Fu Jia cocked his head slightly to the side, hoping to conceal that part of his face. “It’s not a big deal. Broke a cup.”
Unfortunately, Lu Qi’an was not the type of person to be fooled that easily. “There’s no way the shards hit your face.”
Annoyed, Fu Jia burst out loud. “Well, I’m dumb. I tripped and fell face-first onto the glass shards. Are you satisfied now?”
Lu Qi’an fell silent, but his gaze was still fixated on the gauze. Fu Jia was not sure whether Lu Qi’an believed his lies or not.
Embarrassed after being stared at for so long, Fu Jia felt that letting Lu Qi’an know that he was being bullied would be a blow to his dignity. He wanted Lu Qi’an to think that he led a good life in school and was not struggling.
So, he changed the subject. “Where are we headed to now?”
“We’ll just go wherever,” replied Lu Qi’an.
Fu Jia retorted, “You don’t seem like the type to do things so casually.”
In fact, Lu Qi’an simply said that as a form of courtesy. “Then let’s go to a nearby cafe.”
Walking ahead, he led the way with Fu Jia lagging one step behind him. Dusk fell and elongated both Lu Qi’an and Fu Jia’s shadows, and a small section of their silhouettes crossed and merged with each other.
Unable to contain the smile forming on his face, Fu Jia trampled on the head of Lu Qi’an’s shadow.
The two suddenly stopped in their tracks.
“It’s nothing! I’m just stepping on bugs,” Fu Jia said while stifling a laugh.
Instead of looking behind him, Lu Qi’an continued to walk ahead.
Although Fu Jia was now afraid to stomp on Lu Qi’an’s shadow, he still ‘stepped’ on Lu Qi’an’s ‘head’ from time to time. Nobody was headed in the same direction as them, and the people who passed by all seemed to be in a hurry. They were the only ones consistently walking at the same pace towards a similar destination together.
Fu Jia was in awe at the entire situation.
He wished that this road would stretch on a bit longer. Just a little longer.
He stepped on Lu Qi’an’s shadow the entire way until they finally arrived at the cafe’s doorstep. He raised his head, and the sight in front of him completely took his breath away.
The cafe was decorated in a contemporary style. The glass windows were wiped until they were as clear as a mirror, and anyone who peeked in would be able to see the high-end interior as well as the meticulously-dressed customers sitting inside.
As he turned to look at Lu Qi’an standing beside him, he realized that, although Lu Qi’an was dressed in a school uniform, there was a certain sophistication about him—
The sophistication unique to people of wealth.
Fu Jia did not dare to hesitate for even one moment. He explained truthfully. “I can’t afford this place. Why don’t you put up with me and pick somewhere else?”
Lu Qi’an looked towards him. “You can’t afford this place?”
Fu Jia gave it some thought before answering, “I can probably pay for half a cup of water at most.”
Instead of saying things like “I can afford it” or “I can treat you” and anger Fu Jia, Lu Qi’an only said, “My aunt gave you a card. Didn’t Aunt Chen give it to you?”
There was a look of astonishment in his eyes.
And this made Fu Jia’s heart clench in pain.
Lu Qi’an thought he would have taken the card.
Frowning, Lu Qi’an said, “Let me call the villa.”
“No need!” Fu Jia let out a restrained laugh. “I gave the card to Aunt Chen. Do you seriously think I’ll take Auntie’s money? Weren’t you the one who said I was trampling on my dignity and drove me away from the villa?”
Lu Qi’an was clearly caught off-guard by his remark.
Fu Jia pinched the palm of his hand with his fingers, hoping that the pain could make him sound a little less hostile. “It’s alright. Forget about it.” Eyes fixated on the ground, he continued. “Let’s go in. I still have enough for a cup of water.”
Instead, Lu Qi’an uttered, “I’m sorry.”
“Huh?” Needless to say, Fu Jia was surprised at the sound of his apology.
Rather than addressing the burning question in his mind, Lu Qi’an said, “We can go to the apartment I’m staying at right now.
Shocked, Fu Jia subconsciously asked, “Are you messing with me?”
“I don’t have the time to waste to make jokes like that.”
Fu Jia fell into a momentary silence. It was only after a while did he respond cautiously. “Oh…Sure.”
Lu Qi’an proceeded to lead the way.
As Fu Jia trailed after him, even when Lu Qi’an swiped his card to enter a small community and assisted Fu Jia in registering as a visitor, Fu Jia still found the whole situation to be surreal.
Lu Qi’an should be hating him. Although his disgust of Fu Jia didn’t run as deep as Lin Fengxun and Lu Wanqing, it should be enough for him to avoid Fu Jia like a plague.
This notion was deep-rooted in Fu Jia’s mind for nearly a decade.
When the two of them stepped into the elevator, Fu Jia suddenly felt nervous.
This is real. This is not fake. Lu Qi’an is seriously bringing me to his home. A home without Lin Fengxun and Lu Wanqing around.
“Change your shoes first before going in.” After he entered the house, Lu Qi’an handed Fu Jia a newly-opened pair of slippers.
Looking around the apartment while changing his shoes, Fu Jia could tell Lu Qi’an had the entire place to himself, and this was only a temporary residence. The size of the place was just right, neither too spacious or too narrow, but there was no presence of life in this home.
“Your slippers are on the wrong feet.”
