No matter how far he travelled, he still ended up coming back here … back to her.❤
Chapter 14.2 – The Love At the Time (2)
In the end, the person who was adjusting to jet lag thoroughly outlasted the person who was overly excited.
Over the following dozen or so days of chemotherapy treatments, during the daytime, he would be there, and then at night, he would keep her company using this same way. His excuse was always that he was still jet-lagged. Eventually, not wanting him to exhaust himself, she would tell him the entire time that she was going to sleep, that she honestly needed to sleep. Only after repeating this many times would she finally be able to end their lengthy exchange of text messages.
By the time Grandmother was discharged from the hospital, both of them had noticeably lost quite a bit of weight.
Upon seeing this, Grandmother’s eyes reddened from heartache. The way she treated him was even obviously better than her own granddaughter.
“This grandson-in-law of mine is truly quite wonderful.” Grandmother repeated this over and over again to Auntie Liu. “Truly wonderful.”
Auntie Liu was very clear about Gu Pingsheng’s health situation but never did she reveal any of it to Grandmother. Privately to Tong Yan, however, she had said many things. The general themes were that life was not easy for anyone, and that for calamities created by Heaven or man, she should accept them and then look to the best.
In a half-serious tone, Tong Yan had answered, “Auntie Liu, my biggest strength is that I am good at looking to the best.”
When all the things at the hospital finally came to an end, he had also settled on which school he would be teaching at.
It turned out to be the one she had frequently gone to play at and hang out in when she was growing up.
With an inner sense of pride and self-satisfaction, she insisted on taking him to walk through the campus.
These two people, who at the moment neither needed to go to class nor work, went one weekday after lunch to that university. Prior to heading there, Tong Yan selected for him an outfit that was very student-like in style, including a white, short-sleeved shirt to deliberately expose his very intimidating tattoo.
The effect was very apparent. All along the way, regardless of whether it was from male or female students, the rate of head turns they received was astonishing.
When they were sitting in the stands of the university stadium, watching the two teams of students in the sun kicking the ball on the field below, he finally heaved a meaningful sigh. “Never have I regretted like I have today being young and rash at the time and adding this drawing onto my body.”
Tong Yan was wearing the dress he bought for her. In the sunlight, its light blue colour offset the paleness of her complexion that was a result of this long period of, night after night, staying up into the late hours.
“Do you ever feel like you really look like a student?” Tong Yan leaned back against a railing, gazing at Gu Pingsheng, who was sitting on the concrete steps. “Actually, when you think about it, you really are a student. You haven’t worked out in the real world for more than a year, so the vast majority of your time was still spent in school. The only difference between us is that I’m in my undergrad while you’re a PhD, that’s all.”
“And so?” He leaned back on one elbow and smilingly looked at her. “What are you trying to say?”
“No real special meaning.” She turned her head to the side. “It was just an offhanded thought, so I said it out just as offhandedly. But I suddenly thought, don’t we seem particularly like one of those couples on a school campus? We don’t seem at all … like we’re already …”
Wait. That wasn’t right either. They actually weren’t really married yet …
He stretched out his hand to her. “Come here. Sit next to me.”
Tong Yan walked over and sat down snug against him.
“What should a married couple be like?”
Tong Yan mulled over this briefly. “You eat together, take walks together, calculate out the cost of living for the elderly folks and children in the family, calculate out the cost of all the daily necessities.” Those were what came to mind initially, but when she seriously pondered further over this, she truly did not have a real concept of what it should be like. “I don’t know. I don’t have any experience with that …”
“I don’t have any experience either.” Gu Pingsheng watched her amusedly. “But you seem to have forgotten something.”
“Eat together, take walks together. If you continue along with that train of thought”—he gazed at her with a musing look—“do you also need to ‘sleep together’?”
“Gu Pingsheng, you’re behaving inappropriately for your older age!”
“Strictly speaking, I have not even reached the age of thirty.” Gu Pingsheng continued correcting her words, “I’m not considered too old yet. And plus, I did not only spend my time on a campus of some sort. Since high school, my vacation time was used to do volunteer work. When I went to university, in my first year, it was the school’s volunteer project and I went to Ghana. At the time, I was around your age and taught children, who were around ten years old or so, math and English and even had to step in to teach religion and French.”
Tong Yan was absorbed with interest as she listened to him, and looking at him intently, she asked, “You can speak French?”
“No. Back then, I honestly did not know how to, and now I seem to have forgotten it all as well.” Gu Pingsheng finally admitted to another weakness. “The education standards in Ghana aren’t high, so at the time, I basically taught myself from scratch and then went to go teach a class … But now that I think about it, that was in a school setting, too.”
Tong Yan interrupted him, “Do you feel like we’ve always been in completely different worlds from each other? It seems like our lives have never intersected in any way.”
“Mrs. Gu, are you being overly humble?” Gu Pingsheng laughed, carefully examining her features and then placing his hands beside her face to measure off a size. “When you were thirteen years old, your face was only this big …”
He stopped for a moment, searching around on the step behind him and picking up a small stone.
