Chapter 3: The Arrival of Childhood Friends (Part 3)
After coming back to reality, I felt a bunch of mixed feelings. There was some awkwardness but I managed to give a smile, “A friend that I’ve played with for three years, how could I not remember? Come in and take a seat!”
I moved tables, chairs, and beckoned for them to sit. Jiang Yisheng told me to stop doing this for nothing, but I didn’t listen to him. I ran into the kitchen and sliced the remaining half of the watermelon. I calmed down only after the slices of watermelon were orderly placed on the fruit platter.
I carried the fruit platter and the fruit forks out of the kitchen. I saw Wu Julan, Jiang Yisheng, and Zhou Buwen sitting with each other, and with the help of icebreakers, started to talk. Wu Julan introduced himself with a smile, “My name is Wu Julan. I’m little Luo’s cousin. I just came to the island yesterday afternoon.”
I stumbled a bit and almost slammed the fruit platter on Wu Julan’s head. Wu Julan seemed to be well prepared. He held me, took the fruit platter off my hands and placed it on the table. Then, he smiled at me and said, “Little Luo is used to being independent. She doesn’t like to trouble others for little things. However, the more she’s like this, the more I worry. Anyways, I have a lot of freedom at work so I came to accompany her for a while.”
Zhou Buwen asked, “What is Mr. Wu’s occupation?”
“Programming, or also known as coding. This type of job can be done anywhere, as long as I submit my work on time according to the client’s requirements.”
You’re a programmer? Who was the one poking at the computer screen this morning? I glared at Wu Julan.
Wu Julan smiled widely at me, dragging me to sit next to him, and very politely said to Zhou Buwen, “Just call me Wu Julan, or else I’ll have to call you Mr. Zhou.”
Jiang Yisheng half-believingly complained, “Little Luo, you never told me that you had such an amazing cousin.”
I laughed and said, “Have some watermelon everyone.” I also didn’t know that I had a cousin, but he understood very well where he stood. He peacefully entered my house and didn’t cause me trouble. I decided to take back my “can’t lie and moral” rating of him. It’s not that he doesn’t know how to lie, but that he is a clever liar so he doesn’t care to tell the small lies that don’t cause any harm.
Jiang Yisheng and Zhou Buwen looked at me as if they didn’t want to further talk about my cousin. They also knew that I had an awkward relationship with my mom, so they didn’t bring it up.
Zhou Buwen signaled at the pretty girl beside him and said, “Little Luo, let me introduce you guys. Zhou Buyan, my cousin.”
I smiled and said, “Hello, my name is Shen Luo. I used to be Zhou Buwen’s neighbor, and good friend.”
Zhou Buyan sweetly smiled and replied, “Hello, *Sister Shen, I frequently hear my *brother talk about you, I’ve always wanted to meet you!”
[T/N: Sister is referring to a female older than you but not old enough to be your mom. Brother is referring to Zhou Buwen.]
I felt that she meant something else, but I can’t tell what it was, so I could only politely smile.
Zhou Buwen apologized to me, “I’m sorry about yesterday. I knew it was you but I pretended like we were complete strangers.”
I said, “I understand, you did it for my good.” According to Stepmother’s temper, if she knew that I was familiar with the estate lawyer, she would definitely suspect that the testament was forged.
Jiang Yisheng said, “Let’s not just focus on talking. Let’s first decide what we’ll eat tonight!”
Zhou Buwen and Jiang Yisheng were talking about where we should go to eat. I was very tired from running around today and didn’t have much enthusiasm, so I just said “yeah, yeah, yeah” and went along with whatever they were saying.
Zhou Buwen smiled and said, “It’s so torturous to go here and go there. What’s important is that this is a reunion of old friends, so what we eat isn’t important. How about we just order takeout?”
I wanted to be more welcoming and call the order, but Jiang Yisheng looked at me and said, “Coincidentally, I also don’t feel like going anywhere, I’ll order a takeout!” He’s a famous main surgeon on the island. No one would want to reject him. Takeout stores that don’t usually deliver takeout at this time would be willing to deliver if he was the one that called them.
Jiang Yisheng asked everyone what they preferred to eat, and then placed an order over the phone.
Half an hour later, a guy riding on an electric motorcycle delivered the takeout order. Jiang Yisheng ordered BBQ. There were two big plastic boxes. One contained different types of skewers packed tightly with two layers of aluminum foil. They were kept clean and warm. When the aluminum foil was removed, it was still steaming. The other box contained ice which kept the drinks and beverages cold.
