Chapter 1: The invisible crack
It was New Year’s Eve. On the bustling streets of S City, Yang Chen held his girlfriend’s hand as he leaned against the riverside railing. Nighttime in S City was like a fairytale. The skyscrapers, the beautiful lights and the girl in front of him, always managed to take his breath away.
Yang Chen watched her. Under the night sky, her eyes glimmered with infinite hope towards their future. Towards the new year. Towards new beginnings. Every year, they would stay awake till the countdown to wish each other before dozing off. But this year, there was something special. Their relationship had just crossed the tenth year mark.
When he had first proposed to her, he never imagined they would come this far. He hoped. He always hoped. After all, his girl was far too covetous. To have her all to himself was something he was proud of. He could see the predatory gazes at her to which she always remained clueless. Ready to assert his dominance, he pulled her towards him and sunk his face into the crook of her neck, inhaling her scent. Lavender. It calmed him. Her hair smelt really good too, but it was different from how it usually smells. Did she change her shampoo?
Yang Chen’s train of thoughts was cut off as his girlfriend yelled, “Chen, look.” With a sigh, he disentangled from her and looked up. The countdown had ended and there were fireworks in the sky.
“Jingjing, happy new year,” he smiled brightly. Amidst the sea of people, he only had Chen Jing in his eyes.
Chen Jing took Yang Chen’s arm and slung it over her shoulders and said, “Happy new year to you too.” She tilted her head to smile at him, two dimples forming on her cheeks. Her eyes shone as their eyes locked.
Once he had told Chen Jing that her eyes were like a galaxy. He could lose himself in them. But, sometimes, he got the feeling that he was staring at a black hole instead. It scared him.
His proposal ran along the lines that they would marry after being in a relationship for eight years. It was the ripe time for him to marry her. He had calculated everything well, save her. She was the only variable in his life full of constants. But something had gotten into her. She would go silent every time the topic of marriage was brought up.
“Chenchen, what are you thinking again?” Chen Jing poked his abs and asked. The little amount of strength that she exerted felt like a butterfly touch to him. A stream of warm current flowed from her fingertips through his entire body, making him stiffen on spot.
“Jingjing, what are you doing tomorrow?” Yang Chen slid his arm off her shoulder and took her warm hands in his.
She looked up and said, “I haven’t planned anything yet. Besides, shouldn’t it be today? It is already ten past twelve. Anyway, why do you ask?”
He cleared his throat and said, “Maybe we could do something meaningful.”
She raised an eyebrow at him, but did not comment further.
Seeing her go silent again, he took a deep breath and said, “Look, I know we both have been busy. We haven’t spent quality time with each other for a while. So, I just want to spend this day with you.”
Yang Chen was going to explain further when he heard her say, “Okay.”
Thinking that he had heard her wrong, he looked at her and confirmed, “You agreed?”
Yang Chen kissed her on the cheek and they strolled along the riverbank.
All of a sudden, Chen Jing raised her fingers and pointed at a poster. It was of the recent famous celebrity, Li Xueyi. “Chenchen look, isn’t he handsome?”
Yang Chen rolled his eyes and said, “Is he more handsome than me?”
“Of course. Look at you and look at him. Heaven and Earth difference, okay?”
“Is that so?”He found her tickle spot and tickled her hard. “Miss Chen, are you trying to make me jealous, hmm?”
“Stop, stop. I admit defeat. My boyfriend is the handsomest man ever. Handsomest!” She laughed as she twisted and turned.
“Hmm, that’s more like it.” Yang Chen smirked.
Gentle breeze messed their hair as they walked hand in hand with each other, dancing and joking around with each other.
“Are you hungry?”
“Jingjing, don’t always ask me whether I’m hungry when in reality, you are,” Yang Chen rebuked her.
Chen Jing turned her head to face him and gave him a brilliant smile. Her eyes twinkled as she looked into his eyes.
“Jinjing…” Yang Chen started to speak when a call interrupted his words.
“Hey,” a loud voice came from the other end of the phone.
“Mm. What happened?” Yang Chen asked. He grew solemn all of a sudden and said, “I’m on my way.”
“Jingjing, I’m so sorry, I have to go. Lemme book a cab for you.”
“No need, Chenchen. I want to stay here for a while. What happened though? Everything okay?” she asked worriedly.
“Nothing to worry about, Jingjing. Let's meet tomorrow and talk, okay?”
“Sure,” she replied as she noticed his impatient demeanor. Chen Jing had grown accustomed to it.
She leaned on the railings as she stared at the back view of the man, which grew smaller and smaller until he vanished from her line of sight.
Chen Jing turned around to face the buildings on the other side of the river. Those buildings housed some of the best companies in the city. She used to work for one. She left to pursue her dreams, but sometimes she wondered whether everything was worth it.
She loved to ponder on what would have happened had she not listened to her father that year and chosen to major in the subject she liked rather than the one her dad recommended. In the end, she always managed to convince herself that whatever she did back then was not wrong. At least, it fed her for five years.
But she had given a lot up—her dreams, her passion, her time and most importantly, her confidence.
Chen Jing shook her head and muttered, “Think of something good. This year, my life will finally change for the good.”
The surrounding noise drowned the rest of her thoughts. She smiled and watched the crowd dancing and waving the little glowsticks to welcome the new year wholeheartedly. She stood at the corner and leaned on the lamppost, watching.
As she stood there unmoving, her cell dinged with a message. She saw a voice note left by her best friend. As soon as she clicked on it, a loud yell sounded. Before she could plug in her earphones, a series of insults came one after the other followed by the new year wish.
Chen Jing smiled helplessly. That was very much like her best friend. Before she could put her cell back in her pocket, it rang.
“Hey,” she answered.
“Tomorrow is New Year’s Day. Come back tomorrow,” came a voice from the other end of the phone.
“I can’t. I am busy.”
“What are you busy with?”
“That’s none of your business. Also, don’t bother. I won’t be going.”
“Chen Jing, don’t be late. Otherwise, you know the consequences.”