Sometimes, the greatest feeling of happiness comes from the ability to do what any other ordinary person does and often takes for granted.
Chapter 13.3 – While Waiting For You (3)
The weather in June had already entered into the early stages of summer. They were both dressed very lightly, and because she was inside the home, she was only wearing a short skirt and baggy short-sleeved shirt. His hand was directly against the skin of her arm, but it did not carry the warmth that it should be expected to have in the summer.
Tong Yan touched the back of his hand, then followed it upwards and tentatively tested the temperature of his arm before looking at him uncertainly. “Are you really cold?” Or was it because of his physical condition?
“No.” Clasping her wrist, he lifted it up and examined her hand. “What’s on your hand? It’s sticky.”
“It’s pig trotters.” She brought a bowl over from the stove. “There have been a lot of tests lately where they’re looking for certain indicators and criteria, and there’s one in particular that Grandmother was testing very low in. The doctors said she needed to get shots, but with that specific type of needle, every time they inserted it, it was especially painful … The patient who was sharing the hospital room told me that if you eat a pig trotter a day, that particular measure can go back to normal ranges.” She pinched a small piece between her fingers and fed it to him. “Afterwards, I found out that it really does work.”
Gu Pingsheng chewed it earnestly, as if he was eating an exceptional delicacy.
Her eyes remained on him, not wanting to miss each subtle movement or expression in his eyes.
Was it Heaven watching over them? Grandmother’s surgery had been very successful, and there were no signs of the cancer spreading. And now, he had finally returned as well.
“It’s been a long time since I last ate your cooking,” he said.
Tong Yan pursed her lips. “What would you like to eat? I’ll go buy the ingredients this afternoon and come back and make it for you.”
Before she had finished speaking, he had stretched out his hand and gently taken her chin in his fingers.
“Yan Yan?” Grandmother’s voice was echoing out through the bedroom and kitchen doors, so it was not very distinct.
She gave a cry back in answer, all the while trying to brush his hand away.
Gu Pingsheng did not loosen his hold and only bowed his head, continuing to caress her lips with his, like a child who had just finished eating candy but was insatiable and still greedy for more. Hearing the bedroom door open but unable to break free of his hold, Tong Yan instead brought her face up directly to his and allowed him to take her lips into his own.
A deep kiss that had absolutely no skill or technique involved and was brief, but thorough.
When they broke apart, she gasped a couple of breaths and then immediately pulled out of his arms.
In the same instant, the kitchen door was pushed open and Grandmother poked her head in to take a glance around. A look of surprise flashed across her face. Tong Yan clenched her hands together, so anxious she did not know what to say.
“Little Gu is here?” A smile arose very slowly on Grandmother’s face. It was a moment like the budding flowers in the warmth of spring, like the warm sunshine that was shining outside the window.
He did not show the slightest discomfiture and greeted Grandmother. When the topic of the duration of the final course of chemotherapy was brought up, he even seemed, in a short period of time, to have already from somewhere gained a clear understanding of the condition of Grandmother’s illness … He must have made a trip to the hospital.
That place where he had once had an internship, fought bravely, and also said his final goodbyes to his mother.
After Grandmother went back into her room, Tong Yan reached out a hand and waved it in front of his eyes.
Gu Pingsheng turned back to her. “What’s the matter?”
“How did you know? Why didn’t you tell me you were coming back? Was it Pingfan who helped you look for the property? What are you going to do with the one in Shanghai? … Will you still be going back to the university?”
“I’ve already asked some old schoolmates to recommend some appropriate schools, and I will likely still continue being a university professor but in Beijing. You will be coming back here next semester for your internship, and your grandmother also needs someone to take care of her, so it will be better if I stay here in this city. The apartment in Shanghai has already been sold. Pingfan was the one who helped me find this apartment in Beijing. It was a one-time payment in full for the other one, so that was perfect and could be used to purchase the place here in Bejing. Everything went smoothly, and there were no real complications …” As he stood there beside the window, it was uncertain whether it was because he was simply too tired or there were other reasons, but there appeared to be a heavy sense of fatigue in him. “What other questions do you have?”
