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The Last Train

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She doesn’t even realize she is calling him, until he hangs up on her.

She’s trying again.

He declines the call once more.

No, no, no... She needs him!

Her hands are trembling, but she’s trying to text him. She can’t press the right letters, even though she only needs four to write “Help”.

As she struggles to text, she receives a message from him: “can’t talk right now, i’m on class. ttyl”.

The message that she was trying to type has disappeared.

“Stupid cell phone!” she shouts with a hoarse voice and calls him again.

No answer.

She thinks she’s going to fall on the ground. Everything around her is blurry. Her feet are numb and she can feel the sweat all over her.

She can’t see the screen clearly, but she senses the vibration in her hand. He’s calling her.

“Jin?”

“You’re the worst. I had to excuse myself to go the bathroom. Please, make it quick, it’s an important lesson!” he says.

She can only repeat his name, gasping for a breath.

“Yi?” his voice is concerned. “Are you alright?”

“It’s… it’s bleeding… so bad! I can’t…” she utters between sobs.

“Tell me what’s bleeding!” he demands.

“My… my arm. There’s so much blood, Jin! It doesn’t stop! I thought… I… I went too deep! And… and.. I thought you’d know what to…”

“Go to the sink right now! Cold water!”

She obeys.

“Call someone to help you right now! Is your mom there? Or Nai Nai?”

“No, no, no! They can’t know!”

“Yi!” he yells at her. “I’m calling an ambulance for you right n--”.

“No!” she interrupts him. “Don’t hang up, don’t leave me! Please!”

“I’m here” Jin reassures her with a steady voice.

“It’s better now. I think it stopped. Oh my God! The sink is a mess! The floor too!”

“That’s not important. Are you sure the bleeding stopped?” he asks worryingly.

“Yes” she says relieved, but she’s still crying.

“Okay, listen to me, Yi. I need you to calm down. Breathe, okay? Just breathe slowly”.

She tries to relax. His voice helps.

“First, I need you to take a clean cloth to cover the wound. Wrap something around it, you can’t leave it open”.

“Okay” she answers with a trembling voice and grabs a nearby towel.

“You’ve lost blood, so you might start feeling a bit dizzy. Don’t worry, it’s normal. I just need you to lie down. Go to your bed, okay? Right now” he says with a strange mixture of strictness and gentility.

“Yeah, I’ll just clean here first and then—”

“No” Jin cuts her off. “Straight to bed, you hear me?”

“Okay, okay. I’m sorry I interrupted your class”.

“Don’t mention it. Just rest and when you feel better give me a call”.

“Thank you, Jin” she says softly and hangs up.

Yi feels like she should really lie down. But all this mess around her…

No, she has to clean the blood. Nai Nai will be here in a while and she can’t see that.

She doesn’t remember mopping to be so difficult, but somehow she manages. She almost collapses a few times, but eventually everything is alright.

She reaches her bed the moment the keys sound on the door.

Nai Nai calls her, but she pretends she’s asleep. She hears her opening her bedroom door. Yi tries to be complete still. She holds her breath. And then she hears the door closing.

Now she bursts out in tears, trying to make as little noise as possible. She tries to control her sobs.

She looks at her arm. She only hopes there will be nothing permanent there.

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Her mobile on the bedside table is buzzing and wakes her up.

Her room is dark. She looks to the window and sees the moon. How long was she sleeping?

Yi reaches out and grabs her phone. The brightness makes her eyes hurt. She reads on the screen: “Incoming call: Dr. Moron”

She almost smiles, but she can’t talk to Jin right now. She can’t speak to anyone, she needs to be left alone for now.

She can’t bring herself to decline the call, she just lets it ring.

And it rings for a while! Jin has always been so persistent!

Yi buries her face in the pillow and ignores the call. It will stop eventually.

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It’s been two days since it happened.

Four unanswered calls. Six unread messages.

