Mom Gu asked the question in a deliberately low voice. She didn’t want Dad Gu to hear her as he shuffled his way to the bedroom in his slippers.
Gu Yanting was not a loner and had many friends, but he never brought them home.
At first, Gu Yanting’s parents thought it was because their family was too shabby and the classmates at the major high school were all children of wealthy families, so Yanting was embarrassed. Later they found out this was not the case. In his second year of high school, Gu Yanting was able to graciously introduce his parents who came to bring him something to his classmates, and even though he did occasionally feel inferior, he was not ashamed of his poor family.
Tang Yi was the first friend to be brought home by Gu Yanting. Gu Yanting’s parents knew their son’s nature, and when they saw that their ignorant son would say nice things trying to please both sides, they were angry and amused, and, in addition to being surprised, did their 120% best to entertain Tang Yi.
However, after just two days of getting along, Gu Yanting’s parents were full of praise for Tang Yi. While Dad Gu rubbed his mouth, looking at the chess board, he said four words with appreciation: wise, mature, responsible, and caring.
Gu Yanting’s parents liked Tang Yi from the bottom of their hearts. Later learnt that Tang Yi had lost his parents at an early age and had lived alone all these years. They wanted to accept Tang Yi as their adopted son several times, but later felt that it was inappropriate, so they told him again and again — just treat this place as your home!
Many things the two elders gave Gu Yanting were double copies, and Mom Gu chose a separate thread and colour for Tang Yi to make a scarf.
“Xiao Yi, ah…” Mom Gu said softly, “Yanting is a jerk, don’t mind him, he’s not coming home just in time, Auntie will cook for you…”
Mom Gu suddenly stopped talking, and then listened to the phone quietly for a while. Then Dad Gu took the phone and shouted very happily, “Xiao Tang, ah! It’s your Uncle!”
Tang Yi froze for a moment, then smiled and shouted back, “Hello, Uncle, are you feeling quite well lately?”
“Quite well! Quite well!” Dad Gu responded cheerfully and continued in a loud voice, “Your Uncle is ready this time! I’ve learnt a couple of tricks, just waiting to show you, hahaha!”
Tang Yi hesitated, and before he could say anything, Dad Gu’s voice lowered again. He apparently used his hand to shield the microphone so that Mom Gu couldn’t hear him, “Xiao Tang, Yanting won’t be here this time, so you can talk to your Auntie and we can kill a few more games?”
“Uncle Gu, I have to work overtime this year, so I can’t come over.” Tang Yi said after a pause.
Dad Gu’s reaction was obviously much more direct than Mom Gu’s. He first gave a surprised “ah”, and then let out a couple of lost “oh”.
Gu Yanting often resembled Dad Gu, an obvious result of years of exposure. The most distinctive point was that the emotions of the father and son were easily revealed.
The reason Gu Yanting called this morning was probably because he was afraid that Tang Yi would be alone for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Tang Yi was determined to break off with him and wanted to make him understand his determination by not giving him what he wanted. But at this moment, Dad Gu said “oh” twice in a low voice, and Tang Yi couldn’t bear it anymore.
“…but I’m free the day after tomorrow, so I can come over early to see you and Auntie,” Tang Yi smiled, “I just won’t be spending the festival at your place.”
“Okay! Okay, okay!” Dad Gu agreed. “Then since you come all the way over here, stay overnight before you leave!”
Tang Yi sighed helplessly, “Okay.”
The Gu family lived in the suburbs of T City. In fact, calling it ‘suburbs’ was a bit blurry. The Gu family did live in a neighbourhood but a few steps further on was the village.
There were few people going there. The main road was repaired for more than ten years and didn’t finish being repaired. The first year the gas pipeline was accidentally dug out, the next year it was the cable that was dug out. In short, it happened year after year, as if someone recruited a bunch of bandits to plough it. The road was full of pits that were not filled. Taxis didn’t go that way, and driving yourself was enough to kill your car, so most of the time Tang Yi and Gu Yanting went home by bus.
The road was bumpy and tumultuous, and when Tang Yi arrived at his destination, he felt that his internal organs were about to be shattered.
