When Ji Tong woke up, the sky was already bright. Bright daylight shone through the gap in the curtains.
His biological clock was regular and he always woke up at a fixed time.
He sleepily closed his eyes and reached to the side, coming across something furry. It was apparently a doll with a plush feel and plastic parts.
The drowsiness gradually subsided. Ji Tong thought for a while but couldn’t figure out what it was, so he opened his eyes and turned his head to take a look.
Next to him was a gray koala doll with cute plastic eyes and a big black nose, lying obediently under the blanket.
Ji Tong couldn’t help laughing.
The sheets under the koala still had a faint temperature and the person who had slept there seemed to have just left.
So Ji Tong stayed in bed for a moment before getting up from the bed. He quickly washed up and went downstairs, following the stronger and stronger aroma of food.
Sure enough, Pei Qingyuan was in the kitchen. The warm smell of omelet and hot milk filled the air.
He heard movement behind him and looked back.
His lover in pajamas hugged the koala, leaned against the door and waved to him. “Good morning.”
He answered. The milk in the small pot was just the right temperature and was bubbling. It was poured into a brightly colored ceramic cup and served to the table.
The small robot placed on the dining table also made a bright voice. “Good morning!”
The robot’s hat was smudged in the daylight and the round body was hand-painted with a river of stars in rich tones. Day and night met on the surface of his body.
Ji Tong sat at the dining table and looked at it while placing a hand on his cheek. “What does Xiao Mei eat in the morning?”
Xiao Mei replied clearly, “Eat the early bird.”
Pei Qingyuan put down the plate and asked smoothly, “Why?”
Xiao Mei, as the prototype of the jelly bean robot, was modified and upgraded by the two of them at any time. This meant she was much more high-end than the same model on the market.
Ji Tong and Xiao Mei answered him almost in unison, “Because the early bird gets the worm.”
So the early riser Xiao Mei got a bird to eat.
Pei Qingyuan, who couldn’t find the logic behind it, gave up digging deeper. “Okay.”
A brilliant morning always started with a strange cold joke.
If it was a working day, Pei Qingyuan didn’t have to wake up early to make breakfast. The company had self-service. He just had to get up to change clothes, leave, drive to the company and spend an ordinary and special day.
Today was the weekend and the time could be freely arranged.
Before going to bed last night, Ji Tong and Pei Qingyuan arranged to do cleaning together in the morning and play online games in the afternoon, so they couldn’t sleep in today.
They just hadn’t discussed what to eat yet.
“Xiao Mei, what should I eat for lunch?”
Xiao Mei enthusiastically gave a random answer. “Make dumplings to eat!”
Ji Tong thought about it. Indeed, he hadn’t eaten dumplings for a long time. He was a bit moved and asked, “What about at night?”
For people who had to think about what to eat for three meals a day every day, Xiao Mei was a perfect life assistant.
Xiao Mei was about to answer when Pei Qingyuan spoke first.
“She said she has something for me and we should stop by for dinner.” His tone was flat. “Do you want to go?”
There was no clear name in this sentence but Ji Tong understood it at once.
In their lives, there was only one person who always appeared with a third-person pronoun.
“Okay.” Ji Tong didn’t show much hesitation and seemed to simply be considering the contents of the dinner. “It isn’t bad to eat home-cooked food at night.”
“Okay.” Pei Qingyuan picked up his phone. “I’ll tell her.”
Xiao Mei, who was listening to them, made a curious voice. “What is home-cooked food?”
Ji Tong stretched out his hand and poked the brilliant body that was like the Milky Way. “There are many.”
The robot asked again, “How much is a lot?”
Ji Tong laughed. “It is a full table.”
Every time they went to eat at that long-lot home, the table would be filled with hot dishes. There were lots and lots of dishes.
They were all his favorite dishes.
At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, he and Pei Qingyuan walked into the old community. The low-rise unit building was still plastered with small advertisements and was dark and cluttered.
Standing in front of the familiar door, Pei Qingyuan’s expression remained calm. He raised his hand to knock on the door and there was immediately a ‘coming’ heard from inside.
Once the door opened, bright light followed and flowed into the dimly lit corridor.
An older, middle-aged woman stood at the door. She had just come out of the kitchen wearing an apron and she hurriedly wiped off the water stains on her hands. When she saw the bag Ji Tong was carrying in his hand, she wanted to pick it up but stopped her movements a bit nervously.
In the end, she just showed a happy smile. “You guys are here. Come in quickly, the slippers are here.”
Unlike the messy and crowded place a long time ago, the room behind her was small and tidy. There were no more ashtrays and empty wine bottles in the living room. The furnishings were simple and it looked like an ordinary home.
The top of the TV was covered with a floral cloth and the coffee table was filled with crystal clear glasses, plastic fruit plates with fresh fruit and small boxes full of sweets and snacks.
There were three pillows neatly placed on the sofa. The door of the next room was open, letting in the sunlight.
Ji Tong noticed her movement and took the initiative to hand over the bag in his hand, greeting her, “Auntie, these are the dumplings we wrapped at noon.”
Luo Xiuyun was stunned. Her eyes lit up and she wiped her hands on the apron harder before reaching out and taking it. “The dumplings are good. Are you hungry? Do you want to eat a bowl first?”
“No, I’m not hungry yet.” Ji Tong shook his head and keenly heard the movement from the kitchen. “Auntie, the water is boiling.”
“Okay, then eat some fruit first.” Luo Xiuyun replied before quickly turning around and walking toward the kitchen.
She stood in front of the stove and turned off the fire. She was ready to pour the meat into the water to blanch. Then she looked at Pei Qingyuan, who hadn’t spoken since entering through the door.
“I put it in your room.” Luo Xiuyun lowered her voice. “It is too heavy so it can only be placed on the ground.”
