On the way to the Art Association the next day to receive the award, Yi Hui still sneezed a lot.
“Did I snatch away your quilt last night?” Tang Wenxi asked worriedly, “You had a dose of medicine, how is it possible that you are not only not getting better but getting worse?”
Yi Hui stuffed the tissue that he used to wipe his nose into the plastic bag he carried and said in a deep nasal voice, “No, I just catch colds like this and it won’t get better for a while.”
When he arrived at the pre-booked hotel last night, Tang Wenxi decided to stay with Yi Hui on a whim, saying that he was worried he might be afraid of being alone. Originally, they wanted to replace the large bedroom with a standard room, but the front desk said that there were no rooms available, so the two boys squeezed into one bed for a night.
Even though Yi Hui said it was not his fault, Tang Wenxi was still a little apologetic. He scratched his head and said, “I invite you to stay at my house tonight, I will sleep on the sofa and you can monopolize my bed!”
This time it was Yi Hui’s turn to feel apologetic. He kept refusing and Tang Wenxi invited him again and again, saying that his parents were very kind and amiable, until Yi Hui was persuaded: “Really… I won’t bother you?”
Tang Wenxi patted his chest and said, “Don’t worry, I’ve been messing around at your house for so long, my Mom asked me to take you home on the phone yesterday. She’ll make you sweet and sour tenderloin, vinegar-slipped prawns and shredded apples!”
Yi Hui was addicted to sweetness and these dishes firmly sealed his fate. He swallowed and nodded: “Then… thank you.”
The award ceremony was arranged in the compound of the Arts Association and the two found seats in the back row.
Tang Wenxi also won an award and hopped like a rabbit when he came back from the stage with the certificate of excellence. When it was Yi Hui’s turn, he was even more excited, jumping up and down like a monkey, taking pictures of the stage with his mobile phone.
Yi Hui was afraid of being seen by his former acquaintances and didn’t want to take pictures. He covered his face with his certificate throughout the process. When he was offered to say a few words of acceptance speech, he also shook his head and said nothing. When he finally moved off the stage at the end of the ceremony, Tang Wenxi cried out in regret and escorted him to take a photo next to the plaque at the entrance.
“The only imperfection is these clothes,” on the way back, Tang Wenxi looked at the photos on his mobile phone and said regretfully, “You are a good artist, what are you wearing?”
Yi Hui smiled and said, “Mom bought it for me, as long as it is comfortable, it’s fine.”
After arriving at Tang Wenxi’s house and saying hello to his parents, he was dragged into the bedroom. Tang Wenxi closed the door, drew the curtains and… opened the wardrobe door.
Tang Wenxi’s wardrobe was very large, occupying two entire walls. He took something out of it and threw it into Yi Hui’s arms: “I’m about the same size as you. Try this one. Try this one again. This one is also good. The pink colour matches your skin tone. Quickly, show it to me.”
Yi Hui didn’t expect him to have a penchant for dressing up. He was fiddled with like a puppet for a long time. Finally, he changed into a shirt and a vest. Tang Wenxi happily took a bow tie to tie it around his neck. Yi Hui said helplessly: “We’re going to eat later, don’t blame me if it gets dirty.”
Tang Wenxi curved his eyes in a smile: “No problem, I still have seven or eight identical bow ties in my cupboard.”
Yi Hui: “…”
During the meal, the Tang parents were very enthusiastic. As soon as one of them finished serving the dishes for him, the other’s chopsticks would also be stretched out. Yi Hui said that he couldn’t eat much, so they brought him an empty bowl to put the food into, saying that it would cool quickly and he could eat slowly.
Talking about the award he won today, Mother Tang praised Yi Hui to the skies, saying, “If our Wenxi was half as good as you, I would wake up smiling from my dreams.”
Yi Hui felt embarrassed and said, “Classmate Tang has a very high level of aesthetics and is very good at… matching clothes.”
Father Tang smiled: “That’s true. He thought about studying clothing design when he was in college.”
Yi Hui was puzzled: “Then why…”
Tang Wenxi chewed his food and said vaguely: “Mom thinks that being a designer has no future prospects, so she changed my application while I was not paying attention.”
Yi Hui was speechless again, thinking that they were indeed a family. He finally knew where Tang Wenxi’s happy-go-lucky personality came from.
After dinner, he received a call from Dr. Liu.
This week’s routine consultation was cancelled because Yi Hui went to the capital to receive his award. Dr. Liu asked him on the phone how he had been in the past few days. After getting the answer that everything was normal, he congratulated him on winning the gold prize.
“Thank you, it’s not a very prestigious award, it’s not that impressive…” Yi Hui began to feel embarrassed again and retreated to the yard of Tang Wenxi’s house to talk on the phone.