“There are also the first and second questions …” She reminded him, “How did you know? When did you find out? Why did you suddenly come back without telling me?”
“Last week, Zhao Yin went to the U.S. to attend an academic conference, and she went to visit me.”
Once he gave this one sentence of explanation, she understood.
This place she had rented was a one-bedroom apartment.
Tong Yan could see that he was truly very tired, and therefore told him to go sleep on the couch. Because it was an old-style couch, when he lay down on it, he did not quite fit, but he still soon fell fast asleep.
Tong Yan covered him with a thin blanket and then went to pull out some ingredients from the refrigerator. The fish and meat were placed into the sink to defrost while the remaining items were taken out, picked over carefully, and washed.
Even after all this was finished, he was still sleeping. Propping her chin with her hand, she gazed at him. A face so very close to her that she could even clearly see his eyelashes.
He seemed to want to turn over, and still in a state of slumber, his brows were obviously furrowed into a very uncomfortable expression. While Tong Yan was wavering over whether she should pat him awake, he had already roused.
“Are you feeling pain in your leg? Or in your waist or hip? Or does somewhere else not feel well?” she asked, leaning in close.
Without answering her questions, he sat up from the couch, offhandedly folded the blanket, and motioned for her to sit next to him.
She, however, seemed to suddenly remember something. From a hidden little corner of the kitchen, she dug out a bankbook and handed it to him. “This is the money from selling the apartment and what I’ve been using to pay for Grandmother’s medical expenses. There’s still more than three hundred thousand yuan remaining.”
Taking the bankbook from her, he flipped it open and took a quick glance. “I still have some savings. You don’t have to worry.”
“That’s not what I mean. I want you to help me put the money away. “ She contemplated for a moment and then said in a joking tone, “Put it in your bank account. If it all gets spent, then we have no choice but to rely on you to support the family. If there’s any left over, we’ll consider it as you helping to keep and take care of my grandmother’s retirement money.”
Since Grandmother had fallen sick, her father had only come to visit two or three times.
The time right before the surgery, he had actually been very worried and had truly stayed there for the greater part of the night. When he heard she was going to sell the home, he had been extremely proactive and volunteered his help. At first, she had been quite astonished and was even moved by his actions, thinking, could it be true that love manifests in the hour of need? However, the next time he came, he had begun preparing to allocate where the money from the sale of the apartment would go, based on his own strong ideas.
How much should be invested into the stock market, how much should be put into futures trading, and even how much should be used to play the Welfare Lottery. It was as if money really could grow more money, and nothing would be a problem anymore.
The end result, naturally, was a complete fall out between them. Before her father left, the one sentence he had repeated over and over again was, “I’m going to sue you!”
Fortunately, no matter how she was cursed at, she still tightly guarded this money.
“Would you like me to set-up a joint account?” Gu Pingsheng did not continue pressing her for the reason and handed the bankbook back to her. “We can do it tomorrow?”
“No,” Tong Yan quickly refused, “just put it all under your name.”
Amused, he ruffled the top of her head lightly. “You’re that unaware of protecting yourself?”
Her only thoughts had been on how to use legal loopholes to preserve the money. The thought had never crossed her mind that she should ever have to protect herself as well in front of him.
Indeed, such an answer certainly did not seem like the proper thought process of someone who studied law. Even Shen Yao, such an easygoing and unconcerned person, had very seriously written up a formal contract when she partnered with her boyfriend to open an online shop, and both parties had signed it. They had even agreed that, should they break-up, the girlfriend or boyfriend of either party would not be allowed to become involved in any of the matters of the shop … For this single contract, two law students were in discussion for three or four days. So incredibly prudent and rational.
“Mr. Gu, have you forgotten? Once we go through the official procedures, even the name beside the beneficiary of your life insurance will be mine.” She wagged her right hand to allow him to see her ring.
Without even being conscious of it, she had worn it for so long already. A very shallow imprint from the ring encircled her finger. When she was washing clothes at the hospital, she had been worried that it would fall into the sink and had taken it off for the very first time. That was the first time she saw the mark on her finger.
