Contest #91 winner 🏆

Autumn Rain

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

430 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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430 comments

Anupriya ___
03:50 May 10, 2021

I am so blown away by this one!! The haunting tone was so so fitting and you just penned down the information that needed to be penned down; I didn't know anything about the MC other than he was sad, learned ballet at some point and has an older brother, and thats more than all I needed to know. Truly deserved win :))

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Yolanda Wu
04:52 May 10, 2021

Thank you so much, Anupriya!

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Veda Vivek💎
00:56 May 10, 2021

Beautiful writing! Well deserved win! :)

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Yolanda Wu
01:09 May 10, 2021

Thank you!

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Veda Vivek💎
01:13 May 10, 2021

Your words have this depth in them that is wonderful, and I wish I could write like that, but alas, I cannot :)

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Yolanda Wu
02:11 May 10, 2021

Aw, don't get down about your writing. There's always room for improvement!

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Veda Vivek💎
00:42 May 11, 2021

Thanks :)

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20:34 May 09, 2021

Oh my! A win! Impressive and totally deserved it! Man, I can now say I've had a conversation with a winner before they were a winner. Congrats, Yolanda!

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Yolanda Wu
22:19 May 09, 2021

Haha, thank you so much for reading, Em!

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14:58 May 10, 2021

:D

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Blueberry Elf
19:26 May 09, 2021

wow. i dont even know what else to say, this is an incredible story! truly so beautiful and moving and so so deeply touching. I absolutely love this story. it was really beautiful how you added Chinese into it, truly fascinating! this story definitely deserved the win. beautiful work Yolanda

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Yolanda Wu
22:18 May 09, 2021

Thank you so much!

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Krisha Gautam
17:06 May 09, 2021

I wrote a long review but then I realised that words can't justify what I feel right now, so I'm just gonna say these two things; beautiful and a well-deserved win. PS: This is not a review; I saw you won this contest so I thought I'd give it a read. Best decision made.

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Yolanda Wu
22:17 May 09, 2021

Thank you so much, Krisha!

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Black Swan20
13:23 May 09, 2021

Woah, this story gave me chills. It's awesome. The description the suspense and everything. You drew me into the world of the character. it was superb

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Yolanda Wu
22:17 May 09, 2021

Thank you so much!

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Yvone Mthembu
12:53 May 09, 2021

Loved it and it's great to see your language I've tried the pronounciations bitting my younger there and then but it was emotional and neatly woven.Congrats once more

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Yolanda Wu
22:16 May 09, 2021

Thank you for reading, Yvone. :)

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12:05 May 09, 2021

The story telling was so beautiful. I could feel my heart hurt a bit along with the main character. The pain of losing someone, mental health, chasing dreams, a sick family member, you covered so many things but the story wasn't crowded and instead it flowed so nicely. Congratulations on winning!

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Yolanda Wu
22:16 May 09, 2021

Thank you so much, Giselle!

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Chloe Khaoya
06:33 May 09, 2021

I entered this competition and I didn't stand a chance against this story. After reading it I've learned so much about writing. They teach it at school wrong. Thanks

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Yolanda Wu
08:28 May 09, 2021

Thank you for reading, Chloe! Don't get down about your own writing. I really never thought I stood a chance against all the talented writers here on Reedsy either, it's all about the experience. Creative writing is a hard one to teach, you kinda just gotta figure it out yourself. Good luck!

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Sherry Monfils
23:55 May 08, 2021

I forgot to mention in total about the Chinese characters. They were not frustrating to me. I always love learning new things and language is 1 of them. The symbols really got me looking at them and wow after u explained, it just fit perfectly. Again, thank you!

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Yolanda Wu
00:25 May 09, 2021

You're welcome! I love languages too, and I'm glad I could teach some people about it in this story.

