The scorching August sun was still high in the sky at noon.
By 2 pm, the restaurant gradually became empty.
Cheng Chu closed the piano lid and rubbed her sore wrist.
A glass of lemon water was handed to her at the right time.
She naturally took it and gulped down half a glass.
"I'm so thirsty." She put down the glass, rubbed her wrist, and complained, "Why aren't we allowed to drink water?"
Gu Miao frowned, feeling a sourness in his heart.
If it weren't for him, she would never have worked in a place like this for her whole life.
Seeing him frown, Cheng Chu quickly asked with a smile, "Have you eaten yet? I haven't had the staff meal yet."
Her original shift was from 4 pm to 10 pm, but today she had to replace the pianist who had something urgent to attend to in the morning. "Still cooking over there," Gu Miao whispered.
Beside her, Little Fatty's voice drifted over, "Don't get your hopes up for the staff meal."
The chefs in the restaurant took turns cooking during their lunch break, with each person cooking for three days.
Someone in the distance shouted, "Food's ready, come and eat!"
A group of people walked towards the kitchen with gloomy faces.
Cheng Chu followed Gu Miao into the kitchen, tiptoeing and peering into the crowd.
He saw colorful fried rice steaming hot, and next to it was a large pot of clear soup that didn't look too bad.
"Today we have beef fried rice, steamed fish, and cabbage and pork soup. Everyone line up to get your food," the cook announced.
The kitchen was hot and stuffy, with everyone crowded together. The air was thick and someone emitted a strong odor of sweat.
"I'll take some for you. It's too hot in here, go sit outside first," Gu Miao pushed her out of the kitchen.
Even during closing time, employees have their own rest area and are not allowed to dine in the customer's seats.
There's no air conditioning in the employee area, and the scorching sun outside shines through the window.
Cheng Chu moved two chairs, but the plastic seats were scorching hot. She took a long time to sit down.
Over there, Gu Miao came in with two plates of food and a bottle of ice-cold Coke.
He lifted the can and the sound of bubbles popped.
"Here," he inserted a straw and handed it to Cheng Chu. "You said you wanted to drink Coke just now."
The temperature inside the room was high, and the young man's smooth forehead was covered in a thin layer of sweat. He was breathing slightly heavily as he arranged the utensils for Cheng Chu.
The chilled Coke touched her fingertips, bringing a refreshing sensation. Cheng Chu took a sip and handed it to him, "Have a sip too."
The boy shook his head and pushed the Coke back, "I don't drink it. I prefer soup."
He sat on the plastic chair that was scorching hot, and lowered his head to eat his meal heartily.
Cheng Chu felt a pang of bitterness in her heart.
The midday sun had taken away her appetite, and she ate a mouthful of beef fried rice with her head down.
The beef in this bowl of rice was abundant, but it was tough and almost tasteless.
The soup next to it was as bland as plain water.
She swallowed a few mouthfuls, but couldn't take it anymore.
On the other hand, Gu Miao, who was sitting opposite her, had already eaten more than half of his meal, and even finished the bowl of plain water-like soup.
The staff room was narrow and crowded, and the sour smell of sweat had spread again, permeating the air.
Gu Miao looked up and glanced at her plate, pursing his lips before saying, "Can't finish it? Let me go to the kitchen and see if I can make something for you. I'll cook you some more."
"No need, no need," Cheng Chu quickly grabbed his hand, swallowed a mouthful of rice, and forced a smile, "It's actually okay, just a little bland. Can you get me some soy sauce to mix in?"
The young man immediately stood up, "I'll go get some for you."
As soon as he left, Little Fatty leaned in, "Cheng Chu, you missed out on a good day today. Let me tell you, Gu Miao's cooking is so delicious. Have you tried it?"
Cheng Chu shook his head.
Little Fatty took a sip of water and enthusiastically said, "Let me tell you, Miao Ge's sauce is also a masterpiece. Just put a spoonful in this rice, and I can immediately eat two bowls."
In the cramped room, many people had already finished eating and were clattering to clean up their dishes and utensils.
