Strangers in a Strange Land -- Gen. 2.5
Published Sep 23, 2012

Written By



Page 1 / 24

Generation 2.5 ... Mei.

Generation 2.5 ... Mei. She didn’t accuse him, didn’t bring up the fact that he hadn’t been around for nearly three years of her life, didn’t ask where the hell he’d been all this miserable time. She forgave him everything without a single word, and hugged him tightly and didn’t let go. He held her trembling body close and returned each one of her kisses.

Behind them, Étienne watched with wide eyes and hung back.
“Rémy,” Xiu whispered, ecstatic. Her tears fell on his lips and stained his shirt. “You came back.”

“Oui, ma cherie.”

“Say you’ll never go again.”

“Je ne laisserai pas encore, Xiu.”

She hoped that was a confirmation, because she couldn’t understand a word he was saying. But it sounded wonderful in French. She leaned into him, pleased when he continued to squeeze her hard.
He seemed to see the little boy in the grass for the first time.

“C’est que mon fils?”

“Oh! … yes, that’s him. Étienne, sweetie, come here …” She swooped him up, offered him to Rémy to hold.
They stared at each other with solemn eyes before Étienne began to cry and cling to his mother’s neck.

Xiu quieted the little boy and smiled sadly at her lover. “It’ll take time for him to get used to you, I think. He … he thinks that another man is his father.”
“Xiu,” Layla called.

She was sitting on the porch, waiting to take her grandson.
As the wheelchair slowly moved toward the back of the house, Xiu finally found enough courage to look Rémy in the eyes. “I think we need to talk for a little bit.”

He nodded.

Xiu started a fire in the ancient firepit and listened patiently as Rémy explained what had become of him since they last met.

He had returned to France and to university, but the professors had gone on strike, and the strike had lasted for a week, then two, then stretched out into a month. The student body became restless in the absence of classes, eventually rioting. While the police restored order quickly enough, more than one person found themselves in jail over the whole fiasco—among them, Rémy’s academic advisor and department chair.

“It was horrible,” he murmured, staring into the flames as he spoke. “It was not safe to be outside, you could be injured or arrested at any time. You could not go to school, you could not go to work. All you could do is sit at home and wait.”
“Wait for what?” “For something, anything … to change. I have never known such desperation.”

He sighed and looked away. “It was nearly six months before anything could be resolved. I could not finish my degree, and I could not transfer to another school. There was no money, no hope, nothing. In the meantime, my mother died. There was only my father left, and he is old. I was afraid to leave him alone.

“I have been working in a supermarket for some time now. One of my former classmates found me there. She could not get a job with her degree, either. She became a detective instead. She saw that a police officer in the United States was trying to reach me, that the officer had been looking for me for nearly a year. At first I did not understand why. Then she told me the officer’s name and I could not believe it. It was your sister."
“I was afraid that it was a set-up, someone from the fertilizer company trying to find me for … heaven knows. It was months before I could bring myself to respond. But it was true. It really was your sister trying to find me. She told me that if I cared anything about you at all, I would come back. And so I said that I would.”

He looked at Xiu seriously. “Now it is my turn to ask a favor of you. My father is too old to live alone. If I am to stay with you forever, you must accept him as well. “

Xiu accepted this arrangement without hesitation. Perhaps she should have talked it over with her family first, or at least inquired about Mr. Dutiel’s disposition … but it was such a little thing to stand in the way of her (and more importantly, her son’s) happiness. Of course Mr. Dutiel was welcome.
And that obstacle overcome, she and Rémy went out on a long-overdue second date.

The next morning, she left Rémy sleeping in her bed and went out front to talk the whole thing over with her mother and sister. Actually, she didn’t so much “talk” as inform them that the Dutiels would be moving in shortly. Yes, there were only three bedrooms in the house—it didn’t matter. Yes, no one really had a job besides Mei—they’d make do somehow. But Étienne needed a father, and Xiu wasn’t about to let this second chance go to waste. If that meant transplanting Gastion Dutiel from Champ Les Sims to Riverfront Meadows, so be it.

Layla was fairly enthusiastic about the prospect—she had wanted Xiu to remarry for quite some time. Mei took a slightly dimmer view of the whole thing.
“So, where, exactly, are these guys gonna sleep? In case you hadn’t noticed, there are only two beds and a crib in here.”

“I’ll buy bunk beds.”

