Cheng Xi, her colleagues, Lin Fan, and Meng Qingyang all stayed at the reservoir until the late afternoon. Afterwards, they went over to Cheng Xi’s parents’ home.
Lin Fan was within a crowd of Cheng Xi’s colleagues, so Cheng Xi’s mother actually didn’t recognize him at first. Only after Cheng Xi introduced him did her mother say, amazed, “Ah, are you really Lin Fan? You’ve changed so much!” She looked him up and down. “You’re even more handsome than you were before!”
The head nurse made beef jerky with Cheng Xi’s mother, and even helped prepare a sumptuous dinner for everyone. Everyone kept eating and eating, only going home late into the night.
Cheng Xi didn’t leave. It was rare for her to be able to return home, so she had to stay with her parents for at least another day. When she sent them off, Lin Fan was one of the last to leave. He was aggrieved that the first weekend of his official relationship with Cheng Xi had been filled with so many third wheels.
Cheng Xi consoled him, “It’s alright, there are so many days ahead of us.” Glancing at Meng Qingyang sitting quietly in the car, she then said softly, “It’s probably depression. It’d be somewhat hard to treat all on my own, so it’s best if she goes to the hospital to get official mental help.”
“Alright.” He looked at her deeply as he continued, “I’ll come back to see you tomorrow.”
His meaning was clear: only he would be back here tomorrow.
Cheng Xi smiled, pushed him into the car, and waved goodbye to Meng Qingyang.
Meng Qingyang also waved back at her.
Cheng Xi turned around to go inside, only to see her parents sitting upright on the sofa. As she entered, her mother waved at her amiably. “Come, come. Sit here.”
Cheng Xi was wary of their ostensibly congenial attitude. “What are the two of you up to?”
Her mother, now impatient, hit the sofa fiercely. “Sit down! Why do you keep asking questions?”
Cowed, Cheng Xi obediently sat down next to her. Her father felt sorry for her, and tried to mollify her mother by saying, “Be more gentle.”
She only stared back at him in response.
Cheng Xi’s father didn’t say anything else, feeling somewhat sorry for his daughter.
Cheng Xi didn’t mind much as she prepared herself for a lecture. She was sure that the contents would include the classics: “even if you’re busy, remember to come home,” “eat regularly,” “you’re even thinner now, don’t go on a diet arbitrarily,” and other similar refrains. She listened intently, satisfying her mother’s desire of thoroughly instructing her daughter. She and her mother used to be somewhat estranged, and her mother’s mode of getting close to her seemed to involve lecturing her.
At least it didn’t last too long. Once her mother had said everything that she wanted to say, she coughed lightly and changed her tone as she asked, “That Lin Fan, when did he get back?”
“About two months ago.”
“Oh, have the two of you been in touch?”
“Yes, but only quite recently.”
“Did he look for you as soon as he came home?” Cheng Xi’s mother was trying to be subtle, but she soon dropped the pretense and shot out a round of questions. “Is he married? No? Does he have a girlfriend? Where is he staying? Where’s he working? How’s his salary and his prospects at the company? Is his mom doing alright? Have you met her?”
Every mother was a detective. During the day, Cheng Xi hadn’t interacted much with Lin Fan, but her mother had still somehow caught onto the fact that something seemed to be going on between them. Now, she was indirectly probing the situation by asking questions nonstop.
Honestly, Cheng Xi was very impressed by her antics.
She hadn’t intended on telling her family the truth so early because of Lin Fan’s mother’s attitude. She wasn’t particularly pessimistic about the future, but neither was she optimistic.
The next day, Lin Fan didn’t end up seeing her. He called her early and said that something urgent had come up, and that he had to immediately depart for a business trip.
And so, Cheng Xi stayed at her parent’s home and accompanied her parents for the day. In the morning, after she woke up at five in the morning, she helped them out with the business. In the bitter winter wind, Cheng Xi cozied up in the small kitchen with her family as they steamed buns, made beancurd, simmered porridge, and wrapped dumplings and potstickers.
Cheng Xi wasn’t used to so much kitchenwork, and she even cut herself by accident. Her father felt very apologetic and even said, “Ah, stop working. Go to the side and rest. You can just talk with us.”
Cheng Xi didn’t listen to him. Instead, she took out a bandage, wrapped it around her wound, and continued to work. Because she had some extra time, she even carved some carrots into flowers, steamed them inside a pot, and then used them to garnish some dishes when they were ready. Later in the morning, when customers started coming in, they saw the decorations and said, “Ah, is your little Dr. Cheng back now?”
