“That poor boy,” Xiao Wei said into the silence that filled the salon. “Master Nan is stifling him.”
Zun watched the cars roll away and shook his head. That look on SarEr’s face got him each time. He hated seeing it, especially when he knew that SarEr had been trying to make him feel better at the court today.
“He’s happiest here,” Zun said to his mother.
“There’s nothing we can do, Zun,” Xiao Wei soothed. “He is the master’s son, who knows what the reasons are.”
“He’ll run away if it keeps up.” Zun shook his head at the thought of SarEr leaving him alone in this town.
“Don’t let it get to you,” Xiao Wei advised.
Zun couldn’t help thinking about it. SarEr’s expression spelled brewing rebellion. He was sure a fight would be coming soon.
Zun sunk back into his chair with a loud a sigh.
He’d met SarEr during their first year at high school. He remembered watching the Nan Family’s familiar black Mercedes car complete with a bodyguard dropping SarEr off at school.
Those days he’d hated SarEr on principle. SarEr’s attitude hadn’t helped the situation either. SarEr tended to get violent and bad tempered when he was nervous and before Zun had known that, they’d fought every day.
Zun spent most of that first year accusing SarEr of being a spoiled brat. They fought bitterly and their mutual hatred for each other became a part of school gossip. There was no one who could make peace between them. SarEr refused to allow his father to deal with Zun out of pride. The teachers opted to keep their interaction to a bare minimum if ever. They’d had different classes at all times, until the day that started their friendship came.
SarEr had been talking with a group of classmates during recess in the courtyard at school. Zun, hating how relaxed and entitled SarEr looked, had started walking toward the punk, only to stop when he noticed a man approaching SarEr with a strange expression. The man had been in an impeccable grey suit, but something about him had felt so wrong. A second later, Zun realized that the man held a gun in his hand. Before Zun could react or say anything, the man trained the gun on SarEr.
The boys with SarEr scrambled away, fear in their eyes the minute they realized what was going on. SarEr, however, remained where he was, facing his attacker bravely. Zun would never forget what SarEr told that man.
“Will it make you feel better to pull the trigger?” SarEr had said it with such a calm, cold voice. It had made Zun wonder what kind of person SarEr was to be so calm before death. Worry had prompted him to move beside SarEr.
“Aren’t you going to run, Zun?” SarEr asked.
“No.” Zun stood firm, his gaze on the man who was now wavering in his intentions. “Sir, if you kill him, you’re going to have to kill me too, since I’ll be the witness.”
The comment made SarEr smile, a small smile, but the first he’d ever managed to get out of SarEr. It was strange thinking about it. He hadn’t been afraid of the man holding a gun at them. SarEr’s blasé attitude probably had something to do with his courage, but, he seriously wondered what would have happened if SarEr’s bodyguards hadn’t swarmed into the courtyard to save them.
“You’ve got guts, Lee,” SarEr said, after the guards took their attacker away. “You’re either stupid or you have a death wish.”
“What do you think?” Zun asked, studying the punk he’d been pounding on for most of the year.
“You’re stupid,” SarEr said with a small shrug that had them both laughing like maniacs.
Their friendship started that day.
Five years later, they were still the best of friends. SarEr was now twenty years old and Zun worried he was going to get in a car one of these days and drive to the airport. Either that or SarEr’s father was going to ship him abroad to some prestigious college.
Which was going to leave him alone here, Zun sighed and shifted his attention to his mother.
She was finished with the rollers and was now rinsing the sink she’d used while her client was under the dryer. She hummed as she cleaned and Zun wondered why the woman never seemed short of good moods.
His yearning to get her a better life roared to life and Zun stood up, moving to where she was about to start running water to rinse the soap.
“I’ll do that, mum. You sit and rest.”
Zun took the brush she was using and moved her out of the way. Xiao Wei smiled and took the seat he’d vacated. As he rinsed the sink, he decided SarEr wasn’t going to leave him behind. He was getting out of this town and making something of himself.