Bai Li looked at his hands. Clenching and opening his fists. Small and free of blemishes. Tender and pink. The scar from falling off his bike no longer there.
He remembered closing his eyes as the knife his sister rammed into his chest caused him excruciating pain. When he opened them he expected some version of the afterlife. Instead, he was in his childhood bedroom. His first thought was that this was his penance to pay in hell, after all his childhood had been hellish in its own way.
It took two months before Bai Li could accept that he was reborn. Thankfully they were on summer holidays. If he had to jump back into being a middle schooler he might have lost his mind. Not that he was completely sane. Though if he was a hundred percent honest, at moments he still thought this might be a very long dream he was reliving in hell. The only thing that raised doubts was the fact that he could change the decisions he made in the past.
Looking down on his hand again, he traced the spot where a scar used to be. Three days ago he was supposed to go out with his friend to play ball in the park, on that trip he would fall off his bike and cut his hand on a piece of glass. It was his first attempt at changing the future. A major event at that. Because he had cut his hand that time, his father left their home. Bai Tao was a miserable man upset at life for his own choices. He chose to abandon his family instead of paying a simple hospital bill.
Bai Li grits his teeth, Bai Tao, his own father. In the past and to a small extent now, was a man he would kill in a heartbeat given half a chance. The Bai family was not poor. His father's unwillingness to pay was simply his way of showing discontent at having been forced to marry his mother, Ping An.
A business marriage that Bai Tao swore was the reason for all his failures. After Bai Li fell off his bike Bai Tao had moved in with his mistress, a woman barely 10 years older than Bai Li at this time. Thirty years younger than Bai Tao.
His mother who for some reason loved the mean and selfish Bai Tao broke apart when he left. She never spared any occasion to emphasize how much it was his fault that his father left. Bai Li spent his whole life making up for it, only to be murdered by the one person he protected from all of it.
Bai Wei, Wei Wei. The definition of a white lotus. His sister was one of only two people he had loved in his life. He protected her during their parent's arguments and worked hard to ensure she had the best life possible.
Bai Li grasped his chest. He could feel the knife twisting in his chest. He could remember the crazy look in his sister's eyes. He didn't know why his sister killed him. Sometimes he wished he had gotten the murder’s monologue that accompanied so many death scenes in novels. At least then he would have an idea if his sister was just naturally insane or she went rotten along the way.
Not that it would truly matter. In this life, he would live selfishly.
Bai LI looked up as heard something shattering in the living room. Dread settled in the pit of his stomach. It was coming, this scene all too familiar. His room door inched open. Big brown almond eyes peered at him, asking for comfort and acceptance. Bile rose in his throat at the sight of his sister. This reaction was instinctive. For the last two months every time he saw those eyes, his body felt instinctive revulsion. The need to flee strong.
“Big brother Li? Cuddle?” She smiled.
She is just eight years old. She is just eight years old. She is just eight years old. No matter how he repeated it, he couldn't fight his need to run when he saw her. The white lotus smile he thought was divine in nature during his last life was now overlayed with the grinning hysteric smile she used when stabbing him.
“Wei Wei,” he said, his voice came out hoarse. “Come here.” He opened his arms for her.
She ran towards him hurling her body into his embrace. “Mommy and daddy are fighting.” Her small voice sounded sad and scared.
The soft body connected with him and he retched. He wondered how he could get out of this house. He considered thousands of solutions but since he didn't know where things went wrong he didn't know what to change.
“I know,” his voice was choked up. It fit the occasion but was counter to the way he felt. He wanted to throw her off of himself. Run and hide where he didn't have to look at her. It was at this moment that he made up his mind. He hesitated for a long time but if this continued he was liable to do something he would regret. He couldn’t stay. “Everything will be alright,” he said, the words more for himself than to comfort her.
The fighting ended. Their mother preferred it if they pretended not to hear anything. So that is what they did. They would go to sleep and wake up to the living room sparsely decorated. The broken glass would already be cleaned up. Nicknacks disappeared and were replaced with identical ones a few days later. Reframed pictures would be placed in their original spots. Everyone would pretend not to notice the changes.
He will talk with his father tomorrow. Bai Tao hated spending money on them but he hated seeing them even more. It wouldn’t be too difficult to convince his father to send him to boarding school. Then he wouldn’t have to deal with any of them for a while.
Bai Li stroked Wei Wei’s hair. He hesitated because of her, even though he couldn’t stop the terror he felt when he saw her he still didn’t have any closure in regards to his death. Part of him wanted to treat her the same and ignore the events that hadn’t happened yet. As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t do it though.
Things were the same yet drastically different. The reason he decided on this course of action was that, in the end, it was the same if she hated him for abandoning her here or for caring for her too much. It was much better to protect his small life in the face of so much uncertainty.
With that resolved in his mind, Bai Li couldn’t fight the sleep any longer. Bad or good, the biggest change to this new life would happen tomorrow.