The mind and its imagination are such powerful things. This is just a small piece of what Gu Pingsheng meant, that if he had a girlfriend, she would “suffer with him”? (On a side note, who said Teacher Gu is all serious? See how he lures his wife out for some fun?)
Chapter 16.3 – My Mister Gu (3)
He pulled her outside, catching her completely off guard.
In that space where many people were swarming forward with all their might, only the two of them were moving in the opposite direction.
“I have to go to work.” Tong Yan could hear the people around her grumbling and complaining, but though she wanted to break free, she was unable to. “If there’s anything, we can talk about it tonight, okay?”
“I drove. I’ll drive you to your work. We’ll talk on the way.”
He stretched out an arm, fending off two men beside them who were trying to get on the bus.
“Eh? First thing in the morning and I get to run into a lunatic. What are you doing not getting on—” The obstruction incensed one of the men, but when that person whipped his head around and lashed out with a sentence, he was gradually frightened into silence by the look in Lu Bei’s eyes.
Worried that he might cause trouble, Tong Yan quickly flipped her hand over and held him back by the arm. “These people are all just going to work. We’re the ones in the wrong.” Lu Bei did not utter a sound and merely wiped away at the rain on his face.
His vehicle was parked on the roadside not far from the bus stop. As she stepped out from the flow of people, she quickly pulled his coat back down from over her head and opened her umbrella above herself.
Lu Bei opened his car door and motioned for her to get inside. Tong Yan shook her head. “Let’s just talk here. What is so important that you absolutely had to come find me now?”
Lu Bei had expected this insistence from her, and he did not force her. Or to be more exact, he had never known how to force her to do something.
“That day, I heard the people in the fruit shop call you Mrs. Gu. Are you married to that person?”
Tong Yan gave an “mm.”
“He’s your university teacher.” Lu Bei was not asking; he merely stated this. “I remember last Christmas, I saw him in Shanghai.”
As before, she answered with an “mm.”
“With you in a relationship like this with your teacher, will that affect you from graduating?”
“It’s just another year. After my internship, I’ll be graduating.”
“You and him are living here, in this community compound? And you’re living together with Grandmother?”
“Yes. He’s the one who bought the apartment.”
The questions Lu Bei asked were all over the place and had no method or plan to them. But no matter what he asked, she provided a sincere answer to him, with no intentions at all of being perfunctory or half-hearted.
Eventually, Lu Bei could not make himself ask further but yet was also unwilling to get into the vehicle, so he stood beside his car door in silence. And she, holding her umbrella above her, stood with him. Many years ago, in one of their occasional arguments, Lu Bei had also stood awkwardly out in the thickly falling snow, unwilling to go home but also unwilling to admit he was wrong. She had also stood in the same way before him, wearing a thick knitted hat and gloves and remaining in a silent huff.
“It’s about time now.” She pressed her lips into a smile. “I really am going to be late.”
“Is he unable to hear?” Lu Bei suddenly opened his mouth and spoke again. “He can’t hear people speak? Can’t hear any sounds at all?”
This question was rather unexpected, and Tong Yan did not answer straightaway. Then, she heard him say, “One night, I came here to sign the home purchase contract and saw him over in the fruit store selecting fruits. I had originally wanted to say hello to him but discovered that he actually could not hear me speak. And then you came home.”
Tong Yan thought for a moment, then decided to be honest. “He once had an illness and that later affected his hearing.”
“So you know that he is deaf, but you still want to be with him?”
“Of course I know about his deafness. I knew from the first day he came to class.” Tong Yan’s tone was light. “Aside from this one thing, he is outstanding in every aspect, and he is very good to me, great to me.”
Lu Bei did not utter anything. It was not long ago that he, in Tong Yan’s eyes, had also been this way. None of his shortcomings were important. She would only say, “Lu Bei is very good. He is great to me …”
“You really want to live in this community?” Tong Yan turned the questions to him. “Do you really think that will be a good thing?”
He fell silent for some time before telling her, “Fang Yunyun is the one who bought the property. I won’t be living here. You can rest assured.”
