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During the Snowstorm

3.5

The Scenery After the Snowstorm

130

Her long hair flowed down from her ears as she checked her phone. Her finger hung over the screen, unable to click.

 

The seconds felt like minutes as time seemed to stand still.

 

Lin's sudden question broke the silence, "Bad signal?"

 

Yin Guo was taken aback, quickly looking up at him with a start.

 

He picked up his phone and stood up, stretching his limbs. "The signal here is erratic," he remarked, a hint of frustration in his voice. "I can't connect to WeChat; I'm going to step out for a cigarette break."

 

Lin Yi Yang strolled past the tall uncle, who was a towering figure standing at six feet tall, with a muscular build that weighed around 180 pounds. In contrast, Lin was of a similar height but appeared taller because of his lean build. The stark difference in their physique only added to Lin's carefree and youthful appearance as he walked by with a nonchalant air.

 

As Lin walked out of the laundry room, Yin's gaze followed him. The middle-aged man was sorting his clothes and noticed Lin's departure. He called out to Yin with a friendly tone, "Hey, I thought you two were from different countries. Why are you so quiet?" The man chuckled and continued, "Looks like the low air pressure is getting to us all. I'll just have to hum a tune." He picked up a pile of freshly washed clothes and left the room, leaving Yin alone with her thoughts.

 


 

Yin Guo gazed at her phone, her thoughts swirling as she leaned her head on her arms resting on the long table. Shadows cast by her arms obscured her face as she gazed down at her shoes.

 

A flood of fragmented and chaotic thoughts raced through her mind. She couldn't make sense of what was happening. It all felt like some sort of twisted joke. Yet, there was no denying the reality of the situation. Even in the quiet emptiness of the room, she felt like she was facing this head-on.

 

Yin Guo pondered to herself as she replayed Lin's sudden departure in her mind. "Did he really leave just because of a bad signal, or was it an attempt to dodge the awkwardness of the situation?" she wondered.

 

She weighed her options, considering whether she should ignore it and pretend she had not seen the message. But before she could come to a conclusion, she heard a sound from outside the laundry room. It was Lin, standing there in contemplation.

 

The burly uncle appeared, balancing a pile of clothes in his arms. He was taken aback by Lin's presence, but then recognition dawned on him, and he broke into a smile. In a hushed voice, he gestured for Lin to come back inside and whispered, "Come in."

 

The burly uncle, still humming, made his way up the stairs, believing that he was doing them a favor by giving the bickering couple some space.

 

Lin Yi Yang, meanwhile, strode back and forth outside the door, hands buried deep in his pockets. Eventually, he turned and left the apartment building, his shirt unbuttoned and vulnerable to the cutting wind. He huddled against the door, seeking refuge from the gusts, and produced a classic white cigarette. With a flick of his lighter, he lit it after several attempts.

 

He felt a pang of regret as those words slipped out impulsively. The lack of sleep in the past few days had left him feeling hazy, and the warm shower he had just taken only added to the relaxed state of mind he was in.

 

He couldn't help but think back to the comfortable atmosphere from earlier and how he got carried away at the moment. Despite his eagerness, he knew that rushing things would not produce the desired result.

 

Lin Yi Yang firmly believed in the principle of reaping what you sow, and he saw the same principle applying to pursuing someone. Though he had yet to make any real effort, he didn't expect the girl to be instantly interested in him. It was better to take things slow and steady.

 

With a deep breath, he reminded himself, "Take it slow, Lin Yi Yang."

 

Lin Yi Yang took three deep drags of his cigarette and let out the smoke with a sigh. He then fished out his phone and dialed Wu Wei's number upstairs. "Wu Wei, ask Anmei to come down and bring a piece of clothing."

 

Lin Yi Yang was hoping to find some peace, and he figured that Chen Anan, who was known for being quiet and focused solely on playing pool, would be the perfect person to talk to.

 

As expected, Chen Anan quickly appeared and, without a word, threw the clothes.

