Tao Xi hadn’t cried so loudly for a long time. He didn’t know how long he had been crying. He could only feel that Lin Qinhe had been holding him firmly, patting him on the back softly, and crying with him patiently.
He cried until he was choking and couldn’t breath well, and his tears were too dry to come out. Lin Qinhe held his shoulders, kissed him gently on his eyes that were completely red and swollen, and said in a warm voice.
“Don’t cry. Let’s have a cake and make a wish together.”
Tao Xi forcefully opened his sore and stinging eyes, looked straight at Lin Qinhe and found that Lin Qinhe’s eyes were also red. He sobbed in the ups and downs of his chest and nodded.
Lin Qinhe looked at Tao Xi’s eyes. Those beautiful eyes were wet from crying. The eyelashes were glued into small clusters because of the tears, and the dark pupils gleamed with a subtle light after being moistened with tears.
He couldn’t resist kissing Tao Xi again at the corner of his eyes, holding his wrist and pulling him up from the carpet in a half hug.
Tao Xi was obediently held by Lin Qinhe and walked to the bathroom. After Lin Qinhe dampened the towel with hot water and wrung out, he carefully wiped his face and eyes. At that moment, like a child, he closed his eyes and raised his face slightly, feeling the touch of Lin Qinhe’s fingers through the soft and moist towel, and occasionally sobbed intermittently
After that, Lin Qinhe led him to the dining room and handed him a full glass of warm water. He took the glass of water with both hands and drank, and the intermittent sniffle got better after drinking.
It was already past zero, and the neon light outside the floor-to-ceiling windows had already dimmed a lot, only the heavy snow was flying unconsciously. The two teenagers held hands and returned to the carpet next to the floor-to-ceiling windows to sit side by side.
In fact, they both had a lot of questions to ask each other, but at the moment they just tacitly and quietly snuggled.
Tao Xi hugged his legs and rested his chin on his knees, watching Lin Qinhe take out the cardboard box containing candles from under the coffee table and carefully insert them one by one on the cake.
He looked at Lin Qinhe’s profile, and then at Lin Qinhe’s fingers inserting candles, his head was empty because he had been crying for too long, but his eyes were full, as if filled with the light of the newly washed sky.
Seventeen colorful candles were inserted on the cake. Lin Qinhe took out the lighter he had prepared earlier and asked Tao Xi softly, “Want to light the candles yourself?”
Tao Xi shook his head and said in a dumb voice, “I want to see you light them.”
He used to be at a classmate’s birthday party and saw their closest relatives lighting the candles on the cake.
Lin Qinhe said “okay” and used a lighter to light the seventeen candles one after another. The warm yellow candlelight lit up in clusters, swaying in the pupils of the two.
He turned the floor lamp off on the side, and this corner and the two figures together swayed in the orange candlelight.
“Close your eyes and make a wish.” Lin Qinhe’s voice was low and soft, turning his face to look at Tao Xi, his long, drooping eyelashes were softly embraced by light and shadow.
Tao Xi looked at Lin Qinhe in a daze. It took a while before he slowly moved his eyes to the cake and candles, and then looked at the candles out of focus, as if thinking of something, his eyes suddenly became wet again.
Lin Qinhe’s heart was aching and soft, and he asked in a very soft voice: “What’s wrong?”
Tao Xi shook his head, just squeezed Lin Qinhe’s hand, and then closed his eyes in the light of the jumping candle.
Dear mother, how are you1the polite you doing in heaven?
Can you bless your child once more?
Bless me and Lin Qinhe with a lifetime of peace and prosperity.
Bless our holding hands so it will never be separated.
Tao Xi opened his eyes and saw the melting candle flame swaying on the seventeen candles. Obviously it was such a faint light, but it seemed to illuminate all the past seventeen years.
He turned his head to look at Lin Qinhe, revealing a smile.
Lin Qinhe looked at him intently, and with a smile on the corners of his mouth, he asked him, “Have you made a wish?”
Tao Xi nodded his head and held Lin Qinhe’s hand without letting go as he said, “Let’s blow out the candles together.”
The two heads approached the cake together, and the seventeen clusters of candlelights were extinguished in the flickering and beating, like a sigh on a winter night.
