A Blast From the Past (2)
Neither of them spoke along the way.
Zhou Dou was easily able to remember Bo Ziren during elementary school. She had always been neatly dressed, consistently finished tasks efficiently, and had always excelled in her academic performance. But she hadn’t been very talkative, and she hadn’t had any friends.
She never seemed lonely though. He had walked by her class one day during a lunch break, and she had been sitting inside alone, putting a puzzle together. He remembered her slender fingers dexterously fitting a piece into place at one corner of the puzzle, gradually completing the pattern.
She had been tall, with long arms and feet, but she’d never hunched over when she walked.
He’d once taken a workbook and gone over to her for advice. She hadn’t refused, but stayed mostly quiet, writing in the blank space of his book.
Fortunately, her handwriting had been clear, and her steps were uncomplicated and easy to understand.
Another time he was flipping through the Chinese textbook irritably, and had asked her, “Which one of these articles is the exam going to focus on?”
“You just have to review it all.”
“Back to back?!”
“It took you ten minutes to flip through it,” she’d pointed out. “You could have recited a whole article in this time.”
He’d looked at her angrily, but she hadn’t understood what had upset him. After sitting in thought for a while, she’d pointed to one of the articles.
“I think this one is very important. You really don’t have time to memorize it though.”
“It has too many words. I plan to just make a cheat sheet.”
“It’s very tiring to make a cheat sheet. It’s so troublesome to write everything in very small handwriting and put it up your sleeve.”
“Occasionally I’m not a man who doesn’t fight back.”
She hadn’t said anything after that.
Later, during the final exam, his cheat sheet had been found and confiscated. In a well-regulated elementary school, this was deemed an appalling incident.
He had been disqualified from the exam and sent to the teacher’s office. The students had not liked him before, but after this incident, they despised him and even started to sneer at him.
What had been even worse was that when he’d gotten home, his father had beaten him severely. The next time she saw him, he had a black eye and a bump on his head.
She’d looked at him and said, “I had a feeling that you would be discovered.”
Her words had made him feel very dissatisfied.
“Then why didn’t you stop me? This won’t help my reputation now, and everyone has made me feel pushed up against a wall.”
“You wouldn’t have listened to me. You always only listen to yourself.”
This had made him speechless, but it did make sense. He knew that he was a person who basically worshipped himself down to the very bones.
It was at that time that he gradually became interested in her, and secretly inquired about her, occasionally even following her home. But every time he’d crossed the vegetable market when trying to follow her, she would disappear after circling around the market, so he only knew the general area she lived in, and not specifically which house was hers.
Until one weekend he’d wandered into the vegetable market, and happened upon her accompanied by her mother. Her mother had looked young and beautiful and seemed to have a good temperament. However, she appeared to be hesitant in making any purchases besides vegetables.
He arrived at a cooked food stall and saw Bo Ziren staring wide-eyed and eagerly at some grilled chicken drumsticks behind the glass. Her mother had walked up and asked for the price, then quickly pulled her away
He’d already guessed that she was in a single-parent family and that they were in dire straits. She was the kind of girl who didn’t have much pocket money but never seemed sad about it. For some reason, this thought depressed him instead.
“Bo Ziren,” said Zhou Dou, snapping back from his memories to reality. “Do you like grilled chicken legs?”
“What kind of grilled chicken legs?”
“Nothing,” he said quickly, clamping up.
He walked her to the door of the dormitory.
Before Bo Ziren headed towards the girls’ building, Zhou Dou said, “Give me your phone number. After all, we’re old classmates.”
They exchanged phone numbers, before bidding each other farewell.
As soon as she walked up the stairs, Bo Ziren received a text message from Zhou Dou.
[Zhou Dou: I check my phone at most three times a day. If I don’t reply to a text message in time, it means I didn’t see it due to being in the laboratory. You can try me again an hour after not responding.]
Bo Ziren felt at a loss. Why was he going out of his way to explain his situation so fully? She didn’t feel like she had anything to do with him.
Immediately after, she received another text message, and she thought it was from him, but it was from Mu Zibei.
[Mu Zibei: Big Brother Cheng will come see me tomorrow. He promised to bring me a gift. Ziren, will you come see me as well?]
Bo Ziren felt her heart move as she read his message, but she felt unsure of what to reply.
[Mu Zibei: It’s fine if you don’t come. But since you won’t be going home this weekend we won’t see each other for a month.”]
Mu Zibei seemed to be complaining through the text message.
She thought about it for a while, before finally replying.
“Tomorrow afternoon I will be helping the tutor, but I can try asking him for a leave.”