Assistant Architect by Xi He Qing Ling
Chapter 212: Guest
Gu Yu’s casual and indifferent tone made Zhang Siyi feel annoyed. Was there anything more irritating then having ones’ hard work mean less in the face of another, like Gu Yu, who didn’t study at all?
Luckily for Zhang Siyi, he wasn’t in high school during the time Gu Yu was in high school. A gifted student like Gu Yu was rare. Even He Chengtian continued to shoulder resentment towards Gu Yu over their past years together in high school.
Gu Yu probably wouldn’t even understand what a normal person went through during high school. Just like now, after his flippant remark, Gu Yu patted the bed next to him and said: “You will sleep here, right?”
Even though Zhang Siyi was really angry, he couldn’t resist Gu Yu request. Almost all of the cells in his body tingled with excitement despite his annoyance.
Since they weren’t large men, as a double sized bed, it was big enough for them to lie down together, albeit very snug. They should be able to sleep comfortably enough. Since the bed they normally slept in at home in Haicheng was a king size bed, Gu Yu was worried Zhang Siyi would refuse.
Staying close with Gu Yu, there was no way Zhang Siyi wouldn’t want to, but unfortunately, he was a guest and only a thin wall separated themselves from his parents. After feeling so excited, he suddenly felt awful.
Thinking about when he arrived earlier, Zhang Siyi felt a little embarrassed: “How can you say that to your dad earlier!?”
Gu Yu laughed: “I’m testing their bottom line. I usually joke around with my Dad while at home. You don’t have to be so nervous.”
Zhang Siyi felt a little envious over Gu Yu’s relationship with his Father. Unlike their easy going bantering, there were clear status boundaries between Zhang Siyi’s Father and himself. He would never joke around with his own father.
In contemplation, Gu Yu held his chin. He mused: “My parents’ reactions weren’t too strange. I think their ability to accept us will be better than I anticipated.“
Thinking of something else Zhang Siyi interrupted: “Hey, does your mother really not speak?”
In affirmation, Gu Yu softly said: “Hmm.”
Since his expression remained calm, curious, Zhang Siyi was bold enough to ask: “Is she deaf?”
While furrowing his brow, Gu Yu shook his head and responded: “No. It’s a bit complicated….. My mother’s family were scholars that had some social standing within the local area. My grandfather was an official when my mother was five. When she turned nine, she witnessed my grandfather’s persecution and was killed. She was greatly traumatized and since that time, she wouldn’t speak.”
Even though Gu Yu could have brushed aside the issue by saying ‘yes’, he truthfully explained the real reason to Zhang Siyi.
There was a big shock in Zhang Siyi’s heart. The tragic history was too far away from his generation. He never expected that such pains would be left on the loved ones of those around him.
“Then, is it a psychological problem?” Zhang Siyi asked.
“Probably, we don’t really know. There weren’t obvious medical ailments. When my father married my mother, he thought she was physically disabled. Later, with the development of information, we learned from newspapers and television that her lack of speech was likely caused by a problem with the central nervous system. It’s a type of aphasia. Gu Yu sighed and sadly said: “since she was already used to a life without speech, we never forced her.”
With a pained expression, Zhang Siyi furrowed his brows and lamented: “It’s a pity.” …… Gu Yu’s mother is so beautiful. She should have been the perfect person.
Gu Yu smiled bitterly and said: “It is a pity, but my mother believes that there is a gain to every loss. With the loss of her voice, she has gained a happy and perfect family.”
He looked down, and said: “When I was a child, I thought all mothers couldn’t speak. At some point in my youth, I realized that it was only my mother who couldn’t talk. When I was older, asked my father about it and he told me the truth. He joked about it and said that if my mother was able to talk, he wouldn’t have been able to marry her.”
Zhang Siyi didn’t know whether to feel bad about her situation or feel happy for his family. Indeed, the love between members of the Gu family was clear. With exceedingly well-mannered and prosperous children, the family was picture perfect. A shadow of doubt crossed Zhang Siyi’s mind. What if his mother knew her son liked men? Would she still feel the same happiness?
Gu Yu seemed to be able to sense what he was thinking. He took Zhang Siyi hand into his own and squeezed it to comfort him: “Since they believe in these philosophies, I don’t think it will be very difficult for us. They will understand that I can’t take home a daughter-in-law and instead will gain another son-in-law. You will treat them well, right?”
