No Li Chuan in this chapter, sadly. However, it gives a glimpse into how much Xiao Qiu cares for him. She’s not one to wear her emotions on her sleeves, but the fact that he basically disappears does take a toll on her. It’s clear that she has fallen hard for him. Why he avoids her despite him also liking her that much is still unclear at this point, but will become a much larger hurdle in the future.
Before I returned to the dorm room, I first went to the floor’s bathroom to tidy up myself. I took off the sweater, got rid of the leaves in my hair, and then put on Li Chuan’s collared-shirt before walking into the dorm room.
I originally wanted to slip in, crawl into bed, and change my clothes stealthily. But, the room was completely lit with candles. I saw An An, Xiao Rui, and Wei Hai Xia each drinking a cup of milk tea, sitting by their beds, eating sunflower seeds.
When they saw me, everyone shrieked, surprised that I was wearing a man’s shirt.
“You’re making really quick progress…” The three of them chuckled together.
I hurriedly stashed the sweater onto my bed.
“That’s not it. I got too hot from walking and was covered in sweat, so I took off my sweater.” I drew water, washed my face and hands, removing all evidence.
“Did Wang Ge Ge find you at the dance hall?” Xiao Rui asked. “He had come just after you left. He asked where you where and I pointed him towards the dance hall.” Xiao Rui didn’t go to the dance hall often since she disliked the poor sound system it had.
“No, I saw him only after the dancing finished.”
“No way. Doesn’t that mean he waited at the door for you for two hours?”
Really? The autumn air was so cold and he was in just a collared-shirt.
“Then I don’t know.” So that I wouldn’t them with more gossip material, I simply said that one sentence. However, exhaustion was written all over my face. They all saw it. I climbed into bed, got under the covers, and toss and turned, unable to sleep. By two in the morning, I finally thought it through. Li Chuan was an adult, he would know how to take care of himself. Li Chuan had money, even if he didn’t have time to take care of himself, he could also find someone to take care of him. I’m not anyone to him and couldn’t do anything for him. It also didn’t seem like he wanted me to do anything for him. In short, I don’t need to worry for him.
And then, I spend another half hour thinking about all the times we were together. I realized that since the day we met, I had been causing him trouble. The first time, I spilt coffee over him. The second time, I caused him to have to walk from the school gates to the dormitory door in the middle of the night with me. The third time, I forced him to go watch a movie with me, and then with the dormitory door locked, I had no choice but to stay in his home. And then it was tonight, allowing him to suffer a beating in vain for me. I seemed to be a jinx in his life.
And then, I concluded that the cause of all of these wrongs was my irresponsible infatuation, my young and inexperienced desires.
Confucius says to examine yourself in three ways each day. (From the The Analects by Confucius: Zeng Zi said, “Everyday I examine myself on three counts. In what I have undertaken on another’s behalf, have I failed to do my best? In my dealings with friends have I failed to be honest and trustworthy? Have I failed to practice repeatedly what has been passed on to me?”)
At five in the morning, I got up to go running and memorize vocab. In the cold late autumn wind, I couldn’t help but run to a small convenience store to make a call to Li Chuan. To ask him how last night was. Whether he was alright.
The phone rang several times and it was just an answering machine message, “The number you have called is currently turned off. Please call again later.”
Perhaps he was too tired and turned off his phone to sleep. I remembered I had previously urged Li Chuan to buy a small fridge to put by his bedside so that he didn’t have to get up every night and go to the kitchen to drink milk. Li Chuan said that he dreaded noise when sleeping, especially the sound of machines.
I finished memorizing vocab, ate breakfast, went to a class, and got back at ten o’clock. I went to the convenience store again to make a call. Still, no one answered, it was the same message, “The number you have called is currently turned off. Please call again later.”
I carefully recalled every detail from last night. The forest was too dark and I couldn’t see clearly. But the campus police definitely kicked him a few times. I didn’t know where the kicks landed. Afterwards, he wouldn’t say at all. I worried that that person kicked Li Chuan where he had once been injured before. There were no bones there, only a thin layer of flesh covering his internal organs. When Li Chuan walked, he completely relied on his waist to move the prosthetic leg. So walking for an extended period of time was a form of torment to him. But Li Chuan walked too well, so well that you could barely see any unbalance in his walk, it was a facade for others. It was as if he walked the same as any normal person who didn’t have to expend such energy.
I continued with classe. The next time I got off class, it was already noon. I went to make another call and still got the same message. I couldn’t sit still and went to the school entrance to get a taxi, “Long Ze Garden, please, sir.”
