Cheng Xi waited patiently until she finally heard Lin Fan’s mother sigh lightly. “Cheng Xi, why are you making this so difficult?”
“I’ve known you for so many years, Mrs. Lin. Won’t you satisfy even this one small request of mine?”
Lin Fan’s mother fell silent again, mulling it over before finally saying, “Alright. I’ll send you an address. I’m free this afternoon, so you can come then.”
Not long after, Cheng Xi received a text with an address in it from Lin Fan’s mother. When Cheng Xi looked it up, it was a private residence in the best area in the city, and not too far from the hospital.
The head nurse suddenly knocked on the door. “Time to eat.” She already knew that Chen Jiaman was being transferred, and her gaze toward Cheng Xi was filled with sympathy.
Cheng Xi stood up. “Alright. Let’s go.”
As they walked through the hospital corridors, the head nurse tried to comfort Cheng Xi. “Actually, isn’t it good that she’s switching hospitals? You won’t have to worry over her anymore. We all know how troublesome Chen Jiaman can be, and you should be happy that she’s being transferred.”
Cheng Xi only smiled wryly, and the head nurse covered her eyes. “Alright, alright, you shouldn’t force yourself to smile.” She patted Cheng Xi back as she repliably said, “If you’re not feeling well, then I can give you a massage to relieve some tension.”
Cheng Xi’s heart warmed, and she leaned against the head nurse’s shoulder. “Thank you. I already feel better just by hearing this from you.”
Indeed, even though Cheng Xi was a bit angry, she wasn’t all that sad; perhaps it was because she had a team supporting her by her side.
In the afternoon, she had to request time off to go see Lin Fan’s mother. The department head gave her no trouble at all; he simply waved his hand and said, “Go, go.”
He then personally scheduled a doctor to fill in for her.
Cheng Xi was very grateful.
She took a taxi directly to the address that Lin Fan’s mother had sent her. Despite the cold winter winters, the streets were still crowded, and Cheng Xi’s ride over was plagued by traffic jams.
When she finally arrived, she waited at the doorstop for quite a while before a housekeeper-like figure came over to answer the door. “Are you Ms. Cheng?”
Only then did the housekeeper open the door and let her in. Lin Fan’s mother was on the second floor. When Cheng Xi walked over, she was trimming flowers by the corridor. The temperature had been unprecedentedly cold these last few days, and even though they were indoors, she was dressed very warmly with a white wool sweater and a sapphire-blue marten coat with a white fur collar trim. Framed by the dusky rays of the sun, Lin Fan’s mother looked far younger than her actual age.
But she was clearly not in a good mood, and her mood was reflected in her pruning; a perfectly good banyan tree had been ruined by her terrible trimming.
Cheng Xi noticed that upon seeing Lin Fan’s mother’s handiwork, the housekeeper by her side snorted lightly with a speck of disdain in her eyes. Then she curtly announced, “She’s here,” before leaving right away.
Lin Fan’s mother ignored the disdain in the housekeeper, put down the scissors, and then smiled at Cheng Xi. “I’ll bring you to see my old man first.”
The old man she was referring to was the owner of this house, as well as Lin Fan’s mother’s current husband. She had said that he was old, and she hadn’t been exaggerating at all; the man who appeared in front of Cheng Xi was old, very old. His head was completely bald, his body thin and skinny, and his skin covered in liver spots.
His bedroom had long been converted into a sickroom. In front of the bed were some common medical apparatuses, and two people who looked like doctors were sitting by his bedside. The master of the house was lying in bed with one hand outside the blankets. There was an IV by the bed, with fluid slowly dripping down from it.
Upon hearing the noise of two people entering the room, he opened his eyes slightly. Lin Fan’s mother walked in, leaned by his side, and said, “This is Lin Fan’s classmate. She’s here to see you.”
The old man’s dusky gaze meandered over, landing on Cheng Xi’s face. After quite a while, he opened his mouth and said, “Okay.”
“Then I’ll go and talk with her now. Stay well.” After Lin Fan’s mother finished talking to the old man, she considerately helped him arrange his blankets before pulling Cheng Xi out of the room.
Only after they exited the room and were once again breathing the fresh air outside did Cheng Xi slowly release a pent up breath.
“Were you scared?” Lin Fan’s mother asked with a smile.