 

"I'm feeling a bit down lately," admitted Lin Yi Yang, "but you seem even grumpier. It's been years since we last saw each other. Don't you want to catch up?"

 

Chen Anan smirked and took a cigarette from Lin Yi Yang's hand, "Didn't you call me down just to avoid hearing the teasing?"

 

"Not talking doesn't mean one's thoughts are muddled," replied Lin Yi Yang thoughtfully.

 

Lin Yi Yang chuckled and ruffled Chen Anan's hair, teasing, "You're still so small. You haven't grown a single inch!"

Chen Anan playfully dodged his hand, trying to avoid his touch.

 

Lin Yi Yang smiled, offering him a light for the cigarette he had just handed him. "Allow me to light it for you," he said as he expertly flicked his lighter and brought the flame to the end of the cigarette.

 

Chen Anan was a person who didn't like to talk, with a rich and sensitive emotional range. He always felt that this action was like returning to the past, his eyes red, he hugged Lin Yi Yang tightly before he could light his cigarette. He was short and only reached Lin's nose, burying his head in Lin Yi Yang's shoulder like a grown-up girl.

 

Lin Yi Yang was afraid he would cry, so he held a cigarette and patted his back: "Loosen up. You're giving people the wrong impression. How am I supposed to find a wife?"

 

"Screw you." Chen Anan cursed with a nasal sound.

 

Lin Yi Yang was amused and gently pushed Chen Anan away. The two brothers chatted outside in the bitter cold, with Chen Anan frequently attempting to cling to Lin Yi Yang. Lin Yi Yang teased him, saying it was unbecoming for a teacher to act in such a manner with so many students around.

 

Afterward, Yin Guo emerged from the laundry room, arms filled with freshly cleaned clothes. The guests had all left, and Wu Wei had taken the brothers away. Lin Yi Yang was left to tidy up the room.

 

The living room was quiet, with only a dim floor lamp casting a warm glow.

 

Yin Guo leaned against the door, watching Lin Yi Yang tidy up the bar. He could feel her eyes on him, and it made him feel a little self-conscious. He had been expecting her to ignore him, as she often did when they were alone in the apartment.

To his surprise, she spoke up, breaking the silence. "Are you going back tomorrow?" she asked.

 

Lin Yi Yang looked up at her, meeting her gaze. "Yes," he said, nodding.

 

"Morning or afternoon? If it's in the afternoon, will we have enough time to go to Brooklyn?" asked Yin Guo eagerly. Before Lin Yi Yang could answer, she continued, "I'm just asking casually. If you're busy next week is fine too."

 

Lin Yi Yang was just about to reply when Yin Guo took three quick steps toward the bedroom, cutting him off. He stood at the bar, looking at the closed door, and sighed. He put the white cloth down on the counter and leaned against it, studying the surface for a moment. Suddenly, a smile spread across his face as he thought, "What is this broken table? It's so ugly. I should replace it someday."

 

Meanwhile, inside the bedroom, Yin Guo stood at the door, her hand on the doorknob, lost in thought.

 

"What's the hurry? I haven't even finished asking. So, does he want to go or not? Do I have to ask via WeChat?"

 

Yin Guo was just about to open the WeChat app on her phone, but she hesitated. The thought of having to send a message made her anxious.

 

Just then, there was a knock at the door. Yin Guo's heart began to race as she reluctantly let go of her phone. She heard Lin's voice from the other side of the door, "Don't open the door. Let's plan our schedule."

 

"Her heart was still pounding, and she didn't say a word.

 

'Let's leave at 10 o'clock, what do you think?' Lin Yi Yang asked.

 

Yin Guo made a noise of agreement.

 

'10:30 is also okay,' Lin Yi Yang suggested.

 

'Let's go at 10,' Yin Guo finally spoke with a hoarse voice, '10 o'clock.'

 

.....

