"You brat, don't act so haughty and spoiled. I raised you for twenty-three years with my own blood, sweat, and tears!" Wang Nuoli slammed her manicured hand onto the glass table beside her.
"Mother, please. You only held me once as a baby and passed me off to different nannies until I could walk. And when I did, you found other nannies for me." Zhao Lifei rolled her eyes at Wang Nuoli's melancholic story.
It was no rumor that Wang Nuoli didn't love her eldest daughter.
Zhao Lifei was born when Wang Nuoli's relationship with Zhao Wenjin was extremely rocky. Both of them were reluctant to marry each other. After heavy pressure from the elders on having a child, Wang Nuoli was forced to sleep with him.
For Wang Nuoli, a woman who was used to have everything go her way, that night was brutal torture. Not only was she stripped off her clothes, but also her dignity. When Zhao Lifei was conceived, she was furious. After all of that torture, she had to try again?! The elders wanted a son, someone to pass the family fortune off too.
However, that mindset was changed by the time Zhao Linhua was born, the rocky relationship between Wang Nuoli and her husband was gone. She was born from a night of love and consensual sex.
"How dare you show an attitude towards your mother? I might've not raised you, but I carried you in my stomach for nine antagonizing months where I couldn't drink my beloved wine! I pushed your big head out of me, screaming and crying. Show some respect!" Wang Nuoli had reached the brink of her patience.
Sometimes she wondered where she went wrong with her eldest child.
Wang Nuoli was so blinded by the delusion that throwing nannies and money at Zhao Lifei would fix all of her problems.
When Zhao Lifei was a child, all she wanted was her mother's love and attention. She received nothing but glares and spiteful words. Growing up, she was taught that she would never be loved by her mother.
"Xiao Lin's birthday is in two weeks from now. I expect you to be there." Wang Nuoli realized how quiet Zhao Lifei had become. Hmph! This child finally had some senses talked into her!
After a few seconds of awkward silence, Wang Nuoli felt a vein pop out. Was she even listening? "Did you hear me-"
"Yes, mother. I heard you." Zhao Lifei sighed.
"You better come to the banquet. If not, your father and I will show up at your house. If I have to drag you there kicking and screaming, I will!" Wang Nuoli seethed, nearly throwing the glass of wine in her hand. Little did Wang Nuoli know, Zhao Lifei had long moved out of the house brought by her parents.
"Besides, you know how much Xiao Lin love you—" And just like that, Zhao Lifei hung up.
Zhao Linhua loves Zhao Lifei? Hah! That must've been the joke of the century!
Zhao Linhua wouldn't love her older sister even if her life depended on it. Born as a piano prodigy with hundreds of awards lining her bookshelves, she was already the most beloved daughter. She only cared about relations if there was a benefit in having it. When she had discovered her older sister had fallen from the Zheng's grace, Zhao Linhua was quick to disregard Zhao Lifei.
"If you're going to the banquet, you need a suitable partner that will blow stupid Zheng Tianyi out of the waters."
Zhao Lifei jumped, nearly dropping her phone when she heard Yang Ruqin's determined voice. Turning around, she was surprised to see her awake.
Sitting up with half of the blanket on her shoulders, Yang Ruqin tiredly yawned.
"Good luck finding a man like that. Zheng Tianyi is one of the wealthiest men in this country." Zhao Lifei sighed, tossing her phone onto the couch.
"I'm sorry for waking you up, was my conversation that loud?" Zhao Lifei tried to change the topic.
She picked up her broom and went back to sweeping the floor.
"No, I'm just a really light sleeper. And besides, who could sleep when they hear Wang Nuoli's nasal voice?" Yang Ruqin scoffed.
Zhao Lifei laughed at her friend, happy she had someone on her side.
Yang Ruqin stared at Zhao Lifei sweeping the floor. It was a soothing sight that made her look like a gentle housewife. She did not look like the woman she used to be two years ago.
"You should raise the pay of the cleaner and have her come three times a week. It's not good to put so much strain on your back. What if your hand gets rough from all of this cleaning?" Yang Ruqin worriedly said.
Zhao Lifei finished her last sweep and glanced up with a small smile. "A woman should at least be good at something. Cleaning can be my skill. Besides, my cleaner recently gave birth. She needs the rest."
Yang Ruqin had a wry smile. She couldn't believe the massive change in one person within a span of two years. She wanted to know what really happened on the night that Zhao Lifei placed down her crown as Queen of the Socialites.
"You fool. You're good at so many other things, besides cleaning!"
"Because Wang Nuoli and Zhao Wenjin wanted me to be good at those things." Zhao Lifei nonchalantly said while placing the broom and dustpan back into the closet.
Yang Ruqin frowned. "Don't lie to me. I know you enjoyed those skills as well."
Zhao Lifei smiled as she walked to the kitchen. "Perhaps to some extent, yes, but I was a child whose ambition and dreams were shaped by Wang Nuoli and Zhao Wenjin's desire of having the perfect child." She took out the ingredients for dinner.
"But you were so good at the piano..." Yang Ruqin muttered under her breath. Because Zhao Lifei was so far, she didn't hear her.
When she noticed how quiet Yang Ruqin was, Zhao Lifei turned around to see her friend lost in thought. She shook her head as she started to cut the ingredients.
After a few minutes of quiet, but oddly comfortable, silence, Yang Ruqin finally stood up from her position. She wanted to pry more and force Zhao Lifei to finally reveal the horrible things that had happened when she wasn't in the country. But she knew it wasn't the wisest move.
Although Zhao Lifei will never admit it, there was a heavy cloud of somberness around her.
Whenever she was alone, her thoughts were dark and depressing.
Yang Ruqin noticed that half of Zhao Lifei's smile contained a hidden layer of heartbreak, sadness, and betrayal. It pained her to see her best friend in such a pitiful state.
Sure, Zhao Lifei still kept her pride and head high, but she had lost whatever self-confidence she used to own.
Yang Ruqin missed seeing the girl who confidently laughed, wore anything she liked, and did things without a care in the world. She fumed to herself. That bastard, Zheng Tianyi, he really had the audacity to not only cheat on her, but also destroy everything about her!
Yang Ruqin lifted her gaze from the couch she was sitting on to stare at Zhao Lifei whose back was turned. There was a wonderful smell in the air that could only come from Feifei's amazing cooking.
As she watched Zhao Lifei cook, she couldn't help but sigh and feel sympathy for her friend.
Zhao Lifei had her entire life built around the very man that shattered her.
From a young age, she was drilled on how to become his pillar of support, how to manage a multi-billion corporation, how to handle the paperwork, how to fulfill his position when he was absent, how to be his safe haven, and how to be the perfect wife.
All of her training and endless nights of sleep deprivation was completely shattered within the span of six months. In just six months, Zheng Tianyi had pushed Zhao Lifei to her lowest for a random woman he happened to fall in love with.