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Suddenly, This Summer - Chapter 1

Published at 23rd of January 2017 07:14:03 PM

Chapter 1
Chapter 1: I'm Envious of You

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Winter vacation of first year of high school .  He Luo did not like math classes . But she still ended up coming .  Because it was snowing, there were a lot of empty seats in the classroom . He Luo took a seat at the very corner in the back row, next to the window . The heater next to her was hot enough to feel uncomfortable and someone had already placed a pair of dark blue woollen gloves on top of it, spreading it wide open like a palm . She took off her own and placed it next to the gloves – hers was an pale eggplant purple with white fur on the wrist, decorated with two small pompoms . Intentionally or not, the little finger of her glove touched the dark blue glove’s, making them to look rather delicate .
He Luo looked at the scene and smiled contently, as if her little finger really was touching the wide palm .  The current lesson was about principles of maths, it was already at the level of higher education . She heard that the National Mathematical Association will be involved . He Luo did not pay attention in the past two weeks and naturally, that meant she would not understand this lesson either . But it did not bother her . She was still in her first year; university was a far-away concept for her . Besides, other than encouraging her to study in Beijing, her parents never said anything about studying mathematics .  The reason she came to the lesson was to fulfil her wish . She took out her sketchbook and pencil and looked up . Her model sitting in front of her had remained in the same position since the last lesson, lazily sprawled across the desk with his face resting on his arms . He Luo was a little disappointed . She had sketched this image of him for the past three lessons . She really wanted to sketch his side profile, his short and flat hair, his deep eyes, his straight nose, and the stark contours of his face . His features were sharper than a typical Easterner but softer than a Westerner’s .  This is the most beautiful side profile I have ever seen .  It would be a shame not to put it on paper .  But he was still motionlessly asleep . The teacher gave them a few questions, the entire class was so quiet that she could only hear the rustle of paper and calculator – and the sound of the boy in front of her breathing .  Sleep to your deathbed! He Luo cursed, I guarantee you won’t feel your arms when you wake up .  Since she can’t do any of the questions on the blackboard, she took out a pack of ladyfinger biscuits from her bag and quietly opened them . What happened? There was two short in the first row . He Luo placed them on the desk, counting them one by one . One, two, three … after counting a few times, it was still 28 biscuits . This was too much, they actually reduced the number! She frowned and decided to get a different brand of biscuits next time .  The boy in front then lazily woke up, palms pressing on the edge of the desk . He stretched his back, leaning behind . The pattern on his light grey sweater suddenly magnified in front of He Luo’s eyes . She breathed and instinctively moved behind . At the same time, she finally saw his long-awaited side profile .  The owner of the side profile looked sleepy still, his cheek was tinged red and had an imprint of his sweater pattern . He said, “Student, can you please be quieter, your noise is disrupting others . ” But his own voice rang loud in the silent classroom and carried a hint of a boy’s voice change . Everyone else turned to look at them .  
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It turned out that he was wearing earphones . He Luo can’t help giggling but she suddenly felt awkward . Even though she knew that all those eyes were on him but she still felt like on pins and needles, as if the loud voice came from her throat, or perhaps, that she was in cahoots with him, that she was his accomplice .  The teacher was a special educator from the Board of Education, an old gentleman with a cultured temperament . His eyebrows did not even crinkle . He only lightly said, “The two students over there, why don’t you share your ideas and let us discuss about it . ” The chalk in He Luo’s hand was gripped so tightly that it snapped in two . She wondered if the heater was too strong; her forehead was sweating . She stole a look at the boy . The boy quickly deciphered the questions on the board, his hair coated with a thin layer of chalk dust .  What about me, what should I write about? He Luo stared at the questions and wrote a ‘lim’ with the ‘x’ towards infinity . What was the infinity symbol? She drew two lowercase ‘o’ side by side . She didn’t know if the old gentleman had sprouted blood by now, but laughter from her classmates roared behind her .  The boy beside him glanced at what she had written before continuing to answer the questions . When he reached the point where he had to write the infinity symbol, he deliberately slowed down . Then he wiped it off and rewrote it again . He Luo saw this clearly . Turned out that it was a lying down of the number 8 .  Didn’t it look all the same . He Luo was muttering to herself, voice so soft that only she could hear . Perhaps, she thought that she was the only one who heard it . The boy only turned and smiled at her, clapping the dust away from his hands . “Teacher, I’m done . ” The gentleman nodded, “Not bad . Please return to your seat . ” He Luo’s scalp felt numb . She had only written two lines of words, all of which were nonsensical formulas . Could it be, these words will continue to be put up on the blackboard? She lowered her head . There was nothing she wished more than to melt into the blackboard itself .  It was all paintings anyway . She loosened her shoulders, recalling the legendary Shaolin teachings .  Suddenly, she felt the air behind her go still . He Luo highly suspected that she had some kind of godly view of what was going on behind her, as if she had seen the boy’s mischievous look . Her heartbeat quickened but the insufficient oxygen in her lungs could not keep up with her blood circulation . Her entire face was red .  “This method is too complicated . ” He took a step forward and patted He Luo’s shoulder, motioning her to step aside . He then took the duster and wiped off what she had written . The evidence of He Luo’s lack of concentration in class was entirely destroyed .  As he wrote down the answer, he explained it . He did not say a lot but his explanation was to the point .  “I’m sorry, I’m an impatient person . ” He placed the chalk in He Luo’s hand and turned towards the audience . He blinked, “In fact, you think so too . ” He Luo nodded guiltily .
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 She had escaped this calamity .  When the class was over, the both of them reached out to take their own gloves .  “Thank you,” He Luo earnestly said .  “How will you thank me?” He raised his eyebrow, his eyes shining .  “Here, I’ll give this to you . ” She handed him a packet of ladyfinger biscuits .  “Girl . ” His lower lip moved in contempt, his expression was still playful . “En, the taste is not bad . No wonder you can’t help yourself in class . ” “Am I too loud? You can still hear me despite wearing your earphones . ” “I’m not listening to anything . I wear them to sleep better . ” “Ah, so you said it out loud on purpose!” She suddenly realised .  “You counted to 28 three times . When I counted one, you counted one . When I counted to 29, you counted one . When I counted to 57, you’re still counting one . ” He said this really quickly, as if it was a tongue twister . “But when I counted to 85, you suddenly stopped counting . It disrupts my self-hypnosis . ” He grinned, revealing a set of clean, white teeth, so innocent that he looked like a child . But he at the time was indeed a child .  Are you also paying attention to me? He Luo lowered her head, giggling . “Then… why did you help me?” “I’m worried that if you stand there, you will ruin our school’s reputation . ” She had already prepared her secret weapon . In that instant, it flew and hit the boy’s shoulder . It was He Luo’s purple gloves .
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 “You know me?” she asked .  “Class 2, right? He Luo . ” He gripped her gloves, pretending to tear it . “You repay my kindness with revenge, I’ll remember you forever!” “What did you say my name was?” “He Luo, right? A single He, and Luoyang’s Luo [the characters for her name] . ” Of course he was right . But somehow, the two words seemed to sound especially nice coming from him . He Luo wanted to listen to it a few more times .  “Then, do you know me?” he asked .  She smiled but said nothing .  “I’m Zhang Yuan, class 6 . [characters clarification] . Our homeroom teacher is also your English teacher . ” “Zhang . Yuan . ” She slowly repeated his name, a name that she would remember dearly . The words glided from her tongue carefully, but it didn’t feel smooth . She couldn’t help but want to laugh . The corners of her lips raised into a blossoming smile, as if it was honey making its way to her heart .

