Tao Xi started his daily speaking training. Lin Qinhe would read through and record the English materials and send them to him, and he would listen to it on his cell phone while imitating Lin Qinhe’s pronunciation and accent.
He got up earlier in the morning and after a quick breakfast in the cafeteria, he ran to the basketball court near the school gate to practice speaking for half an hour in the crisp December morning breeze.
Tao Xi glanced at the time and walked from the basketball court to the school gate with his English vocabulary book. Lin Qinhe should be there in a few minutes. He stood in the corner next to the guard’s post with his head down, memorizing the words in the booklet.
When he was reciting a very complicated word, Tao Xi suddenly felt a blackness in front of his eyes, and was covered by a soft thing. He pulled it down below his eyes to see that Lin Qinhe was looking down at him with a smile at the corner of his mouth.
Looking down again, there was a black cashmere scarf around his neck, which still had the temperature that belonged to Lin Qinhe
Lin Qinhe stretched out his hand to sort out the scarf and wrapped Tao Xi’s neck tightly. Looking at his bright eyes, he said: “Don’t wait for me in the morning, it’s very cold.”
Tao Xi shook his head in the soft and warm scarf: “I’m going out to practice speaking anyway. My head will be clearer if I feel colder.”
Lin Qinhe took a look at Tao Xi’s frozen fingers and frowned disapprovingly, but didn’t say anything.
The two of them walked together down the Xiangzhan Road towards the teaching building. These days Tao Xi would prepare speaking materials every night and speak English with Lin Qinhe on the way to the class in the morning.
Lin Qinhe would correct his incorrect pronunciation and then randomly ask questions for him to answer on the spot.
Tao Xi racked his brain to answer Lin Qinhe’s questions, and after answering, he found that Lin Qinhe had already led him off the path to the school building and came to the door of the convenience store instead.
“Do you want to buy breakfast?” Tao Xi asked.
Lin Qinhe didn’t say anything and went straight inside the convenience store. Tao Xi followed him in and saw Lin Qinhe take a pair of gray plush gloves and then went straight to the cashier to check out.
Lin Qinhe walked outside the convenience store, unwrapped the package and handed the gloves to Tao Xi.
Tao Xi took the gloves in a daze. These gloves were furry, and there were bears on the back of the hand, they were quite similar to the bears they caught before.
Seeing Tao Xi staring at the gloves, Lin Qinhe thought he didn’t like them, so he said, “Just take it for now.”
Tao Xi raised his eyes to look at Lin Qinhe, and handed him a glove. He bent his eyes and said “Let’s have one for each of us.”
Lin Qinhe refused: “I don’t use it.”
Tao Xi put on both gloves, bowed his head and looked back and forth with his fingers open.
After class at noon, Tao Xi and Lin Qinhe went to the cafeteria to eat together. This was one of the things he used to yearn for, now he followed Lin Qinhe to the cafeteria to eat. He felt that the aunts in the cafeteria had become as beautiful as flowers and the hand serving food was also steady.
Today, a group of junior students came to the school to visit so the cafeteria was full. Tao Xi carried the meal tray and went to find a seat together with Lin Qinhe. Along the way, there were a lot of people looking at two people quietly, mainly girls. TaoXi didn’t know what they were whispering, and also didn’t care.
Tao Xi’s heart sank when he heard these three words. He turned to look around and saw that Yang Duole seemed to be looking for a seat with his meal tray. On the side was his roommate Xu Ziqi, looking back and forth between him and Lin Qinhe. After a few glances, his face was ugly for a moment.
Yang Duole’s eyes fell on the black cashmere scarf that Tao Xi was wearing for two seconds. He pursed his lips, walked up to Lin Qinhe and asked with a smile, “Are you guys looking for seats too?”
Lin Qinhe nodded and glanced at Tao Xi on the side.
Tao Xi’s expression did not change much, he even greeted Yang Duole and Xu Ziqi.
Xu Ziqi looked at Lin Qinhe. After hesitating for a while, he pointed to a table not far away and suggested to Lin Qinhe: “I think those people are almost finished eating, we can sit there together.”
Tao Xi frowned imperceptibly, a wave of irritation surged in his heart.
Yang Duole also glanced at the table over there and said to Lin Qinhe: “Why not just sit there, it’s a seat for four people.”
Lin Qinhe’s tone was indifferent: “No need, we’ll find another seat.” He paused, looked at Tao Xi and said, “Let’s go.”
Tao Xi secretly breathed a sigh of relief and followed Lin Qinhe to leave. Before turning around, he saw Yang Duole staring at him.
After Xu Ziqi sat down with Yang Duole, he looked at Yang Duole’s face and said, “That person can only stay here for a year, he will go back to the ravine in his third year of high school. He will have nothing to do with you in the future.”
