Assistant Architect by Xi He Qing Ling
Chapter 206: Old Four
After a quick shower, Zhang Siyi returned to the bedroom to continue his work. Spreading out his portfolio images and application materials over the desk top, Zhang Siyi had taken over the writing table that Gu Yu normally used to practice calligraphy.
Assembling what he needed, he sent the first set of images to Su Yuan electronically. About half an hour later, Su Yuan emailed Zhang Siyi back and sent him a row of thumbs-up emojis. She expressed her surprise: “I really didn’t expect your skills to improve so much. Several designs of yours are very well thought out with both maturity and your own style. It’s a lot more material than those with portfolios that were specifically created for the application.”
Bolstered with pride, Zhang Siyi was confidant, but still, he remained modest and said: “This is just the first edition. I threw these together in haste, neither thinking about their arrangement nor their layouts. With continued editing, I’ll give them another layer of meaning by how I sequence them.”
Su Yuan: “This is good. I think your personal statement should coordinate with the display of the portfolio.”
Zhang Siyi: “You mean, I shouldn’t sequence them from best to worst? Is it better to leave them in chronological order?”
Su Yuan: “Yes. Hold on. There is too much to type so I’ll open a voice chat with you.”
Seeing the incoming voice chat call, Zhang Siyi quickly looked around the room. Gu Yu was leaning on the bed reading, he turned his head to tell him: “Don’t move and don’t make a sound!”
The quietly reading Gu Yu: “……..”
As the video connected, Zhang Siyi adjusted the camera so that only his face could be seen.
Su Yuan’s voice came out over the loudspeaker: “Hey, can you hear me?”
Zhang Siyi was nervous: “Yes, I hear you.”
Su Yuan didn’t find anything unusual about the situation. She talked to Zhang Siyi about her thoughts and suggestions. Even though he was worried about Gu Yu’s presence in the room at first, Zhang Siyi quickly forgot about him as he became immersed in the conversation with Su Yuan.
Unknowingly, they spoke for more than an hour. Zhang Siyi had made some notes about what needed to be done. With Su Yuan’s help, he knew the direction he needed to go with his application.
It wasn’t until Zhang Siyi watched Su Yuan yawn over the video chat that he realized it was already midnight. He felt guilty for keeping her awake and thus, thanked her for the help and hung up the video call.
After ending the video call, Zhang Siyi breathed a sigh of relief. Eager to talk about his portfolio, he turned his head to hear Gu Yu opinions, but instead, he saw him leaning on the bed with a book in hand asleep.
Even though Zhang Siyi slowly and quietly approached the bed out of respect for his sleeping lover, Gu Yu was awakened by the movements. He slowly opened his eyes and whispered: “Did you finish talking?”
“Yeh.” Zhang Siyi furrowed his brow slightly in concern: “You are tired so go to sleep first. “
Gu Yu said without hesitation: “I’m waiting for you.”
Zhang Siyi leaned over and covered Gu Yu shoulders with the quilt: “For the past several days, you have already helped me with my statement. Now it is time for me to write the essay on my own. Go to sleep.”
Rarely has Gu Yu seen Zhang Siyi act so domineering. He sighed and closed the book: “All right.”
As Gu Yu laid back down, feeling a little guilty, Zhang Siyi bent over to give him a kiss. Like an elder taking care of a child, he helped Gu Yu adjust the blankets around his body and tucked him into bed, making Gu Yu want to laugh.
Gu Yu reached out to caress his check: “Okay, go and write now. Come back to bed soon.”
Zhang Siyi grabbed Gu Yu’s hand and kissed him before turning off the bedside lamp. Returning to the desk, he turned on a small desk light before continuing his writing.
As the hours passed, Zhang Siyi dare not look back at Gu Yu for fear he would immediately want to join him in the warm bed. Although the figure behind him was asleep, Gu Yu was the source of his strength. Wanting to catch up with Gu Yu in a hurry, it made Zhang Siyi determined to work even harder and continue struggling forward.
Unbeknown to Zhang Siyi, Gu Yu wasn’t sleeping all that well. He woke up several times during the night to watch Zhang Siyi sitting in front of the desk writing.
Not until the first vestiges of light in the nights’ sky before the break of dawn, did Zhang Siyi stretch out his arms and body. Tired, he turned around to climb into bed.
Since he didn’t want to wake Gu Yu up, he calmly got into bed and laid down next to Gu Yu with a small space between them.
Even so, Zhang Siyi felt Gu Yu snuggle close against his body and wrapped his limbs around Zhang Siyi. With the warmth emanating from his body, Gu Yu’s embrace let Zhang Siyi feel relaxed and calm with a great sense of peace and comfort.
Soon, he felt Gu Yu nibbling on his ear and kissing the side of his face. Gu Yu whispered: “It’s not good to stay up all night until morning….. Do you still want to go into work today?”
