A long update. 🙂 An abrupt end to the vacation, Tong Yan’s side of the story on what happened that fateful day they met, another matter in their lives to worry about, and a glimpse into what Gu Pingsheng does not want Tong Yan to see.
Chapter 20.2 – Blessings in the Simple Things (2)
Aside from that peaceful day on the second day of the new lunar year, the entire honeymoon vacation became their law firm’s “trip for overtime.”
Gu Pingsheng was a very easygoing person. Since this was supposed to be a honeymoon vacation, their bedroom was quite a bit larger than the rest of the people, who had reserved their rooms last minute. In order to facilitate the work of so many people together, their room ended up unofficially becoming an office.
In the beginning, his colleagues had been very hesitant and apologetic about the arrangement, but after three days, they had gotten to know Tong Yan and discovered that she was an even more easygoing person. Not only did she offer up the room to them, she even acted as their assistant, free of charge.
However, the subtle interactions and exchanges between the two of them truly brought about all sorts of envy.
Eventually, even his secretary, who had graduated not long ago, started to grow jealous and declared several times that she could not take it anymore and that she absolutely needed to marry herself off before the end of the year …
Sometimes, when they did not need her assistance, Tong Yan would “get outta there” of her own accord and head over to the hotel’s private beach to sunbathe.
In this top honeymoon destination, couples could be found everywhere.
She sat beneath a large sun umbrella and, with her bare feet, played with the delicate sand.
Gently blowing out a breath, Tong Yan lay back on the beach chair.
It was seriously hot. Was he feeling very uncomfortable there in the room?
She ultimately could not shake the worry and secretly sent him a message: What’s your heart rate?
Very soon, his reply arrived: 97. Within the range of normal. TK
She felt slightly reassured with that. You working like this, around the clock and not sleeping or resting, really makes my heart ache.
If today I choose to live an easy and comfortable life, in the future, Mrs. Gu may be the one faced with working around the clock without rest. By that time, I’m afraid what I would feel would be more than just heartache. TK
She could not think of how to respond to him, but he had sent another message with his instructions: If a lifeguard is not nearby, don’t go in the ocean yourself. TK
Lying on her back on the beach lounge chair, she typed slowly on her keyboard: Mm. I’ll just lie down and read. I won’t go in the ocean.
She sat in this way on the beach until dusk. Hugging the books that she had brought from the room, she strolled leisurely back in the direction she had come. There was a hotel-run event on the beach today, and men and women alike were all stepping out from the lobby. Only a scattered few were heading in the opposite direction.
She walked up in front of a row of elevator doors and tapped the up button.
The doors suddenly opened, and as before, a large number of people stepped out. To her surprise, Gu Pingsheng was also in the crowd. The two of them caught sight of one another at the same time, and retreating back two steps, she stood against the wall to wait for him.
“Just one second earlier, I was thinking whether you had finished up yet, and the next second, I saw you. Would you say that was like our minds were in sync?”
For once, he did not banter back with her. Taking the magazines from her hands, he informed her, “I’ve changed our plane tickets. We’re taking a late flight back to Beijing tonight.”
“Weren’t there supposed to be another two days? Is something the matter in the family?” Out of intuition, she asked this.
“It’s something with my grandfather. I told you that two years ago, he had a liver transplant, but after the surgery, his creatinine levels have stayed very high and he’s never stopped dialysis. We have always been keeping an eye out for any problems with his kidneys. He unexpectedly started passing blood in his stool last night, and today, a gastroscopy confirmed that he has an ulcer in the descending duodenum that has developed into bleeding. He is now in Peking Union’s ICU.” He tried as much as possible to use terms that she would understand.
“Alright. I’ll go back right now and pack our things.” She dared not delay and returned at once with him to their room.
Their plane tickets had been changed last-minute, so naturally, there was no opportunity for them to be selective about the time of flight. The two of them raced against the clock to the airport and nearly missed their flight. Their seats were in the last row and could not really be adjusted. While they still did not feel too much discomfort in the first half of the journey, after two hours into the flight, they were already sore from their waists up to their necks.
He spoke very little and also ate little.