A young man squeezed his way in and saw Little Fatty leaning towards Cheng Chu, his face beaming with joy.
The young man pursed his lips and walked over quickly.
"Gu Miao, you're here!" Cheng Chu smiled and looked up.
The young man was still holding a small plate, and his serious expression softened slightly.
"I asked the kitchen, they said they only had eggs, so I fried one for you. Just have a taste." He handed the small plate over.
The rich aroma of scrambled eggs mixed with the fragrance of green onions quickly spread.
Little Fatty shouted from the side, "Miao Ge, why aren't you being a good brother and frying one for me too?"
Gu Miaog gave him a glance and pulled out a glass jar from somewhere, handing it to Cheng Chu. "This is the sauce I made. I brought it over a few days ago and forgot to take it back. You can try mixing it with rice and taste it."
Little Fatty was so happy that he wanted to scream, "Quick, quick, give me a spoonful too!"
But Gu Miaog didn't even glance at him.
The employee area gradually quieted down, and some people directly lay down on their chairs and fell asleep.
Cheng Chu scooped up some sauce and mixed it with the bland rice. A strong spicy aroma immediately hit her nose.
"So fragrant." She took a bite of rice, and the aroma of chili and sesame instantly rushed to her throat.
The young man lowered his gaze slightly, and his cold eyebrows gradually softened.
Little Fatty's eyes were wide open beside them, "Give me a spoonful, please, look at how humble I am."
Cheng Chu handed the glass jar over and Little Fatty immediately licked his lips and grinned, "Thanks, little sister."
As he dug into the sauce, he muttered and complained, "Not much of a brother, I just praised you and you treat me like this."
Gu Miaos eyes flickered in the darkness.
Outside the window, the cicadas chirped tirelessly.
Cheng Chu took a bite of rice and looked up, saying, "Little Fatty just praised your cooking, this is actually my first time trying your food."
She lowered her head and picked up a piece of scrambled egg with her chopsticks.
The egg was cooked tenderly and seasoned just right.
Cheng Chu smiled and said, "I think he's right, next time it's your turn to cook, I want to come over and mooch a meal."
Her eyes curved into small crescents, and her two dimples were like drops of honey.
The boy's fingers trembled, because her praise made his ears turn red.
"No, no need," he curled his fingers.
Surrounded by silence, the boy sat down and his trembling eyelashes lowered before he whispered, "Next time, I'll make it just for you."
That afternoon, Cheng Chu finished a big bowl of rice with the sauce.
Gu Miao rushed to help her clean up the dishes and saw her cover her mouth and delicately yawn.
"Are you tired?" he asked.
Cheng Chu rubbed her eyes and replied softly, "A little."
But she didn't want to sleep in the chair like the others.
After some thought, she said, "I'll just lie down for a bit."
The room was quiet, and a few strands of breeze blew in from the window, easing the heat.
The boy gently moved his chair over and sat beside Cheng Chu.
He clenched his hands, and his heart pounded.
"Or, you could sleep leaning on me?"
Cheng Chu wiped the table with a napkin, and her fingers froze at the sound of the boy's voice.
He looked up and saw the young man in front of him.
The afternoon sun was no longer dazzling, but gently shone through the window.
The boy was a little shy, biting his lip and rolling his throat nervously.
He didn't hear the girl's answer and felt a little disappointed.
He reached out and grabbed a few tissues, his voice low: "If you don't want to, I can help you wipe the table."
Cheng Chu leaned over and took the tissues from his hand, holding his hand and whispering, "Who said I didn't want to?"
The girl's hand was soft, gently enveloping the back of his hand. The boy's heart felt like he was holding a disobedient little rabbit, recklessly running around.
In the summer, a warm breeze gradually approached, but the boy's restless heart gradually calmed down. The girl's breath was as light as a feather, softly brushing against his neck.
"Well, I'm going to sleep now," she said, leaning in, with a strand of her hair brushing against the boy's cheek.
He stiffened, as the girl's delicate fragrance wafted into his nostrils and slowly seeped into his heart.
