“Good morning, I’m Lu Ying, the father of Lu Zaizai, I’ll be grateful for you taking care of my son in the future.” Arriving at the school early, Lu Ying sent the child inside and was even more excited and nervous than Zaizai when he saw the female teacher at the door of the classroom.
“Oh, good morning, Mr. Lu, my name is Teacher Wang, I will be the class teacher of Class 7, teaching Chinese.” The female teacher smiled politely. Facing such a handsome and stunning parent, she couldn’t help but feel a little dazed. If she didn’t know his family situation, at first glance she would have thought that he was a noble young master from a wealthy family.
“Hello, Teacher Wang!” Lu Ying smiled back. It was great that the Chinese language teacher was the class teacher; he was afraid it would be the maths teacher. Zaizai was a bit of a maths headache, but he had no problem with Chinese. His memory was super good, and pinyin recognition, writing, and recitation were all a cinch. What’s more, during the summer vacation, Lu Ying had also enrolled his child in a kindergarten intensive primary school preparation class, which should have made it foolproof. Even in maths, as long as Lu Zaizai didn’t need to do quick mental arithmetic, he would be able to do well in the subject. The teacher in the preparation class also said that the first and second grades were very simple and few children couldn’t keep up. Zaizai was a particularly good student in the preparation class, so there was no need to worry.
After saying goodbye to the teacher and the child, Lu Ying left the school quickly.
Lu Zaizai stood holding his schoolbag in the classroom of Class 7 and looked around curiously. He came very early, but two classmates had already found a place to sit together. He immediately went to sit next to them, so that it would be lively.
Teacher Wang came in at this moment and shouted loudly: “Classmate Lu Zaizai, sit here.” She pointed to the position next to her.
“Oh!” Lu Zaizai stood up and obediently walked over with his schoolbag. The seat was in the last row of the classroom, the closest to the side, with the chair in the back door’s doorway. It felt as if half of the person was outside. Zaizai didn’t like this position.
Lu Zaizai sat down helplessly, looking at the empty classroom full of tables and chairs. If they were all full, how many people would there be?
Lu Zaizai couldn’t help but count one by one, and finally finished counting. His little eyes looked stunned, “Oh my goodness, Teacher Wang! Are there a total of sixty-eight classmates in our class?”
Teacher Wang frowned, “Don’t make any loud noises in the classroom. That’s right, there are sixty-eight students in our Class 7, the largest number in the whole grade, huh. Because there are too many misfit students whose parents find connections and spend money to stuff them in.”
“Ah… oh.” Lu Zaizai actually didn’t quite understand what it meant to be a misfit student, but he felt that the teacher was not happy. It seemed that too many people in the class had something to do with him, so Lu Zaizai didn’t dare to say anything else.
In the blink of an eye, it was time for lunch, and the cafeteria auntie brought the food to the classroom and handed it out to every student: one dish, one soup and one bowl of rice.
“……” Lu Zaizai deflated. This meal was so small, and each person had an allocated portion, so you couldn’t add more after eating it like in kindergarten. Kindergarten had several dishes at a time and fruits! Hmph! Primary schools are so stingy.
Lu Zaizai finished his meal in two bites and felt even hungrier.
Luckily, he had prepared for this and had brought some snacks with him, as well as three boiled eggs and two steamed buns. He was just about to start eating when a hand grabbed him quickly: “Lu Zaizai! No eating your own food at school!”
“But Teacher, I haven’t eaten enough…”
“Then be hungry!”
“……” Lu Zaizai wept bitterly.
At 3:30 in the afternoon, Lu Ying, who had been thinking about his son all day, left the bakery and set off for Primary School 12.
When he arrived at the school gate, he saw a black mass of parents waiting for their children.
Lu Ying looked left and right and waited for a long time. A lot of students came out, which made it more difficult to find his child than in kindergarten. When he finally saw his son’s class, Lu Ying hurriedly guarded the door and looked closer, only to find his son hanging his head listlessly, in a very bad mood.
“Dad…” Lu Zaizai was full of grievances when he saw his dad.
“What’s wrong?” He wanted to ask Teacher Wang, but the teacher was at the back of the group.
Lu Zaizai went straight out of the yard door and jumped into Lu Ying’s arms to complain, “I was criticised by the teacher today.”
“Why?” Lu Ying’s first reaction was anger. It was only the first day of school, why would the teacher criticise the child?
