In the dead of night, in Gu Miao’s neverending nightmares, a faint trace of light appeared for the first time.

He dreamed of the first time he talked to his beloved girl.

It was late at night during his first year in high school.


It was past eight o’clock on an autumn’s evening, there were only two or three people seated in the diner.

The guy at the front desk, Xiao Wang, answered a phone call and hurriedly said that there was an emergency at home and that he needed to leave first.

Ordinarily, there should be two people working in the diner.
Xiao Wang, who was responsible for taking orders and collecting money, and Gu Miao who cook the dishes in the back kitchen.

It took Gu Miao a lot of effort to finally land a job.

After his parents’ death, he was left with no inheritance or property.
The uncle who adopted him was not wealthy either.
Adding a child to the family had put a huge strain on his financial situation.

So every day after school, Gu Miao would work part-time for three hours and save up some money.

But it wasn’t easy to find a part-time job.
Having applied for several jobs in a row, they’ve either replied that they don’t accept rookies or they don’t hire students.
Most rejected him because of his inability to speak fluently and that communicating with him was tiresome.

Without any choice, he reduced his salary by a lot.
The owner of the diner saw his pitiful state and reluctantly agreed to hire him to work in the back kitchen.

The job was hard-earned and now that his colleague asked for his help, it was hard not to agree.

Xiao Wang saw how hesitant Gu Miao was and said anxiously: “There aren’t many people in the store right now.
Just sit here and when they order just nod your head without saying anything.”

Gu Miao thought for a while and hesitantly nodded in reply.

He was just afraid of speaking slowly which could cause dissatisfaction with the customers and cause trouble for the diner.

“Thank you.” Xiao Wang smiled brightly and patted him on the shoulder: “I’ll express my gratitude another day.
Thank you again, brother!”

There was indeed no one in the diner.
After Xiao Wang left, several customers finished their plate, paid then left.

Gu Miao secretly breathed out a sigh of relief.

In early autumn, near the diner stood a sycamore tree.
The golden-brown leaves fell from the tree and accumulated into a glorious carpet of leaves.
The evening breeze blew a few leaves onto the front steps of the diner.

Gu Miao lowered his head to sort the money in the cash register.
Then, he heard a noise from the door.

He raised his eyes and saw a girl walking in the diner carrying a beige school bag.

Her dark blue school uniform amplified her pearl white skin.
The incandescent lamps on the ceiling cast a beautiful glow on her slightly raised doe-like eyes.

At the moment, the girl raised her head slightly and was intently looking at the menu posted on the wall.
After a while, she turned her head and asked him: “What’s in the Three Fresh Mei Fun?”

Her voice was crisp and sweet, like a stream on a mountain top flowing through a dry ridge.

Gu Miao’s heart trembled like never before.

“T-There a-are sh-shiitake m-mushrooms…”

Gu Miao paused.
He desperately wished to slap his disobedient mouth.

He resignedly closed his eyes while waiting for the girl to impatiently interrupt him.

The shop was dead silent where even the sound of falling yellow leaves could be heard clearly.

But the irritable disgusted tone that appeared countless times before didn’t appear that time.

Gu Miao’s eyelids trembled and he slowly opened his eyes to look at her.

She didn’t mind his stutters.

Gu Miao breathed a sigh of relief, his frozen heart slowly melted, and he continued to finish his sentence, but this time the words came out smoothly: “And, lean meat and pork.”

A faint smile appeared on her lips: “Then I’ll have an order of Three Fresh Mei Fun and add an egg.
Thank you.”

Gu Miao pursed his lips and lightly nodded in reply.

Under the ceiling lights, he peeked at the girl’s slender back.
He felt a ray of light slowly emerge from the depth of his empty heart.

This was the first time someone has treated him patiently and peacefully.

He returned to the back kitchen and diligently cooked the noodles before serving them to the girl.

“Thank you.”

She thanked him with a faint smile.
Two cute dimples appeared at the corners of her mouth.

Gu Miao felt his heart clench as if hit by something and his ears turned flaming hot uncontrollably.

“N-no problem.”

The clocks on the wall ranged in the background.

Since there were no other customers in the diner, Gu Miao returned to the cash register and took out his textbooks, and started reading quietly.

However, his mind was erratic and his eyes couldn’t help but drift away.

He hadn’t even flipped through the book and a tall figure had rudely rushed into the diner.

Gu Miao raised his eyes and after clearly seeing who came in, his eyes flashed dangerously.
His hand clenched tightly around the textbook.

It was Wang Donghai, the “boss” in his class, who loved to make fun of him in school.

Wang Donghai didn’t expect to see Gu Miao working in the diner.
His thick bushy eyebrows raised in surprise.
He walked to the counter and rudely knocked on the surface.

Gu Miao put down the book.
His dark eyes stared at him without any emotion.

“One bowl of clear powder soup, add beef.” After he said that, he turned around and found a seat to sit down.

He didn’t cause trouble.

Gu Miao was a little surprised.

Wang Donghai and his lackeys usually loved to pick on him.
They would pass by his seat and kick his desk or they would bunch together and loudly mimic his stutter.

But somehow today, he let go of this opportunity to bully him.

Of course, it’s best if there weren’t any trouble.

Gu Miao felt a rush of relief.
He turned back toward the kitchen and cooked a bowl of clear powder soup as ordered.
He weighed the beef and added two spoonfuls of it, as per the normal amount.


Wang Donghai ate quickly.
He was part of the school’s basketball team and his huge statue easily digested all the food.
When he licked the soup clean, Cheng Chu had just finished eating.

The two of them stood in front of the cash register waiting for check out.

