Chapter 32: Heading to the Island
In Dr. Wei’s wardrobe, all his clothes followed a monochrome theme of black, white, and gray. Today, he wore an unusual light blue-gray cashmere sweater that really caught the eye.
“You can take the lighter bags; I’ll handle the fruits,” Dr. Wei said.
“Let’s not take the fruits now. They won’t be fresh after the New Year celebrations. We can bring them directly to the island to enjoy.”
As we reached our floor, my mom was already waiting at the elevator. She’s naturally cheerful, and upon seeing Dr. Wei, her smile widened. She went over enthusiastically to help with the bags.
“Wow, you came so quickly, and with so much stuff. What’s all this for?”
I couldn’t resist teasing, “If you really don’t want anything, you don’t have to go through all this trouble.”
My mom rolled her eyes at me and patted Dr. Wei on the back, saying, “We’re all family; there’s no need to exchange gifts anymore. Was the drive tiring? Have you had breakfast?”
“Not yet. Xiao Qi said the ferry is around noon. I was afraid I might not make it, so I came early, thinking that Mom would have prepared some delicious food. I came to get a meal.”
Mrs. Wang He Miao quickly put down the items and handed Dr. Wei a pair of slippers, saying, “Only half a youtiao (Chinese fried dough) is left; let me get you a bowl of dumplings. Grandma made them last night. They have pork and cabbage stuffing. Will you eat them?”
“Of course, I’m not picky.”
I chimed in, “Mom, I’m hungry too. I want some shrimp dumplings.”
“First finish the half youtiao on the table; don’t waste it.”
I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face, listening to Dr. Wei chatting with my family. For people of my grandparents’ generation, their mindset is quite traditional. When I once told them that I didn’t plan to get married or have children, I faced quite a scolding. However, they are also the kind who are easily swayed by emotion and have a soft spot for me. Ultimately, they accepted a less-than-perfect grandson.
Thankfully, Dr. Wei’s profession comes with a halo effect; my grandparents treat him like their own. This New Year, they didn’t forget to give him a generous red envelope.
I finished washing my face and headed out. Dr. Wei was still engaged in conversation with them.
“These are a little something from my parents and me. Regarding the calcium tablets, you can chew them, as Xiao Qi mentioned that you usually don’t drink milk. The fish oil is for DHA supplementation. It doesn’t have many additives and is beneficial for cardiovascular health. Fish oil has a short shelf life; it can be stored for 60 days after opening. That’s one pill per day. If it’s summer, it needs to be refrigerated. Oh, and these two scarves were bought by my mom. One for you and one for Grandpa.”
The checkered scarves made of cashmere felt great to the touch and were versatile in style.
“You’re all so considerate.” Grandma gently patted Dr. Wei’s hand, “Meeting you is a blessing for Xiao Qi. During this time he stayed at your place, did he cause you a lot of trouble?”
“Not at all,” Dr. Wei hurriedly shook his head. “I was alone at home before, and it was kind of dull. After he moved in, the house became lively and interesting every day.”
“This child has always had a fleeting interest in things. He does whatever he wants. He used to say he wanted to raise a dog at home, but we disagreed. The main responsibility fell on you.” Grandma looked a bit embarrassed, “Now, taking care of 007 must also take quite a bit of time. You’re busy with work; don’t always indulge him. When it’s critical, don’t be too polite.”
“No, no,” Dr. Wei quickly waved his hand. “I also like animals. I picked out 007 at the pet store back then. It’s gentle and affectionate in temperament, and it won’t grow too big. It’s easy to care for. Xiao Qi takes good care of it, and I just play with it occasionally. No trouble at all.”
“The dumplings are ready. You two come quickly while they’re hot,” my mom called from the kitchen.
I hadn’t even sat down yet when my dad came out of the bedroom, saying, “Qi Zai, help me take a look. My mind isn’t working well right now.”
“How could there be anything wrong with your mind? It’s probably the phone.”
My dad burst into laughter, and his laughter spread to the living room. My mom, my grandparents, and I all joined in the joyful laughter. My gaze swiftly shifted to Dr. Wei’s face and saw a faint smile at the corners of his mouth. I felt utterly content.
This time, 007 also came with us to the island. We were worried it might get seasick, so my mom prepared quite a few plastic bags and wet wipes.
“Does Xiaolin get seasick?” Grandma asked.
“I’m not sure. I’ve only been on sightseeing boats by the Bund, which takes about ten minutes, and I didn’t get sick. How long will it take to get to the island this time?”
“About two hours. The cabin might feel a bit stuffy,” Grandma said as she put some medicine into his backpack. “Better have a couple of pills just in case. Miao, did you bring bottled water?”
My mom had finished packing and was standing at the door. “You can just buy bottled water when we get to the port. It’s too heavy to carry.”
“But you don’t have to carry it; it’ll be in the car. Water at the port is expensive,” Grandma replied, picking up the bottled water and handing it to Grandpa, who eventually ended up holding it.
