Saturday, December 28, 2013

Generation 2: Xiu Shin Yi

"Is this Xiu Shin Yi?"

"Yes, it is."

"Good evening, Ms. Shin Yi. I trust I'm not interrupting anything pressing?" 

Xiu wondered to herself how her boss's boss had gotten her number, but just as quickly decided that she didn't want to know. "Good evening, Mr. Angelo. It's okay, I  just finished dinner." 

"Ah, guess my timing was spot on then!" Mr. Angelo's voice dropped to a whisper. "We just got a hint that there's a planned protest tomorrow at City Hall, and that it involves more than one of our clients. We'd like someone to keep an eye on the situation if possible. You're young enough to blend in with the crowd, would you mind keeping an eye on things?"

When she didn't answer immediately, the executive continued, "I would consider this a personal favor."

A personal favor for one of the few people who was actively making a difference in the company. Promotions were hard to come by at Murchison & Yost. More than one person in Xiu's department hadn't received a raise for years. The man certainly knew how to push the right buttons. 

Xiu said that she would go. Her parents certainly weren't getting any younger, and she needed the money. She couldn't depend on anyone else to take care of her.

The next morning she struggled to wake up on time. Her phone alarm rang six times before she budged. She staggered out of bed, wandering around the house, looking for her clothes.

"Whoa there, cowgirl!"

That was Mei, happy and cheerful and clearly much more alert than she was. "Girl, where the hell are you goin' half-naked? Somebody needs coffee."

"I gotta get up to City Hall," Xiu protested, and nearly split her head with a yawn.

"You go up there like that and I'll be hauling you away in cuffs for indecency! And you know what kind of prudes we got here in town. Coffee. Now." She steered Xiu in the general direction of the small counter bar.

"Prudes," Xiu mocked as she accepted a warm mug. "Speaking of prudes, what's this I hear about you and your random public make-out sessions?"

"How the hell do I know? I don't know what you hear," Mei said, and stuck her tongue out in a show of indifference. 

Despite her job with the police force, Mei was not restrained in the least from flirting, and not necessarily with just men—rumors swirled wildly about her indiscriminate taste. Xiu didn't believe some of the wilder stories, but still … well, she wasn't one to judge, but Mei was … different than she was, to say the very least. And the difference didn't seem to bother Mei one bit.  

Sighing to herself, Xiu finished the coffee and got up to get dressed. 

She browsed the protest log, reading over the motivation behind the demonstration, and privately wondered if she might be out there herself if she wasn't a corporate employee. ... but no. She was an employee of Murchison & Yost, she had a job to do and a promotion to earn. She was going to do it.

Before she left, she spent a few moments of sitting alone on the couch to gather herself. It was hard to believe that four months had passed since she had been widowed. The stereo stood in the corner. No one had turned it on since that horrible day. It felt as though it had happened just a few days ago.

She had to stop thinking about it.

... how?


When she arrived at City Hall, Xiu quickly found that the social networking was no lie. The people were out in force, shouting slogans, angrily waving signs. The crowd noise was fierce, and she grew nervous. What if something happened? What if a riot broke out?

"The corporate culture is poisoning our food and our soil with their chemical sludge! Take back our farmland, tell Forthwith Pesticides we don't want them here!"

Forthwith Pesticides was not a client of Xiu's company just yet. Currently all the company handled was their accounting. But the executive group was pushing hard to bring Forthwith on board as a full client, and that meant everyone involved had to tread carefully, or risk torpedoing an account worth §50 million. Xiu observed what she could of the protest, snapped photos, took notes on her phone. She tried to look inconspicuous, and she nodded along with whatever anyone said directly to her. She was here to gather information, not argue. Eventually though, she had to walk away from the main mob to avoid being drawn into a shouting match between two splinter groups. Even in a protest, people couldn't agree.

She bumped into a firm body while still inputting information into her phone. "Excuse me," she said, without looking up.

"Bien sur."

That made her head snap up. Oh, god, not Pascal. Please not Pascal.

