A ray of morning light shone into the narrow room. It had rained heavily last night, and the water droplets on the glass window had not yet dissipated, making the room slightly damp.
With a loud bang, the door was pushed open.
Zhou Yijie swaggered in and lifted the blanket off with a sudden movement.
"Little stutterer, my mom wants you to go downstairs and move some things."
The dazzling sunlight made Gu Miao squint his eyes, and his temples throbbed with pain as if being pricked by needles.
He struggled to get up. "Wait a minute."
"Hurry up, hurry up." Zhou Yijie impatiently finished speaking and sat on his desk chair, fidgeting around.
The drowsiness had not yet dissipated from Gu Miao's eyes as he made his way downstairs, feeling heavy-headed and light-footed.
The rainwater from last night had accumulated on the ground, splashing onto his wet pants.
He silently moved the things downstairs, and his drowsiness dissipated halfway.
He returned to his room and saw his cousin squatting in front of his bedside table, holding a greeting card and opening and closing it with great interest.
"Don't touch my things," Gu Miao's eyebrows furrowed, and he sternly shouted.
Zhou Yijie was startled by him.
He turned his head with disdain, "What's wrong with touching? You live in my house, eat my food, use my things, and you can't even touch a greeting card?"
He opened the card, and a delicate three-dimensional cake jumped off the paper.
He sneered, dragging out his words in a strange voice, "Wishing Gu Miao a happy birthday. I told you that you would look just as good with gold-rimmed glasses--"
"Give it to me." Gu Miao tightly pursed his lips and reached out to snatch it.
"Hey, no, no, let me see who the sender is." Zhou Yijie turned his back and raised his voice to shout, "It's Chu Chu."
"Ah, this 'Chuchu' really has no eyesight," he chuckled, feeling even more pleased with himself.
Gu Miao's temple throbbed with anger as he suddenly grabbed the collar of Zhou Yijie's shirt and tried to snatch the card from him.
In an instant, the card tore in half with a "rip."
Zhou Yijie's collar was still tightly gripped, choking him and turning his face red.
"Here, take it back," he threw half of the card at Gu Miao, his face contorted from lack of oxygen. "Let go of me, I can't breathe."
The three-dimensional birthday cake had long since been smashed beyond recognition and now floated lightly in the air, like garbage thrown on the ground.
Gu Miao's eyes turned red, his teeth clenched tightly, and the veins on his pale hand bulged, making him look like a demon from hell.
"What are you doing? What are you doing?" The sharp voice of the middle-aged woman suddenly sounded. Her round and fat body moved quickly towards him, and her fat hands fiercely twisted Gu Miao's hand.
"Let go of him!" She slapped Gu Miao's hand back and forth like chopping meat. When he didn't let go, she slapped him directly in the face.
The anger burned within Gu Miao, and he almost lost his mind. His pale hand was slapped until it turned red, his face was slapped to the side, and his chest heaved violently.
"Gu Miao, let go of him!" His uncle suddenly entered the house and shouted at the door.
Gu Miao tightly pursed his lips and reluctantly let go, throwing Zhou Yijie forward with force.
The short and fat boy rolled like a ball and fell to the ground with a loud "thud".
The room was quiet for a second, and then the sharp cry shattered the sky.
"Son, let Mommy take a look. Does it hurt? Does it hurt?" The woman rushed over and hugged Zhou Yijie, crying and cursing, "You little bastard who was born with a father but raised without one, think about who gave you food and drink, how dare you hit my son."
She looked up, her sharp triangular eyes staring at the man not far away, "Say something, Old Zhou, look at your good nephew, how did he treat your son?"
The man stood silently at the door, his head hanging down. After a while, he sighed, "Both sides are at fault. Apologize to each other and let it go."
"Apologize?" The woman screamed, "Apologize for what? I'm telling you, Old Zhou, I've had enough of this leech. Today, it's either him or me, either he goes or I go."
Outside was the brilliant June sunshine, but inside the house was a mess and full of coldness. The man pursed his lips and remained silent.
After a moment, Gu Miao crouched down and tremblingly picked up the broken greeting card from the ground.
"I will leave," he said, looking up at the silent man not far away. "Thank you for taking care of me all these years. I will be eighteen in a few days and it's time for me to go."
The man let out a deep sigh and turned to his wife, who was shouting in the distance like a shrew.
"Are you satisfied now?" he said before turning around and leaving in silence.
Zhou Yijie was still sobbing on the ground, while the woman helped her son up and gave a fleeting glance at Gu Miao.
As the door slammed shut, Gu Miao slumped to the ground, carefully piecing together the broken greeting card and sticking it back together with tape.
He placed the card over his heart, his eyes turning red with emotion.
After a long while, he stood up and began packing his things.
After four years of hardship, his life had been reduced to a small suitcase. As he was leaving, his uncle slipped a small envelope into his arms when his aunt wasn't looking.
Gu Miao didn't know how much money was inside, but he silently refused it.
As a single man carrying his suitcase, he crossed through a small alleyway filled with sewage and found a run-down youth hostel to spend the night.
Gathered in a room with other wanderers, they chatted and talked about their dreams, their eyes shining with hope.
The young man sat silently on the side, drinking cheap, low-quality alcohol by the bottle. He didn't know how much time had passed before he finally fell asleep, heavily intoxicated.
