“But … it seemed like these sorts of things were coming at her too frequently.” It really seems like life doesn’t want to give them a break right now. Also, we saw the faults of Shen Yao before, but in this chapter, we get to see that she is a good friend.
Chapter 13.1 – While Waiting For You (1)
She read that last line several times, not quite daring to believe it.
Eight weeks had already passed since his departure.
After climbing into her bed, she tossed and turned repeatedly. Although her face was nestled against her pillow, no matter what she did, she could not sleep. So, she decided simply to turn on her beside lamp, and lying in her bed on her stomach, she began to work on her physics practice tests.
Shen Yao was already ready to head to bed, but seeing her suddenly invigorated, she thought that physics had tortured Tong Yan until it had transformed into a compulsive obsession for her. “Don’t scare me, Yan Yan. It’s only midterms right now and you’ve already gone mad?”
Tapping her pencil against her cheek, Tong Yan replied, “I’m guessing I won’t be able to sleep tonight.”
The person below her bed did not understand what she was saying, and only she, looking at her practice tests, had a wide grin across her face.
Her physics midterm was scheduled for Wednesday, during the evening study time.
Because it was only a midterm examination, the monitoring of it was not very strict. With a stack of examination papers in her arms, Zhao Yin had the students, beginning from the front row, take one and pass the rest back. Tong Yan was sitting in the last row, and listening to the moans and sighs rising up from in front of her in the classroom, she took the last examination paper being handed to her.
Perhaps it was truly because she was re-taking it for the fourth time, or maybe as a result of Zhao Yin and Gu Pingsheng’s tutoring last semester, the problems looked relatively easy to her. She spread open the test paper on her desk and was about to begin answering the problems when her mobile phone suddenly began ringing.
She had been so focused on the exam questions she had forgotten to turn off her phone.
It was an unfamiliar number, and she had a moment of hesitation. The people in the rows ahead had already turned and were looking around, curious as to who would so boldly dare to blatantly turn on a mobile phone during an examination.
“Before the start of an exam, everyone’s mobile phones must be turned off.” Zhao Yin stepped over to her from the podium. “That is an examination rule.”
Tong Yan did not dare delay any longer and powered-off her phone.
“Teacher Zhao, I’m sorry.” She hurriedly explained, “It’s shut off now.”
Zhao Yin picked up her phone, glanced over it, and, after determining that it had indeed been turned off, stated, “Next time, do not violate the rules of the examination room.” Upon saying this, she picked up the phone and brought it up with her to the podium. “I’ll keep it here with me for now. When class is over, come get it.”
Without saying a word, Tong Yan lowered her head and continued looking over the exam paper.
Problem after problem, Tong Yan worked hard to concentrate on answering each one of them. Still, she could not help thinking of that phone call. Calls from unknown phone numbers such as this one were usually out-of-the-blue telemarketing calls, but for some reason, this particular time, she was getting a bad premonition from it … Unconsciously, she twirled her pen between her fingers, feeling somewhat disconcerted.
It was fortunate that this exam paper truly was not difficult.
When it was nearly time for all papers to be handed in, she at last set her pencil down.
Zhao Yin’s head was down as she flipped through the dozen or so test papers that had already been handed in, and with pen in hand, she was already beginning to mark them there on the spot. As Tong Yan handed her own papers over, she purposely slowed her action and said in a quiet voice, “Teacher Zhao, I’m handing in my test now … May I have my phone back?”
Zhao Yin looked at her for several seconds until finally, she lowered her head again, browsing through her test paper as she answered, “Go ahead, take it.”
Outside the examination room, some students who had just finished the exam were gathered together, comparing their answers. Seeing Tong Yan step out, they kindly asked if she wanted to join in and figure out her own test score. Tong Yan raised her mobile phone and wagged it in a gesture that indicated she was in a rush to make a phone call.
The examination room was in the Upper Building, and at this time of day, the people in the building were all those who had just finished class.
She strode through the crowds of people and followed the stairwell down until she walked up beside a vending machine. At last, somebody on the other end picked up the call.
It was a voice that did not sound too familiar. It should be someone she knew, but she could not really think of whom it might be.
“It’s me, Auntie Liu. We met before, in your home this last winter break.”
“Auntie Liu?” She finally placed the voice. It was that surgeon who worked at Peking Union Hospital, the person who had told her about the connection between Gu Pingsheng and the SARS outbreak. “Sorry about that. I was in an exam just now.”
