It wasn’t too late to run away, Yin Wei kept telling himself; when he first heard the news, when he decided to look up the venue when he was driving here. He’d told himself that even when he’d walked up to the girl at the counter and asked if there were walk-in tickets available.

There were countless reasons why it would have been better to stay home.

He’d heard Jun Shu was back on an early Tuesday morning, the words slipping so loosely from his mum’s lips that Yin Wei was sure he’d heard it wrong.

He leaned against the kitchen counter and took a slow sip of his drink, being very careful in his approach. He kept his voice light and got answers to a few rudimentary questions: Jun Shu’s flight had arrived yesterday, he was probably at his parents’ house and yes, it was likely he would be around for a while.

“Why do you sound so worried?” His mum paused scrubbing the plate in the sink and turned her head over her shoulder. The near-constant crease between her eyebrows deepened, eyes narrowed. “Aren’t you looking forward to seeing him after so long?”

“Of course,” Yin Wei had immediately answered.

The truth was he hadn’t kept in contact with Jun Shu in the past four years, by choice.

Jun Shu was the closest friend he’d had and the one who knew him best, which meant that after all this time, Yin Wei should stay away from him more than ever.

His father had always said he was a selfish child. Turns out, he wasn’t far off.

Yin Wei bought the walk-in ticket, even though it meant the seats were at the back; seeing wasn’t important here. He entered the lobby and tilted his head up to take in the grand chandelier hanging in the air like a descending deity.

People around him were wearing flowy dresses, glimmering necklaces, long-sleeved button-downs and jackets. Yin Wei wished he’d brought a cap and tugged at his frayed hoodie string.

It wasn’t too late to run away, he thought, even as the doors of the concert hall opened.

There was a poster of tonight’s performing artist taped on the door. Yin Wei turned his head to take a glance while walking in and the somewhat steady rhythm the organ in his chest had been playing, despite all of this, came to an abrupt, rocketing halt.

His dark hair was swept to the side and ruffled under the lights— it had to be an old picture. He was wearing all black, cello leaning against his shoulder like a resting nomad. His eyes only really opened again after the piece was over; even in the still image, they were dark and glinted with a quiet delight akin to amusement.

Jun Shu, exactly the way Yin Wei remembered him.

Yin Wei had still been sitting in his seat even when everyone had left. The back of his skull was still tingling, and it felt like someone had taken a spear and stabbed it up his spine. He only got up and exited because an usher looked as if they would ask if he needed help when he didn’t.

He made it through the by now mostly empty lobby and back outside, the warm outside air washing away the clean ventilated air he’d spent the best part of tonight breathing in. He sat on a bench and tucked his hands in his hoodie’s front pocket.

The concert had been splendid and that wasn’t doing it justice. Jun Shu was a hurricane, wild but never violent. A calm wind, tranquil but never stagnant. Combined with the harmony of the orchestra, he was flawless. The audience were just puppets in the stands, completely entranced and enthralled by every note that rang out.

Sweat threatened to trickle down his arms, breaking his train of thought—it was always anti-sweater weather in this country. He raised his arms above his head, ready to pull his hoodie off when someone called his name.

He would recognise that voice anywhere but he didn’t dare to believe it until he stood up and turned around—Jun Shu, exactly the way Yin Wei remembered him and this time, it was his eyes, as in really his.

He’d changed out of the all-black attire, opting for black cargo shorts and a baggy blue shirt but that wasn’t all that had changed.

Jun Shu’s hair was longer now, curling around his ears. Even under the dim light, Yin Wei could make out how the stray strands turned light brown and the familiar birthmark near his left ear. His skin was darker, sun-kissed and tan.

Yin Wei was dissolving, nothing more than a pinch of salt in the ocean. The organ in his chest shrivelled up as a cold fist wrapped around it, wringing everything out between its fingers.

He wanted to say Jun Shu’s name in reply but the words in his throat evaporated and his tongue withered away, ground into the dirt. Just the thought of it threatened to break something, everything.

Run, he thought.