Zhang Siyi nodded vigorously and holding Gu Yu’s hand tightly, he said: “Of course.” Perhaps the beautiful things in life are made even more precious because of their flaws.
Silently, Zhang Siyi leaned on Gu Yu for a while, taking comfort in each other’s presence. He was curious, but also embarrassed. Eventually, his curiosity won out and mustard up the courage to ask: “How do you and your Mother communicate? Sign language?”
“My sister and I can understand sign language used for daily life. I will also teach it to you. However, you don’t have to learn how to do it because my mother can hear. Usually, if there was something urgent she would press a button on the phone in response to questions, but now she can text us directly. She can also write notes. My mother writes very beautifully. Come I’ll show you.”
With Gu Yu’s encouragement, Zhang Siyi got up and followed him to his parent’s room. In the hallway, he saw Father Gu coming out of the kitchen with food in hand. He greeted them both and said: “The food will be ready very soon.”
Responding to his father, Gu Yu said: “I’m going to take Zhang Siyi to see mother’s calligraphy.” He continued down the hallway towards a door and pushed it open.
Across from the bed, there was an alcove with a square bookcase against the wall on one side. Stacked on the shelves were piles of paper. Also, there was a felt covered case.
Gu Yu picked up the case and opened it for Zhang Siyi to see. Inside, there was a pen, brushes and all types of writing.
“Wow! It’s so awesome!” Zhang Siyi revealed his admiration through his actions and words.
Proud of his mother, Gu Yu said: “Isn’t it?”
In fact, as a layman, Zhang Siyi doesn’t understand the nuances of calligraphy. He doesn’t really know the differences between good or poor-quality writing. The writing looks like those in a copybook sold in bookstores. Anyways, since Gu Yu said it was good, then it must be.
Gu Yao came into the room looking for them: “What are you looking at? It’s time to eat!”
Zhang Siyi carefully rolled up the scroll he was looking at. Smiling he asked: “I’m looking at your mother’s calligraphy. Does Gu Yao write as well?”
Gu Yu replied earnestly: “Yes. She also won first prize in the city’s calligraphy contest when she was a child.”
Zhang Siyi: “So amazing!”
Gu Yao scrunched up her face and said: “Brother don’t patronize me! You know my writing is the worst in our family!”
Zhang Siyi: “Eh? You compare each other’s writing?”
Gu Yao: “Why wouldn’t we? In our family, writing is our status in the family. Mom writes the best. She is the boss and father is second. My brother has worked hard every day in recent years and will probably surpass Father soon. I’ve been lazy since college and haven’t practiced for a long time! “
Zhang Siyi was surprised to learn that Gu Yu practiced calligraphy all the time for the sake of the family’s competition.
Gu Yu sighed and lowered his voice to say: “Hey, no way. Second Brother’s scribbles are so bad. It will take a long time and a lot of work to simply catch up.”
Zhang Siyi: “…” Shit! (= 皿 =)
Gu Yu touched his chin in thought and said: “But certainly, he won’t be at the bottom. My impression of the guy’s writing with the surname He was even worse.”
Gu Yao had a delayed reaction. She blushed suddenly and shouted: “Hey!”
Zhang Siyi was holding his belly laughing. Father Gu called them over to eat. Then the three of them pushed and shoved out of the door.
There were five different dishes and a bowl of soup on the table. Although the food wasn’t fancy, it was full of color and smelled delicious, which made everyone excited to eat.
Just like last year, everyone waited until each of the members of the family sat down before everyone moved their chopsticks.
Father Gu raised a glass toward Zhang Siyi with a smile and said: “Last year, we had two pairs of chopsticks at the table. This year, we have added another pair.”
After hearing Father Gu’s sentiments, Zhang Siyi was frightened again. Wasn’t another-pair-of-chopsticks alluding to him? Did Father Gu guess correctly about their relationship? Or, did he think he was with Gu Yao……? That can’t be right! From the beginning, since he was always with Gu Yu, it was clear his relationship was closer to him than it was with Gu Yao.
His father’s remarks also surprised Gu Yu. He recovered quickly and calmly asked his father: “Didn’t you say ‘hands’ last time?”
Scared, Zhang Siyi picked up his glass trembling. He remembered last year, there was indeed a photo full of hands representing the Gu family posted to social media.
