Prologue: Here We Are
(At the rooftop in Meteor Rain: Ximen Zhong Er Lang’s story)
HERE WE ARE – Ken Zhu
Your eyes shone with unshed tears
I feel my heart breaking
So much true feelings
You pretend not to see
Placing such distance between you and me
I don’t want to wait for you all by myself
Such uncertainty in the lesson on love
Here we are, It’s not a perfect world
Say goodbye to love
Wanting to leave this place, far away
Here we are, It’s not a perfect world
Be honest about the scars
And it’ll not hurt so deeply
Even if I don’t say it
You’ll probably know
The reason I left
To let you learn to be brave without me
And learn to be strong
As the sun reflected off the words on the billboard, Xiao You slowly walked over to Ximen. She looked at him with her heart in her eyes; she wanted him to see her love. Those words weren’t just a message from Xiao Gen, but they also reflected what she felt. She wanted Ximen to realize that it wasn’t a perfect world. She had fallen in love with him knowing that he was not a perfect man. She accepted all of his imperfections. She knew that if given the chance, their imperfect hearts could create a love that could actually be called perfect.
Ximen looked down at Xiao You, and stared into her eyes. He mourned the chance that he had lost with Xiao Gen. Tears had welled up into his eyes when he had seen the message for the first time. The reality was that none of his mei meis had shown such pure and true emotions toward him. Reading her words he felt even more unworthy. He saw the hope in Xiao You’s eyes, but he knew that if he could hurt someone like Xiao Gen, how much more capable was he of hurting Xiao You. He cared more deeply for her than anyone else, and he wanted to protect her from the hurt he knew he would bring into her life. He was not perfect, and he knew that Xiao You deserved a perfect man.
Ximen let go of Xiao You and stepped back. He stared at her quietly. He was so tempted to take her into his arms, and declare whatever feelings he had for her. But that would be selfish. While he knew that he would be happy with her in his life. His selfishness would soon destroy her heart. He had inherited his father’s genes. When he had said, “I am Ximen”, he not only meant the guy who had a one-week policy, but also his heritage from his father, who had repeatedly cheated on his wife. He had seen his mother’s pain. He did not want to be the cause of that pain in a woman’s eyes. Xiao You would come to hate him. He was a coward, and he could not risk tainting her feelings for him by letting her into his life. He took a deep breath and opened his mouth.
Xiao You waited for his words, hoping that they would be the words she had been waiting to hear for a long, long time. She knew that he was afraid. She felt that she loved him enough to overcome any hesitancy on his part. She wanted a chance to be something more than a friend, something more than a one-week mei mei. She did not want to live on the fringes of his life. She wanted to be the center of his world. Xiao You wanted a chance. She knew that Ximen was a good man, and that if he risked his heart he would find that he was not what he thought himself to be.
Ximen smiled at her and said, “Thank you.”
Xiao You waited for more. Is that it? He didn’t go on. She wanted to know what was in his heart. His words revealed nothing. His implacable expression gave nothing away.
Xiao You whispered, “Ximen?”
Ximen looked at her. He then looked away. He couldn’t stand to see the pain in her eyes. He wanted to make her happy. If she couldn’t be happy with him in her life, then he wanted to make her happy by pushing her out of his life. He wanted her to forget him, and find a man who didn’t come with the baggage he had been saddled with. He was a “Ximen”. That not only defined his philosophy in life, but also defined his personality. His father had shown him that Ximen’s were incapable of fidelity. He couldn’t run away like his brother, because he carried the burdens of being the only heir. But he could ensure that he, himself, didn’t hurt anyone by allowing them to be too close.
Xiao You smiled sadly as the silence continued. She knew that Ximen had decided. For a while he had let the wall around his heart to come down. But now he had chosen a path that did not include her. She had to leave, because she had no reason to stay. Her flight was today. She had spent her vacation checking out all the buildings. She had spent the past three weeks looking for Ximen’s “very moment”. She was leaving Taiwan as she had come to it. Empty handed. She would go back to Canada. But she planned on returning one day, one day when she felt that she had matured enough to fight for Ximen’s heart. She knew now that he would never reach out his hand for her. She would have to learn how to hold on and never let go.
Xiao You backed away from Ximen. She said, “I have to go. My flight to Canada is in two hours.” She turned to go.
Ximen’s hand unconsciously shot forward, as if wanting to stop her. As if his body wanted to grab on to her, and to never let go. But his mind stepped in and stopped it. He knew this was the best for her. He let her go. He saw her walking away. And he knew that he would never be the same, because she had taken his heart along with her.
