Chapter 1:

The Crashing of the Waves

Mischance: Love's Misery and Misfortune

While Mark’s family spent time getting ready, Mark and Chloe were on their way to the concert hall. Mark was nervously tapping his left thigh with his left fingers, as if simulating the songs in his mind and envisioning his fingers moving along the fingerboard of his pearl white violin.

“Are you nervous? This is the most I’ve ever seen you tap your legs.” Chloe said as she looked at Mark once they stopped at a stop sign.

“Nervous? C’mon, I’m not nervous. I don’t ever get nervous…” Mark said unpersuasively as he took a pocket tissue from his pockets and wiped off the drops of sweat building up around his forehead and eyebrows. 

Chloe looked back at him and tilted her head down, calling Mark on his lie.

“I’m sorry. Yes, I am very nervous. I don’t want to mess up. If it were a normal performance, then sure I wouldn’t be that nervous. You dressed up way too nicely for this. I don’t want to let you down, nor do I want to let down my duet partner. She’s already really nervous, and if I look nervous, it will make her even more nervous.” Mark added as he lets out a heavy sigh.

Chloe then started driving again after a few pedestrians finished crossing the street.

“Well, you got this one in the bag Mark. You don’t have to worry about doing well for me. Instead, try making sure you do well for her and for yourself. You have to remember to take a step back and look at your accomplishments. You’ve been performing well for years! I know you can do this. Just have more confidence in yourself.” She said as she reached for his hand and massaged it gently.

Chloe massaged each digit of Mark’s fingers softly and slowly. Starting from the knuckle to the middle digit, all the way to his fingertips. Even while doing this, she never took her eyes off the road. 

“You have some rough hands, especially your fingertips. I bet it’s those years of playing you have. Even though you don’t really look that strong, your hand says otherwise. Isn’t it weird how people always judge each other based off of appearances?” She asked as she returned her hand and put it on the wheel.

“Well, I think it’s natural. After all, we can only see how other people present themselves.” Mark started as he sat relaxed in the seat. “But even if you try to present yourself as one way, your own body can often betray you. Like me sweating for example. No amount of talk saying that I’m not nervous can overcome the sweat that I have right now. You can’t fool your body, you can only fool your mind after all.”

“Well, just make sure that when the time comes, your sweat will be from how much butt you kicked with the performance instead of your nerves getting the better of you. Okay?” Chloe said as she parked the car at the concert hall. “I believe in you. I know you can do it. Just remember to breathe and you’ll do great!”

“Breathe…right.” Mark repeated as he unbuckled his seat belt and got out of the car. 

“Breathe in…Breathe out…Relax…everything will be alright…” he thought to himself as he opened the car door and grabbed his belongings from the back of the car.

Chloe also got out of the car, grabbed her purse, and closed the door. She elegantly strides towards Mark, wearing a smile so proud and joyous. “Hey, wanna walk me to the front door? Maybe I can get a V.I.P pass and say hello to the people in the back?” She teased as she grabbed the glasses off of Mark’s face. 

“Ooh, your glasses are smudged. Let me get that for you,” she added as she opened up her purse and pulled out a soft microfiber lens cleaning cloth. 

The ivory tone of the cloth looked as pristine as piano keys and felt as silky and smooth as Chloe’s hair. She carefully traced the cloth around the frames, making sure to get the nooks and crannies of each lens. After a few inspections of the frames from different angles in the sunlight, she used both hands to gently place the frames back on his face and then put her hands on his cheeks. Leaving her hands there for a few moments, she smiled up at Mark, and gently pulled at his cheeks.

“What’s that for?” Mark responded awkwardly as a forced smile was on his face due to Chloe messing with his cheeks. 

Once Chloe let him go, he took his hand and massaged his cheeks. “That hurt a little,” He added.

“I wanted to see you smile is all. It always made me happy. Just don’t forget to smile, alright? No matter what happens, just try to smile. Even if it may not calm you down, it can calm others down. Besides, you look nice with a smile, so wear it more often,” Chloe added as she tilted her head, closed her eyes, and flashed another smile. This time, her smile was accompanied by a light-hearted laugh.

“Thanks Chloe…you always know what to say or do to make me calm down. I wish I could just tell you how I feel. It isn’t that simple though. I know that Damian has always had something for you, and our family wants him to tell you what he’s feeling. I don’t feel that it’s fair to take that opportunity from him…but at the same time…I don’t think it’s fair that what I want always gets pushed to the side. I’m older anyways, but I never get a say.” Mark thought as the two of them walked to the entrance together. Unbeknownst to Mark, Chloe was actually leaning on him as they entered the concert hall.

“This is where we part ways concert master. I’ve got to go find seats for me and your family. Break a leg out there!” Chloe exclaimed as she gave one last hug to Mark and then headed towards the auditorium.

“Yeah…” Mark answered back softly as he waved goodbye with a slight smile on his face, and then turned around to head towards the performer’s area. 

Mark went to the bathroom and quickly changed from his normal clothes into his black suit, black tie, and white button-down shirt. A minute later, he was out of the bathroom and entered the backstage area. As he arrived, he met with his duet partner Naomi. 