Never before had Tong Yan seen him like this. In the latter half of the night, most of the people on the plane were beginning to sleep, but he was still flipping through the magazine in his hand, turning the pages at a very fast rate. He appeared to be reading, but perhaps, this was purely for the purpose of having something to do.
Setting her hand on top of the page he was currently on, she waited until his eyes had turned to her and then, with knitted brow, she suggested softly, “These seats are really uncomfortable to sit in. You didn’t even sleep for a few hours these last couple of days. Will your body be able to handle it?” She decided of her own accord to reach over and unfasten his seat belt. “While the flight attendant isn’t looking, lie down on my legs and get in a little bit of sleep.”
There were only the two of them seated in the last row, so with all the armrests raised, it would certainly be no problem lying down across it.
She knew that this was absolutely an extremely dangerous thing to do, but she could only think of this method to comfort him.
Gu Pingsheng seemed to understand her intention, and rolling up the magazine in his hand, he rapped her on the forehead with it. “If you’re without a seat belt and encounter a situation where the plane suddenly drops, you could very easily be thrown out of the seat and slammed into the ceiling of the cabin.”
But once he finished saying this, he leaned over and lifted up each of the armrests in the row. Then, he blatantly lay down so that he was face-up on her lap. “Wake me up in ten minutes.”
She gave a nod and placed her hand on top of him, enclosing him in her embrace.
Without saying anymore, he closed his eyes.
Tong Yan let her forehead rest against the seatback in front of her, gazing down quietly at his sleeping countenance. As his projects were for clients in different time zones and those countries also did not have a so-called Spring Festival holiday, these last several days truly had been very exhausting for him.
Within two minutes, his breathing had already gradually become regular and soft.
She recalled his remark from a moment ago. Carefully avoiding bumping into his face, she quietly unfastened the seat belt at her waist. It seemed that she actually felt more settled after doing this. If they did encounter a situation where the plane suddenly dropped, no matter what, she could not let Mr. Gu slam into the ceiling of the cabin by himself, right?
The plane landed some time past five o’clock in the morning.
Pulling their luggage behind them, they got into a taxicab, and Tong Yan immediately stated the name of the hospital. Gu Pingsheng stopped her, however, and decided instead that they would return home first. “Even though it’s a hospital that is relatively acquainted with us, this is not a suitable hour for visiting,” he reminded her.
Tong Yan instantly realized he was right and felt that, when compared to him, she was the one behaving much more anxiously and at a loss.
When they actually arrived at the hospital, it was already past two o’clock in the afternoon. The two passed through a long corridor and arrived in the waiting area, which was packed full of people seated closely together, outside the ICU. Pingfan was there right then, her arms clasped across her chest, talking to two doctors who were standing by the doorway. Her back was to where they were so she did not see them, and it was the two doctors who halted the dialogue first. One of the doctors waved at him while reaching behind to press the switch that opened the door.
This place was one that she was truly too familiar with. Back during their first meeting, it was here that his mother had passed from the world while her own mother had also been given emergency medical procedures in this place.
Tong Yan chose herself to stay outside that closed glass door. There were no empty seats, so she remained standing in a corner beside the elevators.
After some time, it was Pingfan who first stepped back out. Stating that she had kept vigil outside for the entire night and was now so exhausted that her feet were unable to hold her up, she half-tugged on Tong Yan’s arm and brought her downstairs to look for a place to rest.
She had said she was hungry, but in the end, after they took their seats, she merely ordered two cups of hot tea.
With both her hands, she clasped Tong Yan’s hand, and her tone slowly became sorrowful. “Do you know why I study medicine? Because I feel that people do really easily get sick. Before I got into medicine, I thought that a hospital could heal any sickness, but after studying it, I actually now feel that life truly is fragile. You let your eyes look far and wide, and you’ll see that the vast majority are people who are very difficult to cure.”
Tong Yan had not experienced the feelings of a medical student, but she, too, felt helplessness in the face of life, death, and sickness and could not find any words to offer as comfort.
