30. Can you please stop saying things that make me feel sad?
The next day, Yu Xinqiao woke up after 9 o’clock.
He couldn’t fall asleep in the first half of the night, but slept heavily in the second half. When he woke up, he felt dizzy, heavy-headed, and weak all over.
His stomach also felt a bit uncomfortable, probably due to the mixed food he had eaten last night. Yu Xinqiao made two trips to the toilet and returned to the chair, feeling like a useless person.
At that moment, Xu Yanhuan, who was sitting at the desk reading a book, stood up.
Yu Xinqiao immediately sat up straight and said, “I’ll rest a bit longer and then leave. I’ve already called the locksmith.”
Xu Yanhuan glanced at him indifferently, then walked to the sink, took out a cup from the cabinet above, rinsed it twice under the tap, and poured hot water into it.
He then walked over and placed the cup on the windowsill in front of Yu Xinqiao.
It turned out he wasn’t urging him to leave.
Yu Xinqiao felt a bit embarrassed and said, “Thank you for taking care of me since yesterday.”
He didn’t like owing people favors. As soon as he felt better, he immediately went out to buy groceries. From daily necessities to snacks, he practically bought everything available in the convenience store.
Carrying two plastic bags, Yu Xinqiao took out the items one by one.
“That convenience store may look small, but it has a wide variety of products… There was a buy-five-get-two-free offer for tissues, so I took a whole box… The apples are also cheap, only twenty for so many… This towel is for you as a replacement. I took the one I used yesterday… Oh, by the way, can I borrow the sink? I haven’t brushed my teeth today.”
There were no spare toothbrushes at Xu Yanhuan’s place, and he had only rinsed his mouth briefly yesterday.
Using the same cup he drank water from earlier, the new toothbrush had stiff bristles. Yu Xinqiao was afraid that he wouldn’t brush well enough, so he applied excessive force, resulting in foaming all over his mouth, making him look ferocious, as if he had an electric drill in his mouth instead of a toothbrush.
Halfway through brushing, he remembered something and spat out the foam, saying vaguely, “I saw ordinary Kewpie ice cream in the convenience store freezer. Why did you say there wasn’t any yesterday?”
The hand flipping through the book paused, and Xu Yanhuan calmly replied, “Maybe they just got a new shipment today.”
Yu Xinqiao: ?
Bringing in ice cream during autumn, the store owner is quite bold.
We also had lunch at Xu Yanhuan’s house.
Bai Wei had to go to work early in the morning. So, Yu Xinqiao ordered takeout from a Cantonese-style tea restaurant and invited Xu Yanhuan to eat together.
When the food arrived, it was still hot. Out of habit, Yu Xinqiao looked for something to place on the table and noticed a thick dictionary on the windowsill. He reached out to grab it.
However, Xu Yanhuan intercepted him midway.
He took the dictionary from Yu Xinqiao’s hand and put it back on the windowsill, then grabbed a stack of books and placed them on top.
Yu Xinqiao asked curiously, “You didn’t hide something inside, did you?”
He had heard that some guys would cut out pictures of swimsuit models from magazines and hide them in books.
Xu Yanhuan glanced at Yu Xinqiao as if saying, “What’s it to you?”
Yu Xinqiao pursed his lips, turned around, and scraped the disposable chopsticks against each other. He thought to himself that Xu Yanhuan had a really bad temper, and anyone who dated him in the future would have a tough time.
In the afternoon, Xu Yanhuan went to the wholesale market to work, and Yu Xinqiao went along with him since he had nothing else to do.
Mr. Huang, the owner of the store, received several pianos, and Xu Yanhuan helped with unloading while Yu Xinqiao played the piano inside.
Seeing that they were always together recently, Mr. Huang smiled and asked, “Are you two dating?”
Xu Yanhuan denied it, saying, “No.”
“Then he’s still pursuing you?” Mr. Huang sighed, “Young people with such perseverance are rare these days.”
With the development of society and the liberation of attitudes towards relationships, it’s common to see people treating love as a game. They passionately love each other today but become estranged and resentful the next day. Even students at school are like this. It was previously heard that a male student wrote a love letter and printed dozens of copies to give to different girls, claiming it was casting a wide net, and there would always be fish that got caught.
But when faced with someone as stubborn and single-minded as Yu Xinqiao, the probability was unexpectedly low.
Xu Yanhuan pretended not to understand and focused on moving the goods.
“Are you planning to keep dragging it like this?” Mr. Huang persistently asked, “It’s not fair to keep him hanging like that.”
With pursed lips, Xu Yanhuan said, “I’m not keeping him hanging.”
“So, you want him to give up on his own?”
Xu Yanhuan remained silent, implying his agreement.
Facing Yu Xinqiao, he found it increasingly difficult to reject him wholeheartedly.
