Chapter 19

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The rain outside the window was falling heavily.
The pendulum of the clock was swinging on the wall.
Left and right, left and right.

Thin fingertips tapped the table continuously.
The book on the table was blown by the wind.
But the owner didn’t pay attention to it.

Bai Lu’s Mom came inside and closed the window.

“It’s raining.
Why didn’t you close the window? What if the rain comes in?”

Bai Lu propped herself up from the desk and yawned.
Her mom looked at her sleepy eyes and said, “Are you sleepy? Don’t study anymore, go to sleep.”

Bai Lu shook her head,”Not sleepy.”

“You can’t even open your eyes, and still saying you’re not sleepy?” Her Mom shook her head and took it upon herself to put away the books on the table, “You don’t have to study so much on vacation.”

Bai Lu said a little sarcastically: “Other parents are guarding their children to study.”

Bai Lu’s Mom smiled thoughtfully and stroked her head while saying, “Learning is good but it’s not as important as the body.
You need to take care of the body, otherwise.
…… Hey, what is this?”

The small black box caught her eyes and she reached out to take it.

“Yo, a necklace, very nice.” There was a mirror on the table.
Bai Lu’s Mom took the locket and compared it to her own neck.
Both mother and daughter had white skin, and the silver chain looked extraordinarily delicate when wore in their neck.

“Did you bought it?”

Bai Lu didn’t answer, her mom took her silence as her answer.

“Good.
You study so hard.
It’s good to buy something and reward yourself a little.” She put down the locket and advised, “Okay, now go to sleep.
You have to return to school tomorrow.”

Tomorrow was October 3rd and school would start the day after tomorrow.
But Bai Lu, as a dormitory student had to return to the school a day early to organise her things.

Bai Lu lied down in her bed at her Mom’s urging.
Her Mom helped her cover her with the blanket.

After turning off the light, her Mom left the room.

The moment her Mom left, Bai Lu’s cell phone vibrated.

It was a text message from Xu Hui.
He also sent a photo.
In the picture, he was standing at the riverside, the river flooded with small waves.
A house could be seen behind him.

He was leaning on the stone fence of the house, wearing a T-shirt and jeans.
The corner of his shirt were blown up by the wind.
His hair a little messy for being tousled by the wind.

A girl was standing beside him, smiling widely and hugging his waist.

In the cool weather of autumn, she wore an ultra-short pants, revealing a pair of snow-white long legs.

Bai Lu changed her position while keeping her eyes on the phone and laid with her head on the side.

He had sent her many pictures like this, starting yesterday.

During the holiday, Xu Hui went out with his friends to play on the riverside villa his family owned.
He had asked Bai Lu to join him on the vacation, but Bai Lu did not agree.
That’s when he started to send pictures like this.

Xu Hui’s way of expressing his dissatisfaction was always very blunt.
Bai Lu could clearly understood his motive for sending his pictures with other girls.
He was trying to rile her up.
But he had underestimated Bai Lu’s calm nature.

Bai Lu typed: “Have you eaten?”

A call came from him rather than a reply.
Xu Hui was too lazy to send a text message.

“Hello?”(Xu Hui)

“Um ……”(Bai Lu)

“Why are you whispering in such a low voice? Are you doing anything bad?”

“No, everyone is asleep.”

The sound of strong wind blowing on the other side could be heard through the phone.
Xu Hui’s voice sounded distant than usual because of it.

She heard the rippling sounds of the river waves, the leaves rustling, and also the bright laughter of girls not far away.

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Bai Lu ignored all the sounds and asked in a whisper, “Have you had dinner?”

“Mmhm.”

After a pause, Xu Hui asked in a careful voice, “What about you?”

“Me too.”

“Oh.”

Silence fell on the both side of the phone.
Xu Hui didn’t have anything to say and Bai Lu didn’t have anything to ask.
Both were waiting for the other party to speak up first.
But in this kind of game, only a patient person could win.
And Xu Hui certainly wasn’t one.

After a moment of silence, Xu Hui couldn’t bear anymore and asked, “You have nothing to ask me?”

