On the day of departure, several residents from the neighbourhood came to see them off.
They didn’t use the bus tickets to the city. After Jiang Yimang refunded the tickets and came out of the station, she saw Jiang Xuemei and Yi Hui standing on the side of the road with colourful plastic bags in their hands.
Aunt Qiu was pushing a bag of boiled eggs into Yi Hui’s hands and when she saw Jiang Yimang coming, she turned to hand them to her: “Go, go, don’t miss the train. The eggs are soft boiled, eat them on the road.”
The pickup truck was owned by Aunt Qiu’s family and she had offered to take them to the city the day before, saying that it was along the way for them. Jiang Xuemei didn’t want to bother them, so she woke up early and prepared to sneak out, but when she opened the door, Aunt Qiu’s truck was already parked at the door with its headlights on.
That was why Jiang Yimang was refunding the tickets just now.
Their family was sitting in the back row seats. Yi Hui heard the cooing sound from behind and couldn’t help but turn his head to look at the big white geese in the steel cage in the cargo box. Jiang Xuemei saw that he was interested and said, “Let’s go to a restaurant to eat geese in the capital.”
Jiang Yimang was in a good mood because she was about to see her idol, so she took off her headphones and said, “He wants to raise it at home, not eat it.”
Uncle Qiu, who was driving, laughed: “This is a bird of prey. You cultured people cannot raise it. If you like them, come to our house to see them in the future. Pick one and take it home to kill and eat.”
Yi Hui pursed his lips and smiled in response. He had lived in a big house since he was born, with a dedicated housekeeper waiting on him at all times. He had never been in such a truck, never seen a goose run around and never knew that neighbours could get along so well.
Because of being equipped with a large bag of food, the family only spent money on mineral water during a nearly twelve-hour train journey.
Yi Hui, who had occasionally travelled by plane, took a long-distance train for the first time. He had a shelled boiled egg in one hand and a hot pig’s trotters in the other, but he had no time to taste them. He stared out the window intently. Golden wheat fields and low houses passed by and even the ordinary sight of the sun setting seemed unbearable to miss.
After Jiang Yimang finished her share, she coveted the trotters in Yi Hui’s hand. Yi Hui simply gave it to her. She gnawed on it and asked, “What’s so nice to look at? Be careful, if your neck gets stiff, you won’t be able to twist it back.”
Yi Hui smiled at her, proving that he was okay, then turned his head and continued to look out the window.
When he was studying painting, he often went out to sketch. He had seen many more beautiful sceneries than this, but this time he felt different.
The train was speeding on the tracks, the clouds in the sky were floating very slowly, there were children crying and people whispering to each other all around. Everything seemed to be telling him – you are still alive.
Only if you live, can you perceive this beauty.
Only if you live, you will not be left behind.
It was dinner time when they arrived in the capital. After checking in the booked hotel, they immediately went out to eat.
As someone born and raised in the capital, Jiang Xuemei never stopped talking the whole way. This was where she used to work. There used to be a pancake shop here. After turning a corner and crossing two streets, there was a primary school she went to… The excitement of returning to her hometown was beyond words.
Jiang Yimang was in middle school when they moved out of the capital and she remembered it well, let alone Jiang Yihui, who was already an adult attending university at that time.
However, Yi Hui grew up in S City. Since he was a child, his knowledge of the capital was limited to a few places of interest as well as a few local delicacies that his brother and sister-in-law took him to eat. For fear of making mistakes if he spoke, he just listened to them talk and made up his mind not to interrupt.
Jiang Yimang said that she missed the fried dumplings in a shop in the south of the city. Jiang Xuemei felt that she owed her daughter a lot over the years. She was unwilling to say no and they took a taxi to go there. Yi Hui took the opportunity to sit in the back seat and continued to look outside the window.
Compared to the modern buildings in S City, many streets in the capital still retained simple traditional buildings. A few unique skyscrapers sandwiched between the rows of green tiles and white walls had a different flavour in Yi Hui’s eyes.
After turning a corner at the intersection, they entered a street called Shaoguang Road. The roadside street-view seemed a little familiar to Yi Hui. When they stopped at the red light, he turned his head and looked out the window on the other side. A gothic building in red and white stood among the surrounding low houses, illuminated brightly and particularly conspicuous.
Jiang Yimang also saw it and exclaimed, “It’s so beautiful here at night! Mom, do you remember, when my brother came here to sketch, we two accompanied him. There was a newlywed couple who got married here, and the bride’s wedding dress trailed all the way to the bottom of the steps…”
Yi Hui was so absorbed in watching that he didn’t even hear being called brother.