“Yin Wei, it’s really you.” Jun Shu stepped closer. He was taller, posture straighter, frame leaner.

He was as striking as he’d been all those years ago.

“Jun Shu.” Yin Wei attempted to loosen the tension that had spiked through his arm and back. “Jun Shu.

Jun Shu tilted his head to the side, giving him a crooked smile, and Yin Wei was on his knees, wanting to believe that this could single-handedly bridge the abyss present between them.

“Do you know where to get dinner around here?” Jun Shu asked.

It was a start.

“I’m sorry there isn’t anything better, considering the fantastic performance you gave.”

Jun Shu looked up with wide eyes, more than halfway to finishing the plate of fried chicken and waffles in record-breaking time after demolishing half of a fried chicken sandwich (with curly fries) that he’d insisted to share with Yin Wei.

The diner didn’t have that many patrons since it was almost closing hour and there were refillable drinks. Jun Shu got iced tea and Yin Wei got an isotonic sports drink that came more often in cans with the trademark three-digit number instead of a glass. It tasted the same, though.

“This is perfect,” Jun Shu said, once he managed to swallow the bite. “Good food that I’m happy to stuff my face with, all of tonight’s pressure gone. I couldn’t eat much at lunch.”

“You were amazing.”

“Really? That’s good to know.”

“It was really spectacular.”

Seemingly satisfied at the statement, Jun Shu happily demolished the fried chicken and waffles and cheerily made conversation.

Jun Shu’s parents could have come tonight but they lived in the same house where they would hear him practice for a month. Tonight, they were at home, watching a national athlete win gold in an international swimming competition.

Besides, last month, Jun Shu had taken a break from the royalty country to go on a sunny two-week holiday with his parents in the kangaroo country before travelling back here, to his homeland.

“We went to the beach there every day,” Jun Shu said. “One day, my parents rented a kayak and I fell in the sea trying to get in it.”

That explained why he was tanner now, as if the sun hadn’t wanted to let go of him.

“Sounds fun.”

“Oh, it was.”

It wasn’t long before Jun Shu was looking to start on the curly fries that Yin Wei had hardly made a dent in.

“I ate dinner before attending your performance,” Yin Wei said before Jun Shu could ask. “Besides, you vacuumed up everything before I’d even blinked.”

The silence that followed could be attributed to being busy eating the fries but Yin Wei knew better. So, once the plate was cleared and Jun Shu sat back with his cup of iced tea, Yin Wei lifted his head to meet the other’s gaze.

“It’s been a while,” Jun Shu said, voice seemingly free from any kind of anger or grudge.

Yin Wei wanted to curl up in a corner and shut his eyes but if the years had taught him anything, it was that he needed to prove he wasn’t a coward.

“I know,” he said quietly because that was the truth, but what else could he possibly say? “I’m sorry.”

“That’s alright, really.” Jun Shu brushed his hand through his hair, making it tousled and just on the verge of dishevelled. “It’s just—It’s just that I don’t know why I haven’t heard anything from you in the past four years at all.”

At this sentence, Yin Wei’s blood ran cold. He spun his glass around his palm.

The promising bridge between was suddenly frail, like a spider web or like he’d imagined its construction. There were so many loose strings that he didn’t even know which ones should be tied up first.

“My father visited seven months ago.” Probably not the most important thing but it was the easiest one to talk about. “Or was it six, I can’t remember. I’ve seen him twice in the last four years.”

Jun Shu looked like he was listening, so Yin Wei continued.

“I was supposed to go abroad for university at the beginning of this year but he told me and my mum that he wasn’t funding me going overseas to study something that wasn’t science related.”

“What are you studying?”


Jun Shu frowned. “That’s one of the science-iest non-science things to study. Where were you planning to go?”

“Home of the tower with the very big clock and specifically in that area,” Yin Wei said, taking a sip of his drink. “Not that it happened, but still.”

It meant I got to see you here, Yin Wei thought.

Jun Shu stirred his drink with the metal straw. “Imagine studying music, a non-science.”

