After living in two cities for two weeks, Sui Yang finally finished painting the portrait for Xie Min on a Sunday morning.
It wasn’t a typical portrait but more like a snapshot of Xie Min’s daily life. Sui Yang didn’t paint the face directly, but Xie Min still recognized himself in it. Xie Min liked the painting and stood next to Sui Yang for a while. Then, he decided to contact Shi Shan and find a famous framer to frame it.
Sui Yang thought he was exaggerating and said there was no need for fancy framing. Xie Min reminded him to mind his own business and said, “Once I receive it, it’s mine, so you don’t need to worry.”
Yuhai City entered early summer, and the temperature suddenly rose. Xie Min stood by the window, rolled up his shirt sleeves to his elbows, and called Shi Shan. Sui Yang followed his request, poured a glass of cold water, and brought it to him.
“Sui Yang.” Xie Min looked at the painting again, focusing on Sui Yang’s name in the bottom right corner. He still really liked it. Taking the water from Sui Yang, he said, “This is my birthday gift.”
His birthday was in June. Sui Yang had never celebrated it with him before.
“That’s too casual,” Sui Yang disagreed. “Let me get you something else for your birthday.”
Xie Min drank water while expressing, “It’s not casual at all. If this old man likes it, it’s not casual.”
Usually, Sui Yang would laugh at him when he called himself “old man,” but this time he didn’t. He asked Xie Min, “Do you really like it?”
Xie Min nodded, and Sui Yang lowered his head to give his face a gentle peck.
He embraced Xie Min without doing anything more. Xie Min felt safe in Sui Yang’s arms. Placing his cup on a nearby shelf, he returned the hug, called out Sui Yang’s name, and confessed with some impulsiveness, “I’ve been thinking about our future. I don’t want to work for my dad anymore, but I haven’t figured things out yet.”
Xie Min’s plans weren’t fully formed yet. He informed Sui Yang that a college friend, with whom he had a good relationship, contacted him. The friend’s investment company wanted to open a branch in China and asked if he was interested in joining.
“I have some savings of my own,” he informed Sui Yang. “But since graduation, I’ve been working at Wanzhuang Real Estate. I don’t know if I can handle things on my own.”
“I’m afraid that in the end, if I leave my dad and the family company, I’ll discover that I’m actually useless,” Xie Min complained. “I had a nightmare yesterday. I dreamt of handing my resignation letter to my dad, and he locked me in the company’s break room.”
Sui Yang arrived in Yuhai this morning, and Xie Min slept alone last night. For some reason, he had a restless sleep and woke up feeling perplexed.
“Maybe it’s because my dad talks to me every day, as if he’s constantly scolding me for being worthless,” he raised his eyes and glanced at Sui Yang. “I don’t know.”
Sui Yang and he maintained eye contact for a few seconds, as if assuring him, and said, “Xie Min, you will succeed.”
“How do you know?” Xie Min smiled.
“You’ve always done well,” Sui Yang didn’t smile. “In school and work.”
Xie Min rarely saw Sui Yang speak so seriously, which made him feel a bit embarrassed. He looked away and said, “I’m not that good.”
Sui Yang arrived in Yuhai in the morning and was leaving in the evening. Xie Min felt that time passed quickly when he was with Sui Yang, even though they hadn’t done much. Suddenly, it was almost time for Sui Yang to leave.
He sat on the couch with his legs curled up, eating cherries that Sui Yang handed to him. He overheard Sui Yang talking to his secretary on the phone, discussing their plans after landing.
This time, Sui Yang had a business trip for seven days, coincidentally visiting the city where Xie Min attended university. After Sui Yang hung up the phone, Xie Min started a conversation with him, “Did you know that I attended both my undergraduate and graduate studies there? I spent almost five years.”
Sui Yang leaned closer to him, but Xie Min handed him two cherries. He didn’t take them and said, “I know.”
“How did you know?” Xie Min mumbled while eating.
“Forgot,” Sui Yang said. “Probably read it in Mr. Xie’s press release.”
Xie Min told him to get lost and asked, “Have you been there before? It’s quite nice. Unfortunately, I’m busy next week, otherwise, we could go together and take a look.” Xie Min reminisced about his student life. “My university is beautiful.”
“I’ve been there,” Sui Yang said simply. “Our company used to have suppliers there.”
Xie Min hadn’t heard Sui Yang mention it before, so he casually asked, “When did you go there?”
“About five or six years ago,” Sui Yang replied.
Xie Min paused for a moment and said, “I was still in school back then. If you had been there…” Xie Min started to say “if,” but he didn’t know what he wanted to say.
If they hadn’t broken up, Sui Yang could have visited him, and they could have explored the surroundings together.
If Sui Yang had known that Xie Min was studying there and had come to find him, Xie Min might have pretended to be generous and showed him around the campus.
However, reality didn’t allow for so many “ifs.” Xie Min’s student days had long ended, and the missed time couldn’t be reclaimed.
“Sui Yang,” Xie Min held the fruit tray with cherries and looked up. Sui Yang’s expression didn’t change much. What Xie Min wanted to say was, “Why didn’t you ever think of coming to find me?” He suspected that Sui Yang also knew, but instead, he said, “There’s a nice restaurant near the school. If you have time to eat, I can make a reservation for you.” He deliberately changed the topic and told Sui Yang, “It’s hard to get a reservation, but this young master knows the head chef.”