When he got to Naomi, he paused and stared at her. Naomi was wearing a white dress with white heels, and she was holding her violin case as she nervously paced around twirling her tied up hair. When her eyes locked on to Mark’s, she let out a sigh of relief.

“Hi Mark! I’m glad you made it here okay. I’ve been pacing around for a few minutes wondering if you were ever going to show up. I’m so nervous, and my boyfriend is going to be here today. Talk about extra pressure, am I right?” Naomi said nervously with a shaky voice.

“Man, she really is nervous. Her hands are still shaking. I have to help calm her down just like Chloe did for me.” Mark thought as he grabbed Naomi’s hands and softly massaged them using the same technique that Chloe used for him. “Naomi, we can do this. Don’t worry, I know you will perform amazingly with me. We’re up last, so you have time to calm your nerves and go over the notes. Take a deep breath with me,” he continued as he took several deep breaths with her.

Naomi gasped suddenly when Mark grabbed her hand and massaged her. Then, Naomi started to relax a little bit as she started taking deep breaths with him.

Suddenly, a woman in a blue suit stormed into the performer’s area backstage and started looking around, making sure all of the performers were present. After checking her clipboard a couple times, she asked, “Do we have a Mai Sasaki here?” 

Then, a girl in a soft pink dress and pink ballet shoes with tape and wraps around her feet, slowly and silently walked over to the woman.

“Yes…that’s me. Is there something wrong?” She asked in a monotone voice. There wasn’t even a semblance of emotion on her face. She was so calm and serene unlike the rest of the bumbling commotion going on in the background. Her hair was also very light, as if walking a fine line between pink and white, depending on the lighting. She seemed a little out of place compared to everyone else there.

“Your pianist has just called in sick, and we don’t have anyone to fill in for him. I’m very sorry, but you won’t have any music to dance to. We might have to skip your performance unless you have some backup music prepared.” The woman said softly, hoping not to upset Mai.

“He’s…sick? That isn’t good. I hope he gets better soon…” Mai spoke softly as a slight hint of a frown appeared on her face. She then stole a glance at the woman holding the clipboard and said in a monotone voice again, “I guess my performance is cancelled then…that stinks.”

Mark, who was listening to the conversation, slowly walked over to Mai and the woman with the clipboard. Naomi briefly tried to stop Mark from going over there, but ultimately let go without much of a fight. 

“Excuse me miss, I’m sorry but I kinda overheard what you two were talking about. If you’re in a bind, maybe I can help?” Mark offered as Naomi started to nervously hyperventilate behind them.

Mai slowly swiveled her head around to look up at Mark who was standing by her. As she looked into his eyes, she saw sincerity all over his face. To compliment that sincerity was a determination in his eyes. “Do you mean that? You’d be willing to help?” Mai asked softly with a hint of hope seeping through the expressionless tone.

“Of course. Do you have any sheet music or anything? If not, I can just watch you briefly do a performance and get a feeling for it. What type of music are you dancing to?” Mark asked as he looked down at her ambitiously.

“Actually, I’m doing an improvised dance. There isn’t a set song or anything like that. I’ll just dance to whatever you have to offer. If I can suggest, just play what comes to your head. Express yourself as well. I’ll be following your lead, so play as expressively as possible.” Mai explained softly. 

“Don’t worry Sasaki. You can do this.” She thought calmly as she lightly hit her cheeks with her hands.

“I can do that. You can count on me. So, would you like to practice for a bit then?” Mark asked as he held up his violin case in front of her.

“No need. I trust you can do it. Instead, you should help your partner get ready. She seems a little anxious. I might walk by to listen in if that’s alright.” Mai said as she quietly pointed over to Naomi who had been trying to calm her breathing down during their current conversation.

“You’re more than welcome to. We’ll be in the corner over there practicing. By the way, my name is Mark. Mark Reyes.” He said softly as he held out his hand.

“Reyes? Like the Spanish word for kings?” Mai asked softly as she looked at the ground momentarily, and then looked back up to him. “That’s a nice name. Mai Sasaki,” she continued as she reached out and shook Mark’s hand.

“That’s a really pretty name. I look forward to performing with you.” Mark stated as he let go of her hand and started walking towards Naomi to go practice. Naomi waved to Mai briefly and then headed off to go practice in a small section of the room.

Mai stepped away to do some stretching along one of the walls of the room, and then eventually found her way to where Mark and Naomi were practicing. She walked by slowly and gracefully, trying not to distract them while they were practicing. 

As they practiced, it sounded like a tennis match was going on musically as they responded to each other’s rhythm. Even though there were mutes on the violins that were heavily dampening the sound as to not drown out the other performers, Mai was able to follow every note the two played. 

As the tempo grew faster, Mai subconsciously moved her arms and legs in place to the music while her facial expressions remained mute and stoic. “You play really well. Looks like I have nothing to worry about.” She thought as she left them to go take a seat and wait for the performances to start.

*     *     *

Meanwhile, the Reyes family were about 10 minutes away from the concert hall.

