Before the club activities on Sunday, Tao Xi worriedly reminded Lin Qinhe:
“At 6:30 tonight, Aode Square, Guangdong-Hong Kong Tea Restaurant, you must not let me wait! Otherwise I…”
Lin Qinhe took out the music score and looked at him: “Or else what will you do?”
Tao Xi choked.
What could he do?
He would be disappointed, but he would still like this person so much.
So he hummed and said to Lin Qinhe: “Not much, maybe I will ignore you tomorrow.”
After a pause, he added a little in a useless whisper, “Just one day.”
Tao Xi heard Lin Qinhe laugh in a low voice. Before he could see Lin Qinhe’s smile clearly, Lin Qinhe left the classroom with the music score.
Tao Xi sat in a daze for a while before getting up and heading to the art club.
Before he started painting, Qiao Yitang found him and said, “Tao Xi, I showed my grandfather your painting last time. He wants to see you. Are you free this afternoon?”
Tao Xi was taken aback and looked at Qiao Yitang blankly.
Qiao Yitang smiled and said, “Oh, by the way, you probably don’t know who my grandfather is. My grandfather’s name is Qiao Henian. You should have heard of it, right?”
Tao Xi’s heart trembled. It was impossible for him to not know Qiao Henian, this old painter was a famous domestic oil painting master, once the director of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. He didn’t expect Qiao Yitang to be Qiao Henian’s granddaughter, let alone Qiao Henian would want to see him.
He was naturally excited to see Qiao Henian, but not today. He said to Qiao Yitang: “I want to see Mr. Qiao very much, but I have an appointment for dinner tonight. Can I visit Mr. Qiao next week?”
Qiao Yitang’s eyes lit up and she asked in a gossiping tone: “Are you going on a date at night? That should be prepared well! It’s okay, my grandpa has nothing to do, just playing chess and teasing birds at home everyday. No problem, see you next week.”
Tao Xi knew that Qiao Yitang had misunderstood, but the word “date” made him feel sweet. He didn’t refute, his eyes were shining, and the corners of his mouth couldn’t suppress a smile, he said thank you.
Qiao Yitang looked at the innocent look of the boy in front of her, feeling very similar to the white milk cat she had raised before. She had some itchy hands and wanted to stroke Tao Xi’s hair, but after thinking about it, she held it back, and said leisurely:
“Dress up well and have fun on your date!”
Tao Xi nodded happily and said thank you again.
Qiao Yitang turned around and walked out of the studio. She walked to the corner of the corridor before taking out her mobile phone and made a call. As soon as the call was connected, she rattled:
“You owe me a big favor again! I helped him connect with my grandfather, ah. But after seeing his paintings, my grandfather was really interested in him. Maybe he will accept a disciple in the future. You must know that my grandfather now doesn’t accept students except me.”
“I really don’t understand you. At first I thought you wanted to be in politics like your grandfather and uncle, so you support the country’s targeted poverty alleviation policy. But you are not helping the poor anymore, you are raising a child and daughters-in-law, ba!”
“But he’s going on a date happily tonight. You don’t just raise it but in the end, you got nothing at all!”
When the opposite party hung up the phone without saying anything, Qiao Yitang looked at the phone screen
angrily, wishing that this stuffy jar1Stuffy jar — silent and dislike of words. who didn’t say anything, would not own a thing in the world.
After Tao Xi finished painting, he rushed back to the dormitory, picking and choosing clothes from his closet for half a day, but he couldn’t pick out any suitable clothes.
He didn’t have any clothes at all. Since coming to Wenhua No. 1 High School, he hadn’t bought a new dress because he wore a school uniform every day.
I still have to buy a set of clothes, he thought.
Tao Xi left school and went to the mall. Seeing that Tao Xi was good-looking, the salesperson asked him to try and change clothes. The clothes were really good and he was pressed to take a bunch of photos like a model, but when he saw that the price was over a thousand, he immediately withered.
Although the school gave a lot of money, he would never waste it on such expensive clothes.
Tao Xi finally found a relatively cheap underground shopping mall, and spent 300 yuan on a set of clothes that were on sale for the season last year, a beige knitted sweater, with two fluffy and soft braided strings hanging in front of it, and light-colored jeans lined a pair of legs that were long and slender.