Lin Qinhe whispered to Tao Xi again.
After speaking, he leaned his head over.
There was still heavy snow outside the window, and every roof was covered with snow-white dreams. The two teenagers in front of the window sat next to each other, kissing each other in the light and interlaced breath, like snowflakes falling into the middle of the lake, the early cherry blossoms all over the embankment, hot and lingering in the silent place.
In the end, Tao Xi only ate a small piece of this cake, because Lin Qinhe said that eating too many sweets in the middle of the night was bad for his health. Together with Lin Qinhe, he posted the photo taken in the evening on the next page of the album, and solemnly wrote “17” under the photo with a pen.
It was a little too late after it was over. Tao Xi took a bath slowly in the bathroom of the master bedroom. When he came out, he saw Lin Qinhe sitting on the bed in his pajamas, looking down at his phone, apparently having taken a shower in the other bathroom as well.
Tao Xi looked at Lin Qinhe’s smoky-gray pajamas several times with his two red and swollen eyes. He put on his slippers and walked to the bed, took it off and climbed to Lin Qinhe’s side, pretending to ask naturally:
“Where do I sleep?”
Lin Qinhe put down his phone when he saw him coming out, hugged his waist and put him on his lap. Looking up at him slightly, he said, “There is only one bedroom prepared here.”
Tao Xi sat with his legs apart on Lin Qinhe’s lap. He wrapped his arms around Lin Qinhe’s neck and looked at the other pillow next to him, not noticing the word “prepared”. He asked with a blush on his face.
“Then what are the other two rooms?” He saw two other rooms with the door closed.
It was almost two o’clock, Lin Qinhe thought for a while before he said to Tao Xi: “I will show you now.”
Tao Xi nodded quickly, he had been curious for a long time.
He followed Lin Qinhe towards the outside of the bedroom. The first room opened by Lin Qinhe was a piano room. Tao Xi followed and walked to the black grand piano in the center of the room and circled around the piano, wanting to open the lid but resisted, and only asked.
“Do you practice piano every day?”
Lin Qinhe said: “No, I practice it once in a while.”
He lifted the lid and played a small string of notes on the keys with his right hand, and asked Tao Xi, “What do you want to hear?”
Tao Xi thought for a while and then said, “The Happy Birthday song.”
Lin Qinhe then really sat down and played a song “Happy Birthday”, but he temporarily added a lot of adaptations, a familiar and simple tune became complex and pleasant to the ear.
Tao Xi sat beside Lin Qinhe and watched his bony fingers play an almost brand new piece of music on the black and white piano keys.
“This is a completely new piece, it needs a new name.” After Lin Qinhe finished playing, Tao Xi tilted his head to think, his fingers randomly pressing a note on the keys.
Lin Qinhe withdrew his hands and looked at him, saying, “It’s called ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. Tao Xi’.”
Tao Xi remembered the song “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” and was very satisfied with the name. The corners of his mouth lifted up in a smile and he said, “Okay, thank you, Mr. Lin Qinhe.”
Two people walked out of the piano room, Tao Xi followed Lin Qinhe to the next and last room. He asked curiously, “Is this room a study or a bedroom?”
Lin Qinhe didn’t answer him and opened the door directly. He raised his eyes to look at it, but stood frozen at the door, with nothing in his mind.
It was a spacious studio with floor-to-ceiling windows on the whole surface to ensure sufficient daylight. There were three easels of different sizes in the room, large workbenches, drawing boards, lighting lamps, molds, interlining cloth… a lot of paints, brushes, drawing paper and other drawing tools had been put in the tall cabinet, and almost everything about painting was readily available.
On one side of the wall hung a gouache painting of a clear stream at a mountain col with peach blossoms flowing, once named by his small mind as ‘Creek full of forest flower’.2林花满溪 – lín huā mǎn xī
Tao Xi’s eyes trembled, as if fireworks and neon lights all over the world were flashing in front of his eyes.
He looked dumbfounded for a while before suddenly turning around and reaching out to hug Lin Qinhe’s waist, burying his forehead in his shoulder, rubbing it back and forth lightly, causing his hair to be messy.