Pingfan said only these words of lament and then did not speak anymore, merely aimlessly blowing at the tea inside her cup. After a while, she finally forced a smile. “Look at me. I’m twelve years older than you, but in some aspects, I can’t compare to you. At the time, when I was accompanying TK in the U.S. and heard his schoolmate say that your grandmother had gotten sick with such a serious disease, I could not even believe it, that you really did not say anything at all and just took care of everything yourself for several months.”
Tong Yan shook her head. “I’m actually pretty weak and fragile myself, but what could I do, since he also has such a serious sickness? I was basically forced to take on everything myself.”
“Yes, you’re still a kid. Being frail and vunerable are expected.” Drained, Pingfan supported her head with her hand to ease the fatigue from a night without sleep. “I asked TK. His physical condition is irreversible, and it is certain that it will only become worse and worse. So if, one day, you can’t take it anymore and break-up with him, what will he do?”
Once these words were out from her mouth, Pingfan very quickly felt that they had been a little too cruel and hurriedly gave a self-denunciation. “Please don’t be offended by what I just said. All doctors tend to speak without filtering and are accustomed to trying to predict the worst possible outcome.”
“I don’t mind. I am also used to thinking of the worst-case scenario first, and then suddenly everything will become clear.”
Pingfan smiled, carrying on with the topic from a moment ago which had not yet finished. “And then, he spoke those words that I said just now. Or I should say, I was the one who stole what he once said. He said that you’re still a kid, so being frail and vulnerable are expected.” She intentionally ensured that her tone was relaxed. “So, Yan Yan, if the day comes where you feel weak and frail and vulnerable and you can’t handle it anymore, no one will blame you. I won’t. TK — even more so — won’t.”
She could roughly ascertain that these words Pingfan said were implying the possibility that they would break-up. She did not provide a response to this hypothetical situation of Pingfan’s. Later, Pingfan changed the subject and began to speak about the condition of her eldery grandfather’s illness and also the bit of effort she had put in after the two of them left.
“When people get old, they always become more and more stubborn. Just like children, you need to repeatedly coax and cajole them, and slowly, they will reach a point where they will accept it with a beaming smile on their face.” She seemed very full of confidence. “When he was admitted to the hospital this time, my granddad’s first words were to tell TK to come back. That’s why I believe that the warmth of spring and its blooming flowers [good things, new beginnings] are just around the corner, and nothing will be an issue anymore.”
Tong Yan nodded in agreement.
Sicknesses and diseases, sufferings and calamities, rejection by family — to her, those were never issues at all.
There was a secret that had remained within her heart since her telephone conversation with Pingfan.
That day had been her birthday. Her mother, so as to celebrate with her, had waited outside her school from seven o’clock in the morning until the school’s noontime break before she finally saw her. But she had used all possible malicious and cutting words to spurn her mother. And that had been the reason for the incident afterward. Her mother, alone in her room, had drunk several bottles of baijiu [traditional Chinese alcoholic drink with very high alcohol content] and, after she was discovered, was rushed to the hospital for emergency resuscitation and treatment.
Her birthday was the day emergency resuscitation had been performed on both their mothers. And in the end, it also became the day of his mother’s passing.
That day, after she had been forced to sign the papers, she had left the hospital. Later, she found out the truth behind why her mother had needed to be resuscitated. That instant of stiffness and numbness overtaking the hands and feet and intense terror and retrospective fear seeping into the heart was completely inconceivable unless a person had personally experienced it. Hence, she understood everything that he felt.
And to her, just how important was Gu Pingsheng? The answer to this was one that even he likely could not imagine.
The entire time, she continuously glanced restlessly at her mobile phone.
Despite knowing that Gu Pingsheng was merely in the ICU, she was still hounded by an unsettled feeling, one that could neither be waved off nor driven away. Gu Pingfan had kept vigil for an entire night, but aside from a complexion that did not look very good, there was nothing different about her.
According to Pingfan’s own words, people who wanted to be doctors needed to have exceptional physical health. Otherwise, how could a person endure through the frequent 36-hour shifts that could come up at any moment?