He didn’t think this was handsome enough, but the salesperson was hyping it so much2天花乱坠 (a deluge of heavenly flowers) — wild boast about sth; to speak beautiful but not practical or deceitful; describes that the speech is vivid and colorful, and extremely pleasant to the ears (many means exaggerated and not realistic) that he was stunned.
After buying new clothes, Tao Xi squatted by the bench in the rest area of the shopping mall, fished out the papers from his school bag, and plopped down on the bench to do his homework.
The middle-aged uncle who was sitting by the side waiting for his wife to shop sighed: “Child, it is tiring to squat here. There is a coffee shop, it is more comfortable to go there to do homework.”
Tao Xi shook his head: “The coffee shop is too expensive.” He paused and looked at the uncle and said seriously, “And I’m not a kid anymore, I’m in my second year of high school.”
The uncle smiled: “You look a lot like a middle school student. Besides, the second year of high school is also very young, not an adult yet.”
Tao Xi frowned and thought, this outfit was still not handsome enough.
The uncle sighed with emotion and said to himself: “If my kid is so obedient and sensible, I will definitely live to ninety-nine in one breath.”
Tao Xi did his homework until half past five. He stood up with numb legs and almost fell. He moved his legs on the spot for a while, packed his backpack and rushed to the place.
The rush hour in big cities was always overcrowded. After the autumnal equinox, the sun set earlier and earlier, and the twilight was gradually engulfed by the night. Tao Xi stood in front of the crowded Aode Mall, looking down at the WeChat chat box on his phone in a daze.
Should he ask where Lin Qinhe was?
But now that it was not even six o’clock yet, would Lin Qinhe be annoyed to be urged?
Tao Xi took out an English vocabulary booklet from his school bag. Standing in the crowd of people memorizing words, a lot of people passing by looked surprised.
But he couldn’t memorize it at all. The letters were grouped together in front of him, and then spread out in his mind, and finally they became the three words Lin Qinhe.
A college boy standing waiting for his girlfriend couldn’t help but say to Tao Xi: “Are you also waiting for your girlfriend for a date? If she sees you on a date and is still studying, she will be angry.”
Tao Xi was startled, and asked in surprise, “Will really be angry?”
But if he didn’t study hard, Lin Qinhe would also be angry.
“Of course, ah. It means you didn’t worry about her all the time.” The college boy seemed to be very experienced. As soon as he finished his speech, he saw his girlfriend walk over so he hurriedly smiled and gave a hug, and the two went into the mall holding hands.
Tao Xi hurriedly put the vocabulary booklet back into his school bag, and stared at WeChat on the phone again in a daze.
It was already six o’clock, should it be okay to ask?
Tao Xi plucked up the courage to start typing on the phone:
“Where are you…”
Just halfway through the text, the interface suddenly turned into an incoming call reminder.
It was Lin Qinhe’s call.
At that moment Tao Xi felt his stomach cramp. It was a surge of tension and excitement at the same time, his fingers panicked and picked up the phone, holding it hard and asking.
“Where are you? I’m right now at the entrance of Aode Mall, next to the lamp post on the left.”
When he made a sound, he realized that his voice was trembling with excitement, and his throat seemed to be blocked by a ball of wet cotton.
There seemed to be a bit noisy on the phone, but Lin Qinhe’s deep voice was still clear:
“Tao Xi, sorry, I can’t come over tonight.” He paused and continued, “Sorry, something happened at home suddenly.”
Tao Xi’s heart sank quickly in the first half of the sentence, but immediately raised it in the second half. He asked anxiously: “What’s the matter? Is it important?”
Lin Qinhe said: “Yang Duole is sick. My family and I are on the way to take him to the hospital.”
Tao Xi finally heard clearly. The noisy background sound was the sound of intermittent sobbing, and the old grandmother’s warm voice was soothing: “Don’t cry, dear grandson, we’re going to the hospital soon.”
The voice cried out again, “Qinhe ge”, and then came Lin Qinhe’s voice after the phone was taken away from him:
“Lele, bear with it, it won’t hurt anymore after seeing the doctor.”
Tao Xi suddenly found that he couldn’t find the air to breathe.
He felt his heart hurt so much, so much.
It hurt too much.
It hurt so much that his vision began to blur.
The voice on the other end of the phone sounded close again, Lin Qinhe’s voice was very low and soft:
“Sorry, I will invite you to dinner next time. You can eat whatever you want, okay?”