A part of her wants to talk to him. But he wouldn’t understand. Anyway, he’ll probably scold her if she answers. And she doesn’t have the strength to deal with him for the time being.

In night, desperate to sleep, she writes him messages. But she never sends them.

She has kept the flower he gave her on Leshan. It hasn’t withered, probably because it’s magical. She has it on her desk and she enjoys gazing at it whenever she’s feeling lonely.

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Her family doesn’t suspect a thing. Sure, they make remarks like: “You look tired, honey!” and “Have you lost weight?”, but nothing more.

She’s good at acting. Sometimes she wishes she weren’t. It’s so easy to hide things.

They are at the dinner table. She isn’t hungry, but she tries to eat in order not to raise concerns.

Nai Nai’s pork buns are a delightful distraction from everything.

“We should save some for Peng” Yi’s mom suggests.

“But not too many! If he wants to be a basketball player, he should eat less!” Nai Nai comments.

“I think he has lost a lot of weight this year, hasn’t he? What do you say, Yi?”

“I don’t know, I can’t tell” Yi replies.

“It’s because he got taller” Nai Nai says.

“He sure grows to be a handsome young man! Like his cousin” Yi’s mom says.

“Jin’s a charmer!” her grandma adds amused. “Don’t you agree, Yi?” she looks at her suggestively.

Fortunately, the phone starts ringing just then!

“Who might be?” Nai Nai wonders.

“I’ll get it” Yi’s mother gets up and answers. “Oh, hello, Jin! It’s so good to hear you!” her face brightens up.

Yi feels a comb in her stomach.

“Yes, we are all fine! How about you? That’s perfect! Yes, she’s right here. I’ll give her the phone, hang on a second”.

Her mom is walking towards her side.

“Actually, I’m a bit tired”, Yi nervously gets up and runs to her room. “Can you tell him I can’t talk right now?”

“You haven’t finished your food yet!” Nai Nai shouts, but Yi has already shut the door behind her.

She collapses on her bed.

They try to whisper, but Yi can hear them.

Her mom says goodnight to Jin and then turns to Nai Nai:

“What did just happen?”

“Oh, isn’t it obvious? She’s too shy to speak to him in front of us!”

“What? But she ran to her room. Is she alright?”

“You know how teenagers can be! A crush can make them act weird. Remember when you were her age, Mei? I’m sure Yi rushed in there with such a hurry because she’s now calling him with her mobile to speak in private”.

“Are you saying that… Yi and Jin are…” she is hesitant to complete.

“Come on! You’ve seen how they look at each other when he comes over!” Nai Nai says.

“I guess so” she chuckles. “But she seemed rather upset. Should I go talk to her?”

“She’s just sad that Jin is away, that’s all. Poor girl!”

“But isn’t it strange that Jin called here instead of her mobile directly?”

“Maybe he doesn’t have money to call mobile numbers, you know they are more expensive than home phones numbers”.

“That’s true. Then we should just give the two of them some space”.

Yi puts her headphones on. She doesn’t want to hear anything else. She turns up the volume to the maximum and her ears hurt.

It’s breezy and she hasn’t covered herself with the blanket that’s on her feet. But she feels too weak to move and take it.

She closes her eyes.

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The next morning, neither her mother or Nai Nai mention anything about Jin. Or about anything else. Yi must have cleaned the sink really well.

Thank God, it is winter, so she can wear long sleeve shirts!

At school she is more silent than usual, but no one seems to notice. At break, she goes to the bathroom and stays there until the bell rings.

She hopes the scars will disappear until spring.

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She’s home again, but it doesn’t feel much like home these last couple days.

She never used to sleep at noon, but today she does.

Jin hasn’t called today. Not that she would answer him if he did. But she wanted him to call either way.

She said she wouldn’t read his messages, but right now she can’t resist.

“Everything better now?” was the first one.

“Still sleeping?”

“For how long are you going to ignore me?”

“Just so you know, I have better stuff to do than texting you…”

“Fine”.