“I have.” Bai Lu replied after a moment of silence.

Xu Hui tensed.
Although he had been prepared and wanted her to ask, his heart still couldn’t help but skip a beat.
He let out a faint cough and straightened his tone before saying with a light smile, “What do you want to ask?”

“Is it cold?”

“…… what?” Xu Hui was stunned.
Is that what she wanted to ask?

Bai Lu seemed to understand his confusion and generously explained, “It’s raining here and the weather is getting cooler.
You’re still wearing half sleeves, don’t you feel cold standing by the river?”

“Oh.” Xu Hui said in a low voice, as if disappointed she didn’t ask what he thought, “It’s okay, it’s not that cold here.” After saying that, he couldn’t help but ask, “You have nothing else to ask?”

Bai Lu asked, shattering his hopes again, “Will you be back tomorrow?”

“…… right.” Xu Hui sounded a little restless and lit a cigarette.
Bai Lu could hear him take a deep breath, exhale the breath before laughing out.

“You ah ……”

Bai Lu: “What’s wrong?”

Xu Hui whispered, “Can’t do nothing but pretend with me.”

Bai Lu blinked and asked in bewilderment, “When did I pretend?”

Xu Hui flicked the cigarette ash, “That girl is my friend.
She followed along with me.
We’re just ordinary classmates.”

“I know.”

Xu Hui asked in surprise, “You knew?”

“Her name is Xiao Ye, she’s pretty and speaks in a loud voice.”

Everything was quiet for a long time.
Bai Lu heard the sound in the phone gradually faded.
Xu Hui walked to a quiet location.

He stepped on the flower bed with one foot and sarcastically lamented, “Women are so scary.”

Bai Lu: “Why?”

Xu Hui thought for a moment and said with a smile, “Did you knew it was her when she called that day? Her voice was very loud, so you heard it through the phone, right?”

Bai Lu, who was lying in her bed covered herself with the blanket and spoke in a quiet voice, “I may have known her even earlier than that time.”

“Then, maybe I forgot.” Xu Hui leaned on the fence, lowered his head and said with a light smile: “Your memory is great.
You remember every little thing we talked about.
And look at me, I can’t even remember from when you knew her.”

His tone sounded relaxed, Bai Lu smiled and said, “Yes, I remember it all.”

After a pause, Xu Hui said, “I’ll be back tomorrow.
Let’s have dinner together tonight.”

Bai Lu agreed, “okay.”

****

At the last day of the holiday, it was still raining.

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From early morning, the sky outside was gloomy and cloudy.

“Why don’t you stay a little longer?” After breakfast, her Mom looked at the weather outside and suggested, “The weather isn’t good, it may rain.
Why don’t you wait until the rain stopped?”

“It’s okay.” Bai Lu took the umbrella and put on her shoes.

“Then ……” Her Mom hesitated before saying, “Take a taxi.”

“No need.” Bai Lu put her school bag back on her shoulders and said goodbye to her parents, “I’m leaving.”

“Be careful on the way.”

The rain was too heavy and the traffic was also bad.
Bai Lu couldn’t reach the school even after nearly two hours of squeezing on the road.

The smell of drenched passengers on the bus, gasoline, dirt and mud made her feel sick.
Bai Lu got off the bus three stops early.

She walked the rest of the way to Xu Hui’s house.

Her head ached and she was a bit groggy.
When Xu Hui opened the door, she had a momentary illusion, as if she had gone back in time.

He had woken up early that day and washed up.
His hair was a little wet, not completely dry.
He was wearing a t-shirt and a pair of trouser, with his slippers on his bare feet.

“You are late.” He leaned against the door and looked down at her.
His gaze landed on her wrist as he asked, “You didn’t wear watch today?”

Bai Lu looked at him and whispered, “Not allowed.”

Xu Hui laughed lightly, “Don’t follow my example.”

Silence fell again.

Bai Lu wondered if he also remembered their first meeting.
After all, it was also in a rainy day like this.
The only difference is that it was night that time.
How much time has passed since that day?

