The night was quiet and the neighborhood was even quieter. There wasn’t much people on the street, occasionally few cars passed by.
A taxi stopped in front of the western styled villa. The teenager sitting in the passenger seat gave money to the taxi driver and opened the door to step into the night.
It rained a lot in the last few days, so the air was humid. Xu Hui coughed when he got out of the taxi and couldn’t help but cover his mouth with his hand.
He came to the vila, his original home.
The garden in front of the vila wasn’t new. The vila along the garden was at least twenty years old. When the vila was first built, it was one of the most expensive properties in the city, now it has traces of time on it and the original beauty is gone. But it was once a very beautiful place.
When he first saw this vila, he was also impressed.
That year, in his second year of middle school, his father came home one night with great enthusiasm, saying that the keys of the villa would be handed over to him at the end of the year, and that they would be able to move there next year after the renovation.
The new villa had three floors, with one master bedroom on the second floor. When everyone gathered around to discuss the distribution of the rooms, his father smiled at Wang Jie* and said, “We’ll live on the second floor, in the master bedroom.”
[T/N: Xu Hui’s step-mother. Wow….this pair of adulterers are really shameless.]
Wang Jie happily agreed and looked at the house structure design with great interest.
Xu Hui was reading a book, ignoring the happy family of three people. Hearing them discussing about the new villa, he happened to recall that his mother used to live on the third floor of their current home.
Xu Yiheng was held in Wang Jie’s arms, who was also looking at the design with awe and excitement. Wang Jie looked at her son in her lap and asked, “Which floor does Xiao Heng like to stay on?”
Xu Yiheng broke free from Wang-jae’s arms, and jumped directly to Xu Hui who was sitting on the side.
The little boy hugged his brother’s torso and enthusiastically said, “I will live where Brother I live!”
Wang Jie was a little embarrassed. She tried to reason with her son. She knew how much her son liked Xu Hui. Though she knew why her son liked to cling to Xu Hui so much, it still didn’t make her feel less embarrassed.
“Don’t disturb your brother……”
Xu Yiheng was ten years old at that time. Boys of this age were most cheerful and liked to run all over the place, but he was a little different. His personality was rather introverted. He never talked to anyone in school or outside his family members. His voice would rarely be heard in front of outsiders, like a wilted grass that only knows how to keep quiet. Only at home in front of his parents and brother would he show his true childish self.
Xu Hui lowered his head to look at him but didn’t speak. The emotion in his eyes was unreadable, as if he wasn’t looking at his own brother but a stranger.
His father suggested, “Why don’t you and your brother live on the third floor? The third floor is spacious, and there is also an attic.”
Xu Yiheng clapped his hands excitedly, “Attic!” and pulled Xu Hui’s sleeve, “Brother …… brother!”
Xu Yiheng was cute looking and had inherited his parents’ beauty. Since they were blood related, even though their mothers were different, both brothers looked a little similar.
Xu Yiheng stared at Xu Hui with his big misty eyes and cautiously said, “Brother …… let’s stay on the third floor.”
Xu Hui only looked at his little brother but didn’t say anything. Seeing him not answering, his father called him in a low voice, “Ah Hui ……”
Xu Hui raised his eyes and saw his father and Wang Jie both looking at him expectantly.
He sighed inwardly and indifferently nodded, “Okay.”
Xu Yiheng climbed on Xu Hui’s back and shouted happily, “Yay! We are gonna stay together!”
That night, Xu Yiheng stayed in Xu Hui’s room and refused to leave even when it was very late.
He was so excited that he jumped around Xu Hui’s room. Like a monkey that had been released from its cage right then.
Xu Hui was lying on the bed playing video games, when Xu Yiheng came over to him.
“Brother, your birthday is the day after tomorrow!”
Xu Hui gave a ‘hmmm’. His full attention was on the game. Xu Yiheng was still enthusiastic about Xu Hui’s birthday and kept asking questions.
“Where are you going to celebrate your birthday? Do you want to celebrate with your classmates and friends? I wanna go too.”
Xu Hui hummed and suddenly laughed, but his eyes did not leave the game console.
Xu Yiheng pulled Xu Hui’s hand and asked, “Where do you want to celebrate?”
Xu Hui pushed him away and frowned.
“Then tell me where? Where, where, where, where, where?”
Xu Yiheng started rhyming the word ‘where’ again and again. His voice disturbed Xu Hui and the character operated by him was finally blasted off by cannon and fell to the ground.
Xu Hui closed his eyes and threw the game console to the side, but Xu Yiheng was still asking him.
Xu Hui impatiently covered himself with the quilt and replied, “To school, but I can’t take you there.” His voice sounded muffled but Xu Yiheng still heard him.
“Ah, why not!” Xu Yiheng was a little disappointed. He wanted to celebrate his big brother’s birthday and surprise him. But if his big brother doesn’t take him to his school, how will he give his big brother a surprise?