 

Outside the door, Lin Yi Yang placed his hand on the door frame and leaned down, speaking in a soft voice, "See you tomorrow."

 

The girl inside replied, "See you tomorrow."

 

Wu Wei, who had just returned, was taken aback at the sight. He wondered about the nature of the encounter between Lin Yi Yang and Yin Guo. Had they just finished a private moment? Or had they shared a kiss? The speed at which events were unfolding was causing Wu Wei to question what had happened in the laundry room just a short while ago.

 

Lin Yi Yang absentmindedly picked up the cloth from the table and used it to wipe his face before realizing his mistake and tossing it into the sink

 

Wu Wei observed Lin Yi Yang's turned back with a puzzled expression, watching him tidy up the room with ease. He regretted not insisting on taking An Mei's place in delivering the clothes. An Mei was useless and couldn't even convey the information clearly after asking him for so long. It was a waste to use the opportunity of pretending to deliver clothes to sneak a peek at Lin Yi Yang's date.

 


 

Meanwhile, Yin Guo was still wide awake at the late hour.

 

She quietly tiptoed to the window and sat down, hugging the blanket closely to her chest. She dialed Zheng Yi's number and started the voice call, her heart beating fast with anxiety that Wu Wei or Lin Yi Yang might still be in the living room using the computer. Despite her nervousness, she tried to keep the conversation going and ended up talking about her struggles with laundry, particularly about the lack of sunlight for drying her clothes.

 

Zheng Yi listened attentively and added a little humor by sharing a similar experience from when she first arrived to study. She had hung her clothes outside her dormitory window, only to be scolded by her classmates for breaking the rules. The memory still made her shiver with fear.

 

Yin Guo finally asked Zheng Yi hesitantly, "What did you say in the past when someone confessed to you?"

 

Zheng Yi responded, "Why do you ask? Is someone pursuing you?"

 

Yin Guo explained, "It's a girl from my club. She's seeking my advice, and I don't know how to give her some advice."

 

Zheng Yi pressed, "What exactly did she say? How did he confess?"

 

Yin Guo recited, "He said, 'Can you tell that I want to chase you?'"

 

Zheng Yi considered the confession and replied, "It doesn't seem too serious."

 

Is it?

 

Yin Guo was actually intrigued: "What if it's serious? How would you respond?"

 

Zheng Yi thought for a moment and replied, "It depends. If I have feelings for the person, I would say, 'I can't quite tell. Why don't you show me more clearly?' But if I don't have any interest, I won't respond and let them figure it out themselves. That way, the situation is clear and resolved."

 

Yin Guo nodded in agreement, recognizing that everyone has their unique way of handling such situations. She was torn about how to respond, unsure how to phrase her answer without hurting the person's feelings or giving false hope.

 

Yin Guo buried her face in the blanket, feeling dejected and discouraged. She decided to stop overthinking and focus on the competition. It was March, and the youth and young adult group were about to start. The official tournament was next month, and she was determined to give it her all. After the competition, she would return home and leave all the possibilities and uncertainties behind. The thought of never seeing him again made her heart heavy, but she pushed it aside and focused on the present moment. As she opened her eyes, she realized it was just after six.

 

On weekdays, Wu Wei and his cousin rise early, and by the time Yin Guo stirs, the two of them have usually already departed for their daily pursuits, leaving Yin Guo alone in the apartment. On this particular day, as she emerges from her room, she heads to the bathroom but finds the lights already on.

 

Yin Guo, dressed in a cozy white sportswear jacket lined with fleece, swayed groggily in the living room. She had just gotten up and wanted to use the bathroom but found the lights still on inside. As she waited for someone to come out, she drifted in and out of sleep, her head drooping and her feet lazily kicking in her slippers, making a soft shuffling sound against the floor. Suddenly, Lin Yi Yang emerged from the bathroom and caught a glimpse of Yin Guo, with her head lowered and hair partially obscuring her face, lost in a drowsy state.