There was no heater in the car, it was quite cold. The driver joked, “Long Ze Garden. Miss, you are going to the place where rich people live.”
“Really? I’m going to go see a friend.”
“Long Ze Garden can be considered the richest housing development in Beijing. Even square meter is forty thousand yuan.” The driver stuck out his tongue, “Your friend’s house must be pretty large, right?”
“He lives in the penthouse.”
“My god, the penthouse? Are you sure you saw correctly?”
“What’s wrong with the penthouse?”
“Do you know how large the penthouse is?”
“How would I know?”
“I know. Last year, when they were selling the houses, I drove past it before and saw the ad. The top floor only has one unit, more than five hundred square meters. Even if it was five hundred square meters, five hundred times four. Twenty million. Miss, what does your friend do?”
I started to sweat a little inside. No wonder the security guard of the building looked at me like that. With the way I was dressed and made up, how did I walk into such a high rise? I might as well have been delivering pizza.
Getting out of the car, I walked into the loby and found the security guard. It was still that security guard, I said, “I want to see Mr. Wang Li Chuan. Can I trouble you to give him a call and ask him to come down?”
The security guard stared at me and asked, “You don’t have an appointment? If you have an appointment, Mr. Wang would tell me in advance.”
But he knew I knew Li Chuan and didn’t dare to offend me, so he said, “Ok, I’ll give his home a call and see if he’s there.”
He made the call, but no one picked up. The security guard said, “He isn’t home. Why don’t you wait here for him. There are couches over there.”
I walked to the west lobby and sat down on the genuine leather couches. I found there was a table next to it that actually provided free coffee. I poured myself a cup, added sugar and milk, and then took out a textbook to read from my backpack.
I didn’t have Li Chuan’s work number. If he went to work, the chances were slim that he would come back at noon. But, if he really could go to work, he wouldn’t have turned off his cell phone.
I sat there for a long time and waited for a long time. I sat there straight until three in the afternoon, until my stomach started rumbling with hunger, before I saw some I knew walk in from the entrance.
Ji huan quickly saw me and walked over to greet me, “I’ve seen this lady before, but I still know your name.”
“Xie Xiao Qiu.”
“Miss Xie, are you waiting for someone here?”
“Yes,” I felt my face turn red, “Mr. Ji, have you seen Li Chuan today?”
“No. Do you have his number?”
“His cell phone is turned off.”
“Then you have his cell phone number.” Ji Huan repeated what I said. It was clear that Li Chuan didn’t easily give out his cell phone number.
“Did you call his company and ask yet? Li Chuan is a workaholic and wouldn’t easily disappear from work.”
“I don’t know where he works.” I confessed.
Ji Huan was startled for a bit and asked with a laugh, “He gave you his cell phone number, but didn’t tell you where he worked?”
“I never asked.”
He stared at me again for a bit as if he couldn’t believe it, and then said, “I have his office number, do you want me to call and ask?”
“Would that trouble you?”
He entered a number and gave the cell phone to me, “Seeing you so anxious, why don’t you ask yourself.”
This time, the phone was connected and answered within two seconds, “CGP Architects, hello.”
It was the sweet voice of a young female secretary.
“I…I am looking for Mr. Wang Li Chuan.”
“May I ask which company the lady is from?”
“I am a friend of his, looking for him about something.”
“Oh, please wait a moment.”
I heard silence on the other end. After ten seconds, an unfamiliar male voice came through speaking very perfect Mandarin.
“Miss, I am Su Qun, Mr. Wang’s work assistant. May I ask what the lady’s name is?”
“My surname is Xie.”
“Miss Xie, what are you looking for Mr. Li Chuan for?”
“Can Mr. Wang not come to the phone right now?” I returned with a question.
“Mr. Wang’s is not feeling to well. He didn’t come to work and is unable to entertain guests.”
I guessed right, and then my voice began to shake.
“I am at Long Ze Garden. Li Chuan…Mr. Wang…is not home. Did something happen to him?” What I said was clearly illogical, because my mind had started to turn to other thoughts. Could he have suffered internal injuries? Could his internal organs have suddenly hemorrhaging? Could he have fainted at home?
The person was quiet for a moment, as if he was carefully considering his wording. Finally he said, “Mr. Wang is currently in the hospital.”
“I’m sorry, I cannot say. Mr. Wang does not wish to be disturbed.” It appeared that he thought his voice was a bit too firm and continued, “If the lady has something you would like passed on, I am very willing to help you convey it to Mr. Wang.”
