After lying down on the bed, Xie Min tossed and turned, feeling like he had gone back ten years, as if he were a student falling in love for the first time, troubled by emotions. Even though Sui Yang had only kissed his forehead and said goodnight, nothing extra had happened.
They hadn’t confirmed their relationship, and Xie Min didn’t know what Sui Yang was thinking. He didn’t want to be the first to ask, fearing that the answer he would receive wouldn’t be what he desired, leading to repeating past mistakes.
However, being with Sui Yang made Xie Min feel an unprecedented happiness, as if the world had suddenly become clear. Life wasn’t as bad as it used to be.
With doubts and excitement, Xie Min fell asleep and woke up in the morning, walking to the living room with a confused gaze, coincidentally encountering Sui Yang returning from the downstairs gym.
“Are you awake?” Sui Yang asked him.
Sui Yang’s appearance, Sui Yang’s tone, everything resembled as if Xie Min and Sui Yang had lived together for many years, swiftly evoking fondness in Xie Min. It also made him feel like he was still in a dream, the kind of dream that a few months ago he wouldn’t have been pleased to wake up from. Firstly, he wouldn’t be happy that the person he didn’t want to recall appeared in his dream again. Secondly, he wouldn’t be happy with himself, thinking that he must have been overthinking to let such a thing occur.
There was an easel by the window with Sui Yang’s bunny drawing clipped onto it. Xie Min let out a sigh and walked towards the dining room, feeling somewhat absent-minded.
After drinking a few sips of coffee, Xie Min became more alert. Sui Yang mentioned that he had to temporarily suspend his dual-city commuting life for a few days to finalize and confirm a collaboration.
“Once the contract was signed, I would have a weekend off,” Sui Yang told him and asked, “Did Mr. Xie still have a business trip this Saturday?”
Xie Min glanced at him and arrogantly replied, “Maybe I won’t go.” The thought of Sui Yang having weekends off made him complain, “But I didn’t have any rest.”
Perhaps due to Xie Cheng leaving everything behind in Yuhai and running off to Yuanguang with his girlfriend, it seemed like a great anger had developed in Xie Min’s father’s heart. Every day, he nitpicked at Xie Min and insisted on bringing him along to every social gathering, making him very uneasy.
“I’m going on strike!” Xie Min rambled.
Sui Yang looked at him and smiled, hesitating for a moment before saying, “Then I’ll help you hire a lawyer.”
Xie Min fell silent again.
After finishing breakfast, both of them had to leave the house. When they reached the entrance, Xie Min was just about to open the door. His hand rested on the cold doorknob when suddenly he felt pressure on his back. Sui Yang embraced him from behind, his arms encircling Xie Min’s waist. Their coats pressed tightly together in an unplanned and forceful hug.
Sui Yang’s breath was close and clear to Xie Min. His mind was in disarray, and his heart was racing. He heard Sui Yang say, “We’ll meet on the weekend.”
Xie Min responded with a “Hmm,” and Sui Yang let go of him. Xie Min should have opened the door to go to work, but he turned around instead. He looked at Sui Yang’s pretending-to-be-calm face and, trying to appear composed himself, gently touched Sui Yang’s lips and said, “We’ll meet on the weekend.”
Xie Min and Sui Yang stood at the doorstep for a few minutes, not knowing why they exchanged a kiss. Even when they sat in the car, their faces were still flushed as they neared the office.
During Sui Yang’s three days in Yuanguang, Xie Min, amidst busy work, kept seeing news about Sui Yang.
The collaboration he was going to discuss was one of the largest monetary involvements for Yuanguang in recent years, with progress reports almost every day. Previously, Xie Min would automatically filter out any news related to Sui Yang, never clicking on them. But now, for some reason, he felt compelled to open and read almost every article, just to be able to continue fielding at least five calls a day from his father.
On Friday afternoon, he had his assistant find someone to frame the painting for him. The assistant took a photo and sent it to him. The pink-clad bunny in the black outfit looked quite stylish in its white frame. Xie Min, perhaps under the influence of a Sui Yang filter, felt that it could pass off as the work of a trendy avant-garde artist, perfect for adorning the living room wall.
Sui Yang signed the contract at three o’clock and promptly called Xie Min at three-fifteen, saying that if the celebration event finished early, he would return to Yuhai. But even if he did return, it would probably be somewhat late, so he told Xie Min not to wait for him.
Xie Min thought Sui Yang had an inflated sense of self-assurance. “Do you really think I would wait for you?” Sui Yang didn’t say anything, so he added, “Okay, got it.”
After hanging up the phone, Xie Min signed a document and went to a meeting with several executives to discuss personnel adjustments.
Near the end of the meeting, Xie Min noticed a name on the list in his hand. There was an employee in the procurement department named “Zhuo Pingping.” Suddenly, the name of the person who had called Sui Yang popped into his head.
Sui Yang claimed to be a fitness instructor, but Xie Min had an indescribable feeling that something was off, so he kept his guard up.