Jiang Yimang felt bored when she didn’t get a response, so she raised her elbow and nudged him: “You painted here so many times back then, haven’t you seen enough? Or…” She looked askance, leaned to Yi Hui’s ear and asked in a low voice, “Do you want to get married here too?”
The word ”married” touched a certain string buried deep in Yi Hui’s heart and he shook his head instinctively: “No, I don’t.”
Jiang Yimang laughed: “Anyway, you’ll likely get married before I will, so we’ll have a wedding here when the time comes. Mom will definitely agree, right, mom?”
Jiang Xuemei, who was in the co-pilot seat, said yes again and again, and the mother and daughter kept talking about this topic.
Yi Hui turned his gaze to the church again.
His denial just now was half a lie.
He didn’t want to get married because he had been married before and the wedding ceremony was held in the church in front of him.
At nearly seven o’clock in the evening, Zhou Jinheng was driving on Shaoguang Road. There were no traffic jams but the red lights were very dense. He often hit the brakes as soon as he started, which made him furious.
After hurrying so much, he arrived at the restaurant before the appointed time. Zhou Jinheng ordered the food and by the time the second course was served, Fang Yuqing arrived late.
He sat down and said, “Sorry, there was a traffic jam on the road, have you been waiting for a long time?”
Zhou Jinheng was in a daze for a moment, wanting to answer “yes” but changed his mind, inexplicably feeling that he wasn’t sure he was waiting for him.
“No, I just arrived too.” In the end, he chose the most normal response. Zhou Jinheng looked at Fang Yuqing for a while, letting the face in front of him overlap with the one in his memory as if to confirm that he was no different from before.
That day, Zhou Jinheng rushed back to the capital from S City, mixed in the crowd at the airport exit and watched Fang Youqing, who was wearing a windbreaker, come out. An impulse that had been building for a long time made him take two steps forward and then he was forced to stop by the heartbeat that had calmed down.
He watched the familiar figure approach, watched him hug the relatives and friends who came to pick him up and then watched him walk away.
Right now, Fang Yuqing, who was sitting opposite, smiled and raised a glass, “I heard you are very popular now. Congratulations on getting what you want.”
The words “getting what you want” sounded a bit ironic for no reason. Zhou Jinheng should have been flustered, but for some reason, he felt calm like never before. He raised a glass too, the corners of his mouth curled up: “What else did you hear?”
Fang Yuqing still looked like nothing mattered and said with a gentle smile: “I also heard that you are married.”
For no reason, a wave of impatience rose in Zhou Jinheng’s heart. He lowered his eyes and played with the glass in his hand, saying “en” indifferently.
But he still looked forward to seeing Fang Yuqing’s reaction. During the last three years, he had often imagined this scene. Did the person who left him without looking back really never regret it?
“Congratulations.” Fang Yuqing said congratulations again, his voice sounding sincere.
It seemed that a stone hanging in the air slowly landed. While feeling melancholic and dazed, at the same time Zhou Jinheng felt a sense of relief for the first time in a long while.
“Thank you.” He replied, “I heard that you have been admitted to the school you admired. Congratulations.”
This dinner that was three years late was supposed to maintain this distant atmosphere, finally ending with an exchange of contact information, even if they knew that the string of digits would lie in the address book and accumulate dust.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. He wasn’t sure who started it, but another bottle of wine was opened and the two of them drank and chatted.
Fang Yuqing was not good at drinking but Zhou Jinheng did not think he was in a position to persuade him to drink less. The conversation gradually enriched, from the food on the table to work and to their alma mater; the floodgates of memory were opened and a raging tide came out.
“You are married, you are really married.” Fang Yuqing’s cheeks turned red and his speech became slurred as he raised a pair of moist eyes to look at Zhou Jinheng, “You… are you happy?” ”
Zhou Jinheng laughed dryly: “Guess?”
Fang Yuqing, who had drunk too much, shook his head sloppily and affirmed, “You are not happy.”
Zhou Jinheng didn’t want to say anything, so he leaned back in his seat and looked up at the ceiling that reflected the swaying lights.
Maybe he had also drunk too much and his thoughts were floating. He unexpectedly remembered the wedding banquet that was held here.
It was supposed to be held in S City. Later, because the little fool’s brother wanted to move the wedding from S City to the capital, even though they knew that he intended to supervise, the Zhou family was so desperate to get the investment that they agreed to it.
Zhou Jinheng was not good at remembering things, especially these irrelevant things. He only remembered that after going through the motions in a nearby church, he was stared at by his brother-in-law and led the little fool into this restaurant. As soon as the little fool entered the door, he looked up at the glittering glass dome and exclaimed like a child: “Wow, it’s so beautiful.”
