This chapter opens the door a little more to Xiao Qiu’s upbringing. It, hopefully, answers some questions about why she seems mature for her age. I think I’m a little torn between understanding her dad’s actions in this chapter and supporting Xiao Qiu for following in his footsteps. Then again, this chapter setups up nicely for some more time with Li Chuan. 🙂
I flew on a plane for the first time, sitting in first class. It was too bad that I had a shortcoming. That was, I didn’t care too much about my surroundings.
In other words, regardless of whether the conditions were good or bad, as far as I’m concerned, it was all about the same. As long as the seats in the cabin were spacious and could be reclined for sleeping. I was perfectly satisfied.
I was woken up by Li Chuan in the middle of my dreams. He had me take a wake-up bath, purposely making the water cold. But while sitting in the bathtub, I fell asleep again. I brought three travel bags in addition to a backpack. None of them were very big, but I didn’t have any larger bags to put them all in. Li Chuan said one could tell with one glance that I was someone who didn’t normally travel. The less bags, the better when traveling. He took out everything in the three bags and put them into the suitcase he used when he traveled and locked it. I had filled the suitcase with useless stuff. Roast duck, salted duck, beef jerky, dried fish, salted peanuts, new backpack, and an entire stationary set. They were all things my younger brother liked. The five bottles of medicine and a fleece jacket of high quality were for my dad. There were various packages of fruit snacks, dried fruit, and candy. They were for giving to relatives, friends, and classmates.
I watched Li Chuan pack up the suitcase for me in revere. Dividing and categorizing, arranging it neatly.
“Why does your suitcase have a white ten character on it? Why isn’t it a red ten?” I asked, pointing to the logo. (The Chinese character for ten is basically a cross: 十)
“I’m from Switzerland.”
I looked at him, not understanding.
“Have you ever seen a Swiss Army knife?”
“If I criticize your lack of international knowledge, would you get mad?”
“Then forget it.” He signed, “In any case, with the state you are in, you wouldn’t remember even if I told you.”
“Oh, thank you for helping me pack my luggage. I will sleep a little more.” I dozed off on the couch.
“You can’t sleep anymore. You have to leave now.”
“Just ten minutes, okay?”
He thought about it, looking at me grudgingly, “Then sleep. If I knew you were so tired, I should have bought a ticket for tomorrow or the day after.”
I didn’t know how I left Long Ze Garden. In short, I fell asleep again in Li Chuan’s car. He woke me up when we got to the airport, “Xiao Qiu, once you get on the plane, you don’t have to worry about anything, just sleep. Someone will wake you up.”
“Oh.” I yawned in a haze, “Li Chuan, buy me a cup of coffee. I’m tired.”
“Don’t drink coffee.” He said, “You just didn’t get enough sleep. Drinking anything won’t help.”
“Seriously, it’s not as if I haven’t stayed up all night before…”
In a daze, I don’t remember what I said to him and how I bid him farewell. I entered the cabin of the plane, found my seat, secured my seat belt as the first thing, and then pulled up the blanket.
A middle aged portly uncle sat next to me with a nice suit.
“Miss, is this your first time on a plane?” He wanted to strike up a conversation with me.”
“Uh-huh.” I was very cordial, but I was very tired, so I didn’t pick up the conversation.
“By yourself?” He said.
“For lunch there will be Häagen-Dazs. Don’t forget to ask for it from the flight attendant.”
“Okay, okay. Thank you, Uncle.” (It’s customary to call older men Uncles and older women Aunties, whether or not they are related to you.)
I originally wanted to ask what Häagen-Dazs was. Thought about it and didn’t ask to avoid saying even more.
Just in time, the plane started taking off and everyone became silent.
Taking advantage of this, I promptly put on my eyemask.
When I woke up, the uncle told me that there were only five minutes before we arrived at Kunming. While sleeping, I had missed the following gourmet foods:
— Canton Soup, premium cold cuts, different types of fruit, assorted dessert, numerous cheese samples, fancy pastries.
— Wenchang chicken, coconut fish fillet, dried fruit with chicken, brine chicken, coconut rice, Yangzhou fried rice.
— Spareribs, various seafood, warm poultry dishes.
— Cantonese cuisine, Cantonese soup, mushroom pigeon soup, conch shell stew with duck.
— Cantonese wonton noodles, sweet potato noodles.
— An entire set of Western-style food, foreign wine.
The uncle said that he and the flight attendant tried to wake me up, but failed. The plane was landing already.
However, the uncle said that he asked the flight attendant to pack up lunch for me to go. He mainly choose cold dishes and pastries so that I could still eat them after getting of the plane.
