Chapter 3: Zhaomu — From Dawn Till Dusk (3)
“I’ve seen your brother before,” Lu Rong wrote suddenly on the paper, “the two of you look very alike.”
Halfway through signing, Lin Mu’s gestures stiffened, and he felt a little apprehensive. Thinking it over, he recalled that during the few times Lin Zhao had obediently attended the community sessions, he did come by and pick her up.
As such, he could only blink innocently. With feigned calmness, he signed, “We’re twins.”
Lu Rong continued writing, “I never thought that he’d be so good at fighting.”
Lin Mu did not know how to respond to that.
Lu Rong thought for a moment, and added, “He looks too delicate. With how good looking he is, no one could bear to hit him.”
Lin Mu narrowed his eyes. His smile was a little fake, and his fingers signed forcefully, “You’re wrong, my brother’s extremely good at fighting.”
Lu Rong looked a little shocked. Perhaps, he did not understand why an elder sister would emphasize how good her little brother was at fighting. After a moment of hesitation, he wrote, “Did that Sun Hai boy ever bully you again?”
Lin Mu sulked a little. He felt that this person was definitely looking down on him. However, he was currently pretending to be Lin Zhao, and so he could not embarrass her. Hence, he started exaggerating about how “his brother” had taught Sun Hai a lesson, narrating the entire incident. With how animated Lin Mu’s gestures were, Lu Rong’s expression was as if he was watching a one-man comedy show.
“Since then, Sun Hai became my lackey, and my brother’s buddy,” Lin Mu signed excitedly, and he concluded the story.
Lu Rong’s expression did not change much, but his gaze turned a little cold. He replied with his fingers, “That’s nice.”
He then wrote on the paper, “You can even become friends with someone who bullied you.”
Lin Mu froze as Lu Rong’s words slowly sank in. Just as he raised his hands to sign his reply, someone walked out from the classroom a distance away.
It was one of the teachers of the community session, and he called out to Lu Rong, “Xiao-Lu, your granny wants to go to the washroom.”
Lu Rong looked up and acknowledged him, “I’m coming!”
He signed at Lin Mu, “Shall we head back?”
Lin Mu nodded, standing up as well. Lu Rong was walking rather hastily; Lin Mu had to sprint a little to catch up. The members in the classroom were still the same few people, all as friendly and harmonious as before. Some of the deaf-mute members were standing around Lu Rong’s grandmother, and when they saw him, they all signed at him enthusiastically.
Lu Rong signed his thanks back. Bending down, he softly coaxed the old lady.
Lin Mu could hear the old lady mumbling, “Meimei doesn’t want to go to the toilet alone, Meimei is scared.”
She added, “Meimei wants to hold hands.”
As such, Lu Rong held her hand, helping her up.
The old lady saw Lin Mu as she turned her head. Her lips parted abruptly, revealing her broken teeth. She then asked, “Want to go pee-pee with Meimei?”
Lin Mu did not know how he should react.
Feeling a little embarrassed, Lu Rong spoke quietly, “Meimei, we’ll just go together. We’re not going to trouble others, alright?”
His grandmother seemed to understand what he meant. Her eyes turned downcast, and she pursed her lips unhappily.
Lu Rong heaved a breath of relief and signed at Lin Mu, “Sorry about that.”
Lin Mu bit his lip. Deliberately, he signed, “What did Granny say?”
For a moment, Lu Rong hesitated. But he still replied honestly, “She wants to go to the washroom with you.”
Lin Mu smiled. Suddenly, he stuck out his hand, tucking it around the other arm of Lu Rong’s grandmother and moved his fingers gently.
“I want to hold hands with Meimei and go pee-pee together.”
The grandmother of Lu Rong was called Chen Meihua, and she liked to address herself as “Meimei”. She loved bright, colorful dresses that were not very fashionable, and insisted on painting her cheeks red every day. Sometimes, she would even dab a red dot between her brows.
Lu Rong combed her hair every day, tying it in all sorts of neat and pretty braids. She liked presenting herself in a bright and colorful manner all the time, and Lu Rong would try his best to satisfy her.
The school holidays during summer were quite long. Ever since Lin Mu started attending the sessions on behalf of Lin Zhao, he would be able to see Lu Rong and Meimei almost every time.
There were times when Lu Rong was so busy he did not have time to chat at all. Each time Meimei went to the washroom, she needed someone to watch over her and hold her hand.
However, later, it seemed that Meimei preferred going to the washroom while holding Lin Mu’s hand.
At first, Lin Mu felt a little awkward going to the ladies’ room. However, after a few experiences, along with him being dressed as a girl, he was resigned, and started getting used to it.
