By Ashleigh / Nov 23, 2022
The rain had been beating down for several days and he knew the girl couldn’t resist. She came into his store to get away from the rain and maybe have a nice cup of hot noodles.
The man behind the counter stared at her with a strange glare. She was unaware that he had ulterior motives even if he was a store owner. He was a stranger after all.
Only 7 Years Old
Yin Canlian was a 7-year-old girl who happened to stumble upon the noodle restaurant on her way home from school. She was a great student and an obedient child. When she first saw the owner, she didn’t think much of it.
But she would end up remembering her encounter with the restaurant owner forever. Even after 25 years, the experience would remain carved in her memory as if it had happened the day before.
The Noodle Restaurant Owner
65-year-old Dong Nianhe formerly owned a noodle restaurant that he had been operating for decades. He was unmarried and had no children.
25 years ago, while Dong Nianhe ran a noodle restaurant, he noticed a little girl standing in front of it. Every afternoon, he would see a girl around 7 years old standing in front of his restaurant, looking very hungry. She would stare at the pot where he cooked, and Dong Nianhe finally approached her one day.
On The Way Home From School
Every day on her way home from school, the 7-year-old girl would stop in front of the noodle restaurant and stare at the man while he was cooking.
The girl never dared to go in, but she had made it a habit to stop by every day. She would watch the man work and get lost in the aroma of fresh-cooked noodles. The owner noticed her, though, and decided to do something about it.
Luring Her In
One day, when there were not many customers in his store, he saw the little girl again. He cooked a bowl of noodles and approached her. “Hungry? I have something for you. Follow me!”
The girl froze on the spot. She sensed that something was wrong with the whole situation. She was also hungry. She stood there in front of the man, unable to decide until she came up with the perfect answer.
The little girl raised her hands and said, “I, I…have no money. Grandpa said that you can’t accept other people’s things if you have nothing to give in return. Even if you accept it, you must exchange it for equal value.” So she refused.
She quickly turned around and ran away. But the restaurant owner wasn’t about to give up so easily.
Curious, Dong Nianhe asked around for anyone who knew the little girl. It turned out that five years ago, her parents went out to work and never came back. She lived with her grandfather since, and they depended on each other.
The girl only had her grandpa left, and he did everything he could to take care of her. Would that be enough to keep her out of harm’s way, though?
The 7-year-old girl was living in a dilapidated house with her grandfather. She would do farm work and cook dinner when she came home from school. Dinner was usually only a pot of white porridge and nothing else.
She was constantly hungry and wished for something better sometimes. Sadly, her grandfather couldn’t afford anything else besides porridge most of the time.
The girl’s terrible home situation gave the restaurant owner an idea. He devised a plan to take advantage of this situation and convince the girl to accept his proposal.
Dong Nianhe knew it wouldn’t be easy, but he had to try anyway. He couldn’t get the girl out of his mind. He had to act, and he had to do it soon.
Only One Cup
The little girl was standing in front of the shop. It was a rainy day, but she couldn’t resist the aroma of the cooked noodles. She was famished. There was never enough food at home.
The restaurant owner invited her in and offered her a cup of noodles. But this time, his offer came with strings attached. The 7-year-old girl hesitated at first but then did something that surprised the man.
The man came up with an idea he knew the little girl would not refuse. When he saw Yin Canlian again, he said, “As long as you teach me to write a word every day, I could give you a bowl of noodles.”
The little girl could not believe what he was offering, though she said timidly, “Can I teach you two? I want to exchange for two bowls of noodles.” At that moment, Dong Nianhe knew she was giving her grandfather the other bowl of noodles, so he cheerfully replied, “Of course, you can.”
Since then, Yin Canlian came to teach Dong Nianhe some new words each day for a bowl of noodles, and this exchange lasted for five years. After graduating from elementary school, Dong Nianhe noticed that she no longer passed by his restaurant.
She and her grandfather have disappeared. The restaurant owner discovered that a distant relative of Yin Canlian had taken them into their care and brought them to the city.
25 Years Later
Fast forward 25 years later, Dong Nianhe’s small noodle restaurant had become a local specialty snack shack. The owner had also become an elderly man over 60 years of age. Since he could not bear children, his two previous marriages ended in divorce.
For him, it was quite lonely having aged without a family. But every day for five years, he wondered who had been sending him $7,855.00 (50,000 yuan) every month. No letter or note was attached to the money. His friends advised him to close the restaurant and retire since he had kept all the money he had received. He had a small fortune he could then use in his twilight years.
The man didn’t close the restaurant because he was still waiting for the little girl he saw across the street in the early afternoons. He muttered to himself, “I’m waiting for someone. If the noodle shop is closed, I’m afraid she won’t find her way to me.”
Dong Nianhe still waited for the little girl with the red school bag who came in front of his restaurant every afternoon. He still remembered her like it was yesterday, even though it was long ago.