Lu Zaizai sucked in his breath, “I brought food to school and the teacher confiscated it from me. I was criticised for being greedy. The teacher said that the school didn’t allow us to bring snacks, and I was the only one in the class who disobeyed and brought food. But Dad… school lunch is so small, it’s not tasty and I didn’t have enough at all.”
“……” Lu Ying was heartbroken. He was the one who had stuffed eggs and snacks into Zaizai’s bag because he was worried that his son would not get enough to eat. The school didn’t mention these rules when he registered.
“It’s not your fault, it’s Dad’s fault. Tomorrow Dad will talk to Teacher and ask if I can send you food for lunch.”
“En. Dad, I want to go back to kindergarten, primary school is no fun. There are no friends either.”
“…primary school is not for fun.”
“I have to sleep on my desk at noon, my hands are numb.”
“Hey…” Lu Ying couldn’t help it. Primary school was all like that, “Come on, Dad will take you to try the freshly baked meat floss toast now. Dad’s improved meat floss this time smells better than before.” It was still early for dinner, so he would make two toasts for his son to pad his stomach.
That evening Lu Ying entered the class WeChat group. He wanted to talk with the class teacher privately to apologise for bringing snacks and also to ask in passing if he could bring lunch to Zaizai at noon.
As a result, he hadn’t even finished his dinner when he saw that he had been tagged.
The class teacher had sent several photos in a row: eggs, snacks and the picture of Lu Zaizai eating an egg with his head down. Lu Ying immediately felt bad.
Sure enough, he scrolled down to see the class teacher posting some words: Parents, school rules do not allow to bring snacks and toys. Meals must be uniformly eaten at school, and you can bring your own water bottle. Today is the first day and only one student and parent demonstrated the wrong behaviour. I hope next time will be better!
Parent A: Roger that!
Parent B: Roger that!
“……” Lu Ying almost spurted out a mouthful of food and immediately messaged the teacher privately: “Teacher Wang, I didn’t know the rules when I asked my child to take food today. My child has a big appetite. And Teacher, you should have chatted with me privately instead of posting photos in the group to criticise.”
Class teacher: All other parents know they can’t bring food, so why just your family doesn’t? How can it act as a warning if I don’t say it in the group?
“Well, I didn’t know and it was my mistake. But please, Teacher, pay attention to the child’s self-esteem, he was upset that you criticised him on the first day.”
“Knowing your mistakes is the way to correct them. I treat all students equally.”
Lu Ying almost lost sleep at night, but fortunately Zaizai slept soundly.
When Qin Zhuopu sent a video call over, Lu Ying regained his spirits: “You just got off work?” It was already half past nine.
“Yes, I came back and took a shower and finally lay down. How was Zaizai’s school day? He should be adjusting well.”
“Lots of discomfort, he still talks about kindergarten.”
“Haha, what a nice thought.”
“How are you and your beautiful female partner?” Lu Ying inquired with a fake smile on his face.
Qin Zhuopu raised the corner of his mouth and said, “How else could it be? Of course we had a good talk.”
“Yeah, I had a good talk with the ‘beautiful teacher’ today too.” I can’t sleep with joy!
“Eh, keep in mind your status, as a parent you have to keep a moderate distance from the teacher.”
Lu Ying grunted and fell silent.
“Why don’t you say anything? Are you angry?” Qin Zhuopu frowned helplessly. The screen was dark and under the dim bedside lamp, Lu Ying’s appearance could only be seen as an outline.
Lu Ying rolled his head on the pillow and asked in a low voice, “Do you think I should send a red envelope or a gift or something to please the teacher? I don’t know if other parents have sent them secretly. But I’ve heard before that some parents do this in private, to please the teacher and get her to take care of their child. But what is appropriate? How much would be better?”
Qin Zhuopu frowned, “You want to send a gift just after the school year starts? I suggest that you don’t send gifts to the teacher, because the first grade teachers are probably very young and fresh out of the university, so they may not dare to accept your gifts. It is not appropriate to send a gift that is too light or too heavy. You can observe for a while to see how your child adapts and whether the teacher is of good character. If Zaizai can’t adapt by himself, you can send a gift. If he fits in well then there’s no need to do so.”
“That means not to send it?”
“If you want to send it, just send it to the headmaster, he’s definitely more effective than the teacher.” Qin Zhuopu said bluntly.
