Contest #91 winner 🏆

Autumn Rain

Submitted into Contest #91 in response to: Set your story in a library, after hours.... view prompt

413 comments

Fiction East Asian Sad

Trigger warning: Talk of self-harm and suicide


Have you ever had this feeling? Like you’re a helium balloon with your string cut. A rotting piece of wood adrift in the vast ocean.

Does saying it like that make me sound too pretentious? Thinking I’m some kind of literary youth. Of course I’m not. I’m just sad. Sad people tend to be under the impression that they’ve been possessed by Li Bai and suddenly know the gruesome secrets of the universe through a few lines of poetry.

Second year of university; my life is great. All the sad things from the past can be thrown to the back of the mind.

So, my life isn’t sad.

I’m sitting in the library after hours because it’s raining outside and the librarian feels sorry for me.

Lin Yu. My name.

In Chinese, it’s written like 林雨. The first character is my surname – it means woods. The second character means rain. Don’t know whether my parents did this intentionally, but if you add three dots to the first character, make it 淋雨, and it means getting rained on.

The pronunciation is the same.

My brother’s name is Lin Qiu, written like 林秋 – the second character means autumn. Our names put together are autumn rain. Quite poetic, isn’t it? But it still makes me wonder why my parents couldn’t have just had one son named Lin Qiu Yu, rather than fracturing the name over two children.

Because what happens when one is left without the other?

Autumn rain paints an image of people walking with colourful umbrellas across a scenery of red, orange and yellow leaves.

Rain on its own is only grey.

The library was my brother’s favourite place. The librarian also let him stay after hours. It was because she liked him in the way of a favoured son. Not because she pitied him. Well, maybe she did when she learned that he had to give up dancing to take care of our mum.

Stage three ovarian cancer.

Why didn’t our dad take care of her? Why didn’t I?

Why him?

Dad didn’t think that work was more important than mum – he wasn’t that kind of person. It was just that someone needed to be working for the money.

I didn’t think that ballet was more important than mum – I’m not that kind of person. It was just that someone needed to be worthy of dreaming.

My brother – Ge’ge as I called him, had gripped me by the shoulders in the hallway of the hospital.

“Never give up on dancing, xiao’yu,” – it was a nickname; it meant little rain. “Please.”

“You’ll start dancing again when Ma’ma gets better, won’t you?” I said.

His face darkened, then he held my hand. “Come, it’s time to go home.”

I understand now that he didn’t think mum was going to get better. That he could have started dancing again. That there were more roads to dancing than professional.

But I pushed for that dream, our dream, until I lay each night with an aching body, but still dragged myself out of bed at four in the morning. Until the studio’s practice room became my almost-home, and the smell of sweat and huffs of exertion were perfume to my skin and music to my ears.

The rain beats louder on the glass. I look up at the highest shelf. I used to be able to put my leg up there. Bend my limbs in ways that would make you think they were made of rubber. Do you even have bones? People liked to ask me.

If I do that now I might pull a muscle and not be able to walk for a week.

My ballet teacher used to say: You don’t practise for a day and your body can feel it. You don’t practise for two days and you can feel it. You don’t practise for three days and everyone else can feel it.

My three days have piled into months by now.

My brother was always gentle. I was always getting hurt.

“It’s all right, just squeeze my hand. It’ll be over in a few seconds.”

My eyes were already blurry with tears and my throat raw with swallowed screams. I could bear injuries. One time, I danced an entire concert with a fractured ankle. But for some reason, the moment my brother appeared before me, my cheeks gave way to rivers.

The doctor snapped my knee back into place and I cried into my brother’s chest for fifteen minutes.

“好了好了哭出来就好,回家哥哥给你做好吃的。” It’s okay, it’s good to cry it out, when we go home, Ge’ge will make you something delicious.

我想哥哥做的糖醋排骨了。

I miss the sweet and sour ribs that Ge’ge made.

I find that I’ve been thinking in Chinese more and more nowadays. Probably because I miss him. Miss how him and mum used to yammer at each other in Shanghainese. He spoke to me in Shanghainese on occasions.

I understand it, but I never learned how to speak it.

That’s not what I’m sad about.

I pick up a book and try to read, but the lighting is too dim, and the words are just a blur of black.

“Yu,” the librarian says. “The rain has stopped.”

“Thanks,” I say, picking up my bag.

Maybe she sees some tears in my eyes, or maybe I just look sad. “Are you okay?” she asks.

I smile. “I’m good,” I reply. “Thanks for asking.”

The pavement has been washed clean. Are you okay? Can that question really change things? Is saving a life truly one question away?

If so, I should have asked. Should not have assumed that my brother would be fine after mum was cancer-free. That under his long sleeves in summer there was smooth skin. That in his heart, there wasn’t an invisible darkness.