One day, when he looked at the street, he was speechless. There she was! She may have grown older, but it was definitely her. The woman entered his noodle shop with tears in her eyes and said, “Dad, I’m back!”
Dong Nianhe ran to her excitedly. In his heart, his daughter had returned. He then discovered that she had been returning to his neighborhood since she started working, secretly watching him at his noodle restaurant and sending him money every month. It was all because the man helped her in her most challenging time.
Yin Canlian still had the same sweet face she had as a little girl. Her style seemed to remain the same, and she was dressed modestly and still had a love for red handbags.
She looked happy and healthy, and it seemed like life was treating her well. The feeling of love they had when they hugged each other was just like how it was when they first started spending time together.
Returning The Favor
Dong Nianhe humbly ushered her inside the shop. Yin commented on how it looked so different from when she was a little girl but that the feeling inside was still the same.
He made her sit down at her usual table, and Yin started thanking him for still being so kind. He quickly went to the back to start preparing her favorite meal, noodles.
The simple salesman returned with a steaming bowl of rice noodles.
Yin smiled with glee as he walked towards her and placed her favorite childhood treat before
The Girl’s Story
Dong gleamed at her with tears in his eyes, “You having returned to see me is the greatest gift I could have ever asked for. I am so happy that you haven’t forgotten this poor old man,” he said.
“I always hoped that it would be you that was sending me the money, and I never used a cent because I was waiting for you to come. Why did you leave all of a sudden without saying goodbye?”
The 32-year-old woman looked lovingly at Dong, and she replied, “I was a small girl, and Aunty didn’t want to cause any problems with anybody when we left because she wanted us to all start afresh.”
She pushed the box towards him, “This will explain everything.” Dong picked up the box and opened it; he was shocked to see what was inside.
Inside was an ancient Golden Chinese Medallion. It was from the War, and he knew exactly what it was because he had one exactly like it.
“Where did you find this?” he exclaimed. “These are special medallions given to the greatest army heroes and War Veterans. Most of the people have moved away or even died; how did you manage to get this in your possession?” he continued to question her.
Yin explained that the long-lost relative was actually their great aunt Yan, her grandfather’s grand-niece. Yan’s father (Yins’ Grandfather’s brother) was a strict older man who was a colonel in the Chinese Army.
The two brothers never saw eye-to-eye and decided to live in different states and never saw each other again. Before he died, he gave her the medal and asked her to find his brother’s child because she was the true heir to the family fortune.
An Uncle’s Joy
Dong was an orphan. He never met his father and was young when his mother died. And when he turned 18, the Guardian at the Orphanage gave him a single token to keep as his identity; it was the Golden Medallion, just like the one which belonged to his brave father, who was a soldier.
Yin explained that there was a big secret between their families over all these years. The brothers had another brother who had died in the war, leaving a small child behind, Dong.
Finally, years of confusion and pain started to make sense to Dong. This Golden Medallion was proof that he had a history, a past, and a family.
He had felt like a failure his whole life and Yin was always his shining light, even now in his final years. Now he knew why. She was actually his niece in real life.
Dong looked questioningly at her. Although he was happy that she was back and relieved to hear this news about his family history, something didn’t feel right, and he still felt like he needed some questions answered.
All Is Forgotten
“She just wants her family to be together again. All these years of being alone with her father and his bitterness made her realize what was most important in life, family. She has no issues with anybody but also understands why you would be confused or angry,”Yin said.
“That’s why I couldn’t face you about it because I didn’t know how you would take it, and neither would she. That’s why she also gave me money to give to you, because she felt bad, guilty almost!”
Dong understood why his great-cousin would be afraid to tell him the truth. So he agreed to meet her on one condition.
He didn’t tell Yin anything else and walked back into his Noodle kitchen, which felt familiar and at home. Yin was excited to have the family together again and started preparing for their return trip up North.
Not Everyone Is Happy
Two days later, Yin and Dong traveled to visit Great Aunt Yan. She was thrilled to see them. She welcomed them inside her humble home and offered them refreshments.
Dong told her that she didn’t need to explain anything and he just wanted everyone to be happy and at peace. He didn’t want or need any more money. While he appreciated her generosity, he felt she could do much better with her wealth.
30-Year Issues Resolved
Dong told her that he had been thinking of retiring for a while now and that all his prayers were answered by Yin returning.
He requested that Yin receive all the family’s generational wealth as she was the only child left. Yin was most surprised to hear this and vowed that she would take the family name further with pride.
Peace At Last
Although both Yin and Dong had childhoods’ that were less than happy, they still found solace in each other’s simple happiness. Yin decided to keep the Noodle Shop open and met a wonderful man who she married. They had children, ran it together, and all lived together as one happy joint family.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.