He knew that Yang Duole, like himself, did not like Tao Xi and was not used to seeing Lin Qinhe and Tao Xi on good terms.
Yang Duole hung his eyes so that he couldn’t see his expression clearly. He only said, “He has nothing to do with us now, ah.”
Seeing the opportunity, Xu Ziqi agreed: “Yes, we’re not in the same world as him.”
With the coming of several cold waves in December, the temperature in Wenhua City dropped again and again. Tao Xi changed into his winter school uniform early, and got up early every day to study. He thought it was a fallacy that puppy love would affect his study. At least he thought he didn’t, and even learned better.
During this period, he successfully joined the Qinghua Painting Association and was added into a WeChat group of hundreds of people. The vice president Guan Fanyun took the initiative to add him to WeChat. Only then did he remember that this woman was the lover of Yang Zhengming whom he met at the exhibition.
During the lunch break, Lin Qinhe went to the temporary competition training class set up by the school and Tao Xi couldn’t resist clicking on Guan Fanyun’s Moments.
Guan Fanyun’s moments were mostly selfies, or showing off gifts, but no photos of Yang Zhengming appeared. There were also a few paintings that she drew. Tao Xi took a closer look and found it to be very ordinary. Compared to Fang Sui, it wasn’t even at the same level. He didn’t know how she became the vice chairman, or why Yang Zhengming used her as Fang Sui’s stand-in.
Tao Xi felt bored. He quit WeChat and turned off his phone. He took out his pen to do TOEFL reading questions, and not long after that, a boy came over and said to him:
“Tao Xi, when I went to the security post to pick up the courier, I ran into your dad and he asked you to go.”
Tao Xi squeezed the pen in his hand: “Got it, thank you.”
“It’s just that I was delayed on the way back, so maybe your dad waited a little longer. Sorry.” The boy apologized.
Tao Xi thanked the boy again and pulled out a money roll tied with a rubber band from the middle of the school bag. This was the money he prepared a long time ago, just waiting for Tao Jian to come back to him one day.
Maybe Tao Jian did find a job before, but he must have lost everything in gambling so he came to him to get the money. He knew this “father” too well.
Although he knew it could be a bottomless pit, he had to fill it, even if it was temporary.
He would not allow anyone to ruin his life here with Lin Qinhe, never.
Tao Xi quickly walked to the guard room with the money, but did not see Tao Jian’s shadow. The security guard who was familiar with him because he was reading English at the school gate every day, waved to him:
“Your dad did come half an hour ago, but he left again.”
Tao Xi frowned, feeling a bad premonition in his heart for some reason.
He was silent for a while and asked the security guard: “Did he say anything?”
The security guard sighed and looked at Tao Xi with a serious expression. He wanted to say something for a few seconds but finally said, “Nothing. You go back and get ready for class.”
Tao Xi’s heart was full of suspicions but he still nodded his head. Before leaving, the security guard whispered to him: “In the future, try to ask your father to come to school less.”
Tao Xi pursed his lips, lowered his eyes and said, “I’m sorry, I’ve caused you trouble.”
He thought that Tao Jian might have made a fuss in the guard room like last time, so the security guard was justifiably fed up.
The security guard waved his hand and said tactfully: “It’s okay, I don’t mean anything else, it’s just that your father seems to get emotional easily. I’m worried that your study will be affected.”
Tao Xi thanked the security guard and turned around to leave.
Seeing Tao Xi walking far, the security guard sighed at the colleague who came in to change shifts: “This kid looks like a good boy, but his father is weird.”
The colleague asked curiously: “Another fight with you?”
The security guard shook his head and said, “It’s not with me, it’s with…” He paused and sighed, “Oh, forget it, just a rural person with no culture, don’t talk about it.”
In the morning, he was on duty in the guard room and saw Tao Jian come in wearing a pair of leather shoes that had fallen off. Because of the last incident, he didn’t have a good impression of this father. Just as he was about to tell him that he could not enter the school without the permission of the head teacher, he saw Yang Duole come in.
He immediately smiled and asked, “Yang Duole, take leave and go home again?”
Before Yang Duole could answer, Tao Jian walked up to him with a few big steps and asked loudly with an odd expression, “What’s your name? Yang Duole?”
At that time, Yang Duole seemed to be a little frightened. He glared at Tao Jian and said, “Who are you?”
The security guard felt something was wrong, but before he could shield Yang Dole behind him, Tao Jian violently grabbed Yang Duole’s right hand and rolled up his sleeve, revealing the red birthmark on his right wrist.
He could hardly describe Tao Jian’s look at the time. He only clearly remembered that Tao Jian’s face was flushed, as if drinking wine on his face, staring at the birthmark and staring at Yang Duole’s face, his eyes glistened and he vaguely said “my son” in his mouth.
