His face twitched in pain, and the machine began beeping non-stop. A group of nurses rushed in led by the doctor.
The head nurse said to me quickly, “Miss Xie, the patient is not in a good emotional and health state. It’s best that you leave.” She guided me out of the ICU ward right away. The head nurse came out after an hour. Seeing that I was still waiting outside of the door standing with a cane while stretching my neck to peek inside, she let out a bitter smile and shook her head.
“How is he? Is he okay?” I asked immediately.
“He is no longer in a critical state. We have transferred him to a general patient ward. You should go home and rest. At least take a good sleep.”
“Which room is he in?” I asked.
“I’ll go take a look,” I instantly walked away.
“Sigh….” the head nurse sighed from behind.
407 was a simple patient ward. I entered quietly as Li Chuan was asleep. However, he suddenly opened his eyes and saw me. I hesitated for a second before I walked over and caressed his forehead lightly.
“Hi,” my heart ached so much that I neglected his anger. I spoke softly to him, “Are you feeling better now?”
He opened his mouth and said a few words, but I couldn’t hear him, so I placed my ears in front of him.
He said, “Go home……go sleep.”
My heart felt warm knowing that he still cared so much about me. My eyes became red, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying here with you.”
He gritted his teeth and curled up his body like a fetus from a sudden shock of pain; he grabbed his bed sheet tightly and his forehead was full of sweat.
“Are you not feeling well?” I asked worriedly, “I’ll go get the doctor.”
“No…” he was breathing quickly. He coughed non-stop and hemmed and hawed as if there was phlegm caught in his throat. His face was completely red.
I dashed out and called the nurse over. The nurse came in, rolled the bed upwards, placed his body to lean against her, and patted his back lightly to help him get rid of the phlegm. After struggling for ten minutes, he was exhausted and fell asleep right away.
I was exhausted myself. Seeing him become so weak and helpless like an infant who needed others’ help, I was desperate and scared as it felt like anything could happen to him any minute. Therefore, I was sleepless. I went to the cafeteria upstairs to eat, and drank a cup of hot coffee. When I returned, I saw Rene in the room; a young man around twenty-seven or eight years old wearing caretaker’s clothes stood beside him.
“Rene, this is?” I disregarded my manners and pointed a finger at the young man while holding my cup of coffee.
“Mr. Jiang Hao Tian recommended a caretaker. His name is Xiao Mu. He took care of his dad when he was sick. He’s very professional and has great attention to detail. I’m afraid that the nurses here would get too busy. Furthermore, Alex is a difficult man to take care of when he’s sick. He has a bad temper and not easy to please. When he was in Zurich, his dad and Leo had such a tough time taking care of him. He would settle down a bit only when his grandpa scolded him.”
I smiled to myself as the description fitted my impression of Li Chuan perfectly. Li Chuan didn’t want others to see his weak side, especially me. He was especially stubborn about it, which I had already gotten a taste of.
“Sigh, Xiao Qiu, your dark circles are scaring others away. You should hurry home to rest. I’ll be here. You can come back tomorrow.”
I shook my head firmly, “I’m worried, so I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying.”
“You haven’t had a good night’s sleep for seven days in a row now.” Rene examined my face, “Don’t end up fainting when Li Chuan gets well.”
“It’s not that I don’t want to sleep. It’s just that, if anything happens…” my voice became shaky, “I will not forgive myself!”
Rene thought for a moment and said, “How about this, there is a family resting room outside of the ICU ward. Why don’t you take a rest there.”
“Rene,” I suddenly said, “I need to go take a shower first.”
Rene drove me to Li Chuan’s hotel room. I bought a few clothes to change into on our way there. After I took a quick shower, Rene drove me back to the hospital to take a break in the family resting room.
I slept for sixteen hours straight with my clothes on. When I woke up, I saw that Rene was sitting on my bedside. He was looking at me with his deep blue eyes. I thought: how strange, why had he abandoned his responsibility of watching over Li Chuan? What was he doing here with me?
“I need to talk to you,” he said, “not of myself, but on behalf of Alex.”
I sat up straight and found a comb to comb my hair.
“Alex wishes you to leave Beijing immediately, and I will drive you to the airport.” He sounded like a police officer who wanted to deport a spy. I was irritated. My hand gave a hard tug and ripped some of the hair out of my head. I said rudely, “How are you planning to get me to the airport? By kidnapping?”
“Annie, it’s not easy to change Alex’s mind. If it was, you two wouldn’t have gone through so many years of pain.”
“My determination is also not easy to change.”
“He’s not willing to see you, and he doesn’t have the energy to argue with you. I think,” his gaze became hard to read, “at time like this, you should try not to argue with him. Where is your apartment? You’ve already packed your belongings, right? Which city are you planning to go to? I’ll buy the plane ticket, and—”
“You don’t need to persuade me. The way that Li Chuan is right now, he could die any minute. Yet you want me to leave now? Impossible.” I tried my best to stay calm, “If he survives, I want to stay till he gets well. If he dies, I want to bid farewell to his body.”