Lin Qinhe was itchy when he was rubbed and let out a low laugh. Through the thin pajamas, he could feel the slight vibration of his chest. He asked him, “Do you know where you are sleeping now?”
Tao Xi let out an “en”, and after being quiet for a while, he raised his head and stared at Lin Qinhe and said: “You don’t forget what I said. When I make a lot of money in the future, I want to buy a big house with a yard. At that time, you must live in the house I bought.”
Lin Qinhe rubbed the back of his head and said, “Okay, listen to you.”
Tao Xi walked around the painting room a few times before he reluctantly followed Lin Qinhe back to the master bedroom, and when he saw the big bed again, the little embarrassment came back.
He never expected that he could live with Lin Qinhe and sleep together so soon.
“Do you recognize the bed when you sleep?”
When Tao Xi heard Lin Qinhe ask himself, he hurriedly answered: “No, I don’t.”
He had slept on a straw-padded bed and a broken wooden bed in a ten-person room. This was the first time he had slept in such a big and soft bed, and he had an urge to roll around on the bed.
Tao Xi thought so, so he did. He took off his slippers and climbed into bed, rolling around on the bed, from here to there and back again, but then rolled into Lin Qinhe’s arms.
Lin Qinhe took him by the waist, looked at him in amusement and kissed him gently on the forehead before saying: “Go to bed early, it’s late.”
Tao Xi was quiet in Lin Qinhe’s arms for a while, but still couldn’t resist asking the question he always wanted to ask:
“How did you know?”
Knowing what went without saying.
Lin Qinhe turned sideways and turned off the light. The bedroom was plunged into darkness, then he covered with the quilt and held Tao Xi in his arms again.
He only gave a rough idea of hiring people to investigate Taoxi Bay, omitting the details of what that old woman said and what happened to Tao Jian.
Tao Xi listened to Lin Qinhe in a daze. Thinking of the previous incident where Lin Qinhe recognized him through his handwriting, the more he felt that Lin Qinhe was so smart and perceptive that it was scary.
“Why didn’t you say it all along?” Lin Qinhe asked him in a calm tone.
Tao Xi hesitated for a moment and finally only said, “I promised my… foster mother that I would not tell the truth until I became an adult.”
But in fact, he didn’t take Guo Ping’s begging to heart.
Only he knew the real reason.
Lin Qinhe’s arms around Tao Xi’s hands suddenly clenched. Fortunately, it was dark in the bedroom. They couldn’t see each other’s expressions. He was silent for a while, suppressing his ups and downs, before saying in a deep voice:
“She is not qualified to ask this of you, and you do not have to keep your word.”
Tao Xi let out an “en” and said, “So, I was going to tell you, but I didn’t expect you to know first.”
He was getting sleepy, his eyelids were fighting, and at the same time, he was still excited and wanted to continue talking to Lin Qinhe. At this moment, Lin Qinhe kissed him gently on his forehead again and said softly, “Go to sleep, good night.”
Tao Xi hooked his neck and kissed Lin Qinhe gently on his forehead, and said in a daze, “Good night, but I can’t seem to sleep.”
Despite saying that, maybe he was tired of crying, or maybe the secret was finally relieved, but Tao Xi fell asleep in less than 10 minutes.
And instead, Lin Qinhe didn’t fall asleep. He opened his eyes in the dark, listening to Tao Xi’s shallow breathing, his expression was almost gloomy.
He said that he would take Tao Xi to his home, but he knew that his home was not just a few blood related people living under one roof.
He would definitely let Tao Xi recognize his family, but could Tao Xi truly return to that so-called new family? How would he get along with the relatives whom he had never lived with for seventeen years? The family members themselves were at odds with each other, and Yang Duole, who had been raised for more than ten years, was also sandwiched between them.
Would Tao Xi’s sensitive character be hurt and wronged in this new family during the adjustment period?
He had to think carefully, but he was after all an outsider to the Fang family and Yang family, not qualified to say anything.
So he must first give Tao Xi a home and give him an eternal retreat.
He even thought that if those relatives could not accept Tao Xi well.
Then he would be happy to be Tao Xi’s only family member.
- 1the polite you
- 2林花满溪 – lín huā mǎn xī