… no, not Pascal. 

She was silent for a moment before considering that this man might be able to give her some additional information. Quietly, she asked, "… so what's this protest all about?"

He looked back at her, and just as quietly answered in his strong accent, "Forthwith Pesticides is trying to establish a client base in this town, we have come to protest against it. The local government is holding an open hearing on the matter, but there was not enough room for all of us to enter the room. We're out here instead."

"Why are you protesting?"

"… of the past ten towns that Forthwith has claimed as a major client base, seven have had long-term soil sterility issues. Two become ghost towns after all of their topsoil blew away."

"Huh," Xiu said. He kept talking; she kept listening. 

She soon found that this man's name was Rémy Dutiel. He was a master's candidate of environmental science from La Université du Paris, and he happened to be visiting friends two towns over when this development broke. He was less interested in the monetary motivations of Forthwith Pesticides, far more concerned with how the soil would be replenished. Even though she knew little to nothing about agriculture, he spoke so knowingly on the topic that gradually Xiu grew more and more interested in what he had to say. The phone sat in her phone, utterly forgotten. 

When he offered her a drink ("It's so hot out here") she didn't even hesitate. The Watering Hole was selling two-for-one Negronis; Rémy brought one to her.

"Do you like it?"

"I don't know," Xiu said, honestly. "I've never had one before." She sipped. "Oooh, it's bitter. Tastes kind of like perfume. Weird."

He laughed. "Well, you're still drinking it. Does that mean you like it?"

"It means I'm probably a budding alcoholic."

He laughed again. She decided that she liked his smile. 

She continued to drink, and Rémy continued to talk. It wasn't long before she had completely lost the train of the conversation and soon found herself staring at his lips, completely fascinated by them. She wanted those lips.

… was she drunk?

With a start, she realized that she had been staring at him for too long. His smile was knowing. "You seem as though you would like to say something, Miss Xiu." 

… what was there to say?

Both protestors and corporate lobbyists were crowding their way into the bar, shattering the quiet atmosphere and spoiling the moment. Rémy took Xiu's hand and led her outside, where it had grown dark, seemingly in a heartbeat. The small park just a block away from the bar was silent and deserted, and he took her there, where they stood still for a moment and looked up into the night sky.

"You are … different," he finally murmured. "I know that you were not interested in what I had to say. And yet you listened to me all afternoon, even though you have your own troubles."

"I don’t mind listening," she said, just as softly.

He looked into her eyes again and smiled. "You seemed happier when we weren't talking so much."

When he lay her down in the bushes and slid between her thighs, she melted. All of the pain and numbness that she had carried—gladly—for the past four months, she laid aside and felt again. And oh, how Rémy made her feel. 

The moon crept upwards through the sky.


 Xiu's phone was ringing. The sound of the buzzing ringtone went through her head, unpleasantly. Getting up was a struggle, but she had to. Every time the phone stopped ringing, it just started again three seconds later.

 "… hello?"

"Ms. Shin Yi. Rough night?" 

That would be Mr. Angelo. She swallowed through a dry mouth.

"So, I hear you attended the protest, as requested." There was the sound of papers being rustled. "I also hear you got distracted, all on your own."


The voice instantly lost all trace of pleasantry. "Don't try to play dumb. You weren't exactly the only company employee we had out there. So would you care to update me on what you found out
—if anything—before you let yourself get carried away?"

Xiu fumbled through her phone's apps, finally finding her notes after two minutes of dead silence. She read them back verbatim, to the sound of yet more dead silence. Finally Mr. Angelo sighed. "As lovely as your narrative is, we already had all of that information available to us. So really, you turned out to be no better than a Facebook page."

"Mr. Angelo—" 

"Ms. Shin Yi. Do you understand what you've done? You were sent there to watch the protests and keep abreast of what people were saying, so that we could realistically report back to a future client about the possibility of them establishing a §50 million account here and creating actual jobs for once. And instead, you wander off with a tourist and miss all of the proceedings! You have completely undermined the duty and responsibility we have to this client to protect their interests. I have to make a report to the executives of Forthwith Pesticides in 48 hours. What am I going to tell them now? Any ideas that I can actually use?"