“The school won’t allow it.” Xu Hui said casually, and went to sleep.
He casually said ……but he never realized one sentence of his would cost an innocent life that had barely bloomed.
His school’s backyard was under construction and it was piled up with miscellaneous things.
His father was away from home for business. Before the accident, everytime he would go for a business trip, he would always bring gifts for them and try to return home early. But after the accident, his shadow was hard to find.
It is said that home is Heaven, but in the last two years, his father came back home a handful of times. Xu Hui himself wasn’t back home after the accident. All his necessities would be fulfilled by the money his father sent him every month, so he didn’t return home for a long time.
Their house, which was popular a few years ago, isn’t popular anymore. The previous happy environment was gone and now it looked cold.
Xu Hui took out the key to open the door, but before the key was inserted, someone opened the door.
It was the nanny, Auntie Wu.
Auntie Wu was in her forties and was a professional housekeeper.
After the accident, his father hired her to take care of Wang Jie, she had been working there for several years.
Xu Hui rarely saw her since he didn’t return home much, she took care of Wang Jie and had a strong hostile feeling towards Xu Hui. Probably because she also thought what happened to Xu Yiheng was his fault.
Auntie Wu heard the movement coming from the other side of the door so she came to open it. But when she saw Xu Hui, she couldn’t help but let out an ‘ah’, and then immediately blocked the doorway, sizing up Xu Hui she said, “Your father is not home.”
Xu Hui gave a stiff ‘hmmm’ and said, “I came back to get some things.”
Auntie Wu was a little hesitant but still said, “Your mom came home from the hospital today ……”
Xu Hui put his hand in his pants pocket to ease the nervousness and casually asked, “She’s home?”
“Yeah, she stays in the hospital during the day, and comes back at night to rest.” She looked at Xu Hui, “She isn’t well lately. It’s better if you come back in a few days to take your things.”
“She ……” Xu Hui wanted to say something but stopped. He lowered his head and looked at the ground.
At this time, a soft female voice came.
“Sister Wu, who is it?”
“No one!” Auntie Wu immediately turned around and shouted, she then turned back and gave Xu Hui a strong glare while impatiently whispering, “Hurry up.”
Xu Hui pursed his lips, hesitated, but his feet still didn’t move.
The sound of slippers gradually approached the door, Aunt Wu raised her hand to push Xu Hui and closed the door. But Xu Hui held the door with his hand.
“Sister Wu?” Wang Jie came over and finally saw Xu Hui at the door.
Aunt Wu stomped her foot, “You!” and gave Xu Hui a fierce glare.
Wang Jie was not yet forty years old but she looked older than her age. She had completely lost her original beauty, her hair white because of lack of dyeing, skin rough and dark bags under her eyes.
She stood still after seeing Xu Hui for a moment before turning away and silently walking upstairs.
“Xiao-jie!” Auntie Wu followed her over to help her, leaving Xu Hui alone in the doorway.
“Aunt Wang.” Xu Hui finally opened his mouth.
Wang Jie turned around and didn’t wait for Xu Hui to say anything and spoke, “Take whatever you want, no need to ask me.”
Xu Hui felt a huge rock was pressing on his chest, making it unable to breathe. His hands and feet felt rigid like they had lost all senses. He took a deep breath before finally saying what he came here for.
“Xiao Heng ……”
He just uttered two words when Wang Jie suddenly screamed miserably.
“Take what you want! Take whatever you want! Why are you asking me!? Don’t ask me–!”
Her voice was too shrill and too sharp, to the point of breaking out of tune.
Auntie Wu hugged her while patting her back.
“Okay, okay, Xiao-jie, don’t think about it ah.” While pointing at Xu Hui who was still standing at the door again, she narrowed her eyes and gritted her teeth while saying.
“How can you be so vicious at such a young age! I have never seen someone who is more vicious than you! You’ve hurt your own brother and now you’re back to hurt your Mom!”
It was just early autumn, but the house was as cold as an ice cellar. As if winter had already fallen to the once warm house.
Wang Jie broke down, covered her face and cried loudly.
“So vicious, you!” Auntie Wang also pointed at Xu Hui, her face deforming in anger as she couldn’t stop saying, “What did your mother teach you to be like this!? This family is ruined by you, everyone is ruined! Just because of you!*”
[T/N: Sorry for interrupting you readers but….this woman is really getting on my nerves. I would have already strangled her if she was in front of me.]
Xu Hui’s hands that were in his trousers’ pockets were clenched tightly. His body even started trembling slightly as his breathing got heavier. He suddenly felt everything was closing around him and he couldn’t breathe properly.
He never crossed the door and stepped into the house.
Xu Hui could no longer listen to them, so he ruthlessly slammed the door, turned around and ran away. Ran away from the cold house that was making his heart shake.
Auntie Wu stared at the door and screamed, “Why the hell did he come here?! Why!?”