Rene showed a helpless expression and said, “You know, a patient has the right to refuse you from seeing him.”
“I also have the right to wait outside.” I grabbed my things and headed to the washroom; I washed my face, combed my hair, put on my makeup, and got changed. I went to the cafeteria and ate spicy fried chicken and red roasted beef. I grabbed a big cup of strong coffee, a magazine, crossed my legs and sat on the floor outside of room 407.
Rene looked at me and wanted to pull his hair, “What are you doing? Is this protesting in silent?”
“I’m practicing yoga. Am I not allowed?”
He let out a long sigh and pulled me up from the floor, “Go in, he wants to see you.”
As I opened the door, I saw Xiao Mu pushing Li Chuan on a wheelchair from the bathroom and helping him get back onto his bed. A nurse came in to change his medicinal liquid and check up on his intravenous drip.
Whether or not it was the sun shining brightly from outside the window, Li Chuan looked a lot better than he did when he was in the ICU ward; except he was very boney as he had not eaten a grain of rice for seven days. His clothing was unbuttoned from chest up, where a tube directly inserted into a quarter-sized protrusion just below his collarbone could be seen. Rene had told me about it while Li Chuan was still in ICU. It was a central venous catheter, which was a device implanted beneath the skin to help administer fluids; it was used for chemotherapy before. Li Chuan needed long-term transfusion due to having clotting disorder; so as a result, the device was also used for this instead of using the traditional intravenous method which could harm his body. I had already noticed the small bump back when we were in Switzerland, but because Li Chuan wasn’t this skinny back then, it wasn’t as noticeable. Furthermore, Li Chuan’s allergies would act up quite often, so I thought it was no more but a rash and didn’t dare to touch it. When I asked him about it, he avoided answering.
The red roasted beef that I just ate came to my mind and I thought maybe Li Chuan could have some rice porridge, so I asked the nurse, “Can he eat?”
The nurse shook her head and answered in a professional tone of voice, “The patient has difficulties in swallowing, therefore, he cannot eat or drink. He needs to rely on parenteral nutrition. Can you not see the nasogastric tube?”
I could tell that Li Chuan wanted to speak to me in private as his eyes blinked at me while we waited for the nurse to leave. But the nurse wouldn’t leave; she checked his tubes and needles over and over, obtained his temperature and blood pressure, she asked if he was cold, and despite he shook his head, she exchanged him a warmer blanket and carefully tucked it tightly around him.
It couldn’t be helped; Li Chuan was just too good looking. He was mesmerizing even without trying.
I stood on the side and waited patiently until the nurse finished taking care of everything, updated her records, and finally left the room.
“Hi,” his eyes were closed as if he was still asleep, but he suddenly raised his head and stared at me, “Did you have a good night’s sleep last night?”
He sounded distant; I knew that at times like this, Li Chuan would not want to see me.
“Not bad, I slept for sixteen hours. I went to the cafeteria just now and had a great meal. I ate red roasted beef.” I was still mad about the nurse from just now, but for some reason, my face was smiling.
A tint of suspicion appeared in his eyes, “Aren’t you vegetarian?”
“I changed my mind. Eating vegetarian too much, makes you……lose strength.” It was so absurd that my voice actually trembled as if I was giving my testimony in court, afraid that I had said something wrong that would trigger his anger and cause him to faint.
His gaze shifted to my leg, “How is your leg?” he said softly, “How come…” He suddenly lowered his head and discontinued his sentence.
“It’s already well. It’s just that the muscles will take a bit longer. Don’t stare at these clutches. I’m only using it cause it’s cool. I can walk without it.”
“Stop lying,” he said, “You think that you’re the only one who has had a bone fracture before?”
I was stunned, but yet I was relieved. Li Chuan felt the same way as I did, didn’t he? Neither of us wanted to let the other person know about our illness, and only wanted to suffer alone.
“Does it hurt?” he asked.
“Staying in the hospital alone,” he mumbled, “like me. Bag after bag of intravenous drips. I thought you would finally hate me this time.”
“It didn’t hurt, and I don’t hate you. Haha, I was watching ‘Yong Zheng Dynasty’ every day, and read the whole set of Jin Yong novels. Oh, the TV series was quite good. I bought the complete DVD set. I’ll watch it again with you when you leave the hospital, alright?” I wanted to sound livelier, but then it felt a bit over exaggerated.
“Leave the hospital?” he sneered and then smiled bitterly, “Throughout these years, I’ve been in the hospital more than being out of it. My grandpa even said that recuperating at home was an important task as well.”
“……” His words were quite a tease; I wanted to giggle but I didn’t dare to. But I did anyway in the end.
“So it seems like that doctorate treats you quite well.”
“Yeah, he does.” Although I was half joking, it was the truth nonetheless.
His cheeks twitched and he pinched the bedspread hard. He said while gritting his teeth, “He shouldn’t be riding a motorcycle if he doesn’t know how to. I really wanted to punch him!”
I snickered without him noticing.
“Come here, Xiao Qiu,” he held out his hand, “I want to tell you something.”