One of the sweetest surprises for Tong Yan from Gu Pingsheng. But while we have been drowning in the sweetness of the last several chapters, life continues, and some aspects are not so pleasant.
Chapter 9.2 – I Can Hear You (2)
I miss you, too.
She pieced together these words but then wavered for a long time before finally steeling herself and sending it out. Her cheek was pressed against the window, but this still could not suppress the bursts of heat that rushed upwards to her face. So really sappy. So sappy even she, herself couldn’t take it … Perhaps he had fallen asleep because he did not send any more text messages in reply.
Tong Yan leaned against the train window and also drowsily dozed off. When she awoke again, it was already past seven o’clock. She glanced at her mobile phone. Still no messages.
She found this rather peculiar. Normally, Gu Pingsheng’s routine was very healthy and regular, and he would usually be awake and out of bed at 6:30 a.m. …
While she was staring at her mobile phone, lost in her own thoughts, the senior sister was already coming over with a cup of instant noodles she had made. “Determining whether a person is currently blissfully in love is so easy. Back when my boyfriend and I were first together, everyday, we’d have more than a hundred text messages, and even my thumb joints got inflamed.”
Tong Yan merely smiled and pointed at the noodles, saying, “So early and you’re eating such greasy food?”
“I’m hungry.” The senior sister offered with a grin, “Want me to share some with you?”
Her stomach was also growling hungrily, and only now did she remember that Gu Pingsheng had told her he had packed some food for her. Because she had been too lazy to carry it, she had stuffed it in passing into her luggage. Now, though, her suitcase was up on the overhead luggage rack and grabbing it down would be troublesome as well.
Caught between hunger and laziness, she finally succumbed to the latter and merely poured herself a cup of hot water to drink.
From time to time on this early morning train, someone would bring a towel and toothbrush and go to wash up. The several junior schoolmates who had played rowdily the previous night were all tired and were now curled up together, sound asleep, snoring and breathing heavily.
As she casually conversed with the senior sister, she would distractedly check her mobile phone. The train was already nearing the Beijing Railway Station when his text message suddenly popped up: Nearly there? TK
Tong Yan’s mood all of a sudden lifted and she replied: Mm-hmm. Almost pulling into the station now. Are you up and out of bed?
More accurately, I never slept. TK
Never slept? Tong Yan did not really understand. If he had not slept, what did he do the entire night?
Without waiting for a reply from her, he followed up with another message: Beijing Station only has one exit, right? I’ll wait for you outside the main doors. TK
Tong Yan was feeling somewhat stupefied by this, but then instantly understood the meaning of his words.
Through the intercom system, a train attendant was starting to speak, giving greetings along the lines of “welcome to Beijing.” The senior sister hurriedly tossed her instant noodles into the garbage bag a train attendant was holding. “Is anyone picking you up? Want to catch a ride back in my boyfriend’s car?” This senior sister’s home was very close to Tong Yan’s, and sometimes, she would drop Tong Yan off at home on the way back to her own.
Tong Yan quickly shook her head. “No thanks. I have a friend picking me up.”
“Friend?” The senior sister immediately broke out into a laugh. “No way, little Tong Yan. You have a sweetheart here in Beijing, too?”
Tong Yan was uncertain whether to laugh or cry at this, but she could not explain that it was actually the same person either.
After she had deliberately split away from their large group and hurried out the main doors of the Beijing Railway Station, dragging her luggage behind her, she very easily spotted him among the bustling throngs of people. Everyone was wearing thick down outerwear, and only he was still dressed in the coat he was accustomed to wearing in Shanghai. Step by step, Tong Yan walked over toward him, her heart pounding with its every beat. This felt so surreal it was frightening.
Gu Pingsheng soon noticed her also and stretched out his arms, motioning for her to come to him. Only when she was nestled in his embrace did he finally exhale a long sigh. “It’s so cold.”
She rubbed her cheek gently against his coat, her nose feeling slightly stuffed and tingly. After some time, she finally raised her head and stared up at him. “I thought you weren’t coming back until a few days later? And you’re wearing so little. You’re going to get sick for sure.”
He purposely touched his two hands to her face. They were frightfully cold. “You said you missed me, so I decided to come back earlier.”
Yanking off her gloves, Tong Yan covered the backs of his hands with her palms. “Teacher Gu, must you do something so touching?” When she said this, her eyes grew warm with moisture.