The Tang family lived on the ground floor of an old-fashioned block with a small courtyard, not as big as the one at their house where they could grow trees and flowers, but at least they could set up a folding table and two small stools.
Yi Hui sat down on one of the stools with his back turned to the openwork iron gate of the yard, and continued to talk to Dr. Liu: “There is reward money, so I am going to buy a camera for my sister… for me? No, I don’t have anything I want. The main reason for drawing is to be happy, and the reward money is secondary… I can continue to practice calligraphy. Didn’t you say that writing more can exercise your brain? I took the copybook with me when I went to the capital.”
Dr. Liu on the other end of the phone entered a state of counselling again, asking him what was around him and asking him to describe it to him, or draw it, or write it down.
Yi Hui agreed, stood up and was about to look around, when he was suddenly hugged by someone from behind.
“You didn’t even tell me you were back?” The man was taller than him and easily trapped him in his arms, leaning close to his ear, ” Flirting with some wild man on the phone, eh?”
Yi Hui’s hair stood on end from the hot air sprayed on his ear and he almost jumped up in fright, dropping his mobile phone on the ground without bothering to pick it up.
When he broke free from the shackles, he ran to the wall, turned his head and saw that it was Yang Chengxuan.
Yang Chengxuan was also full of dismay when he saw who he was. He looked at him up and down as if he couldn’t figure out how Tang Wenxi’s clothes could be on him.
Then he recovered and raised his hands to show his innocence: “I’m sorry, I recognized the wrong person.”
Yi Hui was still panting, trying to suppress his wild heartbeat. He was so panicked, he didn’t know what expression to put on to deal with it.
Yang Chengxuan moved first. He took a step forward, but seeing Yi Hui so scared, he retreated like a gentleman. Yet the smile on his face was playful: “Tsk, not only do they look alike, they are even the same timidness.”
At the same time, in the surveillance room of the capital airport, Zhou Jinheng declined a phone call from Yang Chengxuan.
The surveillance in the airport was not something he could check casually if he wanted to. Yesterday, Xiao Lin had the door closed in front of his nose. He went in person but failed to see the man in charge. Finally, he asked Zhou Huarong to pave the way for him. Only today did he have the opportunity to enter the surveillance room.
He could only watch it there, without copying or taking anything away. Zhou Jinheng adjusted the images from all angles during the relevant time period yesterday, staring at the screen intently without blinking.
It was a corner of the lobby and the surveillance angle was narrow. Zhou Jinheng almost missed it at first, just seeing a thin silhouette that flashed by in a hurry.
On the contrary, the camera from another angle captured the front. He saw a man running into the camera in a panic, then turning around a corner, leaning against the wall and using the stone pillar next to him to block his body.
“Right here, stop it there.” Zhou Jinheng said quickly.
The picture was frozen and zoomed in. Because the camera was hung too high, the picture was not clear. It was barely possible to see the coffee-colored knitted coat and a very out-of-tune blue sweater under it.
It was even more difficult to distinguish the face. Seeing the blurred features was the limit. Anyone who appeared in the surveillance footage had two eyes, a nose and a mouth, a sight that could drive a normal person to face blindness.
Xiao Lin on the side leaned over and looked for a long time but couldn’t quite make out the outline: “This is…”
Before he could match this face with someone he had met, Zhou Jinheng said loudly: “Yi Hui.”
Stunned, Xiao Lin was silent for a long time. “Isn’t Mr. Yi already…”
“It’s Yi Hui.”
Zhou Jinheng’s tone was firm. He picked up the phone and started dialling. The busy sound from the other end made him a little impatient. After he had dialled it several times, Xiao Lin noticed that his fingers were trembling slightly.
“Records… right, flight records!” Zhou Jinheng stared at the man on the screen for a few seconds and his gaze became even more assured. Then he turned around and left.
In the narrow corridor, Xiao Lin ran to keep up: “That’s not Mr. Yi, you are mistaken.”
“It’s him.” Zhou Jinheng stared ahead gritting his teeth, “It’s him, I wouldn’t make a mistake.”
Xiao Lin frowned: “There are tens of millions of people in this world and there are countless similar faces. There are even celebrity look-alikes.”
Zhou Jinheng didn’t listen, insisting: “It’s him.”
He had been with Yi Hui for so long, he knew every little movement, every gesture of Yi Hui’s. He would never see it wrong.
Xiao Lin felt helpless and raised his voice: “But Mr. Yi has passed away, you…”
The unfinished half sentence faded away when Zhou Jinheng’s footsteps stopped abruptly.