“It’s no problem. Actually, it was only because I was unable to reach your parents that I contacted you.” On the other end, Auntie Liu’s voice seemed to echo out in an open space, causing it to sound especially clear and calm. “Do you have any way of contacting your parents?”
“My parents …” Tong Yan had a slight sinking feeling as she answered vaguely, “They’re not very easy to get ahold of. If there’s anything urgent, you can tell me.”
“You’re so far away, over in Shanghai, and there are some things that you shouldn’t be the one who is informed of them. But, Yan Yan, you’re twenty-one now, and it’s better anyway if you have a clear understanding of what is going on in your family.” Auntie Liu’s voice deliberately became gentler. “Last month, your grandmother went for a physical check-up. I have now received the report with a confirmed diagnosis. It’s breast cancer. I have not told your grandmother yet about the news that it is confirmed. Don’t feel too much pressure on yourself. Find your parents and have them come take care of your grandmother. We’ll take this one step at a time. Cancer is not that terrible a disease.”
In an instant, Tong Yan felt as if she had lost all ability to speak.
Auntie Liu continued talking to her, using language that was simple and easy to understand, half of which were words of comfort while the other half were about the arrangements that were to follow.
It just so happened that when she hung up the phone, an evening class in a large lecture hall had just finished.
More than two hundred people walked out, laughing and joking. A few girls strode up next to the vending machine, and talking back and forth with one another, they looked through the glass and selected the drinks they wanted. Tong Yan was standing beside them, watching vacantly as they inserted their coins and a drink fell down in response.
After the loud banging had finished sounding out, one of the girls smiled at her, “We’re good now. You go ahead.”
Tong Yan did not move, nor did she utter a sound.
The stream of people gradually subsided from being a great mass to having less and less people, until finally, there were only a few stragglers remaining.
Leaning against the side of the vending machine, she called her home telephone number. Following what seemed like an endless ringing tone, a familiar voice echoed out from within her phone. “Hello, may I ask who is calling?”
She gripped her mobile phone and addressed the other end. “Grandmother.”
The entire telephone conversation was only three or four minutes. She merely said nonchalantly that she had just finished her midterm examinations and could take advantage of the time during the May Day break to go home.
Grandmother could not conceal her happiness at this, but still, she urged Tong Yan to not waste the money on train fare. Feeling slightly relieved that she was unable to hear anything odd in Grandmother’s words, Tong Yan gave her a vague excuse that she had gotten a scholarship and could afford the cost of the train ticket.
Possibly because the news had come so suddenly, by the time she walked back to her dormitory, she had already calmed down.
Lu Bei’s mother had also had breast cancer in the past and Tong Yan had stayed by his side all that time, so she more or less understood some things.
The first thing was money. Regardless of whether it was for traditional Chinese herbs and medicine or chemotherapy, she first needed money.
That entire process was like a bottomless pit. Tens of thousands of yuan worth of medication would be consumed within two to three weeks.
And then, there must be someone who could stay and provide care from beginning to end.
Sitting on a chair, she sorted everything out in her mind while staring unseeingly at her computer screen.
Numerous windows, one upon another, were open on her desktop, all containing various types of information: the cost of pre-owned properties in Beijing, all sorts of information on breast cancer, and even many people’s journals of their fight against cancer.
When Shen Yao finished her very lengthy, sweet, long-distance telephone call and saw the look on Tong Yan’s face, she was somewhat perplexed. “Tong Yan Wuji, what’s wrong with you?”
She looked back at Shen Yao. “I need to request to temporarily suspend my schooling or maybe just forsake my grades for this term.”
Shen Yao’s expression instantly froze. “Yan Yan, you really are pregnant?”
The complicated background of this situation was not something she could clearly describe, so she could only provide a vague explanation.
However, in this moment, no matter how she had mentally prepared herself, she still wanted to discuss it with someone, even if that simply meant pouring out all of her thoughts and ideas at once …
Dropping her head down, she leaned her forehead against the edge of the desk. “Something really serious has happened in my family, and I must go back home. I only have Maritime Law and physics this semester … Do you think I should just directly put in a request to take a leave from my schooling, or something else?”
“Don’t scare me.” Shen Yao pulled a chair over and sat down close beside her. “Is there anything I can do to help? Is it really that serious? There’s only another half a semester and then we’ll have no more classes. What kind of situation would need you to go back to Beijing for so long? Your parents can’t take care of it?”
Tong Yan gave an “mm.”
