Later on, Luo Xiuyun also lived alone. She found a job as a cashier in the supermarket that wasn’t too hard. Most of her colleagues were peers of the same age who could speak well. The days were dull and peaceful and there were happy moments.
She had little direct contact with Pei Qingyuan and didn’t dare disturb him too much. She only dared to send some dried cured meat made by herself as she did before. Fortunately, she wasn’t rejected.
However, Luo Xiuyun had the contact information of the two of them and often saw Ji Tong’s Moments that were full of happiness. She would look over and over again at the smart sentences and good-looking photos.
This was until one day when Ji Tong sent a photo of fragrant crayfish and praised the deliciousness. She couldn’t help sending him a message: Auntie can also make crayfish. If there is a chance, come to my house to eat.
Ji Tong actually agreed.
The overjoyed Luo Xiuyun saved the photo and pondered over it for several days.
It was a pity that on the day that her son and his boyfriend came to the house, she accidentally made it too salty due to nervousness. She could only apologize repeatedly and apologize for many past events.
Unexpectedly, Ji Tong ate very happily. He smiled and told her it was okay. It was delicious. Pei Qingyuan’s expression was also rarely soft and he was concentrating on peeling crayfish for Ji Tong.
At that moment, Luo Xiuyun suddenly understood why Pei Qingyuan brought Ji Tong to pick her up.
She learned to be sensitive to her son’s mood.
The most suitable compensation method was also discovered.
Pei Qingyuan no longer needed late maternal love.
But the person he loved the most now was an orphan who never had parents.
Luo Xiuyun gradually learned to cook every dish that Ji Tong liked.
Even without this relationship, he was a likable child.
Pei Qingyuan never took the initiative to ask her, but when she plucked up the courage to ask him if Ji Tong liked to eat a certain dish, he would patiently reply.
With this only communication, Luo Xiuyun was already satisfied.
She finally made the right choice on her own.
The days passed like this, bit by bit.
Forgiveness was one of the most useless words.
What had already happened left permanent traces like a torn piece of paper. They couldn’t pretend that it was intact.
Old traces wouldn’t disappear but new ones would appear.
Luo Xiuyun re-covered the lid of the pot. As she waited for the juices of the crayfish to gather, the meat in the casserole on the side also stewed fragrantly.
She asked Ji Tong, “Do you want to taste this again?”
Ji Tong blinked. “No need. The seasoning must be fine.”
Luo Xiuyun looked at his insincere expression and the wrinkles at the corners of her eyes deepened with her smile. She used her chopsticks to pick up a small piece of stewed meat. “Taste it.”
Ji Tong had difficulty refusing the temptation of food.
“It is delicious,” he affirmed it.
It was a taste similar to that of a mother.
A mother who only existed in his imagination.
He leaned against the kitchen door. After a moment of trance, he asked the middle-aged woman who was still busy. “Shall we share another orange?”
The other person looked over with a smile. “Okay.”
This was the third small orange that Ji Tong peeled.
At the sweetness left by this orange, he helped choose the bean sprouts and asked curiously, “What type of person is Uncle Lin?”
Luo Xiuyun had always refused to let him help. As a result, she shook her head at this question and forgot to take back the bean sprouts.
Her expression was filled with nostalgia and pride. “Rongsheng was different from me… he was a very smart man and he was the first college student in our county.”
The intermittent voices drifted into the room. Pei Qingyuan sat at the desk and gently closed the comic book at hand.
On the title page of each comic book was a line of vigorous handwriting that said ‘Rongsheng’s Gift’ with the date underneath. It was nearly 50 years ago.
His father’s name was Lin Rongsheng and these comic books should be the books that Lin Rongsheng’s elders gave to him when he was a child.
Later, Lin Rongsheng left these books to his child.
He picked out every book that should be read from childhood to adulthood for this child he would have no chance to meet.
There were many books in them. Pei Qingyuan had indeed read them but they weren’t given by his father. It was from his own choice.
He took out the books he had read before from the suitcase and flipped through them one by one. There were often annotations on the inner pages, which were more elegant than the vigorous font on the title page. Still, the pen was sharp and unyielding and it was similar to Pei Qingyuan’s own handwriting.
