Extra Four: Toward Life (Like Snow)
In the golden light projected on the asphalt road, fine snow was flying.
He Qiao stared at the quiet dusk. After a few seconds, he suddenly looked down at the paper bag in his hand that was glowing with heat.
He saw drifting snowflakes staining the corners, staining the paper bag with a dark brown drop.
Another snowflake flew in.
He Qiao turned around and took the left road.
He walked past the bustling stores along the street. The towering canopy blocked the snow and prevented the paper bag filled with sugar-fried chestnuts from getting wet again.
That could make the brand new bag look bad.
Once He Qiao returned home again, Chi Xueyan had finished the aftermath of hair dyeing. He washed off the hair dyeing cream, took a simple shower and had just put down the hair dryer.
It took too much time to line up. According to He Qiao’s original plan, he should’ve come back a little earlier.
He knew how long it would take to color his hair, how long it would take Chi Xueyan to take a shower, and he knew that the other party was often lazy.
If He Qiao was at home, Chi Xueyan would call him to help blow his hair.
They had lived together for two years and were familiar with each other’s living habits.
But it was just living together.
Chi Xueyan almost broke with his family who opposed what he did and He Qiao was tired of acting normal at home.
So they lived together in this old house that looked very homely.
The bathroom was still hot and the shirt soiled with hair dye was casually thrown on the floor.
When Chi Xueyan walked out, the ends of his hair were still dripping with water droplets. This wet his newly changed clean clothes.
He always blew his hair messily and wasn’t as patient as He Qiao.
But he had already done it alone. He Qiao wasn’t in the position to offer to help him blow it again.
The mixed scent of hair dye and shower gel was abruptly intertwined with the warm and rich aroma of food.
He Qiao put the fresh and plump paper bag on the dining table and took the initiative to say, “Sugar-fried chestnuts.”
Chi Xueyan leaned against the bathroom door and looked over without the slightest surprise in her eyes.
He Qiao thought that this person really guessed what he was going to do when he went out temporarily.
Chi Xueyan looked at the bulging brown paper bag and asked, “Is it easy to peel?”
“I haven’t tried it yet but the clerk said it is easy to peel.”
As He Qiao spoke, he opened the paper bag and took out a chestnut to try it.
As a result, the shell was peeled off and the chestnut kernel was covered with a thin layer that was very tightly glued.
His movements paused before he continued to peel it silently.
Chi Xueyan watched quietly as he removed the thin layer, revealing a completely pale yellow chestnut kernel.
The chestnut remained at the fingertips, not eaten or handed out. It stayed in a slightly hesitant silence.
Chi Xueyan moved his gaze from the chestnut to his face and asked in an ordinary tone, “Why did you buy sugar-fried chestnuts?”
Before hearing this question, He Qiao had already prepared answers to deal with it.
Because this is the food to eat in winter.
Because you said you love chestnuts.
Because I want to eat chestnuts too.
He prepared many answers.
But at this moment, He Qiao still said the most important answer that was hidden under many answers.
“Because it is your birthday.”
He couldn’t eat the chestnut cake that he liked when he was five years old.
The plain answer echoed in the thick aroma of chestnuts.
Chi Xueyan looked at him quietly for a long time. Then he suddenly smiled and said softly, “He Qiao, you like me.”
It was an affirmative sentence, not an interrogative one.
He Qiao fell into a slightly stiff silence for a moment, but did not look away from the gaze that met his.
He always knew that Chi Xueyan was a smart and perceptive person. He also knew that this extremely hidden relationship might be exposed one day.
In fact, there are many words to describe their relationship—friends, companions, accomplices…
Or people who had nowhere to go and could only travel together.
Under such preconditions, their way of getting along would inevitably be more special and closer than ordinary friendships.
He Qiao didn’t make any move beyond this relationship. He couldn’t exceed this distance, nor did he dare to exceed it. He often silently erased his concern for the relationship between Chi Xueyan and another person in his heart.
But today, he couldn’t erase his concern for that childhood birthday story. This was the first time Chi Xueyan took the initiative to tell him a story of his past that was full of happiness.
He couldn’t erase his concern for a small bag of chestnuts, a gift that Chi Xueyan used to receive every evening.
Perhaps he cared more than Chi Xueyan did today.