From when she had filled in her own forms stating her preference of schools for high school, she knew that she must increasingly face more and more problems alone …
But … it seemed like these sorts of things were coming at her too frequently.
Without any warning, her eyes entirely blurred over, and tears started to spill continuously from them.
At first, Shen Yao did not notice, and only after she had asked a couple more questions did she realize that Tong Yan’s leg was damp. Pulling her up for a look, she discovered that Tong Yan’s face was already completely covered in moisture and her tears were flowing relentlessly, though no sounds of cries or sobs came from her.
Seeing her like this, Shen Yao was genuinely alarmed now.
Stumblingly, she consoled her for a long time, but it was to no avail and all she could do was continuously hand tissues to her. “Yan Yan, when you’re done having a good cry, tell me what is wrong, okay? We can figure it out together …”
Tong Yan yanked out handful after handful of tissues and her eyes were swollen from being wiped, but gradually, her emotions began to settle down. “What do you think if I request to suspend my schooling?”
This time, Shen Yao did not joke with her and very seriously contemplated the question. “Suspending your schooling is a possibility, but I feel it’s not worth it. You’re not like me. I have four courses this semester, but you only have two left. I mean, if we put it bluntly, there are some courses where many people don’t even attend a single class, and in the end, as long as they pass their exam, they’re fine … Suspending your schooling is too drastic. If you honestly need to go home for half a semester, you might as well just discuss with those two teachers. See if they will release you to leave for half a term but come back at the end to take your final exam.”
Shen Yao’s words were very good counsel.
Tong Yan lowered her head and pondered on this. Perhaps, this truly was a good approach.
She did not speak anymore.
Shen Yao prattled on and on for a while to comfort her, but unable to find the heart of the issue, she also did not dare say much more. Her mind was finally set somewhat at ease when she saw Tong Yan open up her email inbox, and rising to her feet, she stated, “If there’s anything I can help with, you must make sure to let me know. If you’re scared of talking to your two teachers, I’ll go with you.”
Tong Yan answered with an “mm,” and hugging Shen Yao’s waist, she rubbed her face against her friend’s clothing. “Don’t worry. I definitely won’t be shy with you.”
“You don’t worry, either. When Teacher Gu comes back, I will make him pay me back with interest.”
Shen Yao had purposely mentioned Gu Pingsheng to try to cheer her spirits a little. Tong Yan understood her intention, but hearing his name spoken right now only caused her heart to sink even more.
After Shen Yao left to get some hot water and bathe, she at last opened her email inbox and stared vacantly at the “0 New Messages” prompt. Another dozen or so minutes passed before she shut down her email again, found Gu Pingfan’s number in her phone, and dialed it.
The call was answered very quickly, and Pingfan’s voice, which had been deliberately made very quiet, came through. “Yan Yan?”
“Mm-hmm.” Tong Yan stepped out onto the patio, observing the passersby outside as she said, “I’m calling you so late at night … Actually, there really isn’t anything the matter. I haven’t received any emails from him these last two days, so I’m just a little worried.”
Underneath the glow of the streetlamps, there were two couples.
They were not far from each other, but neither pair disturbed the other. Both couples were holding hands, nestled together and whispering in one another’s ear.
An ordinary night. Ordinary, enviable campus romances.
“Wait a moment.” After Pingfan said this, there was a long, blank period. Tong Yan seemed to hear the sound of a door being closed. “I’m right by his side. He’s doing fine. Do you have email? I’ll secretly send you some photos.”
Following along with what she said , Tong Yan stated her email address to her.
It seemed it was not a convenient time for Gu Pingfan to talk for she gave only a very brief description of his current condition and situation and, in a very gentle voice, instructed that she must relax and not stress. By the time Tong Yan slid open the door and walked from the patio back into her room, there was already a new email in her inbox.
To her surprise, it was a video. Or more precisely, it was a still scene taken in video form.
In a rather dim hospital room, he lay on a bed, sleeping.
From the angle of the person taking the video, a set of white blinds could be seen covering a window, and the brighter slivers of light shining in there cast an especially tranquil atmosphere over the entire picture.
As she gazed upon it, there seemed almost to be the illusion that she, herself, was inside the picture, and she could not help carefully controlling her breathing, for fear that she might wake him.
 五一. Literally translated as “five one.” This is referring to May 1, which is officially known as Labour Day, but is colloquially referred to as “Five One.” May 1 is International Labour Day, which is a nationally recognized holiday in China, where they give an additional couple more days off as holiday.
1 of 1 Prologue
38 of 66 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogue segments