This is a terribly busy time of the year for me, and I am particularly swamped for the next week. My apologies in advance if I don’t respond to comments within my normal timeframe. However, I have set-up my updates to post automatically for the next week, so even though I may not be around, you’ll still see the posts. 🙂 (This update today is the first of the batch of auto-posts.)
Tong Yan finds out that something she had thought might be solved was really only patched with a Band-Aid, that “the rainstorm actually had not turned to blue skies.”
Final Chapter (2)
The day she obtained her driver’s license was also the day she completed her internship term at the courthouse.
A large red stamp was affixed on her internship evaluation form, and holding it in her hand gave an indescribably carefree feeling.
The afternoon sunshine in the park was very nice, and in fact, it could even be considered a little strong. She had accompanied Grandmother here to feed the stray cats, but because she had nothing to do in the afternoon, after forcing Grandmother to return home for her midday rest, she ended up staying an extra half-hour herself.
From the large, used cola bottle she was holding, she poured out some boiled water into a dish.
The dozen or so cats had long since grown thirsty after eating, but they still waited in an orderly fashion, a few at a time, for a turn to have a drink. Beside Tong Yan, there were seven or eight little children, all only a few years old, who were there with their nanny or grandparents. The elderly adults sat on benches, watching them from afar, and aside from a couple of guardians who were concerned about hygiene, none of them stopped the children as they surrounded Tong Yan from behind her and watched the cats drink water.
In front was a circle of cats. Behind was a circle of children. Those who did not know would think she was a preschool teacher bringing a group of children out to experience things of life.
Gu Pingsheng was on and off sending text messages to her because that European market hedge fund project was requiring him to take a last-minute business trip. Furthermore, he needed to leave tonight.
This news had come rather abruptly. As she grasped her mobile phone, her mind was somewhat preoccupied, and though the bottle was in her hand, she forgot to replenish the water.
Seeing that the cats had finished off the water but Tong Yan was still not making the next move, the children anxiously urged her, “Big Sister, pour some water.”
“Big Sister will let all of you take care of the kitties, how about that?”
The several children had all long been itching to do something as they watched, and now they hastily nodded their heads in agreement.
After handing the bottle of water to the oldest girl of the group, she walked over to a bench that was four or five steps away and took a seat. Then she began asking in detail and discussing with him what things he would need to bring.
Gu Pingsheng needed to head into the ICU unit again, and as a result, he only hurriedly said a few sentences before he temporarily shut off his mobile phone. According to his estimates, the trip would take at least half a month. Silently, she gauged how much luggage he would need to bring, but owing frustratingly to a lack of experience, no matter how she thought it through, she still felt she would forget something …
While she was lost in her pondering, beside her, someone had already taken a seat. It was the person who would come only once every two weeks to visit Grandmother — her father.
“I bought some fruits and left them up in the home. Your grandmother said you were here feeding cats.” Her father was trying hard to speak in a loving, familiar tone, and it was obvious that these were opening words he had deliberated over for a long time.
She hesitated for several seconds but then smiled.
Perhaps due to Gu Pingsheng’s influence, toward this father of hers from whom she had long been estranged, her heart was finally beginning to soften.
They sat there, father and daughter, side by side together. They had no common topics to talk about between them. Mostly, her father would ask her a couple of questions, and she would give an “mm” or a short, two or three-word answer. Although the atmosphere was awkward, it was not unbearable.
After some time, those stray cats had had their fill of water, and in groups of twos and threes, they slipped into the thick grass. At last, carefully hugging the bottle that had been poured empty of water, the little girl ran over to return it to Tong Yan.
With both hands, Tong Yan took it from her and said a sincere thank you.
“This is three thousand yuan here …” When the little girl had turned around and bounded far away, her father unexpectedly handed an envelope to her.
Tong Yan paused in surprise. “There’s no need. We’re not really lacking in money.”
“Last time when I came, you weren’t here … Little Gu truly is quite a good man.” Her father spoke obscurely. “You’ll have to wait a couple of years for the three hundred thousand from the first time. When I’ve completely turned over and become a success in the stock market, I’ll withdraw the money and give it to you two. This here is to pay back last time’s. It’s not a lot, but I’ll just slowly earn money and eventually I’ll be able to repay everything. This last while, all stocks have been rising …”
As her father talked about how the stock market outlook was looking great, his eyes gleamed slightly with seldom-seen excitement. She, however, had vaguely gathered hints of something in what she had heard, and whipping her head up, she interrupted, “When I wasn’t home, he gave you money?”