Xie Min had a simple meal at the office and, as usual, worked late. Finally, he finished the tasks his father had assigned him, and it was already just past nine.
He prepared to leave work, but as he stared at the computer screen for a few seconds, the name Zhuo Ping came to mind. He opened the search engine and typed in “Zhuo Ping fitness.”
Xie Min only found a few news articles with that keyword. He went through them one by one, all discussing Ms. Zhuo Pingping’s lawsuit against a fitness center for false class deductions. He couldn’t find any information about a fitness instructor introduction.
After scrolling through a few pages and finding no relevant information, Xie Min thought for a moment. He deleted the text and retyped “Zhuo Ping Yuanguang.” After the page refreshed, the first result was news about Zhuo Ping, a psychological expert from Yuanguang, receiving an international humanitarian excellence award.
Xie Min clicked to open the news article, which provided an introduction to Zhuo Ping’s academic background and her contributions in the field of psychological assistance. There was also a video interview with the expert. Xie Min clicked play, and a female reporter asked her, “What does this award mean to you personally?”
Dr. Zhuo smiled at the female reporter, and then Xie Min heard a voice that he had heard before.
“Personally, this award is a recognition of my years of work,” she said.
Not long ago, Dr. Zhuo used the same tone and similar speech rate when she called Sui Yang, asking him, “When will you come this week?”
Xie Min watched the interview video and searched for more news related to Zhuo Ping. Slowly, he started to think that he sometimes went to see a psychologist to talk about recent situations and troubles. However, Sui Yang’s situation seemed different from his own, so there was no need to deceive himself by saying that Zhuo Ping was a fitness instructor.
But what made Sui Yang different from him, Xie Min couldn’t determine for now.
Xie Min closed his computer and returned home. He didn’t sleep well the previous night, and as soon as he lay down after taking a shower, drowsiness overwhelmed him. He fell asleep before it was even eleven o’clock.
The next morning, when he woke up, he saw missed calls from Sui Yang at midnight and a message from Sui Yang sent at two in the morning, saying that he had boarded the plane.
After sitting for a while, Xie Min went downstairs. Surprisingly, Sui Yang was still in bed, as Xie Min estimated that he probably went to sleep around six in the morning. Xie Min quietly approached Sui Yang’s door, opened it, and peeked inside. He saw Sui Yang sleeping deeply, so he closed the door again.
Xie Min had breakfast and left a message for Sui Yang before heading to the office.
He compressed his entire day’s work into the morning and impulsively searched for Zhuo Ping. He came across the contact number for her clinic and hesitated for a while before making the call.
The person on the other end informed Xie Min that due to the busy schedule of providing psychological assistance, Dr. Zhuo currently only offered appointments for new consultations on Wednesdays. The earliest available appointment was several months away, and the possibility of long-term counseling depended on the severity of the client’s situation. They hoped Xie Min could understand.
“I am not in Yuanguang,” Xie Min felt a bit dazed and asked, “May I have a telephone consultation then?”
“Dr. Zhuo generally does not accept telephone consultations.”
“Then I can come in person,” Xie Min said, “Please help me make an appointment.”
The person on the phone recorded Xie Min’s name and contact information, promising to confirm with Dr. Zhuo and send him the scheduled consultation time.
After hanging up the call, Xie Min received a message from Sui Yang saying that he had woken up and asked when Xie Min would be coming home. Xie Min typed “soon” but deleted it, then headed downstairs directly.
When he arrived home, Sui Yang was wearing a casual hoodie, holding a coffee cup, and standing by the window, admiring the exquisitely framed painting. Upon seeing Xie Min approaching, he commented, “Is it necessary, Mr. Xie? I just drew it casually.”
Xie Min walked beside him and snorted, “Let’s frame your evidence of guilt.”
Sui Yang smiled and placed the cup on the counter. He reached out and ruffled Xie Min’s hair. “Are you acting like an elementary school student?”
He looked well-rested, always keeping himself neat and fresh. When he wasn’t wearing a suit, it made Xie Min feel like they were still ten years ago, as if nothing had changed.
Xie Min wanted to say “Get lost,” but Sui Yang gently leaned down and pecked Xie Min’s cheek. “I’ll make a more serious drawing for you this week.” He added, “I’m not good at drawing, so you don’t have to frame it.”
Xie Min and Sui Yang spent the afternoon at home. Xie Min sat on the couch, taking a break and reading a book, while Sui Yang drew a portrait for him. During this time, Xie Min refused his father’s request for a dinner gathering in the evening and ignored several calls from him.
Sui Yang painted attentively, not rushing. The afternoon passed, but he hadn’t finished half of the painting.
As the evening approached, Xie Min decided to treat Sui Yang to a meal and asked him what he wanted to eat.
Sui Yang couldn’t come up with an idea, but suddenly Xie Min remembered the previous time when Sui Yang, his mother, and stepfather came to Yuhai and dined at a restaurant. He also liked that place, so he had his assistant call and check if they had available reservations. They decided to go there.