Perhaps his name even foretold it. Add a heart, 心, xin, under the character for autumn, 秋, qiu, and it becomes 愁, chou – to worry. When worry builds up, the weight is crushing. Even when that worry isn’t needed anymore.

All Ge’ge had done was worry. Worry about mum and her possible relapse. Worry about dad and the stress of his work. Worry about me.

哥哥最疼我了。

Ge’ge was the one who cared for me the most.

疼, teng, on its own means hurt, pain, but you add 我, wo – me, and it becomes to be looked after, cared for. 

心疼, xin’teng. The first character is heart. The second character is hurt. It means to care about a person, feel that twinge in the heart when they are in pain.

I care so much that my heart hurts for you.

My heart hurts for him now, but he’s gone.

I stopped dancing because the dream had shattered. It can’t be our dream anymore. Because he’s gone.

Dead.

Left the world, not with the comfort of being held, but with his final breath entrusted in a blade about to cause the most irreversible of damages. A cut can heal. A deeper cut can scar. But there is a point where deep becomes too deep.

No amount of stitches and bandages can piece it back together. No amount of ‘are you okays’ and ‘I love yous’ can fix anything now. You are not alone. I am here for you. You are loved. More than you will ever know.

哥哥,就让我疼疼你吧。

Ge’ge, just let me care for you. 

It starts raining again, and I stand there. Being rained on.

I close my eyes and listen to it. I think of autumn with its red, orange and yellow. My body moves with the rain as my music. My muscles are stiff, but my limbs remember the thirteen years of aches and sweat masked to move in a way that makes my body into art.

My heart hurts. Because I hurt. And I dance. Because I love.

Arms batting the rain. Reaching out for an umbrella, a warm body, someone to hold me in the rain.

你说你是哥哥我是弟,你要为我遮风挡住雨

You say you are the older brother and I am the younger brother, so you will block me from the wind, and shield me from the rain.

你说你是哥哥我是弟,我也为你遮风挡住雨

You say you are the older brother and I am the younger brother, so I too will block you from the wind, and shield you from the rain.

Because when I dance, I don’t dance about autumn, I don’t dance about the rain.

I dance about autumn rain.              

April 29, 2021 10:29

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413 comments

Yolanda Wu
10:38 Apr 29, 2021

For anyone wondering who Li Bai is - he was a very famous Chinese poet. I wrote this story in one sitting, and kept adding bits to it a day or so later. I really wanted to post this week, because I felt like I haven't in ages. Believe it or not, I gave writing in Chinese a shot, so this story is kinda a translated version of the Chinese one - although that one is a lot longer. I know I touch on some heavy topics in this story, so if anyone wants to talk about it, I'm open for a chat. I still wanted to have some Chinese in the story, hop...

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Hallie Blatz
15:56 May 07, 2021

I don’t know Chinese and I loved it! It made the story more real!

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Yolanda Wu
23:50 May 07, 2021

Thank you, Hallie!

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Mark Jose
07:19 May 08, 2021

That was a great story, Yolanda. I'm also learning to be a good novel and short story writer. I would love to learn from you and also to be friends with you. With your consent I would like to have your contacts. Thank you.

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Karen Kinley
15:06 May 08, 2021

I don't know Chinese either, but I loved the way it was sprinkled into this haunting story. You explained what needed to be explained, and let some of the Chinese characters sit there for the reader to interpret. I thought the blend was perfect. My heart hurt so bad for your main character by the end. Every image was woven perfectly and told the story without a bunch of explanations that so many stories are plagued with. Beautiful piece. Deserved win!

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Yolanda Wu
00:00 May 09, 2021

Thank you so much, Karen! My heart was definitely hurting too when I was writing this story.

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Tessa Synder
19:38 May 18, 2021

awwww, same!

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Ellie Yu
13:32 Apr 29, 2021

Oh no... ouch. I definitely teared up by the end. I really can’t say enough good things about this story. I’m a Chinese-American young woman - who has a fondness for Mandarin scattered throughout English - so it especially hit hard for me. You captured so many bits of the culture incredibly well: 哥哥, 妈妈, offering food as a comfort tactic. All of it feels so loyal and true to real life. I absolutely love the tie-ins to other Chinese characters too. It’s a funny language. (I created my pen name with the meaning of ‘jade’ in mind, but without...

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Yolanda Wu
22:55 Apr 29, 2021

Thank you so much, Ellie! You give such high praise, I don't know what to say, you're too sweet. I'm Chinese-Australian, and recently I've been getting more into Chinese because I finished Chinese school, so I don't have the stress and pressure of tests and stuff. Haha, I didn't even notice that the offering food as a comfort tactic displayed the Chinese culture, it's just what I've grown up with. Thanks again for reading and leaving such a thoughtful comment. :)

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Anura Jayalath
12:00 May 14, 2021

it is a great story

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Anura Jayalath
12:00 May 14, 2021

it is a great story

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Yolanda Wu
00:10 May 15, 2021

Thank you, Anura!