“Can you please answer my calls??!!”

“YI WHAT THE HELL??”

And the list goes on.

It’s not fair for him. She has to let him know she’s alright. Her first instinct is to call him, but she can’t bring herself to press the button. She goes for a message instead.

She has never texted him. Sure, they used to be best friends, but back then they were too young to have cell phones. By the time they got social media and all that, they were already drifted apart.

She takes a deep breath.

“Here it goes” she whispers to herself, just when her mother’s voice sounds across the kitchen:

“Yi! Get up. It’s time for dinner”.

She hides her cell phone in her pocket. She will text him later.

The dinner is silent as usual, except from Nai Nai urging Yi to eat more.

The doorbell rings.

“It’s late for visitors” her mother remarks with a confused look.

“I’ll get it” Yi offers.

She opens the door.

What is he doing here?

She stares and doesn’t say a thing.

“Hi” Jin says.

“Hi” she repeats with bewilderment.

They look into each other’s eyes a few seconds, before her mom interrupts her thoughts:

“Yi, who is it?”

Like waking up from a dream, she breaks eye contact and lets him in.

“Jin!” Nai Nai exclaims when she sees him.

“Mrs Mei, Nai Nai, I’m sorry for the late hour” he apologizes.

“Don’t worry, Jin. You’re not a stranger. I didn’t know you were back in town!” Yi’s mother says.

“I… I just arrived” he explains while ruffling his hair.

“Oh, do stay and eat with us” Nai Nai cheerfully suggests. “There’s enough food for everyone. We’ve got noodles today! Here, sit next to Yi”.

“Thank you for the invitation, but I can’t. I have to catch a train to Beijing in a while”.

“But you said you just arrived. Leaving so soon?” Yi’s mom looks worried. “Can we help you with anything?”

“Actually… I… I…” he stutters.

Nai Nai interrupts him:

“Mei!” she turns to her daughter. “I just remembered! I have to change my bed sheets! It’s over two weeks I’m sleeping on them! Come and help me”.

“Mother, it’s not that urgent. We can do it later. Don’t you see we have a guest right now?”

Nai Nai gets up from her chair, takes her daughter’s hand and leads her out of the living room:

“The guest will be perfectly fine without us! Come now, we must change the sheets immediately!”

Yi wants to die from embarrassment. The two of them are left alone.

There is tension in the silence that’s all over the room.

“Why did you call me?” Jin asks.

“Sorry. I was already calling you before I could realize it. I guess because you’re studying medicine. I thought you’d know what to do”.

“Okay. And why didn’t you call me back?” he asks her.

“Why did you come here?” she asks him.

“I had to check if you are alright”.

“My mom told you so yesterday over the pho--”.

“I have to hear it from you” he steps closer.

“It’s alright, it was just an accident” she draws back.

“No, it wasn’t!” he raises his voice. “What were you thinking, Yi? Are you out of your mind?”

“It’s done now. It was stupid, I admit it”.

“You’re goddamn right it was! Yi, that’s dangerous! How many times have you done this?”

“Just one, it was my first time”.

“And your last!” Jin shouts.

“Please, they will hear you!” Yi begs him with tears in her eyes.

Jin wants to say something, but instead he sighs and walks circles around the living room.

“You won’t tell them, right?” Yi asks.

He doesn’t answer immediately, but when he does he’s calmer than before.

“Maybe I should. It’s for your own good. What if you do it again?”

“I won’t, I promise”, her voice is trembling.

“Don’t cry” he says gently.

She can’t take it any longer. She wraps her arms around him and cries in his shoulder.

He doesn’t respond at first, but a few moments later she can feel his hands caressing her back.

“Everyone’s gone!” she says through her sobs. “Everest. You. And… and dad! I found some old pictures of him. Just when I thought I was doing better! And then everything collapsed, it was like the first day all over again!”

“It’s okay” he holds her closer.

“I miss him, Jin!”

