Right then, Lu Jinnian felt like he was in a dream. He stood frozen on the spot, casual and elegant, with his eyes locked on the tie clip. After a long while, he finally looked up at Qiao Anhao, and said in a hoa.r.s.e voice, "Thank you."
Qiao Anhao smiled gently. Under the bright lights of the study room, her expression seemed to become cuter and softer. "I didn't know what kind of presents you liked, so I chose something I liked for you, not knowing if you might like or dislike it yourself."
"I like it," Lu Jinnian said without any hesitation. He stared at the tie clip in the box for a long time before carefully putting the lid back on. Then he said, "I really like it."
Qiao Anhao continued to smile, revealing a hint of relief in her eyes.
Lu Jinnian's fingers gently stroked the box. As he stared at Qiao Anhao's smiling face, it was as if the coldness between his eyes subsided immensely. For someone who didn't like to reveal any traces of worry to people around him, the next words were very surprising. They just suddenly floated out of his mouth. "It's been many years since I last received a birthday present."
Because of those simple words, the smile on Qiao Anhao's face gradually disappeared. Her mind went back to the day she had watched through the study room's doorway and seen Lu Jinnian's expression when he said, "What's more, I've never really celebrated my birthday". It was the same look. Though his tone was nonchalant, it also revealed hints of sadness.
From what she remembered, Lu Jinnian would always attend Xu Jiangmu's birthdays, but he had never celebrated his own. Qiao Anhao couldn't help but ask the question in her heart, "Do you never celebrate your birthday?"
"Mmm." Lu Jinnian didn't open his mouth but made a sound deep in his throat. After a while, he slowly opened his mouth to say, "After my mother pa.s.sed away, I never celebrated my birthday again."
Lu Jinnian's words didn't really sound nonchalant. For some reason, when Qiao Anhao heard them, a sharp, intense pain crept into her heart.
She knew that Lu Jinnian and Xu Jiangmu were step-brothers, and she knew that Lu Jinnian's mother pa.s.sed away early. But besides this, she didn't know much more.
Even if Xu Jiangmu, who was the same age as Lu Jinnian, didn't know his birthday, their father surely would of known... Even if he was an illegitimate son, he was Uncle Xu's own flesh and blood. Even if it couldn't have been as extravagant as Xu Jiangmu's birthday parties, at the very least, he must of received a present or birthday wishes?
Qiao Anhao slowly moved her lips and asked, "What about Uncle Xu? Did he never celebrate your birthday?"
Lu Jinnian's face instantly froze over, and a ruthlessness slowly rose in his eyes.
Qiao Anhao was astonished. Realizing that she had said something wrong, she felt uneasy in her heart and bit her bottom lip. In a low voice, she was just about to say "sorry", but she only made it to "So-" when Lu Jinnian turned his head with a frozen expression.
He stared into the night sky beyond the window, and said in a oddly calm tone as though he was recounting someone else's story, "Instead of wanting to celebrate my birthday, he would have rather that I'd never had a birthday."
To Lu Jinnian's father, his birth was a stain on his life.
If it were possible, his father must of not wanted for him to live on this earth.
The ache in Qiao Anhao's heart grew stronger.