Hu Lei stood at the stairwell and listened to the hushed quarrel. She looked emotionlessly towards the dimly lit living room. Her lips pressed together in annoyance as she heard the cyclic conversation. Truly, the loudest people were those who tried to be quiet, especially at the middle of the night.
She listened to the conversation with detached interest, as if it had nothing to do with her.
"You had her committed into a mental institution, Lu Liang. What were you thinking?" a man spoke up in anger.
"What was I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do? You left the country and I was alone with her. She does not talk. There is something wrong with her. I was scared." A woman replied with tears, choking as if in pain.
A hand fell on the table in anger, but the bang was not loud.
"Do you have a right to be scared? Our daughter was held captive for a year. She is scared and does not need to be in another prison. You have to accept that she is not going to begin jumping around and talking up a storm after her experience. How can you, as a mother, you make her relive her nightmare by having her freedom restricted once again?" The man's voice became louder.
The girl on the steps lifted her head, her eyes cold and free of fear. Her lips formed a sneer as she listened to the sniffling sounds of a woman crying. The broken sobs would make anyone believe that she had suffered an immeasurable injustice.
"You left me alone with her. How could I know that I was safe?" her voice croaked out amidst the sniffling.
Her husband did not seem to hear the voice filled with grievances. He was drowning in his anger and disappointment.
"You committed her into an institution even before my plane landed in India, and you even used my name to have her locked up. You are her mother. What should you fear in the face of your daughter's wellbeing? We thought she was gone forever for a year. How could you bear to just give her away again?" the frustration in the man's voice was palpable.
He had not even been willing to take a step out of the door. The only reason he had left the country was for the sake of Hu Lei's treatment. He had trusted his wife enough to guard their child while he handled the medical side of things.
"You heard about the boy who turned into a monster. He killed his little sister and even injured his mother after being rescued from that place." The woman's voice became loud and hysterical.
Before he could respond, the man realised that their daughter had walked to the living room entrance. Her slight figure standing below the arched entrance seemed lonely and cold. He swallowed his words and sent a glare towards his wife, who looked terrified at the appearance of their daughter. Hu Ming shook his head and quickly went to the little girl without another word.
"Xiao Lei, I did not know that you were awake." He spoke softly.
She did not respond, and he did not expect that she would.
"Did you have another nightmare?" he asked.
She did, but she shook her head with cold and unfeeling eyes. Assenting would not make the nightmares end. It would be useless to confess. Her father also knew that she was lying, but he did not push.
"Do not worry. Father will make everything better. You do not have to be afraid. Nothing bad will happen again." He comforted her.
She nodded in acceptance, perhaps to reassure him.
The soft cries of the seated woman could still be heard; she did not approach her daughter. Hu Lei looked at her with scorn and disappointment. After a moment, she turned and walked back up the stairs.
The man looked at his hysterical wife who had looked at their daughter like she was a monster.
"Lu Liang, I hope you will be able to move beyond your childishness and behave like a mother to Xiao Lei. If you cannot treat her well, I will take her away from you." He said before following his daughter.
In truth, Hu Ming hoped that his words would be a wake-up call for his wife. He did not want to deprive Xiao Lei of her mother.
Unfortunately, there were no changes in Lu Liang in the months following that conversation. The woman became more and more alienated from her daughter, preferring to stay with friends instead of remaining home with the girl she now saw as a burden.
When Hu Lei turned ten, Hu Ming did not dare delay or continue hoping for a miracle. The environment in Supreme City was not conducive for Hu Lei, especially with a mother who treated her like the devil and old friends who shunned her, fearing that she was a ticking time bomb. She could not recover in a place where she was treated like a pariah.
Therefore, he made appropriate arrangements before leaving the country with Hu Lei.