1 A “Perfect“ Life
"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Jinghe, happy birthday to you!"
Jinghe looked at everyone around her, their faces partially obscured and only faintly lit by the flickering candle in the middle of the table. Beaming widely, she closed her eyes to make a wish before blowing out the candle.
"You should post a picture of this onto SkyPage," Yulan whispered in her ear. Jinghe nearly jumped out her seat in surprise.
"Oh, yeah, definitely. Thanks for reminding me, Lan," she said, lightly pecking him on the lips. Quickly, she took out her phone and snapped a picture of the moment before uploading it to her Page.
"Ok then, since you're done with that, let's start cutting the cake!" Jinghe's older brother Kaihe exclaimed loudly, clapping his hands together in excitement.
"I can't believe my little sister's finally turning 24! It seems just like yesterday when you were running behind me, begging to join me and Junba when we went ice skating. I think that was about when you were 5 or so? Oh, and then when you tripped and fell in the mud--"
"Ge! Stop it, Yulan doesn't need to know about those things," Jinghe said, blushing furiously. She snuck a peek under her lashes at her boyfriend's face.
But he wasn't even focusing on the party anymore. In fact, she thought she even saw a hint of exasperation and annoyance on his face, as if he'd rather not be here. Feeling confused, she pulled on the edge of his shirt.
"Lan? We're going to cut the cake now, could you go get the plates, knife and forks for me?"
Yulan blinked twice, snapping out of his weird mood. "Yeah, of course. I'll be right back, Jingjing," he said, removing his hands from the back of her chair and walking towards the kitchen.
"Is everything okay with him? He seemed a bit out of it just now," Kaihe asked Jinghe.
"Oh, it's probably just something with work. He recently got promoted so he's been overwhelmed with a lot of work. He's been coming home a little later too, and he's always so tired when he gets back."
"Are you sure it's nothing else?"
"Ge, what are you implying here? We're doing fine. We still go out a lot, and he's still as sweet as he was before we started dating. Did I tell you about the chocolates he sent me on Monday? He even included this adorable little note on the side, signed with a heart. And it's not even Valentines or any other holiday!"
"As long as you're happy," Kaihe said.
Jinghe still felt a little confused, but she brushed it off. Even she had seen that there was something faintly wrong with him lately, but it was really nothing. It'd be over by the end of the week.
Yulan returned and Jinghe, as the birthday girl, had the honor of cutting cake for everyone. She passed out the plates, each piled high with a large piece of cake.
Throughout the evening, Yulan acted like normal and Jinghe felt a lot more relieved. He was attentive and sweet, pulling out her chair and staying close to her.
At around 9:30, Jinghe felt a little worn out from the day's celebrations. She bid everyone goodbye, hugging each of them in turn, while Yulan waited by the door with her coat.
"Ma, Ba, thank you so much for the amazing birthday," she said to her parents, squeezing both of them tight.
"And Ge, you too, I'm glad you could come. I know you've been busy recently."
"Of course I'd come! You're my favorite little sister after all," Kaihe said with a cheeky wink.
Jinghe and Kaihe shared a long laugh before Yulan quietly called out, "Jingjing, we should get going now. Tomorrow's Monday."
"Coming, Lan, just one more second,"Jinghe replied.
Taking one last glance at her family around her, she waved them goodbye. Yuan helped her put on her coat and then they were out the door, into the frigid cold, December night.
As they were driving back to their apartment, Jinghe and Yulan chatted about the party and made plans to celebrate together tomorrow. Everything felt just like normal.
"I'm going to go wash up now, I'll won't be out for a while. You can start working if you need to get some stuff done in preparation to take the day off tomorrow," Jinghe said as she walked into the bathroom to take a nice, long, warm shower. She felt like being alone for a bit, but she couldn't quite think of why.
Turning on the shower, she let the warm water cascade over her long dark hair. She sighed in contentment as the water eased all of the tenseness out of her body. It felt like heaven. She wished she could stay in here forever.