He didn’t expect anything else. He just hoped that Chi Xueyan would be willing to continue to celebrate his birthday, and that he would have many birthdays with someone to accompany him. He hoped that Chi Xueyan would continue to receive a bag of sugar-fried chestnuts brought to him when he came home from work every evening. He hoped that Chi Xueyan would one day take out the photo that was locked in an empty drawer and put it in a brighter place.
In fact, Chi Xueyan was only half right.
It wasn’t just liking but love.
In the long silence, He Qiao stood in place. He didn’t deny it, nor did he express his feelings.
He was waiting for the judgment that fell from above.
Judgment descended like the wind to his frozen fingertips.
But only the pale yellow chestnut kernel was swept away.
“It tastes good.” When Chi Xueyan bit the chestnut, there was a vague pleasure in his voice, “I hope the other chestnuts are really easy to peel.”
The topic jumped again without warning.
He Qiao was stunned for a few seconds before he understood this obviously simple sentence.
It was rare for him to lose his composure. He stared blankly at Chi Xueyan’s series of unusual movements.
Chi Xueyan ate the first chestnut he peeled, took out a carton of milk from the refrigerator and walked into the kitchen. He took out the milk pot from the cupboard and set it on the gas stove.
He started warming the milk while talking incessantly.
“I don’t need that contract anymore,” he said, “I have to trouble Chen Xinzhe to deal with it again.”
The concerted action contract, which involved a huge amount of money and linked the fate of countless people, was still unopened on the table.
In Chi Xueyan’s eyes, it seemed that it wasn’t as important as the milk pot that was gradually heating up in front of him.
“Of course, the main thing is to trouble you. You must dispose of the shares you have as soon as possible. Whether you sell it or negotiate with him, it is up to you to deal with it. You are much better than me.”
Chi Xueyan hated all kinds of reports since he was a child, as well as finance and business… He hated these rigid, cumbersome things.
It was time to put it down.
Let go of the things he didn’t love in the first place.
He Qiao, who was standing at the kitchen door, said in a slightly hoarse voice, “You… are giving up?”
“Yes, I am giving up.” Chi Xueyan’s tone was light, as if he had unloaded the burden accumulated in his heart. There was a hint of a smile. “But it’s not that I gave up liking him.”
“It is giving up on continuing to be wrong. I didn’t like him a long time ago,” he said.
Correcting mistakes was the simplest and most understandable-sounding truth, but it was so difficult to do.
Sometimes they didn’t know they were wrong, sometimes they were unwilling or afraid to admit that they were wrong and sometimes it was not knowing what to do to reverse the fate that has been subverted.
So he went on like this until he could never go back.
On this winter evening with light snowflakes and fragrant chestnuts, he finally felt that his life wasn’t so bad.
He would stop consuming unnecessary people and things.
The delisting crisis that should have affected the fate of many innocent people hadn’t happened yet. He could now call a halt to this crazy decision which was bound to lose both sides.
He transferred a large amount of money in a paranoid manner and the company filled with his parents’ efforts was in jeopardy, but it didn’t completely collapse. There was still a chance to save it.
He Qiao bought back a bag of sugar-fried chestnuts that should be easy to peel. He only ate one and there were many left. He couldn’t be sure if the employee was deceiving him or not.
Life didn’t seem to be so bad.
It wasn’t too late.
Bubbles constantly gurgled in the milk pot, making a soft sound.
Chi Xueyan turned off the fire.
He didn’t notice the sudden, stiff movements of the man behind him and the turbulent mood. His tone was as if he was imagining tomorrow’s weather.
“The person I like now is you. Perhaps it started a long time ago.”
The hot milk at just the right temperature was slowly poured into the dark green glass.
“I haven’t warmed milk for people in a long time.” Chi Xueyan’s voice was tinged with a slight smile. “In the past, I would coax my parents in the same way every time I made them angry.
“My dad loves sweets so I make him dessert. My mom doesn’t like sweets so I gave her a hot glass of milk.”
“Now they must be angry with me. It is an anger that dessert and hot milk can’t get rid of. I’ll think of other better ways until they forgive me.”
It was until he could have the next chestnut cake stuffed into his hand.
Chi Xueyan turned around with the glass in hand and met He Qiao’s deeply surging eyes.