I was moved to tears and kept thanking him
After getting off the plane and claiming my luggage, I took the airport shuttle to the bus station. I rode for three and a half hours before finally getting home!
There was no phone at home. Daddy only knew that I would get home sometime this week. As for which day, he was completely unclear of. My younger brother, Xiao Dong’s high school was also on vacation. When my brother saw me, he immediately started complaining, “Jie (Older sister) , you’re finally home! Dad’s cooking is disgusting!”
Seriously, it was a waste to grow up with this kid. He could only remember this about me.
In order to save money, Xiao Dong rode a bike for twenty minutes to come home and eat lunch. Before, I would always pack up three lunches in the morning. One for dad, one for brother, and one for myself. Everyone would bring it to school to heat up and eat. Afterwards, when I was preparing for the college entrance exam, Dad was determined to take on this job. His dishes were hard to force down for me, Xiao Dong couldn’t stand it and cried about it every day. So I had to make a huge bowl of fish and five-spice tofu on the weekends for him to bring some everyday. Once I left, brother said, Dad took on a senior year class. His responsibility grew and his burden was heavier so he would always forget to make lunch ahead of time. It was only after he finished with class and was more relaxed before he rushed home to make a meal.
“Where’s Dad?” I asked.
“Went to score exams. He said he would return at five to change the gas.”
“What about you? You’re already grown up. Dad is sick and you still let him change the gas?” Hearing all this, I was already concerned and gave him a kick.
“I said I’ll change it but he wouldn’t let me saying that I was still young and might hurt my waist.”
“Dad’s not home, right?” I went to move the gas tank. “How about this, I’m not afraid of hurting my waist. I’ll go change it.”
“You are a woman, you’ll have to give birth in the future. You can’t hurt your waist.” Xiao Dong cried out loudly, rushed over, seized the gas tank, and biked away in a blink.
“He’s finally grown up. He knows to be concerned about his older sister now.” I was very gratified and praised him as he disappeared from view.
I quickly changed my clothes, changed my shoes, and went to the market with the grocery basket.
“Xiao Qiu’s back?”
“Hi, that’s right.”
“Xiao Qiu’s back!”
“Hi, Uncle Qian.”
“Xiao Qiu’s back, come to Auntie Fen’s home for a meal tomorrow! I’ll make Chinese chestnut chicken and lemon duck. You must also have a chat with my failure of a second son. He’s taking the college entrance exam this year. Please?”
“Oh course, of course!”
This is what a small village is like. Every uncle and aunty knew me.
I bought groceries and went to to a small convenience store to make a long distance call. When I had gotten home, I found that my cell phone was continuously searching for signal. While constantly “searching”, it quickly ran out of batteries. I changed the batteries and took a look again. It still couldn’t find a signal, so I threw the cell phone into my bag and came out to find a place to make a long distance call. I dialed Li Chuan’s number.
“Li Chuan, I’m here!”
“Really? That was quite fast.” He said over there.
“Are you still in Beijing?”
“I’m in Xiamen. I arrived before you.”
“Li Chuan, thank you for buying a plane ticket for me, packing up my luggage, and lending me the suitcase. And…” Li Chuan had helped me with too much, too much for me to say thanks for.
“You’re welcome. Can you use your cellphone?”
“No, it can’t find a signal. I’m in a small convenience store calling you.”
“Is it expensive?”
“It’s quite expensive, I won’t say anymore.”
“Wait,” he said, “I put an ATM card in the pocket of the suitcase. The passcode is 0907. I know you don’t want my money. This isn’t a lot of money. It’s only as a precaution.”
“No, no, no. Really, I don’t need it!”
“Xiao Qiu, listen to me.”
“Mmmm.” My voice was somewhat choked with emotion, “I miss you.”
“I miss you too.”
“Why is is 0907, does it have a meaning?”
“It’s my birthday. Do you remember, that day, you spilled coffee over me?”
“How can it be that day?” For some reason, my mouth tasted salty. My tears silently flowed out.
“It means we were brought together by fate.”
“That day is also my birthday.”
“It’s true. I’ll show you my ID when I get back.”
I thought that ever since my mom passed away, there was no one else in the world who would take care of me anymore. Even with my dad and my brother, I thought this way. Even though I was their daughter and older sister, it could be said that I was just their mother. I’ve only celebrated my birthday three times. They were all when my mom was still living. My mom’s death was a huge blow to my dad. In these ten plus years, he’s lived muddleheaded without even knowing who he was. Therefore, Xiao Dong and I never celebrated a birthday. It was even taboo to mention birthdays because Xiao Dong’s birthday is my mom’s memorial day.
