Zheng Tan felt much warmer after finishing the cup of milk. He stretched before looking outside again.
The rain had stopped, but it was snowing now.
The man picked up the empty cup and went back inside. "Come inside. It's cold on the balcony," he said to Zheng Tan.
Zheng Tan hesitated. Should he go inside? It was getting rather chilly out on the balcony.
He didn't react and the man thought this cat didn't understand what he had said. He waved at the cat then pointed at the milk cup. He realized his motions weren't working, so he left the door open and went back inside.
Most of the houses in Chuhua didn't have heating, so families used air-conditioners.
Zheng Tan could feel the air-conditioning and warmth coming through the opened door. It was much warmer inside. He looked at the grey sky, then followed the man inside.
The man had taken off his coat and was standing in front of the microwave heating up another cup of milk. When he turned to take the milk to the balcony he realized the cat had entered his house and was looking around with curiosity.
Zheng Tan felt the man was probably a white-collar worker. There were a lot of books in his house. Most of the books were in English and the topics ranged from literature to medicine. He felt a man like this wouldn't harm him.
The man left the cup of milk in front of Zheng Tan, then went to his desk and turned on the computer. He started working.
Zheng Tan drank the milk whilst watching the man. He couldn't quite see the computer screen but could tell he was translating something. He didn't know if this was his day job or a side project.
There were three rooms in this house. The doors to the other two room were shut so he didn't know if anyone else was home. He saw a large drawing board on the wall. A lot of post-its were stuck on the board. Things were scribbled in English but Zheng Tan couldn't read the hand-writing.
He didn't know enough English to decipher the notes even if the handwriting was neater.
The door to the balcony was still open and Zheng Tan shuddered as a gust of wind blew inside.
The man felt the gust of cold air and got up to close the door. He checked to make sure the cat wasn't against this.
Zheng Tan was fine with him closing the door. He jumped onto the man's desk.
The desk was near a window. A book lay open in front of the window. He could see many bookmarks and notes in the book. He didn't sit on the book. It was clear the man was using it now. He decided to behave himself seeing he was in a stranger's house.
He sat next to the book and looked out the window waiting for the snow to stop. Mama Jiao would have something to say if he didn't get home by dinner.
The room smelled of wintersweets. The man even made tea with wintersweets. He must like the flower very much. Zheng Tan wondered if his tea came from the wintersweet shrubs in the neighborhood.
After completing his translating work for the day. The man stretched and looked at Zheng Tan. The cat hadn't moved and was staring out the window. He grinned then took out a pencil and some paper. He drew the scene. It was clear he knew how to sketch from his drawing.
The man showed Zheng Tan his drawing but Zheng Tan wasn't interested. He stared outside and calculated the time. School ended in an hour so he had to leave soon no matter if it was snowing or not.
Thankfully, it wasn't snowing as hard after half an hour.
He stretched then jumped off the table. He stood in front of the door while looking at the man.
The man had watched him jump off his desk and smiled when Zheng Tan patted the door. "You're leaving?"
He got up and opened the door.
Zheng Tan could open the door by himself but decided to act normal in front of a man he had just met.
He felt the man liked to smile but there was something sad hidden in his smile.
The man watched Zheng Tan squeezed out through the wires. He left a row of paw prints behind him in the snow as he walked away. He closed the door when he couldn't see the cat anymore.
Zheng Tan started running towards Chuhua University after he left the neighborhood. People were too focused on the road to notice a running cat.
When he passed an intersection, he stopped because there were too many cars. He saw two police cars speed towards the direction he had just left. He waited at the crossroad with the pedestrians.
The bell rang the moment he got to Youzi's school.
He had made it on time.
It was snowing very hard by this time.
Youzi and Jiao Yuan were all sad because Papa Jiao was going abroad soon and weren't even excited to see snow. The other kids, though, were all gleeful when they saw the layer of white on the ground. However, with so many kids running around, the snow soon turned to muddy water.
It snowed for two days. The snow melted quickly after the sky cleared. The weather forecast said the temperature was about to rise. Zheng Tan waited until the snow had melted before going for another walk.
He traced the route he had took last time and went to Jiao Yuan's school, then Zhong Yan's neighborhood, then the construction site before finally going to the new neighborhood again.
He ran into two ladies walking home from the supermarket when he entered the neighborhood.
"Did they close that case?"
"I don't think so. I didn't hear anything new about it."
"Didn't they say it was suicide through drowning? Is it not suicide?"
"God no! I heard from my nephew that when that person was found, they didn't have any clothes on. No one would commit suicide like that."
The ran into another lady. The three of them seemed to know each other.
"What are you guys talking about?"
"That incident by the lake."
Zheng Tan remembered the police cars he saw that day. It was probably related to the incident these ladies were talking about. He felt this had nothing to do with him. Things like this happened every day in the world.
Zheng Tan decided to go to the house that smelled like wintersweets again. Maybe he would get another cup of milk.
He saw the light on in that house. The man was probably working at this hour.
He jumped onto the balcony and squeezed in through the wires.
He saw the boxes were still there but beside them was a cushion. There was a cup of cold milk by the cushion.
Zheng Tan sniffed the cup. It didn't seem to have gone bad. However, milk didn't go bad when left outside in this weather. He couldn't tell how long this had been here.
If people saw this stuff on the balcony they could think the owner of the house had a pet.
Zheng Tan sniffed around the balcony. He decided if the man had gotten a dog he would leave.
Most people believed that dogs had better noses than cats, which was why there were only K9 units. However, cats had sensitive noses as well. They were just harder to train.
Zheng Tan didn't know how his nose compared to a dog's. He just knew he could tell smells apart quite well.
He sniffed around but didn't find any scent other than that of the house owner's. He smelled his own scent on a box. Other than that, he couldn't even sense a girl. The man turned out to be quite a loner.
Zheng Tan tapped the door. He was debating whether to scratch the door when he heard footsteps. The door opened.
The man smiled when he saw Zheng Tan at his door.