Chapter 7: Outsider
“Tsk, how do you talk to your mother?” Lin Manling sneered. “Where is your upbringing that your useless father taught you?”
“Eaten by a dog,” Lin Changyu replied, looking at her. “You’re crazy, just go back.”
“Oh, can’t I visit my son?” Lin Manling ignored Lin Changyu’s words and turned her gaze to Lin Xiaozhi behind him. “Son, do you miss Mommy?”
Lin Xiaozhi seemed a bit afraid of Lin Manling and took a few steps back, tugging at Lin Changyu’s sleeve. “Brother, can you close the door?”
Hearing Lin Xiaozhi’s request, Lin Manling’s expression changed, and she began to mock them. “You don’t even recognize your own mother. Both of you are lunatics.”
Seemingly uninterested, she made a mocking sound and took out a card from her bag, tossing it through the crack in the door. “The court ordered child support will be deposited regularly. You heartless brats.”
With that, she walked down the stairs, her high heels tapping loudly on the floor.
Tan Xilu watched her disappear at the stairwell and then turned to Lin Changyu, wanting to ask something. However, Lin Changyu only gave him a cold look and closed the door.
After that day, Lin Changyu’s home became quiet, and he didn’t bring fruits to Tan Xilu anymore. If it weren’t for one day when Lin Xiaozhi rushed over to Tan Xilu’s door in a hurry, he might have thought they had moved away.
Lin Xiaozhi told him that his brother had attempted suicide.
Tan Xilu was shocked, and when he entered their home, he realized the situation was even worse than he had imagined. He had never paid much attention to Lin Changyu’s arms before, but now he saw that his wrists had many cuts, some of which were clearly old wounds, and it was a distressing sight.
Fortunately, they had found him in time and rushed him to the hospital.
It was only then that Tan Xilu learned about the hidden aspects of Lin Changyu’s life.
Lin Changyu came from a blended family. Lin Manling was his stepmother, and Lin Xiaozhi was the child of Lin Manling and his father. After his biological father passed away, Lin Manling remarried, and her current husband was a nouveau riche who smoked and drank excessively. While he treated Lin Manling well, it wasn’t the same for Lin Changyu and Lin Xiaozhi.
Lin Manling had her own job, running a beauty salon. Sometimes, she would be so busy that she wouldn’t come home for several days. During those times, if they were unlucky, Lin Changyu and Lin Xiaozhi might be beaten severely and locked in the basement until she returned, not allowing them to tell Lin Manling.
Walking a dark path too often, you’re bound to encounter ghosts. One day, Lin Manling coincidentally saw the nouveau riche abusing the children. She, protective of her own biological son, allowed Lin Changyu to escape from that home.
But what they didn’t expect was that in just a few days, Lin Xiaozhi called him for help. After all, they were blood relatives, and Lin Changyu had always protected Lin Xiaozhi. Lin thought that with Lin Manling around, Xiaozhi would have a better life. However, Lin Xiaozhi said, “Mom thinks I’m useless and hits me too.”
So, the two children hid in this apartment building, seeking refuge for a while.
“But I hate her so much. It’s because of her that we’ve become like this. She didn’t save us, she pushed us into the abyss,” Lin Changyu cried, his face crumpled in despair. “I’ll never forget the way I looked at her, hoping she’d take me with her, but she just gave me a cold look, took Xiaozhi away, and told that man, ‘Do whatever you want. I’m taking my son.'”
Hidden depression, also known as high-functioning depression, is a special form of depression where the person appears cheerful in front of others but exhibits signs of sadness and despair when alone.
As Tan Xilu listened to the story, he couldn’t help feeling sympathy for Lin Changyu. However, he also felt a strange resistance to this human condition. What about Tan Xilu himself? Would he go through the same struggles? Would he contemplate death during countless nights? Did he have scars on his wrists too?
Without Tan Xilu noticing, his eyes had already fallen on Tan Xilu’s wrist, hidden beneath his sleeves.
“So, every family has its own difficulties. I can only try to help Changyu manage his emotions. I’m not him, and I can’t forcibly control what he does. Depression is complicated, and he needs to come to terms with it. It’s a pity to have a stepmother like that…” Tan Xilu said, his mouth feeling a bit dry. He picked up a glass of lukewarm water from the coffee table and drank it.
Xu Huaiming noticed Tan Xilu’s smooth and fair wrists, and he breathed a sigh of relief.
He hadn’t thought about death. That was good.
“Oh, by the way, those two kids probably haven’t eaten yet. How about you prepare something for them and take it over?” Tan Xilu placed his glass back on the table, and the glass made a “clink” sound as it touched the surface.
“Sure,” Xu Huaiming agreed.