“Chloe just sent me a message saying that the show starts in 15 minutes. She also mentioned that she saved us some good seats next to her, so if we’re a little late, we just have to try and find her in the audience.” Damian said as he leaned back in the passenger seat.

“Oh, can I sit next to her Damian?” Alexa pleaded to her brother sitting in front of her.

“Of course you can. Dami wouldn’t mind, right?” her mom asked as she looked to Damian from the rear seat.

“Look sis, I care about you, I really do, but I don’t care much about this performance. At least let me sit next to Chloe so I can have some motivation to stay awake during Mark’s dumb thing. Next time Chloe does something with us, I’ll let you sit with her. Deal?” Damian said as he looked at the passenger-side mirror of the car.

“Hmm…alright. I’ll take you on that offer.” Alexa said as she started looking out her window and humming to herself.

As they continued driving, a man in a plain white shirt and ragged pants was walking on the sidewalk a little bit ahead of the car with his head hanging low. When the man noticed the car driving by, he took a deep breath and thought to himself, “This is it,” and ran into the crosswalk in front of their car. Time seemed to slow down in the moment, as the car continued straight towards the man.

“Dad, watch out!” Damian cried out as he noticed the man run onto the crosswalk.

Time still felt slow, as if passing in slow motion. Everything fell silent…Matthew had a terrified look on his face as his eyes were wide and mouthing the words “Oh shoot.” With both hands he gripped the leather steering wheel, stomped on the brakes, and swerved right to spin the car around attempting to avoid the man who ran into the crosswalk. As the car began to spin, June reached over to Alexa and buried her into her chest and body.

Another car was barreling down towards the intersection perpendicular to the car that the Reyes were in. The woman driving the car was on her phone looking at a text on her phone. When she went to swipe up on her phone to reply to the text, she dropped her phone under her legs. She quickly put her head down and tried to grab her phone, but she didn’t get to the brakes in time. As she was fishing for her phone by her feet, the car continued barreling down the road…until it found it’s way into the Reyes’ car in the middle of its’ spin.

In the split-seconds before the cars collided, Damian looked over in panic behind him to his mother and Alexa. He noticed Alexa’s face completely buried into her mother’s body, and quickly snapped around to notice the car heading right towards them. While his head was still spinning, he put his arms to the sides of his head like a boxer protecting himself. 

By the time that Damian let out a yell of panic, it was already too late. The car slammed into them, and the glass from the windows on the driver side were shattered immediately on impact. The girl’s car was going so fast that after the impact, it continued going forward a few more feet and sent the Reyes’ car rolling over a few times down the street. The rest of the windows that weren’t shattered into a million pieces also shattered as soon as the car did its first roll.

As the car continued to roll, June’s grip on Alexa started to weaken, and as the car rolled over its last few times, her arms went limp, leaving Alexa vulnerable to the momentum of the rolling car. On its last roll, the car stopped on its roof.

A scene played back in Damian’s mind at this moment: “I don’t understand why I have to go. I’m extremely sore from yesterday. I’ll just end up passing out listening to some boring lullabies or whatever.” Damian recalled him saying as he remembered messing with Alexa’s hair. Then, he felt his mother messing with his hair softly. Afterwards, he remembered his father’s speech: “You’re strong Damian. You always conquer and overcome every obstacle in your way…” and felt a strong grip on his shoulders.

As he came to his senses, he felt someone gripping him by his shoulders trying to pull him out of the wreck. His senses weren’t fully back to him yet, but Damian tried to take off the seatbelt in order to free himself. As Damian’s ears rang, and his vision faded in and out of clarity, he managed to get his seatbelt off. As he was pulled out of the car, Damian looked up and saw a first responder pulling him out of the car. 

“My legs…I can’t feel my legs…” Damian said weakly as he was placed on a stretcher and wheeled towards an ambulance. His vision was fading, but he managed to catch a glimpse at the wreck.

Both cars were completely totaled. Damian saw paramedics by both vehicles, but there were a couple more prying by where Alexa was sitting. “Alexa…Mom…Dad…” Damian thought as he strained trying to sit up on the stretcher, but he found it more difficult than he thought it would be as the paramedics tried to hold him down. 

“Alexa!” He called out weakly as he was put into the medical transport vehicle.

The paramedics finally got Alexa out of the car and placed her on the stretcher. They attached a neck brace to her and wheeled her towards the vehicle that Damian was in. Alexa hadn’t moved a muscle on her own since the paramedics got her out of the wreck. Her body remained limp and seemingly lifeless. Once she got in the vehicle, the paramedics closed the back door and headed towards the hospital.

“Hey, Alexa wake up. Please wake up. No time for jokes…please,” Damian let out weakly as he looked at one of the paramedics riding in the back with them. 

“Where are my parents? Are they safe? Did they make it out alright?” Damian pleaded as he looked up to the paramedic for hope. 

Unfortunately for him, the paramedic looked down at him, and shook his head slowly.

“No…” Damian thought to himself as his stubborn tears started to fall down his face. " caused this...this is your fault...they're dead...she's hurt...because of your selfishness..."  he thought as tears continued to fall down until he lost consciousness.