Dad Gu was already waiting at the bus stop, and when he saw Tang Yi get off, he quickly rushed over and greeted him warmly, “Xiao Tang!”
This house was bought by the Gu family a few years ago, not far from the former staff dormitory, but the environment and the size of the house were better, a two-bedroom place with a proper north-south orientation.
When Mom and Dad Gu bought it, it was for Gu Yanting’s marriage in the future. T City had already included this place in the planning area, and the house wouldn’t be shabby if the high-speed rail was opened in the future. Meanwhile, the staff dormitory in the tube-shaped apartment building didn’t have a real estate certificate and the structure was not earthquake resistant. The two elders could only rent out that place for now, and when Gu Yanting got married later the two elders would go back there to live.
Tang Yi followed Dad Gu into the house, changed his shoes and then consciously carried his things to the corner of the living room by the balcony.
There were already five plates set up in the dining room, with hot and cold dishes, all of which Tang Yi loved, and the smell of fish soup wafted out of the kitchen.
Mom Gu poked her head out of the kitchen and greeted with a smile, “Xiao Yi, you’re here!”
“I’m here,” Tang Yi smiled back. After putting his things away, he unbuttoned the sleeves of his shirt and rolled them up, then went into the kitchen to help, “I’ll give you a hand.”
“I’ll be ready in a minute! You’re tired enough to come all the way over here, what else are you going to do?” Mom Gu blocked him with a stern face and nudged him towards the sofa, “Go and eat the grapes, Uncle Kang gave them to you this morning, they’re golden fingers!”
She turned her head to look but didn’t see Dad Gu and shouted, “Lao Gu!”
Dad Gu was already happily running out with the chess board in his arms, his face wrinkled with a smile, “Hey, here it is, here it is!”
“……” Mom Gu glared at him with displeasure, “Eat before you play!”
Dad Gu did learn two new moves.
The three of them played chess in the living room after dinner; that is, Tang Yi and Dad Gu played against each other, while Mom Gu sat calmly and collected the chess pieces, piling them up on top of each other, occasionally stretching her head towards Dad Gu’s side and pointing out a few things with a contemptuous face, without any awareness that chess should be watched silently.
Dad Gu was disgusted with her and frowned at her, playing in a frenzy, completely out of order. However, even so, Tang Yi lost three games in a row.
He demonstrated how preoccupied he was, stepping back with his pawn several times or trying to cross the line with his bishop. In the end, it was Mom Gu who stopped him and asked with some concern, “Xiao Yi, what’s wrong?”
Tang Yi had planned before coming here and found an excuse to say that he had to go abroad. In short, he couldn’t come over in the future. But now, when Mom Gu patted him with worry, he looked back at the unbearable chaos on the other side of the chess board and couldn’t say the words “I won’t come here anymore” that he had been struggling with in his heart for a long time.
When he started dating Gu Yanting, he was ashamed in front of his kind-hearted parents. Now that the two of them had broken up, the expected relief didn’t come.
Tang Yi wiped his face, pretending to smile easily, “Ah, it’s nothing.”
Mom Gu’s face was full of suspicion. She was afraid that he was tired or uncomfortable, so she brought him a cup of warm water and pushed him into the prepared guest bedroom, “Why don’t you take a nap? Auntie has cold medicine here, if you are not feeling well, just say so, ah!”
Dad Gu also followed behind with a worried face, but Mom Gu slapped him back, “It’s all because of you! Why couldn’t you wait longer? You’re like an addict! Xiao Yi is tired of playing chess with you, you stinky chess player! Go away!…”
Tang Yi: “……”
Dad Gu, full of grievances, waved his hand at Tang Yi silently and went back to clean up the chess board.
The layout of Gu Yanting’s bedroom was very simple. The two elders intended to redecorate it for Gu Yanting when he got married in the future, so the walls were only painted white. The bedroom had an oak-textured double bed, a similarly oak-textured wardrobe, an oak-textured desk and chair, and an oak-textured revolving bookshelf next to it.