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Ellie Yu
15:41 May 07, 2021

Oh my god I’m thrilled! Congrats, congrats, congrats, I cant say it enough! Such a deserved win.

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Yolanda Wu
00:21 May 08, 2021

Thank you so much, Ellie! I'm still reeling in this! It feels surreal. There has been a lot of silent screaming!

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Kristin Neubauer
12:25 Apr 30, 2021

Oh Yolanda! This is extraordinary - I have chills all over. There is such poetry and poignancy and philosophy in this story. I love all your work but this has affected me like nothing else so far. That narrator feels so real to me that I felt like he should have been in front of me when I finished reading. I also found such depth in the introduction of the Chinese characters and explanations that were sprinkled throughout. I loved it all, but this line in particular: “ My ballet teacher used to say: You don’t practise for a day and your...

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Yolanda Wu
23:51 Apr 30, 2021

Aww, thank you so much, Kristin! You thinking it's a winner already means so much to me, it doesn't matter if I actually win or not. I'm glad you picked out that line, because that was something that was actually said to me by my ballet teacher. Even though I don't have any plans for being a professional ballet dancer, ballet has been an important passion in my life. I'm glad you found Lin Yu to be real, he's certainly one of those characters that I just wanna protect. Thanks again for reading!

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Kristin Neubauer
23:58 Apr 30, 2021

I’ve been quoting that line to my friends all day - everyone loves it. It is going into a lot of quote books over here. Such inspiration!

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Yolanda Wu
00:31 May 01, 2021

Ahh! That makes my day! My ballet teacher deserves the credit though, haha. :)

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Yolanda Wu
11:11 May 21, 2021

Hi Kristin! I managed to post a story this week, would love if you checked it out. :)

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Neomi Shah
12:06 May 10, 2021

I absolutely loved your story. Such a heartbreaking tale that it almost brought tears to my eyes (and I rarely cry while reading). The poetic approach of the story and the addition of the Chinese words was really beautiful. "I care so much that my heart hurts for you"- wow. This line hit me so hard. There are so many feelings and emotions wedged in just this one sentence. "My heart hurts. Because I hurt. And I dance. Because I love." This line represents hope to me that although she is hurt and broken, she is healing. It shows the power of ...

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Yolanda Wu
02:28 May 11, 2021

Thank you so much for reading, Neomi! I'm glad that you picked up the idea of hope in this story, because as much as it's sad, I didn't want it to be completely hopeless.

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Scout Tahoe
01:32 May 08, 2021

Beautiful in its own unique way. I’m so glad you won—you deserve it. I was on the verge of tears and I didn’t even know Chinese! (Not like it mattered, I understood it all.) Congrats!

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Yolanda Wu
01:57 May 08, 2021

Thank you so much, Scout! I'm so glad my story has resonated with people who don't know the language, that's what I was aiming for!

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Maya W.
16:22 May 07, 2021

OMG YOLANDA YOU WON! I'M SO SORRY I DIDN'T READ THIS EARLIER, BUT AHHHH THAT'S SO AWESOME, I'M SO PROUD! Okay, I'll read over this later with feedback, sorry I didn't before. Expect my feedback soon! Oh, and I plan on posting a story in verse in a little while!

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Maya W.
16:34 May 07, 2021

Okay, posted!

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Yolanda Wu
00:15 May 08, 2021

Thank you! I'll be looking forward to your story. :)

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Chacko Stephen
16:10 May 07, 2021

This was the first story I have ever read on this platform, and I am already in love with this place. It was beautiful. Sad, yet strangely beautiful. Some lines just pull at the heartstrings so hard. Beautiful imagery, beautiful storytelling, such well-made characters- this story was perfect in all possible aspects. I absolutely loved it. Amazing job- it thoroughly deserved that prize. And I know this is out of context, but I love rains so much <3 "Autumn rain paints an image of people walking with colourful umbrellas across a scenery of re...

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Yolanda Wu
00:19 May 08, 2021

Thank you so much, Chacko! I'm so honoured that this was the first story you read on here!

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Rachel Smith
15:26 May 07, 2021

This is so beautiful. I love the seemless inclusion of Mandarin which was very interesting and powerful. I felt like I was swept away into the story. Annoyed I haven't come across you before, now I can't wait to read more of your stories!