Yin Wei had forgotten how to smile sometime in his last two years of secondary school. He still hadn’t fully relearned it in college but he tried to use his eyes, offering a small but genuine one.

He was still thinking of getting a refill to delay the inevitable but he was better than that. The waitress came to clear their empty plates and he stayed where he was.

“The conservatory I’m at is in the same area as the giant clock tower,” Jun Shu finally said.

“It would be.” Yin Wei knew that.

The silence that followed stretched out and went unbroken. It still wasn’t too late to stand up and head to the refill station.

Jun Shu set his drink down and pulled down the front of his shirt to smoothen it out. “I want to know more, Yin Wei. What happened at school?”

That last word was dangerous enough. Yin Wei used both hands to hold his glass before putting it down on the table; his fingers were starting to tremble.

It made sense that if anyone were to figure it out, it would be Jun Shu.

However, Yin Wei didn’t have an explanation that didn’t sound like an excuse. He didn’t know how to convey everything that had happened, especially since he’d deliberately left it all behind him.

“Your arms are shaking.”

“It’s my fault,” Yin Wei said, putting his hands together under the table.

“Yin Wei.”

“Most people didn’t like me because I was likely not amicable or friendly, which is really all on me.”

He could remember the missing workbooks and calculators just fine. He’d gotten used to never being willingly chosen for group projects. There wasn’t anything that could help him forget the feeling of sitting alone in the corner of the class for the two years, all by himself.

Maybe one the most terrible things someone had ever told him was that his best friend had had good reason to choose to leave him behind.

Wasn’t that the worst thing someone could ever say? Didn’t it make you a terrible person to say something like that?

“That isn’t true.”

“What? That it makes you a terrible person?”

“No! No. Yin Wei…no.” Jun Shu’s gaze was so sweet, kind and unbearably understanding. “What did they do to you?”

Yin Wei looked down at the table, shame burning up the little courage he’d spent all day coaxing out. “Look, I didn’t reach out or tell you anything. The radio silence was and still is my—”

“I think it’s my fault,” Jun Shu said. Just like the notes he played, his words rang clear and commanding as if taking up the whole room. “I didn’t reach out either but it’s not just that. It’s about the leaving, about not making sure you would be fine.”

“None of that is your fault.”

“Then neither is it yours.”

Their eyes met and locked in a steely gaze. Yin Wei didn’t yield but neither did Jun Shu, whose eyes burned with such vibrancy it hurt to see. No one had looked at him like that in a long time and saints, Yin Wei missed it.

Yin Wei laced his hands together in front of him. The tremors had stopped a few minutes ago.

Jun Shu’s eyes burned with a reckless incandescent light. A naïve streak of impulsive youth that had long been dormant stirred in Yin Wei, like a spear being driven through his chest.

“Yin Wei, you’re the reason I’m here at all.”

Objectively, it sounded like another sentimental statement that suited their situation. However, there was a weight in those words that made Yin Wei stay silent for a few seconds longer.

Before he could ask, Jun Shu continued. “Be it through a billboard, poster or brochure, I wanted to see you again.”

Yin Wei thought of the poster on the door of the concert hall. “You already did.”

“I needed to see you at least one more time, even if it was all over.”

“I never wanted it to be over.”

Jun Shu lifted his head, lips parted and absolutely breath-taking.

“I didn’t know about you but you could never lose me that way,” Yin Wei said, the most certain he’d ever been in his entire life. “I’m not going to repeat the past. I’m not going anywhere anymore. Just—if you’ll forgive me—please—”

Jun Shu reached across the table, quick but ever so careful to take Yin Wei’s hands in his own, noting the stillness. His grip tightened, triggering a violent rush of blood to engulf his entire body.

He was a weary traveller, crossing the bridge hanging over the abyss. Time lifted up the tough planks, the distance shortened until the two ends came together, melded and Yin Wei had reached home at the end of the road.

The warmth in Jun Shu’s eyes met his like they’d always been waiting to do so, blazing, radiant and dark.

“Yin Wei,” Jun Shu said. It was so good hearing someone who liked his name say it aloud. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Written by: Zhen Yi

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