He was awakened by the deafening sound of snoring and suddenly realized that today was the graduation ceremony at his old school.
When he arrived at the school, the ceremony had already ended.
The empty playground was filled with the summer breeze as Gu Miao silently walked into the teaching building.
"Hey, have you heard? Someone just confessed their love and gave a huge bouquet of roses!"
"I think I saw someone post about it on their social media, at the entrance of the music building."
"Yeah, it was probably Cheng Chu from Class 2. Do you think she'll say yes?"
"She probably will. The guy looked sincere and even goddesses need love."
Suddenly, the air around them became thin and the piercing sound of cicadas amplified, making Gu Miao's head feel heavy.
The bright sunlight shone down and for a moment, his foggy mind cleared. He ran frantically towards the music building.
The gentle summer breeze blew through his hair, but a chill crept up from his feet.
The Chinese parasol tree outside Room 8 still stood tall and lush, with the wind gently lifting the corner of the window curtains.
The young man's dark pupils suddenly contracted as he watched the two tightly embraced figures in the music room. His eyes turned red and his fingers, tightly clenched around the rough tree trunk, began to bleed.
The girl buried her head in Lin Qifeng's broad and sturdy embrace, her hands gently hooked around his neck, the small moon-shaped bracelet still hanging from her wrist.
In an instant, the young man's breath stopped, and a feeling of unbearable pain spread from his chest.
He almost collapsed against the tree trunk, as every second of the past felt like a knife stabbing into his heart. He covered his red eyes and dared not look again, staggering away.
The noon sun was dazzling, but the young man wandered through the streets like a zombie, not knowing how long he had walked until his feet were numb, before finally returning to the hotel.
Cheng Chu looked at the bright and beautiful roses in front of her, furrowing her brows in distress.
After a few seconds of consideration, she finally said, "I'm sorry, your flowers are very pretty, but I already have someone I like."
The stunning roses only served to make the young man's features even more handsome. His eyes betrayed a hint of disappointment as he asked, "May I ask who you like? Is it Gu Miao?"
Cheng Chu nodded and admitted, "Yes, it's him."
Yu Yan let out a bitter laugh. "I knew it."
The distant sound of a piano could be heard from the music building. The young man's heart was filled with reluctance, but as he looked into the girl's sparkling eyes, he ultimately went against his own heart and said, "I wish you both happiness."
"Thank you," Cheng Chu replied with a faint smile.
The young man's figure disappeared into the bright summer day, and Cheng Chu breathed a sigh of relief before turning and entering the music building.
There were too many memories there. As she was about to leave, she decided to take a photo in the piano room where she had been working hard for two years.
The sunlight shone through the glass window into the building, and Cheng Chu did not expect to meet two people who should not have been there in the piano room.
"Lin Qifeng?" She saw the girl hiding behind the boy through his shoulder. "Ji Mingyue?"
"You two?" Cheng Chu was so surprised that she couldn't speak. "When did you get together?"
"Okay, okay." Lin Qifeng pushed the door out. "We'll talk later if you have any questions."
"Hey, hey, hey." Before the words had even fallen, she saw the small moon bracelet on Ji Mingyue's hand through the crack in the door.
In an instant, she remembered the question Lin Qifeng had asked her that night.
"Your bracelet is pretty. What brand is it?" She stared at the tightly closed door of the music room, as if she suddenly understood everything.
Forget it, they're in love, why bother being a nuisance here?
Cheng Chu reached into her pocket and looked at the conversation box that still had no reply, feeling a hint of anxiety rising in her heart.
Since last night, Gu Miao had not replied to her messages, and she didn't even see him at today's graduation ceremony.
The more Cheng Chu thought about it, the more anxious she became. She left the school gate and hailed a taxi.
"To Yuqing Lane."
The scorching sun of June was like fire, and the streets were sparsely populated at noon.
Yuqing Lane was still as shabby and dilapidated as before. Cheng Chu walked with her head down, jumping over the dirty water on the road, but accidentally bumped into someone.
"What the hell are you doing?" The person pushed Cheng Chu and asked fiercely.
In front of her, the person had an arm as thick as her calf, and with a gentle push, Cheng Chu fell to the ground.
With a splash, dirty water splattered everywhere. Cheng Chu sat in the filthy water, her delicate skirt soaked through, and her fair legs covered in mud.
"Be careful when you walk," the person scolded sternly before swaggering away.
As he left, he stepped into a puddle of dirty water, and black droplets splashed onto Cheng Chu's fair, rosy cheeks, trickling down her hair.
The arm that had just supported her on the ground throbbed with pain, and her calf was scratched by sharp stones on the ground, causing blood to seep out.
Despair filled Cheng Chu's mind for a moment as she repeatedly dialed the boy's phone number, but the other end of the line always showed the same busy tone:
"The number you have dialed is currently switched off. Please try again later."
Cheng Chu angrily threw her phone to the ground and finally couldn't hold back her tears, breaking down in sobs.
The author has something to say:
Gu Miao: A heart-wrenching pain.
Translations during sleepless nights. I can sleep when I'm dead! ...Please let me sleep. Happy readers keep me awake, and lots of love and a huge thank you for supporting my hobby!
Give me feedback at moc.ebircssutol@ypeels.