“Well, then wait here. Let me go ask him for you.”
Saying that, Mr. Huang put down the cardboard box in his hands, clapped his hands, and went back to the store. Leaning against the piano, he asked Yu Xinqiao, “Uncle has a question for you. Under what circumstances would you give up on liking someone?”
Yu Xinqiao was puzzled by the question but still thought about it seriously. “If he turns out to be different from what I imagined, I might give up.”
Mr. Huang clicked his tongue. “Your answer is as good as not answering at all.”
“…I’m being serious.”
“I won’t chat with you kids anymore, it’s not interesting,” Mr. Huang waved his hand. “Stay for dinner tonight, the standard is three dishes and one soup. Bring your own drinks.”
Yu Xinqiao smiled and said, “Alright!”
The life of senior year was much more intense than junior year, and even for an art student like Yu Xinqiao, the frequent exams took a toll on his mental energy.
In the blink of an eye, it was already deep autumn. The boys were no longer showing off their charm, and the girls were no longer wearing summer uniforms to show their legs. Everyone started stuffing their school uniforms with padded jackets, with hand warmers inside their autumn clothes.
Autumn in the north always felt especially desolate. On his way to school that day, Yu Xinqiao stepped on twenty-two fallen leaves. Looking at the calendar, he realized that his birthday was four days away.
He had already informed his close classmates about it. Liang Yi had been acting mysteriously these past few days, claiming to have a surprise for him. Shen Da also helped keep it a secret and refused to reveal anything. Wang Kun was busy playing basketball and promised to attend with a gift.
Yu Xinqiao didn’t really care about birthdays, but he couldn’t help but feel a sense of anticipation since he would be turning eighteen and officially becoming an adult.
Naturally, he also hinted at Xu Yanhuan.
He said, “Are you free on the 22nd of this month? I want to treat you to a meal. No need to bring a gift, just bring your appetite.”
Sensing the ambiguity, Yu Xinqiao added, “…I don’t mean for you to kiss me or anything.”
Xu Yanhuan didn’t explicitly agree and instead asked, “Is it your birthday?”
Yu Xinqiao felt delighted, “How did you know?”
Xu Yanhuan lowered his gaze, “Shen Da told me.”
Their tutoring sessions continued.
“Okay,” Yu Xinqiao sounded a little disappointed. “Will you be free then?”
“Not sure,” Xu Yanhuan said. “We’ll see when the time comes.”
Yu Xinqiao hated unresolved matters the most. He had dedicated his life to extinguishing all uncertainties from their inception.
He went to find Shen Da and asked him to cancel the math tutoring session for the following Tuesday. Shen Da was not good at lying and stumbled while explaining, “I guess… I might… possibly get sick next Tuesday.”
Yu Xinqiao remained silent for a while after hearing that. “He has been tutoring you for over two months, and you’re still so afraid of him?”
“How can I not be afraid?” Shen Da’s face drooped. “Every time he finishes explaining a problem and asks if I understood, if I don’t answer immediately, he looks at me with a gaze that makes me feel like a fool, as if saying—’How can you be so dumb as to not understand this?'”
“…,” Yu Xinqiao said, “Then you misunderstood. He looks at everyone with the same gaze.”
In any case, they had done everything they could. All that was left was to hang a banner at the school gate that read, “Xu Yanhuan, please don’t resist and quickly join Yu Xinqiao’s birthday party.” The rest was up to fate.
On the 22nd, Yu Xinqiao wore a bright white down jacket under his school uniform. As soon as the school bell rang, he took off his uniform jacket and went out to celebrate with his friends.
The gift Liang Yi and the others had prepared for Yu Xinqiao was a meal.
Not an ordinary meal, though. They said it was difficult to make reservations at this restaurant because they only used pure, naturally grown ingredients. On the way there, Yu Xinqiao was stunned by their descriptions and asked, “They don’t use protected animals or anything, right?”
When they arrived, he realized that there were no animals around. As far as the eye could see, there were only creatures growing in the fields.
“When we arrived at the place, we realized that there were animals everywhere, as far as the eye could see, all growing in the fields.
There were various mountain delicacies and wild vegetables that we had never seen before, such as Di Dan Tou, Ye Dang Shen, Niu Da Li, along with various wild mushrooms. In the presence of such a lineup, chicken, duck, fish, and meat became side dishes.
The dishes and cooking methods were uncommon, and we thoroughly enjoyed the meal. Liang Yi exaggeratedly said that after this meal, we had to be energized until the end of the college entrance examination, and Shen Da actually believed it.
In short, it was a nourishing meal. On his way back home, Yu Xinqiao’s nose started bleeding, and he had to use a tissue to stop it. It only stopped when he arrived home.