I looked at the roasted fish, roasted shrimp, roasted mushrooms, roasted oysters, and roasted corn on the table…There were around twenty different types of skewers that filled my sight. This restaurant is very famous on the island because their ingredients are fresh and their food tastes good. Every night, there is a long line of people. They don’t even accept reservations. One call from Jiang Yisheng had them obediently deliver takeout. I had no choice but to applaud Jiang Yisheng.
Jiang Yisheng went from being a guest to the host, he smiled and looked at everyone, “Eat the food while it’s warm. If it’s not enough, we’ll order some more. Eating there and having them deliver the food takes around the same amount of time.”
A few people held beer, made a toast, and celebrated the reunion of old friends. After drinking a cup of beer, the atmosphere started to warm up.
Zhou Buwen handed me a stick of roasted squid, “This was your favorite when you were little. I don’t know if you still like it as much now?”
I took it and smiled, “I still do.” I only ate a bowl of rice noodles at noon, so I was really hungry, and it was something I like to eat. I immediately took a big bite.
I ate to my heart’s content while looking at Wu Julan. I originally worried that he wouldn’t be used to eating these types of food. I didn’t expect him to smile at me after eating a bite of roasted fish, then took another bite which shows that he likes the food from this restaurant.
At the same time I felt relieved, I sadly sighed. I guess it’s just that I don’t cook well.
Wu Julan and Zhou Buyan both knew that they were just accompanying guests, so they silently ate the whole time.
I’ve never been a social person since I was little, I didn’t talk much. I just listened to Jiang Yisheng and Zhou Buwen talk. From their conversation, I roughly knew Zhou Buwen’s situation—He went with his parents to Malaysia, and after graduating from highschool, he went to America for university. Now, he has settled in Fuzhou. He’s now working at a popular law company. His parents are healthy and he’s single.
Judging from his character, I could tell that his step dad treats him very well, so he affectionately says “Dad”. If I wasn’t an old friend that knew the details, I definitely would’ve thought that he was his biological father.
Jiang Yisheng and I were both smart people. We purposely avoided the past whether Zhou Buwen wanted to or not. We also didn’t ask when he changed his name. I removed the “Li” surname from the way I called him. I only called him “big head”, as if his name was always Zhou Buwen.
Only after Jiang Yisheng and Zhou Buwen finished talking about their business, and worriedly started to talk about me, I realize both of them were outstanding people of society. They aren’t missing anything, except a girlfriend. In comparison, I’m the most miserable one. In Beijing, a place full of talented people, I had average standards, and a very normal job. As of today, I don’t even have that job. I’m unemployed.
Zhou Buwen caringly asked, ”What do you plan to do? Do you plan to go back to Beijing for work?”
I replied, “I can’t get used to living in Beijing, so I don’t want to go back to Beijing.”
Zhou Buwen said, “You can consider Fuzhou, I can help you find a job.”
Zhou Buyan interrupted with a smile, “Usually, my brother loves to trick people, yet sounds so sincere when he’s talking to Sister Shen. Sister Shen, don’t listen to how modest my brother sounds. He’ll definitely be able to get you a good job. Uncle has a company in Fuzhou that definitely needs employees.”
Jiang Yisheng already started to seriously think about this even before I could say anything. “Fuzhou isn’t bad. It’s not too far and the food and weather is similar to the food and weather here. What will happen to this old house if you leave? This house will probably be desolated if no one’s living here.”
Zhou Buyan said, “Sister Shen, coincidentally I have something I wanted to discuss with you.”
I confusingly asked, “What is it?”
Zhou Buyan bit her lip and said, “I went around the island since I was bored, and discovered that the old houses here are very interesting. I really like it here, and I also really like the old houses here made of stone. I originally wanted to buy one, but after conversing with an innkeeper, I realised that these old houses are not for sale. The government doesn’t allow the selling and buying, so outsiders can only get a long term lease. That innkeeper does have a long term lease for twenty years. I really liked this house after walking in. Since Sister Shen is going somewhere else for work, and this house will be empty, how about you rent it long term to me? I’m willing to pay one hundred thousand per year.”
