Being interrupted by Lin Qinhe, Tao Xi felt that the irritability in his heart seemed to have disappeared.
When Lin Qinhe’s phone vibrated, Tao Xi reached into Lin Qinhe’s coat pocket and took out the phone for Lin Qinhe
Lin Qinhe glanced at the phone screen, it was Luo Zhengyin’s call, so he answered
“Qinhe, I’m on the way to pick up Lele. I’ll be there soon. You should be back from grandpa’s house. I want to take you and Lele to eat out. Is it convenient for you to come here now? ”
Lin Qinhe didn’t hesitate much, and said bluntly: “Tao Xi and I are outside. I will send him back to school later.”
The private room was so quiet that even if the speaker was not turned on, Tao Xi could hear Luo Zhengyin’s voice.
Luo Zhengyin seemed to hesitate for a while before saying: “Is Tao Xi there? Then I will invite you to eat together. It’s rare that you have a friend you like. I have always wanted to meet this kid.”
When Tao Xi heard the word like, he raised his eyes to Lin Qinhe, the corners of his mouth curled.
Lin Qinhe frowned. He knew what Luo Zhengyin’s intention was. During this period of time Yang Duole was in a bad mood, making the family restless. He had run out of patience in coaxing Yang Duole and the two were much more distant than before. Luo Zhengyin had been trying to find an opportunity for the two to ease their relationship.
Lin Qinhe knew that Tao Xi minded Yang Duole and was ready to find a reason to reject Luo Zhengyin when he heard Luo Zhengyin say with a pleading tone.
“Qinhe, can you help mom ask Tao Xi?”
Lin Qinhe looked at Tao Xi, thinking that Tao Xi would shake his head and refuse, but he saw Tao Xi calmly say, “You tell auntie that I can.”
Lin Qinhe looked at Tao Xi’s eyes for two seconds, and after confirming that his expression was not reluctant, he agreed with Luo Zhengyin and asked her about the restaurant.
After answering the phone, Lin Qinhe asked Tao Xi, “You really don’t mind?”
He couldn’t know how much Tao Xi didn’t want to see Yang Duole, but he had already noticed it from the first time they met at the beginning of the school year.
Tao Xi put his hand in his pocket and said in a relaxed tone:
“I don’t mind.”
But Yang Duole, how would he react when he saw him?
Luo Zhengyin parked the car in the parking lot of the grand club and called Yang Duole. Perhaps because he had a good time at his classmate’s birthday party, Yang Duole seemed to be in a much better mood tonight.
Soon Yang Duole got into the car and called out “Mother Luo”. Although he still didn’t talk much, he would answer a few questions whenever Luo Zhengyin asked.
Luo Zhengyin casually asked a few things about the party, and then drove the car to a nearby western restaurant she had ordered. Yang Duole liked the desserts there. On the way, she was hesitant to say that Lin Qinhe and Tao Xi were also coming over.
Adults always thought that children’s contradictions could be resolved by talking to them. Luo Zhengyin originally wanted Lin Qinhe and Yang Duole to ease the relationship, but it happened that Tao Xi was there. She guessed that her two children had conflicts because of Tao Xi, and she thought that she could take this rare opportunity to let them sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk.
At a table for four in a western restaurant, Yang Duole lowered his head and ate expensive desserts with a fork.
Luo Zhengyin, who was sitting opposite, sent a WeChat message to Lin Qinhe to ask where he was and then asked Yang Duole:
“Lele, shall we go to sweep your mother’s grave together this weekend?”
In the past, Luo Zhengyin would take Yang Duole to visit Fang Sui’s grave every once in a while. Yang Duole would carefully pick a handful of her mother’s favorite white roses at the flower store, then give them to her mother at the grave and talk to her for a while.
But now Luo Zhengyin saw that Yang Duole stopped the fork in his hand and pressed his lips tightly without speaking. Obviously he was unwilling to agree to visit Fang Sui’s grave.