He whispered, “Goodbye, Xiao You. Be happy. Please, be happy.”
Xiao You walked way and whispered to, “Ximen, goodbye. I will be back one day. And then you better watch out. You won’t know what hit you.”
Everything U R
Xiao You sighed. She was 19 when she fell in love with Ximen. Although it had only been six months since her return from Taiwan, she felt that she hadn’t seen him for years. She missed him. She didn’t know that when she fell in love for the first time it would be like this. When she had been in “like” with Zhong Ze, it had been fun for a while. You know, before it went all wrong, and she found out that he was such a creep. They had fun. Her love for Ximen was complicated. Too complicated!! She sighed again, and then laughed, feeling like a heroine in her own little pathetic melodrama.
Ximen filled her heart. He colored everything around her. She had come back to Canada, and she had continued on with her life. After all when she returned to Taiwan one day she didn’t want to be the same girl that Ximen had rejected. Xiao You screamed in her mind, “Not just once, but TWICE!!!! Ughh!!” She went to school, and came home. She worked part time, and came home. She didn’t have a social life. Whenever she was asked out, she would compare the guy to Ximen. She would hear a certain voice, or see a certain smile, or smell a certain scent and she would think that he was near. If only he had stopped her when she was leaving.
She knew that if Ximen had said yes, if he had said that he loved her, she would’ve stayed with him. She wasn’t asking for much. Just a simple “I love you”. She would’ve done the rest. If he had given her any indication that he was willing to let down the walls around his heart even a little bit, she would’ve gotten the ropes ready to climb over that damn wall the rest of the way. Heck, all she needed was just a little crack in that wall to squeeze through!!! But she couldn’t force herself through nothing, right? That would be stalking. Which was a big no no.
She wasn’t asking for much was she? She just wanted his heart…his soul…the rest of his life. And let’s not forget his body. Yes, her love was spiritual, but she wasn’t averse to the bodily passions. Knowing the women he had, they wouldn’t flock to him unless he was a good lover, right? If only he would fall in love with her!!! Her mind was willing, and her heart was willing. And her body was certainly willing!!!!
But he had let his history and his fears override any emotions he may have had for her. He let his mind rule his heart, and his stupid mind led him down the wrong path. She knew that Ximen was a reserved being. He didn’t let anyone in easily. Dao Ming Si, Lei, and Mei Zhou had gotten in, but they earned that space in his inner circle. Even Shan Cai had misjudged him. She thought that Ximen would hurt me, Xiao You thought, but she doesn’t know that once Ximen saw my innocence that that was a greater barrier than any threat that Shan Cai could’ve made against his life. She just wondered if they would ever have a chance, meaning would he ever give them a chance.
Xiao You could not imagine a future without him. Every dream she had, every thought she had about the future had him as the central character. She knew that this was not a way to face reality, but her heart wouldn’t let go. Her love for him was like an obsession. Yes, she could even call it a sickness. Something that ate away at her, but also nourished her through life. She would follow him to the ends of the earth if he beckoned her with his finger. Pathetic, but it was sadly true.
Once she felt confident enough, once she felt strong enough she would go back. There would be nothing he could say, that would make her walk away. If she won this time, she would never let him go. I can just imagine myself, Xiao You thought, inviting him into my parlor, and then trapping him in my web so he can never escape. Well, he will put up a struggle. If I win, then my victory will be fair. And it won’t be like he did not want to be caught.
“Yang Xiao You!!! Get down here or you’ll be late for work,” her mother shouted from downstairs.
Xiao You was yanked abruptly from her musings. Yes, she liked to “muse” a lot. Her mother knew that, and got some sort of sick pleasure whenever she scared her almost out of her wits. She sighed with exasperation. She then looked at the clock and screamed. It was late!!! She was late!!! Once again, Ximen had stolen into her thoughts and messed up her life. She was going to make him pay! You know, after she had trapped him in her web. Xiao You laughed at her thoughts, grabbed her purse, and ran downstairs.
It had been six months since he had seen her…
“Xiao You left. And I let her go,” Ximen whispered to himself.
He remembered back to the incident on the roof. Xiao You had given him his “very moment”, and he knew that he would never forget it. Not only had she given him a glimpse into Xiao Gen’s heart, but he had also looked into in his own heart. While he had shed tears for Xiao Gen, he couldn’t for Xiao You – the emotions went too deep. If he allowed his emotions to come out, they could never be ignored again.