Only half conscious, Zhang Siyi muttered a reply: “I have to work hard….. in order to catch up…. with you…..” Fast asleep, he didn’t know whether or not Gu Yu had said anything else to him.
Hours later, Zhang Siyi woke up to a clear, bright sky. The other side of the bed was empty. He touched his phone to check the time: 10:48am!
Seeing the time, Zhang Siyi sprung out of bed. Oh My God! Why didn’t his alarm clock go off? Why didn’t Gu Yu call him? He’s been absent from work all morning!
Getting dressed quickly, Zhang Siyi reached out for his phone in order to call Gu Yu. He saw a bunch of unread messages from Gu Yu waiting for him: “I turned off the alarm.”, “I arranged for a half day leave for you at work so you could sleep in.”
Zhang Siyi texted him: “I’m awake!” [Little Kitten Cries]
Gu Yu immediately messaged him back: “There is porridge in the kitchen. Eat then come to work. No need to rush.” [Little Fox Touch Head]
What!? How can he not hurry?! The renovation project bid was only two days away! The work is now in its critical phase since it was down to the wire! Quickly Zhang Siyi spooned two large mouthfuls of porridge to eat then hurriedly left for work.
It was exactly at noon time when Zhang Siyi arrived at the company. There weren’t many people in the office. Relieved, Zhang Siyi saw Gu Yu coming from the entrance with two paper bags in his hand. He approached Zhang Siyi and placed them in front of him. One bag contained coffee from Starbucks and the other was a lunch box set purchased from downstairs.
“Wow! Did you buy it?” Zhang Siyi took out the coffee with joy and drank first.
Gu Yu pulled over Zhu Hongzhen’s chair to sit down and asked: “Who else would buy it?”
“Doesn’t the company have free coffee?” With a sip, Zhang Siyi had a satisfied expression appear on his face.
“Didn’t you complain to me the other day about how tired you were of the company’s filtered coffee?” Gu Yu opened the lunch box and set it before him: “Did you finish writing your personal statement? You didn’t sleep at all last night.”
Listening to Gu Yu’s rebuke, Zhang Siyi smiled with impunity: “It’s done!”
Gu Yu uttered a snorting sound in disbelief: “So soon?”
With pride, Zhang Siyi nodded enthusiastically. After talking to Su Yuan last night, he had a clear idea of what to write. After a few tentative sentences, the words started to flow more smoothly and like the opening of a flood gate, the words poured out of him effortlessly. Capturing the feeling, he wrote vigorously all night and completed a nearly five-thousand-word statement in English.
Since he hadn’t used English for more than a year and a half, the thought of writing a 3,000-word academic essay would make him die in pain. Zhang Siyi was worried about the deterioration of his English ability. Apprehensive, he was deeply afraid of writing the personal statement. He least expected to finish so fast. While a literature essay may be difficult, writing a personal statement from the heart proved to be much easier, regardless of the statement being written in a foreign language.
“Well, it’s only the first draft. I’ll probably make changes when I go over it later.”
While being happy for him, Gu Yu sighed: “This time is special, but you aren’t allowed to stay up so late in the future.”
Zhang Siyi: “Hey, I know! “
Under Su Yuan’s guidance and Gu Yu’s input, he polished his essay and finished assembling his portfolio. Relieved upon its completion, Zhang Siyi was able to send the application out right before Christmas.
The next step was the wait. The verdict of admission acceptance or denial wasn’t posted until another four months in April of the new year. Despite the long wait, Zhang Siyi didn’t have time to worry about it because his workload at Borderless kept him busy.
Like most large cities, Haicheng experienced a transformation during the Christmas season. With the intersection of Western and Chinese culture, the small and large shops were decorated for the season in red and green. In addition, there were seasonal festivities everywhere.
For Gu Yu, this time was also special. Christmas was like the Westerners’ Lunar New Year and everyone had off for the holiday. Most took the opportunity to visit relatives and return home, including Gu Yu’s classmates that either moved away after graduation or lived abroad. It was the only period where Gu Yu could meet up with everyone.
For any reunion, since Gu Yu was the top student and idol of the architectural department, he was the most desired person whom people wanted to see. On Saturday, the twenty-sixth, his classmates organized a reunion in Haicheng.
Last year, Zhang Siyi remembered seeing Gu Yu with his sister and a group of his friends at KTV. At that time, Gu Yu was neither friendly, nor unfriendly towards him. Zhang Siyi was simply a little friend in the company. Now it was a year later. If someone were to tell Zhang Siyi from back then that he would be Gu Yu’s boyfriend a year later, he wouldn’t never have believed it.
One day in advance at dinner time, Gu Yu asked his sister: “About this years’ reunion…. It is tomorrow. I took you last Christmas and my friends asked me to bring you. Would you like to go?”
A little surprised, Gu Yao bowed her head and using her chopsticks, she poked at the crab shells on her plate to hide her discomfort: ”I, I have plans with my friend tomorrow to go shopping.”