Then, under her puzzled gaze, he drew on the ground a rough sketch of a world map. Tapping the location where Beijing was on the map, he told her, “When you were thirteen, we bumped into each other here. Then,” he continued, all the while drawing circles around place after place on the map until there were so many it could make people jealous, “I went to these places. But in the end, I saw you again, here.”
He circled back to where China was located and wrote, “Shanghai.”
“And now, we’ve returned once again to the starting place.”
Gu Pingsheng tossed away the stone. “Did you realize that, no matter how far the roads I’ve traveled have taken me, I still ended up coming back?”
As he spoke, he brought his face very close to hers so that she could even smell the scent of his breath.
Their noses touched, tip to tip. She lightly exhaled a breath. “Dearest Teacher Gu, you are going to be teaching here in the future. You need to make sure you exercise a bit of restraint.”
With a slight smile, he told her, “Sometimes, when a man says some touching words, his intent is actually very clear. He did it because he wants a little reward.”
Tong Yan was thoroughly tickled by this and laughed, “I’ll sing a song for you then, as your reward.”
It was Sailing, a song sung by a British rock singer. She had learned it a long time ago but had never before seriously reflected upon the lyrics until one night, two months ago, she had been arbitrarily humming this tune and suddenly thought of him.
“I am sailing, I am sailing,
Home again, ‘cross the sea.
Can you hear me, can you hear me …”
As Gu Pingsheng gazed at her, he seemed to understand the meaning behind what she was singing.
Eventually, she could not contain herself any longer, and looking at him, she griped, “You should at least show some sort of indication that you were touched by this, you know?”
He gave an “mm” and replied, “I need to go home and have a good think, a serious think about how I should express that I was touched.”
Tong Yan heard the implied meaning in those words. Even though, from the first day of his return, he had pulled out the property deed and used the two names written side-by-side on it as proof that he would indeed formally marry her, she was still a student, and there were some things that they simply could not blatantly do. Hence, all this time since Grandmother’s discharge from the hospital, they had been sleeping in separate bedrooms …
Along the way, they bought some groceries for dinner that night, and when they arrived at home, it was not even 3:30 p.m.
She placed all of the items into the refrigerator before quietly pushing open the door to Grandmother’s bedroom, where she saw Grandmother leaning back in a recliner and, with her glasses on, reading a book.
“We’re back,” she interrupted Grandmother’s reading with a smile. “We’ll have ‘fried sauce’ noodles for dinner tonight, how about that? I’ve bought all the ingredients, and I’ll start making it at 5:30. We’ll have dinner at 6:00?”
Grandmother pulled off her reading glasses and smilingly nodded. “You’re done having fun outside? Go have a nap or maybe watch some TV or something. You don’t need to worry about me.” With that, she quickly slipped her glasses back on and carried on with reading her book.
Shutting the door, Tong Yan wanted to head into her own bedroom to change, but her hand had only just touched the door lever before he had already come up behind her and enclosed her in his embrace. Tong Yan turned her head back to him, and sticking out her tongue impishly, she silently mouthed, “Let me go change first.”
He gave a slight smile and then, with one hand on her bedroom door, he brought his face down and covered her lips with his own. The tip of his tongue felt cold. He should have just finished drinking some chilled purified water. Her hands slid from his waist to his back, and as she rested herself against the wall, she was constantly trying in nervousness to evade his actions. Finally, unable to escape him, she grabbed ahold of two of his fingers and wagged them. “Mr. Gu, ‘bai zhou xuan yin’ [engaging in lascivious acts in broad daylight] is strictly prohibited, eh.”
Gu Pingsheng seemed not to understand. Pushing down the door lever, he entered her bedroom.
“What is ‘bai zhou xuan yin’?”
Tong Yan, therefore, had no choice but to describe how each of the four characters was written and explain what the meaning was when they were strung together. In the end, she deliberately nuzzled her cheek against his chin, and lifting her head, she summed up, “Anyway, it means that doing naughty things during the daytime is very, very bad.”
He laughed, his dimple clearly visible.
“It would seem that Mr. Gu has been adjusting to jet lag all this time and is still unable to differentiate whether it is nighttime or daytime right now …”
After speaking these words that carried such a justified and righteous air, he lowered his head and began brushing kisses over her lips and cheek, all the while steadily advancing his steps forward. Tong Yan followed his pace, stepping backwards again and again.
炸酱面 “zha jiang mian.” Zhajiang noodles, or literally “fried sauce” noodles are a dish of wheat-based noodles and minced pork mixed with a brown sauce. The sauce is bean-based, and for the traditional Beijing version, it is made from a fermented yellow soybean, but depending on location, this can vary.
白昼宣淫 “bai zhou xuan yin.” This saying means “to engage in sexual acts under the full light of day,” but the language used is rather literary and less like everyday speech. Therefore, as someone who grew up overseas, Gu Pingsheng was not familiar with the saying and Tong Yan needed to explain it, and since he could not hear, he could only repeat the words based on the shape of Tong Yan’s lips when she had spoken them.
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