Liao Nanqing’s stalking behavior was caught in a particularly embarrassing way, so he took a step backwards. Holding his school uniform with one hand, he didn’t know what to do. Su Beimo was too tall, half a head taller than him. Liao Nanqing felt inferior. It would be nice if he could grow taller.
“Asking you something.” Su Beimo was a little unhappy. Feeling that his tone was too fierce, he toned down his voice, “Are you also buying food?”
“Come out empty-handed, didn’t buy what you want to eat?” Su Beimo was not sure at first, but now seeing his twisting look, he was sure that this kid was following him. But instead of being angry, he laughed, really amusing, “You want something from me?”
Liao Nanqing stared at the ground and couldn’t answer for a while.
The situation was so embarrassing that even Su Beimo was uncomfortable. He stretched his neck and waited for a long time for him to speak.
Just as Su Beimo was about to say goodbye, Liao Nanqing’s said in a voice that was like a mosquito’s cry: “Do you cook your own food?”
Su Beimo didn’t expect it to be this sentence, and glanced at the vegetable he was carrying: “Occasionally.” Today, Su Jing called him to say he wouldn’t be coming home after working overtime. If he ate alone, that was a lot of dishes.
And the teenager in front of him seemed to have gathered enough courage to make more effort to talk after getting his response: “So, do you live by yourself? What a coincidence, I also live by myself. I li… I live right over there! Just over there…” he gestured in a panic, pointing to a place that was not even in the right direction.
He just wanted to find a topic, and wanted to talk to Su Beimo.
Saying anything was fine, he hadn’t communicated with others normally for too long.
Once a person who was used to being isolated met someone who looked at him without colored glasses, it was as if it was rain and dew on dry land, and the taste was sweet. Su Beimo was the sudden shower this summer, refreshing and clean, washing away the stains, so Liao Nanqing couldn’t help but want to get closer.
“Oh, I live with my dad.” Su Beimo replied, barely raising the corners of his mouth, “How silly you are.” This was a sentence without prejudice, because when Su Beimo spoke in a relaxed tone, it seemed to be like a joke among friends.
Liao Nanqing’s ears turned red and he scratched the back of his head.
The two of them walked to the bus station together. In fact, Liao Nanqing didn’t need to take the bus to go home. He just wanted to talk to Su Beimo more. Since he was ten years old, he had not had any friends. Alone, he was different from others, but he didn’t want to be different.
“Aren’t you hot?”
Su Beimo was talking about the jacket Liao Nanqing was wearing.
“It’s not hot.” Liao Nanqing shook his head, with faint sweat on his neck. He used clothes to cover those embarrassing bruises.
Su Beimo knew it well but didn’t reveal it. He remembered what Liao Nanqing just said about living alone, and suddenly somehow asked, “Want to eat dinner together?”
Su Beimo explained, “Didn’t you live by yourself, do you want to come to my house for dinner.”
Because he was not familiar with him, Su Beimo regretted it a little. He felt that it was very abrupt. So he didn’t think the other party would agree, but unexpectedly, Liao Nanqing nodded immediately. His ears were red, and it was obvious he was nervous: “Okay.”
Su Beimo took his backpack and nodded: “Then my house is a bit far away, so you might have to sit to the end of the station.”1Not sure if this is author typo or it’s what it is, because for me, ‘you might have to stand to the end of the station’ makes more sense, in the context there are a lot of passengers on the bus, but idk
“Well, excuse me.” Liao Nan cleaned up his big school uniform, hoping he would look presentable.
In fact, if there was no such thing as buying cigarettes, Su Beimo would think that Liao Nanqing was pretty good.
He was not obnoxious either.
Two dishes and one soup, home-cooked meals couldn’t be simpler. However, Liao Nanqing was very embarrassed when he added the second bowl of rice. Su Beimo took the initiative to help him add it. Seeing him eating with gusto, Su Beimo took a bite with his chopsticks in doubt, and confirmed that it was a very ordinary taste. Except for Su Jing, no one praised his cooking.
“Is it delicious?”
Liao Nanqing raised his head and sincerely said: “It’s delicious.”
“Thanks.” Su Beimo felt that he was exaggerating a little. He gave Liao Nanqing fish belly using the chopsticks, “Eat the fish.”
Liao Nanqing’s adam’s apple moved, looking at the fish belly meat in the bowl, not saying anything. Su Beimo thought he didn’t like it, but when he was about to say don’t eat it, he heard Liao Nanqing whisper, “I also eat fish belly.”
“What?” Su Beimo didn’t hear clearly.
Liao Nanqing went on to say, “My mother remarried, and she gave all the fish belly to my younger brother.” He used to live with his mother but his stepfather didn’t like him and the people over there treated him as a stranger. Later, his mother asked him to move out, so he returned to live in this town alone. He didn’t know how to cook, and it cost money to go to restaurants. Not to mention, his monthly living expenses were fixed. Liao Nanqing sometimes didn’t have enough money, and even ate instant noodles for many days.
Now that he needed to buy cigarettes, he had even less money to spend so he had been eating instant noodles for half a month.
Therefore, today’s home-cooked meals were really delicious for him.
“You will be in your third year of high school after summer vacation, ba. Third year is really tiring your brain.” Su Beimo remembered the class written on his school card, and calmly gave him the fish belly on the other side. “Eat more fish and you will become smarter.”
Su Beimo didn’t believe this, but he didn’t know what kind of response he should make to Liao Nanqing’s sigh because of the fish belly. Since he liked to eat fish belly, he gave him more. Sure enough, Liao Nanqing was moved to tears.