“There were a couple of people who were pushing me hard to pay back some money. I borrowed some from Little Gu just to pay that back first. I’m not really going to take your money.” Her father once again handed the brown money-containing envelope to her. “This time, there were two stocks that had a really good rise in price …”
“You borrowed money from someone else again? He helped you pay off a debt again?” Tong Yan stared incredulously at her father.
This face that was before her had not even reached the age of fifty, and more than half the hair on its head was already gray. That cautious smile. That perpetual belief that he would succeed in using this gambling-style method to win his money and recover all the familial love he had lost.
It was not that she had never tried to seriously discuss things with her father. She had even attempted to threaten him with severing their father-daughter tie. But in the end, her father still always believed that the fracturing of their family and his daughter’s aversion to him were a result of the fact that he was poor, that he had no money. The more extreme his thinking became, the more he threw himself into those ways. Several decades of setback and defeat had fostered her father’s extreme way of thinking and refusal to communicate, and to him, all words that tried to convince or advise him otherwise were spoken because people looked down on him.
She had not even imagined that there was a possibility things would change.
That was, until that incident that occurred several months ago had caused her to genuinely think that she could finally see hope, that there was no longer a pit of debt that was unfillable, and that she did not need to face a future of uncertainty and worry …
Her father started to submerge himself into his own world, and with extreme zeal, he described a few of the stocks that he held. She, though, only felt pained. And in this sadness, her heart gradually seemed to empty and become hollow.
For some reason, two kittens from earlier on leapt onto the bench and snuggled close against her, laying themselves down dociley beside her leg.
She gave them a pet and mechanically scratched them under their chins.
This city was the place she was born and raised. Growing up, all the schools she had studied in had had very many students with unfathomable backgrounds, and one such as Fang Yunyun’s could only be considered “not bad.” When she was a teenager, she had not truly understood where the disparity existed and merely felt pained due to her parents’ divorce and ashamed over her mother’s morals, which did not agree with her own.
Later, with Lu Bei’s incident, she finally understood the true disparity that could exist from one family to another.
She had been too weak and had not been able to bear that heavy burden.
Going to Shanghai for her studies had become the only way of escape. Alas, though she had always believed that life would eventually change for the better, she forgot about the cruelness of reality.
“In this world, you have the right to choose anything. The one exception is your parents. You cannot choose them and you cannot give them up.” At the time, when Gu Pingsheng said these words, how much had been spoken from responsibility and how much out of a sense that there was no other alternative?
The kittens were very content with the scratches she was providing and gave a soft little mew.
Her father finished saying all that he wanted to say, and then, as expected, using a very desperate voice, like he had been backed into a corner, he said, “Yan Yan, do you have thirty thousand yuan on hand? I need to pay off the interest first.” Once he finished saying this, he quickly also told her, “When I’m old, everything I have will be left to you …”
Tong Yan patted the kittens on the head, and without a word, she rose and began to leave from there.
“Maybe Little Gu …”
Instantly, Tong Yan ceased her steps.
“I’ve broken up with him,” she heard her own voice say. “It happened just these last few days. Don’t go to find him anymore. The money that we borrowed before, I’ll pay it all back to him slowly. Anything else, I can’t help you with.”
When she returned home, she locked herself in the bedroom and began to pack for him the clothing that he would need to bring tonight on his trip.
Based on the estimate that it would be for a duration of nearly half a month, she moved the largest suitcase in from the balcony and began to, one by one, take the suits, dress shirts, and ties out from the closet, tossing them onto the bed.
The good thing about being in the field of law was that, in any sort of public setting, the uniform dress code was a black suit, a dress shirt, and a tie. There were no outstanding colours so there should not be any big problems with combining them into outfits.
Gu Pingsheng had once said that if his accommodations were in a hotel, then at most, he would only need to bring four sets and that would be sufficient.
Silently, she kept track of the numbers, but her brain was moving rather slowly and she actually needed to count three or four times. The dress shirts, on the other hand, were folded very meticulously. With her finger, she drew two creases on the backside of the shirt, folded it across the collar, and tugged on the sleeves to straighten them … Midway through, her mobile phone gave several rings, but she did not notice. When she had finished folding those four dress shirts and had carefully placed them into the suitcase, tears suddenly started to flow.