He had spent the past six months worrying about Ah si and Shan Cai, and creating a name for himself in the Taiwanese business community. He had created a niche for himself, and people had come to see him as an individual entity. Every moment he had to himself, though there weren’t that many, had to do with Xiao You. She was always in his mind when he was alone. In order to forget her he worked harder until he landed in the hospital. While there he had time to do nothing but think, and after learning the truth about his parents he had realized that this would never end. He was like his father. He would love the same woman for the rest of his life. You could call that a curse or a blessing. He hadn’t quite decided yet.
He wanted her. His days were filled with moments where her thoughts would sneak into his mind. He would see a woman that looked like her or smell her scent in the air, and his heart would beat faster. He would turn around, expecting to see her. It was never Xiao You. He could never have her.
Before her he had had many sexy girlfriends, but it was her innocence that had captured him. Her sweetness and her courage had tugged at his heartstrings. She didn’t know how to dress, to behave sensually, nor to seduce. But she had captured his heart. How was that for irony? His past helped him to appreciate her purity, but it also made him unworthy of her love.
He had chosen to say goodbye. He thought that it would be easier to say it now, before she found out his defects. Before she rejected him. Before he fell in love with her. How was he to know that it would be too late. HE LOVED HER. But he couldn’t be with her when he wasn’t sure of his staying power, no matter how much his heart told him to hold on.
She was his hope, and she was his desire. She was what his soul wished for every night. He would love her for all eternity. If he was fated to meet her again, he hoped that he would have the courage to grab on and never let go. He had now accepted that he loved her.
“Watch out, Xiao You,” he muttered to himself, “if we meet again I might never let you go.”
What the hell?! . . . But it’s not too bad.
Three months after Ah si and Shan Cai reunited in Spain . . .
Xiao You came home from work. It had been six months since that rainy afternoon she had spent in her room dreaming about Ximen. When she returned home from school that day her parents told her they had had to file for bankruptcy. Her father had been unable to cope with this new foreign world.
For the first time in her life, Xiao You was poor. She had to give up higher education when she had actually fallen in love with something she wanted to spend the rest of her life doing.
Her parents had told her that they were moving immediately, and she had had to leave the life she knew all over again.
“How was your day?” her mother asked.
Xiao You smiled at her softly. She shook her head warily, and told her, “It was fine.”
Mrs. Yang watched her daughter walk down the hall, her shoulders slumped. She knew Xiao You was unhappy, but there was something they could do about it now. She couldn’t wait to surprise her daughter tonight with the great news.
Xiao You had started to work as a waitress in the coffee shop in one of the richer Canadian districts. She hated her job. But it supported her family in a small way. She couldn’t do anything else. She was twenty years old and didn’t have a college degree. Who would hire her?
She did start taking free computer classes in the community college near home. She had surprisingly fallen in love with computers. And, fortunately, or unfortunately, however you looked at it, she had become a computer geek. Because she couldn’t afford new, trendy clothes, and had to shop at thrift shops, her wardrobe had been downgraded from her gypsy look, to the new “grunge” look.
She had also found out that she needed glasses, and had been forced to buy big, thick glasses by her mother.
She remembered the arguments she had had with her mother. While her mother had been modern for Taiwanese society, she became quite conservative in Canada. She felt that all the guys would fall for her daughter and try to seduce her. She had nightmares of Xiao You becoming pregnant out of wedlock and ruining her life. So she had made it her life’ s mission to make Xiao You as unappealing as possible.
Xiao You could not imagine what her mother would have said if she had seen her propositioning Ximen in Taiwan. She probably fainted from the shock. Xiao You laughed softly at that image.
The new Canadian neighborhood had seen a new Xiao You. Her clothes were too big for her body. Her glasses were too big for her face. While here hair had grown longer, her bangs now had the tendency to hang down in her eyes.
While Xiao You had protested at first, she came to like the look. She was a shy person by nature. The only time she had been courageous in her life was when she fell in love. She had wanted that one night. Who would know that her innocence would make Ximen “impotent” at the time of her greatest need. She didn’t want any attention right now. She wanted to be as unobtrusive as possible, and this helped. The fact that she spent most of her free time with computers, helped as well.
Xiao You walked upstairs and settled in her tiny bedroom. She hardly had room to move, but she loved her room. She had computers stacked up the wall, stuff that she would tinker with during the night. Not only did she get a chance to work with computers, but she also made money off of it. Xiao You liked living in this dark and technological world. Sometimes it even freaked her mother out.
“Xiao You, time for dinner!” her mother called from downstairs.
Xiao You was jerked out of her alternate reality, ruled by kilobytes and memory issues. She raced to the dining room, so that she could eat dinner and return to her computers.