Tao Xi squeezed his palm with his fingers. He blinked his eyes hard, but the neon lights of the tall buildings rising from the ground and the endless stream of car tail lights were still blurred into gorgeous patches in front of his eyes.
He murmured: “But, but…”
He was stubbornly reluctant to agree, but could not give a reason.
Lin Qinhe asked him patiently, “But what?”
Tao Xi closed his eyes and said in a stagnant voice
“But I want to see you.”
There is no reason, I just want to see you.
Very much, very much, very much.
These words seemed to have consumed all his courage, Tao Xi closed his eyes tightly, as if he could not hear all the voices in the world.
There was a moment of silence on the other end of the phone. It was only three seconds, but it also seemed like it was a long time. He heard Lin Qinhe say to him in the sound of his own effort to suppress his inhalation:
“You stand there obediently and don’t move, I’ll send someone to pick you up, okay?”
The voice was gentle like the evening breeze in October, and it gave him the illusion that Lin Qinhe was coaxing him, just like him coaxing Yang Duole.
Tao Xi breathed, he said, “Okay.”
After speaking, he realized that he could not make a sound at all. He took a deep breath, and his astringent throat only made a sound again:
After hanging up the phone, Tao Xi reached out and touched his wet face.
He held the phone and stared blankly at the bustling crowd.
White-collar workers coming home from work, couples holding hands on dates, friends shopping together, parents with children…
Everyone was playing their part in the lively neon night, but what role was he playing tonight?
Tao Xi didn’t have to wait long, a black car he didn’t recognize but was frequently gawking at pulled up not far away. The young man in a suit got out of the car and soon found him at the entrance of the mall and asked:
“Hello, you are Tao Xi, aren’t you? I’m Chen Ting, the driver of the Lin family.”
Tao Xi nodded, and followed Chen Ting into the car.
Soon he was sent to Hannan Hospital, and Chen Ting led him into the hospital.
Tao Xi began to regret the moment he entered the elevator of the hospital. Why did he come here?
Yang Duole was ill, what was he doing with a sullen expression?
See? Visit? Concern?
Acting as one of the many caring family members and friends surrounding Yang Duole?
He could only find himself unhappy.
There were a lot of people in the elevator, and there was a pungent smell of disinfectant. Tao Xi was squeezed in the corner with his backpack.
An old man with a lunchbox next to him looked at the corner. The child seemed to be covered in dark shadows, so obviously sad that he thought he was sad about a sick relative, and asked him kindly.
“Do you come to visit your family after school?”
Tao Xi shook his head silently.
He just wanted to see Lin Qinhe.
Just a glance, and leave after seeing him.
He said to himself.
When the elevator reached the fifth floor, it opened again, and Chen Ting said softly to him: “Here.”
Many people in the elevator started to walk outside. Tao Xi followed the others and was the last to get out of the elevator.
The crowd dispersed and his vision became wider. He saw Lin Qinhe standing not far from the elevator entrance, looking at him.
Suddenly Tao Xi couldn’t walk anymore, standing still looking at Lin Qinhe, the elevator door behind him closed again with a “ding”.
He thought, this glance was enough.
He should go back after saying a word.
Lin Qinhe walked up to him. As he took the backpack in his arms and carried it in his hand, he asked him in a low voice:
“Hungry? Do you want to eat something first?”
Tao Xi didn’t speak, but just looked at Lin Qinhe. The long eyelashes were clearly illuminated by the overhead light, and there was only this person in his pupils.
It seemed that there was only this one person in the world.
Lin Qinhe looked down at those wet eyes for a while, then suddenly raised his hand to touch Tao Xi’s soft hair.
But his fingers paused before he touched the hair and turned to twist the woven string of Tao Xi’s sweater that was thrown behind him and gently put it on his chest, moving gently like pinning a rose on his chest.
He withdrew his hand, and the fingers hanging down the side of his leg curled up slightly.
But Tao Xi grabbed the soft braided string and held it hard into his palm, he looked at Lin Qinhe and suddenly said.
“Lin Qinhe, I’m so hungry.”
One glance seemed not enough.
It was not enough.
- 1Stuffy jar — silent and dislike of words.
- 2天花乱坠 (a deluge of heavenly flowers) — wild boast about sth; to speak beautiful but not practical or deceitful; describes that the speech is vivid and colorful, and extremely pleasant to the ears (many means exaggerated and not realistic)