“Alright, I’ll tell the truth.” Gu Pingsheng smiled, “I’m the one who suddenly missed you.”
Pulling out a pair of gloves from his pocket, Tong Yan stuffed them into his hands, then also untied her scarf and stood up on her toes, wanting to wrap it around his neck. “But I can’t really spend time with you. I need to go home first. This afternoon …” She estimated out her time. “After I’ve had lunch, I’ll come out to find you?”
“There’s no rush.” He stopped her movements and then tied her scarf around her neck for her once more. “I will be in Beijing the entire winter break.”
She nodded, then suddenly grew quiet.
From the moment when she had dashed out and seen him, it had all seemed unreal, and only now was she at last vaguely feeling that this was true.
He looked at her in bemusement, but she merely pursed her lips into a smile and rose once again on her tiptoes, kissing him firmly on his icy-cold lips. If he could do something so ridiculously touching, then why couldn’t she give him a little kiss in front of the train station?
Gu Pingsheng’s raised his eyebrows slightly, a smile spreading up to his eyes, but he did not speak.
Here, there were no students or teachers.
Here, was the city they had first met. He was Gu Pingsheng, and not Teacher Gu.
When she returned home, she speedily bathed and changed into some clean clothes. As she stood inside the kitchen, watching Grandmother prepare lunch, she still could not hold back her smiles. She was beaming so much that even Grandmother found it extremely bizarre and asked her whether she had done especially well on her exams this year that she was so happy.
Leaning against the doorframe, Tong Yan bit down on her lip and grinned for a long time before finally replying, “Yup. I got ninety-four percent in Commercial Arbitration.”
For the entire twenty-nine days of the winter break, he would be in Beijing.
While Tong Yan was silently calculating out how many days she needed to stay at home and how many days she could spend with him, the sound of knocking abruptly rose at the front door. She offhandedly asked, “Who is it?” and heard a woman’s voice answer, “Yan Yan, it’s Mom.”
The entire space fell into quietness. She stood, stunned, for a long while, and it was Grandmother who, after wiping her hands clean, opened the door.
Even after her mother was seated and looking at her with a smile on her face, Tong Yan was still in a state of slight disbelief as she sat wordlessly on a small stool in front of the couch.
Many people had complimented her before that she was pretty, but in fact, she had only inherited the greater part of her mother’s looks. Looking now at her mother, who was already forty-five, forty-six years old, she could not even spot any differences in her from when she was in her thirties.
Grandmother seemed to have known ahead of time that her mother would be coming and very warmly chatted with her. Tong Yan still merely listened quietly, uncertain what she should say. In this last half a year, Mom had occasionally called her on the phone, but ultimately, the estrangement between them had existed over many years, and they had no common topics they could talk about.
“Yan Yan, do you have a boyfriend now?” Mom unexpectedly asked.
Tong Yan nodded. “Yes.”
“Is he a schoolmate?” Mom’s smile was very warm.
She pondered this for a moment, then nodded her head but did not speak.
Throughout the whole afternoon, this was the only dialogue between them.
Only after her mother had left in the evening did she all of a sudden remember that she had promised Gu Pingsheng she would go see him in the afternoon. However, looking at her mobile phone, there were no text messages. He had not tried to find her either.
Tong Yan burrowed herself in the couch and placed her mobile phone on her knees. She suddenly really wanted to see him. Actually, she did not know what she would say to him; she just really wanted to see him.
“These last few months, your mom has been visiting frequently.” Grandmother picked up a fully ripe persimmon, handed her a small metal spoon, and indicated to her that she should use it to scoop some out to eat. “Ever since she and your dad divorced, they’ve been fighting back and forth over the house. This year, I don’t know why but they have suddenly come to their senses and just let it go, saying that neither of them want the house and that they’re handing over the property rights to you.”
Tong Yan took the persimmon, not uttering a word. With the spoon, she scraped off a layer of skin and scooped out a spoonful of the fruit’s flesh.
A strong, rich taste. The taste of home. Grandmother hesitated, holding back the words on her lips and not continuing to speak.
Naturally, Tong Yan did not ask, either.
The year she was accepted into university was also when her parents’ battle over the property had been the fiercest. Her mother had pulled out the divorce settlement agreement they had signed in the past and stated that, at the time, they had agreed that the property would belong to the woman and the man would only take one hundred thousand yuan. However, in the short span of a few years, the property value had risen from two hundred thousand to more than eight hundred thousand yuan. How could her father possibly let himself get the short end of the deal?