She was puzzled, but when she was about to ask, she saw Lin Qinhe walking in with a boy not far away. She naturally knew that boy was Tao Xi.
Tao Xi pointed his finger at the vacant black grand piano in the middle of the restaurant and tilted his head to say something to Lin Qinhe. Lin Qinhe glanced at the piano and gave Tao Xi a very light smile.
Luo Zhengyin was stunned, a strange feeling bubbled up in her heart. She stood up from her seat and said with a smile to the two people who were walking towards her, “Qinhe, Tao Xi.”
“Hello, Auntie.” Tao Xi greeted Luo Zhengyin politely, and then glanced at Yang Duole, who was sitting and eating with his back turned to him.
There was a ‘pang’, a sound of metal falling to the ground. Luo Zhengyin looked down and found that the fork in Yang Duole’s hand fell to the ground. The waiter on the side quickly walked over and replaced Yang Duole with new cutlery.
Yang Duole’s back stiffened and kept his head hanging down. He firmly grasped the new fork in his hand, shaking slightly.
Luo Zhengyin, who didn’t see Yang Duole’s expression, said to him, “Lele, I didn’t tell you earlier, Qinhe and Tao Xi also came over. You are both classmates, so it’s good to sit together and chat.”
Lin Qinhe looked at Yang Duole’s hand holding the fork and pulled out a chair for Tao Xi to sit next to Luo Zhengyin, while he himself sat opposite of Tao Xi.
Luo Zhengyin also sat down, and finally noticed the abnormality of Yang Duole on the opposite side. Cold sweat appeared on his forehead and his lips turned white, clutching his fork and staring at the unfinished berry pudding in front of him.
She worried that Yang Duole was not feeling well and hurriedly asked, “Lele, what’s wrong?”
Tao Xi took the menu from Lin Qinhe, looked at Yang Duole who was diagonally opposite, and looked down at the menu.
Yang Duole glanced at Tao Xi who was looking at the menu, shook his head at Luo Zhengyin and said with a voice like gnats: “I’m fine.” Then he continued to eat the dessert with his fork without looking up at anyone.
Luo Zhengyin wondered if she had done something wrong without permission. Yang Duole seemed to be very resistant to Tao Xi, but he didn’t ask to leave and only ate in silence.
She suppressed the doubts in her heart, turned to Tao Xi and said in a kind tone, “Tao Xi, you can order whatever you want, auntie is treating you today.”
Tao Xi replied obediently: “Okay, thank you auntie.”
He lowered his head and continued to look at the menu, the prices on it were so expensive that he was speechless. After struggling for a while, he didn’t know how to choose, so he pushed the menu to Lin Qinhe and poked the back of Lin Qinhe’s hand when Luo Zhengyin wasn’t looking.
Lin Qinhe took the menu with a clear understanding and ordered a few desserts and drinks from the waiter.
The meal came up quickly. Luo Zhengyin saw Lin Qinhe cut a piece of the peach dessert tower, and naturally placed it on Tao Xi’s dinner plate. Tao Xi smiled at Lin Qinhe, seemingly used to Lin Qinhe’s actions.
Luo Zhengyin was slightly surprised and glanced at his son again.
The music in the western restaurant was soothing, but the atmosphere at this side of the table was a bit stagnant. Luo Zhengyin took the initiative several times to get the children to talk, but only Tao Xi responded to her seriously. Lin Qinhe occasionally answered a few words, and Yang Duole did not speak at all.
What Luo Zhengyin could talk about as a parent was nothing more than the children’s learning and hobbies and when she heard Tao Xi say he liked to paint, she looked at the boy with a few surprises and asked again, “You like to draw too?”
Didn’t realize that the word “too” was a bit strange.
Lin Qinhe sat next to Yang Duole and looked down at Yang Duole’s left hand clutching the tablecloth under the table, the bones of that hand were white, as if he was extremely nervous about something.
Tao Xi nodded and said, “Yes, I now learn oil painting from Grandpa Qiao Henian.”