“……” Lu Ying rolled his eyes, “What you say makes so much sense. I’ve never even met the headmaster.”
Qin Zhuopu said with a serious expression, “Don’t worry about this. I’ve been too busy and negligent lately. I’ll take care of the gift-giving.” He actually still wanted Zaizai to come to him to study, after all, the educational resources were better.
Lu Ying didn’t object but hurriedly told him, “Don’t be too generous. If the teachers don’t dare to discipline Zaizai in the future and only speak well of him, this will be worse.”
“Don’t worry about it. The headmaster must know which class is the best and which teacher is the most responsible, and I’m not asking him to condone the child by giving gifts.”
“All right then.”
“Give me a quick kiss, be a good boy and go to sleep.”
Lu Ying didn’t object, pouted and gave a flying kiss to the screen, “Woohoo! Good night.”
He almost blinded Qin Zhuopu’s eyes, how could he sleep now? Damn long distance relationship!
No matter how unsettled Qin Zhuopu was, Lu Ying went to sleep peacefully.
The next day, when he dropped the child off at the school gate, there was no one else but the teacher on duty.
Lu Ying comforted the kid and went back to work.
When he picked up the child in the evening, Lu Zaizai was again upset.
“What’s wrong today?”
Lu Zaizai’s voice shook a little and he told Lu Ying angrily, “The teacher criticised me again.”
“…come on, tell Dad why?” Lu Ying looked at Zaizai seriously, hiding how angry he was in his heart.
Lu Zaizai said, aggrieved, “Today in Chinese class the teacher asked us to write pinyin, and I finished it correctly. But the teacher criticised my handwriting and told me to rewrite it. But after I rewrote it, she said I didn’t write it properly. She punished me by writing it ten times at home… oooh, I don’t want to write it.”
“Don’t cry, Dad knows. Let me see what you wrote.”
Lu Ying took the child’s school bag to check the written pinyin. Not that he was boasting but his son’s written pinyin was all within the grids, yes, it was not crooked, it was very good. Why should he be punished for not writing neatly?
He felt that the teacher was deliberately targeting his son.
But writing could be a big thing or a small thing. It was hard to argue with the teacher. Perhaps the teacher was just being strict with the students, and it seemed unreasonable for parents to argue about it.
Lu Ying could only be optimistic and comfort his son: “The teacher is strict with you and wants you to write better. Why don’t you think about it, has the teacher ever praised you?”
Lu Zaizai raised his head and smiled: “In maths class, the teacher asked me to go to the blackboard to do a problem, and I got it right. The teacher praised me. And the English teacher also praised me for my pronunciation.”
“Really? Zaizai is awesome!” Lu Ying was happy for his son.
Immediately, Lu Zaizai stopped being sad and pulled his father to run quickly, impatient to go and eat.
“Brother Yang! Why have you come today?”
As soon as he returned to the shop, Lu Ying saw Brother Yang and quickly stepped forward in surprise. Brother Yang’s eyes were calm and he looked like an ordinary middle-aged, fat man.
He pruned the long branches and leaves of the green plants and said with a faint smile, “It’s too boring at home, so I came out for a walk. How do you feel about your new school?”
Lu Zaizai said obediently, “Uncle Yang, the new school is not as fun as the kindergarten.”
“Pfft, little naughty.” Yang Sigu was amused.
Lu Ying continued to be busy with work and enthusiastically invited Yang Sigu to eat at home in the evening. After a little hesitation Brother Yang agreed.
After getting off work, Lu Ying went home and cooked a sumptuous dinner. They were all very healthy and warm dishes, and there was absolutely no spicy food.
Yang Sigu was not polite and ate happily, “The food is really good, it’s been a long time since I’ve had such a satisfying meal.”
Lu Ying looked at him in a panic and said in a daze, “What does Brother Yang eat at home every day? Who cooks?” Brother Yang’s cooking was a masterpiece.
Yang Sigu paused and coughed lightly, “Of course it’s not me who cooks.”
“…that is, Sister-in-law Yang cooks for Brother Yang?” Lu Ying came up with such a name, although he knew the other party was a man. And a man whose cooking skills were very average.
“Ahem ahem! Ahem…” Yang Sigu choked, his face red. Lu Ying hurriedly got up to pat him on the back and instructed his son, “Zaizai, go and pour a glass of water.”
“Right away!” Lu Zaizai jumped off the chair and went to pour water.
