Zhang Qihui was taken aback when he received a call from the class teacher saying that she was going to do a home visit.
His wife, Wang Ruhua, walked out carrying a basin: “What’s the matter?”
Zhang Qihui hurriedly went to help: “It’s so heavy, just leave it here and I’ll do it.” In the small courtyard, he took the wet sheets from the basin and put them on the clothesline, saying, “The school teacher said that she was coming to visit us. She wants Tongtong and Yangyang to participate in the art interest class. She said that there is an art teacher from a big city who has won an award.”
“An art teacher from a big city? Isn’t it amazing? Then let them go, it’s good for children to learn something.” Wang Ruhua pounded her sore waist and saw her husband hesitate, “Is it expensive?”
“It’s free, just go to school two days a week.”
“Then what else do you think about? Such a rare opportunity.” Wang Ruhua said suddenly, “You’re not worried about Xiao Jie, are you?”
Zhang Qihui said hesitantly, “Xiao Jie has never learned things like this. It was originally agreed that the two little ones would go and watch the shop during the vacations, help him, or do some work together.”
Wang Ruhua’s eyes suddenly reddened, and she said with amusement: “Xiao Jie is a twenty-year-old adult. Can he compete with such a young brother and sister? You underestimate him too much. If he knew that we were worried that he would be unhappy and caused his younger brother and sister to lose such a good opportunity, he would be sad.”
Zhang Qihui was a little embarrassed when he heard this. Suddenly, he thought of the young man who was in his car that day. That art student looked different from other people. Zhang Qihui felt naturally moved. He hoped that his children would grow up like that, even if only a little bit. He said, “Then I will call the teacher and ask them to come over tonight?”
“Okay, I’ll go buy some food. Come home early in the evening.”
Wang Ruhua watched him drive out of the old street with a satisfied smile on her face.
Meeting this man was the luckiest thing in her life. If it weren’t for him, neither she nor her son would survive till now, not to mention have such a good life.
Luo Wencheng and the class teacher of the third-year class were walking along the old street. The class teacher obviously didn’t know as much as the head of the art department. Although she didn’t understand why there was suddenly an art interest class, this was a good thing for the school and the students, so she readily cooperated. She was just a little nervous walking with this new art teacher.
Up close, this young man’s skin was so white and fine that it almost looked artificial. He was so good-looking and elegant, with such a good temperament. Although he was a little too young… The class teacher reminded herself that fortunately she was married, otherwise her heart would break when the other party was going to leave.
“This is the home of Zhang Yutong and Zhang Yuyang. Their father is a taxi driver and their mother is a housewife. She is not in good health. She usually looks after a small shop. They also have an elder brother. His legs are not very good and he can’t speak. He sits in a stall repairing shoes and umbrellas,” the class teacher said. She was worried that Luo Wencheng would react inappropriately if he didn’t know the situation of the family.
Luo Wencheng nodded while listening. The head of the art department had told him about that.
Walking across a narrow old concrete arch bridge, he saw a small stall with a space opened up on the side with a small machine for shoe repair, a few toolboxes, a few pairs of shoes and some umbrella parts.
A young man was sitting on a chair fixing the sole of a shoe.
Hearing someone approaching, he looked up and was startled when he saw the two of them.
“You are the elder brother of Zhang Yutong and Zhang Yuyang, right? I am their class teacher. This is the new art teacher, Teacher Luo,” the class teacher introduced.
“Ah ah.” The young man pointed to the empty chair behind the counter of the small shop, and then pointed in the direction of the alley, probably meaning that the shop owner was at home, and then picked up the crutches on the side to stand up.
He was a little nervous and anxious doing so in front of people, and looked a little embarrassed. Luo Wencheng watched from the side, until the young man almost fell, and Luo Wencheng reached out to hold his arm.
Luo Wencheng was considered thin, but he was healthy thin. However, this young man was really thin, and not tall, and his whole body showed a kind of unhealthy paleness and weakness. But if you looked closely, his eyebrows were clear and he didn’t have the gloomy feeling that some disabled people had.