Yang Duole was still struggling. He seemed to have heard what Tao Jian said. His face was pale in fright, his lips were trembling, and he even forgot about the struggle.
The security guard thought this man was crazy and hurriedly stepped forward to separate the two, but Tao Jian quickly let go of his hand. He looked up and down Yang Duole and suddenly pointed his finger at him: “You come out with me. I have something to tell you.”
The security guard protected Yang Duole behind him and said angrily at Tao Jian: “Didn’t you come to see your son Tao Xi? He may be on his way here. This student has nothing to do with you!”
Tao Jian impatiently took out a cigarette and choked, “How do you know Laozi has nothing to do with him?” He lit the cigarette and pointed at Yang Duole with his cigarette between his fingers and said threateningly, “If you don’t come out, I’ll talk to you here.”
After speaking, he walked out of the guard room, smoking a cigarette outside the door, waiting for Yang Duole to come out.
The security guard turned and looked at Yang Duole, ready to ask him whether he knew this man or not, but found that Yang Duole’s face was ashen, his forehead was full of cold sweat and his eyes were hollow and listless, as if he had just woken up from a nightmare.
He murmured: “He came to find Tao Xi?”
The guard said with a worried gaze, “Yes, he is Tao Xi’s father, if you don’t know him, don’t go out, go back to school first and wait for your family to pick you up.”
Yang Duole’s face became even paler and he shook his head sluggishly. He was about to walk out, but before walking out the door, he suddenly turned to him and said, “Uncle, can this matter not be told to others?”
His eyes were black and sunken without light.
The security guard was stunned, he subconsciously nodded and said “OK”, but out of concern he still asked: “Is it really okay?”
Yang Duole opened his bloodless lips but then he turned around and walked out without saying anything.
The security guard watched Yang Duole and Tao Jian walking away uncomfortably. Yang Duole seemed to have been avoiding Tao Jian like a snake and scorpion, but did not completely shake him off. The two began to argue fiercely halfway through the walk.
He guessed for a long time and still didn’t get the answer. He wanted to call Mr. Yang, but remembered that he had agreed to Yang Duole, so he had to give up.
When Tao Xi returned to the classroom with the money he had not given, Lin Qinhe had already returned and sat in his seat. He sorted his facial expressions, returned to his seat and asked Lin Qinhe briskly: “Is the training finished so soon?”
Lin Qinhe didn’t answer. Instead, he lowered his eyes to look at Tao Xi’s eyes, reaching out his hand to pinch his chin. His thumb pressed at the corner of his mouth and lifted it upward, asking.
“Why are you unhappy?”
Tao Xi was stunned. He looked around first to make sure that no one was looking behind before he was relieved. He avoided Lin Qinhe’s hand and put the TOEFL training questions on Lin Qinhe’s desk and said.
“Got a lot of reading questions wrong.”
Lin Qinhe didn’t ask any more questions and started to give Tao Xi reading questions.
In addition to the lunch break, Tao Xi would also set aside a fixed amount of time to practice English during the break before night study, and Lin Qinhe would usually tutor him as long as he was free.
“You seem to have a call.” In the evening, Tao Xi knocked on Lin Qinhe’s arm and he heard Lin Qinhe’s cell phone vibrating.
Lin Qinhe put down the pen in his hand and took out his phone to see that it was Luo Zhengyin’s call. He frowned slightly and said “It’s my mother” to Tao Xi before he picked up.
Tao Xi was wondering if he should avoid it, but Lin Qinhe held his hand with the other hand and pinched his fingers back and forth under the table, making his fingertips itch.
“Okay, I’ll be back soon.”
Lin Qinhe frowned deeply. He thought for a while and said to Tao Xi: “There is something wrong at home. I have to ask for a leave tonight.”
Tao Xi felt pressure in his heart and asked, “Is it serious?
Lin Qinhe shook his head. He held Tao Xi’s hand tightly and said in a low voice, “Don’t worry about the TOEFL test. It doesn’t matter if you can’t pass it, you can take it many times.”
Tao Xi didn’t expect that Lin Qinhe still remembered what he said at noon that he was unhappy because he didn’t do well in the reading questions. He scratched Lin Qinhe’s palm and said with a smile: “I’m not nervous anymore.”
Lin Qinhe got up and packed his school bag, said “See you tomorrow”, then turned around and left the classroom.
Tao Xi watched Lin Qinhe’s back disappear completely before putting the money roll in his pocket back into his school bag.
Why on earth did Tao Jian come to school and then go back halfway?
He did not believe that Tao Jian had suddenly found his conscience.
Tao Xi thought for a while, but didn’t think of a reason.
The author has something to say:
Yang Duole often has nightmares that he is not a child of his parents, as mentioned earlier