Chen Dong Lan sat on the sofa with the television on. He watched every scene but his mind was a blank.
He was often like this when he was alone.
It was Chinese New Year’s eve and today, he had made up for the leave he had taken the last time. After work, he originally wanted to cook vegetable noodles just to get by, but remembering Yuan Yuan’s words, his body filled with renewed strength, urging him to cook rice and two stir-fried dishes.
Thinking about it carefully, this year was quite significant. Starting from this year, he and Yuan Yuan had gotten closer. The care that Yuan Yuan had shown him, was a hundred times more than before.
He was satisfied.
An incoming call notification roused him and he picked up the phone. It was Xiao De. “Ge? Olivia and I have reached the place. It’s so hot here. We even changed to short sleeves.”
This morning, Xiao De and his girlfriend took a plane to a coastal city. He only knew when he contacted Xiao De after work.
After what happened the last time, Chen Dong Lan no longer restricted his actions and only reminded Xiao De to keep him informed of his plans.
Xiao De seemed unwilling, but obediently called to report his movement.
After he hung up the phone, Chen Dong Lan turned off the television and lights. He lay on the bed and forced himself to go to sleep.
Unable to fall asleep, Chen Dong Lan repeated the dull process of opening and closing his eyes, but his mind became increasingly awake.
Burning desire chose this moment to appear.
He rubbed his face and tried to calm his painfully hard lower body, but it didn’t work. Men were a useless species. Even a clumsy and slow man like him was unable to suppress his sexual desire because he liked someone.
His breathing deepened and perspiration appeared. After holding back for five minutes, his shaking hand reached into his pants to sooth his erection.
Over the years, Chen Dong Lan very rarely masturbated. At most, it was only two or three times a year. Pure-hearted with few desires, he was like an old man about to be buried.
He had little experience and his technique was clumsy. It was more of a mistreatment than it was soothing and the intention was to let himself feel pain so he could calm down.
His mind was full of Yuan Yuan, and they were all unbearable images. He roughly knew how men did it. In his fantasy, sometimes Yuan Yuan was on top and sometimes he was on top. But his imagination was not specific enough and the important parts were always vague.
Relying on his mindful of erotic images, he released despite his awful technique.
After he came, Chen Dong Lan was overwhelmed by shame. Instead of cleaning up, he buried his face into the pillow. The dampness in his pants made him unable to face it. He simply lay there and miraculously fell asleep.
The next day, his biological clock was delayed for an hour before waking Chen Dong Lan up.
As soon as he woke up, he remembered what he had done last night. His face and even his neck was red and he almost exploded [T/N: 爆开 meaning explode or burst open. I assume from shame.]. Because he had not removed his pants, the stuff that came out did not dirty the sheets, but he frantically removed them. Ashamed to put them in the washing machine he shared with Yuan Yuan, he squatted in the bathroom and stubbornly washed them by hand.
When cooking breakfast for himself, he looked at his hand and started to feel flustered again, nearly knocking over the pot.
Hastily finishing his meal, he sat in front of the television and watched the rerun from last night, calming down a little.
When his phone rang, Chen Dong Lan thought that it was Xiao De and answered it, saying, “Xiao De, what is it?”
“Xiao De is your brother’s name?” Yuan Yuan asked laughingly.
Hearing his voice, Chen Dong Lan felt weak. Feeling that he had done something wrong, he didn’t have the confidence to speak to him. “Yes…his full name is Xu Ming De. Everyone in the family calls him Xiao De.”
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection. If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
“Then do they call you Xiao Lan?”
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“So it’s like that…” Yuan Yuan didn’t dig deeper.
“Yuan Yuan, Happy New Year. How is Uncle and Auntie? Please help me to pass on New Year greetings.” Chen Dong Lan stiffly changed the topic.
“Happy New Year. They’re all doing very well. But I’m not able to pass on your greetings.”
“Open the door.”
Chen Dong Lan’s heart started to beat wildly.
There was probably such a strange reasoning in the world. The more anxious he was to find something, the more he would be unable to find it. Despite being full of impatience, he could only give up in disappointment. Until the point when there was no hope at all, that thing would again jump out and stay somewhere he could reach.
He walked to the door, held his breath and opened it.
Yuan Yuan stood there with his suitcase in one hand and his mobile phone in the other. He looked at Chen Dong Lan and grinned. “Surprised?”
More than surprised. Chen Dong Lan blinked his dry eyes. “What happened? I mean…so…”
He couldn’t organise his words.
“Okay okay. Let’s go in. First, let me check what you ate this morning.” He pushed his suitcase in and bent over looking for his slippers in the shoe cabinet.
Chen Dong Lan hovered around him aimlessly, then suddenly came to a realisation and grabbed his suitcase. “I’ll help you put this in your room.”
Yuan Yuan held back his laughter.
Chen Dong Lan’s whole face was showing “I’m so happy”. He kindly released his suitcase and let Chen Dong Lan carry it into the room like a treasured object.
After changing his footwear, he went into the kitchen and inspected it without seeing any useful traces. “What did you eat this morning?”
With the pattering sound of slippers, Chen Dong Lan ran over. “Noodles.”
Yuan Yuan shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
Chen Dong Lan’s eyes widened slightly. He took a pot out from the cupboard. “This was what I used this morning.” Then he searched around in the bowl cabinet, causing clinking and clattering sounds. “I can’t tell which bowl I used, but it was a blue and white porcelain bowl that we bought together in the supermarket.”
