Strangers in a Strange Land -- Gen. 2.7
Published Oct 28, 2012

Written By



Page 1 / 30

Generation 2.7 ... Luther.

Generation 2.7 ... Luther. As much as she possibly could, Xiu avoided the new house and clung to the old trailer. But the time soon came when she had to give it up for loss. Specifically, she woke up in the family bedroom (it was the family bedroom because all six of them slept there) smelling smoke. And not cooking smoke, but the acrid smell of scorched wood and melting plastic. She darted outside as quickly as she could and ran around the house, just in time to see the trailer being consumed by flames.

The firefighter who showed up didn't bother to even combat the blaze. It was too late, he said. The fire was started by a combination of the leaves covering the roof, and the pine needles littered under the crawl space. Besides, it was just an old trailer, it wasn't worth anything.

Completely exasperated, filthy, and still very tired, Xiu could do little but go back to bed.
She was still moody at breakfast, when Gastion began to talk about "a trip" and something that he had found on the internet. She stared into her cup and only half-listened until Rémy turned to her and said, "Darling, Étienne is asking you a question."

"Hmm? What is it, sweetie?"
"Mom, didn't you hear Granddad?"

"Not really. I'm a little distracted."

"Oh, geez," Étienne grumbled. "He's only asking you if I can go to France with him in a month. Guess that's not important enough to listen to."

"So you're just going to get to go to France? Just because? Geez, Étienne, are you like the luckiest guy in our class or what?"

"Well, it's kind of business …"
"Business?" Now Coretta looked even more envious. "What kind of business could you possibly have in France?"

"It's my grandfather, he's going to collect grape vines, and he wants me to come with him."

"Geez," Coretta snorted. "All my grandfather does is fart during the best parts of a movie. So when are you gonna go?"

"In a few weeks."
"Aww, so soon?" she cooed. "I'll miss you."

And she came just a little closer to him, but just then there was a knock at the door, and the classmates had to end their conversation there.
Rémy Dutiel was outside, waiting to pick up his son and take him back home. And Étienne knew what he'd be doing at home. Right after his homework was done, he was expected to help his grandfather make wine. Gastion had seen something in his grandson that he liked very much indeed. Even though Rémy had initially become an environmental graduate student to help his father with the family vineyards back in France, almost all of his learning was useless in the United States. The soil was different, the standards were different, the techniques were different. Besides, as Rémy pointed out, he didn't even have a degree now. And in any case, he was doing well enough at the hospital that he didn't want to leave his job.

So now Gastion was pouring his hopes and dreams for his new vineyard into his grandson. And Étienne had proved a most willing listener.
They had spent many a night in the garden, looking over the fruit trees that Kim Chong Shin Yi had planted so long ago. Gastion was pleased with them. They were good plants, he said. But, he insisted, the best fruit in the world was in Champs Les Sims. And he fully intended to go back there … and he wanted his grandson with him.

Xiu, predictably enough, was not sold on the idea.
But Gastion persisted. There was no real excuse for Étienne not to go—he was a straight A student and he had no other responsibilities. Besides, France was his heritage, and he should see his homeland. Eventually, Xiu ran out of excuses, and Gastion won. Étienne would get to go.

When Gastion mentioned off-handedly that Layla was coming too, Xiu could do little besides sigh.
"Calme-toi, ma cheré," Rémy chuckled when she told him. "It will be fine. My father will keep him out of any trouble. Étienne should get to see more of the world while he is young. It may be more difficult for him when he becomes older and has responsibilities."

"Yeah, but—"
"And remember, we all sleep in the same room. If three people leave, it is more time for us to spend together alone."

… well, she couldn't deny that, could she.

For some time, Mei had been rushing home right after work and spending an unusual amount of time prettying up before running off to the stadium. She'd even cut her spiral curls down to a shaggy bob, a drastic move that left her sister speechless.

At first Xiu suspected that it had something to do with her latest undercover assignment—Mei was working at the stadium, trying to catch another smuggler—but she soon found out that she was quite wrong.
No, the real issue was that there was a hotshot rookie on the team whom Mei suspected of being on the take, and in her efforts to stay close to him, she was falling hard. Like a stone in a pond.

Mei was a good cop and no one's fool, but she was still human, and Luther Ybarra was seriously attractive.
"Am I lonely?" Mei wondered aloud. "Or just stupid? C'mon, sis, tell me I'm stupid."

"You're stupid."
"Yeah, right. I'm not stupid. I'm freakin' brilliant. Damn it … why the hell can't he just be a dumb jock? I could ignore him if he was just another meathead. But nooooo … he's gotta be smart. And hot. Why the hell is he so hot?"

"You really want love advice from me?"

