Half an hour later, the two of them were sitting at the kitchen table, eating the dishes that Li Ming had made. The atmosphere between them was warm, making it seem as if they had been together longer than they actually were.
Zhao Chen couldn’t help but give a hum after trying all of the dishes and looked up at Li Ming. “Honestly, I could get used to this.”
Li Ming chuckled and shook his head at him. “Well, I’m not saying that you can’t. Cooking is something I enjoy, so I won’t make you do it if it’s not something that you like. Whenever we eat together, I sure don’t mind taking over.”
Zhao Chen nodded, happy with that promise. “Thank you, I really appreciate it. In a pinch, I can help out though. I’m not that good but before I moved out after school, my mother made sure to teach me the basics at least. I guess she was worried I’d starve to death out there.” He chuckled and couldn’t help but shake his head when he thought of her. “You know, despite teaching me and knowing full well that I can cook, whenever I come home, she still tells me that I’ve thinned down.”
Li Ming couldn’t help but laugh at the idea before he turned serious again. They hadn’t really talked about their families yet so he couldn’t help but take note of how it seemed that Zhao Chen’s relationship with his was pretty good.
He hesitated for a moment but finally couldn’t help but still bring it up. “So … do your parents know that you’re … well, gay?”
Zhao Chen fell quiet for a moment and then shook his head. “Well, if they do know, they didn’t hear it from me. I never brought it up. I guess they might be suspecting something though.”
Li Ming raised his brows. “Did they say something?”
Zhao Chen once again shook his head. “No, not directly. But I mean, I never brought any girl home. I didn’t talk about any either. So by now, I’d be surprised if they hadn’t figured out that there was something going on. And I’m not the kind of genius that only focuses on work and has nothing else going on in his life so I don’t have that excuse. Other than being gay, I’m not sure how many alternative explanations they could come up with.”
Li Ming gave a hum and stopped eating for the moment. “I told mine and I always felt that our relationship soured after that. It only recently got better again but that was after years of being in that weird state where I wasn’t sure if they actually accepted me or not.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. That was precisely the reason why I didn’t. It might go well but you never really know. Even guys who had a really close relationship with their parents before found themselves on the streets afterward.
“Even though it’s not like I depend on them, I don’t want to see that happen. I guess you could call that being dishonest which you probably won’t like but I just think that pretending I’m not is a lot better than letting them know.”
Li Ming gave a hum and resumed eating, but he couldn’t help but ponder Zhao Chen’s last statement. “Is it giving you pressure that I value being honest so much?”
Zhao Chen raised his brows, feeling that there was no good way to answer this question. “I mean, everybody values honesty to a certain degree. I do too. And it’s not like I’m just going around and telling people made-up stories because I don’t want to let the truth out.
“But I’ll admit that with what you said earlier today, I feel that it’s different with you. You’re afraid of being lied to. And I understand that, really. Our past shapes who we are and for you, that led to wanting others to be even more honest with you than the average person normally is. That’s not strange. It’s to be expected.
“But yes, I do admit that to a certain degree, it puts some pressure on me. Not in that it makes me feel that I’m lacking in the honesty department. I don’t think I’m that type of person. But it makes me uncertain in regard to how much I should tell you about some things.”
Li Ming gave a hum, not too surprised. “Honestly, this isn’t just because of my ex. It goes deeper than that. I was … actually raised this way. And as a result, I don’t like keeping anything back.
“This is probably also why I told my parents after I realized I was gay. And yes, I did regret it at first and … for a long time, really. But it also made me feel that I was standing by my values. I really can’t say that it’s not important to me.
“Although by now, I’ve actually relaxed a lot in that regard. So … if there’s something you don’t want to tell me, then don’t force it. Even if it’s something that I would like to know, you can just tell me that you don’t want to tell me. I won’t twist myself into a pretzel over that.”
Zhao Chen raised his brows, staying silent for a moment. To be honest … “Are you sure you’re not going to have a problem with that? Because as you said before, you like to overthink. It’s even something I’ve noticed even though we haven’t been together for long. So if you asked me a question and I said ‘I don’t want to tell you’, are you really sure you could take that? Because that’s what I’ve been thinking about today.
“You see, the matter with me getting over relationships fast was something I probably wouldn’t have brought up. I’ve been judged for this before and I didn’t want a repeat of that.
“I genuinely didn’t think it was a good idea to talk about but since you had asked, I couldn’t see a way to get out of the situation that wouldn’t have left you suspicious. Chances are if I tried to push it off until later, you’d have obsessed over it and broken up with me in a couple of days unless I made it clear to you.”
Li Ming wanted to interject but Zhao Chen held up a hand to interrupt him.
“You don’t have to defend yourself. I get it. You were hurt before and you’re worried about the future. Even though it’s been a while, you’re still afraid it’ll happen again. So you’re looking for signs of somebody being dishonest with you because that way, you can react in time before you commit too much.
“You’re trying to protect yourself. Everyone would do the same in your situation. It just happens to make me feel uncertain because I don’t know how to react to it. I know we can work through this. We managed today as well and I’m sure we can do so in the future as well. I just don’t know how yet.”
Li Ming nodded and then smiled. “Well, in the future, when this happens again, just remind me of today. I will take a step back and then whenever you’re ready to tell me, you’ll tell me.
“Anyway, my trust issues are my problem. I can’t make them yours and I can’t expect you to accommodate me to an unreasonable degree. I just … well, I just hope we can both be mature about this. Don’t lie to me as a joke and we’re good.”
Zhao Chen nodded, not having wanted to do that anyway. “I’d never do that. Anyway, as for our relationship … it’s not been that long. We don’t have to figure out everything today. But I do like the two of us together and when something comes up, we can talk it out. I think we’ve proven that today. Which … brings up another point.”
Li Ming raised his brows, not quite sure what to make of Zhao Chen’s current expression. “Which point?”
“Well …” Zhao Chen rubbed his forehead, not sure how to say that. “I am a bit embarrassed to bring this up but I’m nervous about Thursday. That friend of yours, or rather our boss in my eyes, what is he like?”
Li Ming looked at him and then couldn’t help but chuckle. “So that was still going through your mind. Well, I don’t mind telling you a bit but I think you will get a better impression when you actually meet him. But if it helps, I’ll tell you.”