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Yolanda Wu
00:22 May 08, 2021

Thank you so much, Rachel! I'm glad the inclusion of Mandarin was effective. :)

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Kristin Neubauer
15:25 May 07, 2021

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! If you hadn't won, something would have been seriously wrong!

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Yolanda Wu
00:23 May 08, 2021

Thank you so much, Kristin! I'm still freaking out, I honestly don't even know what to say. This feels like a dream. I can't thank you enough for being with me since the beginning, encouraging me, and leaving the nicest comments. :)

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Kristin Neubauer
13:45 May 08, 2021

It is so interesting and exciting to see the evolution of your writing....you've done amazing work right from the first story I read. But I feel like I'm seeing some different work come out of you in the past few months and it's really stunning. Keep it up!

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Yolanda Wu
00:21 May 09, 2021

Yeah, I think I've been going more into the literary sphere with my stories here on Reedsy. It's probably because I've been writing a fantasy novel, so writing a short story in the literary style can offer as a bit of a break.

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Jade Young
16:31 May 01, 2021

This is such a touching and heartbreaking story. I love how you wove the mandarin and english together. it added so much symbolic impact to the story in ways i cant even begin to express. your descriptions and the expert way you broke the protagonist's grief into sections that both evoked the emotions they were feeling and provided an explanation as to just how much the older brother sacrificed for his family, only to be taken away from them--from the MC--is so sad. the pacing, structure and descriptions woven into the plot are so expertly e...

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Yolanda Wu
00:36 May 02, 2021

Thank you so much, Jade! Your feedback is so detailed, I'm really touched. I'm glad the story resonated with you, it really was a whirlwind to write.

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Shea West
16:34 May 07, 2021

This was such a unique story, and it held my attention it most tender of ways. The pace of weaving the two languages together felt patient for me the reader, which I loved. I felt like you were teaching me in the same way that perhaps you were taught about the language, and how the meaning can change with the simple addition of a new character. You explored family dynamics in such a profound way. Congratulations on this win, it's well deserved!

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Yolanda Wu
00:25 May 08, 2021

Thank you so much, Shea! I read your winning story and was astonished by your story and writing. I'm so humbled to receive your comment.

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Shea West
00:52 May 08, 2021

You're so incredibly kind! I appreciate the read and that you took the time to give feedback

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Yolanda Wu
00:53 May 08, 2021

You're welcome! Thank you for doing the same for me. :)

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Reika Saitou
16:23 May 07, 2021

This story is absolutely amazing. I teared up a little near the end but I definitely understand why you won.

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Yolanda Wu
00:25 May 08, 2021

Thank you for reading, Reika!

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Carla Ward
16:06 May 07, 2021

Beautiful, lyrical, poetic, and even informative as the meaning of the Chinese characters is explained and woven into this wonderful, bittersweet story. I loved this. We never meet Lin Qiu, but we come to know him and their family through his brother the narrator. That last passage after so much sadness offers hope, and I liked that, too. It's not all desolation. Out of the rain something new may grow.

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Yolanda Wu
00:27 May 08, 2021

Thank you so much, Carla! I'm glad I constructed Lin Qiu well through the narrative, and that the ending was hopeful! We don't want it to be all doom and gloom.

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15:59 May 07, 2021

deserved win! this is a fantastic, touching story; and the little touches of the characters wrapped it in a beautiful bow. great job.

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Yolanda Wu
00:27 May 08, 2021

Thank you, Kate!

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Luis Medina
15:47 May 07, 2021

well deserved win, CONGRATS!!

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Yolanda Wu
00:28 May 08, 2021

Thank you, Luis!

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Echo Sundar
15:39 May 07, 2021

Wow. Good job! This story was amazing. I've read some of your other stories all of which were astounding so when I saw you on the board I knew I needed to read it. Amazing descriptions, absolutely perfect!

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Yolanda Wu
00:28 May 08, 2021

Thank you so much, Echo!

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Radhika Diksha
15:16 May 07, 2021

Finally, you won. Omg, so excited for you. Yes, you deserved it for such a long time. This story deserved. COngratulations.

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Yolanda Wu
00:30 May 08, 2021

Thank you so much, Radhika! You've been one of my really good friends on here, I can't believe I've won! Your support means so much to me. :)

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Sharmishtha Saha
15:10 May 07, 2021

Congratulations buddy. Great story.

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Yolanda Wu
00:30 May 08, 2021

Thank you, Sharmishtha!

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Amiah Jared
17:59 May 06, 2021

I can't express how real this seemed. I know this story is less than 3,000 words, but you've created lives and characters that are realistic and human and completely emotionally relatable. It's clear that, as a reader, these aren't just words on a page. Thank you for reminding us the importance of kindness and love, and happy writing <3

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Yolanda Wu
21:10 May 06, 2021

Thank you so much, Amiah!

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