a good night’s sleep on his soft mattress, the man had almost forgotten about the encounter the night before.
With the hearty breakfast in front of him, he flipped open the newspaper, and his eyes were immediately stuck to the headline which played to the gallery.
‘Short-lived young lady force-fed with poison. Cold-hearted mother arrested.’
He read the details of the article. What a clichéd story, might as well skip over it.
The man spent a few minutes studying the victim’s face several times. She resembled the young lady he met last night. But he couldn’t be sure whether she was really that girl.
He couldn’t recall the girl’s facial features. They were very vague, as if they were faeces mixed together, with bits and pieces of undigested rice and meat embedded.
Be it delicacies or simple meals, all of them would eventually become faeces and return to whence they came.
The man slowly put down his newspaper. The thought of the face resembling that of faeces had gone astray, along with the fatal case that had dominated the papers today.
He put a spoonful of abalone and chicken congee into his mouth. How delicious and sweet it was.