Peng was coming out of his apartment when Yi was at the stairs. He was of course carrying a basketball.
“You know, you should study some time!” Yi commented cheerfully.
“I’ll study during winter break” he replied with a carefree shrug.
The girl laughed and rolled her eyes.
“I would invite you to join me” Peng said, “but Jin said I shouldn’t distract you from studying. Are the final exams really that difficult?”
“Unfortunately, yes. But when the winter break starts and I’ll have more time, I promise we will play basketball. The three of us on the roof” she patted him on the shoulder.
“The three of us?” Peng repeated confused. “Haven’t you heard? Jin is not coming for holidays”.
“What?” her eyes widened in shock. “Of course he’s coming! Families are supposed to come together during holidays!”
“His mom said so, but he’s made a bunch of friends in Beijing. He said they will take the train to Harbin and go to the ice festival. My aunt was a bit angry at first, but eventually she said that Jin should enjoy his youth”.
“Unbelievable!” Yi protested. “He prefers his stupid gang over his family!”
“It’s alright, he’ll be here in the spring break. He promised his mother” the young teenager headed to the front door. “See you later, Yi!”
A furious teenager burst in her house and slammed the door so loudly that caused Nai Nai to fall off her chair.
“What a jerk! He’s a complete moron!” she shouted, dropping her back-bag to the floor. “Idiot, stupid, monster! I hate him!”
“Who?” Nai Nai asked.
Yi ran to her room and buried her red face in the pillow. Her feet were hitting the mattress with wrath, and her fists soon joined too that demonstration of unleashed anger.
As soon as she managed to calm down a bit, she grabbed her phone and searched for “Dr Moron” in her contacts.
“If you don’t answer, I’ll kill you!” she murmured as she was pressing the dial button.
“Hello there” his voice eventually sounded from the other side of the telephone.
“Jin, why are you doing this?” Yi asked with tense in her voice.
“Could you care to be a bit more specific?”
“Peng told me about your little trip to Harbin!”
“Ah, yes! The ice festival! I’m so excited. You know, every year—”
“Cut it off!” she interrupted him. “You ‘re not going there”.
“I possess a ticket that says otherwise”.
“So you prefer to spend the holidays with your classmates than with your own family! Those strangers see you every day, but what about your mom? What about Peng?”
“You ‘re being too dramatic, Yi”.
“Answer me!” she almost yelled. “Why are you staying away from your own family?”
“Look who’s talking!”
Dead silence filled the next few seconds, except Yi’s heavy breath.
Jin’s voice sounded again, awkward and with obvious regret:
“Yi, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that”.
The girl took a couple moments before replying:
“No, you are right. I was being selfish. That’s why I can speak to you about it. I know how it is to try to act independent, but in the end you’re only getting hurt. I’ve been there. And you helped me realize how wrong I was. So now don’t make the same mistake”.
“Come on, Yi! It’s not like I’m abandoning them. It’s just a one-time thing. I’ll be there in the spring break”.
“That’s way too long. Don’t you know your family misses you?”
“Oh, that’s why you called? Because of my family or… because of you?”
“W-what? I don’t understand!” she stuttered.
“I think you do” Jin’s voice remained calm.
“I… Well… Fine, you want me to spit it out loud? Maybe the reason I am complaining is because I wanted to see you! I’m tired of studying and… and of those boring classes! The only thing that I looked forward to the whole semester was that at the end of it you’d be here. Do you know how long it’s been since we saw each other? I can’t take it anymore!”
She tried her best not to betray herself and let him know she was crying. She hold back her sobs and anxiously waited for him to talk, to say anything to break this awful silence! He’d probably mock her, he’d laugh at her, but it wouldn’t matter. At least, now the truth was out.
But Jin didn’t say anything.
Unable to bear this heavy atmosphere, Yi continued:
“I’m sorry. It’s not about me. What I ‘ve been meaning to tell you is that… you should appreciate time with your family. You may take them for granted, but they ‘re not. Enjoy them, because you are lucky to have them, even though you don’t realize it. Neither did I. And if I could, I’d give everything to spend the holidays with my dad again”.
“I’m sorry you can’t have that, Yi. If I could, I’d give you ten thousand holidays to celebrate with your dad. But I swear I ‘ll do what I can. I know it’s not even close enough, but I hope that it will make you happy”.
“What are you talking about?” Yi asked confused.
“You don’t check your emails very often, do you?”
“Jin? I don’t understand”.
“Open your laptop and find your incoming messages, you little idiot” he laughed.
Yi impatiently obeyed. Was her laptop always so slow? Couldn’t it start any faster?
“Um… Jin, can you tell me why I have an email from China Airlines with a ticket in my name attached?”
“It’s your present. I’m sure you’ll love Harbin”.
She was left speechless.
“Be sure to grab warm clothes” Jin continued. “We’ll take amazing pictures! And you’ll get to meet my friends. They’ve heard so much about you. And we can also… Yi, are you still there?”
“Yes, yes, I’m here! I just can’t believe it. How did you buy this ticket?”
“Part-time job and some savings”.
“Jin, thank you, but I cannot accept this! It’s a very expensive present!”
“Actually, it’s a present for myself too. I get to see you. Plus, it’s not refundable. So you’re coming”.
“But… But… My family…”
“Don’t worry, you have your mother’s blessings for this trip. She gave me your passport number and all that”.
She hadn’t smiled so truly in a while.
“Oh, Jin! Is this really happening?”
“Sure. It’s obvious you needed a break from your studying routine and a change of environment for a few days. And I know your passion about travelling across China. Also, don’t be afraid. I’ll never leave you alone. From now on, we’ll spend every holiday together. We’ll build snow-mans together, we’ll make cookies together, we’ll decorate the house together and we’ll watch the snow from the window together. Wrapped up in blankets, drinking hot chocolate. I promise. I’ll be there to watch even the last snowflake that falls to the ground”.
“I can’t imagine anything better” she whispered softly.