At the time, the first thought that entered her mind was, “Oh no, if I wear this all the way until I’m fifty, won’t that mean there’s going to be a very obvious mark left behind?”
And so, halfway through washing clothes, she had been embarrassed by her own idea and had lifted her head to look into the mirror with a silly grin.
The next day, Gu Pingsheng accompanied her to take Grandmother to the hospital.
This was the seventh course of chemotherapy and also the final one.
After the series of checks and examinations last time, Auntie Liu had specially requested the chief physician of the department to carefully look over the results and the CT scan. The conclusion had been that the previous courses of treatment had been quite effective. Auntie Liu had also arranged the timing of this particular stay in the hospital. They had just settled down before Gu Pingsheng ran into people he knew.
Or more accurately, many people whom he knew.
When he went to the nurses’ station to look up the examinations that would be occurring the following day, Auntie Liu happened to have just concluded a surgery and hurried over to see Grandmother.
“Yan Yan, I heard just yesterday from the chief physician of the oncology department that Gu Pingsheng specifically contacted him and asked about the specifics of your grandmother’s illness.” With a smile, Auntie Liu stood beside the bed and said, “His mom used to be an associate chief physician of the cardiac surgery department, and he has many old friends in this place. You definitely will even more so be taken good care of now, and I can set my mind at ease.”
She did not know how or what exactly Gu Pingsheng had said since, after all, she had once stated with her own lips that he was her university teacher. Hence, she did not dare speak in much more detail about his matters and only provided a vague response before hastily moving on to another topic.
By the time all the arrangements had been made, Grandmother was already asleep on the hospital bed.
The elderly woman maintained a very healthy schedule and would punctually retire to sleep at 8:30 p.m. However, during the periods of her chemotherapy treatments, she would always be unable to fall asleep for an entire night. Now that she had this opportunity to sleep a little longer, Tong Yan certainly would not wake her, and drawing the curtains closed, she quietly took his hand and left the room with him.
“Let’s go out and walk around?” he asked as they stood in the hallway.
“To where?” Tong Yan did not want to spoil his mood, but she still had to tell him, “I really can’t leave here. I need to stay and keep an eye on things. If you’re tired, how about you go home first and get some sleep?”
Since yesterday when he returned, she could tell that his body had not yet completely recovered.
“I’m okay,” he answered. “There are nurses here. Come out and take a stroll with me. We’ll be back in half an hour, alright?”
She contemplated for a moment. Grandmother had only just begun her stay in the hospital, so there should not be anything too important or urgent yet.
When they stepped out of the hospital together, the night was beginning to fall and it was the liveliest time of day.
Peking Union Medical College Hospital was very close to Oriental Plaza and Wangfujing Street. His pace was not quick, so she also ambled slowly with him. As the two of them strolled along beside the plaza, there were couples carrying shopping bags, tourists wanting to take photographs of the night view of Chang’an Avenue, elderly folks out for a walk, and children riding their skateboards and having fun …
Despite often being in this vicinity when she accompanied Grandmother for her doctor visits and even having stayed in the hospital for a very long period of time, these last several months, she truly had never relaxedly strolled around here as she was doing tonight.
She had thought that Gu Pingsheng was merely taking leisurely walk or perhaps was reminiscing about this place which had once been so familiar to him. In the end, only after she had followed him into the plaza and was led into a women’s clothing store did she understand that he wanted to buy her clothes.
Walking up alongside a long clothing rack, he had on a rather serious manner as he selected several items and brought them over for her to try.
Tong Yan’s head was swirling from this unexpected act of his as well as the salesgirl’s keenness. Soon, she had tried on two outfits, and while the salesgirl left to go greet some other customers, she finally turned her head to ask him, “Why do you suddenly want to buy clothes for me?”
Leaning back into the black couch that was there for customers take a rest, Gu Pingsheng looked at her in the mirror.
She was currently trying on a pale blue dress, and because she had not worn sandals today, on her feet was a pair of wooden clogs provided by the store for customers to use while trying on clothing. It was a couple sizes too big for her and made her look rather clumsy.