“You expect me to sleep in a bunk bed?” Mei smirked.

“No, I expect you to sleep with Mom.”

“… what?”

Gastion Dutiel became a permanent resident of the house just in time for his grandson’s birthday. A good-humored, intelligent man, he quickly won Étienne over.

Layla was a harder sell, but he managed to surprise her by presenting her with a well-worn copy of one of her first novels. He was a big fan, he said—he had read almost everything she’d published. Stunned, Layla could do little besides thank him. As soon as she found out that he was an avid fisherman, any lingering coldness on her part vanished.
For the first time in a while, every seat at the table was filled as Xiu served a full dinner. Layla was listening to Gastion talk about the vineyard he’d owned as a younger man, and Étienne was happily telling Rémy about every toy in his box. Mei, by contrast, looked particularly sullen.

“Everything okay?” Xiu asked.

“Peachy,” Mei snapped. Xiu very carefully set a plate of steak in front of her and gave her a worried look.

The food was delicious, as expected (Layla was especially pleased with her vegetarian version; Étienne tried a bite and decided he liked it), and conversation flowed easily. It seemed as though things might finally be getting back to normal … at least, until Mei threw her napkin down and stormed out, leaving untouched food and a shocked silence in the wake of her departure.

"So!" Gastion said at last. “More wine, anyone?”

Philip Melvin rarely complained about his job. Being a bartender was easy money and the customers usually kept him amused. Occasionally, though, he’d get an obnoxious drunk that wouldn’t shut up and wouldn’t leave, someone who made such a pest of themselves that they literally drove everyone else out of the door. His current drunk had been rambling non-stop for nearly twenty minutes about god-knew-what, and he was beginning to lose patience. “Look … um … Mei, was it? I gotta get back to work.”

“Like hell you do,” Mei slurred, “there ain’t nobody else in this whole joint.”

“Probably because you ran ‘em off.”

“Like hell,” Mei growled again. “Gimme another one.”

He sighed irritably and slammed another glass of whisky in front of her, hoping it'd shut her up.
No such luck. She'd drained it completely within five minutes and began pounding the bar with the glass. She wanted more. Philip finally drew the line. “… no.”

“Whaddya mean ‘no?’ I’m payin’, ain’t I? … gimme another one!”

“Forget it, girl.” Philip walked away and began to clean the bar tables, leaving Mei to rant to herself. He didn’t want to force her to go, and he wouldn’t, as long as she stayed calm.
She stayed calm—so calm, that after a while he began to wonder what she was up to. She wasn’t at the bar anymore, but she hadn’t left. “Oh hell,” he muttered, “I bet she hit the floor.”

Sure enough, she was in a heap on the ground, singing a nursery rhyme. Philip sighed. “Alright, this ain’t cute anymore. Go home, Mei.”
“Home,” Mei mumbled. “Yeah, I’ll go home with you … where’s your place?”

“Thanks but no thanks. Shove off, okay?”

“Go to hell, I can’t drive.”

“No, guess you can’t,” he muttered.
She wasn’t coherent enough to tell him where she lived. In the end, he called a number on her phone and said tersely, “I’m closing up in 10 minutes. If you don’t come get her by then, she’ll be sitting in the dark.” Xiu didn’t say a word on the ride home. Neither did Mei. They rode silently, Xiu driving carefully, Mei pouting, until they pulled into the grass by the dark house. Xiu slowly helped her sister up the stairs.

“Put me on the couch,” Mei began. “I don’t wanna …”

Xiu turned away to let her vomit in peace. Mei probably hadn’t eaten anything at the bar, the better to get wasted faster.
She rushed to the sink and came back with a glass of water. “You’re dehydrated.”

“Oh, shut up! Are you a goddamn doctor now? You gonna psychoanalyze me next?”


“Perfect little Xiu,” Mei sniped. “You always get what you want, things always work out for you, you always know everything, you’re just so—“
She collapsed in her sister’s arms, sobbing.

“They … they took Judson off life support today.”

~ to be continued

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staceface2009pMay 14, 2013

The deaths! I can't take it! Poor Mei! :'(

Milii454Sep 29, 2012

Yay for Remy and his dad! Maybe they can now play happy family? But poor Mei, poor Judson, after all of his heroics \:\(. Great chapter! \:\)

sade23Sep 26, 2012


fruitopia VIPSep 25, 2012

Poor Mei. I love the cover screen shot.

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