I felt surprised when I heard one hundred thousand. As far as I know, even those old houses with great location and a sea view don’t cost more than seventy to eight thousand dollars per year. Whether it was the fact that Zhou Buyan saved her money or the fact that it was because Zhou Buwen was here, she was already very generous. I smiled and said, “Thank you for liking this house, but I do not have any plans of renting it out as for now.”
Zhou Buyan glanced at Zhou Buwen and said with a bit of implority, “Sister Shen is afraid that I’ll destroy the house, right? Sister Shen, rest assured. I don’t plan to rent it for business. I just want to live here for a few months per year. At most, there will be some rearrangements, I will definitely not change the structure.”
Zhou Buwen spoke in support, “Buyan has learned art from a young age, and she is a jewelry designer. She really likes old houses, antique furniture, and antique jewelry. She really cherishes old items. You really can trust her.”
Jiang Yisheng was clearly moved, and tried to convince me, “Little Luo, old houses need people in it. If it’s empty, it will break down quickly. Anyways, you’re going out to work and so the house will be empty. How about you just rent it to Buyan! The lease agreement can be shortened. We’re all friends, so everything can be discussed.”
Zhou Buyan continuously nodded her head, “Yeah, yeah!”
We’ve already talked to this point, I had no choice but to be honest, “If I plan to leave the island for work, I would definitely rent this house to Buyan. However, I want to stay and live here alone.”
The three were shocked. Aside from fishing and tourism, there were no other economic industries, excluding special jobs like that of Jiang Yisheng. The young people on the island leave the island if they can, since there are more opportunities and money.
Jiang Yisheng asked, “What do you plan to do while staying here?”
I embarrassingly said, “I plan to open an inn.”
Jiang Yisheng picked up a barbeque kebab and slowly ate while saying, “Even though I feel like it’s irresponsible, if you really want to do it, I’ll support you.”
“Thank you!” I raised my cup and had a toast with Jiang Yisheng.
Zhou Buyan was unhappy. It was written all over her face.
Zhou Buwen picked up the wine bottle, smiled, and said, “Once Little Luo opens her own inn, you can come and live on this island anytime you want! Won’t that be great?”
Zhou Buyan reacted, hurriedly picked up her cup, smiled and replied, “Then I’ll wait till for sister Shen’s inn to open.
We made a toast, and wished that my inn would open soon and the money would come rolling in.
We ate, drank and laughed till around ten o’clock at night. Then Zhou Buwen and Jiang Yisheng got up and said goodbye.
Zhou Buwen stood at the yard’s door and looked at me. He wanted to say something but stopped.
Jiang Yisheng is smart. He immediately figured out what was going on and dragged and coaxed Zhou Buyan away to give Zhou Buwen a chance to speak with me privately. It’s a pity that Wu Julan stood behind me the whole time, so Zhou Buwen had to push down all the hesitation, and sadly left.
I lived with my stepfather, then lived with my stepmother. The days where *I lived under the fence made me become very observant from a young age. It’s not that I couldn’t tell what Zhou Buwen wanted to say. It’s just that his appearance today was too sudden, so I wasn’t prepared to have a good talk with him. I just pretended to not know.
[T/N: living under the fence means that she lived like a slave.]
I closed the yard door, and walked up the stairs absentmindedly.
I sat on the bed in a daze for a while, then suddenly searched my cabinets. I pulled out a storage box from under my bed that contained items from when I was little. A steel biscuit tin that contained some random small stuff and at the bottom of it all was the first confession letter that I had received in my life.
I didn’t carefully read it. I just stroked it with my hand. After a long time, the letter was a little softer and a little yellow. The words on the letter looked more and more childish, but the time condensed between the lines was the wonderful time of two innocent children’s need to rely on each other for warmth.
I looked at it and couldn’t resist but smiled slightly. The happiness of reuniting after a long time didn’t emerge until this moment.
Those years, while I was beside my grandpa and experiencing peaceful and warm days, I worried about Zhou Buwen countless times. I was worried that his step father would hate him. I was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to continue studying. I was worried that he would accidentally learn bad things and be led astray.
Time separated us and time brought us back together.
I know that his step father treated him very well. Not only did he finish his studies, but he studied at a prestigious university abroad. Now, he had a warm home, a very good occupation, and a cousin who he gets along well with.
I smiled while thinking, the process isn’t important, what is important is that we all grew up well. This was the best thing!
After all these years, the stuff I had been worrying about for years was finally resolved. I smiled as I neatly folded the letter and placed it back into the steel biscuit can.
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