Yet, it also created an inexplicably sweet and dear feeling and a sense that everything was real and tangible.
Seeing that he had not answered, Tong Yan thought he was starting to feel pain again, and striding over so she was in front of him, she crouched down and asked in a quiet voice, “What’s wrong?”
When Gu Pingsheng saw her anxious expression, he understood that she was worried about him and moreover, it was to the point where “every bush and tree looked like an enemy soldier” [plagued with worry over the littlest thing]. A smile finally spread across his lips. “When I was in the U.S., I realized there were many things I had not yet done, for instance, just like right now, keeping you company while you walk around and shop and watching you try on clothes.”
Hearing this, the salesgirl threw a very envious glance in Tong Yan’s direction.
These sort of words in a bystander’s ear sounded like a young girl had found herself a wealthy husband, and what’s more, he was one of those who would get anything she wanted for her and was incredibly loving and doting … But to the person from whom the words had been spoken and the person for whom the words were meant to be heard, they held a completely different meaning.
福利彩票. The China Welfare Lottery is one of the two authorized lotteries in China and is run by the government. It is so named as its monies are a source of funding for social welfare in the country.
东方广场 “Dong Fang Guang Chang.” Oriental Plaza is a large commercial complex in the city centre of Beijing and contains luxury hotels, commercial office buildings, luxury apartment buildings, and a large shopping complex called the Malls at Oriental Plaza.
 王府井 “Wang Fu Jing.” Wangfujing Street, which dates back to the Yuan Dynasty, is one of the busiest and most famous shopping streets in Beijing with a large variety of shops, modern and old alike, and boutiques, a snack street, etc.
 长安街 “Chang’an Jie.” Chang’an Avenue is a major east-west thoroughfare through the axis of Beijing and also a historic road, having been built in the Ming Dynasty with the Forbidden Palace. Numerous significant political buildings or historic sites are on the avenue. The night view is popular with tourists with its lights and numerous tall buildings.
 草木皆兵 “cao mu jie bing.” Like a soldier to whom every rustling of the grass or tree that appears in sight is imagined to be an enemy soldier, this is describing a person who for which every little thing, real or imaginary, can cause fear and anxiety.
LOL. The engineer in me really needed to see everything on a map (down to the scale in the bottom right corner, although I ended up accidentally cutting it off a bit here) and thought maybe there might be some who are just as anal as me. If not, humour me and pretend and then just ignore it. Tehe.
Some of you might know that I’m a bit obsessed with timelines as well. I need to know where everything fits chronologically in a story.
So, just a few dates to keep in mind: February 15th, Gu Pingsheng left to go to the United States, saying he would return in six months, which would be mid-August. As much as Tong Yan subtly and not-so-subtly tried to persuade him to return earlier, he had always avoided answering, which was his way of saying that he would not return until he was fully recovered. However, we see now that he has come back in mid-June, two months earlier than he had planned, and with a cane in hand.
Clearly, he was not done his rehabilitation when he made the decision to return to China and head straight to Beijing where Tong Yan was. I doubt he was previously refusing to return because of pride or any other reason along those lines but rather, he simply did not want Tong Yan to have to worry about him when he was in such a state and felt he could take it on himself. (Do I agree with him? Not necessarily, but I can see where he is coming from.) But when he learned of her situation, that she was bearing all the burdens of taking care of Grandmother, the other reasons did not matter. Going back to help her, to ease some of that burden was most important. I sometimes wonder what his reaction had been when he found out. We do know, though, that once he did, he began doing whatever he could to help her. In one week, he organized his departure and also had Pingfan begin working on selling his home in Shanghai and getting a property in Beijing. Then, when he arrived, in the span of half a day, he had secured a new home and went to the hospital to understand the condition of Grandmother’s illness before heading straight to see her.
What am I trying to say? Hmm… not much, except that I’m touched. He never expressed in words how worried about her he had been and kept a calm, even nonchalant voice with her, like a solid rock that would never falter in the face of anything, one that she could always lean upon. But his actions say it all, don’t they?
1 of 1 Prologue
40 of 66 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogue segments