“You don’t have a sweet tooth either, so I warmed you a glass of milk.”
He Qiao wasn’t angry. He had never been angry with Chi Xueyan.
But Chi Xueyan had other compelling reasons.
“When you went out, it snowed again and you didn’t bring an umbrella. The corners of your clothes are wet with snow.”
He just needed a cup of hot milk to dispel the chill.
Chi Xueyan stared at him and finally said, “He Qiao, it’s all over. It isn’t important.”
The setting sun pouring into the kitchen softened his expression.
He made one of the most common choices.
Let go of the past.
So He Qiao seems to have put it down as well.
That night, he finished peeling a whole bag of chestnuts. Except for the first one, the later chestnuts were generally very sensible. They couldn’t be easily eaten after peeling off the shell.
The next day, when his mother’s call appeared on his phone, he didn’t deliberately ignore it and picked it up.
Since He Qiao gradually lost his memory of his past self, he rarely returned home or answered any calls from friends and family.
He would reply with a message some time after the ringing ended.
The tone of instant communication was too tiring to disguise and he was less likely to reveal anything through text.
Once the phone was connected, He Qiao heard his mother’s surprise that he didn’t have time to hide. “Hey, you didn’t turn on mute today?”
Her voice was as lively as ever.
It made people miss her.
He Qiao said, “Yes, I won’t turn on the mute function in the future.”
His mother must’ve heard his undisguised flat tone that was very different from when he occasionally returned home.
However, she didn’t ask anything. She just seemed to be relieved and asked with a smile, “Okay, it saves you from missing the phone call. What are you doing?”
“I just finished eating,” he asked. “What’s wrong, Mom?”
“It’s nothing. I just saw a piece of news. I know that there was a murder near where you live and the person is still on the run. It is strange and scary, so I want to talk to you. Have you heard?”
But He Qiao clearly heard the background sound of the TV on the other end of the phone.
It was past 8 o’clock in the evening but his mother wasn’t watching her usual favorite TV series.
He Qiao had just cleaned up the kitchen and walked out. He glanced up at the clock on the wall. Once he retracted his gaze, he found that Chi Xueyan, who was sitting on the sofa, was looking over fixedly.
He held the remote and turned down the volume of the TV, as if listening carefully to He Qiao’s conversation with his mother.
He Qiao walked to the sofa and sat down next to him.
His mother was still carefully warning him. “In any case, you have to pay attention to. Oh, I watched the news with fright. That girl is so pitiful. I hope they catch that person early on —by the way, where are you eating?”
She tentatively asked.
He Qiao replied, “At home.”
At this moment, he was looking into Chi Xueyan’s eyes and saw a sparkling, gentle color inside.
Therefore, he made a decision in an instant and took the initiative to ask his mother. “Do you want to come and take a look?”
His mother knew that he lived with a friend and knew the approximate location. As for the rest, she didn’t know anything.
She was stunned for a few seconds when hearing this before she asked a little nervously, “Can I come over? Will your friend mind?”
There was impatient, joyful tension.
The voice coming out of the microphone was clear and He Qiao stared at the ‘friend’ who was close at hand.
Chi Xueyan first laughed before silently lip-syncing to him.
—Day, after, tomorrow.
He Qiao replied to his mother, “He also wants you to come. Will you be free the day after tomorrow?”
The day after tomorrow was Chi Xueyan’s birthday.
“Also, he isn’t just a friend.”
On the evening of Valentine’s Day when the snow was falling, Sheng Xiaoyue held a large bouquet of pink roses and knocked on the somewhat old door.
She had been apprehensive for a while on the way here. Wasn’t it a little strange to buy roses as a guest?
But she really wanted to bring flowers.
She picked her favorite pink.
The door opened. Once she saw her son, whom she hadn’t seen for days, and the young man with dazzling red hair beside him, she suddenly felt that it wasn’t strange at all.
“I should’ve bought red roses. It would’ve matched your hair color even more. It looks so good.”
These were the first words she said to this young man who was both strange and familiar. It was with a bit of childish chagrin and pure joy.
The circle was only so large. She had long heard of Chi Xueyan’s name and she had also heard of those plausible entangled pasts.
But in this small, warm home, surrounded by the rich aroma of roses, she didn’t think about anything.