"… you could tell them about the soil sterility issues in the last towns that they established major accounts in."

"... excuse me?"

For the next ten minutes, Xiu repeated back what Rémy had said to her yesterday. Mr. Angelo, to his credit, didn't interrupt once, even though everything he was hearing was detrimental. When she finally fell silent, there was a long pause, even more tense than any of the previous ones.

"Unbelievable," he said at last. "Absolutely un-fucking-believable. I send you downtown to get information to help our client, and you've been completely converted to the other side."

"Isn't the long-term future of our town important?" Xiu said. She had a shaky feeling in the pit of her stomach.

"If I were you, I'd be more concerned about the future of your work prospects. You're fired, effective immediately. Your key card has been deactivated, so there's no need for you to return to the office.I'll have the contents of your cubicle shipped to your home address. And frankly, after word gets around that you managed to shutter over 150 potential jobs, you'll thank me for just firing you and not throwing you to the wolves, like I normally do when someone displays your level of incompetence." 

Perfect. Just perfect.

"… fine," she said and hung up. The room was spinning, and quite suddenly she found herself on her knees in front of the toilet. 

 It was the Negroni.  At least that was what she told herself.


A month elapsed in short order. 

Mei had a steady boyfriend now—at least, she hadn't dumped him within a week of meeting him. She had brought him home more than once, and both Kim Chong and Layla had met him. As usual, Kim Chong welcomed him with open arms, and Layla hung back a little. A lot, actually. She didn't care for this one in the least. But it didn't matter—Mei was as independent and stubborn as her mother had ever been. She was a Lufti through and through.

But if Layla couldn't get under Mei's skin about Judson, she certainly managed to do it by pestering Mei non-stop about her job on the police force. The shouting matches were truly something to behold.

"You are 25, and you have worked the same job for almost a year! No promotions, no raises? What do you do there, play with your phone? Do you actually do any work?"

"Really, Ma? How many times do I gotta tell you the same thing? Cops don't get regular raises, there's no money in the city budget for it! And I already told you what I do! I don't drive a desk, I get dirt on the street." 

"Dirt? Dirt? What does dirt have to do with you working a menial job that any fool could do? You were the valedictorian of your class, but now you spend all day on a street corner like a common whore?"

"Well, maybe I like what I do! Maybe I actively choose to do it, didja ever think of that? And I'm making honest money doing real work that keeps you safe at night, so maybe you oughta quit yer bitchin'.  Besides, it could always be worse. I could be knocked up like someone else we both know!"

Xiu put down her paintbrush and stared in the window. Her mother had stormed off. Mei was coming outside, smirking.

"… what the hell did you do that for?"

"What? You mad because I won?"

"Don't 'what' me! Why'd you bring up pregnancy? You know Mom's worried sick that you're going to—"

"She doesn't need to worry about me," Mei snapped, "she should be looking at you."

"… me?"

"Yup. There's a bun in that oven, sis."

Xiu stopped short. "... what ... but it can't be ..."

"The hell it can't! You've been throwing up every morning for two weeks straight? And suddenly you wanna eat hamburgers all the time now when you've never liked them before? ... hormonal cravings. And your boobs are too big for your bra, in case you hadn't noticed. So, yeah. You. Pregnant. Duh."

Xiu tried to say something further, but instead just burst into tears. Mei immediately tried to calm her down. 

"Hey, now … it's okay. Ma will be totally happy to have another kid running around the house, and you're her favorite, anyway. She's never going to complain about anything you do." 

This was cold comfort to Xiu: first widowed, then fired, and now a mother-to-be! How much further could things fall apart?


  1. Oh yes.... Remy Dutiel... I almost forgot about him.... Important man! It's getting more interesting every time! Thank you for the fast update.

  2. Rémy is exceptionally important! ;)