As if he was struck, or suddenly awakened from his sleep, he opened his mouth and the previous excitement and joy all disappeared. There was only boundless blankness in his eyes.
Zhou Jinheng failed to get any of Yi Hui’s belongings and didn’t even get to see him for the last time.
At first, he felt resentful, even angry. He was the closest person to Yi Hui. They had done the most intimate things in the world. Whether it was crying or laughing, being shy at the beginning or wanton as it got better, he had seen all of Yi Hui’s expressions. Why was he not qualified to see him?
Later, he gradually calmed down; the people around him were no different from usual. No one mentioned anything related to Yi Hui in front of him, so he let himself go numb day by day. If there was no time to think, he could pretend that this man had never occupied his thoughts.
After a long time, Zhou Jinheng thought he had succeeded. He filled his life to the limit. He worked hard, took many offers and didn’t leave himself even a minute of rest. In the eyes of others, he just turned into a workaholic. Nothing else was different from before.
He also thought so, until he got off the plane yesterday.
He called Zhou Huarong again. This time, Zhou Jinheng didn’t call him “old b*stard”. His words were earnest and submissive to the point that he disdained himself, but he was still met with an unmerciful rebuke.
“Didn’t you say that you would rely on yourself in the future? At first it was just to check the surveillance. Now you want the list of passengers who took the plane yesterday?” Zhou Huarong sneered, “Do you think the airline is run by our family? I’m warning you, don’t let yourself get carried away again. You had Yi Hui to cover for you before, yet now you want to continue to do whatever you want in front of me? Stop dreaming!”
Right after hanging up, he received another call from Yang Chengxuan: “You kid, why did you hang up on me just now?”
Zhou Jinheng leaned against the wall, exhaled and said: “Pressed the wrong button.”
“What have you been up to recently? It’s been a long time since we have gone out together. Are you free to have dinner in the evening? I have a fun one here, you must…”
“No.” Zhou Jinheng refused before he finished speaking, “I have work.”
“What’s the matter with you recently? I haven’t seen you so busy before. What? Is your family bankrupt and waiting for you to make money in the entertainment industry to rescue them?”
Zhou Jinheng wasn’t in the mood to joke with him: “No, I’m really busy.”
“Tsk, I can’t convince you but can Fang Yuqing? I’ve heard he will hold a painting exhibition in a while. Although he is co-organizing with several other young painters, it is the first in his life. Didn’t you say when you were in school that you would definitely help with his first painting exhibition?”
Zhou Jinheng sighed, “When is it?”
Yang Chengxuan smiled and said, “That’s right, people can’t come back from the dead. He won’t want to see you like that from heaven. This workaholic mode doesn’t suit you at all. Come out and get together with your brothers, drink some wine and sing, meet your old lover and have a reunion…”
“But I miss him.” Zhou Jinheng interrupted Yang Chengxuan’s incessant gushing suddenly.
It was as if a certain switch was flicked and the emotions that had been suppressed for a long time flowed through a small crack. The more it flowed, the bigger the crack was, and the cold wind poured in, full of countless fine needles that pierced his skin one by one, plunging deep into his flesh and blood.
Zhou Jinheng’s face twitched in pain. He held his breath and repeated: “I miss him so much.”
His voice was hoarse, almost choking.
After saying that, he closed his eyes but when he opened them again, instead of diminishing, the emotions intensified, as if too big to hold, as if they would keep filling up and then overflow.
He finally had to admit that he was going crazy thinking about Yi Hui.
As soon as he stopped, even if he only stood still for a second, Yi Hui’s appearance occupied his entire mind. Yi Hui who was happy, Yi Hui who was sad, Yi Hui with his eyes red and frightened, or taking his hand and saying, ”Husband, don’t be angry”, or greeting him with a smile every time he came home.
After that day, he never came home and never saw that nice smile again.
Xiao Lin, who had been standing silently beside him, felt as if he had listened to something he shouldn’t have listened to.
He turned around only when the phone call ended. He wanted to find out something from Zhou Jinheng’s expression, such as who he was talking to and who he was missing.
Xiao Lin imagined colourfully that it was probably the legendary first love. Last time he woke him up early in the morning to book a ticket to the capital from S City, didn’t he go to pick the man up?
He had no intention of snooping on his privacy, he just wanted to collect some necessary information to facilitate future work so as not to step on a landmine, so when Zhou Jinheng put down his mobile phone in a daze, he glanced at it as if inadvertently.
Just one glance made Xiao Lin stunned. Zhou Jinheng replaced the old mobile phone that he had thrown away before but the wallpaper did not change. Mr. Yi still smiled at the camera showing a V sign.
That was the only photo of Mr. Yi he had ever seen and probably the only one owned by Zhou Jinheng.