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Sherry Monfils
23:51 May 08, 2021

You are truly a story teller, in any language. But adding your own language, the symbols & what they meant...what an added bonus! My 14 yr old granddaughter is trying to learn Korean & she is Hispanic, French, Italian & Blackfoot Indian, ( or as the chief of the nearby Nipmuck tribe said to us 1 day @ a powwow, " We are all mutts today w/ the exception of maybe very few Asian entities." She wants to learn Korean..guess why? BTS...lol. I digress, so sorry! When you wrote, " all the sad things in the past can be thrown to the back of the mi...

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Yolanda Wu
00:31 May 09, 2021

I'm so sorry for what happened to your granddaughter, I really hope she's doing okay. I wish I had the time to learn Korean because I totally want to! It's because of BTS as well... You sound like a wonderful grandmother, thank you for sharing your story with me. I'm privileged that my story conjured visuals in your mind, thank you so much for reading. :)

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Sherry Monfils
01:30 May 15, 2021

Yolanda, it was MY pleasure!

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Sherry Monfils
01:30 May 15, 2021

Yolanda, it was MY pleasure!

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Sherry Monfils
01:30 May 15, 2021

Yolanda, it was MY pleasure!

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Stephanie Sferco
23:30 May 08, 2021

Wow that was an amazing story. I absolutely love this. I definitely felt the pain.

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Yolanda Wu
11:12 May 12, 2021

Thank you for reading, Stephanie!

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Finally you won one, i waited forever.

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Yolanda Wu
00:05 May 09, 2021

Haha, yay! Thanks for reading my stories, Celeste!

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Thank you for being one of the first to acknowledge meeee!

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Yolanda Wu
04:29 May 09, 2021

You're welcome! Anytime. :)

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Bella Rodriguez
18:46 May 08, 2021

Wow that was absolutely beautiful. Your writing skills are extremely impressive. You totally deserved the win!

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Yolanda Wu
00:05 May 09, 2021

Thank you for reading, Bella!

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Alison Brewis
17:05 May 08, 2021

Well done on the win! I loved the Chinese language stuff, such an interesting language.

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Yolanda Wu
00:04 May 09, 2021

Thank you, Alison! I think all languages are beautiful in their own way, I'm glad I could convey that in my story.

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K A
16:46 May 08, 2021

This is such a beautiful story! I’m a huge fan of poetry woven into short stories. The deep and raw emotions that are involved in this story have been so well portrayed. Congratulations on your win - you thoroughly deserve it!

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Yolanda Wu
00:03 May 09, 2021

Thank you so much! I love poetry woven in stories as well. :)

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Richard Hawkins
16:17 May 08, 2021

I am not Chinese but, the depth of your love in this story goes beyond where you are from and straight to the heart. I lost my sister and my brother in law to covid 19 I know the feel of lost. the piece of you that is tied together by your love from someone when they are gone. thank you for the story

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Yolanda Wu
00:02 May 09, 2021

I'm so sorry for your loss, Richard. I hope you are doing okay. I've never lost someone close to me in such a way, so I hope I portrayed it realistically.

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Writer Maniac
15:00 May 08, 2021

Oh my god. This story is a masterpiece. It just left me reeling. I don't think we've talked to each other before, but I've been following your work for a while, and I'm so glad that you finally won. Grief and pure love pours from every word in both languages, and I was so immersed in it. The ambience you created was perfection. A very well deserved win, congrats.

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Yolanda Wu
23:59 May 08, 2021

Thank you so much for such a thoughtful comment! The support I've been receiving is honestly overwhelming.

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Writer Maniac
02:28 May 09, 2021

You deserve all of it :)

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13:20 May 08, 2021

Congratulations on the win! Well deserved.

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Yolanda Wu
00:06 May 09, 2021

Thank you so much!

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21:31 May 09, 2021

No problem!

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Prix Sxnpai
12:30 May 08, 2021

I love this story! I also loved that you add so much detail to every part. I’m a Chinese-American currently in 8th grade, my writing teacher told me to write a story for a project. I didn’t really know how to add details to my story, after reading your story it gave me many ideas.

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Yolanda Wu
12:35 May 08, 2021

I'm glad I was able to help!

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