Bai Lu was thinking about that when she heard him say, “It’s like that night ……”

Bai Lu looked up.

Xu Hui, who had been on a vacation for two days, looked a little tired.

Maybe the tiredness made him remember that day.

“It feels like so far in the past ……” he murmured.
Xu Hui shook his head before siding away, “Come in.
Have you eaten? Are you hungry?”

Bai Lu followed Xu Hui into the house.

Bai Lu was about to sit down in the living room but Xu Hui dragged her to the kitchen.
His steps were a little excited.

“See what I bought.”

Bai Lu looked at the things piled up in the kitchen and felt her head hurt even more.

Xu Hui should have just returned from the supermarket.
There was still rainwater on the plastic bags.
He bought several vegetables, meat, as well as various seafood, fruits and drinks.
If it was before, Bai Lu would have questioned herself where did he get the money from.
But since she knew, she didn’t feel the curiousity anymore.

Bai Lu looked at him and asked, “What is this?”

“You can’t say? I went to the supermarket this morning.” Xu Hui leaned against the kitchen door and suggested, “Why don’t you cook for me?”

Bai Lu lowered her head and whispered, “Why should I do it?”

Xu Hui asked, “You don’t want to do it? Not even for me?”

Bai Lu smiled, looked back at him, and asked, “Do you do everything I told you to do?”

Xu Hui was just about to nod when he realized that it would wrong to nod since he never does anything anyone says.
Last time, she forbid him to not smoke but he didn’t listen.
After thinking about it he said, “I bought so many things, you at least cook something for me.
Don’t you know how to cook? You can cook anything.
But don’t cook fried-rice to fool me.
I won’t eat it.”

Bai Lu stayed unmoving.
She rather asked, “Why don’t you do it yourself?”

Xu Hui shook his head and replied, “I don’t know how to cook.
Didn’t I tell you before? It’s too difficult for me.”

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Seeing no choice, Bai Lu silently took out the vegetables, meats and other ingredients from the bags and put them in the basin to wash.
She was going to cook some simple dishes that can be made quickly.

When Bai Lu was cooking, Xu Hui kept watching quietly from the back.
Bai Lu couldn’t help but wonder, is it some kind of hobby of his? Watching her work? Last time when she was making that honey-lemon, he also watched her like this.
While thinking this, she kept moving her hands and ended up making cabbage with vinegar, braised eggplant, and fish soup.

Xu Hui was to open his mouth when he saw Bai Lu grabbing the fish.
But seeing her opening a bottle of wine rather than cutting the fish, he couldn’t help but ask, “What are you going to do with the wine?”

Bai Lu replied without looking at him, “It’s for the fish.”

Xu Hui raised his eyebrows, “Oh.”

Seeing her adding the wine to the fish while cooking, Xu Hui felt a little thirsty for the wine.
When the meal was served, he carried a few bottles of wine and put them on the table.

“I don’t drink.” Bai Lu said looking at the wine bottles.

Xu Hui snorted at her and asked, “You are all grown up.
Why so apprehensive?”

Bai Lu again shook her head, “I don’t drink.”

Xu Hui also did not force her, “Okay.
You don’t have to drink, I will drink.”

The meal was home-made, so the taste wasn’t that bad.
Both of them ate very quietly without speaking.

After eating, Xu Hui habitually pull out a cigarette.

When he put it in his mouth, he remembered Bai Lu saying not to smoke after eating and turned his head to look at Bai Lu.

Bai Lu was also looking at him.

“You aren’t going to stop me this time?”

He drank two bottles of wine.
So, he was a little drunk.

Bai Lu didn’t know how much he could drink.
He could be drunk as hell that all she knows.

His face was getting whiter, his eyes are getting brighter, but his voice was becoming more and more hoarse as the time passed ……

As if he was whispering to himself.

Bai Lu said, “I can’t stop you.”

“Didn’t you stop me last time?”

Bai Lu smiled and asked, “Are you trying to fool me?”

