Pei Yan stood in place and looked at his disappearing back. He didn’t move for a long time.
That night, he didn’t show up for the appointment.
He sent a polite text ahead of time to his date, whom he had never met. He asked her to forgive him for missing an appointment.
The employees left work one after another. Pei Yan stayed alone in the quiet office’s rest room and slept for a long time.
He was too sleepy.
Late at night, he drove home.
The light was still on at home. Ye Lanting sat on the sofa in the living room and it wasn’t known how long she had been sitting there.
Their eyes met in the air and then staggered. Neither one of them spoke and the atmosphere was stagnant.
This was the first time he didn’t take the initiative to say hello to his mother.
Pei Yan returned to his room and continued his unfinished sleep.
He didn’t have insomnia and he had a rare dream.
When he woke up the next day, Pei Yan saw the shadow of a bird on the windowsill in a trance. The trembling emerald tail features were like extremely beautiful gems.
He sat on the bed and watched a colorful sunrise.
It was a rare bright morning.
It was only after waking up that Pei Yan found that there was only one thing missing from his room.
He hurried downstairs. Ye Lanting was eating breakfast in the garden as usual.
Seeing him coming, she looked over with a smiling expression. It was as if the morning stillness had never happened.
“Mom, where did that wooden box go?”
He finally took the initiative to speak. Ye Lanting smiled even more and replied to him, “I saw that it was covered in dust. It should be things you don’t want so I cleaned it up.”
Seeing her son’s eyes flicker violently, Ye Lanting looked surprised. “What’s wrong? Is there anything more important in there?”
Pei Yan’s fingers clenched tightly. His nails were embedded in his palms and turned white with force.
He heard himself answer.
“Then what should I do?” Ye Lanting’s face was stunned and he said softly, “I’ll ask Mother Li to look for it later. I can’t remember where I lost it.”
However, Pei Yan knew he couldn’t get it back.
It was his mother’s punishment for trying to break free of her control.
Ye Lanting asked again with a bit of curiosity in her voice, “What is in there? Is it so important?”
Pei Yan looked at her steadily, squeezing a difficult response from his throat. “You know.”
She wouldn’t tolerate anything unknown in her vision.
She must’ve rummaged through that box a long time ago and chose to put her chips on the table today.
After the words came out, Pei Yan didn’t look at her expression any longer. He turned around and left the house.
Instead of going to work, he drove around the huge city.
The motor roared and the exhaust spread. He wandered through the traffic, waiting for flashing red and green lights. Gradually, he followed the guidance of instinct and turned into a familiar street that he hadn’t been to in years.
In the days after being brought back to the Pei house, he deliberately avoided this neighborhood.
It was like avoiding that distant diary.
The contents of the wooden box weren’t very precious. They were old memories he brought back from his original home and they were all bits and pieces. There were Mother’s Day greeting cards, game cards, glass bottles…
There was also the childhood diary that Pei Qingyuan asked Shen Yiming to give back to him when he was in college.
In fact, he hadn’t forgotten it when he moved away. He deliberately left it, waiting for Luo Xiuyun to pack it away with the old fairy tale books and sell it as a waste product, making it completely disappear from his life.
Then after going around in circles, it returned to his hands intact.
On the day he received the diary, he flipped through it from beginning to end. Then he hurriedly locked it in the box, letting the dust slowly cover it.
In the days that followed, Pei Yan lied to himself that he had forgotten many of those pages.
But after the diary was lost, the valve of memory could no longer deceive him and the past surged in.
The street was full of stores. The tong sui store and bakery stood side by side.
He didn’t remember a tong sui store with a long line at the door of this location, but he was familiar with the bakery next door.
The windows of the bakery were filled with beautiful and attractive food models. The sign of ‘Xingyue Bakery’ was written in crooked, childish font.
There were constant customers coming in and out of the store. The chubby middle-aged man greeted the customers warmly, raising his hand from time to time to wipe the sweat oozing on his forehead.
There was a girl in her early teens sitting at a round table doing her homework. She would occasionally raise her head to talk to strange customers, causing the middle-aged man to look helpless while others couldn’t help laughing.
Pei Yan stood outside the glass window and stared motionlessly at the scene inside.
After an unknown amount of time, the wind chimes at the door rang clearly in his ears.
He Shiwen came out of the store with a look of joy on his face. “Hey, it’s you. I haven’t seen you for many years. You’ve grown up.”
He had pondered for a while in the story just now to make sure that this young man really was a former young customer.
Pei Yan woke up. “You remember me?”
“Of course, I remember.” He Shiwen smiled. “I also watched you grow up. In my impression, you were smaller than Xingxing is now when I first saw you.”
Pei Yan had lived in this neighborhood since he was a child. He went to kindergarten and elementary school here. The location of the middle school also wasn’t far away. Then he transferred in the third year of high school and said goodbye to this world completely.
When He Shiwen first opened the bakery, he was only a young man in his 20s and Pei Yan was in elementary school. It was the age when he received a copy of ‘New Edition of Fairy Tales’ every month.
When the bakery first opened, Luo Xiuyun bought him to buy it and both of them thought it tasted good.
Later, relatives said to eat less of these messy things so Lu Xiuyun didn’t dare to buy more. At most, it was once every two weeks.
But Pei Yan really liked the taste of the bread sold in this store.
After school, he would always hang around outside the store for a long time before going home.
Sometimes, he would shell out his pocket money and secretly buy one.
Sometimes, he hesitated over whether to use the remaining five yuan to buy bread or buy a game card.
As he wandered more often, the young store owner remembered him and occasionally invited him to try new products.
