We learn a few more things about Gu Pingsheng here, including a little glimpse of his feelings for Tong Yan. This world just had to have that one, specific person, just for him. ❤
Chapter 15.3 – A Warm Temperature (3)
This was the first time he had ever spoken to her in such a way.
For some reason, Tong Yan nearly had the false impression that he truly was in the terrible throes of suffering and hardship.
She estimated out the timing. Originally, she had planned on leaving the university after ten days, but if she lined up everything tightly in her schedule, it might only take seven or eight days.
When she returned to the dormitory that evening, she began to rush to pack away her things. The cardboard moving boxes had been readied very early on, and after her books and clothing as well as the random trinkets she had accumulated over three years were packed away, three whole boxes were filled.
“Didn’t you say you weren’t sealing up your boxes until the day after tomorrow?” Shen Yao grumbled, “You so put your man above your friend. You’re going to be heading back to Beijing right away, and by the time you come back here, I’ll have gone abroad already … Mrs. Gu, your Mr. Gu isn’t running off anywhere, but your best friend really is going to be leaving.”
“He doesn’t know how to cook. I can’t leave him by himself at home for too long. You be good. During winter and summer breaks, you can go to Beijing and visit me. I’ll provide you with food and accommodations.”
“Gu Pingsheng should be nearly thirty, right? Let me calculate this,” Shen Yao sighed. “You guys had your underground affair for one semester, then you were actually together for one semester. Wait, that’s not right. This semester, you can say you were together, but in reality, most of the time he was not even by your side. Tong Yan Wuji, all those years prior, how do you think he managed to survive?”
Tong Yan did not utter a reply and only sealed the boxes with packing tape.
Only after she had straightened again did she suddenly state, “All those years prior, it was really sad for him.”
“Sad?” Shen Yao was torn between laughter and tears. “The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. King’s College London. No matter how you look at it, he should be a person with high intelligence. Just from my perspective, as someone who was his student for half a year, his EQ is high, too, and his looks are handsome. If your man is sad and pitiable, then people like us can only hug the toilet everyday and cry …”
Tong Yan gave a couple of dry laughs. “All those years prior, he didn’t have me. Of course he was sad and pitiable.”
Shen Yao was squelched to silence by this reply and gawked wide-eyed at her. “Tong Yan Wuji, you’ve finally reached a point where you’re even more shameless than me.”
At the time, when she had resolutely packed up her bags and moved south with her notice of admission from the university in hand, she had never thought that, one day, she would willingly return to this city in which she was born. She had even considered the possibility that after she had settled in another city, she would get Grandmother and bring her to be with her, far away from Beijing and all the people and matters there.
But in the span of just one short year, her mindset had completely changed.
Compared to Gu Pingsheng, those experiences life had thrown her way were perhaps at least a little better than his. If she had been the one to have witnessed her own mother commit suicide right before her and then encountered the SARS epidemic — to have experienced such great trauma, both physically and psychologically — she might not have even known how to make it through. And there were many other hurts that were still hidden away in his past. There was his father.
Her plane landed at Terminal 3, and when she stepped out of its exit, she soon spotted him. Dressed in a black, short-sleeve polo shirt and casual shorts, he looked ridiculously youthful and full of vitality.
She took a couple of stealthy steps, intending on sneaking up and surprising him, but very quickly, Gu Pingsheng noticed her. In the end, she decided to simply toss aside any abashedness, and running over to him, she threw herself into his arms. “How does it feel to flaunt your affections out in public?” So, everyone deep down has it rooted in their nature that they want to show off, and Gu Pingsheng, of course, was definitely worth showing off.
“Very nice.” When he finished saying this, his face suddenly moved closer, and lowering his head, he pressed his lips directly onto hers.
After several seconds of stillness, his head tilted slightly and he enclosed her lips in his. However, right as she stretched her arms up and slid them around his neck, Gu Pingsheng unexpectedly pulled away and, purposely dropping his voice, told her, “Let’s go home first.” To stop so abruptly — it was obvious he was deliberately playing around and teasing her.
She did not even have the opportunity at all to react before he was already wrapping his arm around her shoulders and walking with her toward the corridor.
“How about doing your internship term in the courts?” Gu Pingsheng asked her as they walked. “I have already made arrangements for you at one of the courts to have your internship term there. In this way, after you’ve graduated, you might even be hired directly to stay there. That type of work is relatively easier.”
“How do you know I want something easier?” Tong Yan tried hard to come up with a justification. “What if I want to be the career-oriented type?”
“Familiarizing yourself with the business and work of the courts will be beneficial in the future anyway.”
Hearing him say this, Tong Yan did not have any more objections.
They ambled along together, all the while discussing matters related to internship.
In contrast to the urgency exhibited in the other people around them, this was a rare moment of idleness for both of them, with nothing waiting ahead for them to take care of or solve. She slipped her own arm through his right one and nestled against him, looking arbitrarily out beyond the glass windows at the airplanes soaring up into the sky.
Perhaps a light and easy job really would be pretty good.
From behind, someone unexpectedly called out to him with a very clear enunciation of “TK.” Turning around, she saw a man pulling a suitcase. He looked to have kept good physical care of himself, and it could only be guessed that he was roughly somewhere between fifty and sixty years old. Those eyes very much resembled Gu Pingsheng’s.
