Cheng Xi could only say that one sentence before Lin Fan hung up. Afterwards, no matter how much she called, she couldn’t get through to him.
He had turned his phone off.
Evidently, he was still that sensitive youth of the past, embarrassed of his own background and reflexively isolating himself from everyone else.
But the fact that he had taken the initiative to call her made it clear that he had matured quite a bit compared to that time. At the very least, he had the courage to face her now.
As Cheng Xi mulled over the situation, she sent him a text. “I’m at my home. If you need someone to talk to, I’ll be here waiting for you.”
After that, she did obediently go home and wait there. Even when Cheng Xi’s mother had finished work and was packing up, she was still there, waiting. Cheng Xi’s mother couldn’t help but call her. “How long has it been since you’ve come back? Are you lost? Should I send out a palanquin for you?”
Sweat dripped down from Cheng Xi’s forehead. She quickly responded in an ingratiating tone. “I’m a bit busy right now. I’ll be sure to come home next week.”
“Busy? Busy with what?” Cheng Xi’s mother didn’t listen to her words at all, and instead started thinking about that dolt who had randomly showed up at her daughter’s house. The thoughts incensed her, and her voice immediately deepened. “It can’t be that you still haven’t broken up with that man, can it?”
Cheng Xi didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “No, something really did come up.”
“Why is it that I can’t seem to bring myself to believe you?”
Cheng Xi spread her hands in the air as she responded, “I don’t know what to say.”
Her mother refused to believe her, and demanded a video call. Cheng Xi could only accept, turn on the camera on her phone, and swivel it around to reveal the entire house. But her mother was still somewhat dissatisfied. “What if you hid him somewhere?”
Cheng Xi had no response to this, and simply pointed the phone at herself while she sat on the sofa and read.
After looking at her for a while, Cheng Xi’s mother’s anger dissipated as she continued to watch her merely sit there quietly. Her next words were spoken caringly. “Why do I feel like you’ve gotten even thinner? Have you been eating properly? I put so much food in the fridge for you. Did you remember to eat?”
But in her head, she mentally slapped herself in. My goodness, she had totally forgotten that there was food in the fridge. She had actually served Lin Fan a bowl of simple noodles that morning! Every time her mother came, she would stuff her daughter’s fridge full. It was mostly prepared meals that only required simple cooking processes, like rice balls, dumplings, and beef jerky. Cheng Xi especially loved the beef jerky made of meat that her mother had specially procured from the countryside; it was tasty and hunger-relieving…… but she had forgotten to eat any of it!
When Cheng Xi’s mother saw her behavior, she began to doubt her daughter’s words. “You finished it all?”
Cheng Xi was very worried that her mother would want her to open the freezer to verify it, but luckily, she didn’t because she quickly thought of something even more concerning. “All you’re doing is staying at home, reading? You call this busy?”
Cheng Xi had to choose her next few words carefully. “There’s an examination next month that’ll heavily impact my career and future. I’ve been really busy recently and haven’t had much time to study up on it. Also, I have to meet a patient’s family later, and at night, there’s a meeting at the hospital.”
To sum it up in one short sentence, she was extremely busy.
After hearing her excuses, her mother turned to her father. “In the past, I thought that being a doctor was a good profession—at the very least, you didn’t have to worry about losing your job. While it’s true that we don’t have to worry about that happening to Cheng Xi now, with her life being like this, I’m worried she won’t even have time to get married and have children. And what if she ends up living at home alone, even in old age?”
Of course, what she had said at the very end was aimed directly at Cheng Xi. But she merely continued to flip through her books dispassionately, ignoring what her mother had said.
Her mother could only tug at Cheng XI’s father and say, “Your daughter isn’t listening to me. You talk to her.”
Her father felt somewhat embarrassed because even though Cheng XI was all grown up now, he hadn’t ever given her much advice, or even much scolding. Furthermore, given how sensible she was, he wasn’t too worried about her. Despite all that, he still had to carry out his wife’s order. In the end, he ambled to the screen, and softly urged Cheng Xi. “Darling, please listen to your mother’s words.”
Cheng Xi crisply replied, “Okay.”
And with that, her father felt like he had finished his task, so he turned around and said to his wife, “Look, I talked to her and she listened.”
Her mother stared at him, open-mouthed, and couldn’t decide as she vacillated between haranguing her daughter and criticizing her husband’s shortcomings.
With her mother’s harsh scolding as background noise, Cheng Xi continued to calmly read her books. Because her parents didn’t drag her into their conversation, she quickly forgot about them. She became quite engrossed in her books, enjoying even the densest and most monotonous of medical tomes; luckily, this book wasn’t uninteresting at all. It had been a gift from one of her classmates that had been specially bought overseas, an original English copy. The case studies within were very enriching, and one of them even mentioned Cotard’s syndrome. In this book, the patient was a middle-aged woman. After going through a divorce, being fired from her job, and losing her child all in a row, she had developed that illness. Her doctor had attempted to use some antidepressants to treat her. Initially, the treatment had seemed to be working well, and the patient was able to leave the hospital. But not long after she went home, she committed suicide.
The conclusion of the case study was that the patient did not receive sufficient care and love from her family members and had consequently lost her motivation to live. The takeaway message was that patients suffering from mental illnesses require more care and depend on their family members more than patients with conventional illnesses.