Amid the terrible, earthshaking dispute, she had feared that her father would sell the property and use all the money to buy stocks, and then neither of her parents would have any money in their old age for their retirement. Hence, she had sided with her mother by making the one statement that their divorce settlement was legally enforceable … From then on, for the two years following, every time her father came across anyone, he would always vilify her to them and say she was this and that …
All sorts of the most harsh and cutting words had come from him, all because of that house. A house that had long since ceased being a home.
After she was done eating her persimmon, she took the remains to the kitchen to throw away, and as she finished washing the spoon, she heard Grandmother pick up a telephone call and speak in low tones. In the beginning, her manner was amiable, but later, she became more and more livid until, in a quivering voice, she rebuked, “Yan Yan is your daughter. How can you say that about her?”
Tong Yan could guess that it was her father, and to avoid putting Grandmother in a difficult position, she did not immediately leave the kitchen. She simply picked up a cloth and began to meticulously wipe down and clean the kitchen.
At last, when the call was hung up, she pretended she had not heard anything and poked her head out to say smilingly, “I’m meeting up with a classmate. I’ll be out for two hours and then I’ll be back, okay?”
Grandmother nodded, uttered to her to come home soon, and then went back to her own room, secretly wiping at her eyes.
Walking along the street, she discovered that it truly was frigid.
A strong wind whipped against her face, stinging her cheeks, and although her scarf was pulled up to just below her eyes, she still felt the chill. In the end, she had no choice but to head into nearest building, a Parkson department store, and stroll through the cosmetics section on the first level, looking at the shiny display counters to pass the time.
Perhaps because it was approaching the Lunar New Year, the department store was packed with people. Aimlessly, she wandered around. And then, she came to a halt.
The other half of this level was the footwear department, and at every sales counter, there were many people trying on shoes. However, only those three particular people were so eye-catching. In that instant, her reaction was to avoid them, but Lu Bei had already caught sight of her first and, without even needing to think about it, had started walking toward her. Fang Yunyun, who was sitting and trying on shoes, quickly lifted her head and cast a glance in her direction, but then, as if she had not seen anything, she turned away to unhurriedly look over her own reflection in the mirror.
In contrast, Lu Bei’s mother was staring at Tong Yan with an expression of great surprise.
“Tong Tong.” Lu Bei extended out his arm, wanting to grab ahold of Tong Yan. “I’m here because my mom told me to come.”
Wordlessly, Tong Yan evaded his arm. “I’m meeting up with someone, too. Why don’t you go back over there and keep them company?”
“You’re off on winter break? I’ll come find you tomorrow, how about that?” Anxiousness tinged Lu Bei’s voice, as if he was afraid she might misunderstand something.
But clearly, of the four of them, only she was an outsider.
Pressing her lips together, Tong Yan smiled at him. “No. My boyfriend will get jealous, and your wife will also get jealous.”
The colorful and dazzling décor shone upon her smile and seemed to widen the distance between them.
“Lu Bei.” Behind him, Lu Bei’s mother finally opened her mouth to call him. Lu Bei remained motionless and only continued to gaze at her. Another call of “Lu Bei” came from behind again.
“I’m going now. You head back over there.” Seeing that he was still unmoving, she turned and walked directly away.
Worried that Lu Bei would chase after her, she swiftly pushed open the doors of the department store and stepped into the crowds outside. It was only after she had walked to a nearby bus stop did she at last sit down on the railing, and pulling out her mobile phone, she found Gu Pingsheng’s number and dialed it directly.
The call was very quickly answered, and Gu Pingsheng’s voice was very surprised. “What’s wrong? Message me and let me know.”
The wind carried his voice far away. Tong Yan bit down on her lip, but finally, she could not hold back her sobs any longer.
He asked her once more what was wrong, but afterwards, he did not speak again. Beside the bus stop, she sat and cried for a long time until even her scarf was wet. And still, he did not hang up his phone.
In the end, she was the one who pressed the button to end the call. He very quickly sent her a message: What happened? TK
With fingers that were frozen stiff, Tong Yan strained to type out the words: Nothing. My phone was left on the couch, and I accidentally sat on the dial button. Can’t believe I ended up calling you for so long … Why didn’t you hang up? Long distance is really expensive.
1 of 1 Prologue
27 of 66 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogue segments