In the humid weather, Xu Hui felt her smile was covered by a layer of mist, bringing a different type of beauty he didn’t notice before.

Xu Hui blinked slowly, and lowered his head, like a child who was found doing something bad, “Oh, you saw ……”

Bai Lu didn’t give him time to finish.
She stood up and said, “I have to go, it’s getting late .”

Xu Hui looked at her, “Going to your part-time job?”

“Mmhm.” Bai Lu didn’t explain.
She had to go to her dormitory to organise her things and also study.
She had been slacking off in her study for the past few months.

“How much money do you need? Why are you earning money for your sister’s treatment? What about your parents? Can’t they earn the money by themselves?”

Bai Lu paused in picking up her bag and asked in bewilderment, “What?”

Xu Hui wasn’t sitting on the sofa, he was sitting on the floor next to the coffee table, his legs bent and body leaning against the sofa.

He yawned, not hearing what Bai Lu had just said.

The rain outside the window was even heavier, darkening everything in a layer of blanket of rain.
The rain smashed on the window, making a ‘pitter patter’ noise in the quiet environment.
Bai Lu suddenly remembered what Wu Hanwen said that other day.
She put down the bag on the ground again and took seat on the place she sat before.

“Do you have any siblings?” Bai Lu looked at Xu Hui and asked softly.

“Hmm?”

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Seeing him like this, Bai Lu was sure that Xu Hui was a little drunk.

He liked to drink, but he didn’t like to be drunk.

“Do you have a brother?” She asked more directly.

Xu Hui didn’t hear what she asked the first time, but the second time didn’t miss his ear.
His eyebrows furrowed slightly, “What are you talking about?”

“You clearly heard it.”

Xu Hui took a deep breath and looked at her.
Bai Lu stood up, startled seeing him turning his head at her so quickly.

“Did I tell you about it?”

Bai Lu did not reply, Xu Hui asked again, “That night, when I was drunk and called you, I told you about it, right?”

Bai Lu still did not reply.

“Can you fucking talk or not!?” Xu Hui stood up from the ground in rage, because he stood up suddenly, his head was a little dizzy and his body began to sway.

“Be careful.” Bai Lu said softly but didn’t take any step forward to help him.

Xu Hui regained his balance and rubbed his face.
The rain was still falling outside, spreading the gloominess in the cold house.

“Was I right or not? Where did you hear it from?”

Young people are already easily stimulated by alcohol and their own emotions.

Xu Hui’s slowly calmed his rapid breathing.
He didn’t wait for Bai Lu’s reply and nodded to himself, as if he caught the truth.

“Yes, yes …… you must have known.
Aren’t you good at remembering and guessing? You even bumped into me that day in the hospital.
That was an obvious hint.
I must have told you the rest.”

Bai Lu ignored his rambling and asked another question “Did you like your brother?”

“Shut up!” Xu Hui glared, “Who are you to ask me this? My friend?”

Bai Lu lowered her head, “No.”

Xu Hui pointed to the door and commanded in a stern voice, “Get out.”

Bai Lu obediently nodded, “Okay.”

The thunderstorm covered her footsteps, Bai Lu walked to the door and was about to grab the doorknob when her shoulder was grabbed, and she was forcibly turned around.
Her heart skipped a beat in fear.

She was pinned against the door by him.

Xu Hui looked down at her, his face was red.
The alcohol caused the excitement to run over his head.

“Who gave you the right to be like this? On what grounds do you have this attitude?”

Bai Lu looked a little confused, “What kind of attitude do I have?”

“This, this attitude-!” Xu Hui pointed at her and gritted his teeth, “You knew about it, right? That’s why you asked me that question? You want to blame me? What does it have to do with you-“

“Xu Hui.”

Bai Lu interrupted him.

She gazed at him and whispered.

“I had no intention to interfere in your life, I just asked, did you like your brother?”

After she finished talking, Xu Hui stood in a daze.

His gaze wasn’t on her, he couldn’t tell where he was looking.

By the cold fluorescent light coming from outside, Bai Lu saw the corners of Xu Hui’s eyes were red.

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