“Of course you do. It’s okay to miss him. But you can’t hurt yourself. He wouldn’t want that”.

“I know. But for a moment it felt nice! I forgot about everything else. I… I guess I needed a distraction. But I’ve only made it worse! And I got you too into all that!”

“Hey—”

“And if dad can see me, he’s disappointed for sure!”

“Yi, no! No way!” he insists. “In fact he’d be proud! You’ve done so many amazing things! You overcame your grief, you help Peng with his homework, you helped a giant yeti find its way back home!”

“Yeah, but a few days ago—”

“That doesn’t define you! It doesn’t change the way he sees you”.

“Do you believe he can see me?” she lifts her eyes to lock with his.

“Of course” he reassures her.

They stay like that for a second.

“Is your arm alright? Can I take a look at it?”

“I’d prefer you didn’t” she takes a few steps back. “It’s fine, but there are some marks”.

“It’s okay. You can let me”.

She is hesitant, but she looks him in the eye and somehow knows that she can trust him. She steps closer, she lifts up her sleeve and extends her arm.

“It’s not as bad as I imagined” he notices as he touches her arm. “Please don’t do it again”.

“I won’t” she says decisively.

He takes out a cream from his pocket.

“I dropped by the pharmacy store on my way here. Take it, I heard it’s the best. The pharmacist said two times a day, morning and night”.

“Thanks” she tries to smile.

“Nah, it was cheap” he tries to lighten the atmosphere.

“Then thanks for everything else”.

His lips form a soft smile.

“I… I didn’t call you just because you study medicine” she admits.

“I know”.

She is closer to him, before she can even realize it. She doesn’t know what she wants to do. Maybe give him a kiss on the cheek. It seems like a good opportunity.

But not today.

She hugs him again. She’s still crying, but she feels so much better.

“No more drama, okay?” Jin says. “Just concentrate on your classes and pass the exams, because next year I want you in Beijing. Deal?”

“Deal” she chuckles and wipes her tears.

“And careful! That’s a McLauren you are crying on!”

She lightly punches him on the shoulder.

“I have to go now. I must catch the last train to Beijing”.

“Can’t you leave tomorrow?”

“No, I’ve got an early class”.

“You are stupid”.

“Excuse me?” he laughs.

“You do all this trip from Beijing, you spend all day in the trains, just to see me for a few minutes?”

“Well, next time answer your stupid phone!”

They both laugh.

He looks at his watch.

“Can I walk you to the station?” she asks him.

“Definitely not! How will you return home? It’s dark”.

“Hey, I can manage! I travelled all across China!” she protests.

“Yeah, with me to protect you!”

“I thought you only came because of Peng”.

“Oh, you do?”

“Seriously, can you answer me one question?” she looks him deep in the eye, her hand on his chest, right where his heart is. “If Peng wasn’t there… if it was just me… would you still have jumped on the boat?”

“Of course I would” he leans closer. “Do you seriously have no idea how much you mean to me? How much you’ve always meant?”

“I have my suspicions. Would you care to… clarify it for me?” she leans closer too.

“Well… It’s a bit awkward with your family in the next room”.

“Or you are just a chicken!” she teasingly presses a finger on his torso.

“Come to think of it, maybe they wouldn’t mind. Do you think Nai Nai ships us?”

“She calls us ‘Yin’” she giggles.

“What? Peng calls us that too!”

“I think they made it up together!”

“Well, we shouldn’t disappoint them, then” he pretends to take a serious look.

“Yeah, maybe it’s time to change that”.

At the sound of the word ‘time’, Jin’s eyes widen.

“Oh God! I must leave right now!” he runs to the door. “Tell your family goodnight from me and take care!” he places a quick kiss on her cheek and leaves.

She is left astonished, unsure if all that actually happened.

At the sound of the door, her mother and grandmother come to the living room.

“Where is Jin?” her mom asks. “Is everything alright?”

Yi smiles.

“Yes. Perfect”.