Sui Yang drove, and Xie Min sat in the passenger seat. This time, he wasn’t a LEGO rabbit stuck by a seatbelt. He could gaze out of the car window at the evening sky of Yuhai.
Yuhai had undergone significant changes over the past ten years. Almost all of the street scenes were different, and many old buildings had been demolished. Xie Min had experienced many of these changes after completing his studies. However, the Yuhai evening seemed unchanged.
When the weather was nice, there would be a deep red sunset glow. Before the streetlights came on, hurried pedestrians would brush past each other in the dim light.
During dinner, Xie Min received another phone call from his father, reprimanding him. Xie Min halfheartedly apologized while eating, and Sui Yang laughed from across the table. Xie Min unintentionally overate and by the time he finished the last dessert, he felt too stuffed to stand up.
As they left the restaurant, Sui Yang asked Xie Min, “Do you want to take a walk?”
Xie Min noticed the pedestrian path not far away and agreed.
The streetlights along the path were dimly lit. Xie Min had walked back and forth here many times before. Sui Yang and Xie Min walked side by side, not too close nor too far apart.
The nearby residential area was mostly for the elderly residents who slept early. By eight or nine o’clock at night, the pedestrian path would be empty. The narrow street park would then become Xie Min’s secret hideout, where he could contain his unhappiness. So when Sui Yang had grabbed Xie Min here the last time to reminisce about the past, Xie Min felt offended.
However, this time, as they walked together on the path, Xie Min felt strangely calm and at ease, even though there was no apparent reason for such peace. He realized that he was indeed someone who could easily find satisfaction.
The path was narrow and after walking for a while, Xie Min started to feel a bit tired. He spotted a bench and immediately sat down. “I can’t walk anymore.”
Sui Yang didn’t say anything in response. He sat down beside Xie Min and asked about his father.
Xie Min immediately began to complain about his father’s oppression, starting from returning to the company after graduation and going all the way to recent dinner gatherings. He spoke rapidly, feeling parched, and then he slowed down a bit and said to Sui Yang, “I’m thirsty.”
“I’ll go buy you some water,” Sui Yang stood up and walked towards a convenience store across the street from the path.
As Xie Min watched Sui Yang’s figure recede, his phone suddenly vibrated. It was a call from the front desk of Zhuo Ping’s clinic.
“Mr. Xie, hello,” the person on the phone said. “It’s quite fortunate. After communicating with Dr. Zhuo, it turns out that next Wednesday evening she happens to have an available slot due to a cancellation. I wonder if you’re free.”
Xie Min, afraid that Sui Yang might return soon and without checking his schedule, promptly replied, “I’m available.” The person on the other end informed him, “I mentioned to Dr. Zhuo about your absence from Yuanguang, and she said that if it’s not convenient for you, a telephone consultation can be arranged.”
Xie Min thanked her and noticed Sui Yang returning with the water. He quickly hung up the phone.
Sui Yang approached Xie Min, having bought him a soda.
It was a brand and flavor of soda that Xie Min used to enjoy very much, but he hadn’t had it in nearly ten years. He was starting to forget its taste.
Xie Min took it, unscrewed the bottle cap, and heard the faint sound of bubbles bursting inside the soda bottle. He took a sip and suddenly heard Sui Yang calling his name.
Xie Min turned his head.
The spring evenings in Yuhai were actually a bit chilly, but the lush greenery had already sprouted leaves, surrounding them. There were a few lights on the ground, providing just enough illumination for Xie Min to see Sui Yang’s eyes clearly.
“What?” Xie Min asked.
Sui Yang softly asked him, “What are your plans for the future?”
This was a very broad question. Xie Min thought for a moment and said, “In what aspect?”
“Emotions,” Sui Yang said, “and career.”
Xie Min stared at Sui Yang for a few seconds, feeling his heart pounding heavily. He didn’t understand Sui Yang’s intention and replied, “I don’t have any plans,” adding, “Just going with the flow.”
Sui Yang fell silent for a moment and said to Xie Min, “If you don’t have any other plans, would you consider giving us a try? Of course, if you don’t want to, if you prefer to maintain the status quo, or if you need time to decide,” Sui Yang’s voice was very low, as if he had assumed many scenarios of being rejected by Xie Min, “I’m okay with that. I just wanted to ask, it doesn’t have to be a certain way.”
Xie Min looked at Sui Yang with confusion, his mind filled with many things he wanted to say.
For example, why be together, whether Sui Yang still liked him, how much he liked him, if he could guarantee not to leave again, and if there were any plans for the future. However, it seemed that he couldn’t articulate a single sentence. He simply tightly gripped the soda bottle, thought for a while, gave up on speaking, and pressed his forehead against Sui Yang’s shoulder, seeking solace in his embrace.
If you enjoy this novel, support the Translator ginevre on her ko-fi account :))