It should be Lin Rongsheng’s handwriting.
He read the annotations left many years ago and felt as if he was talking to the father he had never met.
Pei Qingyuan sat and looked at it for a long time.
In these more difficult books, there was also a message on the title page. They were all dated 24 years ago and the handwriting was the same as the annotations.
The text above the data was no longer ‘Rongsheng’s Gift’ but ‘Qingyan’s Gift.’
Pei Qingyuan didn’t know who Qingyan was. Then after seeing countless sentences of ‘Qingyan’s Gift’, he already had faint expectations in his heart.
When he opened the last children’s classic book in the first suitcase, a yellowed letter fell out.
On the envelope were the words: To Qingyan.
Pei Qingyuan stared at the letter. A few minutes later, he walked out of the room and asked Luo Xiuyun. “Are the contents of the suitcase all for me?”
Luo Xiuyun was talking to Ji Tong. Once she heard this, she immediately said, “It is for you. They are all his books and I haven’t carefully read through them… What’s wrong?”
Pei Qingyuan told her, “There is a letter inside.”
Luo Xiuyun was stunned. “If it was placed in the books, it must be written to you. He knows that I can’t read.”
Before Pei Qingyuan turned around, she hurriedly said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know there was a letter inside or I would’ve given it to you earlier.”
After she made that wrong decision alone and held the unrelated baby in her arms, she was still wondering how to mention this matter to her seriously ill husband at home when she received the sad news of his sudden death.
Everything that followed was chaotic and her husband’s belongings were hurriedly put away. She didn’t dare to tidy them up carefully and didn’t dare to face her husband. She took care of the crying baby with swollen eyes all day long. There were many things to do and she was swept forward by the wheel of life. Gradually, she forgot the two inconspicuous suitcases.
Pei Qingyuan didn’t speak again.
He returned to his room and slowly opened the letter.
The handwriting on the letter was no longer sharp and clear. There were many weak strokes.
[Qingyan, it feels like meeting when you see these words.]
[If you can read these words then you must be in high school soon. Unfortunately, I can’t see you and can only leave you a name.]
This was a letter addressed to him.
He had another name: Lin Qingyan.
[I don’t know if you like your name. I hope you like it.]
[Qingyan (clear feast/repose) is a very beautiful word. It is quiet, peaceful, clean and bright, also known as ‘Qingyan (clear quiet).’ Both are fine but I think it is better to make it the first one to show how precious you are.]
[In addition, the idiom ‘the world is at peace (heqinghaiyan)’ is surging with expectations and Yan is rich and leisurely. Qingyan is a great name no matter whether you are a girl or boy.]
In the room, Pei Qingyuan looked at the letter quietly.
In the kitchen, Ji Tong saw Luo Xiuyun suddenly fall silent so he continued the previous topic. “Auntie, you haven’t finished speaking. What about after Uncle graduated from college?”
Luo Xiuyun’s mind returned. “After he graduated… I thought he wouldn’t come back. But he did come back and asked if I wanted to go with him.”
30 years ago, Lin Rongsheng came from a poor family but had excellent grades. He was the first college student in the county and everyone thought he had an unlimited future. His marriage and career would be bright.
Even Luo Xiuyun didn’t expect that he would come back and marry a lover who couldn’t ascend.
[Do you get along well with your mother?]
[You will probably secretly shake your head in your heart—if you see each other every day then there will always be some strife and friction, but I guess she is willing to listen to you. You might complain that she controls you severely or blame her for being submissive and not having her own temper.]
Luo Xiuyun followed Lin Rongsheng on the bumpy bus and went to the city in the soaring dust to find a new life. Her bag contained a marriage certificate and she still felt dizzy and unreal.
“Why did you come back to me?”
Lin Rongsheng was more stunned than her. “We didn’t break up. Why wouldn’t I come back for you?”
He took the bag in her arms and said with a smile, “Study and feelings are two different things. Don’t listen to what others say.”
“Besides, the road isn’t necessarily as easy as others say,” Lin Rongsheng said. “In the future, maybe you will have to tolerate me more.”
