Lin An Lan closed the album and feeling a moment of warmth, went to sleep.
Lin An Lan was dreaming again.
In the dream, he was still a child, and he was being held, walking into a strange neighborhood.
Very scared, Lin An Lan clutched the hand of the person who was holding him tightly.
They went home and Lin An Lan stayed at home obediently, learning to read with his father.
On a cold winter’s day, the house was well heated and Lin An Lan was lying on the table writing, when suddenly, his father asked him, “It’s snowing outside. An An, do you want to go downstairs to play snowballs with the children and build a snowman?”
Lin An Lan wanted to, but he was too shy to say so.
The day he had left, the teacher at the orphanage had told him a lot.
She had said, “Baby, you have to listen to your mum and dad in the future. Behave yourself, don’t ask them for this and that, and don’t compare yourself with other children. Do you know what ‘compare’ means? It means that if other children have something, you want it too. Your present mum and dad are very good, so you have to cherish them and make them feel that you are obedient so that they will like you all the time and take care of you.”
The teacher had good intentions. She had seen too many impulsive adoptions and then later saying it wasn’t right and sending the children back.
She had also seen people who didn’t send the children back at first, but in the end, because the child wasn’t their biological son or daughter, they would slowly grow impatient and want to send the child back.
— “I do want a child, but this child is too disobedient, no wonder his real parents don’t want him.”
Those were harsh words, but realistic. Even some biological parents would abandon their children, let alone unrelated adoptive parents.
Anyone would want their adopted child to be a good child and not a troublemaker.
The teachers at the orphanage hoped that every child who left the orphanage would be happy in his or her new family, hence they advised every child who left the orphanage to be good, and to be obedient.
Lin An Lan remembered this, so he was very good and obedient. He told his father, “I’ll listen to Daddy.”
Father Lin smiled and stroked Lin An Lan’s head, “Go and play, daddy will accompany you.”
He put Lin An Lan’s thick down jacket on him, put on his shoes and gloves for him before accompanying him downstairs.
Father Lin was very old and had grey hair from the loss of his son, so the children in the neighborhood called him, “Grandpa.”
Father Lin didn’t mind and was good natured enough to allow them take Lin An Lan to play with him.
Laughing, the children started having snowball fights, but Lin An Lan was a bit left out. Because none of the children knew him, no one dared throw a snowball at him.
But when the girls saw how handsome he was, they pelted him with snowballs.
Lin An Lan took a few hits before he started to fight back.
However he couldn’t beat so many little girls alone, and at the crucial moment, a little boy emerged from behind him and helped him pelt them together.
All the children screamed with laughter, then ran over laughing when they heard their parents call their names.
In no time, Lin An Lan and the little boy who had helped him with the snowball fight were the only ones left in the yard.
Lin An Lan wanted to build a snowman. He had seen snowmen in books, but had never built one before.
Putting on his gloves, he balled up a snowball when he saw the boy who had just helped him with the snowball fight come over again.
The child wasn’t put off by the fact that they were strangers. He squatted down beside him and said crisply, “My name is Jiang Xu, what’s your name?”
Lin An Lan looked back at his father and saw him looking at him with a smile on his face.
It was only after seeing this that he said, “My name is Lin An Lan.”
Jiang Xu said in a very familiar manner, “Xiao Lan.”
He asked again, “Do you want to build a snowman? I’ll help you.”
Lin An Lan glanced at his dad again, and when he didn’t stop him, he responded, “En.”
As he and Jiang Xu worked together to build the snowman, Father Lin came over to assist them.
Taking twigs, they made arms for the snowman, took grapes and made eyes, and then stuck a tiny carrot as the nose.
Thinking it was very cute, Lin An Lan leaned against his dad and laughed.
Father Lin asked him, “Are you feeling cold? Do you want to go home?”
Lin An Lan had played enough so he nodded.
Jiang Xu was a little lost as he looked at them with drooping eyebrows.
Father Lin, who had been a teacher and was naturally more sensitive to children’s emotions, asked, “Xiao Xu, aren’t you going home?”
“There’s no one at home.” Jiang Xu complained, “My mum is out.”
“Then do you want to come and sit at uncle’s house for a while? You can play with An An.”
Jiang Xu nodded excitedly, “Yes, yes, thank you uncle.”
“You’re welcome.” Father Lin laughed.
Then holding Lin An Lan and Jiang Xu, one child in each hand, he went back home.
Jiang Xu was very well behaved and didn’t run about when he entered the house, surveying the place with round eyes.
Father Lin took two bottles of yoghurt for Jiang Xu and Lin An Lan and then told them to sit and watch cartoons, while he went to the kitchen to make dinner.
Jiang Xu bit into the straw of the yoghurt and asked him, “Xiao Lan, how old are you?”
“Seven years old.” Lin An Lan said.
Jiang Xu was surprised, “Me too!”
He asked again, “Where do you go to primary school?”
Lin An Lan wasn’t attending primary school, so he couldn’t answer the question.
Jiang Xu didn’t continue asking him this question either. Instead, he asked him about other things.
At half past seven in the evening, Jiang Xu stood up and said to Father Lin, “My mom will be back soon, I should go back.”
“Okay.” Father Lin said gently, “Then you can come and play with An An a lot more in the future.”
Jiang Xu nodded his head hurriedly then waved at Lin, “See you tomorrow.”
Lin An Lan waved back, “See you tomorrow.”
After he left, Father Lin took Lin An Lan into his arms and asked him, “Do you like this little friend?”
There was nothing to like or dislike, but Lin An Lan was happy to have someone to play with.
He hugged his father and said cutely, “I like Daddy.”
Father Lin laughed, “Very cute. Daddy likes you too, but daddy can’t go to school with you. When this winter is over, let this little friend go to primary school with you ok?”
“Go to primary school?” Lin An Lan asked him.
“Yes. An An has to learn hard.”
“En.” Lin An Lan nodded his head fiercely.
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