Luo Zhengyin was stunned when she heard the word “Qiao Henian”. She could not help recalling that many years ago, when Fang Sui was also a student of Qiao Henian at the age of sixteen or seventeen, after she finished her weekend piano lessons, she would ride her bicycle to the old house of the Qiao family to pick up Fang Sui who had finished her painting lessons. Fang Sui would occasionally pick up a Paulownia leaf from the ground and give it to her, sitting on the back seat of the bicycle and talking to her with a smile.
Tao Xi felt that Luo Zhengyin was looking at himself in a strange way. He felt an unexplainable sadness and despair in her eyes, as if she was looking at another person through himself. He hesitantly asked:
“Do you also know Grandpa Qiao?”
Luo Zhengyin recovered. Perhaps it was because this child looks too much like Fang Sui so she always thought of Fang Sui every time she faced Tao Xi, and she also felt uneasy.
She smiled and said, “Yes, Uncle Qiao watched me grow up, you can definitely learn a lot by following Uncle Qiao, he is a very good painter and a very good teacher.”
Tao Xi nodded and said, “Grandpa Qiao has indeed taught me a lot.”
Luo Zhengyin recalled another past event, “Qinhe often went to play at Uncle Qiao’s house when he was young, but he went less these years.” She looked at Lin Qinhe and smiled, “Qinhe, visit Uncle Qiao next time on holiday. His old man complained to me before, saying you never go to his house after you grow up.”
Tao Xi looked at Lin Qinhe and gently touched the tip of Lin Qinhe’s shoe with his foot under the table.
Lin Qinhe said without changing his face, “I’ll visit next Sunday.” It was as if he had never been there before.
Luo Zhengyin looked at Yang Duole, whom she had been paying close attention to, but Yang Duole still had his head down and ate without saying anything, so she sighed inwardly and had to continue talking to Tao Xi.
“Do you plan to continue learning painting in the future? Have you thought about which school to go to?”
Tao Xi smiled slightly and said, “I plan to apply to art schools in the United States.”
He glanced at Yang Duole calmly and continued, “So now I’m preparing my portfolio and participating in some painting exhibitions and competitions.”
Luo Zhengyin was a little surprised. After thinking about it, she suggested, “If you want to apply to foreign schools, you really need to prepare early. I know more about painting exhibitions, so I can introduce you to some. As for competitions, I don’t know much about it, you can ask Uncle Qiao.”
She really wanted to help this child. In recent years, because she often held painting exhibitions for Fang Sui, she knew better.
Tao Xi smiled at Luo Zhengyin and said sincerely, “Thank you, Auntie.”
When Luo Zhengyin saw Tao Xi’s smile, she was in a trance for a moment. Something flashed in her mind and she asked abruptly, “I heard Lele and Qinhe say that you are from Qingshui County, where is your hometown in Qingshui County? I have never been to Qingshui County, but I have seen some landscape paintings there. It is a very beautiful place.”
Tao Xi saw Yang Duole stop the cutlery from the corner of his eyes. Before he could answer, Yang Duole stood up with pursed lips, threw down the cutlery and walked towards the outside of the restaurant without saying anything.
Luo Zhengyin hurriedly stood up and shouted “Lele” a few times, but Yang Duole did not stop, so she had to chase after him without even having the time to say anything to the other two.
Tao Xi naturally knew why Yang Duole fled. He lowered his eyelashes to hide the ridicule in his eyes.
There were only two people left on the dining table. Tao Xi found that Lin Qinhe had been looking at him and asked, “Aren’t you going back with your mother?”
During the meal and conversation, he discovered that Luo Zhengyin’s attention and concern for Yang Duole seemed to be even stronger than for his own son Lin Qinhe, which made him somewhat incomprehensible.
More than that, he felt it ironic that he tried so hard to please his elders, but Yang Duole could play his temper and just leave.
Lin Qinhe put his plate of completely uneaten dessert in front of Tao Xi, as if he didn’t care about Luo Zhengyin and Yang Duole leaving, and calmly said.