Drop after large drop fell onto the clothing.
All along, she had poured her heart and mind into being good to him — not bearing for him to have to eat even half a bite of anything that he did not like; every night, even if she was extremely sleepy, ironing the clothes he would be wearing the next day. She had learned, with all earnestness, medicinal and herbal foods and massage so that he could become progressively healthier. Even learning to drive had been because she was worried that he would suddenly fall ill and she could promptly rush him to the hospital.
Yet this same man — the one whom she used her whole heart to love and cherish — was also, because of her, bearing more pressure than the average person. Granted, he had a high-paying salary, but so what? He still needed even more money to manage his health issues of the future. But if he continued to be with her, he would continuously be earning money, then continuously be emptied of all of it. And there was even Grandmother’s health that he would need to consider and be prepared for …
She remembered how Gu Pingsheng had, in front of his own student, paid off her father’s debts for him.
At the time, she had vowed that never again would she let him face such humiliation because of her. But what good was a vow? There would be no blue sky after the rainstorm in her life. Everything would unceasingly replay itself, over and over again.
And why should Gu Pingsheng, because of her, have to shoulder so much?
As she thought and thought in this way, her tears dried.
She carried on packing the remainder of the items, then went into the bathroom and took a hot shower. When she was nearly done showering, Gu Pingsheng suddenly pushed open the door and walked in. Her body completely unclothed, she stared stupidly at him as he drew near.
“Why were you showering with the lights off? If Grandmother hadn’t said that you were at home, I would not have known that you were in here.” Gu Pingsheng’s voice was directly by her ear, and his hand was against her back.
Tong Yan extended her arms and encircled them around his waist, nuzzling her dripping wet hair against his chest. “I really can’t bear to part with you.”
“What bad things are you saying about me?” His voice carried laughter in it, and from behind the door, he took off a towel and gently rubbed her hair.
The bathroom after a shower was very humid. She had forgotten to turn on both the lights and the bath fan. Still, she shamelessly refused to go out and simply remained like that, the side of her face resting against his chest, her body pressing tightly against his. He was for once wearing a plain black dress shirt, and perhaps due to the fact that he had just returned home, he had not the opportunity to remove his tie yet. Hence, there was actually a seductive feeling, one that could lead a person to sin.
“All along, I’ve been stressing to the other party that I’m still in my newlywed, honeymoon phase, so it’s not suitable for me to be away from home for a long period.” He was smiling the entire time as he tried to coax and comfort her. “So it shouldn’t take as long as fifteen days. It’ll be about ten days and then I’ll be back.”
She gave a faint nod.
His flight was taking off at 7:30 p.m., and he did not even have time for dinner before he was to immediately head out.
Tong Yan made up an excuse so as to not see him off at the airport and only helped him carry his luggage to the doors of the elevator. For some reason, they waited for a long while but still did not see the elevator coming to their floor.
Gu Pingsheng glanced at his watch. “Let’s take the stairs.”
He had just finished speaking this when someone pushed open the wooden door of the stairwell and, looking toward them, grumbled, “Don’t bother waiting. The elevator suddenly stopped working. Good thing there are only five floors. Just take the stairs.”
The lights in the stairwell were sound-activated.
Every time she walked down another floor, she would stamp her feet to allow the lights of the next two floors below to turn on.
Their way ahead was lit, but the lights behind them were extinguishing one floor at a time. As they passed by the few steps where she had once sat and wept, Tong Yan cast a deliberate glance at the words she had written with her fingernails. Such faint markings. Unless a person was carefully looking, no one would notice them.
When the two of them reached the ground level, Tong Yan all of a sudden closed her fingers into a little fist and slipped it into his hand.
“I remember, the first time you came to class, you were wearing a white dress shirt and light-brown trousers. Your sleeves were rolled up, and I could see your tattoo.” The corner of her lips turned up. “You were especially handsome. I’m sure I must have fallen in love with you from that moment on.”
Gu Pingsheng had an expression of amusement on his face. Closing his hand around her fist, he told her, “Be good. Don’t be pouty. I’ll be back really soon.”
1 of 1 Prologue
63 of 66 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogue segments