Chapter 7 — A New Year (3)
Lu Rong closed the water bottle and looked down at Chen Meihua, who was seated demurely with her knees together.
“Does Meimei want to go to the washroom?” He asked quietly.
His grandmother looked up. Today, her hair was tied into two plaits, with the few loose bits of straggling hair neatly combed and tucked behind her ears, and her lips were painted a cherry-red.
“Meimei wants to go to the washroom with Jiejie.” Chen Meihua pouted, asking, “Where is Jiejie?”
Lu Rong fell silent for a moment, then only he answered, “Jiejie is not around. Why don’t Meimei go to the washroom with me instead?”
His grandmother was not very happy about it. Lu Rong waited for a while, and his classmate, Mo Xiaoxiao, came over.
“Meimei, how about going to the washroom with me?” Involved in a car accident when she was ten, Mo Xiaoxiao’s leg had been severed below her knee, and her father had lost his life then. Now, she lived alone with her mother, and surprisingly, she loved laughing, and had a cheerful and lively character, making her even more lovable.
Apparently, Chen Meihua seemed to like this cute little girl a lot. She stood up obediently and held Mo Xiaoxiao’s hand as they left for the washroom together.
Lu Rong and Mo Xiaoxiao were the only special needs students in their class. Consequently, they got closer during the military training.
The new students had all heard about these special needs students, but this was the first time they met them. All children would always be intrigued by something novel to them, and as for whether there was malice or kindness in this intrigue, Lu Rong did not want to think about it.
The three days of military training were boring and exhausting. Cliques began to form during those three days, and it was not surprising that Lu Rong and Mo Xiaoxiao were ostracized. Lu Rong did not feel much about it, but Mo Xiaoxiao did not feel comfortable.
“I have a close friend from junior high.” Even if Mo Xiaoxiao wanted to, she was unable to train along with her classmates for a long period of time. While resting, she removed her prosthetic leg, allowing the muscles of her left leg to relax. “But she didn’t manage to get into Kunqian.”
She sounded a little gloomy as she chatted with Lu Rong. Students around them were frequently sneaking looks at them, and most of their gazes were drawn to Mo Xiaoxiao’s oddly shaped metal leg.
Meimei was singing. Her voice was not loud, yet it could still be heard quite clearly. Distracted by it, Lu Rong listened to her singing for a little while before saying, “Well, that’s what most students are like usually. It’ll be fine once you get used to it.”
Mo Xiaoxiao widened her eyes in surprise, and she chuckled. “You don’t like it here?”
Lu Rong paused before speaking, “When I was in junior high, things didn’t go well.”
Mo Xiaoxiao nodded. She thought for a moment, and advised him earnestly, “Not everyone is bad. Kunqian High is really good, or else I wouldn’t have given my all to enroll here.”
Lu Rong was noncommittal. Chen Meihua began to clamor for water again; Lu Rong bent down to pick up the bottle.
That was what dementia was like — the person would behave like a child, behaving spontaneously, and you would not be able to stop them. Despite knowing that drinking too much water would lead to frequent urination, causing trouble for others when she wanted to urinate or she would pee on herself, Lu Rong had no other choice. He had already grown used to this over the years.
He was obviously a healthy individual. If there were no Chen Meihua, he would be going through a bright yet frustrating youth, just like most ordinary students. He was neither missing any limbs nor deaf or blind, but he was still different from everyone else. Mo Xiaoxiao knitted her brows. Momentarily, she could not decide whether she was more pitiful, or if Lu Rong deserved more sympathy. Coming from a mediocre family, her life was kind of tragic, yet she had received so much more love — from her mother, friends, and relatives. During that accident, her father had sacrificed his life for her. Despite losing a leg, she cherished this life that she had regained very much.
Of course, it was not the right time for her to say this to Lu Rong. Putting themselves in each other’s shoes and empathizing with each other was not something suitable for them.
There were different kinds of pain and suffering, and no one could decide if one was able to bear with them or not. Furthermore, the silence was always better than any word; if she ended up saying too much, it would only make her sounded like she was showing off.
After sitting there for some time, Chen Meihua seemed a little bored. She wanted to walk around, so Lu Rong could only seek out the instructor and asked to be excused so that he could accompany her, leaving Mo Xiaoxiao sitting alone under the tree.
Halfway around the sports ground, they happened to bump into some older students, who had just been dismissed from class. Holding onto Meimei’s hand, Lu Rong did not let her obstruct anyone’s way, and the moment he looked up, he saw Lin Zhao who was walking in their direction.
