Lin Fan’s party with his new colleagues was quite lively; everyone was around the same age, so they all got along pretty well.
For most of the lunch, Cheng Xi made herself inconspicuous and acted as a quiet listener. Lin Fan himself also didn’t have much to say, but she could tell that his social skills were leaps and bounds better than before. Occasionally, he would even tell some interesting stories about what he had done abroad, but his storytelling ability was really quite poor, and his colleagues all ridiculed him playfully for it. “Lin Fan, even when you talk about this, it’s not as interesting as when you talk about computer programming. How did you ever manage to land such a beautiful doctor girlfriend with the way you are?”
They all thought that Cheng Xi was his girlfriend.
Cheng Xi didn’t bother explaining, and Lin Fan was also silent on the matter. When he heard their joke, he looked at her, smiled very sweetly, and cheesily replied, “Because I have a good eye.”
“Peh!” Everyone began to heckle him and they started pushing alcohol at them. Cheng Xi was unable to decline and drank a little, but Lin Fan ended up drinking most of it. His alcohol tolerance wasn’t bad, but his face would become red with even once drink, and his eyes would glass over, as if they had been dipped in the dew of the April peach blossoms, glossy and alluring.
Cheng Xi didn’t dare look at him. At the same time as this commotion was going on, one of Lin Fan’s colleagues tenderly pushed some food toward a girl by Cheng Xi’s side. “You didn’t eat anything last night, so why don’t you have some of this? I remember that you liked it a lot last time we came here.”
The girl pushed the bowl aside. “I don’t want any.”
The male colleague didn’t become deflated even after the rejection, and he picked up something else with his chopsticks before asking, “How about this? You have to eat something…...”
But before he could finish speaking, the girl shoved her bowl away forcefully. “I told you, I don’t want it. Can’t you understand what I’m saying?!”
Her loud voice and furious tone made the entire party suddenly quiet down, as everyone awkwardly looked at the two of them.
At this point, the male colleague was so embarrassed that his face had turned bright red, and the female looked somewhat vexed. She pursed her lips, didn’t say anything more, got up from her seat, and then left.
As she left, she also took the convivial atmosphere of the gathering away with her. A colleague quickly addressed the situation. “Hey, hey you. Quickly leave with her so that she doesn’t have to go alone.”
And someone else suggested, “Shouldn’t we all just leave? We’re mostly finished anyways.”
And so, everyone left. Cheng Xi and Lin Fan followed them down, some chasing after the enraged female coworker, and the others paying the bill. When they got to the door, they found the male colleague who had enraged her defending himself, innocently saying, “I just saw that she hadn’t eaten and wanted to persuade her to eat something. After all, as the boss’ niece, she might as well be our manager. If she comes out with us, then we can’t let her leave hungry, can we?”
Someone else laughed. “You’re into her, aren’t you?”
The male colleague tried desperately to defend himself. Seeing that Cheng Xi seemed interested in the drama, Lin Fan gave his own take on the situation. “This guy’s pretty enthusiastic and considerate of others. He’s probably trying to take care of her, but also likes her at least a little.”
Cheng Xi smiled, neither nodding nor shaking her head.
“What, am I wrong?”
“No.” Cheng Xi smiled again. A colleague came over just then, and the two dropped the topic.
While Cheng Xi said goodbye to the others, she suddenly remembered that she hadn’t gone out with any friends to eat for quite a while now. Even though the atmosphere at the end had been somewhat disagreeable, Cheng Xi’s mood on the whole did seem to improve.
When she mentioned this to Lin Fan, he smiled. “Then it sounds like I should call you out more often in the future so that you don’t end up becoming detached from society.”
So he had finally admitted that this was just a disguised date on his part. She glanced at him. “Alright.”
Lin Fan laughed again, his bright eyes looking straight at her. He tended to express his emotions subtly, but after living in a capitalist country for so long, he seemed to have greatly improved his ability to express his emotions with his face---like what he was doing now, even putting his natural charm to use, staring at her with eyes that felt like they were sparking with electricity.
Cheng Xi felt that returning his stare would be too dangerous, so she instead changed the topic. “Are you liking your new job?”
“It’s not bad. At least so far, everyone has been pretty friendly, but I’m still somewhat inexperienced with my duties. In an eight-hour day, it seems like people are only really working seriously for around half that time. I was probably working too hard when I first got here, and even annoyed some people with my attitude. Because of that, I decided to treat everyone to a meal today to develop rapport with them.”
Cheng Xi smiled, and was reminded of that girl who had disturbed the gathering. “Is she from your department too?”
“Yes. She’s even a major shareholder of the company. Even though her skills are somewhat mediocre, her position is undeniably important, so everyone was somewhat worried when she left in a huff.” This at least explained why such a lively gathering had dispersed so casually.
“Aren’t you anxious?”
“No, I’m a newbie,” he responded seriously.
Cheng Xi couldn’t help but laugh at his answer. “Does she usually act like this?”
“I’m not sure. But I heard that her personality used to be pretty good in the past, but for some reason, she suddenly became somewhat irritable recently. Besides losing her temper easily, she’s also become particularly sensitive too.”
As he looked at her thoughtful face, Lin Fan smiled. “You’re not trying to diagnose her right now, are you?”
“Actually, I am.” Cheng Xi laughed as well. “She added me on WeChat today. If it’s possible, I might chat with her a bit.”
Lin Fan looked at her strangely.
“What is it?” She blinked innocently.
“You really think something’s up?”
Cheng Xi comforted him. “It’s not serious. A lot of people nowadays have some form of mental issue. It’s not a problem as long as they resolve it before it becomes too serious.”
“Then do I have anything like that?” he asked as he stood in front of her.
“You?” She looked him up and down, patted him lightly on the shoulder, and then smiled. “You’re such a handsome and sunny youth. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you.”
As she was about to take back her hand, he suddenly grasped it with his own. Cheng Xi didn’t struggle, just looking back at him with a smile.
“I was very happy tonight.”
Cheng Xi thought back to their night together. Actually, she was very happy too. After encountering all sorts of patients in the hospital, she had come to miss the lively days when she would get together with her friends and go home together, talking about their lives as they walked back.
She had thought that interacting this way with Lin Fan was normal behavior, and that their social interactions and friendships, that their conversations and communications had all been normal. It was not at all like her interactions with Lu Chenzhou, where she had to constantly scrutinize his expression, consider the deeper meaning behind his words, and ponder whether or not each and every one of her words would impact him negatively.
Doctors were people too, and they also had times when they wanted to relax, so she nodded and returned the smile. “I was happy too.”
“Then… the words that I said to you that night—can I say them to you again, formally this time?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Ich liebe dich. Je t’aime. я люблю тебя.”
He restated it in a few different languages in a row. In the cold night, every sentence he said came out with its own puff of mist. His face seemed to be hidden in light clouds that his smiling eyes pierced through like stars in the night sky.
Finally, he said it in English: three simple words, “I love you.”
She smiled, and asked, “Why did you say it over and over again?”
A noisy car drove past and gossiping pedestrians walked by them. However, at that moment, Cheng Xi seemed only to be able to hear his voice. “Because I want to tell the whole world that I love you.”