Sui Yang said, “Thank you,” complimenting Xie Min for having a wide circle of friends. He held onto Xie Min’s hand, kissed his lips, but in the end, didn’t mention whether or not he had time to go and eat.
During the days when Sui Yang was away from Yuhai, Xie Min was busy.
The company’s matters and his father’s social demands piled up, coupled with dealing with time differences and contacting university classmates. Xie Min went several consecutive days without getting a full five hours of sleep.
On Thursday afternoon, Xie Min was incredibly tired, so he asked Chi Yuan to help him cancel the meeting and lay down in the lounge for half an hour.
The alarm clock rang, and he groggily sat up, realizing that he had received a message from Sui Yang.
Sui Yang sent him a photo of his school, acknowledging that it was indeed beautiful. Xie Min called him, and Sui Yang quickly answered.
“Why are you going to my school?” Xie Min asked.
Sui Yang replied, “To receive the enlightenment of knowledge from your esteemed institution.”
Xie Min asked him again if he wanted to go to the restaurant. Sui Yang said, “No, it’s not fun to go alone.”
“Okay,” Xie Min said. Perhaps due to exhaustion or not being fully awake, Xie Min, lacking emotional intelligence, said to Sui Yang, “If you had come to find me before, we could have gone together.”
As soon as he said it, he realized it wasn’t appropriate, but he heard Sui Yang apologize to him.
Sui Yang’s voice was low, and Xie Min couldn’t discern his emotions or understand why he was apologizing. However, Xie Min felt a sense of heaviness and unnecessary burden in his heart. He made an effort to lighten the atmosphere and said, “Forget it, the restaurant isn’t going anywhere. We can go next time during our break.”
After hanging up the phone, Xie Min sat on the bed for a while.
His lounge wasn’t large but not small either. It had a 1.8-meter bed, and across from the bed was a door leading to his storage room.
Xie Min rarely slept in the lounge before, nor did he ever enter the storage room. It was always Chi Yuan and the secretary who took care of organizing it for him. Perhaps because he wanted to escape from work on this day, he stared at the door of the storage room, lost in thought for a moment, and then got off the bed, opened the door, and walked in.
The storage room was approximately thirty square meters, divided into two sections. One side was a coatroom, where he kept his spare clothing, and the other side had a wooden storage cabinet with glass doors, featuring several rows of shelves where he organized the gifts given by business partners.
There were gifts accumulated over five years, neatly arranged by Chi Yuan according to the year, but it still seemed like quite a lot.
Xie Min stood in front of the glass, observing the gifts from top to bottom, as if touring an exhibition.
When he first joined the company, there weren’t as many birthday gifts. On the innermost shelf, from top to bottom, there were various branded gift boxes or bags, labeled with the names of the gift givers.
He examined them carefully. At the bottom of the cabinet, there was a slightly larger flat box wrapped in gray gift paper, without any brand markings. Somehow, Xie Min opened the cabinet door and took out the box to have a look.
In order to keep records of the gifts, Chi Yuan had previously removed the packaging with a craft knife, but the packaging was preserved well without any damage.
This particular gift came from an international joint-venture elevator company in Yuhai City, which had collaborated with Wanzhuang Real Estate on a few occasions.
For some reason, Xie Min’s heartbeat inexplicably quickened slightly. He realized he was overthinking, resembling a teenager who had just fallen in love. Perhaps the box contained a custom-made elevator model for him.
However, he still didn’t check the accompanying gift note on the side. He followed the traces of Chi Yuan’s unwrapping and opened the box. Inside the wrapping paper, there was another box, white in color. Xie Min opened the box and saw a painting inside.
The painting wasn’t large, approximately sixty by eighty centimeters, framed in a very ordinary wooden frame. It wasn’t a realistic style, featuring a black-and-white color scheme. The painting depicted a simple half-body portrait of a boy, seemingly asleep on a desk. The desk and the scene had nothing particularly distinctive, making it difficult to determine the location, but the person portrayed was Xie Min.
The artist hadn’t left a signature on the painting, only the date. The painting was given to Xie Min during his early days at the company, nine years ago from the current date.
Xie Min took out the gift list and glanced at it. Chi Yuan had categorized the gift as a fine art painting.
Xie Min placed the painting on the carpet in the storage room and looked at the other gifts that the elevator company had given him in previous years.
The business partner had also gifted him a new model of a mobile phone. After reading the gift list, Xie Min casually passed it on to Tan Sichen, who was using the same brand of older phone. The gift list recorded it that way.
They had gifted him a set of high-value suits, but Xie Min didn’t like wearing things that others gave him. Chi Yuan hung them in the other side of the coatroom for backup, and he had never opened them.
They also gave him a voucher for a suite at the Seven Star Island Hotel. Xie Min gave it to his vice president, Jian Liqun, as one of the honeymoon gifts.
Xie Min was accustomed to giving away his birthday gifts, so the only items left from business partners in the storage room were the suits and the painting. After contemplating for a while, he went to the coatroom, searched around, and finally found the suit that Sui Yang had given him. He opened it and took a look—it was a light gray color, not too formal.
Standing in front of the wardrobe, Xie Min wondered if Sui Yang had a problem with his mind. How could he be even less willing to communicate properly than him?
His phone rang, and he answered. Chi Yuan informed him that the chairman was coming to the company and would arrive soon.
After hanging up the phone, Xie Min stood there for a while, checking his schedule for the weekend. He had purchased a ticket for a nighttime flight to the city where his university was located.
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