The warm lights in the room hit Liao Nanqing’s head. He was like a timid hamster with food stuffed, and Su Beimo couldn’t help but want to touch his head.
But Su Beimo held back, this action was very strange.
Liao Nanqing was a boy, and so was Su Beimo. He shouldn’t touch his head, he was not his elder either.
When Liao Nanqing ate the second bowl of rice contentedly and got up to help Su Beimo clean up the dishes, it was almost half past six. Su Beimo held the key in his hand and planned to send Liao Nanqing to the station first, but the other party hesitated, slowly unwilling to move.
After a while he said tentatively: “Can I leave at seven?”
“It’s a bit remote here, there won’t be any trains after seven.”
“This way…” Liao Nanqing reluctantly walked to the hallway to change his shoes, disappointed, “No need to send me off, I remember the way to the station.”
But Su Beimo still put on his shoes, and Liao Nanqing was delighted.
Outside, there were already many people walking in the neighborhood with fans. They both walked very slowly, like an after-dinner walk. After a few steps, Su Beimo suddenly sighed and asked him, “Do they keep bullying you like this?”
Liao Nanqing was in a good mood, but when he mentioned this, his face sank again.
Pursing his lips, he quickened his pace and walked in front of Su Beimo. He seemed to be avoiding the problem, because he had never been able to get a solution to this problem.
He was helpless.
Su Beimo stopped asking questions and sent Liao Nanqing to the station. Before the bus came, the two of them sat on the bench and said nothing to each other. In the end, Liao Nanqing could not resist speaking first, he said, “My name is Liao Nanqing.”
Su Beimo thought, I know: “My name is Su Beimo.” He described it word by word, “Su in Suzhou, Bei as in the North, and Mo as in the ink.”
“Liao with ‘Guang;…”
“I know.” Su Beimo interrupted him, and pointed to his name badge, “It’s written here.”
Liao Nanqing was stunned for a while. Grabbing the messy hair that was blown by the evening breeze, he smiled embarrassedly. His jacket exuded a sour smell of sweat, and Liao Nanqing moved a little to the side sensibly.
His palms were a little sweaty. There was a silence between them, Liao Nanqing glanced at Su Beimo’s face from time to time. Su Beimo was sitting by the side. An uncle seemed to sit with erlang legs, his hands in his trouser pockets, and turned his head to meet Liao Nanqing’s gaze. Liao Nanqing was so scared that he immediately hid in his shell like a tortoise with a shrunken head, and asked in a panic.
“Can I… come again?”
“En?” Su Beimo reacted, “Dinner? Sure, ah.”
The corners of Liao Nanqing’s lips rose, but it was a smile that was restrained.
“Eating a meal will make you happy like this?” Su Beimo turned his face, the corners of his mouth were illuminated with dim lights, and the upward arc was like a dream.
Liao Nanqing peeked carefully, cautiously and sincerely: “Your cooking is really delicious.”
“Your flattery is also really good.”
“You don’t need to flatter me, just come if you want, but I’m really not good at cooking.”
But Su Beimo didn’t know that Liao Nanqing had never eaten a decent home-cooked meal since he transferred over the last semester. The divorce of his parents caused Liao Nanqi to lose the warmth of the family early. He followed his remarried mother and went elsewhere, living a life under the fence. The stepfather was a drunkard and didn’t like him very much.
When he was a child, he was very scared and begged for his mother’s protection.
When he got older, he knew that he did not belong to that family, and his mother would no longer be his own mother.
What his mother wanted to protect more was the newborn brother, not him who belonged to shame and old times.
Liao Nanqing had been an “orphan” since he was ten years old.
The stepfather only loved his own son and Liao Nanqing was as worthless as a straw in his eyes. Finally, in order to get him out of that home, Liao Nanqing’s mother made him transfer to the town where he used to live, living in a cramped house left by his own grandmother.
But all the pain started in this small town.
The father’s imprisonment, the mother’s remarriage, the neighbor’s criticism.
He was a subject of rumors, but he didn’t know where to go.
The environment was harsh to him, and no one treated him well. But as long as there was such a person, a corner of the curtain would be opened for the person in the cage. Then, a closed-off person would also find the light. This was an animal’s instinct, a desire to survive.
Liao Nanqing lived in a two-bedroom house full of childhood memories.
The ceiling fan above the head, the gray-yellow walls, the potted orchid plants on the cabinet, the silent static screen on the TV, and the mustard fried pork and cold beer on the dinner table in summer.
And now, Liao Nanqing returned home, dark and nothing.
He didn’t even turn on the light, he staggered his shoes off, and fell on the sofa. The smell of the dull fabric was old and familiar. The sweat from his forehead rubbed against it, spreading it wet.
Only his gentle breathing could be heard in the quiet room, and the sound of ticking in the sink came belatedly.
It was the water droplets that accumulated in the faucet and fell into an unwashed bowl of noodles. The faint light from the street lamp coming through the window reflected the ripples of the water.
A second was fleeting.
Liao Nanqing got up, turned on the light, and washed all the dishes and chopsticks piled up in the sink. He was sweaty but it was clean and carefree. He took off his coat and threw it in the washtub. The water heater in the bathroom was already working, and Liao Nanqing was ready to take a shower.
Because tomorrow, he had to go to Su Beimo.
T/N: Update is on every Saturday until I figure out my schedule. thank you for reading!
- 1Not sure if this is author typo or it’s what it is, because for me, ‘you might have to stand to the end of the station’ makes more sense, in the context there are a lot of passengers on the bus, but idk