“Ah ah.” He nodded to Luo Wencheng a little shyly to thank him. Luo Wencheng let go of him, helped him put some things outside the door back inside the stall and then pulled down the rolling shutter door.
The young man was particularly embarrassed, especially when Luo Wencheng put away the tattered, old leather shoes sent by a particularly frugal person to repair. The young man felt ashamed of being seen with such dilapidated shoes.
The class teacher also had a weird feeling, thinking that the seemingly gentle but alienated new teacher was a little too enthusiastic at this moment.
“Let’s go.” Luo Wencheng locked the door and gave the young man the key.
The young man nodded and led the way.
He was on crutches; his right leg was fine, looking just a little weak, but his left leg was deformed, and only his toes could touch the ground.
Zhang Shujie, who was 20 years old this year, was the son of Zhang Qihui’s wife, Wang Ruhua, and her ex-husband. Zhang Shujie was abducted by human traffickers when he was just three years old. After determining that the chances of finding him were very slim, Wang Ruhua’s ex-husband divorced her on the grounds that she had failed to look after the child, and promptly married someone else.
Wang Ruhua, however, didn’t give up and kept looking for her son. It just so happened that Zhang Qihui heard about her and actively helped her in her search. Finally, they found Zhang Shujie after half a year. But at that time, Zhang Shujie’s legs had been ruined and his throat was damaged to make him mute. He was sent by the human traffickers to beg in the streets.
The devilish gang was brought to justice by the police, but the damage done couldn’t be undone, so Zhang Qihui took on the burden of looking after the mother and son, using the compensation he received and all his savings to give Zhang Shujie medical treatment. Because he was still young, the state of his legs had improved a little, but regaining his voice was out of the question.
Luo Wencheng walked slightly behind, looking at Zhang Shujie, thinking about the information he had received. The head of the art department, whether because he was a gossipy person by nature or had been given certain orders, in any case spoke in great detail.
When they walked into the Zhang family’s house, they saw a very small yard, very neatly cleaned. Although the house was low and narrow, it was also clean and had a warm aura. Obviously, the mother of the family put a lot of care into it.
The twins who helped their mother with housework ran out and gathered around Luo Wencheng, shouting happily. It could be seen that they liked this good-looking new teacher very much.
“Teacher Huang, Teacher Luo… ?” Wang Ruhua was shocked. She didn’t expect this art teacher to be so young and so good-looking.
At this moment, Zhang Qihui also drove back and was stunned when he saw Luo Wencheng: “It’s you!”
“Master Zhang, I didn’t expect to meet again.” Luo Wencheng smiled and stretched out his hand.
Zhang Qihui hurriedly wiped his hands on his body and shook his hand.
There was an inexplicable feeling in his heart, but it quickly turned into simple joy as he warmly greeted the two teachers and welcomed them into the house to sit down.
Everyone enjoyed an ordinary but hearty dinner. The final decision was made that the two children would participate in the interest class. The class teacher left first, and Luo Wencheng stayed behind to guide the two children through a drawing session.
The house was small, and the dining table was given to the three of them to paint. The brightest light was above their heads. Zhang Shujie was sitting not far away doing some manual work. Luo Wencheng noticed his frequent glances, turned to him and said, “Do you want to paint too?”
“Ah? Ah…” Zhang Shujie waved his hand quickly.
Luo Wencheng smiled and said, “Come and try it, anyway, there are a lot of pens and paper here.”
The materials were all brought by Luo Wencheng himself. The things he used were all professional and of very good quality. Even a layman might be tempted to play around when seeing the pens and pencils laid out.
Zhang Shujie’s expression was obviously moved.
Luo Wencheng gave the two little ones a wink, and they very cleverly went to pull him along: “Brother, Brother, come on, come on, let’s draw together!”
Zhang Shujie moved over on his crutches, his hands shaking when he picked up the sketching pencil.