“TK’s health used to be extremely good.” Looking over the bill in her hand, Gu Pingfan pulled out her card and handed it to a server. “In order to ensure that he could be a good surgeon, he had always paid a lot of attention to his physical stamina and made sure to workout. Plus, he even learned from me how to cut veggies …”
“He mentioned that.” Tong Yan’s head was lowered as she fastened her scarf around herself. “He’s left-handed, like me. He said that, in order to improve his right hand’s dexterity, he would julienne twenty potatoes every day, just so that later, when he performed surgeries, he could use both his right and left hands simultaneously to work.”
She clearly remembered the astonishment she had felt the first time she laid eyes on the julienned potato strips Gu Pingsheng had cut. The knife work that had created such evenness and uniformity was most certainly a result of hard work and practice.
“Yeah.” A sense of loss and ruefulness accompanied Pingfan’s smile. “He put in so much effort, but he still never got the chance to be a good doctor. I used to be particularly jealous that he could live outside of China. That was in the ‘80s, and it wasn’t as commonplace as it is nowadays. Later, I gradually got older, and after I understood those things about my little auntie, I felt he was especially deserving of pity. And then, so many things happened, one thing after another, and never stopped.”
Pingfan finished looking over the receipt the server had brought over and scribbled her signature, which, at the same time, concluded the conversation.
When they both returned to the hospital, Gu Pingsheng had already stepped out from the ICU and was in discussion with several elders regarding Grandfather’s condition. As Tong Yan walked over to him, he briefly halted the dialogue, telling her that he was going to stay to keep watch and that she should return home first to rest.
Although she was a little worried about his health, she did not say very much.
Upon arriving at home, Tong Yan brought in from the balcony the items that had been hung outside to dry prior to the vacation and thoroughly cleaned the bedrooms and bathrooms. After flying on a plane for an entire night and spending the daytime with her heart in her throat, plus the high-intensity physical labour now, she had finally spent all her energy. Hurriedly, she took a shower and climbed into bed.
The bedroom curtains were custom made, and once they were drawn, no light could be seen coming through. They were very suitable for having a deep slumber. But, as there were too many things weighing on her heart, in the end, she did not fall into a deep sleep.
It was uncertain how much time had passed, but she suddenly started awake from her dream. Because of the layer upon layer of images that had been in her world of dreams, she could not tell whether she was at school, at home, or still on the island where they had been vacationing …
Ultimately, it was the unique scent of home on the down quilt that allowed her to gradually break out of her stupor.
She did not know what time it was. Beside her, the bed was still empty.
Her throat felt rather dry, and languidly, she shifted her arm, wanting to rise to go pour some water to drink.
But she had just stretched out an arm and had not sat up yet when she saw that figure beside the bed. He was back? Tong Yan reached over to feel around the bedside table to turn on the lamp, but right as her hand touched the switch, her entire body froze.
A moment ago, when she first opened her eyes, she had not yet adjusted to the darkness of the room. Now, as she looked over again in that direction, she discovered that he was in a position that seemed almost as if he was crouched or kneeling. Leaning against the edge of the bed, he cautiously and slowly pulled something out from his pocket.
He seemed very afraid of waking her.
She could hear a slightly muffled clinking sound, like pills sliding around in a plastic bottle.
Tong Yan dared not move any further, and with one hand resting on the edge of the bed, she kept her eyes fixed on him. He brought his hand to his mouth, swallowing those pills directly. And then, for a long time, he continued to maintain that position — one that caused a person’s heart to ache — and lean against the bed.
She did not know how much time passed.
He finally twisted his body around, slid down against the side of the bed, and sat on the carpet.
In his previous position, Tong Yan could still determine at any time whether something was the matter with him, but now, as he sat there in silence, she truly did grow panicked. Very swiftly, she turned on the lamp and sat up in bed.
“Why are you suddenly awake?” He quickly rose and moved close to her. “Did I wake you up?”
His voice was beside her ear, its tone partially soothing but also carrying a husky quality and sense of fatigue in it that he, himself, was not aware of.
Rubbing her eyes, she smiled softly, “I had a nightmare just now and was scared awake.” She carefully suppressed her tears, and when she set her hand back down, her eyes were completely red from being rubbed. “Did you just get back?”
He gave an “mm” and touched her cheek.
1 of 1 Prologue
60 of 66 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogue segments