“Xiao Qiu…how can I contact you?”
“I’ll call you once in a while. There will be a way.” I retrained my tears because Auntie Zhang, who owned the store, was close to my dad. I didn’t dare to act impetuously in her store.
“Wish you a happy Chinese New Year. Bye.”
“Take care of yourself. Bye.”
I hid under a small tree, wiped dry my tears, and restored my mood. I put on some powder to appear fair skinned. Then, I carried the grocery basket and slowly walked home.
When I was almost home, I say my dad in the distance. He was standing in the doorway alone. The sun shined on his face and I couldn’t see it clearly.
“You’re back.” It was strange, he didn’t smile.
“Dad, I bought a bunch of groceries. Tonight, I’ll cook a delicious meal for you guys.” I went up to hug him and became aware of his stiff body.
“Dad! What’s wrong?”
“Did you take a plane back?” His tone was cold.
My heart dropped at once.
“First class?” He sized me up as if he didn’t recognize me, “Where did you get the money for it?”
I didn’t say anything. I wasn’t very good at lying, especially in front of my dad.
“…Um…A friend lent it. I couldn’t get a train ticket.”
“What friend? Boyfriend?” He looked at me coldly, “For him to help you in this way, what price did you pay?”
“Come with me.” His hand grasped me like an iron claw. He was practically dragging me, dragging me to the east of the street.
My people looked at our father and daughter pair oddly. I pretended to smile, pretended it didn’t hurt, pretended I was strolling with my father.
While walking, my legs started to tremble because I knew where my dad was taking me.
We entered into the village health clinic. The Doctor Zhao inside was a close friend of my father’s. I went in and saw that Doctor Zhao was just about to leave. My father went up and whispered something to him.
Doctor Zhao’s complexion changed and looked at me in shock. Shaking his sad, “This is hard to do, and hard to check.”
My father’s tone was very severe, “Old Zhao.”
Doctor Zhao said to me, “Xiao Qiu, your father is asking me to do…an examine.”
I hugged my chest and resisted, “I won’t do it.”
“If you haven’t done anything bad, what are you afraid of?” My dad said in a stern voice.
“Uncle Zhao, how old are you this year?” I retorted.
He stared blankly, “Fifty-five.”
“If you dare touch me, I will turn you in for sexual harassment. Uncle, you are a famous doctor. Uncle, you should know that if a patient refuses to see the doctor, you cannot force them to.”
Put in a difficult situation, Uncle Zhao looked at my father.
My father didn’t say anything. After quite awhile, he coldly said one word after another, “What have you been doing in Beijing?!”
“Hey, Old Xie, Xiao Qiu is still young. It’s not easy to be far from home. Listen to her explanation. Nothing can’t be forgiven.”
My father rarely got mad, but I could tell, his voice was shaking.
He took out something from his pocket, “He bought you this, didn’t he?”
A pink cellphone. He searched my bag.
I thought he didn’t understand cell phones. Unexpectedly it took him only a few seconds to find Li Chuan’s number. It was actually really easy. In this phone, his number was the only one there.
He called the number, there was no signal and he couldn’t get through.
“Excuse me, Old Zhao, can I use your office phone?”
I quietly stood by the doorway, hearing him say on the phone, “Excuse me, is XXXXXXXX your number?”
“I am Xie Xiao Qiu’s father. You know Xie Xiao Qiu, right? Who are you? What is your name?” My dad’s voice was extremely severe.
“Listen carefully, Wang Li Chuan,” he roared into the phone, “My daughter is only seventeen. Even though she’s young and doesn’t understand much, she still doesn’t need you to take care of her. Please be generous and let her off. If I am aware of you daring to continue your relationship with her, I’ll go to the ends of the earth and will not spare you no matter what I have to destroy. Understand? You bastard!”
He threw my cell phone to the ground, crushed it to pieces, kicked the desk, and kicked the chair.
I have never seen my father like this besides the day my mom passed away.
My dad took away all my money.
He spent a lot of energy prying open my suitcase. He searched for any clues. He found the ATM card, cut it into pieces, and threw it into the fire. He wouldn’t speak to me for the entire half month. I also ignored him.
We glared at each other all day long.
My brother said that my dad became suspicious after seeing the luggage tag on my suitcase. He then searched through my purse and found the plane ticket.
On the morning of Chinese New Year’s Eve, we were still not speaking. My brother couldn’t stand it anymore and said to me, “Jie, why don’t you take the initiative to apologize to Dad. Dad’s liver is hurting from being angry. He has to get a shot from the health clinic everyday.”