Luo Wencheng said gently: “Don’t worry, look at this apple and slowly draw it on the drawing board in front of you.”
Zhang Shujie took a deep breath. His hands were still shaking for a while, but after two minutes, they became stable. He was very focused on painting the apple on the table. Luo Wencheng stood behind him for a while, and his gaze changed slightly.
In fact, the level of painting of the twins was quite average. The children were imaginative and unrestrained, but it was hard to say whether they were better than other children. It was just that Luo Wencheng wanted an excuse to contact the family, that was why he said that they painted well.
But Zhang Shujie really painted very well. Except for the crooked lines at the beginning, the second half of the apple was very beautiful, and it was quite a bit similar to the real thing.
“Have you painted before?” Luo Wencheng asked.
Zhang Shujie shook his head nervously.
Luo Wencheng pondered for a moment, and began to formally teach him the way to hold a pencil and some basic techniques of sketching, and then pushed the rectangular pencil case of the twins closer to him.
“Be clean when you reach the frame, be simple, the lines should be straight, and the hand should be steady… The shadows should be in the same direction, the strokes neat, you can’t smear them back and forth…”
Zhang Qihui stood outside the house, looking at the four people inside. His three children were all earnestly painting. The young man sometimes answered questions, sometimes looked at their drawings and bent over to teach them how to draw.
He was dressed in a bright white shirt and a long dark green windbreaker. He was tall, white and gentle, a particularly good-looking young man who didn’t match the humble house or his three children at all, but looked as if he did.
“He’s really a good teacher. He doesn’t look too big, he’s so enthusiastic and patient.” Wang Ruhua said happily from the side. Turning her head to see that her husband’s eyes were red, she asked, “What’s wrong?”
“It’s okay, I’m going to make some supper, we can’t let the teacher go hungry.” Zhang Qihui sulkily went into the cramped kitchen.
Wang Ruhua looked at him, looked at Luo Wencheng in the room, and understood.
Her husband must have remembered his first child.
If that child was still alive, he would be about the same age, right?
Wang Ruhua knew that the child was stolen, which directly caused the death of her husband’s first wife. It was precisely because he had had a similar experience that he would help her so much at that time. He was looking for and saving Zhang Shujie as if he were his own son, even looking a little crazy. She remembered that after Xiao Jie was recovered, the big man ran out and squatted on the ground bawling, startling everyone.
Later, for the same reason, he stayed to take care of them. After getting married, he resisted having his own biological child for many years, and she knew that he would never forget his first child.
Luo Wencheng stayed until nine o’clock and was pulled to eat a bowl of poached egg noodles before leaving. Zhang Qihui insisted on seeing him off but Luo Wencheng refused again and again until managing to dissuade him.
He wanted to walk alone.
The cold old street was not more spacious than an alleyway, the street lights were dim and the wind blowing from the river was just the right temperature. Luo Wencheng walked silently by himself, feeling very calm.
There was no excitement or loss, no joy or sadness, he just silently thought about what to do next.
The situation of the Zhang family was not optimistic. For a family of five, Zhang Qihui and Wang Ruhua had a very limited income. The main income was coming from Zhang Qihui, but the income from driving was just that. If it was an ordinary family, it would be enough for food and clothing.
However, Wang Ruhua and Zhang Shujie were not in good health. They got sick a lot all year round. Even if they were not sick, Wang Ruhua’s health had deteriorated significantly after giving birth to the twins. Now she had to take medicine every day, and the medicine was quite expensive.
A slight accident, or a serious illness, could crush this family.
Besides, the two younger ones were getting bigger and bigger, but Zhang Qihui was almost fifty years old. How many years more could he drive a taxi?
Luo Wencheng counted the money he had on hand. The money he had earned before was now less than 30,000. If he could win the prize in the competition, it would be only 100,000, and he couldn’t guarantee that he would win the competition.
Luo Wencheng exhaled gently, stopped and suddenly said, “Come out.”