“?” Fu Jia looked down at his feet in confusion. Indeed, he had put them on incorrectly .
This was too embarrassing for him to bear, but, thank god, Fu Jia was incredibly thick-skinned. “You can’t really tell which one is supposed to go on the right or left. I think it’s fine even if I wear them this way.”
Since Fu Jia didn’t seem to mind, Lu Qi’an would not go as far as to say anything else. He pointed towards the innermost room and said, “We’ll be in the study room later. There’s a fridge on your left. If you’re thirsty, feel free to grab some water from it.”
Fu Jia shrugged him off with a wave. “I’m not thirsty.”
Initially, there was only one chair in the study, so Lu Qi’an moved another one in and placed them side-by-side. The chair was a completely different design from the table and it did not have a back to lean against. On top of that, it was also shorter than the other chair. Hence, when the two of them sat down, Fu Jia realized that he had to constantly raise his chin to look up at Lu Qi’an.
Feeling somewhat awkward about the situation, he tried to play it safe by constantly looking down to examine the floor beneath his feet.
As Lu Qi’an lowered his gaze to look at Fu Jia, the scene he saw—the other boy’s nape and protruding shoulder blade—suddenly reminded him of the day he saw Fu Jia on the staircase in the Lin’s villa. At that time, the thing that attracted him the most were these parts.
At the moment, he did not have the answer.
Trying to suppress the awkwardness he felt, Fu Jia opened his school bag and pulled out the dozen workbook pages he stuck together earlier.
The way he mended the book was utterly clumsy and disorderly. Tape could be found in all sort of places, and the size was not even uniformed to begin with. The whole book looked like it was picked up from a scrapyard.
Forget about solving the problems on it, it was difficult to even make out the questions themselves.
Lu Qi’an took the thin, tattered book. He rubbed his fingers against the edge with the pieces of tape sticking upwards and asked. “What happened?”
Fu Jia held his head in an evasive manner, and replied casually. “Nothing happened. I tore it up for fun.”
“And then you decided to stick them back together? One page at a time?”
Fu jia knew his explanation did not make sense, but he did not want Lu Qi’an to figure out the truth. The way Lu Qi’an was interrogating him made him feel like he was being looked down upon. Was it amusing to make him confess all the pathetic and shitty things that happened to him?
“Since when were you interested in this sort of thing? Do you love digging up someone else’s humiliating incidents that much? Isn’t your time too precious to waste?”
Fu Jia yelled back in outrage, but the feeling was quickly replaced with a pang of regret. What was he doing? Using Lu Qi’an as an emotional punching bag and lashing out at him…
“If you don’t feel like telling me, you can reject me. There’s no need for satire.” Picking up the workbook again, Lu Qi’an pushed the book in front of Fu Jia and pointed at two areas that were stuck together incorrectly. “You can’t use this anymore.”
Without even sparing it a single glance, Fu Jia cried out, “I spent five hours putting them back together, and now you’re telling me it’s useless?!”
“It’ll be faster if you buy a new one.”
The tone in Lu Qi’an’s voice surprisingly softened.
Fu Jia was at a loss for words.
He was right. Why didn’t he think of that earlier?
Feeling hot-headed, Fu Jia stared at the tattered book he stuck together. Placed on Lu Qi’an’s wooden desk, it appeared conspicuously out of place.
All of a sudden, he felt similarly. A misfit in this apartment. A person who does not even deserve the shoes on his feet. A person looking all out of place on the shorter chair. He was boiling with rage but there was no outlet for him to vent his frustrations. Quickly, he reached out to shove the workbook into his bag before standing up on his feet in one swift movement. “Let’s forget about it today. I’ll buy a new one. I’ll let you know then.”
“Wait,” Lu Qi’an called out to him.
Fu Jia helplessly stopped in his tracks.
“You don’t have to buy a new book. The questions weren’t right for you anyway so I’ll create a few problems for you to work on. Which subject are you the weakest at?”
As Fu Jia stared at the wooden floor, he grinded the tip of his toes against it before saying, “Maths…”
This was the conclusion he came to after a difficult on-going battle deciding between mathematics and English.
“Which topic is your weakest in maths?”
“Okay.” Lowering his gaze, Lu Qi’an began to write on the paper.
“You don’t have to waste your time. It’s not that easy to come up with questions.” All Fu Jia could think of was to sit back down on the chair, but since he had decided to leave so determinedly, how he could he go back on his word so soon?
“It’s not that difficult. Give me ten minutes at most.”
To which Fu Jia replied, “Then what am I going to do while you write the questions?”
Without even looking up, Lu Qi’an said, “You can read a book.”
Fu Jia intentionally fought back. “Well, what books do you have that I can understand? Do you have any books from high school?”
Lu Qi’an stopped what he was doing and looked up to stare at him.
Panic washed over him, but he could not be blame as it was already puzzling enough to find someone staring at you without uttering a single word.
“What?” He pretended to sound relaxed.
“You can look at me since you’re so good at it anyway.”
After tossing that out there, Lu Qi’an continued to look down and write.
All Fu Jia could do was stare at him in a state of shock with his heart almost bursting out of his chest.
He did not dare continue to look in the next second, so he cautiously controlled where his gaze landed.
He sat back down on the short-legged chair, keeping his limbs to himself, and was puzzled as to why his heartbeat would not slow down.