I thought about it. I saw my dad frying croquettes in the oil and went over to say, “Dad, did you eat the medicine I brought you?”
After a long while, he finally said, “I didn’t eat.”
I said, “Dad, do you think I’m only seventeen? I might as well be fifty years old from two men like you who don’t know how to take care of themselves. Dad, you still dare to say I’m seventeen and too young to understand anything?”
He looked at me, not saying anything.
“Dad, Li Chuan is someone I like. I love him. No one can stop me.”
“Bam!” I got a slap from him.
“Dad, I am your daughter. I have your blood. That year, in order to marry my mom, what price did you pay?” I continues, “I, in order to purse the one I like, will also pay the same price. Take care of yourself.”
After saying this, I got on my brother’s bike and rode away without looking back.
I had ridden around 250 meters before my brother caught up to me.
“Jie, where are you going?”
I got off and cried as I hugged him “I’m going to Kunming, to find (maternal) auntie.”
“You, you’re going to ride this to Kunming?”
“What are you afraid of? Don’t you remember when we were young, we even rode it once together. It’s only a seven, eight hour ride.”
“Jie, now’s not like before. The roads are not safe.”
“I’m not afraid.”
“I’ll go with you! I’m also annoyed by Dad. Brother-in-law is good to you, so he brought you a cell phone, right? If it was someone else, why would they feel the need to spend that money?”
I was originally crying but laughed from what he said, “What brother-in-law, don’t spout nonsense! Don’t take after me.”
“You know, I want to go into medicine. Dad forces me to study computers and even says that teacher’s schools are good. I don’t want to listen to him.”
“Tuition is high for medicine. Our dad doesn’t have money to pay for the tuition. Ah, don’t worry, I’ll make money for you.”
“Jie, there’s something that Dad has always kept you in the dark of.” Xiao Dong balled up his fists. “Dad secretly changed your application for colleges at the school.”
“I guessed as much. Beijing University is too expensive. We couldn’t afford it. He is the only one making money. It’s hard to put two kids through school.” I laughed bitterly, “I don’t blame him. Dad is a talented person and is a college graduate. He was afraid that we would be bullied by a stepmother, so he stubbornly stay single all these years. It’s also hard for him. Don’t follow me, go him and take care of Dad. Tell him I’m going to stay at Auntie’s for a while and then go back to school.”
Xiao Dong looked at me and finally nodded. He took out two fifty yuan bills, “This fifty yuan, you sent me last time. This other fifty yuan, I earned myself.”
“Okay, I’ll take it as a loan from you. I’ll return it to you when I go back to school.
I put the one-hundred yuan in my bag, said farewell to Xiao Dong, and heading towards Kunming.
I rode the bike for a whole ten hours before arriving at Kunming. I stopped midway to eat a steamed bun and go to the bathroom.
I stopped at a bus station and found a nearby convenience store to make a call.
Li Chuan had great self-esteem. One could see it from the little things he did everyday. I didn’t know whether he was alright after suffering a scolding from my father.
The call quickly went through.
“Xiao Qiu!” His voice sounded very surprised, “How are you? Are you okay?”
“I’m okay. What about you? Are you okay?”
“Listen to me. My dad’s temper is not very good…”
“I actually really want to explain myself to him, but he clearly didn’t want to listen.”
“Then you…hm, are the things in Xiamen finished?”
“It’s done, just waiting for the result now.”
“Are you in Beijing right now?”
I remembered, he said that he always returned to Switzerland every year for Chinese New Year to spend it with family.
“Are you in Switzerland?” His voice sounded so clear, I was a little suspicious.
“I am in Kunming.” He said.
“I am in Kunming.” He repeated, “I was worried and wanted to be closer to you. If something really happened, I could think of a way to help. But I didn’t get a phone call from you after waiting for so long here.”
“I just got to Kunming.” My eyes were starting to water again.
“What? Right now? Isn’t it Chinese New Year’s Eve right now?” He started getting worried on his said, “Did you have a falling out with your dad?”
“Pretty much, I biked to Kunming to seek a shelter with my aunt.” I was still out of breath and panting heavily.
“What? Biked? Isn’t it three-hundred kilometers from Kunming to Gejiu?” It was rare to hear Li Chuan angry, but this sound was definitely him raging.
“I rode for ten hours. Aren’t I awesome! Haha! Don’t you admire me!” I laughed heartily, feeling I was amazing.
“Where are you? Stay there and don’t move. I’ll come pick you up.” He said.
“I’m at a bus station. Come quickly! Ge Ge, it’s cold outside.”
“It’s not just your dad. Even I want to scold you.” He groaned. “You have quite the nerve, can really cause trouble.”