The two of them waited for their vehicles .  Five o’ clock on a winter evening, the clouds covered the skies . The warm orange light from the streetlights shined; it was snowing so heavily that it coated the place white . There was a snowflake on He Luo’s eyelashes . It melted a little before freezing again in the minus 20-degrees weather . It felt like she was seeing the world from behind a dense ice crystal, the whole world became vibrant and striking .  She stole a look at Zhang Yuan’s side profile . She couldn’t stop her giggles .  “You study humanities,” he suddenly asked .  “Huh?” “After the winter, aren’t you changing classes?” “Uh, I’m still thinking about it . ” Lies . Didn’t she already decide about it? He Luo bit her lower lip . “You’re so good at maths . You’re a science student?” “Of course!” Zhang Yuan seemed a little proud . “Only stupid people study humanities . ” “Prejudice…” she quietly protested .  “Oh, sorry . You’re most probably taking humanities . ” He said, “There’s often people in my class that talks about you, they say your English is very good . I heard your paternal uncle is a diplomat . ” “It’s my maternal uncle . He spent twenty years in Greece . ” He Luo said, “My parents hope that I study foreign language, or international relations . ” “Then why did you join the maths classes?”  “I wanted to see if I’m really so stupid I have no other choices . ” “Then why did you still eat biscuits and not pay attention . ” Indeed, she was endlessly stupid, she didn’t even know that she should first take the initiative in learning .  “Hey, you’re also sleeping!” “I already know the lessons . The director recommended me so I have to give him some face . ” “…” “Honestly, why did you come?” As soon as she recovered, he asked .  “No comment . ” This was a diplomatic phrase every earthling would know . He Luo glanced at him, lowering her head to look at the shadows on the floor . A longer and shorter one overlapping each other .  *If I said I came for you, would you jump (be happy)? You jump really high . I remember, I always remember .  He Luo opened her diary and pressed it into her classroom notebook .  “Since it’s the holidays, don’t be so hard on yourself . Come and watch TV . ” Mom handed her a warm beverage .  “Oh . I’m organising today’s homework,” He Luo replied, flipping open her classroom notebook .  “Aren’t you studying humanities? Then don’t attend the math classes . ” Mom gave her a probing glance, expression uncertain . “Why don’t you learn French this holiday . ” “Only stupid people study humanities,” she suddenly said .  “Fallacy!” Dad was a history student . Even though he had retired two years ago and returned to Shanghai, he still felt insulted by the comment . Wasn’t he paying attention to national affairs? The news on TV was so loud yet he still overheard her .  His ears were more sensitive than the pea princess .  He Luo suddenly thought of another person whose ears were also as sensitive . He told her, “But when I counted to 85, you suddenly stopped counting . It disrupts my self-hypnosis . ” He’s a narcissist, I’ve known it all along .  After Mom left, He Luo continued writing .  He’s self-righteous, he thinks he’s smart and everyone else is an idiot . But he really is smart, and in front of him, I’m always the helpless, stupid girl .  When she closed her eyes, she can see his face . Him running, agilely dodging, leaping high, running backwards . The basketball spinning mid-air in an elegant arc, falling into the net . Once he shot the ball, he quickly returned to his position with a satisfied expression, confident in the accuracy of his shot . In He Luo’s eyes, she saw his beautiful side profile .   He was so smart and charming .

She could still vividly see him say, “He Luo, I’ll remember you forever . ”  Just remember, then . She kept on smiling to herself in a silly manner .  

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