Chapter 28 The cold shoulder
Leonid tried his hardest to finish three days’ worth of work into two days. What he couldn’t anticipate was a sudden change when the deal was about to be made. He was forced to say in Haicheng for a week. When he finally finished up his work, he boarded the plane that same afternoon to hurry back.
It was already dark out by the time he made it home. Father and son had already finished their meal. Ren Zhouyuan was cleaning up the chopsticks and bowls, while An An followed behind him, occasionally holding up a plate or two in an attempt to help. They were almost done cleaning up when they heard the click at the door.
After living here a few days, other than the change in environment, there hadn’t been much adjustment of their schedule. Usually it was just him and An An in the house. So even though Leonid hadn’t said beforehand when he was coming back, Ren Yuanzhou only hesitated for a moment before realizing what was going on.
Inexplicably he felt a bit nervous. Although he carried on wiping down the table, the scrunched up cloth in his hand revealed his feelings. Hearing the sounds from the front door, An An ducked behind Ren Zhouyuan, hands fixed around his pants while his wide eyes stared at the front door, fearful that some bad guy would show up.
After a few seconds, the bad guy showed up, a big bear.
The big bear walked forward a few steps. His strong presence made Ren Zhouyuan sigh and put everything down, facing him to greet him.
His mind spinning, he tried to think of something to say, finally managing nothing more than “Welcome back”.
Something flashed through Leonid’s eyes so quickly that it was hard to read his mood. He gazed at Ren Zhouyuan, then looked down at An An. Some unexplainable strong emotions were ramming against his heart.
“I’m back.” He looked into Ren Zhouyuan’s eyes. Then he squatted down, fixing his eyes on An An.
This was the first time he had come face to face with An An. Even beforehand he recalled thinking that An An was quite an adorable child. Now he felt so even more strongly. His eyes and nose were clear and well-defined, his face like a sculpture. It was nothing like most foreign kids with their faces full of freckles. His smooth cheeks made him want to give the kid a kiss.
Despite his inner excitement, Leonid still wore a cold expression. Nervousness caused him to bite down on the insides of his cheeks, with only his searing gaze hinting at what was really going on inside of his mind. He opened his mouth but didn’t know what to say, and finally settled for silence. Only his eyes remained fixed on An An.
Unfortunately An An couldn’t read his emotions. The man before him was not only a despised foreigner, he also looked like he was ready to eat him. He was a whole head taller than Daddy, too. Little An An felt an intense sense of danger and ducked even further behind Ren Zhouyuan, hiding his face behind Ren Zhouyuan’s legs to avoid having to even impart a single glance.
Leonid felt as though he’d been doused in cold water. He hadn’t expected this reaction, and looked helplessly at Ren Zhouyuan.
Seeing that his son was reacting exactly as expected, Ren Zhouyuan wanted to laugh as much as he felt sorry. He patted An An on the head, instructing him to walk over to the front. But An An wrapped his arms around his legs, twisting from side to side to avoid looking at him in the face.
Ren Zhouyuan was exasperated. His son’s habit of disliking foreigners was deeper than anticipated. Originally he thought that after taking enough classes with foreign teachers he might be cured of this inclination. Unexpectedly enough, it had come back in full strength when he saw his own father.
Pretending he was angry, he put on a serious face to scold An An. “An An, is this what Daddy taught you? Are you going to be a bad boy without manners?”
He rarely said things like this. Normally An An would probably come forward and apologize even if he was still pouting, but this time he stomped his feet and refused to show his face.
A little worried that he might be crying quietly, Ren Zhouyuan didn’t dare scold him again. A minute or so later when he was still in that exact position, he was a bit worried. Turning around and kneeling down, he scooped him up in his arms.
It was a while of tussling with An An before he managed to open him up. An An wasn’t crying, but his brows were furrowed and his mouth fixed in a pout. Seeing this, Ren Zhouyuan was reassured. Rocking back and forth, he let his tone warm up without revealing Leonid’s identity. “Didn’t Daddy teach you? Be polite and call people’s names. An An, are we being rude?”
Pressing his lips together, An An was obviously displeased. He pointed at Leonid, shouting, “He didn’t call me!”
Ren Zhouyuan was actually angry now. “An An!” he yelled.
An An immediately shrunk back. Biting his lip, he tried to control himself but couldn’t manage it, finally bursting into tears on Ren Zhouyuan’s shoulder, his little fists drumming on his back, “Daddy’s a liar! I don’t want this foreigner! I wanna go home…”
Leonid watched them. He couldn’t understand their Chinese, but seeing that An An suddenly burst into tears and was shouting louder and louder, he couldn’t help but be caught aback, inquiring what was happening with a questioning look.
Ren Zhouyuan had a headache. He’d already guessed that An An might dislike Leonid, but didn’t expect it to be to this extent. He flashed an exasperated smile at Leonid, telling him that the boy was throwing a tantrum and that he needed to calm him down. Hearing this, Leonid signaled at him to do what he had to.
An An in his arms, Ren Zhouyuan went back to the room. He was crying so hard he started hiccuping, tears flowing down his face, his face and nose flushed red in a pitiable state.
He grabbed a few napkins to help An An wipe his face, “Didn’t Daddy teach An An to be polite to strangers? You said you were going to be a good boy, so why didn’t you listen today?”
Sniffling, An An said with a pout, “T-that man is a foreigner.”
“So what, is a foreigner not an elder?” Ren Zhouyuan pinched his nose. “Aren’t the teachers at Vichy foreigners too? An An is always good to them too, so why not today?” Seeing that An An was preparing a retort, he hurried to interrupt him. “Don’t try to keep coming up with excuses, you’re just being bad and coming up with excuses. Just because Daddy didn’t scold you in the past doesn’t mean that hating foreigners is right. You need to change this habit.”
Drawing in a sharp breath, An An started weeping again. “An An doesn’t want foreigners, no foreigners!”
Seeing how stubborn he was, Ren Zhouyuan felt his head pounding.
Of course he could see what was going on. An An had already said these things before too, but this time he was reacting especially strongly. Thinking back that he had just asked An An about his other father and then moved, now that the kid saw Leonid here he was too smart not to guess who he was.
But that was exactly why Ren Zhouyuan had a headache. He didn’t know if he and Leonid could continue on, but now that he had started it the three of them were bound together in the short term. Now that they’d all moved in, An An couldn’t treat Leonid like this forever.
Thinking back to Leonid’s expression, he recalled that he had never seen that calm man so anxious. Even if An An didn’t accept him, he was still his other father.
He tried his best to console An An, but An An was incredibly stubborn. The distasteful look on his face was enough to make Ren Zhouyuan want to laugh and be angry at him.
He’d been talking for so long that his lips were dry and still couldn’t convince him, so eventually he surrendered. “All right then, tell me. What will it take for you to pay attention to him?”
Pressing his lips together, An An opened and then closed his mouth, dark eyes flickering, before he named a condition that even Ren Zhouyuan found difficult.
“If he speaks Chinese then he’s not a foreigner anymore!”