That day her luck was very good, for when she was about to leave, a taxicab happened to come to a stop beside her. No sooner had the passenger in the front seat pushed open the door than she pulled open the back door and sat into the taxi.
After the taxi had driven far away, even the driver noticed something and with a grin, asked this young girl whether she had gotten in a quarrel with her boyfriend. Otherwise, how could she harden her heart and just leave alone in a taxi?
Tong Yan smiled and answered, no, he was simply an old schoolmate.
When she arrived at the courthouse, the court clerk who was mentoring her had just finished two court sessions. Seeing the terribly wretched state that Tong Yan was in as she wiped at the water soaking her pants, she was rather perplexed and asked, was the rain coming down hard outside? Why were her pants all wet? Tong Yan could not very well say that she had stood out in the rain for too long and had basically gotten wet because of the wind and rainwater that had splashed up, so she only gave an “mm-hmm” and answered vaguely, “Quite hard.”
“Autumn rains carry a chill in them. I have a pair of workout pants in my cabinet. Go grab it and put it on.” This big sister-like court clerk smiled and patted her on the shoulder. “You’re late anyway, so you might as well be a little bit more thick-skinned and just ask for the day off.”
“No, I can’t.” Tong Yan pulled out several more tissues and dabbed at her pants. “I can’t change into workout pants. That would look so bad in an office setting. Requesting a day off also will not do. I need good grades for my internship to help me earn money in the future to provide for my family.”
Usually, those who were able to obtain an internship position in one of the courts had all relied on connections to do so, and hence, the court clerk simple treated her words as if she was joking. From the drawer, she pulled out a hairdryer for Tong Yan, telling her to go to the washroom to blow herself dry, and then set the notes she needed Tong Yan to organize onto the desk.
Since starting his job at the foreign-based law firm, the time Gu Pingsheng spent at home was much less.
Sometimes, when she got off early from her work at the courthouse, she would take the bus to the university or his office building to wait for him to go home. Gradually, the people at the courthouse who mentored her learned of this, and they all could not help laughing and saying that she truly was leading a new era of being a good wife. For other people, if they were younger, the boyfriend would drive over to pick up the girlfriend, while if they were a little older and married, once they got off work, they would rush off to pick up their children from school.
Only she was the oddball exception.
Entering into November, all the internship students began discussing their results from the National Judicial Examination.
Though she did not talk about it, in her heart, she was extremely nervous. With her abilities and intelligence, she had no chance at all of getting into a foreign-based law firm, and therefore, the National Judicial Examination was a necessary bridge that she had to cross. The Saturday that she could look up her score was quickly approaching. Gu Pingsheng happened to be invited to attend a conference that was being held at a vacation resort out in the suburbs of Beijing.
Before he left, Tong Yan repeatedly verified with him when he would be returning and what the conference schedule was so she could know approximately the times he would be speaking and when he would be resting.
On that Saturday, she arose early, and while she was researching how to make milk pudding, she also tried to gauge out the time, speculating what he was doing at that moment. Would he suddenly feel unwell?
She spent the morning experimenting several times, and both the successful and unsuccessful puddings were all destroyed in her and Grandmother’s bellies.
Following dinner, she kept an eye on the time, and when there was about an hour or so before he was to arrive home, Tong Yan once again began making some milk pudding. She worked through all the steps until, finally, she had poured the cream into the moulds and placed them in the oven.
Are you nearly home?
She sent this message out, and after a while, she received his reply.
It was the detailed address of the vacation resort, so detailed, in fact, that it contained a room number. Were it not for the fact that it had come from his mobile phone number, it would have seemed more like a spam message.
She used eight or nine seconds to read through that message twice but still did not understand what he meant by it. Fortunately, a second text was very soon sent over: Just now, that was the address of the resort. Mrs. Gu has thirty minutes to dress and pretty herself up, then bring one day and one night’s worth of clothing and essentials here to have a little vacation with Mr. Gu. TK
His tone in the message was relaxed.