Chen Dong Lan was so anxious that his face was red.
Yuan Yuan hurriedly nodded. “Okay, okay, okay. I believe you.”
He left the kitchen and when passing the balcony, he noticed the sheets that were being air-dried.
Chen Dong Lan followed behind him with small steps, like his little brother.
Opening the balcony door, he saw the quilt cover and bed sheets were dripping water. “What is this?” Yuan Yuan questioned. “Is our washing machine broken?”
“No…” Chen Dong Lan hung his head with guilt. “I hand washed them.”
“Hand wash…” Yuan Yuan couldn’t help but scold him. “You hand wash in this type of weather?”
Chen Dong Lan was even more ashamed. There really was something wrong with him, so he couldn’t sleep in the middle of night, burning with desire.
Yuan Yuan was totally convinced by Chen Dong Lan. He made the right decision to come back early. If he left this alone, what could Chen Dong Lan do tomorrow if he washed the sheets by hand today? Take a bath in the river?
“You have to give me a reason for washing by hand.” Yuan Yuan said solemnly.
“I…” Chen Dong Lan’s brain worked quickly. “I, I wanted to exercise for a while.”
Yuan Yuan was amazed. He knew that Chen Dong Lan’s ability to come up with excuses was poor, but he didn’t expect it to be this poor.
Chen Dong Lan lowered his head and every strand of hair was repenting.
Yuan Yuan sighed and couldn’t bear to continue his admonishment.
Next, he searched through every cupboard in the house. Not even finding a biscuit crumb, his expression finally improved.
Chen Dong Lan heaved a sigh of relief. He asked, “Why did you come back early?”
Yuan Yuan asked in return, “Can’t I?”
Chen Dong Lan shook his head vigorously. “You can. You can.”
“I felt like coming back, so I came back. There is no why.” Yuan Yuan ended this topic neatly. “I caught the plane at six o’clock this morning and haven’t had breakfast yet.”
Chen Dong Lan stared blankly.
Yuan Yuan repeated, “I haven’t had breakfast.”
Chen Dong Lan reacted and quickly said, “I’ll cook some noodles for you.”
Yuan Yuan nodded with satisfaction.
Chen Dong Lan rolled up his sleeves and started cooking, feeling like he had endless amounts of energy.
He did countless things to the noodles, almost wanting to stuff in all the ingredients in the refrigerator, adding fried egg, bacon, cucumber, cold tomatoes, kelp and so on…
Yuan Yuan felt that he couldn’t finish it, but didn’t say anything. Before picking up his chopsticks, he said, “While I eat, go change and prepare to leave. We’re going somewhere together.”
“Where’re we going?”
Yuan Yuan didn’t answer, making Chen Dong Lan feel very nervous.
He nervously changed his clothes and nervously sat in front of the television waiting for Yuan Yuan.
By the time he finished eating, Chen Dong Lan’s palms were sweating.
“Let’s go.” Yuan Yuan didn’t bring anything with him except a set of keys and his mobile phone.
It was the first day of Chinese New Year, so there were few cars on the road. There was no traffic jam to hinder them and they reached a district that Chen Dong Lan did not recognise. He seldom moved around in the city and his life only consisted of work and home.
It wasn’t until Yuan Yuan drove his car into a small neighbourhood and he saw the exquisite greenery within that he realised that this was the neighbourhood where Yuan Yuan’s new apartment was.
“It’s our new apartment.” Yuan Yuan parked his car in the car park. “It’ll be ready to move into after the Lantern Festival. You haven’t seen it yet, so I brought you to see it today.”
Our new apartment.
Chen Dong Lan’s heart was filled with sweetness.
The apartment was on the seventeenth floor. It had the best light and was the largest apartment surrounding the core tube of the building. Upon entering, there was a balcony and after passing through was a wide living room. The renovation was completed and most of the furniture had been arranged. The main colours were black, white and grey, in the typical modern, cool style.
With four bedrooms, a living room and a dining room, it was a little bigger than Chen Dong Lan expected. For a while, he didn’t know where to go first.
Yuan Yuan said, “I haven’t decided the room arrangements yet. The room facing south is the master bedroom. See if you like it.”
Chen Dong Lan opened his mouth, but nothing came out.
His eyes were wet and he couldn’t control his tears, feeling like they would rush out in the next second.
He quickly turned and with his back towards Yuan Yuan, walked towards the master bedroom, feigning curiosity while inspecting the room.
They spent over an hour inside the new apartment, discussing the future layout and it was afternoon before they knew it.
They went to an eating place near the neighbourhood for lunch and after ordering their food, Yuan Yuan asked carelessly, “When we were in junior high, how was our relationship like?”
“Eh?” Chen Dong Lan was lost.
“This time when I went home, I dug out some junior high graduation photos and after some careful thinking, I didn’t have many memories of you from junior high. Did we not have a good relationship then?”
Chen Dong Lan shook his head. “It’s not that our relationship wasn’t good.”
Just that there was simply no relationship to speak of.
“I can’t remember either. Now that I try to recall, I can only remember the things from college.” Chen Dong Lan used the “college” topic to cover “junior high”.
Yuan Yuan nodded and didn’t ask further.
Chen Dong Lan heaved a sigh of relief.
He wasn’t willing to lie in front of Yuan Yuan, but that small box of memories must not be opened easily.
Those memories, he only dared to dream of them in the middle of the night…
To appreciate secretly.