“How much is it?” Wang Donghai glanced at the price listed on the menu and purposely asked.

The price was clearly marked in the store.
Generally, customers will calculate the money themselves and pay directly without asking much.

Gu Miao knew that he was looking for trouble.
His thin lips were pressed tightly into a straight line.

[This time, I must not stammer.] he thought to himself.

But when he opened his mouth, his lips uncontrollably stuttered and repeated: “T-T-Ten”

Wang Donghai smiled maliciously from the corner of his mouth.
He took out crumpled ten-dollar cash from his pocket and threw it directly at the cash register.
He sneered: “Oh, so it’s ten dollars.
Here you go.”

After he finished speaking, he picked up his school bag from the chair, turned then left.

The clear powder soup plus beef add up to a total of fifteen dollars.
Wang Donghai was clearly doing it on purpose.
[In Chinese, fifteen is directly translated to ten five.
That’s why Gu Miao stuttered ten.]

If there is money missing, he would have to pay back the loss.

Gu Miao’s daily salary wasn’t that much, to begin with.
Even if it was just five dollars, he still cherished it.

So even though he knew that stopping and arguing with Wang Donghai would have repercussions, he must do so.

Gu Miao gritted his teeth and was prepared to walk out of the front desk to stop Wang Donghai.

But before he could, the girl had already taken a step forward and quickly prevented Wang Donghai from leaving.

The girl standing in front of Wang Donghai appeared tiny, she was a head shorter than Wang Donghai.
Still, she fearlessly stares him down, her doe-like eyes clear and brave.

“He hasn’t finished talking yet.
Where are your manners?”

Wang Donghai recognized Cheng Chu.
She’s the school flower, who wouldn’t know her?

He and his lackeys even secretly sexually joked about her; after all, she’s the most beautiful girl in the school.

But when this beautiful girl stood in front of him and blatantly accused him, Wang Donghai felt a rush of annoyance.

“He said ten so I gave him ten, what’s the matter?” He straightened his neck and stared at Cheng Chu condescendingly.

Gu Miao was about to step forward to speak when he saw the girl folding her arms around her chest.
Then, she scoffed and looked up and down at Wang Donghai with disdain.
She sneered and said: “You look so old and yet you do things kids won’t even do.
You are cheating your way out!”

She pointed her finger at the price list on the wall and said loudly: “You had the clear powder soup with beef.
The soup is ten dollars and the beef is five.
Ten plus five equals fifteen.
Can’t you count? Are you really from our high school?”

Wang Donghai blushed from embarrassment but he couldn’t refute her words.
So he yanked out five more dollars from his pocket and threw it at Gu Miao and stubbornly said: “Fine, here.
You can’t even speak clearly and you work at the front desk.
What a joke.”

He grabbed his backpack and left the diner with huge strides, never glancing back at Cheng Chu.

Cheng Chu glared at his retreating form, rolled her eyes, and whispered: “My gosh, what kind of person does this!”

She turned around and saw Gu Miao squatting on the ground, silently picking up the crumpled, dirty five buck.

The boy wore overly large diner uniforms, which made him seem pale and thin.

Cheng Chu’s heart turned bitter.
She pursed her lips tightly and said in a soft voice: “Don’t bother with those kinds of people.”

Gone were the iciness from her voice, she spoke softly and gingerly to him.

Gu Miao felt as if he was fed soft cotton candy, sweet enough to melt his heart.

He flattened the wrinkled five buck, put them in the cash register, and whispered: “T-Thanks.”

“No problem.” Cheng Chu took out the money in her pocket and handed it to him.
She said: “I got the Three Fresh Mei Fun with eggs.
It’s thirteen dollars, right?”

The girl’s hands were slender and long; her nails were neatly trimmed to perfection.

A pair of pianist’s hands.

Gu Miao lowered his eyes and saw the ten-dollar cash and a small pile of coins laying quietly in her palm.

“I-I, please, I’ll p-pay for you.
T-Thank you for h-helping m-me.”

Gu Miao didn’t know how else to express his gratitude.

Although thirteen bucks were about half his salary for the night, thinking that it was spent for her, there was a surge of happiness from the depth of his heart.

“Oh don’t! I got you five bucks back and if you pay thirteen for me, It’ll be your loss if you do that.”

The girl was afraid that he would refuse her offer, so she placed the thirteen dollars on the cash register and ran away with her school bag on her back.

The sycamore leaves fluttered down near the doorway.
Gu Miao smiled involuntarily while looking at her leaving form.

Only when her back completely disappeared from his view does he come back to his senses.

Gu Miao thought to himself, [How long has it been since I last smiled?]

On the clock, the hour hand slowly moved to nine o’clock marking the end of his work shift.

As Gu Miao shut close the diner door, the violent quaking from his heart hadn’t ceased but gradually growing more intense.
Like a flame that grew larger and larger in the middle of winter, the heat warming up the cold edge of his heart.

He started to look forward that one day he could stand a little closer to the dazzling girl, and hopefully speak to her, even a few words are enough.

But even when autumn comes and goes, leaving spring here.
The sycamore tree that lost all its’ leaves had regrown green ones.

The girl never came again.

Gu Miao rarely sees her at school.
The few times he did, the girl was surrounded by people that seemed to worship her like a star.

He didn’t even have a chance to stand closer to her.

Life seemed to return to its original track, the bright morning sun disappearing from his life.

But her warm gesture, as if forever engraved in his heart, melted into his soul.

He thought their closest distance would only be passing by each other in the corridor.

He never thought that one day, the girl would appear in his life again.

At that moment, like a dead forest regenerating, his deadly still heart came alive in an instant.

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