She asked him: But then, what about our elderly family member here at home?
Pingfan needs a quiet place to get ready for her exams. She’ll be staying in our home for the next two days. Mrs. Gu, you have another twenty-nine minutes. TK
From the looks of it, he had had this planned ahead of time.
Now that she seriously thought about it, since coming back after her final examinations, the two of them had not spent any time away from home together and especially had not stayed any nights away. They could definitely take the title of “most model homebody couple in history” … These sudden arrangements by Gu Pingsheng had caught her completely by surprise, and it was fortunate that it was only for one day and night. Pulling out her backpack, she packed it, told Grandmother that someone was coming to take care of her, and then hurried out the door of their home.
Before she left, she still did not forget about the milk pudding she had made for him.
The resort was not very close, and she spent approximately fifty or more minutes on the road to get there.
Since the resort was comprised wholly of individual villas clustered together, when the staff saw the address on her mobile phone, they immediately arranged for a vehicle to take her over there. The passengers on the vehicle consisted mainly of people who had come vacationing, and stepping into the vehicle with her were a young couple who were whispering quietly the entire time. The boy was holding all sorts of brochures, trying to find a place to go fishing, while the girl repeatedly said to him, “Let me look at the yoga class schedule.” Eventually, because of these few brochures, the two nearly broke out into a quarrel. The boy hurriedly bowed and apologized, making all sorts of animal sounds in remarkably perfect imitations, and after a full five or six minutes, the girl finally gave a light “humph,” bursting out into giggles.
Tinges of warmth and tenderness. The entire vehicle was filled with this feeling.
When the vehicle stopped in front of the place where Gu Pingsheng was staying, she hopped out and, gazing at that little villa speckled with lights, inhaled lightly.
Earlier on, the staff had described the villas, explaining that each one was composed of four separate suites.
For every forty villas, there was assigned one customer service team, which waited to offer its assistance at any time by providing twenty-four-hour telephone service.
Gu Pingsheng’s room was on the first floor, and she followed the meandering gravel pathway over toward it until she was directly facing the room number. Glancing down at the number in her mobile phone and confirming that they were indeed the same, she sent him a text message: Tonight’s moonlight is quite nice. A very suitable ambiance for eloping.
After she sent the message, the room still remained quiet.
Moving forward, Tong Yan pressed her ear against the door, listening for sounds inside. There truly were no noises of movement or water, but given that there was light shining out from under the door, there should be someone inside.
Even merely thinking in this way caused all the previous excitement and anticipation to start to gradually dwindle away, and an insuppressible feeling of fear silently spread in her.
Her mind went blank for several seconds, but then she immediately swung off her backpack and set it down. Yanking out seven or eight leaflets and brochures, she opened them to look for the telephone number of the customer service centre.
The surroundings were too dim. She unlocked her phone and, by the light of the screen, searched frantically for the number.
First page, no. Second page, third page, fourth page … The leaflets did not have it. Neither did the brochures.
They were all filled with descriptions of many kinds of activities and events, so many that she was going mad. The more she wanted to read through carefully, the more panicked she was getting, to the point she did not even know what she might have missed. Her heart was beating so heavily it was as if it was being weighed down by lead, and every thud caused her chest to ache with pain. At last, her legs became so weak they would not support her, and leaning feebly against the door, she made herself calm down. Then, with trembling fingers, she turned back to the very first brochure …
Biting down on her lip, she kept telling herself, “Stay calm. Tong Yan, stay calm.”
Suddenly, all the light disappeared.
A hand covered her eyes.
“It’s me. Just now, I wanted to go out to meet you, but I took the wrong path.” Gu Pingsheng’s voice was directly against her ear, and his breathing was still somewhat ragged. From behind, he enfolded his arms around her and assured her, “I am fine. There’s absolutely nothing wrong. Don’t scare yourself.”
 Recall from footnote  in chapter 8.1 that the National Judicial Examination is a unified national entry exam for people practicing legal professions in China and is held in September every year.
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