[If that is the case, I apologize to you on her behalf. I want to tell you a brief story.]
[Your mother has a younger brother who is useless and an older sister who died young. She dropped out of school before finishing her first year of middle school and had to work to support her family and provide for her younger brother’s education.]
Luo Xiuyun was one year older than Lin Rongsheng and her parents refused to pay the tuition for the next semester of middle school. She walked home with her school bag and met her childhood friend Lin Rongsheng.
Lin Rongsheng asked her why she was crying. She didn’t know how to answer. Then she suddenly asked, “Are your grades okay?”
Lin Rongsheng, a sixth year student, said, “It’s okay. I was first in the class this semester.”
Luo Xiuyun thought that Rongsheng had always been so smart.
The textbooks in her bag were reserved for her brother, saving him from paying for textbooks in the future.
She thought hatefully that he refused to read and his grades weren’t as good as hers.
So a sense of courage surged in her heart from out of nowhere and she slammed the school bag into Lin Rongsheng’s arms. “I won’t study in the future. My books and stationary will be given to you. You can read the middle school textbooks in advance.”
Then she ran home without looking back.
It was Luo Xiuyun’s first daring adventure in her life.
When she got home, she said she had lost her school bag. She was beaten hard and became obedient again. The next day, she entered the factory.
[I took her bag. It was heavy and I always thought it was the heaviest thing I have ever taken.]
[I naively asked my mother if I could also provide for her schooling. Of course, it wasn’t possible because she wasn’t related to me and life at home was also very tight. In the eyes of adults, how could there be such a thing? In addition, her family didn’t want her to study any longer and asked her to work as a laborer. My mother eventually sighed and patted my head, saying that everyone has their own life.]
[All I could do was spread out those middle school textbooks and read them more seriously.]
After spending a busy day in the workshop, the tired Luo Xiuyun carried a thermos to the water room to fetch water and saw a familiar figure outside the iron fence in a trance.
Luo Rongsheng, who was in middle school, grew up a bit. He had a refined appearance and waved to her, as if he had brought her something.
Luo Xiuyun walked over with both joy and trepidation. She wiped her hands that weren’t dirty on her clothes.
He handed over some candies and a novel.
In the humble dormitory, Luo Xiuyun first flipped through the book. The book that Rongsheng picked must be good-looking, but she stared at the machine for a day. She was too tired and her eyes were blurred.
She closed the book, hid under the covers and concentrated on eating the candy.
On the day Lin Rongsheng was admitted to a key university, she had already saved a thick stack of candy wrappers.
Gongs and drums were beaten in the county and banners were hung to celebrate the first college student. Luo Xiuyun gripped the iron box full of candy wrappers while thinking that Rongsheng was going to a bigger world.
The workers joked with her, saying that she wasn’t worthy of Lin Rongsheng and would be left behind sooner or later. She didn’t refute it.
She no longer questioned this abandoned fate.
So a few years later, she was extremely surprised when she got on the bus to the city.
[You will grow up in a new era that advocates equality and freedom, but her childhood taught her patience, obedience and devotion, nothing else. I wanted her to have more ideas but she was used to relying on me and didn’t have the energy to learn.]
[It isn’t her fault fundamentally. Some people are born knowing how to walk their own way. More people have to rely on acquired upbringing. For them, knowing how to make choices in life isn’t natural, but the more extravagant and difficult knowledge.]
After graduating from college, Lin Rongsheng didn’t soar as the villagers in the county expected.
In the words of his colleagues in the unit, he was very arrogant, had an inappropriate arrogance and would stubbornly argue with others about the right and wrongs of something. He would stay up at night for a small detail at work that he didn’t understand but didn’t know whether to visit the leader privately with gifts at the right time.
There were many such people in that era. For this reason, they would be a step behind those ‘smarter’ people at certain important junctures.
Lin Rongsheng had expected this. He would smile and sigh, but didn’t change himself.
Luo Xiuyun didn’t say anything. She supported all her husband’s decisions.
The pace was slow but the days would always get better.
They were all living hard. They were poor but happy while looking forward to the coming of a new life.
But the accident came so suddenly.
Lin Rongsheng, who was less than 30 years old, developed cancer.