Gu Yu raised an eyebrow in question: “And which friend is that? He Chengtian?”
Ears red, Gu Yao’s hand froze and the crab she was holding with her chopsticks fell onto the plate……
“Well?” Gu Yu shook his head and sighed. “Nothing to say?”
Gu Yao: “…”
Gu Yu looked at Zhang Siyi: “Then you will go with me.”
Gnawing at his crab legs, Zhang Siyi looked up in surprise: “Ah? What? ….. Why? In what capacity am I going to go? “
Gu Yu: “Which ever you want to be.”
Zhang Siyi: “…” Fuck! Is Gu’s teasing him?
Gu Yu explained: “All of them have seen the photos posted on my social media page. So, I will have to take either my love or my sister tomorrow. I must bring one.”
Choking on crab, Zhang Siyi almost spit it out: “That…. that photo with the shadows!? But do they know who it is? Wouldn’t it be bad if they knew?”
Gu Yu: “Rest assured, these people were my dorm-mates during University and will be able to accept our relationship. They have a tight mouth and won’t cause problems. Besides, you have already met one.”
Zhang Siyi: “Old Chiang?”
Gu Yu: “Yes. He was the second member in our dorm. Last year, since he went to visit his hometown, he missed the reunion.” Even after listening to Gu Yu’s assurance, Zhang Siyi continued to feel nervous. Even so, Gu Yu remained unphased and proclaimed: “It’s settled.”
Gu Yu turned to look at Zhang Siyi and stated: “Look at you these days… with all that overtime, you have two dark circles under your eyes. They are blacker than a panda’s eye! Get to sleep early tonight.”
Zhang Siyi pouted his lips unpleasantly: “What? I’m not good enough to be with you?”
Gu Yu smiled and snorted: “I’m afraid they’ll blame me for abusing a child.”
Zhang Siyi: “…”
Joking aside, on this occasion, Zhang Siyi dare not slack off. He rummaged through his closet and found his best fitting suit. He also wanted to look his most handsome while standing with Gu Yu.
At the appointed time, Gu Yu drove them to the place. This time, the reunion was held at Old Chiang restaurant and not KTV.
When they arrived, there was a noisy ruckus before entering the door. Gu Yu rang the doorbell and a rough but loud voice announced from inside: “Old Four is here!”
A group of people from inside came out of the woodwork to meet Gu Yu. They saw Gu Yu with a handsome young man standing right behind him. Grabbing his arm, Gu Yu pulled Zhang Siyi forward and said: “I’ve brought my love. He is timid, don’t scare him.”
The crowd of people: ”…….”
As the rowdy ambiance fell into a silence, it became awkward. All eyes were drilling holes into Zhang Siyi.
Embarrassed, Zhang Siyi gave a light chuckle and greeted them: “Uh, Hello.”
Old Jiang pushed his way out from the crowd smiling: “Ah-ha… It’s him!” As the first to break the ice, he continued: “I saw him here with you last March!”
From behind the crowd, a voice shouted “Old four has come… Who’s this? My God…” The man slapped himself on the head wanting to cry and laugh: “Three thought you were gay. I didn’t expect it to be true!”
Still in shock, others could also be heard:
”Gu Yu, you were too well hidden”
“That almost gave me a heart attack.”
“Well, say no more… Look, you are scaring the poor boy.”
“Come in, come in. Don’t block the door……”
The crowd cajoled Gu Yu and Zhang Siyi noisily into the room. There were people watching Zhang Siyi curiously as if he was a rare species of animal.
Although the onlookers were eyeing Zhang Siyi, he could feel that they were just curious, well-intentioned and didn’t mean any harm. Gradually, he relaxed.
After seated, Zhang Siyi counted everyone. There were just nine of them including himself. The eight of them lived at school together in two adjacent four-person dorm rooms.
One by one, GU Yu introduced them. In addition to his own dorm-mate, Old Chiang, he called everyone by their nickname; hairy legs, eggplant, beans….. With names like that, it was easy to remember, however, the names didn’t match them any longer. Since they were older and had signs of middle age, Zhang Siyi felt a little out of place.
All of them were in their early thirties, which was a natural time to show their maturing age. But unlike his peers, even though Gu Yu’s 30 birthday was approaching, he still looked like a twenty-six-year old young man.
After Gu Yu introduced his classmates, they turned to enquire about Zhang Siyi.
“How about you … Little boyfriend, how old are you?”
“My name is Zhang Siyi and I’m twenty-four.”
“Wow–! No wonder he is so cute!”
“Where are you from?”
“The same city as me. We went to the same high school.”
“Wow Gu Yu! Are you a pervert? Did you have an eye on him back then?”
Zhang Siyi: “…” o (╯ □ ╰) o
Every answer to all of the questions caused a sensation amongst the people. Zhang Siyi sunk further into his seat feeling embarrassed.