The whole room looked clean, and Mom Gu had obviously just tidied up in the morning. The bed was covered with freshly changed sheets, and the blanket was folded softly in the corner of the bed. Sunlight poured in through the window, filling half of the room.
Tang Yi did have a bit of a headache, but after all, he was here as a guest, so there was no reason to sleep in someone else’s house in broad daylight. However, it was just after noon, so Gu Yanting’s parents also could take a break. He sat down at the desk and rubbed his temples while taking a book from the rotating bookshelf to read.
The books on the shelf were densely arranged in five levels, from Og Mandino’s “The Ten Ancient Scrolls for Success”, to “Thick Black Theory”, to “The Master Key System”, all his books. This rotating bookshelf was also newly added by Gu Yanting after Tang Yi had come once. Tang Yi often bought books, but in fact he didn’t read them often; he just liked the feeling of buying them and keeping them at home. Once Gu Yanting wanted him to come home with him for New Year’s Eve, but Tang Yi didn’t want to come, so he made the excuse that he wanted to read books at home.
Then somehow Gu Yanting bought this rotating bookshelf and assembled it himself as well as bought a new set of books according to the list of the ones Tang Yi had and moved them all to his home.
That year Tang Yi didn’t come home with him in the end. Tang Yi was cautious, always afraid that Gu Yanting’s parents would notice something. However, the smell of formaldehyde from this bookshelf persisted for a long time, and after a few months Tang Yi was hit by it when he came over.
The bookshelf was ordered online, and there was also a delivery service available, but these books were bought by Gu Yanting from the Xinhua Bookstore. It was not easy to move so many books from the Xinhua Bookstore in T City to here, even if they were divided into several portions. At first, Tang Yi had only thought that Gu Yanting’s IQ was so adorably low that he had bought the exact same books for his home. Now that he thought about it again, he was vaguely moved by his thoughtfulness.
How could Gu Yanting not be able to catch up with Lin Rui?
Tang Yi suddenly thought, although the Gu family was only a moderately well-to-do family, they didn’t worry about food and drink, and Gu Yanting was never short of money. Besides, apart from not being able to throw money like dirt, Gu Yanting was a model boyfriend in terms of appearance and personality.
The point that Tang Yi minded most about Gu Yanting having Lin Rui in his heart was that nothing like that existed on Lin Rui’s side – after all, Lin Rui had Gu Yanting’s feelings, 80% outstanding and 100% true, and no matter what, Lin Rui couldn’t be unimpressed at all, right?
This moment made Tang Yi more than a little jealous of Lin Rui.
There was nothing good about Lin Rui in his opinion. He even despised the existence of people like Lin Rui from the bottom of his heart, hypocritical, selfish, promiscuous and vain… In terms of morality, Lin Rui was an ant that could be trampled to death with just one foot.
But this ant did one right thing a few years ago and gained the most cherished memory of Gu Yanting.
So in Tang Yi’s mind, the small and humble happiness between him and Gu Yanting was insignificant against this background. He even felt a bit cheap because he was tainted by Lin Rui’s shadow. He didn’t regret breaking up. The only thing he regretted was that he did it too late, and now he had to break up everything everywhere he went to get rid of Gu Yanting’s presence for good.
The sunlight in the middle of the afternoon was soft and fuzzy, and Tang Yi didn’t know when he fell asleep on the desk. Dazed and confused, he didn’t know how long it had been before he heard a noise at the door, followed by Mom Gu’s happy shout.
“You’re back! Hey, you’re really busy, can’t even come for the Mid-Autumn Festival!”
Tang Yi was startled when he heard Gu Yanting’s voice, seemingly a little tired, “Well, just this once.”
“Tang Yi, he can’t come for the Mid-Autumn Festival either!” Mom Gu paused for a moment and suddenly said softly, “You two aren’t having a falling out, are you?”
“Ah, how can it… be,” Gu Yanting coughed lightly and said, “We’ve just had lunch together at noon today. You think too much, he is… just busy.”
There was an eerie silence outside the room.
It took Gu Yanting a long time to realise that something was wrong; he was taken aback and asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” Tang Yi nonchalantly opened the door and leaned against the bedroom doorway to look at him, “Good afternoon.”