An Xin and Ren Rou walked out with Lin Feng and Tang Bingyao and watched them leave. Tang Bingyao was leaning on Lin Feng and stumbling every couple of steps. Until they disappeared into the night. Now the two girls were the last ones at the restaurant. An Xin turned away, almost rushed. She pulled her phone out and stared at the screen. The cab that would take her home was still a few minutes away. A faint drizzle fell from the sky. Cars sped by. And An Xin stood there in complete silence, waiting, even forgetting that Ren Rou was standing next to her.
Ren Rou glanced at An Xin from the corner of her eyes. At the new girl in class. The girl with the perfect figure, which was only further enhanced by the current setting. The soft, orange glow of the street lights fell on An Xin’s cheeks, highlighting her small chin and large eyes. A cool wind breezed through her hair, flowing. She’s so beautiful. It’s no wonder that every boy at school is trying to get her attention. Even a few of the girls too! Stupid boys… She shook her head, and the memory of a conversation with Tang Bingyao played in her mind. It was at the NetCow Cafe, a couple of weeks ago. Tang Bingyao had told her that An Xin was better for Lin Feng. I can see why Tang Tang would think that. BunBun is really, really pretty. And she has a great personality. The more I think about it, the more I think she’s perfect… But you’re perfect too Tang Tang! She looked down at her feet and sighed. But I can also understand why you think she’s perfect for Lin Feng…
Ren Rou pulled herself back to the present. She thought about how the night had gone and suddenly realised that she was giggling. I guess the alcohol did help to loosen Tang Tang up a bit. Maybe it even gave her some courage. She glanced at An Xin again. Why did you insist on letting Lin Feng bring her home? Don’t you mind them together? You do like Lin Feng, right? Do you? Ren Rou took a second look at An Xin. She looks happy, just a bit quiet, I think…? The questions mounted in Ren Rou’s mind, until she couldn’t keep them to herself any longer. She said, “BunBun?”
An Xin turned her head to look at Ren Rou and asked, “Yeah?”
Ren Rou chewed on her lips, considering how to best pose the question. But the words just weren’t coming to her. So she eventually went with the simplest version. “Do… Do you like Lin Feng?”
There was a brief moment, almost imperceptible, that An Xin’s expression faltered. But she quickly recovered. She forced a smile on her face and replied, “Rou Rou, I thought you weren’t going to get drunk! Did you lie to me? Did you have a few shots when I wasn’t looking?”
“Drunk?” Ren Rou muttered, caught off guard. She shook her head. “No. No. I’m not drunk.” She looked at An Xin, too surprised by the random question to notice how An Xin was trying to change the subject. It also didn’t help that this particular question had been floating through her mind for quite some time now. You two are childhood friends, sure. But there’s something more going on, right? The way you treat him… That’s more than just friends.
An Xin could physically feel Ren Rou’s stare. She shivered and asked, “What?”
“Oh.” Ren Rou shook her head lightly and looked back out at the street. “No. I’m serious. Do you like him?” She briefly waited for an answer, but somehow knew nothing was coming. So she turned to An Xin and said, “Please tell me the truth. Are the two of you really just childhood friends? You feel nothing for him? It’s… the way you are around him…”
An Xin’s smile broke. Her entire complexion fell apart. Just for a brief moment. An instant in time and space where everything ground to a halt. Then she forced that smile back onto her face. She shook her head and asked, “Did you also ask Tang Tang this?”
The question sounded so natural. Ren Rou was completely caught off guard by it, once more failing to recognize how An Xin was shifting the topic away from herself. Ren Rou stammered, “T-this… Uh… Well, you see…” She was trying to link the words together, but they were failing her.
An Xin didn’t pay attention to Ren Rou’s reaction. She turned her head to look out at the empty street. “I already know,” she said. She chuckled and shook her head. “I’ve known since the first day at school, when she glanced over her shoulder at me in the classroom. That look of confusion and worry in her eyes when I greeted Lin Feng. I knew it right then.” She briefly paused before adding in a soft, warm voice, “I know Tang Tang likes Lin Feng.”
Ren Rou stared at An Xin, dazed. She knew? This whole time, she knew? But then… what about her? Is she okay with it? She opened her mouth a couple of times, wanting to say several different things. But she kept closing her mouth right before the words came out. Then, just as it started to look like she wasn’t going to say anything at all, she asked, “Then what about you?”