Wang Kun’s gift was an aromatherapy candle, chosen with the help of He Tangyue.
As for why it was He Tangyue who chose it… When Yu Xinqiao returned home, he lit the candle, turned off the lights, and sat with his hands supporting his cheeks, watching the flickering flames with a melancholic expression. He thought to himself, ‘Today is my birthday, so why am I watching others showing affection?’
The first couple in Class 3 of Grade 12 had already emerged, but the second couple was still nowhere to be found.
In any case, it couldn’t possibly be Yu Xinqiao x Xu Yanhuan.
On his eighteenth birthday, Yu Xinqiao had already included “accepting fate” as a compulsory course and hoped that one day he could let go of the person he couldn’t have.
So when the story took a sudden turn, Yu Xinqiao was momentarily confused, thinking that the mushrooms he had eaten during dinner were poisonous and causing hallucinations.
Late at night, around ten o’clock, Xu Yanhuan called him and said he was at the door, asking if he was free to come out for a while.
Yu Xinqiao jumped up instantly, almost ready to jump out the window. He opened the door and saw the figure that had been haunting his dreams standing under the streetlight.
He had been thinking about it all day, and his wish had finally come true.
Yu Xinqiao rushed over, panting, and asked, “Why didn’t you knock on the door directly?”
Xu Yanhuan noticed the faint blush on his cheeks and said, “The window was dark, and I thought you weren’t home.”
Yu Xinqiao felt embarrassed to admit that he was at home playing with candles, so he said, “Do you want to come in and sit for a while?”
“No,” Xu Yanhuan said, “I was just passing by. I’ll leave soon.”
Although, in fact, he didn’t just pass by.
Last month, Bai Wei had just filed for divorce with the help of her colleagues. Yesterday, she told him that she had been feeling like someone was following her on her way to and from work, and she suspected it was Xu Zhen, who hadn’t appeared for several days.
Xu Yanhuan couldn’t let it go, so today, while not having to tutor Shen Da, he went to the underground gambling den where Xu Zhen often frequented to inquire. The place had been raided twice, and business was now declining. The owner also mentioned that he hadn’t seen Xu Zhen for a long time, and he probably went to gamble in other cities.
The loan sharks who used to cause trouble also rarely bothered them. Perhaps they had lost patience and realized that the widowed and orphaned individuals cannot come up with money. Each time, they would inquire about Xu Zhen’s whereabouts as usual. Sometimes, they would chat briefly with Xu Yanhuan and praise his skills, asking if he wanted to join them.
Xu Yanhuan’s answer was always “no.”
He remembered the look in Yu Xinqiao’s eyes when he caught a customer flirting with him while working at the bar. Besides the incredulous surprise, there was a kind of disappointment that resembled sadness.
He couldn’t fall into depravity anymore; he couldn’t disappoint him.
At this moment, as he once again met those sincere and bright eyes, Xu Yanhuan’s self-disgust lasted only for an instant, strengthening his determination.
However, Yu Xinqiao was unaware of what he was thinking and fell into a gloomy state of “he’s about to leave.” He pulled up the collar of his down jacket, burying half of his head inside, and spoke in a muffled voice, “Why are you so busy every day?”
Xu Yanhuan told him half the truth, “I’m picking up my mom from work. She has a night shift today.”
This reason was legitimate enough to make Yu Xinqiao feel ashamed.
He extended his neck a bit and pouted, “Well, there’s nothing we can do. It’s a shame though, today’s dishes are all nourishing.”
Even though Xu Yanhuan didn’t feel any regret, he still went along with his words, “Yeah, it’s a pity.”
The two of them sat on the bench.
Yu Xinqiao passed by this road every day but it was his first time sitting here.
The dew was heavy in late autumn, and his buttocks felt a bit cold. He squirmed uncomfortably a few times and wondered if the bench was usually cleaned. Suddenly, he noticed a rectangular gift box being pushed into his line of sight.
“Is it a gift?”
Yu Xinqiao’s eyes instantly lit up as he took the box and opened it to find a pair of woolen gloves inside.
They were navy blue, made of delicate woolen fabric that must have been quite an expense for Xu Yanhuan.
“Thank you,” Yu Xinqiao sincerely said, “You don’t have to prepare gifts for me, just remembering is enough.”
Xu Yanhuan responded with a noncommittal “Hmm,” seemingly acknowledging his statement, “I didn’t specially prepare it. I found it on the way here.”
The smile on Yu Xinqiao’s face suddenly faded as he dryly chuckled, “Then I suggest you put it back where you found it and wait for the owner to come back.”
“No need,” Xu Yanhuan said, “I asked around, and no one claimed it.”
Occasionally, Xu Yanhuan could deliver deadpan jokes in a serious manner, even though they were not funny at all and rather deserving of a beating.
