"And the best actress award goes to…" the man on the stage paused, and scanned the stars occupying the seats before him. Everyone held their breaths, anticipation brimming in their eyes, waiting patiently for the announcement of the best actress of the year in this prestigious gathering of stars.
A round of applause exploded in the venue as soon as the man announced the name of who won the award. Some of the audience turned their heads in Heaven Liu's direction, a rising star who had been making headlines in the past months.
Heaven Liu, the woman sitting at the far back, covered her lips in surprise. Her heart was racing, overwhelmed by this win. Her phoenix eyes shone beautifully as a layer of tears instantly coated her eyes.
Heaven looked around her, only to see people in the industry clapping for her. The host continued to speak his piece while the screen showed the film Heaven starred.
'This is…' Heaven mustered her courage to stand despite the overwhelming feeling that had filled her chest. The applause continued while she marched to the stage to receive the award.
Heaven was a rookie star in the entertainment industry. She competed against veteran actresses who have been in the industry for decades. Therefore, being nominated in the same category as them was already an honor. Who would have thought she would win?
"Congratulations, Miss Heaven," the host congratulated her with a big smile, handing her the acrylic trophy with her name embossed in gold before giving the stage to her.
Standing in the middle of the stage with the spotlight on her, her beauty stood out. Everyone could tell she looked overwhelmed, but a woman who came from simple origins like her, bearing such a reaction, melted so many hearts.
"I…" her lips quivered and her voice cracked. "I want to thank everyone who believed in me and congratulations to those who also got nominated. I felt honored with this nomination and putting me in the same category as those I look up to and idolize, I am truly thankful."
The crowd smiled at her, especially those who lost the category. Although most of the nominated candidates were established artists, they accepted the fact that they lost to a rookie without any bitterness.
Why would they?
This young actress who just recently rose to fame with the first film she starred in was not only a talented actress but also a humble young lady. She was the leading actress in a low-budget film, and no one thought it would succeed, but it became a blockbuster.
"Lastly, I want to…" Heaven shifted her gaze to the camera and lifted her trophy for everyone to see. "... thank my dad for his support. He is surely watching right now, so Dad, your daughter won an award!"
A drop of tears escaped her eyes as she laughed at her last sentence. The crowd also laughed with her before another round of applause exploded in the air. Following that award, Heaven received a series of congratulations from her fellow artists, other companies, agencies, and her fans.
Everyone was expecting her career to take off — to skyrocket to another higher level than the one she had. Heaven was also hopeful.
However, receiving that award was the first and last good thing that happened to her.
FIVE YEARS LATER…
"Dad…" Heaven sat on the edge of the bed, holding a photo frame under the dimness of the room. Her once beautiful eyes brimmed with life five years ago were gone, replaced with the empty look of a woman who knew the hardships of life.
Heaven caressed the portrait with her fingertips, gulping the tension that was building in her throat. She had this urge to cry — to sob, but alas, she couldn't. She couldn't shed another tear because she had been crying in her heart for the past five years.
"I missed you so much, Dad," she whispered in a quiet voice.
Five years ago, Heaven won the Best Actress award at the Golden Globes. She celebrated this milestone with everyone attending the after-party. Little did she know, while she was partying, her father was also fighting for his life.
That was only the tip of the iceberg because the next morning, she woke up in the arms of a man she never met in her life. She didn't have time to think about it because when she looked at her phone, there were several messages. When Heaven read them, a sob broke from her shaking lips, her father was gone.
That was the start of how her life spiraled out of control, and now, here she was.
Heaven married the man she woke up with the night her father had died. There was no love between them, she only married him because she also found out their night together created a child she never wanted. For the past five years, she has become a housewife. She became something she never wanted to be.
"I am… a failure, am I, Dad?" a ridiculing dry laugh slipped past her lips, placing down the frame to her side. Heaven bent over to reach for the drawer on the bedside table, taking out a bottle of pills she purchased a week ago.
When she straightened her back, her eyes remained on the bottle pill in her hand. They said taking enough of these pills in one go was an instant kill.
"I've endured five years," she whispered, gripping the bottle even tighter. "I cannot anymore."
Heaven opened the lid and poured as much pill into her other hand. She looked at the pills in her hand, eyes filled with determination. She closed her eyes for a moment, telling herself that this was the only way to escape her fate. She then raised her hand, intending to swallow the pills.
However, just before the first pill touched her lips, she threw them away. Her face crumpled in dismay, eyes bloodshot in anger. Despite the darkness of her room, she could see the small little pills scattered on the floor.
She couldn't do it.
Heaven tried to take her life countless times in the past five years. But alas, she always stopped at the last second — just when she thought her determination wouldn't wane.
"I hate you…" she muttered through her gritted teeth. "I hate you, Heaven. I hate you."
Tears brimmed her eyes as she covered her face with her palms. She hated herself. She hated herself after that after-party five years ago. Heaven could've stayed beside her father that night, but she chose to celebrate and party.
If only she had come home that night, she wouldn't be married now and she probably wouldn't have regrets. However, no amount of regrets could change the past. What was done was done, and she should move on, but she couldn't.
Thus, she was stuck in regret for the past five years, hating herself, her life, her family, and everything that happened.
Heaven sobbed quietly as she crawled onto the bed, hugging her father's photo. She lay on her side, curling herself into a ball.
This had been a habit she picked up five years ago. She would try to kill herself, only to stop, and then cry herself to sleep.
Heaven was miserable.
It took her hours to stop the tears, still hiccuping. She wiped her tears with the back of her hand, her eyes sore and heavy.
'I really should get myself together,' she told herself, gazing at the wall. Usually, she would sleep right after crying. But for some reason, her brain wouldn't let her.
'It was already past midnight,' she thought, feeling the dryness of her throat. Heaven didn't like seeing anyone in this house. At this time, everyone was already sleeping so she could freely get a glass of water to quench her thirst.
But just as Heaven rolled on her back to get out of bed, her eyes went wide. Someone was standing on the other side of the bed. Her room was dark, but she could feel the intense, murderous gaze cast upon her.
"Who —" The rest of her words rolled back to her throat as the person's hand suddenly covered her mouth, jumping on top of her. Heaven tried to scream, but her voice was muffled. Her breath hitched when the person's other hand wrapped around her neck.
"Mhmm!!" Her eyes popped open, and she felt the hand tighten around her neck. She struggled as much as she could — something that surprised her since she had always wished for death, but now that death came to her, she was struggling to live.
"Mhm!!" Let me go was what she wanted to say, but everything sounded muffled. Soon, her head felt heavy as the blood circulation stopped. She could feel her strength leaving her body, as her lungs starved for oxygen, and her movements weakened every moment.
'Dad…' her eyes dropped heavily as her grip on the person's arm lost strength. '... Basti, I'm sorry.'
Her consciousness slowly waned until darkness enveloped her.
Heaven was blankly staring at the ceiling the next day. She touched the side of her neck, still feeling the sensation of strangulation last night.
"This woman was strangled to death last night…" Heaven muttered, furrowing her brows. "... and I'm sure I died some time ago. So how in the world am I in this body?"