 

"Need the bathroom?" Lin Yi Yang queried, catching her off guard.

 

"Oh, yes. I was waiting for it," Yin Guo replied, feeling slightly self-conscious.

 

Lin Yi Yang moved aside to allow Yin Guo to pass by him and enter the bathroom. As she walked past, she noticed the refreshing scent of soap and shampoo on him.

 

"Didn't he shower last night?" Yin Guo couldn't help but wonder and think to herself. "Why does he need to shower again so soon?"

 

As she turned the lock on the bathroom door, Yin Guo couldn't help but notice the unfamiliar grooming products on the counter by the mirror. She hadn't seen them before, and they clearly didn't belong to her roommate Wu Wei or her cousin. Curiosity got the best of her, and she picked up one of the items, a razor, and examined it.

 

The razor was a blade, not an electric one, which was unusual. She wondered how he managed to shave without nicking himself.

 

Outside the bathroom, Lin Yi Yang rubbed his chin as he leaned against the wall. He had just taken a shower and shaved, but his old towel was falling apart. He had come out to grab a new one but hadn't finished tidying up the bathroom. When he saw Yin Guo approaching, he was momentarily speechless, allowing her to go in first.

 

Yin Guo stood in front of the bathroom mirror, looking at her reflection. It was just 6 AM; the early morning light streamed through the window, casting a warm glow on her face. Despite her morning run and shower, she still looked tired, with dark circles under her eyes. She made a gesture using her index finger and felt a twinge of regret for not taking better care of her skin. A pesky pimple had emerged on her chin, resulting from a poor night's sleep.

 

As she reached for a tissue to absorb the moisture from her bangs, she couldn't help but wish she had some concealer to cover the blemish on her chin. With delicate movements, she combed her hair back into place, trying to restore a more natural look. But the tiredness in her eyes and the pimple on her chin were constant reminders of the demanding week she had been through and the early morning ahead.

 

Lin Yi Yang stood at the kitchen counter, the scent of sizzling eggs filling the air. The sound of the pan echoed throughout the living room as he tended to the food. "Wu Wei went to Boston," he informed Yin Guo, who was just coming out of the bathroom. He gestured towards the two plates, already set with crisp golden potatoes, ready for the eggs.

 

"He left at 5 o'clock," he added, before offering her a warm smile. "Care to join me for breakfast?"

 

Yin Guo eagerly agreed, grateful for the invitation. "Thank you," she replied, taking a seat at the table. The two shared a quiet, peaceful meal together, surrounded by the warm ambiance of the morning.

 

Lin Yi Yang carried a large gym bag with him to their lobster spaghetti date. The bag was stuffed with his laptop and other things, giving the impression that time was of the essence, and they needed to head straight to the train station in Brooklyn. In the crowded subway, they said their goodbyes, but with so many people around and Lin Yi Yang in a rush to catch his train, there wasn't much time for conversation. At the transfer station, they waved goodbye to each other before turning to go their separate ways.

 

With a deep breath, she boarded the train, her eyes fixed on the electronic screens overhead. She could feel the hum of excitement and adventure in her chest as she settled into her seat, ready to take on the city alone.

 

A few minutes later, the lights appeared at the end of the track, and the subway roared in, just the one she was waiting for.

Ying Guo followed a few people into the train carriage and looked around, seeking a suitable seat.

 

Suddenly, she heard a familiar voice.

 

"Go to the right side," the person behind her directed.

 

Yin Guo turned around, staring at him with wide eyes. It was Lin Yi Yang, who had just turned around and was heading to another subway line to catch his train. Lin Yi Yang had just entered the carriage, followed by some people behind him. Without any extra words, he pushed her towards the right and made her sit in front of him on the empty seat.

 

Yin Guo sank into the hard, plastic seat, her mind still racing as her body caught up. The train car was packed with people jostling for space as they made their way through the city. Despite the crowd, Lin Yi Yang found himself standing close to her, his legs brushing against hers as he fought to keep his balance.