Every new product was delicious.
However, bread was a staple food and Pei Yan often went home in a full state. He didn’t dare tell his mother and could only insist on continuing to eat dinner.
Seeing his struggling appearance, his mother sighed helplessly and poured out more than half the rice in the bowl into her bowl. Then she tugged at his ears and told him that he couldn’t do this next time.
As a result, he often couldn’t resist the temptation of delicious bread.
Every time he ate a new flavor of bread, he would write it in his diary.
[Today’s bean paste is delicious.]
He wrote in the most straightforward terms.
[He Shushu said there will be new flavors next month.]
The wind chimes hanging at the door of the store accompanied him through his childhood.
The windows were illuminated with an orange-yellow light and the warm and fragrant smell was haunting.
[It is good to open a bakery.]
When the students in the class were still drawing a simple ‘happiness’ with strokes, he had already written ‘happiness’ in more complicated characters in his diary.
In the year that Pei Yan started to receive ‘Wisdom and Exploration’, He Shiwen fell in love and married a customer who often came to the store.
In the year that Luo Xiuyun bought teaching aids for him according to the book list, He Shiwen’s daughter was born.
She had a fairytale name, Xingxing.
Pei Yan had received the sweet wedding candy. He had seen the big sister who smiled cutely and he had seen the baby He Xingxing who slept sweetly in his arms.
The stores on both sides of the street were always changing and the times and trends changed, but this small bakery always stayed in place without moving, expanding or adding other business items. Only the furnishings in the store had become warmer.
On the day when Xingxing vaguely called out ‘Mother’, the excited He Shiwen said that he would ask Xingxing to give the bakery a new name when she was older.
Pei Yan, who was standing next to him and nibbling on bean paste-stuffed bread, couldn’t help giggling and thinking that it must be a cute name.
He liked this bakery more and more, not just because of the bread.
He wrote a brief dream in his diary.
[I want to be a happy person like Brother He.]
[His life is so happy.]
Many years later, Pei Yan stood in the same position and recalled the day he wrote about happiness.
Not normal, not rich, just happiness.
Now the page on which happiness had been written was discarded.
He Shiwen saw his lost expression and the originally joyful smile disappeared.
People walking on the street would always reveal such vulnerable fragility at certain, inadvertent moments.
So he beckoned to the customer in front of him, just as he did when the man was young. “Come in and sit. There are new products in the store and it should be very suitable for your taste.”
The wind chimes jingled.
He Xingxing, who liked to be lively, immediately turned her head and looked over. She saw her father leading in an unfamiliar guest.
He didn’t look like he had come to buy bread.
But her dad took out all the best bread in the store, put it on a large plate and placed it in front of the customer.
When He Shiwen happened to walk past her, He Xingxing reached out and grabbed the corner of his clothes, asking in a low voice, “Dad, who is that brother? Why is his expression so sad? Is he going to cry?”
He Shiwen didn’t answer. A trace of surprise crossed his face and he patted his daughter’s head. “Have you finished writing your essay?”
“It is done. You can check it casually.”
He Xingxing casually handed the workbook to her father. Then she picked up the paper box next to the cashier and placed it in front of Pei Yan. This was her usual concern for strangers.
Pei Yan thanked her in a dry voice.
He Shiwen tried to improve the atmosphere and divert the attention of this old friend. He flipped through his daughter’s homework and smiled after reading a line. “You want to be a hairdresser who makes beautiful hairstyles while chatting with customers every day… such a long attributive phrase?”
“Why, can’t I?” He Xingxing glared at him.
“Yes, yes.” He Shiwen said repeatedly. “I’m just a bit curious. Last year when you said you wanted to be a hairdresser, you just wanted to do the most beautiful hairstyles. This year, there is another detail.”
“It is so interesting to chat with strangers.” He Xingxing pouted. She looked at Pei Yan again, her tone mature. “Are you not happy? If you aren’t happy then you can talk to someone. For example, me. I am very enlightened.”
Pei Yan listened to the conversation between the father and daughter in a stunned manner and didn’t speak immediately.
He Xingxing thought for a while. She carefully looked at his hairstyle and seriously evaluated it. “Your hairstyle looks good and it suits you very well. It is quite handsome. I will note down this hairstyle.”
“When you grow up, you can come to me to cut your hair.” Once she finished speaking, she shook her head again. “I’m sorry, I accidentally said the opposite. It is when I grow up.”
He Shiwen couldn’t help laughing at her. “Recruiting customers so early? You’ve learned all about my business. Thankfully, you don’t want to open a bakery.”
“Of course. I’m so smart, I’ll definitely be better than you in the future. Haven’t you heard that phrase? The student surpasses the master…”
The father and daughter were bickering normally but Pei Yan couldn’t hear it.
His eyes were sore and tears almost burst out.
The sun fell on the lively and outgoing little girl and flickered faintly on the glass window. Time went back and gradually overlapped with the little boy who was watching outside the store many years ago.
At that time, he looked at the brand-new world and thought that the future would be beautiful and infinite. Each loaf of bread had a different taste and each person shone with different colors.
But in the end, all that remained was a static oil painting in front of him.
The beautiful and grand scenery was condensed in the cold gold-plated frame and there were no traces of people in it.
The carefree girl was standing in the bakery with a vision and imagination that made her eyes sparkle, every bit of it belonging to herself.
If time could be repeated, if he could really go back in time—
It was this day that he should return to.
He walked past the fragrant bakery and wrote about this day of happiness with his own hands.
“You didn’t say the opposite.” Pei Yan stared deeply at her pure smile. “It is when I grow up.”