"No, I do not. I want Luther Ybarra to transfer to another city. Or get injured so he can't play. Or to just … get a girlfriend so I can stop staring at him!"
But Luther wasn't getting any girlfriends. If anything, the interest between him and Mei was completely mutual, and he certainly encouraged her attention, something Mei gave to him readily. Xiu thought that they were rushing things, and wondered if her sister might be nursing a broken heart again once the investigation concluded.

Mei told her sister to keep her opinion to herself. She was a big girl, she could handle this.
Ever since the investigation had begun months ago, Mei's hours had been erratic. Now that the sting was drawing to its inevitable end, she was out all night, dragging home around 3 a.m., falling asleep at odd times of day, jumping awake at the vibration of her beeper.

One night she left the house abruptly at 10 p.m. and didn't return.
She wasn't there when Xiu woke up at 6 a.m., and she didn't reappear until late evening. But she was beaming.

"Lemme guess," Xiu said as she sat down at the table with a cup of cocoa. "You caught your suspect?"

"Huh? … oh yeah, we caught that dumb bunny last night. But check this out!" And she proudly showed off her left hand. Xiu stared.

"Sis! … really?"

"But … you didn't tell anyone …"

"No, why should I? He wanted to get married and so did I, and neither one of us wanted a big ceremony, so we just got our rings and did it as soon as City Hall opened!"
Xiu scrutinized her younger sister's face and saw little but honest joy. It was probably no coincidence that Mei had gotten married while their very particular mother was overseas.

Still, there was nothing to complain about, she supposed. Mei was grown—"damn grown," as she liked to put it during arguments—and she was an intelligent woman, not to mention entirely unsentimental. If she wanted to get married to a guy whom she had only met four months ago, that was her call.
"You're damn right it's my call. And just so you know, I'm movin' in with him as soon as I get my next paycheck. So when Mom comes back and asks where I am, you can tell her I'm over at the Parkwest Arms with Luther. And if she doesn't like it, she needs to stay the hell away."

"I'll … make sure to tell her so."

"You're back!" Coretta shouted as Étienne pulled into the tiny parking lot at school. ""Tell me about France! How was it?"

"Eh …" Étienne shrugged. He was more interested in talking to Coretta about going to prom, but she cut that off pretty fast.
"I wish I could go overseas! But I can't go anywhere, my god, not even to the movies. Mom says we're too broke. There's no way I'm gonna make prom, we can't afford it."

"Oh," Étienne murmured, disappointed. But Coretta was already smacking his shoulders eagerly. "But don't worry about that! Tell me about all the cool stuff you did in France!"
"I didn't really do anything super cool," he protested. "My dad's dad took my mom's mom to a winery, and she hated it and complained the whole time, he said. So after that, we left her at the hotel when we went out and got samples of grapevines. That was pretty much it for ten days."

"That's it?" Coretta wailed. "Aww, man!"
"I told you, we didn't do anything super-fun! It was business!"

"But it's France! It's romantic!"

"No, it wasn't. It was dirty and the food tasted weird and everyone wore way too much perfume. Look, I don't really wanna keep going on about it. If you can't go to prom with me, will you at least go on a date with me on prom night?"

"But I can't afford—"

"My treat."

She sighed, but she was blushing.
Finally she mumbled, "Sure," and ran away, her blond ponytails flying wildly behind her.

Layla did have something to say about her younger daughter's lightning courtship, and she was absolutely unrestrained in her rudeness. Mei listened to it as long as she could stand before hanging up and tossing her phone into the spare bedroom.

"Who was that, babe?" Luther called from the living room.
Mei got two beers, one for each of them, and joined him on the couch. He watched television while she stared off at nothing.

"… a telemarketer," she sighed.

~ to be continued

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5 Comment(s) so far

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#1fredbrennyOct 29, 2012

Loved it... Again... \:D When is this family getting their privacy? I am not at all surprised they are all kind of screwed up \;\)

Great legacy though. Will the blond stay? I will patiently wait for the next part.
Thanks April, you are such a gifted writer \:wub\:

#2martoeleOct 29, 2012

\:D A telemarketer... what a name to call your mother! Good for Mei! Finally found someone and made use of the correct moment (without mom).
So Xiu had to accept the inevitable; with the loss of the trailer she couldn't do otherwise. Anyway, dad will stay alive in her heart... \:\)
I'm curious to find out how Etienne will grow up.
Very nice update as usual! \:wub\: Tell me, where do you find the time to do everything you're doing lately?!

#3fruitopiaVIPOct 30, 2012

I liked that a "telemarketer"

#4spitzmagicNov 2, 2012

Great chapter April. I loved it as always. They grow up fast don't they. \:D Good for Mei, I can't help but wonder if there is something else going on in her mind.

#54everluvedNov 6, 2012

I have a feeling mei and he new husband are going to get divorced soon...\;\)

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