Gu Yu father quipped: “What’s the difference between a hand and a pair of chopsticks?”
Gu Yu: “…”
Zhang Siyi: “…”
Zhang Siyi was dumbfounded. At this moment, his sharp eye caught Mother Gu glancing at Father Gu with a meaningful look of ‘stop teasing’.
Immediately afterwards, Gu Yu’s father laughed and said, “Okay, let’s eat. The more the merrier! Evening dinner will be even more spectacular!”
Looking at all he options, Zhang Siyi said: “I’m not sure which to eat; meat or fish? They all look so good!”
Father Gu smiled: “Make yourself at home and eat as you please, don’t hesitate.”
Still feeling the shock to his heart, Zhang Siyi nodded.
Even though no one was bothered by Father Gu’s opening remarks, the table remained quiet. This was because of the new ultra-thin TV hanging on the wall in front of the family’s table. While eating lunch, they watched the annual Spring Festival Gala. Even though the program had been running for thirty years, the host voice brought them joy.
Afterwards, Father and Mother Gu cleared the dishes and chopsticks. While they went to prepared the New Year’s Cake, they let the children talk amongst themselves
At first, the three of them pretended to watch TV in the living room. Gu Yu sat for a while, but ultimately, with his own agenda in mind, he told his parents he was going to take out Zhang Siyi and Gu Yao.
As soon as they went downstairs, Zhang Siyi swore. He nervously said: “Shit, does your parents already know everything?”
Gu Yao echoed his sentiments: “I know, right? When my Father said that at the table, I was shocked!”
Zhang Siyi told them about the expressions on Mother Gu’s face that he observed: “It wasn’t just my imagination, right? Really, I think your parents already know.”
“I’m not too sure.” Gu Yu glanced at his sister and asked: “Did you mention anything?”
Feeling wronged, Gu Yao shouted: “I haven’t said anything about it!”
Zhang Siyi was frightened by the situation: “What do we do now?”
Gu Yu watched their frighten antics and stated: “What’s the problem? Isn’t their calm and natural reaction a good thing?”
Zhang Siyi froze for a moment. Hitting his thigh, he thought, yes, if it was this easy, then coming out would be simple and they no longer had to hide. However, because his parents were so calm, it seemed abnormal which made him feel like he was dreaming. He always felt like coming out was going to be a much bigger problem to overcome in the future!
Pondering their predicament, Gu Yu furrowed his brows in thought and said: “Let’s wait and see. You don’t have to be so nervous. If my parents really have guessed the truth, then their method of revelation was very gentle. It just proves how tolerant and accepting they are. Its not too late to be happy, right?”
Zhang Siyi and Gu Yao nodded. Gu Yu was also relieved.
After drinking a cup of coffee and wandering around outside, they returned home early. Gu Yao gave Zhang Siyi an old photo album full of family pictures. Zhang Siyi squealed in delight. He wanted to take home all of Gu Yu’s childhood photos.
At night, with the abundant delicacies present, the Chinese New Year’s dinner was richer than at noon. To name a few, there were pickled big yellow croaker, twice-baked roasted bran, creamed red crab, poached eggs with soy sauce … Zhang Siyi’s eyes glowed. He took several photos to post on his social media page.
Before they ate, Gu Yu proposed that the five of them take a hand photo like they did last year. Zhang Siyi’s hand was added to his family’s portrait. His Father and Mother didn’t show signs of disapproval. They both smiled broadly as if they already regarded Zhang Siyi as part of the family.
After dinner, according to their family’s traditions, brother and sister Gu cleared the dishes from the table and brought them to the kitchen. Zhang Siyi originally wanted to help, but was stopped by Father Gu: “Zhang Siyi, you are a guest. Come and watch the Spring Festival Gala with us.”
Zhang Siyi glanced in the direction of the kitchen for Gu Yu and silently asked for help with his eyes. Not being able to do anything about it, Gu Yu shrugged his shoulders and gave him a I-can’t-help-you gesture. Zhang Siyi had to bite the bullet and sit with his parents alone.
Gu Yu’s Father didn’t sit next to his Mother. Instead, he sat on sofa and patted the seat next to him, offering a place for Zhang Siyi to sit.
Zhang Siyi: “…” Shit! He didn’t want the privilege of being a guest! (t 皿 t)