Chen Meihua saw her too. She shouted, “Jiejie!”
Of course, Lin Zhao could not hear her, but Chen Meihua was so conspicuous in the crowd that she could not help but notice her.
Standing next to Chen Meihua, Lu Rong smiled at her slightly. He raised his hand, gesturing next to his temple — the sign for “deer”.
Lin Zhao did not respond.
She really could not understand why she had to be involved in this act of Lin Mu. Moreover, did Lu Rong even know what this gesture meant? Or did Lin Mu mislead him?!
Seeing that she did not have much of a reaction, Lu Rong was a little startled. He was not an enthusiastic person, but he thought they had become friends after hanging out together during the summer holiday. Yet, looking at her expression, it was evident that he was getting snubbed instead.
Lin Zhao hesitated, then signed, “It’s been a while. What are you and your granny doing?”
The look in Lu Rong’s eyes changed subtly, and he signed back, “We’re taking a stroll.”
After a pause, he continued moving his fingers, “You’ve always called her Meimei.”
Lin Zhao was speechless.
Before the evening self-study session ended, Lin Mu made a deliberate detour to the sports ground. He had received a message from Lin Zhao in the afternoon —an image of someone saying they had nothing to live for.
Lin Mu replied her with a string of question marks, and it took Lin Zhao a long time to reply. “I saw Lu Rong and his granny today.”
Without even thinking, Lin Mu was full of praises. “How was it? He’s a good boy, isn’t he?”
“You didn’t tell me that you called his granny by a nickname.”
Lin Mu was baffled. “Meimei isn’t a nickname; it’s his granny’s childhood name.”
Lin Zhao did not even bother to talk to him anymore. Finally, Lin Mu registered that Lin Zhao had met Lu Rong, and he asked her anxiously, “You didn’t expose yourself, did you?”
Lin Zhao typed for a long time, but only a sentence appeared. “I think I managed to bluff him.”
The moment when Lin Mu saw the word “bluff”, he felt a little guilty and could not suppress his urge to go over to the sports ground, despite his self-study session. Lu Rong was training with the contingent, while Chen Meihua was sitting alone under the banyan tree, next to the sports ground.
The evening breeze was a little chilly, and the golden-red rays of the setting sun gently scattered through every crisscrossing leaves it touched. Lin Mu did not hide, standing at a distance that was neither near or far away, and Chen Meihua managed to see him.
Meimei stared at him for a long time, so long that Lin Mu could not stop himself from smiling at her, and she too grinned back at him. She held onto the smile for a while0, then suddenly stood up and shouted at Lin Mu, “Jiejie!”
Lin Mu got a shock. He held out his index finger and pressed it to his lips, shushing her for very long time.
Meimei did not listen. She ran over as she shouted, “Jiejie! Jiejie!”
Lin Mu had no other choice and could only step up and stop her. A short while later, Lu Rong came running over.
He was stunned when he saw Lin Mu’s face.
Lin Mu had no choice but to take the initiative to say hello. “I’m Lin Mu. Umm, I guess you know my sister?”
Lu Rong treated him like a stranger, and his expression was distant and cold. Nodding slightly, he answered, “Yes.”
Then he added politely, “Hello.”
Chen Meihua called out to Lin Mu again. “Jiejie!”
Lu Rong lowered his head to see his grandmother. Supporting her, he answered expressionlessly, “He’s not Jiejie; he is her younger brother.”
Chen Meihua seemed unhappy again. Her forehead creased tightly, and stubbornly repeated things like, “He’s Jiejie” and “Meimei wants to go to the washroom with Jiejie.”
Lu Rong was a little helpless. He glanced over to Lin Mu, and in a low voice, he said, “Sorry”.
“It’s fine.” Lin Mu looked at Chen Meihua with a bright smile and explained patiently, “I can’t go into the girls’ washroom, but I can accompany Meimei there. I’ll wait for Meimei at the door, is that okay?”
Naturally, Chen Meihua would be fine with anything as long as she could go with him. She held Lin Mu’s hand, while Lu Rong remained standing there, motionless.
Lin Mu looked up and realized Lu Rong was staring at him.
“You called her Meimei.” Lu Rong’s eyes seemed to be dyed with the hues of twilight. He said slowly, “Did Lin Zhao tell you about that?”
The smile on Lin Mu’s face stiffened. Scratching his head as a cover, he calmed himself down before meeting Lu Rong’s eyes.
“Who else could it be?” Lin Mu’s smile was bright and sincere. “Didn’t you see her today?”