Chapter 11: More blooming feelings
Xu Huaiming didn’t see Tan Xilu at the entrance of the shop, which puzzled him. Tan Xilu wasn’t the type to leave without notice if something came up. He asked the fruit shop auntie nearby and learned that Tan Xilu had received a phone call at the entrance and hurriedly left.
With concern, Xu Huaiming dialed Tan Xilu’s number, but to his surprise, Tan Xilu immediately hung up.
Xu Huaiming was taken aback and dialed a few more times, but each call was consecutively declined. It was clear that Tan Xilu didn’t want to answer his calls. Sighing, Xu Huaiming thought that something must have come up with Tan Xilu.
He returned to the shop and told Arlene, “Let’s purchase more ingredients for tomorrow. Business has been good these days, and we might run out of supplies.”
“Alright,” Arlene agreed, then added, “Christmas is coming soon. Xu Ge, why don’t you make a special Christmas dessert?”
“Christmas?” Xu Huaiming asked.
“Yes, it’s just a week away,” Arlene smiled and took out a few Christmas stickers from behind the bar. “I bought these stickers yesterday, planning to put them on the door. Unfortunately, we’re still missing a Christmas tree. Xu Ge, you know…”
Xu Huaiming fell into a momentary silence. This was probably what it meant to like someone. 7 had to be replaced with something new here. In other words, he could also become outdated. As long as Tan Xilu didn’t like him anymore, got tired of him, someone new would come to replace him.
When Xu Huaiming called, Tan Xilu had just placed the hot water on the coffee table. He had wanted to answer, but his mother gave him a stern look. In the Tan family, there was an unwritten rule that when guests were present, you couldn’t rudely answer phone calls. So, Tan Xilu had to repeatedly hang up the call.
He thought Xu Huaiming would probably understand. He could explain it to him later in the evening.
“Xiao Li, my son’s job is quite stable now. He’s a university professor, just like me. It’s a family tradition. Our work isn’t too busy most of the time, except when students graduate and work on their theses. Your dessert shop, on the other hand, is busier during holidays and special occasions. It complements each other. With this arrangement, there will probably be fewer conflicts after marriage. Xiao Li, my son is easy to get along with. Even if he gets angry, just be patient with him, and if it really doesn’t work out, come to me, his mother, and I’ll talk some sense into him.”
“Mom… what are you saying?” Tan Xilu almost sprayed the water out of his mouth. They had just met, and she was already talking about marriage. Even a matchmaker wouldn’t be this hasty.
“What am I saying?” Tan’s mother rolled her eyes at him. “I’m just taking care of your lifelong matters.”
“Auntie, it’s okay. Xiao Lu seems very pleasant, how could I bear to get angry with him?” Li Zhao smiled and looked at Tan Xilu.
For some reason, Tan Xilu felt that Li Zhao’s gaze was somewhat teasing, making him feel uncomfortable.
“See, Xiao Li knows how to talk. My son is a bit tongue-tied. You’ll have to be more understanding in the future,” Tan’s mother laughed heartily. Suddenly, she exclaimed, “Oh, I almost forgot, I have a date with my friends later. You two can chat for now, and I’ll leave first.”
Tan Xilu was stunned and shouted, “Mom…”
Tan’s mother patted Tan Xilu’s shoulder with a smile and said, “I’ll leave you two to chat. Mom will be going now.”
Tan Xilu knew that his mother was giving them some alone time. There might be something she couldn’t say with her present. After all, this was a matter of the younger generation’s lifelong happiness, and she could only play the role of a matchmaker. Whether it worked out or not would depend on them.
“Then, Auntie, please take care and be safe. Do you want me to escort you?” Li Zhao stood up, ready to accompany her.
“No need, no need. I’m not suffering from dementia. Can’t I find my way?” Tan’s mother pressed her hand on Li Zhao’s shoulder and motioned for him to sit back down. “You two chat properly.”
With her departure, the atmosphere in the room immediately became awkward. Li Zhao lost his initial friendly expression, and the look he gave Tan Xilu became more provocative. “Auntie told me that your ex-boyfriend was also in the dessert business. I’m a bit curious. If we get married, would you treat me as a shadow of your ex?”
Staring at Li Zhao, Tan Xilu was momentarily slow to react. After a while, he replied, “No.”
He paused and added, “I won’t marry you.”
“Oh? Is it because you already have a partner?” Li Zhao leaned back on the sofa lazily, raising the corner of his mouth.
Tan Xilu was caught off guard and blushed. “You know…”
“Yeah,” Li Zhao smiled, sat up, and reached out to pinch Tan Xilu’s chin. He leaned closer and said, “You look pretty obedient. I can’t imagine what you’re like in bed.”
