Thousands of miles in the sky, Cin Heung opened her arms and dived down at great speed. Air ran across her cheeks, and her hair fluttered. Her clothes flapped and flapped as the sensation of falling paralyzed her in the air. Eyes wide open, tears trickled out one drop after another. Unfazed by the scenery below her, Cin Heung just looked at the horizon. The fall seemed endless, and it seemed as though she would never touch the ground.
The outline of the ground was very clear now and she readied her frightened heart for the final impact. Out of nowhere, the Earth’s crust suddenly split open. A dazzling light shot out from the crack and penetrated her pupils. The strong white light devoured her whole body and engulfed her senses. The whole space seemed to have paused, and all that remained was sounds of her breathing.
Cin Heung tried to open her eyes, but her tiredness got the better of her. An unclear female voice and male voice were talking, which brought her back to reality.
“Her fever has subsided, thank god. It’s all thanks to you guys,” said the girl.
“Well, Cin Heung had it the worse. She had to sleep for two days,” said the man.
“She’s lucky to have met you.” The girl sighed and continued, “Thank you for contacting me! William.”
“If you didn’t call Cin Heung, we wouldn’t have been able to tell you about this,” William said.
“Has it been troublesome for you guys, letting her stay in the theather’s loft? I could bring her somewhere else.”
“No! It’s fine to let her stay here. The room is always empty anyway. From what you’ve said, it seems that Cin Heung has no place to settle down. She can stay here until she gets well, then she can decide what to do.” He let out a sigh and continued, “It’s mostly about Stirling… We should help her too… She was so sad that she talked nonsense all night… Calling for Stirling and Yi Po.”
The woman hung her head low and sighed.
Suddenly, a person came out from behind them weakly, supporting herself by holding the wall.
The woman exclaimed, “Cin Heung, why did you get out of bed?”
William immediately gave her a hand. “Go back to bed.”
“William? Manman… What’s going on?” Cin Heung said with a soft voice.
They helped Cin Heung back to the bed and gave her a brief description of what happened. After reminding her to rest, William went out of the room.
Looking at her pale and haggard face, Manman felt pity for her. She helped her with the quilt and told her, “I’ll buy you something to eat.”
Just as Manman was about to stand up, Cin Heung grabbed her hand.
“Don’t tell anyone that you’re seeing me,” Cin Heung said.
“Okay, okay, I won’t say it. Just rest up.” After Manman said that, she turned around and walked out of the room, feeling sorry for her.
Cin Heung was ill for a whole week. Manman never told Tony, but she would come take care of Cin Heung everyday. Seeing her getting thinner and thinner, Manman advised her to stop worrying about the past and take good care of herself. At the same time, Cin Heung also kept claiming that everything was okay.
Seeing Cin Heung’s recovery, William suggested that she stay in the theater loft. At first, Cin Heung politely refused, fearing that she would be reminded of the pain. However, William and the group of theatre staff came and sincerely pleaded for her to stay.
Someone said, “There’s no difference between living here and staying somewhere else. You can pay a little rent if you feel awkward about it! Better yet, you can make your cakes, cookies, and other goodies!”
“Yeah, we’ll be able to enjoy your cooking!”
“You gobblers! Cin Heung, just stay here. We can take care of you so don’t think too much about it. We all talked about it and we all agreed to let you stay.”
Unable to refuse such kindness, Cin Heung was touched by everyone’s enthusiasm. In the end, she decided to stay.
Since then, she only focused on her studies. Every day, she would go between the school and the theater. Visiting her occasionally, Manman gradually noticed that Cin Heung had become more moody and talked less. To Manman, Cin Heung seemed like a stranger now.
Manman told Cin Heung that after that night, Emma got yelled at by both Uncle Duen and Tony. She was even grounded during the holidays so she could reflect on what she had done.
“Teenagers go through a rebellious phase. She’ll be fine after a while. There’s no need to be too harsh on her,” Cin Heung said calmly.
Cin Heung would always squeeze out an optimistic smile for Manman, but this only caused Manman to worry even more. For many times, Manman noticed her overreacting to trivial matters, such as when things fell down. Manman was worried that she was actually just putting up a front.
William also noticed that every time Cin Heung came back to the theatre, she would always avoid the main entrance. Rather, she would sneak up the small ladder at the back like the phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera”. Everyone that worked in the theater knew why she was doing this. William, who was a kind hearted person, wanted to do something to help her out.