Her heart pounded ferociously, and she did not dare continue this train of speculation. Following her movements, Gu Pingsheng also turned and looked toward that person.
Soon, he said, “Hello.”
A detached, yet very polite greeting.
“When did you come back to China? Are you planning on living in Beijing for the long-term?” the man asked him.
But unfortunately, no one answered him. After a brief silence, the man’s expression suddenly softened, and his eyes turned to Tong Yan. “Is this your girlfriend?”
“My wife.” Gu Pingsheng opened his mouth and, in a very neutral tone, gave this explanation.
“Hello.” The man stretched out a hand to Tong Yan. “I am Gu Pingsheng’s father, Dong Changting.”
Tong Yan had not expected such a coincidental encounter or such dialogue. She shook the hand of Gu Pingsheng’s father. “My name is Tong Yan, like the ‘tong yan’ in the idiom, ‘tong yan wuji’ [‘children’s words are spoken without reservations or filters’].”
A moment ago, his father had called out his name from behind him. It would seem, therefore, that he did not know about Gu Pingsheng’s deafness. The amount of time that had passed from the 2003 SARS tragedy to the present could not be considered a short period. Had the two of them never seen one another in all that time? She had many questions that puzzled her, but in this moment and place, she could not ask and could only act as if she did not know anything about all of this.
She merely gave a self-introduction, like a young girl first meeting her boyfriend’s parents.
Dong Changting seemed very grateful for Tong Yan’s smile and began telling them about things that really did not have much to do with them, like how he had just arrived back from Hubei after doing a liver transplant, and to his surprise, when he got off the plane, he saw them. As he spoke, he would occasionally ask Tong Yan some questions, all of them extremely normal and straightforward ones, such as how old she was or where she was from.
Tong Yan had never been a person who could be cold and surly to elders, but for fear that Gu Pingsheng would be unhappy, she looked at him and sought his direction.
With a light smile, he stroked her hair. A simple action that could be viewed as implicit approval.
Tong Yan relaxed slightly and began to tentatively and cautiously answer those questions.
Fortunately, the questions were all very simple and casual. And fortunately, a pharmaceutical representative soon arrived to pick Gu Pingsheng’s father up after his plane trip. “Associate Chief [Physician] Dong, I am sorry, really terribly sorry. I’m not sure which important leader was on the way to the airport, too, but the expressway was closed for more than an hour.” As this pharmaceutical representative spoke, he very kindly took the suitcase from him and also cordially shook Gu Pingsheng’s hand.
After a few polite pleasantries, this father, who might as well have been a stranger, finally went his separate ways from them.
The urban centre’s traffic was strictly regulated, so by the time they were back at home, it was already one o’clock in the afternoon. Tong Yan had eaten on the plane, but his stomach still had not yet been fed. As a result, the first thing she did after stepping through the door was to dash into the kitchen, pull out some leafy vegetables, egg, and ham that were in the refrigerator, freshly steam some rice, and then dump them all into a pan with oil to make fried rice for him.
Amid the thunderous hum of the range hood, she handed the metal spatula to him and then wiped her hands clean on a cloth, planning on heading over to Grandmother’s bedroom.
“Grandmother has gone out.” Gu Pingsheng scooped her back into his arms. “She said she was going to a former student’s home for a visit and would be back after dinner.”
Very puzzled by this, Tong Yan asked, “How come she still went out despite knowing that I was coming home today?”
Looking like he knew what he was doing, Gu Pingsheng stir-fried the rice as he leisurely speculated, “The elderly tend to have more experience and understand that feeling of ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder.’”
While she muttered about his self-flattery, she changed spots with him and dished out the fried rice from the pan.
Seeing that he had started to eat, Tong Yan at last could take the time to unpack her belongings.
Each item that she pulled out came with reminiscence, and full of happiness, she would narrate to him a story of its background or where it came from. In the end, she could not help sighing, “I was so simple back then. Any gift I received would make me excited for days.”
Even the slightest of blessings would bring her contentment. Never would she be concerned with the ravines of trials that came with the blessing, how deep they might be or whether they could actually be traversed.
This was Tong Yan.
To Gu Pingsheng, his sickness was so terrible because it tortured not only him but also the loved ones who cared about him and loved him. It was not that he had never before let himself give up and slip into despair, nor was it as everyone seemed to perceive, that he did not care in the least. In fact, he very early on had made the decision that he would never marry and would not even give himself the chance to find a girlfriend to suffer with him.
But alas, this world had to have a girl named Tong Yan.
She continued crouching in front of the cardboard boxes, taking out each little trinket and quietly musing where she should put it.
With his head lowered, he watched her. He did not know whether it had simply been too long since he had last eaten her cooking or because her culinary skills truly had improved greatly, but this food that was so simple smelled incomparably enticing, and its appearance, aroma, and flavour were all wonderful. His stomach now warm, his hands began to gradually warm as well.
“You are still very simple, even now.”
Smiling lightly, he leaned against the glass door near her and carried on eating the remainder of the fried rice.
1 of 1 Prologue
46 of 66 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogue segments