After reading this passage, Cheng Xi’s heart fell. She held her book, dazed, for quite a while, and was so entranced that she even forgot that she was still in a video call with her mother.
When the doorbell rang, she finally put down the book and realized that it had gotten quite late; the living room was draped in the setting dusk sun with only a sliver of light.
She rubbed her eyes, casually flicked the light on, and opened the door.
It was Lin Fan, but his whole body was steeped in the sour smell of alcohol, and he was haphazardly leaning back against her door frame. When he heard the door open, he turned around somewhat slowly.
“Cheng Xi,” he called out, his voice low and unfocused.
“Are you alright?”
He didn’t respond, only smiling at her briefly before his body stumbed and he landed in her lap.
“Ah-” Cheng Xi was flustered by his actions, and had to put in some serious effort to support and slowly drag him into the living room, eventually letting him fall asleep on her sofa.
When she noticed his red face and high body temperature, Cheng Xi got up to pour a cup of water for him. However, he unexpectedly reached out with his hand and abruptly caused her to slip on top of his body.
“You-” But before she could finish speaking, she heard her mother’s voice from behind her. “You! Cheng! Xi!”
She turned around fearing the worst, realizing too late that the phone she had placed on the coffee table earlier was still recording. The screen showed her mother’s dumbstruck face.
But soon after, her face disappeared from the screen, and Cheng Xi’s father’s big hand appeared again, this time ending the video call.
On their side was undoubtedly another big argument, but Cheng Xi couldn’t worry about it right now. She turned around, and saw that Lin Fan was watching her. He had a very nice pair of eyes; they were large and slightly bent at the sides, and they always held a somewhat hazy look when he looked at people, along with an unfathomable drop of melancholy.
That melancholy was particularly eye-catching, like the stained-glass lamp her grandmother made for her when she was small. In deep winter nights, it always made her want to remove the lampshade to see the colored light more clearly.
This time, his attractive eyes were accompanied by a half-smile dancing about his lips. The rims of his eyes were red, but his pupils were bright and alluring, more than enough to make one’s heart drunk.
She asked him, “Are you alright?”
He only looked at her.
“Lin Fan?” She carefully said, “Let me go. You’re drunk. I’ll get you a glass of water.”
These words finally shook him awake. “No!” As he said this, he pulled harder with his hand, tightly grasping her arm. “Cheng Xi……” He mumbled her name as he incoherently said, “Did you know? I’m so happy that he’s finally in, finally in!”
Cheng Xi stared at him blankly for a moment before asking, “He? As in, your father?”
“Father? Ha, father!” Lin Fan laughed as if he had heard a funny joke, and looked at her with smiling eyes. “I don’t have a father. He’s not my father!” He grabbed her even harder; Cheng Xi had originally been using her hands to keep herself steady on the sofa, but this time, she was completely pulled forward by his strength, and helplessly fell onto his chest.
He slowly raised himself toward her head, and then lightly whispered into her ear, “I’ll tell you a secret. I’m not his son!”
Cheng Xi gave him a look of surprise. His face still carried a smile, almost as if he had said something amazing.
“You don’t believe me?” he asked.
Cheng Xi shook her head. “No.”
Actually, she just didn’t want to keep listening to him in this kind of situation, but this wasn’t a decision she could make. Lin Fan was still smiling, but that smile made her feel even worse than if he was crying. “I’m a bastard. My mom was already carrying me when she married him. At that time, he said that he wouldn’t mind and would take care of both her and me. However, when I was born, he and his mother almost drowned me. My mom said that they tried twice, but I didn’t die either time. In the end, they only let me live because they couldn’t keep trying.” When Lin Fan saw the shock on Cheng Xi’s face, he looked even happier. “You don’t believe me, do you? Actually, I don’t either. That man, with his refined and polite look, doesn’t look at all like someone who would do something like that. But in truth, he’s a parasite, a leech, a gambler, and a fraud. My mom didn’t dare have another child for a long period of time, so he beat her and he beat me. When she finally gave birth to a daughter, he ignored her. And when my mom was unable to get out of bed, he… So, to sum it up, Cheng Xi, I’m actually very happy that he’s finally gotten what he deserves. His mother is dead, his daughter is crazy, and he himself is in prison. In the end, with nothing to his name, he even has to rely on us to take care of his daughter. Hahaha, karma actually exists, doesn’t it?”
After he poured his heart out, Lin Fan started laughing loudly, so much so that he started choking and curled up into a ball in response, so much so that he even started tearing up.
But he was still holding onto to her desperately, his hand gripping her exactly where Chen Jiaman had bitten her, where her wound was wide and deep, and where the swelling had just died down. This hold was so painful that Cheng Xi involuntarily sucked in a deep breath and could only lay there, paralyzed, by his side.
The two of them had been positioned in quite the suggestive position earlier, and now it was even more so after he had clambered forward. As she fell down, her head had landed on his abdomen. She didn’t feel like it was a big deal, but the person who just burst in was so surprised that he almost jumped up in shock. “F*ck! Am I blind? Are you really hiding a man behind Lu Chenzhou’s back, Dr. Cheng? Are you crazy?!”
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