“When you finish eating, I’ll send you back.”
Tao Xi accepted the dessert nonchalantly, lowered his head and continued eating, but still thinking about Lin Qinhe’s mother in his heart.
He suddenly remembered that a long time ago, Bi Chengfei had said to him that Lin Qinhe’s mother treated Yang Duole like her own child, and now it seemed that this statement was not exaggerated.
So if the truth came out, with more than ten years of affection like mother and son, Lin Qinhe’s mother would definitely defend Yang Duole, right?
What would she think of him?
He and Lin Qinhe were still in such a relationship.
Tao Xi was absentmindedly eating dessert when he suddenly heard Lin Qinhe ask.
“Is Guan Fanyun looking for you tonight related to Yang Duole?”
Tao Xi’s heart jumped suddenly, the fork in his hand stopped, and he slowly swallowed the dessert in his mouth without answering.
He found that Lin Qinhe was sometimes so sharp that he felt terrible.
Lin Qinhe didn’t seem to expect his answer. Looking at him quietly, he continued:
“If I hadn’t come over then, you would have followed Guan Fanyun?”
This sentence had little tone and the question was like an affirmative sentence.
Tao Xi was quiet for a moment and lowered his gaze, like a student being chided by his parents, put down his fork, put his hands on the table in a disciplined manner and said.
“President Guan told me she wanted to introduce a friend to me, it will help me apply to schools abroad.”
He still couldn’t tell Lin Qinhe the conversation he heard, let alone his plan to take the opportunity to retaliate.
Lin Qinhe frowned slightly, not believing this statement. He knew that Tao Xi would no longer accept the kindness of others easily, let alone Guan Fanyun, a completely stranger and complicated identity.
He also always knew that Tao Xi had something to hide from him, perhaps the secret that Tao Xi was about to tell him.
Regarding this secret, he had an extremely absurd guess, so absurd that he thought he was crazy.
The restaurant’s pianist returned to the grand piano and sat down, playing a lazy jazz tune, with a number of dining guests laughing and applauding.
The two people on this side of the table, however, suddenly fell silent.
Tao Xi had never been looked at by Lin Qinhe with such a gaze, as if his gaze had weight.
He was a little flustered. He didn’t know what Lin Qinhe was thinking. He thought he was still thinking about Guan Fanyun, so after thinking about it, he asked directly: “What’s wrong? Is there a problem with President Guan?”
Lin Qinhe looked away and put the crazy guess in his heart temporarily on hold. He has indeed heard about Guan Fanyun and others, but he was not one to talk about others behind their backs and only said.
“Nothing. In the future if she comes to you alone, it’s best to ignore it.”
Tao Xi sighed with relief, nodded and said, “Okay, I know.”
He began to talk about Jin Jing’s birthday party in the evening, and vividly described how a few mic-crazy people grabbed the microphone to sing, Bi Chengfei’s singing voice was a long story, and how big and delicious Jin Jing’s birthday cake was…
Lin Qinhe has been listening quietly, occasionally responding to Tao Xi’s words.
After the pianist finished playing the jazz, he changed to a new piece and played only a short section. Tao Xi’s eyes lit up and said to Lin Qinhe:
“Listen, it’s “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence”!”
He propped one hand on his cheek, and after listening carefully for a while, he shook his head and said, “Not as good as you play.”
Lin Qinhe leaned back on the back of the chair and asked with some amusement, “You can hear it?”
Tao Xi knew that Lin Qinhe was laughing at his own musical appreciation and hummed softly, “If I say you play well, then you play well.”
Lin Qinhe smiled and began to listen to the piece he had played many times but he had no mind to listen to who played better.
He looked out the floor-to-ceiling window. It was already mid-December, many stores on the street had posted Christmas decorations on their windows in advance, and a huge Christmas tree was set up at the entrance of the opposite shopping mall, flashing red and green neon lights.
It was just one snowfall away from Christmas.