As time passed, her breathing became steady, and the boy's racing heart also calmed down.
He turned his head slightly.
In the afternoon sunlight, the girl's cheeks were like a ripe peach, with a tempting blush and a cute, upturned nose dotted with tiny beads of sweat.
A warm, tingling sensation spread from his heart, and Gu Miao felt as if the girl was a small hook, stealing all of his attention with every breath she took.
His fingertips trembled hesitantly, but ultimately, he couldn't resist the temptation and gently held the girl's hand in his. Outside the lounge, there were several gardenia plants. When a gentle breeze blew, the fragrance of the flowers filled the room.
Cheng Chu woke up in a daze, still feeling the weightlessness from her dream. She breathed heavily and lifted her head.
"Are you awake?" Gu Miao closed the book on his knee.
He looked up and saw the girl's furrowed brow. His voice lowered, and he asked cautiously, "Did you not sleep well?"
Cheng Chu forced a smile and replied, "No."
She lowered her head, perhaps still not fully awake. Her peach blossom eyes were hazy, with a hint of water shimmering in them.
"What are you reading?" she asked.
"Introduction to Database Systems."
Cheng Chu rubbed her eyes. "Are you previewing university courses?"
The boy nodded, and his pitch-black eyes flickered slightly. The girl slept restlessly, with sleep marks on her fair cheeks and sweat beads on her forehead. Her hair clung to her face in strands.
He lowered his gaze, his hand clenched into a tight fist with white knuckles.
The sun outside shone down on the ground, but it seemed to be roasting his dim and self-blaming heart. A faint bitterness mixed with stuffiness slowly spread from his body.
She was the little princess in her family's hearts. If it weren't for him, she wouldn't have to eat such terrible food and suffer like this.
The air was noisy and hot.
Cheng Chu leaned over and grabbed his hand, asking softly, "What's wrong?"
The young man lowered his eyes, holding her hand tightly and shaking his head.
Cheng Chu leaned her head on his shoulder and spoke softly, "You always keep everything inside, sometimes I don't know what you're thinking. Last time you quietly wanted to leave, it made me sad for a long time."
The boy's heart trembled and his voice became hoarse, "I'm sorry."
"Don't always say sorry," the girl leaned on his shoulder and gently rubbed against him. Her gentle voice seemed to float into his heart.
"We're in a relationship now, we need to be honest with each other. Sometimes I have nightmares where you quietly leave again, and I don't even know why."
She sniffled, her butterfly-like eyelashes dewy with tears.
"Miao Ge, I want to know what's on your mind, and why you're not happy." The room was silent as the girl's voice floated lightly in the air, speaking candidly about their secrets.
Gu Miao's lips were pursed so tightly they turned white, his hands on his knees loosening and clenching, his dark eyes filled with sadness.
It seemed like an eternity had passed, or maybe just a few seconds, when his Adam's apple bobbed and he finally spoke.
"Chuchu, I'm not good enough for you."
For the first time in his life, he expressed his long-hidden insecurities so bluntly.
"I have nothing, no family, no money, I can't give you anything." He lowered his eyes, his voice hoarse with helplessness. "If you follow me, you'll only suffer."
"No." The girl shook her head gently, her soft hair brushing against his neck, soothing his troubled heart with each stroke. "I haven't suffered at all. Every day with you is a happy one," she paused and continued, "What you've given me is far more than you can imagine."
Her words were like a flame, burning recklessly in his heart. The heat rising in his body made him stop breathing for a moment.
"And," the girl suddenly pulled away from his embrace and looked up at him, "You will become very powerful in the future."
As the future Chief, he would be a master strategist, decisive and powerful. With a slight stomp of his foot, the entire city would tremble.
On a quiet summer afternoon, the light in the girl's eyes seemed to illuminate the dark corner of his heart in an instant.
His throat was dry and the tremble in his heart made it difficult for him to speak for a while.
But he understood that in that moment, because of the girl's words, the courage and determination surging in his heart were stronger than ever before.
The author has something to say:
Gu Miao: I will work hard and not let her suffer with me.
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.