“How was your day, honey?” her father asked. “Did anything exciting happen today?”
“What could happen in a coffee shop?” Xiao You asked, “Dad, be serious, nothing ever happens where I work. You know I’ll probably work there for the next twenty years, and nothing exciting would ever happen.”
Xiao You’s parents were silent. They knew that their daughter had wanted to a career in computers. For some weird reason she had started dreaming about making computers her life. In the past six months she had changed a lot. She had gradually lost contact with Shan Cai, and all her new friends here. They looked at each other silently. Mr. Yang looked at Mrs. Yang, signaling at her with his eyes.
“Say something,” his eyes ordered.
She shrugged her shoulders, feeling helpless. They didn’t want Xiao You to be bitter about their new life. They certainly didn’t like how she had stopped caring about her physical appearance. She seemed depressed.
Their daughter hadn’t given up when they came to Canada. Nor did she give up when she had returned from Taiwan the second time. A fire had been burning inside her, as if something was motivating her. But that fire was gone now; as if it was extinguished by too much adversity.
“Honey, I know I wanted you to wear glasses, but why don’t we go tomorrow and get you contacts?” her mother asked. “I want to get you a new wardrobe as well.”
“Can we afford that? I thought we didn’t have money for luxuries like that?” Xiao You asked.
“I’m sure we can swing it. If you want, we can probably get you some pretty trendy clothes. You’re father cleared his debts with the sale of the house, the business, and some money we had saved up. Now, you can use your salary as you wish.”
“Are you sure?” Xiao asked excitedly.
Her parents smiled at her excitement. They knew how their daughter had suffered in this new life. They knew she missed buying clothes, and looking her best. They realized that their daughter was growing bitter with this poverty. They nodded.
“That’s great. Now I can buy that new software wanted for my computer. I didn’t want to be selfish, but I’ve been itching to get my hands on the newest technology in the field, but it is expensive. Thanks mom and dad!”
Xiao You got up, and hugging her parents, ran out of the room. She was already dreaming about all the stuff she’d be buying with her salary. She wanted to do all this stuff to her computer; things she had learned about in class. Who knew, if she really had the talent her teacher kept on harping about, she could make a good living in this field.
Her parents were left shocked. They looked at each other, as if wanting to ask, “What happened?”
Xiao You lay in her bed. She was dreaming about giving her computer new upgrades. She knew her parents were worried about her, but they didn’t understand that she had changed. They thought that she was bitter about this new life. It wasn’t that she minded being poor, she didn’t.
“I could deal with that. It’s just that now I know how truly hopeless my love for Ximen was. I can’t believe that I ever imagined that we would have a chance. Even Ah si rejected Shan Cai in the end for the princess from Bhutan. (She hadn’t talked to Shan Cai in a while.) Our lives could never match.”
Xiao You had realized the futility of dreaming. But loving was another thing altogether. Though she wouldn’t chase Ximen anymore (not that she could afford to now), she couldn’t stop loving him. Her heart was too stubborn, but she had learned to live with the love. She wasn’t happy, but she was content with her life.
Xiao You had grown bitter with that reality. She had changed outwardly to exhibit that bitterness inside. But, her sunny character had resurfaced. She had found the silver lining around the big, black cloud that had hung above her head for so long. In the end she realized that she liked her new look. She might have been a nerd, but guys no longer hit on her. She didn’t have to think up new excuses every time. And she fit in perfectly with the career she had chosen. All her classmates, sad to say, looked just like her; glasses, no interest in clothes, and absorbed with computers.
She didn’t want to imagine what would happen if anyone from Taiwan saw her like this. They would be shocked. Anyways, who would see her this way? Who would care? Not like she would ever meet Ximen in this guise, right? Beyond that she didn’t have it in herself to care too much about what others thought.
Xiao You began a new day at the Coffee Café. While it was the same hateful job, she was much happier now. She now knew that whatever money she earned today, tomorrow, and every day hereafter would be money she could spend on her passion.
Xiao You stood in the back, making up the orders as they came in. The café served cakes and pastries, along with coffee. It seemed that she spent a lot of time in the back. Her boss had assigned her to kitchen duties, because she supposedly creeped people out.
It wasn’t that she looked that bad, but she gave this vibe that part of her was missing. People looked at her, and felt that she wasn’t there. Xiao You understood that. Sometimes she spent most of her time thinking about cyberspace or Ximen. Sometimes her brain shut down completely to incoming signals from the outside world, and she thought about Ximen AND computers.