Cheng Xi’s parents were particularly proud as they replied, “Yes, she’s here.”
And then when the sun reached its zenith, their neighbors started waking up as well. An old lady who had trouble walking even came over to find Cheng Xi. “Dr. Cheng, can you help me out? I feel uncomfortable in this region.”
And then, “Dr. Cheng, I can’t sleep well. Can you take a look and tell me why?”
For the rest of the morning, Cheng Xi served dishes for her parents, helped her neighbors with their minor illnesses, and exchanged pleasantries with the other customers. At the same time, as Lin Fan and Meng Qingyang were getting ready to board a plane to a distant part of the country, Lu Chenzhou exited the airport. Baldy and Xu Po personally went to fetch him. When they met up, Xu Po exclaimed, “You’re finally back! My old man told me that I’d better bring you to this event, or else.”
The event they were talking about was no more than a boring business event. Lu Chenzhou wasn’t interested in it at all, and hadn’t planned on attending. However, he didnapos;t expect that they still hadn’t given up on the matter.
His expression turned cold. Although he got in the car, he didn’t say a single word.
The atmosphere in the car froze up, and Xu Po kept glancing at Baldy. Seeing how pitiful he was, Baldy relented. He turned to Lu Chenzhou with a smile and said, “Po also invited Dr. Cheng. Are you sure you don’t want to go, Zhou?”
Lu Chenzhou raised his head and directly looked at him. Although he still didn’t say a word, Baldy and Xu Po both felt the tension in the air dissipate, allowing them to breathe a lot more easily.
The two of them looked at each other without saying anything more. Meanwhile, the car drove straight to the Donglai Hotel. Lu Chenzhou didn’t go home frequently; ever since the hotel opened for business, he had permanently reserved a suite in it for himself. And from then on, he’d called Donglai his home.
After they arrived, the first thing Lu Chenzhou did was wash his face and change his clothes, as was habitual. While he washed up, Baldy and Xu Po waited for him in another room. As they walked in, Xu Po surreptitiously asked, “When did you invite Dr. Cheng? I didn’t know about that.”
“I didn’t!” Baldy groaned and yelled at him. “Call her now! Boss Lu clearly doesn’t want to go, and the only reason he’s willing to go now is because of Dr. Cheng. If he doesn’t see her there, then you’re screwed.”
Xu Po was speechless. He picked up his phone and was about to call Cheng Xi when he realized something. “I don’t have her phone number.” He looked hopefully at Baldy and tentatively asked, “Do you have it?”
“…Damn, I don’t have it either!”
The two of them were flustered, and used every trick they could think of to get her number. Eventually, they managed to do so from a friend’s friend’s friend’s brother’s sister-in-law.
Once they got her number, Xu Po asked, “What should we say? As a doctor, she probably wouldn’t want to attend a business event like that, would she?” And they weren’t even Lu Chenzhou, so they didn’t have any reason to randomly invite her.
“Of course we can’t say it directly.” Baldy gave Xu Po a supercilious look. “We have to invite her in a roundabout fashion so that she’ll come.”
Xu Po unashamedly asked, “How?”
“For example, if we said that you were crazy.”
But after thinking about it for a moment, he realized that Baldy wasn’t cursing him, and he didn’t think it too difficult to pretend to be crazy. So, he planned out a little skit with Baldy and let Baldy make the call.
Baldy was a decent actor, starting to scream and yell as if he’d been possessed as soon as the call connected. “Dr. Cheng, I’m Baldy, Zhou’s friend. I need help! Please come quickly! Come quickly!”
It was very loud on Cheng Xi’s end. Through the noise, they seemed to hear her ask, “What’s the matter?”
“Someone suddenly went crazy over here, and he’s going around hitting and smashing things. It’s truly frightening!” As Baldy said this, he made a hand signal and Xu Po began making a ruckus in the room. However, the carpet was so thick that smashing furniture against the floor seemed to have no effect. Xu Po had no choice but to strangle himself as he shouted, “Aaaaaaah!”
Very satisfied with Xu Po’s performance, Baldy put the phone closer to Xu Po’s mouth in an attempt to make the choking sound clearer.
They heard nothing from Cheng Xi for a while, as if she were trying to carefully listen and figure out just what was going on. Just as Baldy and Xu Po were winking at each other in celebration of their impending success, they heard Cheng Xi’s gentle and pleasant voice once again. “What kind of livestock are you slaughtering over there, a chicken or a duck? How festive.”