No comment. Mr. Wang didn’t want to be disturbed. I thought over what he said and my heart became a bit cold.
“There isn’t.” I said, “There’s nothing I want to say. Goodbye.”
I hung my head, hung up, and handed the cell phone back to Ji Huan, “Than you. Li Chuan is in the hospital.”
“In the hospital?” Ji Huan said, “I’ve know him for two years, and have never seen him get sick.”
“I still have class in the afternoon, I take my leave.” Ji Huan’s looked as if he still had questions, but I didn’t want to say anymore.
Li Chuan was sick, he wasn’t picking up my calls. He didn’t want me to go see him.
I got on the bus, and absent-mindedly got on towards the wrong direction. When I got off the bus, I saw a park and sat down to cry alone in the park. At night I went to the café to work. Everything was as it was before. No one saw through my state of mind. At night, I lay on my bed, hugging Li Chuan’s shirt, unable to sleep for a long time.
I didn’t call Li Chuan again. For the whole entire month after that, I didn’t see him.
I did pretty well on my mid-term exams. An average of ninety. Even though it was fifty points off from my target, my score was still way ahead of the others in my dorm room. With the exception of Feng Jing Er. Feng Jing Er also realized that I had become her competition. With a tough opponent for the Hong Yu fund, I studied even more diligently. The classmates in my dorm room had teased me about my short romance and weren’t very supportive. They had already expected this. Although, at one point, Lu Jie complained to me about how Li Chuan wasn’t replying to her email. I said that Li Chuan was sick and she didn’t ask anymore. Evidently, she thought I was just giving an excuse.
Besides the weekends, I still went to the café every night. But I didn’t see Li Chuan at all. Xiao Ye’s hatred towards me lessened a bit. I’m saying “a bit” because she was still indifferent towards me. But she also didn’t pick at my mistakes. After finishing work, she would sit alone with her elbows on the table and become lost in thought. I ignored her. Li Chuan was the object of many girls’ infatuations. Perhaps I was just the luckiest out of all of them.
There were still two weeks before people took off in chaos for school break. I thought of my father and studied even harder. I wanted to give Father a certificate from the school. I wanted to tell Father that I had gotten the scholarship. My father still insisted on sending me money every month. He knew what he sent wasn’t much. Fifty yuan wasn’t enough at all in Beijing. But he wrote to say, Daddy can only do this much. A little support is still a little. Try not to work if you can, school work is the most important. That was a Monday. When I received Dad’s letter, I though, I must try my best to study in these two weeks. Then I can rest properly when I return to Yunnan for vacation. However, I passed by the administrative office that day and chanced upon the president walking towards me. I was going to avoid him, believing that he didn’t recognize me. Unexpectedly, he actually greeted me, “Classmate!”
“Where is your proposal? When can I see it?” He asked.
That night, I wrote a proposal in earnest. I suddenly remember that Li Chuan had agreed to edit my proposal. So I asked Lu Jie for his email. Actually I didn’t just hope for him to edit my proposal, I was merely using it as an excuse to ask how he was doing. Whether he was out of the hospital yet. I went to the internet café and signed up for a Yahoo email account. I wrote to an email to him in english:
“Hello, Li Chuan. Long time no see. How is your health? Have you been discharged from the hospital yet? I wrote a proposal, if it’s convenient, can you help me edit it? Thanks, Xiao Qiu.”
I wrote it offhandedly and sent it. In that moment, when it sent, I regretted it. All of this was already going to be left unresolved. Why did I want to go and look for him again? I was being way too careless trying to look for him. Even if the email was considered courteous, how could I be so thoughtless. Wasn’t I the one who caused him to get sick? I scolded myself.
On Tuesday, I had an important exam and didn’t go to the internet café to check email. On Wednesday night, when I opened my mailbox, I saw a reply. I hadn’t even opened the email to look at the contents before my tears rushed out. It was a reply in English, a long one. First he helped me edit my proposal. He basically changed every sentence. The word count after he edited it far surpassed my original word count. And then he said he was still in the hospital. It was pneumonia and he was afraid of infecting me. The hospital also didn’t permit electronics, so he couldn’t make a call. And then he said he didn’t want me to see him sick. He would come see me as soon as he was discharged.
I immediately replied, “Li Chuan, I want to see you now!!!” I added three exclamation points.
After a second, I received his reply, “No.”
I would not back down, and wrote, “Tell me which hospital you are at. I’m not afraid of being infected.”
He replied again, “No means no.”
I left the internet café in anger.