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Chapter 2 - Utterly Humiliated

Zhao Lifei abruptly sat up in her bed, her heart hammering against her ribcage. 

She ran a shaky hand through her hair and squeezed her eyes shut. Her lips wobbled as tears pooled behind her eyelids. No matter how much she tried to brush the haunting past away, the pain would always catch up.

Soon, droplets of salty tears fell from her eyes. She struggled to properly breathe, hiccuping for gasps of air. In the cold, dark, and lonely room, she broke down. She wished it was just a nightmare and not a memory from the past.

Her heart ached with the painful memories from two years ago. Surrounded by the country's top socialites, she was utterly humiliated and embarrassed. Her heart was torn into pieces, stomped on, and thrown into the ocean like trash.

Zhao Lifei still remembered the pain of watching the love of her life choose a woman he's known for less than a year over her. She had stood by his side for twenty-one years, wasting her youth futilely chasing after a man who never spared her a glance.

When he was too fatigued to bother with work, she took a position as Vice President of his company and worked her body to the ground. She expanded the company to its fullest potential. She did everything she could to support him, and he repaid her by cheating and ripping their marriage certificate.

Collapsing onto her bed, Zhao Lifei stared at the bleak and endless darkness.

She swore she would forget the past and move on. To some extent, she did. But nightmares, like the one she just experienced, forced her to become aware of the painful past that would forever haunt her.

Xia Mengxi... even her name sounded innocent and beautiful. Just like the characters [1] of her name, she was an untouchable dream of a real-life Cinderella. Growing up in a pitiful family whose father left her at a young age, forcing her mother to single-handedly raise her, she had a very sad story. Her mother used to be a janitor in the Zheng Corporation and after successfully pulling some strings, Xia Mengxi was able to land a job as Zheng Tianyi's private secretary.

By becoming his private secretary, she was with him 24/7.

Zheng Tianyi's interest in her started with a naive and shy smile that seemed to light up the room. Xia Mengxi was unaware of her beauty and potential, which sparked his curiosity. Then that spark ignited a fire in Zheng Tianyi's heart, and soon, Xia Mengxi found herself with a priceless twenty-carat diamond ring.

Because the darkness allowed Zhao Lifei to reminisce without any distractions, she didn't hear the knocking from her door.

The light knock became harsher and louder. It echoed throughout the hollow, empty room. One knock turned into two, then three, then four, until it became excruciatingly rapid. Without warning, the door slammed open.

A beautiful woman strutted into the room, her hips naturally swaying side to side. Long, slender legs, seductive eyes, perfect body, it wasn't hard to see she was a world-renowned supermodel.

Yang Ruqin stopped in front of Zhao Lifei's bed with a scowl. She crossed her arms and glared down at her like a mother waking up her daughter for school. "It's two in the afternoon, and you're still in bed?!" She tugged and pulled at Zhao Lifei's blankets.

"Qinqin, let me sleep a bit longer..." Zhao Lifei mumbled, snuggling into her blankets.

Yang Ruqin was the only friend that stood by Zhao Lifei's side when Zheng Tianyi practically blacklisted her.

When Zhao Lifei's "friends" discovered she had no more power, benefits or the title as the Zheng Madam, everyone abandoned her. After many of the socialites realized Xia Mengxi's importance to Zheng Tianyi, they immediately flooded to her side.

Zhao Lifei wasn't surprised when her friends left her for Xia Mengxi. Two years ago, she was supposed to be the vengeful antagonist in Xia Mengxi's life. She was supposed to be the woman that tried to frame Xia Mengxi for cheating and the horrible person that tried to force the loving couple apart.

Zhao Lifei will not deny the fact that she used to be a horrible woman whose very name was supposed to be a sin. She couldn't change the past, but she knew she could change her future, which was why she worked so hard to become a better person.

"Are you daydreaming again? Did you hear what I just said?" Yang Ruqin fumed when Zhao Lifei didn't respond back to her.

"You said it was two in the afternoon, but my room doesn't feel like it. It might be morning— hey!" Zhao Lifei yelped when Yang Ruqin flung the blanket off of her.

"No, it's cold..." Zhao Lifei moaned, curling up into a ball.

"Ugh, why are your curtains so thick and dark? There's no natural lighting in this room!" Yang Ruqin walked to the long curtains that covered the tall windows.

"No, wait! I'm not ready for the light—" Too late. Yang Ruqin had already pulled the curtains open.

Immediately, the bright rays of the afternoon sun soaked into the room, washing all of the melancholic darkness away.

Because Zhao Lifei's condo was on the fifth-highest floor of the tall apartment complex, the sunlight was stronger than ever.

Groaning at the intrusion of light, Zhao Lifei buried her head into her pillow. She refused to get up, but she knew Yang Ruqin would force her out of the bed regardless. "Can't you leave me here to wallow in my sorrow?" Her voice came out muffled.

"A high-class lady such as yourself should not be sleeping until sunset. Now get up!" Yang Ruqin chided, adjusting the curtain strings.

"A high-class lady without friends, a good reputation, and amazing connections is just a simple woman with money." Zhao Lifei huffed.

Yang Ruqin sat on top of the bed and sighed, running a gentle hand through Zhao Lifei's hair. "Did you have the same dream again?" She softly asked, stroking her friend's air.

After a few seconds of silence, Zhao Lifei said a meek "Yes."

Yang Ruqin's expression grew soft. "Just so you know, I didn't like Zheng Tianyi in the first place; he was utter trash."

Zhao Lifei had a small smile on her face. "You only disliked him at first because he stole your pudding on the first day of Kindergarten."

"I have a billion more reasons for hating him. He was such a jerk." Yang Ruqin retorted. "And for the record, I still hold him accountable for that!" She pouted, crossing her arms like a stubborn child.

Zhao Lifei let out a peal of light laughter, the pain in her heart momentarily gone.

"Thank you, Qinqin... I don't know what I would do without you." Zhao Lifei softly whispered. Her voice was quiet and broken, like a lonely child abandoned by the world.

Yang Ruqin's face became gentle. She reached down and pulled her best friend into a very tight hug. Together, they've experienced so much hardship in this world, there was nothing that could push them apart.

"My dear, I should be saying that, not you." Yang Ruqin mumbled into Zhao Lifei's shoulders.

When Yang Ruqin was faced with any crisis, Zhao Lifei was always there for her. From taking the blame of punching a boy in Kindergarten to the days of high school where Zhao Lifei consistently covered for Yang Ruqin's mischievous deeds. They had seen each other at their worsts, their bests, and everything in between.

"We're reminiscing too much into the past when we should focus on the present and future. Now come on, get up." Yang Ruqin patted Zhao Lifei's head and watched her finally sit up on her bed.

"Hurry up and get dressed, so that we can go eat brunch." Yang Ruqin hurried Zhao Lifei off the bed. With each step Yang Ruqin took, her silky red dress flowed behind her.

"It's two in the afternoon, brunch has already ended." Zhao Lifei, the pessimist, grumbled to her friend who laughed.

"Alright, party-pooper, we can get lunch then." Yang Ruqin mused, pushing Zhao Lifei into the bathroom.

When Zhao Lifei began her morning routine, Yang Ruqin sat in the corner with a hidden, and mischievous smile.

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