An Xin didn’t reply immediately. She watched a car that was driving past them. Lin Feng and me, huh? I guess… She looked down at the ground and slowly shook her head. “Me?” She paused, hesitating, then continued, “It’s no big deal, I guess. There is nothing going on between him and me.” She tried very hard to sound nonchalant. To not give anything away. But she knew Ren Rou was looking at her. And she knew that the smile on her lips wasn’t a happy one. It was bitter, maybe even longing. She sighed. Crap.
The cold breeze did Tang Bingyao a lot of good. She was still finding it hard to keep her balance, but that was more so because she was also playing her normal game of jumping over the cracks in the pavement. It all felt right to her. Everything about her birthday was right. Perfect, even. Mhm! This is the best night of my life!
“Careful! You’ll trip!” Lin Feng cautioned, watching Tang Bingyao almost crashing to the ground with every hop.
“I won’t!” Tang Bingyao shouted. Then after another hop, she looked over her shoulder at Lin Feng and pumped her fist in the air. “I’m invinciiii—” The sudden turn was too much for her. A dark swirl appeared before her eyes and she momentarily lost her balance. Her knees wobbled and in the next moment she found herself sitting on the pavement.
Lin Feng laughed at the comical sight, the alcohol flowing through his blood taking away all worry about Tang Bingyao having hurt herself. “See! You’re not invincible! I told you so!” He walked up to her, waiting for a reply from Tang Bingyao that didn’t come. He scrunched his eyebrows. Something felt off. “Hey,” he said to her. “You alright? You should be more careful!”
Tang Bingyao looked up at Lin Feng, rubbing her head painfully, and asked, “Did you grow taller? Why are you so tall?”
“You fell. You’re sitting on the ground,” Lin Feng replied, starting to realise something might be wrong. He went through his knees and reached out to her. “Are you sure you’re ok?”
“I fell?” Tang Bingyao asked. Her eyes suddenly went wide. She searched around and grabbed onto her bag. Then she dove in and took out the Jinx figurine. She looked at it, carefully inspecting every small detail. And only after confirming that it was still in mint condition did she breathe out in relief. “This is your gift! I love it! It’s the best!” she shouted, her drunken joy quickly returning to her.
“Yeah! I’m really good at finding gifts too! Right?” Lin Feng said, laughing. He then reached out his hand and helped Tang Bingyao get back up.
Tang Bingyao smiled and let herself fall against Lin Feng, tightly holding the Jinx figurine. “I really love it. Thanks.”
Lin Feng grinned and was about to say something when he noticed the scratch on Tang Bingyao pants. He looked at her and said, “You should be more careful! I can buy you a new figurine! I can’t buy you a new ass!”
Tang Bingyao looked down at the Jinx figurine in her hand, then she vigorously shook her head. “No! It’s a gift… from you! I need to take care of it! Mhm!” She placed it to her chest and hugged it, swaying from side to side. “Oof, my butt hurts,” she suddenly mumbled, looking up at Lin Feng. “Why does my butt hu— Hey! Why are there two of you?”
“Because I’m double awesome, didn’t you know?” Lin Feng responded, laughing loudly. Then he held up three fingers and asked, “Here, how many fingers am I holding up?”
“ONE! TWO!” Tang Bingyao narrowed her eyes and reached out to Lin Feng’s hand, feeling, counting, and then shouting, “THREE! THREE FINGERS!”
“Yes! Maybe you’re not as drunk as I thought!” Lin Feng exclaimed, surprised.
Tang Bingyao pushed Lin Feng’s hand aside and stared at him. “I… can’t see you. Need to be a bit closer.” She leaned forward, closer. Closer. She took another step and moved her head until she was only inches away from his. “Mhm! I can see you!”
Lin Feng reeled his head back and shouted, “Hey! Tang Tang! What are you doing! Gah! You reek of alcohol!”
“Stay still!” Tang Bingyao pouted. She put her hand around Lin Feng’s neck and moved his head closer to hers. “Closer, just a little closer,” she mumbled to herself. When their noses almost touched, she added, “Mhm! Perfect!”
“H-hey! Tang Tang! Your hands are freezing! What are you doing!” Lin Feng said, lightly struggling.
“Shh!” Tang Bingyao pouted. She glared at him and added, “Don’t talk… don’t!”
“Ok, ok!” Lin Feng said. “Jeesh. If I’d known you were so bad with alcohol, I would’ve never let you drink so much. You’re way too drunk!”
Tang Bingyao ignored Lin Feng’s struggles, nor did she listen to a word he said. She just stared at him, smiling. Her touch on his neck became gentle as she said, “I… I have something to tell you!”
“Shush!” Tang Bingyao interrupted Lin Feng. “I told you to shut up! Listen to me!”