Helping the old lady into the cubicle, he then closed the door for her. As he stood on guard outside, he could even hear Meimei singing happily.
Meimei definitely had a beautiful voice when she was younger. Every word she sang was clear as a bell, even when she was singing in Cantonese.
Her voice drifted out as she sang “Qian Qian Que Ge”.
“In the days to come, thousands of songs will drift along my path.”
“In the days to come, thousands of stars will shine brighter than tonight’s moon.”
Lin Mu could not help smiling as he listened to her sing. However, as soon as he remembered that he was supposed to be a deaf-mute girl, he quickly straightened his face again.
Aside from individuals with mental disabilities, such as Lu Rong’s grandmother, and people with hearing impairments attending the community sessions, there were a few others with visual or physical impairments too. The ones managing the sessions were all volunteers, like the teacher in charge of Lin Mu’s class. He had just graduated from university, and he had volunteered at first because of his interest in sign language. After volunteering a few more times, he developed an interest in the community, and started fussing over everyone like a hen with her chicks.
There were a few instances where Lin Mu had been annoyed by him almost to the point of having a breakdown.
The reason for the “annoyance” was that the teacher felt he was too much of a loner.
“Lin-tongxue,” Mr. Ma’s sign language was even worse than Lu Rong. “You have to come play with the others; you can’t always stay by yourself all the time!”
Lin Mu signed back lazily, “I’m playing with Little Deer.”
There clearly was a difference between Mr. Ma’s and Lin Mu’s understanding of the deer. Baffled, his response was stern. “There’s no deer here. You have to play with people, understand?”
Lin Mu laughed his head off. Noticing Lu Rong walking over, he cocked an eyebrow as he raised his right hand. Keeping his index and little fingers straight, he placed his thumb next to his temple and waved his hand lightly a couple of times.
From his height, Lu Rong cast his eyes down, looking at Lin Mu.
Lin Min signed gloatingly at Mr. Ma, “See, the little deer is here.”
Even as the summer holidays were about to end, the matter of Lin Mu attending the community sessions as Lin Zhao had yet to be revealed to the family. In fact, Lin Zhao even felt that her brother was relishing it.
“Sun Hai keeps contacting me lately,” Lin Zhao waved her phone, signing at her brother, “he wants to know why you’re always so busy.”
Lin Mu was currently wiping his face with Lin Zhao’s makeup remover. He had one eye opened and the other closed, and he signed perfunctorily back, “Am I not attending your community sessions on your behalf? I’ll see him anyway when school begins. Why is he so anxious?”
Lin Zhao gave Lin Mu a disapproving glance. She had found the handbook that her brother brought home, which was now full of messages from the other participants. This handbook was like a license declaring your handicap; as long as you attended a session, you would receive one. When Lin Zhao was the one attending the sessions, she had only a few messages in it. Now, Lin Mu had most of the pages filled up.
Flipping through it, Lin Zhao was tickled to laughter by some of the messages. When Lin Mu was done drying his face, he saw his sister reading the handbook, and so he joined her.
“Uncle Wang cannot see, so he dictated his message as Mr. Ma wrote it down.” Pointing at some of the messages, Lin Mu signed at Lin Zhao, “This one is from Auntie Li; do you remember her? She has a prosthetic right arm, but her handwriting is especially nice.”
Lin Zhao glanced at him. “Why are you even more enthusiastic about this than me?”
Lin Mu looked stern. “I’m trying to let you experience the warmth of humanity. Next time, don’t skip the sessions anymore. You should attend the sessions yourself.”
It was a rare occasion for Lin Zhao not to argue back. She seemed to have suddenly remembered something, bending over and pulling a shoebox out from under her bed. Acting unbothered, she pushed the box at her brother.
“?” Lin Mu gave her a puzzled look. “What is this?”
Lin Zhao seemed unruffled, but a nervousness could be seen in her eyes, and even her hands were trembling as she signed, “I bought this for you. If you don’t like them, I’ll return them.”
Lin Mu could not be any more delighted. As he exclaimed over how much he liked the present, he opened the shoebox and put the shoes on straight away. Admiring them, he came to a sudden realization and signed agitatedly at Lin Zhao, “Why didn’t you tell me when I asked you about it? Did you work as a mentor just to get me a pair of shoes?!”
Lin Zhao would of course never admit this. Raising her chin, she signed back elegantly, “Idiot.”
Lin Mu paid no heed to his sister’s harsh pride. Basking in joy, he took a photo of his new shoes and sent it to Sun Hai.
Lin Zhao did not understand his actions. “What are you doing?”
Blissfully, Lin Mu replied, “I’m sharing the photo with him so that he can drool over it.”
Lin Zhao was speechless.