One time, William asked, “Cin Heung, there’s an emergency! The theatre is short of staff. I need a part-time backstage staff to help with the intensive performance schedule next week! Do you know anyone that is willing?”
“I’ll need to ask around,” Cin Heung answered.
“But… We’ll need the person to come for tonight’s practise.”
“That much of a hurry?”
“Cin Heung! Why don’t you do it?”
Just like that, Cin Heung became one of them. Preparing for a performance was just like preparing for battle, and she needed to stay focused until the performance was over. Since William arranged a variety of complicated work for her, this left her with no time to think about the sad things that had happened in this theater.
William had succeeded. Initially, Cin Heung was reluctant, but she slowly became used to it.
Cin Heung would always spare a few days every week to work part time at the theater. Sometimes, she would collect tickets at the entrance, and sometimes she would work backstage. As time went by, her mood became better because her mind didn’t have time to wonder.
Manman, William, and her group of theater friends were relieved to see her walk out from isolation after over half a year.
However, the group remembered there were two names that could never be mentioned. One time, a new backstage worker mentioned the name Stirling and Cin Heung overheard it. It made her slip up on some technical work and ruined the show that night.
The other name was Yi Po.
After the dispute that night, the two no longer contacted each other. As if their story had never happened in the first place, no one mentioned the forbidden name and their past.
Cin Heung tried her best to forget him.
Today, she went to Queens Botanical Garden with several classmates. After the tour, all the students said they wanted to go to Flushing for some Japanese food. Cin Heung immediately hesitated when she heard the name Flushing.
“What’s wrong Cin Heung? You don’t want Japanese food?”
“Let’s try it. It’s a great restaurant!”
The group had a good time in the restaurant that night. After bidding their farewells, Cin Heung walked out of the restaurant and saw the sign board with “Flushing” written in large letters. Suddenly, she felt a faint pain in her heart. She sighed and walked down the street filled with lovers alone with her hands in her pockets. Some were looking at the items displayed in front of the window, while others were holding hands, heading somewhere. There were even some that were feeding each other sweetly.
Tormented by sadness, Cin Heung walked aimlessly among the stream of people and somehow ended up on the street where Able’s cafe was.
She used to come here every day, but had not stepped onto this street for half a year. Many of the shops had moved and the people she knew were gone. The café was still there, but the beautiful woman that used to be there had gone.
She stopped at the opposite side and looked at the shop
Unfortunately, she couldn’t see the person she was familiar with. The furniture that she was familiar with had also changed. Curious, Cin Heung noticed that there was another female barista working there. She was tall and slim with long hair. Cleaning up the tables, she was preparing to close up the shop.
At that moment, Yi Po suddenly came out of the kitchen. The female barista patted the flour off him intimately, turned off the light, and left with him.
Hiding behind the lamppost, Cin Heung didn’t want to attract their attention.
Glancing at them, she saw that they were now far away. The female barista walked closely with him and they seemed very intimate.
Leaning on the lamppost, Cin Heung stood there, dazed, for a while.
—Once upon a time, there was hope, a beautiful one,
Holding it and cherishing it,
Yet so wilful on that one day,
That hope shattered on the ground,
Falling into the darkest valley.
Hey… It’s time to say goodbye. Look up, climb up.
You need to fight for your happiness. Remember?—
At this time, someone tapped her shoulder and said, “Cin Heung.”
Flustered, Cin Heung looked over. “Emma!”
Emma said with a sad smile, “I didn’t think I would see you again.”
Cin Heung smiled but said nothing.
Emma said shyly, “Haven’t seen you… for a while.” She moistened her lower lip and continued, “I owe you an apology…”
Cin Heung was shocked.
“What I said that night really hurt you. I’m ashamed and I feel guilty… Please accept my apology. Sorry, please forgive me.” Emma was filled with so much regret that she didn’t dare to face Cin Heung.
Shutting her eyes, she turned away from Emma. She looked again at the cafe, but Yi Po was already gone.
With mixed feelings, she sighed. “There’s no one to blame… The person has gone and it doesn’t matter anymore… Just let him go.”
Cin Heung tapped Emma and said, “It’s alright.”
Turning around, Cin Heung left quietly.
“Cin Heung! I’m going to study in Seattle.”
“Well, take care,” Cin Heung said as she walked away.
Emma felt guilty and her energetic self was no more.
Emma yelled out, “Take care of yourself, too!”
Young people would grow up eventually.
Countless spring went past and countless years went past.