Tan Xilu stood up, stretched lazily, and his shirt rode up, revealing a slender and fair waist. He didn’t notice it himself, but Xu Huaiming’s gaze was fixed on that waist.
“It seems a bit too thin,” Xu Huaiming thought. Tan Xilu was too skinny; sometimes when he held him at night, it felt uncomfortable. He needed to put on some weight.
“I’ve been busy all morning. I’ll take a nap,” Tan Xilu said, lowering his hand. The slender waist was once again covered by his clothes. He leaned down and gave Xu Huaiming a kiss on the lips before walking into the bedroom.
Xu Huaiming watched his back and then walked into the kitchen.
Tan Xilu was the type of person who had shallow sleep, never resting well, and his mind was always on high alert. Any noise would wake him up, even a slight sound like a door opening. It wasn’t like this before, but after Xu Huaiming disappeared, he was afraid of falling asleep and not noticing if Xu Huaiming returned.
He had dozed off under the covers for a short while, and Tan Xilu was awakened by the knocking on the door. He mumbled with his eyes closed, “Xu Huaiming, open the door.”
No one answered in the room, but the knocking continued.
Tan Xilu called out a few more times, but still got no response. Suddenly, he realized something and abruptly opened his eyes. He immediately got out of bed and walked out of the bedroom. The living room was clean, and there was no cup on the coffee table that he had used for drinking water before. The kitchen didn’t have any signs of cooking either, as if no one had prepared breakfast that morning.
Cold sweat formed on Tan Xilu’s forehead, and his voice trembled slightly. “Xu Huaiming, Xu Huaiming? Where are you? Don’t joke with me, okay?”
The house remained eerily silent, with no one to answer him.
Tan Xilu panicked. Was it a dream? Did Xu Huaiming’s return just a dream?
“Knock, knock, knock.” The knocking on the door continued. Tan Xilu calmed down a bit, wiped his face, and walked over to open the door.
As soon as the door opened, Xu Huaiming entered with bags of snacks and vegetables in his hands. He stepped inside, taking off his shoes. “I’ve been out for a while. I thought you’d already be awake. I had too much stuff to carry, so I wanted you to open the door.”
“You…” Tan Xilu looked at him, his eyes filled with emotion.
“What’s wrong?” Xu Huaiming noticed something was off and turned to look at him.
Tan Xilu turned away, not wanting Xu Huaiming to see him crying. He spoke with a slightly trembling voice, “You kept knocking on the door. Couldn’t you open it yourself?”
“I thought you had been awake for a while, and there was so much stuff in my hands that I couldn’t free myself to open the door,” Xu Huaiming chuckled. “They often do this in TV shows when the husband comes home, and the wife opens the door for him.”
“Who’s your wife?” Tan Xilu blushed and whispered. He gave Xu Huaiming a glare. “Watch fewer TV dramas in the future.”
“Okay, I’ll listen to you,” Xu Huaiming replied, changing into slippers and carrying the bags of groceries into the kitchen. He started unpacking and placing the vegetables into the refrigerator.
Tan Xilu closed the door and joined Xu Huaiming in the kitchen. He stood next to him, helping him wrap things in plastic wrap. “I woke up just now and didn’t see you. I thought you had left again.”
Xu Huaiming paused for a moment while tearing off a label and looked at Tan Xilu. “I won’t leave.”
At least not while you still love me.
Tan Xilu looked at Xu Huaiming, suddenly at a loss for words.
His eyelashes trembled, and he reached out to embrace Xu Huaiming.
Xu Huaiming put down the items he was holding and hugged Tan Xilu back. Then he heard a muffled voice from Tan Xilu, “Even if… even if you want to leave, please tell me first. I really don’t want to go through the agony of searching for you again, not being able to find you. I’m so scared.”
“I understand. It won’t happen again,” Xu Huaiming reassured Tan Xilu, holding him tightly. He kissed him on the neck and said, “It won’t happen again.”
“Then let’s… let’s do it,” Tan Xilu let go of Xu Huaiming and said, “Let’s do it.”
Xu Huaiming was momentarily surprised.
While he was still taken aback, Tan Xilu kissed his lips first. “Xu Huaiming, it’s been so many years. Don’t you want me anymore?”
Xu Huaiming’s thoughts were in disarray, and his throat felt dry. He knew it was his physiological reaction to Tan Xilu, and they were in such an ambiguous situation. He also understood Tan Xilu’s intention, and he knew he couldn’t refuse.
“Okay,” Xu Huaiming agreed, lifting Tan Xilu into his arms.
Xu Huaiming wasn’t very skilled in such matters, and he was afraid of hurting Tan Xilu. He proceeded cautiously, gently nibbling on his collarbone.
T/N: Hey there! There is plenty more where that came from, so stay tuned! And stay healthy! Straighten your posture, so some stretches and drink some water before continuing hehe~
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