The red-haired young man she met for the first time responded to her with a soft voice, “Pink also looks good.”
He took the flowers from Sheng Xiaoyue’s arms.
She had endless words again.
“Xiao Chi, did you just dye your hair?”
“Yes, is there still a smell?”
“I can smell it a bit. I’ve dyed my hair pink before and it was so beautiful.”
“It is a pity that pink fades too quickly and can only last for a few days.”
“Yes, the color changed within two days and I couldn’t look at the hair roots. But those two days were really beautiful. I took a lot of photos.”
Starting from the color of her hair, she and Chi Xueyan had a lot to talk about.
He Qiao was quietly busy in the kitchen, about to cook a hearty dinner.
Chi Xueyan didn’t want a birthday cake or red roses for Valentine’s Day, just a normal dinner.
Then Sheng Xiaoyue happened to bring a bouquet of pink roses belonging to her.
In addition, there was a particularly high passion for cooking for the first time in his life.
“He Qiao, what ingredients did you buy? Is there anything I can do?” She went into the kitchen and looked around. “It all looks a little difficult… How about I make fried rice?”
“There is no overnight rice at home, “ he replied. “Only freshly cooked rice.”
“Do you want overnight rice? It’s okay, it’s all rice anyway.”
Sheng Xiaoyue didn’t care about those unfamiliar little tricks and had already begun to roll up her sleeves with fighting spirit. “Just make fried rice. It is mixing eggs and rice and stir-frying it. It won’t be difficult to eat. I can definitely do it.”
He Qiao no longer rejected her enthusiasm and patiently taught her the steps on the side.
The range hood made a lot of noise and Chi Xueyan stood outside the glass door of the kitchen, quietly watching them.
Sheng Xiaoyue, who didn’t know how to cook, finally made a mediocre egg fried rice after a hurried attempt.
Chi Xueyan felt that the appearance was ordinary but filters could be added. Sheng Xiaoyue happily took photos and posted it to her Moments.
He thought the taste was mediocre but Chi Xueyan said it was delicious. It was the best egg fried rice that he had ever tasted.
He Qiao hadn’t seen such a mother for a long time.
She was truly happy.
This happiness quietly caressed the guilt in his heart.
She no longer had to watch the news every day with some kind of faint worry and care for her son who suddenly drifted away in the most distant way.
At 8 o’clock, there were fruits washed by Chi Xueyan on the coffee table, pink roses brought by Sheng Xiaoyue in the vase and the soap opera selected by He Qiao playing on TV.
The sound of a lively TV resounded in the living room and there was the constant sound of running water in the kitchen.
He Qiao was washing dishes in front of the sink. Chi Xueyan leaned against the kitchen door, listening to the plot of the 8 o’clock TV series while watching his back for a while.
When the mother in the living room didn’t pay attention to this place, Chi Xueyan walked over and reached out to hug the person who was washing dishes from behind.
Then, as he wished, he felt the stiffness of the other person’s sudden stop in movement.
He rested his chin on the man’s shoulder and chuckled with a hint of laziness. “He Qiao, I want to dye my hair again. I want to try pink hair.”
The person who was hugged was stunned for a moment. Then he slowly resumed the action of continuing to wash dishes and whispered, “Dyeing your hair often is not good for your body.”
Chi Xueyan deliberately teased him. “Do you prefer redheads?”
“No, any color is good.”
“So are you feeling sorry for your shirt?”
“You are lying.”
“I’m not lying.”
“So you are happy every time I take your clothes?”
Just as Chi Xueyan thought that He Qiao wouldn’t answer, he heard the other person say in a low voice, “Yes.”
The sink was constantly churning with water and foam, washing away the stains that had condensed on the dishes. The dishes were as shiny as new.
None of the dirty shirts he had thrown in the bathroom were thrown away.
Each piece was carefully washed, even if the traces of hair dye couldn’t be completely washed off.
However, they are still hung one by one on the balcony in clear weather, soaked with the smell of the sun and then stored in the depths of the wardrobe, where they are cherished and preserved.
Transparent tears gradually wet He Qiao’s shoulders but there was no choked up sound.
He smiled and said, “He Qiao, marry me.”
On a winter night, the windowsill outside the glass was covered with white snow, reflecting a figure who suddenly looked back in a hurry.
There was also an answer that melted the snow.