Wang Jie fell to her knees as Auntie Wu stroked her back.
“He’s gone now, forget him.”
Auntie Wu finally sighed and said, “He’s so terrible! Xiao-jie, tell your husband to forget him. You can have a better son if you want. And also tell your husband to not give him a penny, let him suffer! Hey …… you guys are too kind. God is merciful and just. He will give rewards to good people. Everything will be fine. Xiao Heng is a good child, so cute and smart, I’m sure he will get better.”
In the empty villa, the cries were echoing to every corner. The painful cries made the already gloomy atmosphere even gloomier.
Xu Hui ran. He ran and ran, until he couldn’t hear the cries coming from that house, hear their voice blaming them. He ran until he couldn’t hear anything except his own breathing.
He ran out of the yard, out of the neighborhood, ran away from all of his feelings before finally stopping where everything was silent.
His body was covered in sweat and his throat was dry.
Xu Hui bought a bottle of water from a nearby shop and threw the money. The shop owner looked at the amount before shouting,”Hey! Don’t you need the change?!” But Xu Hui had already walked away and didn’t hear him.
A bottle of water is sold for ten dollars, but Xu Hui had given the shop owner a hundred dollar note. Getting such a big note for such a cheap thing, the owner’s mouth couldn’t help but curl up and he grinned from ear to ear.
Xu Hui opened the bottle of water and drank half of it before pouring the rest of it to his face. The cold water dripped down to his neck and soaked his shirt but he still felt hot.
The empty bottle was thrown aside. Xu Hui rubbed and wiped his face fiercely.
His face was wet, it couldn’t be said whether it was the water that was poured down or something dripping from his eyes.
Moments passed like this.
The shirt that got wet was blown by the evening breeze and clung to his skin, making him look even thinner than before under the night.
Xu Hui sat on the side of the road, his hands holding his head tightly.
Sweat dissipated, but he began to feel cold.
Bai Lu was woken from her sleep.
It was past midnight when the phone rang. Bai Lu unwillingly picked up the phone from the bedside table and answered it.
Xu Hui’s voice reached her ears, she could hear his heavy breathing as he spoke.
“Why on earth ……”
Bai Lu just woke up from sleep so she was groggy and confused. She just managed to let out one word, “What?”
“Why on earth did you say that? Who are you to say that about me ……”
Bai Lu sat on her bed and turned on the lamp. The sudden light entered her eyes, making her frown and close her eyes.
Xu Hui’s voice trembled as he spoke. He sounded more confused than her.
“Why on earth did you say those words to me?”
Bai Lu was silent for a moment before saying, “I’m sorry.”
“Who asked you to apologize to me ……”
“Then what do you want?”
Right. What does he want?
He didn’t know what he wanted, he just felt like calling her and talking.
Bai Lu glanced at the clock on the table, it was two thirty.
Xu Hui was still standing on the street, the wind blowing his hair and clothes.
Sighing heavily, Bai Lu finally whispered, “If you don’t like my apology, just pretend I didn’t say it.”
She heard him grinding his teeth. Bai Lu waited patiently for him to speak. She badly wanted to sleep but still restrained herself and waited for him.
After a while, Xu Hui stopped gritting his teeth and cursed in a low voice, “It’s all your fucking fault!”
Bai Lu was even more puzzled, “What?”
“It’s all your …… fault,” Xu Hui said, sounding more unsure than before. His tone sounded depressed rather than a complaint.
Bai Lu’s head was dizzy and she didn’t want to understand what Xu Hui’s words really meant, she simply thought he was angry because their last conversation didn’t go well.
“I’m sorry.” She didn’t want to use her brain, thinking too much at night would make her prone to sleeplessness. There was a test tomorrow, and she didn’t want to use her mind over Xu Hui’s matter.
Xu Hui blamed her again, and Bai Lu also apologised, again and again.
Bai Lu’s voice became even softer because of drowsiness and her apology sounded more sincere than she intended.
“Forget it ……” Xu Hui’s tone finally returned to normal, only exhaustion remained after a fierce battle of blaming her.
“It’s nothing …… I’m used to it.”
Bai Lu closed her eyes and slowly lost consciousness, completely unable to hear what Xu Hui said next.
The only person left on the phone was Xu Hui.
“In fact, I was going to ask …… How is he? I haven’t seen him for a long time ……”
His voice suddenly sounded vulnerable.
“I’m afraid to see him ……”
“The last time I snuck up to see him, all that was left of him was a skinny body, his eyes closed forever.”
“He’s nothing like he used to be.”
“Do you think he’ll be able to change back to his old self when he wakes up ……”
The one who he was calling was already in a deep slumber. Xu Hui didn’t seem to realise it, he still revealed his vulnerable self to her while the wind muffled his voice.
“I’m scared ……”
The night was quiet and the neighborhood was even quieter. There wasn’t much people on the street, occasionally few cars passed by.