In a grand celebration, the man on the stage was making a speech. “This year, everyone should also work hard! I hope everyone can put what they’ve learned into practice in the future. After tonight… You all have graduated!”
The hall was immediately filled with cheers.
There was a long table full of food and drinks in the hall. After listening to the speech, all the guests gathered and chatted. There was a particular noisy group that was laughing and chatting.
“It’s all thanks to your words! Wing Tung is really getting married!”
“Turnip must be so happy that he’s jumping up and down.”
“Don’t just talk about me and Turnip! Gou Jing and Sum Ting also have new boyfriends! They are even twin brothers!”
“Really? Will they even notice if they made a switch?”
“Shit! Have a little fun swapping husbands?”
“We haven’t even talked about marriage yet. Why would we talk about swapping husbands! You little!”
“There’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time!” Wing Tung suddenly said, “I want to touch Manman’s big belly!” Without saying anymore, she reached out her hand and touched Manman’s ninth-month pregnant belly.
“This is so exciting… She’s moving! She’s moving!” Wing Tung became emotional and said, “Baby! Come out and let your godmother hug you!”
“Why are you being so motherly all of a sudden? Make your own baby then.”
Laughter filled the hall.
Sum Ting asked, “Cin Heung! Ready to go back?”
“Yeah. Thank you for coming to my graduation ceremony.”
“We all support you and care about you.”
Without saying a word, Cin Heung stretched out her long arms around the group and held them in a tight embrace.
The dean who had just given the speech congratulated and encouraged the students in the hall. She then came to Cin Heung.
After going through the polite exchanges, the dean went straight to the point. “Cin Heung, I’ve been paying attention to you this year. You are very talented and always have unique ideas. Would you like to stay in the future to complete a professional level course funded by the college?”
“Thank you very much. The past year has been a long one for me. Truth be told, I have used up my courage and am looking for something to fill it up. Thank you for your sincere offer, but, I think this opportunity should be reserved for someone more suitable,” Cin Heung replied with gratitude.
The dean looked at Cin Heung, as if trying to read her mind. After some time, she said, “Don’t worry, you don’t have to decide now. Please contact me after you’ve thought about it.” After saying that, the dean gave her name card to her.
After the graduation ceremony, Cin Heung said, “I’ll go back to the theater to pack up my things, and then I’m… going home with you girls.”
Back at the old theater, which had been accompanying her through the most difficult time this year, she felt a little reluctant to leave. This place contained her tears and her grief. After a few days, all of it would become history.
In the attic, she packed up everything. Out of nowhere, she found a rolled up poster near the edge of the bed. She didn’t know when it was placed there. She opened the poster and it was about Stirling’s concert. After looking at the poster for a moment, she was reluctant to put it down. The quiet room concentrated her mind and made her recall every musical note she played.
Out of nowhere, wonderful sounds of music rang in her ears. It was a wonderful melody played by a violin. Raising her head, Cin Heung suddenly put down the poster and listened carefully. The faint sounds of a violin reverberated throughout the quiet space. Sure that she was not hallucinating, Cin Heung immediately stood up and followed the source of the music.
Cin Heung went to the stage downstairs, but the music vanished. She looked around the backstage and blamed herself for her suspicion. As she walked toward the stage, she stopped and her heart suddenly dropped. She saw a violin case on the stage.
She stopped in front of the case and knelt down slowly. Looking at it, she experienced varied emotions in her heart. When she opened it, she was shocked. A stream of warm tears flowed from her eyes and down her face. In the case was a violin she knew, a broken one—a violin belonging to Stirling.
Cin Heung gently picked up the violin, placed it in her arms, shut her eyes, and felt it with her cheek.
Suddenly, music came from the audience seats. Raising her gaze slowly, Cin Heung saw someone playing in a seat. Doubting her vision, Cin Heung said nothing.
After a long time, the person stopped and looked toward the stage. “Cin Heung.”
Cin Heung cried out, “Stirling!”
They rushed forward and hugged each other desperately. Their words could not express their current emotions. They could only use hugs to confirm the existence of each other.
Cin Heung could smell the familiar smell and buried her head in Stirling’s neck contentedly. At the same time, Stirling rubbed her cheek against Cin Heung’s lush hair.
Looking at her without saying anything, Cin Heung answered her with a kiss to her lips.
After tonight, love has reached another level.
After tonight, like a star, you will make a halo.
After tonight, the halo will light up the darkness.
After tonight, shall we cherish each other.
To Be Continued—Prologue