Edited by Planetes
Because I lost both my bank card and my identity card, I could only go to the bank and put a temporary hold on my account. I needed to get a new identity card before I could report the loss of the bank card.
As I was an orphan, it was also very troublesome to replace my identity card. After dashing about between the Bureau of Civil Affairs and the police station several times, it dragged on for quite a number of days before I finally received a temporary identity card. As for all the expenses needed, I had to borrow it from Auntie Li.
Each time before I headed out I would confirm with her over and over again that I would be coming back, but Auntie Li always just laughed and waved me off. I was completely unable to repay this trust she had in me, and I could only hope that I would quickly received my new bank card so that I could withdraw some money and returned it to her.
As for the house that I woke up in, that was the mute woman’s home. She gave me her bed, and she herself slept in the storeroom next door. It was meant for storing items, and the conditions were extremely bad, with piles of burlap bags stacked up next to the wall.
How could I let her sleep in a place like that? Ever since I woke up, I then swapped rooms with her. At first, she was unwilling, but by alternating between coaxing and scolding, she finally reluctantly moved back in.
Actually, I was always a little unsure of why the mute woman was so good to me. One day as I was chatting casually with Auntie Li, we happened to broach this topic. Auntie Li sighed, “Ah Xiu actually had a son, and she always kept that boy’s photo on her… I’m not very clear about the details, but I heard that the child had passed away in an accident…”
Auntie Li paused. “If that didn’t happen, he might be as old as you.”
Enlightened, I nodded. So it turned out she was empathising with me.
Maybe I just happened to appear at the right time, or maybe I looked a little similar to her. In any case, something about me probably had ignited her memories of her child, and so she transferred all her feelings towards her son onto me.
I was a little relieved, yet disappointed. But it was fine, as long as I could quickly get my money, I could repay my debts to Auntie Li and the mute woman, and I would be able to leave without any worries.
The day I was able to withdraw money, I went to buy some groceries. As Auntie Li’s husband and children were all working elsewhere, the three of us had a happy meal together.
After the meal, we tidied the table, and I handed Auntie Li the money I borrowed together with an additional 1000rmb. Actually, having stayed so long here, 1000rmb was considered very little. However, Auntie Li still stubbornly insisted on counting the amount and returning the excess to me. After pushing and shoving for half a day, in the end, both the mute woman and me were pushed out of the house by Auntie Li. Before I could even react, the door slammed shut right in front of me.
“Xiaomu, I didn’t help Ah Xiu carry you in to gain anything from you! You should keep your money, there’s time for you to spend it!” Auntie Li shouted through the door.
“Auntie…” I opened my mouth to discover that my voice was choked, and hurriedly cleared my throat. “Auntie Li, thank you for taking care of me all these while.” Auntie Li acknowledged my gratitude, then gave me a few more words of advice.
I turned to look at the mute woman. She was clearly stunned by Auntie Li and my behaviour, and was foolishly standing there and watching me. I smiled at her, holding onto her and led her back to her home. Placing the 1000rmb in her hands, I pointed at the cabinet, signalling non-stop that she should keep it probably. Although the mute woman was foolish, she knew how about money, and she would also keep the money she earned from selling old newspapers and plastic bottles carefully.
Holding onto the money, she still seemed very lost. I was a little worried, and thought that later on, before I leave, I would have to trouble Auntie Li to help take care of her some more.
“I’m going. Thank you very much for your care for this period of time. Keep the money safe, and other than Auntie Li, don’t show it to anyone else.” Although I knew there was a possibility she did not understand what I was saying, I could not help but remind her again.
Turning around, I opened the door. About to leave, my hand was caught. I turned my head, and the mute woman pressed the money back into my hands, then pointing at it, she opened both her hands and gestured wildly.
I looked at her, but still did not understand what she was trying to express. She saw that I did not comprehend, and just took out a key from her pocket, turning around to unlock the cabinet by the wall. She then pushed aside the few ragged pieces of clothes in it, rummaging about the bottom of the drawer. Finally, she pulled out a bulging yellow cloth bag and eagerly walked back to me, shoving that bag at me with delight and pride.
I opened the bag. What caught my eyes were old, crumpled one dollar notes.
I stared at them for quite some time before carefully tucking the 1000rmb inside. Placing the bag again in her hands, I turned back and walked out of the door.
The mute woman ran in front of me, a little urgent. She again pushed that bag towards me, hoarsely making “ah ah ah” sounds.
I took in a deep breath, looking at her expressionlessly. “This is yours, I don’t want it. Keep your money well, I’m going.”
I had never spoken to her in this manner before, and a pained expression appeared in her eyes.
My heart hurt, and I did not want to stay there for a second longer. Turning, I rushed out. Before I could even take a few steps, she grabbed at my hand. Unable to endure it, I jerked my head around and shouted, “I’m not your son!!! Look clearly!! I’m not him!!”
The mute woman froze in shock and started to cry aloud. However, her hands still clutched tightly at me.
Auntie Li hurriedly opened her door and ran over once she heard the commotion. Holding onto the mute woman’s hand, she consoled her. A little awkward, I was about to say something, but Auntie Li waved me off instead. “It’s fine, Xiao Mu, you can go. I’ll take care of her.”
I nodded, hardening my heart and pulled away from the mute woman. As though running away, I left that place.
The sobbing behind me increased in volume, and I gritted my teeth as I continued running. I did not know how long I ran for, but I only stopped when I no longer had the energy to press on. Supporting myself against a wall by the road, I gasped, trying to catch my breath.
My face was wet, and I realised it was covered with tears after wiping it. Curving my lips, I wanted to laugh, but strange choking noises came out of my throat instead… At last, I still could not hold myself back, and crouching down by the wall, I covered my face and cried.
I did not know what sort of strange reaction this was. There was someone so good to me, despite her being a mute, despite her being a fool, I should be happy and delighted. However, now I was in so much pain that my tears could not stop.
It must be because it was too warm and too beautiful. But this warmth and beauty was like a breeze, so much like an illusion that I dared not look forward to it. I was afraid that after reaching out, I would not be able to grab hold of anything, and the pain would once again wash over me.
So, as long as I stayed away, as long as I did not hold any hopes, I would never be disappointed or hurt.
I’m looking for help! In about a month, I’ll be increasing the rate of updates for one of my monthly-updated novels. Which one would you like to have updated weekly?