Yu Xinqiao took out the gloves and carefully put them on his hands, saying, “If nobody wants them, I’ll take them. Lately, I’ve been using my hands excessively, so I happen to need gloves.”
He didn’t tell Xu Yanhuan the reason why he had been using his hands excessively, and he thought it was fortunate that he hadn’t gone inside yet, as the equipment and half-cut gemstones were still in the living room. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Xu Yanhuan had found out in advance.
Xu Yanhuan didn’t ask either, silently watching as Yu Xinqiao put on the gloves. His originally slender fingers were now bulky, wrapped in the knitted fabric, and had a somewhat cute plumpness to them.
It made one want to hold them.
Just as he had this thought, the gloved hand suddenly reached out and covered his hand back.
“It feels so warm,” Yu Xinqiao said with a contented expression, his eyes squinting, “Why don’t you pick up a pair for yourself?”
Xu Yanhuan’s heart skipped a beat, as if that hand had touched his pulse. If it weren’t for the layer of fabric, it would have unleashed his unrestrained desires.
Just at that moment, Yu Xinqiao seemed to notice something and frowned. Xu Yanhuan also saw a slow trickle of crimson below his nose.
The enchanting atmosphere was instantly shattered.
Yu Xinqiao hurriedly lowered his head and rummaged through his pocket for a tissue. Not finding one, he hesitated whether to use his hand to wipe it. But then, his chin was gripped by warm fingers, and as he lifted it, Xu Yanhuan’s other hand reached over, gently wiping away the nosebleed with his thumb. His palm opened, covering his nostrils.
Now, there was no place for the blood to flow, and even his breath was obstructed.
Yu Xinqiao had to open his mouth to breathe, in a posture resembling being “nasally locked,” with Xu Yanhuan’s hand against his palm.
“It seems it’s not because of the nourishing food,” Yu Xinqiao belatedly recalled, “Every autumn, I tend to get nosebleeds easily.”
In the dry and cold northern region, back at his home in the capital, he had to use a humidifier to survive the winter.
“Let’s not talk for now.”
Xu Yanhuan covered his nose for a while before picking up the other glove he hadn’t put on yet and continued to cover it.
Yu Xinqiao attempted to stop him but failed. He watched helplessly as the glove became stained with blood, feeling his heart ache as well. “That was my birthday present…”
Without hesitation, Xu Yanhuan said, “I’ll get you another one.”
Yu Xinqiao immediately seized the opportunity to push his luck, saying, “Then accept my pursuit.”
Xu Yanhuan: “…”
It was the expected reaction, and Yu Xinqiao had long grown accustomed to it. Undeterred, he tried again, “Then I want to know why you kissed me that day.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, he regretted it.
In fact, Xu Yanhuan had already given an answer at that time, and now bringing it up again implied making things difficult for him.
Moreover, Yu Xinqiao was afraid of hearing an answer that would hurt more than saying “it was just for free.”
Once spoken, words were like spilled water, unable to be retracted like a WeChat message. Yu Xinqiao had no choice but to use a physical method. He lifted his hand and placed his palm gently on Xu Yanhuan’s mouth.
The scene was somewhat comical, one person having their nose pressed down while the other’s mouth was covered, as if performing some sort of ritual.
But Yu Xinqiao couldn’t bring himself to laugh. He said, “Let’s not talk about it. Pretend I never asked.”
Xu Yanhuan’s breath was warm, pulsating against his hand. His eyes, exposed to the outside, stared unwaveringly at Yu Xinqiao, like the depths of the sea, concealing countless hidden reefs beneath the waves.
It made one feel both unreachable and yet seemingly within reach, just like now, where a touch could be within grasp.
“Xu Yanhuan,” Yu Xinqiao softly called his name, “Can you please not say anything that will make me feel sad again?”
After a long while, Xu Yanhuan nodded, and Yu Xinqiao slowly released his hand.
The nosebleed stopped, and the glove that had been covering his nose was also removed. Yu Xinqiao took a deep breath, relieved to feel the air flowing freely.
The brief encounter came to an end. Before parting ways, Yu Xinqiao held the blood-stained glove, looking at the young boy still dressed in his thin school uniform, feeling as if there were still many words he wanted to say.
But in the end, only one sentence remained.
“Happy birthday,” Xu Yanhuan said.
His voice was so low, as if the frequency of a solitary whale in the deep sea.
It seemed, he was even more saddened than Yu Xinqiao.
This recollection, without any unexpected occurrences, has one (long) chapter remaining.
This recollection is not divided.
Certified member of the IIO(International Introverts Organization), PhD holder in Overthinking and Ghosting, Spokesperson for BOBAH(Benefits of Being a Homebody), Founder of SFA(Salted Fish Association), Brand Ambassador for Couch Potato fall line Pajama set.