Pei Qingyuan finally spoke. “What is it?”
“They are books your father used to read. I found it when clearing the garage some time ago,” she said. “I remember him saying at the time that he would leave it to you to read. Maybe you don’t need it now but I think it should be given to you. It is a waste to leave it with me.”
A hint of surprise flashed in Pei Qingyuan’s eyes.
In the midst of the noise from the old-fashioned range hood, Luo Xiuyun’s voice was small. “You sit. I’ll cook first…”
Ji Tong followed Pei Qingyuan and walked into the room he hadn’t seen in a long time.
No one had lived here for a long time but it was cleaned and the table was spotless.
There was a brand new lamp on the desk and the bookcase next to it was empty. The bed was covered with a dust-proof cloth with a neatly folded quilt underneath and two pillows side by side. It was as if it was waiting for someone to come and stay at any time.
On the floor of the room were two old leather suitcases, common in the early years. They were dark brown and the metal buckles were rusted.
Seeing that the person around him was staring at the box in silence, Ji Tong reached out to lift it. “It is really heavy.”
This was what Pei Qingyuan’s real father left behind.
Father was a distant term.
What type of person was he? In addition, what types of books would be left behind?
After a while, Pei Qingyuan finally came to his senses. He put one of the suitcases on the desk. He slowly opened the buckle and opened the box.
Dust flew. Ji Tong looked in curiously and saw a row of small books with bright covers. “What is this?”
There was a brief pause before Pei Qingyuan replied to him, “Comic books.”
This was the childhood memory of the previous generation.
The suitcases were full of books. The pages might be yellowed and there was a slightly stale smell, but they were apparently well-preserved. Their former owner obviously cherished the books.
The books seemed to be arranged according to the age they could be read. Next to the comic books was a stack of Chinese and foreign masterpieces suitable for children.
Pei Qingyuan stared at them. After a moment, he bent down and opened the other suitcase.
This suitcase contained more of a variety of books intended for older adults, ranging from well-known literary classics to philosophical treatises with difficult titles and thick historiographical miscellaneous treatises.
Ji Tong looked at these two heavy suitcases and suddenly remembered a room full of birthday gifts he received when he was 19 years old.
He quietly looked at his lover who didn’t say a word.
As the smell of the old days suddenly spread, she saw Pei Qingyuan gently pick up the comic book placed in front.
So Ji Tong also left the room with extremely light steps, leaving the space for him alone.
He still didn’t know what Pei Qingyuan’s biological father looked like, but this vague image was gradually becoming clearer.
Like Pei Qingyuan, he liked reading.
Ji Tong sat on the soft for a while, staring blankly at the brightly colored fruits on the fruit plate. He was really hungry.
He went to the bathroom to wash his hands. Then he came back and ate a small orange, very sweet as if it was carefully selected.
Ji Tong still wanted to eat after eating one, so he picked up the second small orange.
After peeling it, he walked to the kitchen where the aroma of vegetables was already wafting. He asked the busy Luo Xiuyun, “Auntie, do you want to eat oranges?”
“Ah.” Luo Xiuyun’s expression was almost a bit flattered and she kept saying, “No need, you eat.”
“We will each have half.” Ji Tong broke open the peeled orange and handed her half. “The orange is appetizing. It shouldn’t affect the meal in a while.”
He was very good at making the right excuses for his greedy eating behavior.
Hearing him say this, Luo Xiuyun couldn’t help smiling and she took it. “Thank you.”
She looked up at the young man who was much taller than her and as the sweet smell of oranges quietly bloomed, she instinctively said, “You seem to have grown a bit taller.”
After speaking, Luo Xiuyun tried to reach out and gestured in the air while confirming it. “Really. You are taller compared to when I first saw you.”
Ji Tong was very happy every time he heard others say that he had grown taller.
It was even though he knew he was being coaxed by his friends.
But this time, it was different.
He looked at Luo Xiuyun’s eyes and knew she was serious when she said this.
She really noticed that he had grown taller, even if the difference was only a little bit.
His favorite spicy crayfish was simmering in the pot.
Ji Tong’s eyes became brighter and he responded happily, “Yes, Auntie has a good memory.”
Luo Xiuyun smiled and her expression was much more relaxed. “It isn’t good. I’m old and I forgot if I put salt in just now. Do you want to taste it and see if it is salty enough?”
She lifted the lid of the pot, scooped up a small amount with the spoon and kept fanning it with her hand to cool it. “You blow it. Be careful in case it is hot.”
When Ji Tong tasted the soup, she eagerly waited for his response.
“You didn’t forget to add salt.” He laughed and said, “It tastes just right.”
It just suited his taste.
Luo Xiuyun sighed with relief. “That’s good.”
On the day that Ji Tong and Luo Xiuyun met for the first time, she also said this.
She paid for her mistakes. When she came out of prison, she thought that no one would pick her up. Unexpectedly, she saw her biological son, whom she hadn’t seen for several years, and the young man close to him.
At that time, Pei Qingyuan’s youth had faded and he was completely an adult.
His eyes were cold and he was no longer the child who longed for affection. He stood beside the person next to him and introduced in an indifferent tone, “This is my boyfriend, Ji Tong.”
A lover of the same gender wasn’t the mainstream option.
Luo Xiuyun first looked at her son who came to pick her up with joy. Then she looked blankly at the intimate distance between the two of them and asked, “You are together… how long has it been?”
Pei Qingyuan calmly looked at her. “A long time.”
Then Luo Xiuyun no longer asked any more questions. She just looked at Ji Tong, who had an unfamiliar face, for a long time and suddenly shed tears.
She said, “That’s good.”
They had been walking side by side like this for a long time.
The son who moved his home away many years ago wasn’t alone.
This was a very good thing.