Yang Sigu calmed down, took the water handed to him by Zaizai and drank half a cup. His shoulders were still shaking with laughter, “Sister-in-law Yang… haha… Lu Ying, you are so funny, no wonder your Grandpa Lu likes you so much.”
Lu Ying continued to eat, slightly embarrassed, “Sister-in-law may not be appropriate… but I really don’t know what to call him. Or should I call him Brother, what is his last name?”
“…he …his surname is Lu, like yours.” Yang Sigu replied softly.
“Ah, what a coincidence, it’s fate!” Lu Ying was a little happy.
“En… when the baby is born, you will see him. Right now he’s in a bit of a special situation, it’s not very convenient.”
“Oh oh oh.” Lu Ying felt that he shouldn’t be too nosy about Brother Yang’s lover but somehow he just couldn’t help being very curious and vaguely looking forward to meeting him.
Yang Sigu laughed again, “Actually, I think calling him Sister-in-law is good. I like this name.”
“Ah… do you? Won’t he be angry?” Lu Ying was a little unconvinced; how could a man be completely fine with being called Sister-in-law? Anyway, if Qin Zhuopu’s brother or whatever called him Sister-in-law, he would not be happy about it.
“Don’t worry, he won’t be angry with you. There’s nothing good about this guy, except that he’s very good with children and never loses his temper with them. Compared to him, you’re a child.”
“It’s good to like children, to be caring and patient.”
“Can I pack one of these dishes to take away?”
“Sure, I’ll go and pack it for you.”
After the meal, Lu Ying personally took Yang Sigu to his doorstep before leaving in peace.
When Yang Sigu returned home, the light in the living room was on and a young man sat cross-legged on the carpet. On the dining table were a few lame dishes that looked like they were getting cold.
Yang Sigu placed the packed food on the coffee table: “Lu Ying made the dinner, and it tastes good. Your handiwork is pig food compared to his.”
“……” The man sighed, took the food and opened it to enjoy it slowly.
Yang Sigu sat next to him, lazily leaning against the sofa, his left hand propping up on his chin. He smiled, “Guess what Lu Ying called you?”
“…what?” The man asked curiously.
“Pfft.” Yang Sigu laughed before he could speak and said in a shaking voice, “Sister-in-law! Sister-in-law Yang, haha.”
“That’s nonsense! Drivel!”
The man’s face instantly blackened. He even dropped his chopsticks and stopped eating!
“Hahaha…” Yang Sigu laughed even more happily, his fingers tracing circles on the man’s back: “Actually, it’s right to call you that. After all, you have no car, no house, no savings. Since you came out of the mountains, you eat, drink and live at my expense, completely relying on me to support you not to let you wander in the streets. I am the head of the family and you are the sister-in-law who is ashamed to be seen. Oh yes, there is a difference, Sister-in-law goes to bed with me for free and gets a little bundle of joy. Who is as blessed as you?”
The man’s face was as black as the bottom of a pot, but he was speechless, silently picking up his plate to eat.
Yang Sigu poked him in the back: “Every day with a stony face, can’t you smile at me more? Can the child like you if you behave like this? Didn’t Lu Ying cry because of you when he was little?”
“…shut up and stop nagging.”
Yang Sigu got up quickly, “Okay, I won’t nag you. I’m going to take a shower.”
“You can’t wash alone.” The man said standing up and followed him in.
After guarding Yang Sigu while he was taking a shower, the man went to the kitchen, cut the fruit, mixed it with the yoghurt and brought it out.
Yang Sigu, dressed in a loose robe, took the fruit and happily ate while watching TV. The man washed the dishes after eating, did the laundry and mopped the floor. He did the chores silently, but did them all cleanly. At nine o’clock, it was time for music, a soft piano piece.
With the soft music, Yang Sigu, who was watching television and yawning, fell asleep on the sofa.
The man came out of the shower, picked up Yang Sigu and put him on the bed in the bedroom, turned off the lights and had a good night’s sleep.
“Hey, transfer Zaizai to Class 1?” Lu Ying asked Qin Zhuopu in surprise, coming out of the kitchen with a kitchen knife in his hand.
Qin Zhuopu took a step back, “Be careful. I’ve already made arrangements with the headmaster. The teachers of Class 1 are experienced excellent teachers, and the students in the class are better overall. It was the headmaster’s initiative. Those in Class 7 are all rookies with no experience.”