“You…” Perhaps he had never heard such a frivolous remark, and Tan Xilu was at a loss for words. He widened his eyes and quickly moved away from Li Zhao. “You shameless.”
Li Zhao couldn’t help but laugh again. “You’re quite interesting. You’re in a relationship and yet here you are on a blind date. Does your partner know? Or is it that you don’t really care about him? What does he do? Is he also in the dessert business, just like your ex-boyfriend? Are you playing the role of a stand-in again? Or maybe, you only look obedient, but you’re actually a little wildcat.”
“Why is that any of your business?” Tan Xilu was flushed with anger. What kind of person had his mother set him up with? He felt like he was on a date with a hooligan.
Li Zhao clicked his tongue. “I was just asking. Do you have to be so angry?”
The clock on the wall struck seven, and Xu Huaiming would be returning soon.
“That’s enough,” Tan Xilu stood up abruptly. “I’m not in the mood to continue this conversation. You should leave.”
“You’re kicking me out so urgently?” Li Zhao squinted his eyes. “Is it because your partner is coming back soon?”
Tan Xilu was taken aback by how Li Zhao had guessed the truth. He hesitated for a moment and mumbled, “It’s late, and if I don’t leave now, when will I leave?”
“Alright, I’ll leave then. Why are you in such a hurry? We’re not having an affair.” Li Zhao laughed.
While Li Zhao had been teasing Tan Xilu throughout their conversation, he left quite abruptly. He even closed the door behind him when he left.
Tan Xilu wasn’t good at chatting with strangers, especially those he didn’t know well. His few previous blind dates had ended because of his awkwardness. His excuses to his mother had included, “He’s too quiet and just daydreams all the time,” “He got overly emotional when talking about his past relationships,” and “I don’t think we’re compatible, and he’s not warming up to my conversations.” Tan Xilu knew he had his flaws, but he was naturally clumsy. Perhaps it was because he had been pampered by Xu Huaiming for too long, and everything had been initiated by him. He had never needed to think about these things.
As Tan Xilu slowly tidied up the cups on the table, he thought about it. He should try to keep the blind date a secret from Xu Huaiming. His partner was so sensitive, and he would definitely be upset. Besides, he wouldn’t have any more dealings with someone like Li Zhao in the future.
Today, the shop wasn’t very busy. Perhaps it was because of the cold weather and the fact that it wasn’t the weekend. After bidding farewell to the last customer, Xu Huaiming packed up and prepared to close the shop. He told Arlene, “You can use some money to buy a Christmas tree yourself, and we’ll add it to the budget later.”
“No problem, Xu Ge,” Arlene replied. “Oh, by the way, if you have any questions about the little surprise, you can ask me.”
“Sure,” Xu Huaiming said. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. In the future, Xu Ge should give me a raise,” Arlene joked.
“Sure,” Xu Huaiming replied.
Xu Huaiming rushed to catch the last bus back to his residential area. When he got on the bus, he called Tan Xilu again, and this time, Tan Xilu answered. Tan Xilu sounded somewhat apologetic, “I’m sorry about earlier. When I was at the entrance, I received a call from a student’s parent, and I had to go back to school to resolve it. Later, the parent gave me a ride back home since it was on the way. I had to hang up when you called. I hope you’re not upset.”
“I’m not upset. As long as you’re okay,” Xu Huaiming reassured him.
Tan Xilu responded with a soft “Okay,” feeling a bit guilty. “Are you on the bus now? You should be almost back.”
“Yeah, I’m on the bus. I’ll be back soon,” Xu Huaiming confirmed.
“Great. It seems we’re out of salt at home. Could you pick up a bag from the supermarket on your way back?” Tan Xilu asked.
“Sure, I got it,” Xu Huaiming replied.
They chatted affectionately for a while and hung up the phone just as Xu Huaiming was arriving at his destination. He got off the bus through the rear exit and, noticing the newly stocked strawberry-flavored condoms on the supermarket shelves, hesitated briefly before grabbing two boxes.
Inside the residential area, as Xu Huaiming walked, he encountered a man who glanced up at him. Although they didn’t exchange words, Xu Huaiming felt a strong sense of hostility emanating from the man. He paused for a moment, but the man continued walking forward without turning back.
Xu Huaiming’s senses were overly sensitive, and he could still smell the man’s presence in the air. He could discern that this man carried the scent of Tan Xilu.
He also realized that Tan Xilu had lied to him. There was no such thing as a parent of a student who needed his attention. Instead, it seemed that this stranger had given him a ride home, or perhaps, he had given him more than a ride home after all.
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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