“Let’s go, let’s go!”
The elevator was still on the top floor, but Dr. Wei took the stairs directly. 007 wiggled its fluffy little butt and followed, but due to its short legs, it bumped down the stairs like a slide. Dr. Wei extended his foot trying to catch it, but it was too late. We heard a series of “thump thump thump thump thud” sounds, and 007’s plump body landed on the last landing.
It looked just like a little caterpillar, pitifully rolling around on the ground. It then got up, shook its head, and looked at us, pretending as if nothing had happened.
Though a bit unkind, our entire family burst into laughter.
We only have one sedan in our family, so my dad took my mom and the rest of us, while I and 007 rode with Dr. Wei.
The scent of the perfume in the car changed.
“You changed your perfume?”
“Yeah,” Dr. Wei started the car, “Last time, didn’t you say you didn’t like the smell of sandalwood? I got a citrus scent. It’s light, isn’t it?”
“What happened to the previous bottle? There’s a lot left, right?”
“I put it in my dad’s car.”
“This scent smells really nice.”
“As long as you like it.”
007 probably had some sort of hyperactivity. It often chased its own tail in the yard, and even inside the car, it couldn’t stay still. My coat was covered in its paw prints.
The drive back took over two hours, and I didn’t know how to endure it. I turned to look at Dr. Wei; he, on the other hand, had a constant smile at the corners of his mouth.
“You seem really happy today.”
“Of course,” Dr. Wei said, “This is our first road trip together, so I’m a little excited.”
“Have you gone on trips with your family before?”
“No, my parents used to be wholesalers and traveled a lot. They even went out of town for parent-teacher meetings. Not to mention going on vacations. It was only after my grandparents passed away that they brought me to live with them. Most of the time, I was alone at home. Or maybe they thought sacrificing their time to be with me wasn’t as important as work, after all, work can earn money. I remember they used to give me pocket money every week and told me to go out to eat.”
Just before departure, I downloaded two TV episodes to watch on the way. However, after chatting with Dr. Wei for a while, we had already arrived at the port before I even took out my phone.
I met up with my mom and the others to collect our tickets and check in 007’s cargo, while Dr. Wei and my dad stayed in the car.
Around noon, cars gradually left the port and drove onto the ferry. Passengers were arranged to rest in the cabins upstairs.
The wind and waves were strong, and the ship swayed gently. Dr. Wei and I stood on the deck, taking photos of the sea, then taking pictures of our family, and finally, some selfies. Soon, my fingers were turning red from the cold.
“Do you feel seasick? Do you want to take medicine?”
Dr. Wei shook his head. “I don’t feel anything.”
The cabin was crowded and not well-ventilated. There was a strange smell, a mix of street food and miscellaneous items. Dr. Wei found it too stuffy and wanted to stay on the deck. However, it was too cold outside.
“Can we stay in the car?” Dr. Wei asked.
“Of course, you can. I was worried you’d find it stuffy in the car, so I brought you up here. Usually, I just lie down and sleep in the car.”
Many people were resting in their cars. As we walked past, we noticed several cars had their windows open.
Due to the cold weather, Dr. Wei turned on the car’s heater. I adjusted the passenger seat to its lowest position, almost lying flat.
“It would be great if 007 were here. It could be my pillow.”
Dr. Wei extended his hand to me.
“Hehe…” I lay there for a while, but still didn’t feel quite comfortable. Normally, when I’m in my dad’s car, I would just put my legs up on the glove compartment. But now…
I glanced at him and gave up on that idea.
Dr. Wei’s car was as clean as if it had just come out of the dealership. I even felt like I was the biggest piece of trash in the car.
“Can I put my legs up there?”
Dr. Wei hesitated for two seconds, “Sure, but you have to take off your shoes.”
I turned my head and pecked his arm twice.
Inside the car, unable to see outside, and not feeling the ship’s movement, but the car still gently swayed with the ship’s body, somewhat resembling being on an airplane.
“Is the boat ride comfortable?” I asked him.
“You can be comfortable again on the way back.”
“I want to be comfortable again next year.”
“Of course, our family goes back to the island every year for the New Year celebration, I’ll take you again next time.”
“Are you going to sleep?”
“Well… I slept late last night.”
“Because it was lively at home, many relatives came for dinner, and they played cards with my parents and stayed up late before leaving.”
“What time did you sleep?”
“Past one in the morning.”
“Why so late?”
“I told you, relatives were over.”
“Did the relatives stay at your house until past one in the morning?”
“Of course not! I had to see them off and then shower and wash my hair.”
“Does that take a long time?”
“Alright, I played some games…” I sighed, “I want to sleep now, you can play by yourself, I have some downloaded videos on my phone to watch.”
A wave of drowsiness came over me, and I couldn’t hold on much longer. Just as I was about to turn over, I heard Dr. Wei muttering, “Do you think this counts as being ‘shaken on a boat’ or ‘shaken in a car’?”