Cheng Xi didn’t know what to say.
“Lin Fan has always thought that this was an embarrassing affair, but I thought that it wasn’t so bad. These past years of being married to him are some of the most peaceful days of my life.”
She brought Cheng Xi to a small living room on the side of the house, sat down in front of her, and started chatting. She had neither the gentleness and grief of her early years nor the snobbishness and affectation that Cheng Xi had seen in her recently. Lin Fan’s mother was very calm today. “Do you know why I wanted to meet you here? It’s to show you that Lin Fan’s different from you, that the burdens he’s been carrying is different from the average person’s. Don’t even try to convince me to let Jiaman stay in Renyi Hospital. I don’t want her to become his burden.”
Cheng Xi tartly replied, “She won’t be his burden.”
“Really?” Lin Fan’s mother looked at her with a placid smile. “Just because you say so? What if she doesn’t improve for the rest of her life? As you’ve said before, her illness can’t be solved through money—she also needs familial care, ceaseless kindness…” Lin Fan’s mother had actually used the word ‘kindness.’ Cheng Xi’s heart stiffened, but she didn’t stop her from speaking and silently listened as Lin Fan’s mother continued. “Lin Fan’s not willing to follow the path that I chose for him. He wants to bear all these burdens alone, and I have no choice but to let him do so. However, this shouldn’t be his responsibility, and I don’t want him to be forced to carry this burden. I don’t care about why you want him to care for Jiaman. Whether it’s because of your duty as a doctor or because of your selfishness as a woman, none of it matters to me.”
Cheng Xi glanced at Lin Fan’s mother, her eyes limpid and determined. “Mrs. Lin, do you think that the reason why I want Lin Fan to take care of Chen Jiaman is because I want to woo him?”
Lin Fan’s mother didn’t reply, but it was clear that she did indeed think so.
Cheng Xi’s face turned red. “I didn’t know that, in Mrs. Lin’s eyes, that I’m an undignified girl who doesn’t have any self respect. What if I promised to never be romantically involved with him again? Would you……”
“No.” Lin Fan’s mother shook her head, cutting Cheng Xi off. “Cheng Xi, I don’t want to take any risks. Even though I do want him to choose a wife who can help him achieve his goals rather than choose one out of impulse, as his mother, I do want him to both have a successful career and marriage. He likes you. I don’t want to deny this, and neither can I deny it. However, if he has to see you from time to time while still harboring feelings you, Cheng Xi… Then do you think this would be good for him?”
“Also, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t agree to transfer Jiaman to another hospital. Professor Cai was your professor and a national authority on psychology. Her laboratory is well-funded, and as long as Jiaman volunteers to be a test subject in her laboratory, then even if she can’t recover, she will still receive very good treatment and care. Isn’t this the best outcome for everyone involved?”
Cheng Xi’s voice was trembling as she replied, “But do you know what she’ll have to face as a test subject? Her mind’s already so fragile. If the methods that they use aren’t suitable…”
“Do you think that you’re more experienced than Professor Cai? How are you so sure that she won’t receive suitable treatment over there? If your method is indubitably the right one, then why hasn’t she improved even after spending such a long time in the hospital? Cheng Xi, we’ve known each other for a while, and I don’t want to hurt you by being too blunt. You’re so young and so talented, and you’ll surely encounter many more men and patients in the future—why spend so much time on this one?”
“So, Mrs. Lin, you really do think that I want to keep Jiaman here because of Lin Fan, don’t you?” Cheng Xi took a deep breath, trying to calm herself down. “You’re right. I’m still young, and there’ll be many more men and patients in my future. Men, I don’t care too much about…… As for patients, while you might not understand my attachment to them, you should understand the disgrace and humiliation I feel from knowing that I can cure Chen Jiaman but not being able to do so. I don’t doubt my professor’s work, and I’m certainly not brash enough to claim that I know more than Professor Cai. However, I’m also a psychiatrist in my own right, and I know what sort of treatment my patients need. That’s enough reason for me.”
After Cheng Xi finished speaking her mind, she got up, ready to leave. After taking two steps towards the door, she stopped again, turned around to Lin Fan’s mother, and said, “I didn’t think this in the past, but I feel like there’s something I have to say to you now. It’s really frightening that anyone can become a parent.”