How did he respond at the time?
Zhou Jinheng thought back carefully. He was very impatient then. He just wanted to leave quickly after the process was over. He led the little fool straight inside, urging in a low voice: “Don’t look at it, I will take you to look at it slowly next time.”
Now that he had time to admire the dome, he had to say that it was indeed very beautiful. The little fool was learning art, so he liked all these bells and whistles.
Why didn’t he bring him to see it later?
Alcohol sometimes had a wonderful catalytic effect. Zhou Jinheng remembered that the little fool really took this matter to heart. Every now and then, he would come up with different excuses, such as “I’m hungry”, “I want to go to sit in the sun”, “I’m sure I’ll be able to draw faster if I sit there”, and all sorts of ludicrous excuses which were always brushed off by him on the pretext of being busy with work.
Zhou Jinheng sneered softly, as if mocking, even more, it was like mocking himself.
How could anyone be so stupid and keep other people’s casual words in mind for so long?
He’d driven the car here but was taken away by a driver.
On the way back, Zhou Jinheng laid in the back seat and dreamed about their spirited first love and about the promise that had not been mentioned today.
Back then, he and Fang Yuqing, like all campus couples, had childishly made a lifelong promise. This promise had been like a scar burned in his heart and every memory was equivalent to tearing the newly healed wound open again. When he thought about it now, what he couldn’t forget was the pain that had recurred over the years; but the importance of the man himself was rather blurred.
So, why on earth did he want to marry the little fool?
Once doubt took shape in the mind, it would lead to countless hypotheses and guesses. It was undeniable that apart from being a bargaining chip to enter the showbiz industry, there were other things in this marriage that attracted him.
Until that dinner just now, Zhou Jinheng thought that Yi Hui looked a bit like Fang Yuqing.
They had the same white skin and big eyes that seemed to be overflowing with moisture when looking at you, docile and naive; the same pleasing figure, neither tall nor short, comfortable to hug from behind; the same delicate and quiet nature, not drawing attention to himself and not needing special care; just give him paper and a brush and he will be quiet all day.
But a lot of people had those characteristics, what about apart from those?
The two of them were clearly different.
There was a surge in traffic at night, and starting from Shaoguang Road, the stops were more frequent than usual.
Zhou Jinheng changed his position and looked out the window. The lights of the church were bright at night but it didn’t lose its solemnity.
Just like that day when the bells rang, Yi Hui, dressed in a white suit, tried his best to conceal his smile. Suppressing the rising corners of his mouth, he put on a serious expression, for fear of being teased by the people around him. He didn’t know that his curled eyes and his happy expression had already betrayed his heart completely.
He stood at the beginning of the red carpet, stretched out his hand, blushed at the sound of the bells and said, “You… you lead me over.”
The picture was played back vividly and clearly in his mind, finally allowing Zhou Jinheng to capture things that he hadn’t noticed before.
He treated it casually, but Yi Hui treated it seriously.
From the moment he took Yi Hui’s hand, those loving, pure eyes fell on him and never moved away.
The night was getting darker; the church behind him was so far away that its outline could not be seen and then it completely disappeared from sight but Zhou Jinheng was still hesitating.
Yi Hui’s phone number was displayed on the mobile phone interface and he could call him as soon as he pressed ‘dial’.
What would happen after calling? Yesterday, he threw his doll on the ground and Doraemon’s belly was a bit dirty. Would he notice it when he got home?
Or he could buy him a new one on the way back. The little fool would definitely not be able to see the difference.
Besides, he promised the old bastard to go back to Zhou’s house together on the weekend, so this call had to be made.
Finally, it was decided; but as soon as his finger was about to press down, the phone suddenly vibrated with an incoming call.
It was an unknown number. Zhou Jinheng didn’t save it in his address book but he was familiar with the string of digits and his face turned black the moment he saw it.
After picking it up, he said “Hello” and before he was ready to accept the question “Why the number change”, a low male voice came from the other end: “Why can’t I get through to Yi Hui’s phone?”
Zhou Jinheng hated it when people pressed him down from the position of an elder, and his rebelliousness sprang to life: “It’s his phone, how should I know?”
The man on the other end didn’t seem to want to talk nonsense with him: “You are not with him?”
Zhou Jinheng: “No, I’m in the capital.”
“Is he at home in S City?”
“He is not with you?”
The two voices said it almost in sync, and in the end, Zhou Jinheng was forced to back down by the authority of his brother-in-law: “I went back two days ago and he was not at home.” After a pause, he asked, “Didn’t he go find you?”
There was silence on the other end as if the man was thinking; after a while, he said, “I was out of the country on business for the first half of the month and had no contact with him.”