As she was working in the kitchen she heard a loud crash from outside the doors. She was abruptly pulled from her reverie. She then heard shouting and demands to see the manager. Her curiosity getting the better of her, Xiao You raced outside to see what was going on.
The sight that met her shocked her so much she froze in midstep. Her eyes squinted through her glasses and bangs to look at the commotion in front of her. She saw a man… Asian…wearing a suit…longish hair, pointing at something on the table. He was shouting in his deep voice, demanding to see the manager to get the “idiot” who had poured coffee near his computer fired. There was an older gentleman sitting at the table, silently taking in the scenario before him.
It was X . . . it was X . . .. Xiao sighed in pure bliss as she stared at the commotion in front of her. She was mesmerized by what had caught her attention.
“I can’t believe the idiots you hire here! He dropped coffee not two inches from me. Because of his clumsiness I have just lost all my work. What am I supposed to do? I demand that you fire him now!!” the Asian gentlemen continued to shout at the hapless worker and the manager.
The manager stood there, wringing his hands. His eyes suddenly brightened. He looked around the room and his eyes focused in on Xiao You.
“Rainie!” he beckoned at her.
Xiao You was pulled out of her reverie when she heard her name being called.
She pointed at herself, “Me?” she asked.
“Yes. Please come here,” the manager asked her. “I know that you are very good with computers. Can you assist this gentlemen?”
The shouter looked to where the manager was looking. The sight that greeted his eyes silenced him.
Rainie shrugged her shoulders and walked over to what had so mesmerized her for the past two minutes. She was looking at the newest XX5000 model of a laptop she had been salivating over at the computer store for the past two months. If she saved her money for the next year she could probably afford to buy the computer. Unfortunately, by that time it would just be a really, really expensive paperweight.
The shouter and the older gentleman stared at Xiao You as she walked over. They saw a tiny little girl, with big, squarish glasses, with hair to her shoulders and her bangs falling in her eyes. Xiao You was wearing big, clunky boots, khaki pants, and a sweatshirt. She was girl who looked comfortable in her own skin.
Xiao You walked over to the table, and motioned for the shouter to move. Her motions belied her appearance. The older gentlemen noticed that she was nervous. Her hands were shaking as she stared at the computer screen. She moved her hands towards the keyboard, and a change suddenly overcame her. The nervous girl of a second ago was gone. In her place was a confident professional. Her hands were steady as she pressed a few buttons, looked at the screen, pressed a few more buttons, and retrieved all of the last data.
She stepped back from the computer. As she moved away from the computer, her demeanor changed once more. Her eyes lowered, her hands came in front of her as she gripped them together.
“Is that what was lost?” she asked in a soft voice.
The shouter walked over to the laptop. “That’s fine,” he muttered, “but I still want that clumsy fool fired!”
“That’s enough,” the older gentleman finally spoke up.
“But, Mr. X—”
“No. Your work is fine. So you have no reason to demand the employee’s termination.”
“Enough. Let’s go to the office. This wasn’t the place to conduct the meeting. You should not have humored the client to this extent. Call him and tell him to meet us at the office.”
The older gentleman got up and bowed to the manager. Xiao You looked at him in fascination. He had spoken with an accent. She just had a feeling that he was from Taiwan. He had that feeling of home.
She turned to go. She felt someone tap her on the shoulder. She turned around, and found herself face-to-face with the older gentleman.
“Miss Rainie, right?” he questioned her.
She looked at him, and then quickly nodded her head. “Ms. Rainie Yang,” she completed for him.
“That was some work you did back there. Do you have any plans of continuing in this area?” he queried.
She wondered why he would be interested. Mentally shrugging her shoulders, she replied, “Yes, actually I am. I plan on making this my life’s work.”
She started thinking about how happy she would become. To the amusement of the man standing in front of her, she went off into her own little fantasy world. A happy smile appeared on her face, she looked like she was in a state of bliss.
He tapped her on the shoulder again. Xiao You snapped out of her dream. The blissful smile turned into a grimace as she realized that she had gone off once more. Why wouldn’t her dreams leave her alone, at least during the daytime!
“I’m sorry about that.” Xiao You’s face was red as a tomato, as she waited for the usual disgusted look she received whenever she went off into a daydream like that.
“It’s all right,” the gentleman replied. “If you want we would be willing to hire you as a part timer. This way you can learn about computers and earn money at the same time. Here’s my card.” He smiled at her, and walked away.
Xiao You watched him walk off, and then looked at the card in her hand. What she read there almost gave her a heart attack. Her hands trembled as she traced the name on the card.
She looked up just in time to see the older gentleman leave the café with the shouter.