 

"Weren't you in a hurry to catch a train?" Yin Guo asked, her voice soft and quiet, barely audible above the din of the bustling subway car.

 

Lin Yi Yang lifted his gaze to meet hers, his eyes dark and serious. "I was afraid you would get off at the wrong stop," he replied, his voice low and steady, "You used to complain about the subways in New York, if I recall correctly," he said, his tone reminding her of their shared history.

 

Yin Guo raised her finger to the electronic display screen hanging above their heads, her expression determined. "I've got this," she said confidently. "I can use it to find our destination." Despite her words, she couldn't shake the worry for Lin Yang. She leaned closer to him and whispered, "You can still make it to the train if you get off at the next stop. I don't want you to miss it."

 

Lin Yang glanced down at her, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth as he responded with a soft "Mmm."

 

Surrounded by strangers lost in their thoughts, Yin Guo felt her leg brushing against Lin Yang's with every sway of the subway car. The close proximity was causing her face to flush with heat and her hands to grow damp with sweat. She felt increasingly uncomfortable and didn't know where to look, her eyes darting nervously around the crowded carriage.

 

Yin Guo fidgeted impatiently, her thoughts consumed by frustration. "Why is this stop taking so long?" she wondered, glancing around the crowded subway car.

 

Lin Yi Yang opened his mouth to speak, his voice breaking the silence. "Yesterday..." he started, his words trailing off.

Yin Guo hugged her backpack tightly, her gaze lifting to meet his. The expression on his face was unreadable, and she couldn't help but wonder what he was trying to say.

 

Lin Yi Yang had intended to tell her that he impulsively asked her yesterday, but he didn't want her to misinterpret his intentions. He didn't want her to think he was one of those men who would take advantage of her being in a foreign land, hitting on her just to have a fling before moving on.

 

But as he looked into her eyes, he dismissed that thought. He realized that sometimes, words weren't necessary. It was okay to just enjoy each other's company and let things develop at their own pace. "Some words don't need to be spoken," he thought. "It's also good to get along slowly, like today."

 

The sound of the station announcement echoed through the subway car, signaling the arrival of their stop. The train slowly comes to a halt, and Yin Guo can't help but feel a twinge of disappointment. They still hadn't finished their conversation.

 

Lin Yi Yang stepped forward, determined to ensure she arrived safely at her destination. "Tell me when you get to the apartment," he said, his tone filled with concern.

 

As Lin Yi Yang made his way through the throng of passengers disembarking from the train, Yin Guo reached out and grabbed the strap of his sports backpack. He stopped in the stream of people and was jostled by those around him.

Feeling embarrassed, Yin Guo quickly released her grip, her cheeks flaming with embarrassment. She leaned in and whispered, "Let me know when you get to DC."

 

Lin Yi Yang adjusted the shoulder strap of his sports bag, pausing for a half-second before chuckling softly as he looked down at her.

 

Lin Yi Yang stood in front of Yin Guo, torn between the urge to pat her head and the fear of making her uncomfortable. He readjusted the shoulder strap of his sports bag, and with a simple "Okay," he made his way out of the train.

 

Jumping onto the platform, Lin Yi Yang was surrounded by other passengers who spoke the same mother tongue like him and Yin Guo. The train doors closed behind him, and Yin Guo turned to take one final look.

 

Through the grimy glass of the train, Yin Guo caught a glimpse of Lin Yi Yang's figure, surrounded by other passengers who had just disembarked. She had only a few seconds to take in the sight before he disappeared from view, the light fading away and leaving her with just the memory of his form.

 

As the train whisked Yin Guo away, she felt an emptiness in her heart. The compartment was less crowded now, but it felt like Lin Yi Yang was still standing in front of her, their legs touching, sending shivers down her spine. She couldn't help but rub her knee, trying to rid herself of the feeling. "Stop thinking about it," she whispered to herself, trying to shake the lingering memory of their conversation.

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