Lu Ying was stunned, “No wonder the standards are so poor and the character is so nasty.”
“What? Is the teacher giving Zaizai a hard time?” Qin Zhuopu asked hurriedly.
Now Lu Ying didn’t hide anything and complained in annoyance, “It’s been a week since the start of the school year, and the class teacher, Teacher Wang, is really sick. Every day, she finds something to criticise Zaizai for. Either he’s not writing well or having a bad attitude. Friday was even funnier, she said Zaizai was fighting in the classroom and the child was punished by standing. I asked Zaizai and found out that they were just playing together. Three kids were playing together and only he was punished? It’s not a big deal, but it happens every day. Zaizai is upset every day after school and doesn’t want to get up in the morning to go to school.”
“…why didn’t you tell me about this earlier?”
“At first I thought maybe I didn’t understand and was afraid of causing a misunderstanding. I didn’t expect it to be like this every day for a week. Although it’s all minor, it feels bad, like deliberately targeting Zaizai. But neither I nor Zaizai know her, let alone offend her, so it’s inexplicable. Could it be that all the other parents have secretly sent gifts and I’ve foolishly not done so, so I’m being targeted?”
Qin Zhuopu spread his arms: “This possibility can’t be ruled out. Don’t worry, I’ll take Zaizai to school tomorrow and see him change classes in person. I’ll also find someone to check out that Teacher Wang.”
“Okay. Go wash your hands quickly, dinner will be ready soon.” Lu Ying naturally agreed, as the child’s school life was at stake.
The next day, Qin Zhuopu sent the child to school. Having contacted the headmaster in advance, he met the headmaster directly at the school gate. It was quickly confirmed that Lu Zaizai’s class had changed and Qin Zhuopu went to Class 7 to move his son’s desk and chair. When he saw his son’s corner position, his face turned ugly. If it was winter, the back door would not be closed and the child would have to sit by the door right in the draught. It was obvious that he could be squeezed into the middle of the classroom, but he was left at the back door.
Qin Zhuopu stroked the child’s head and left as quickly as he could with the desk and chair.
Teacher Wang only had classes in the afternoon today and came to the office in the morning to correct yesterday’s homework. When she found Lu Zaizai’s notebook, she took a picture of it and sent it to the WeChat group, “This kind of homework is not up to my requirements. These check marks are written out of the grid. Lu Zaizai’s father, please supervise your son’s homework next time. If you make a mistake in writing, you should revise it in time. Don’t make me criticise you by name every time.”
Here we go again; Lu Ying, who had been tagged, poked at his phone in the bakery and typed indignantly, “Please show me other students’ homework so I can see if it’s written exactly as it is in print! Teacher Wang, I mentioned to you privately on the first day not to criticise the child in the public group. Very good, you only ever criticise my child. Once a day, are you on a schedule? Kindergarten teachers know to respect the child’s heart, aren’t you too unethical? Is it hard to find me in private?”
Teacher Wang didn’t expect Lu Ying to explode today and immediately replied: “If you think the teacher is asking too much, you can treat it as if you haven’t heard or seen it. This group is the group that arranges homework and discusses homework. I criticise your child because he needs to be corrected. If other children make mistakes, I will criticise them.”
“It’s not your turn to correct him or not. I don’t think you are a good teacher. I hope other children will not be treated like this by you. Goodbye.” Lu Ying directly withdrew from the group and deleted Teacher Wang.
Teacher Wang breathed a sigh of relief and called to tell her cousin about the results of her battle. She didn’t know what Lu Ying’s withdrawal from the group meant, transferring to another school? It was not until she went to class in the afternoon that she learned that Lu Zaizai had gone to Class 1 and that it had been arranged directly by the headmaster. Teacher Wang suddenly panicked. If she had known that Lu Ying had connections with the headmaster, she wouldn’t have helped her cousin toss and turn!
After settling the child’s affairs, Qin Zhuopu went back to the community. He was ready to go to the bakery to work remotely and ask Lu Ying out for lunch at noon. It sounded like a perfect plan.
He entered the north gate of the neighbourhood, walked to the first flower bed and turned the corner when he happened to come face to face with a man who looked quite familiar. Qin Zhuopu subconsciously squinted his eyes at the other man, and when he got closer, he blurted out, “Lu Ying?”
No! How could this be Lu Ying!