Submitted into Contest #27 in response to: Write a short story that ends with a twist.... view prompt



Yun Li watched at the door while her husband, Chao typed furiously away on the computer keyboard. If caught downloading these files, they would go to prison. Or worse.

If not so important, Yun Li never would have involved Chao. Her brilliant husband worked a good job at an electronics company, yet he risked everything to help prove a theory. Unfortunately, she acted like a dog with a bone and could not stop obsessing once the idea came into her head.

“How is it?” she asked anxiously, afraid the security guard they eluded would walk their way soon.

“I'm working as fast as I can,” he muttered, “these files are heavily encrypted for normal birth records.”

“I told you something is not right with all of this,” she whispered triumphantly. “I knew it from the moment I saw Jian.”

“You first thought I had cheated on you and gotten another woman pregnant,” Chao reminded her.

Yun Li shrugged. “A moment of jealousy. When one has a husband as handsome and charming as mine, there's bound to be some insecurity.”

Chao rolled his eyes.

“What matters is we'll know soon and then we'll have the proof to fix this horrible injustice.”

Her husband frowned. “I don't imagine it will be as easy as that.”

Yun Li gave him a small smile. “I just want my family whole again.”


Chao shook his head in resignation. People from other countries thought the Chinese man ruled his family with an iron fist. But his wife held the true power. Like most men, he knew upsetting his wife would upset the entire household and make life miserable for all of them. He was not a foolish man.

Information ran across the the screen and Chao smiled.

“I have your files,” he confirmed. “I need about three minutes to download all the information.”

“Good,” Yun Li breathed a sigh of relief. “We can get out of here. I think I saw—”

Suddenly she squeaked out a tiny sound of distress and ducked into the room.

“The guard is coming!” she announced. “What if he notices the light of the monitor?”

“I have the brightness turned down as low as it will go,” Chao protested. “If I put down the screen, it will close the computer and we'll be locked out. I 'll have to start all over again.”

“You don't remember the password?” she hissed, a bit accusatory.

“It was a complicated one, I didn't think we would need it twice. Now silence!”

They fell quiet, she, poised by the door crouched behind the coat stand, he by the desk, ducked down behind the chair. The security guard walked slowly by, flashing a light into the windows of the office, likely reassuring himself he was doing his job. He passed by without stopping and finished his sweep of the area, exiting on the elevator.

Yun Li and Chao both breathed out heavily when he finally left.

“So is it done?” she asked eagerly. He could tell she felt nervous and wanted to get out of there now.

“It's done,” he agreed, checking the progress and withdrawing the flash drive. He closed out of all of the files and left the computer on the password screen, just as it had been. “Shall we go?”


Yun Li felt her heart nearly beating out of her chest as they carefully opened the heavy door to the stairwell and eased their way inside. Earlier that day, she visited the building and jammed a piece of plastic into the exit door on the ground floor. This ensured they would have a way in and out of the building when they “broke in”. A small piece of colored tape over the alarm connection near the top of the door kept their presence from being immediately known. But the only way she managed to reach it without bringing a ladder and being caught was a pair of very high heels and a not-so-casual stretch.

Cameras hung everywhere, so she had made it look as natural as she could manage. Chao told her the male security guards would be looking at the line of her breasts, not paying attention to what she subtly did to the door. No one detained her, so she guessed he must have been right.

Their slippers hardly made a sound on the concrete steps as they descended to the bottom level. They stayed pressed up against the brick walls as much as possible, staying out of the camera's sight or keeping their faces hidden. The slow progress felt like forever, but they made it safely out of the building without being caught.

Once outside, they still needed to remain in the shadows to avoid the outside video as well. Since they had no car, they walked a safe distance away from the offices and flagged down a DiDi Chuxing to take them home. The car dropped them off after two o'clock in the morning. Yun Li felt exhausted, but she went to check on their fourteen year old daughter, Shu Lan the involuntary reason this whole mess started. The girl slept soundly.

Yun Li wanted to review the flash drive right away, but Chao refused to let her. With no strong argument to get her way, she gave in and they went directly to bed. Yun Li dreamed.

In her dream, she held her baby girl and was handed a second baby, a boy. She felt so proud to have twin children. Plus, she had given Chao a son to carry on his name. She gave birth during the time of the population control law of “One Child”. They agreed if they had a girl they would not spirit her away to an orphanage and try for another child. They would raise her with love. But having a son bore real importance on every man's pride, even if Chao refused to say so.

Now she had fulfilled her duty as a wife and as a mother.


“I'm taking the flash drive with me.”

“Why?!” Yun Li protested, frustrated. “I want to know the truth. I want to know, did they take one of my twins from me and give him to a rich family to raise?”

“If it is true, he's my child as well,” Chao reminded her, gratified when her face slumped guiltily. “We'll do this together, tonight.”

He kissed his wife and took his briefcase.

“Shu Lan!” he called to his daughter. “I'm leaving now if you want a ride to school.”

“Jian and I are riding the bus!” she called back.

Chao and Yun Li exchanged worried glances. “Tonight,” he promised her.

Traffic clogged the streets in a snarled mess as it always did, so Chao began working from the back of the car. He opened his laptop, entered in the passwords to get to his most recent project and began making minor adjustments to improve the final product. In his position, he developed technology for use in guidance systems for the military. The chips were very clever, containing thousands of terabytes of information on a two centimeter square. Chao counted himself lucky to have gotten the job he did back when he was fresh out of university. He started out entry level, but worked his way up to an executive designer. They could afford to raise two children on his income.

When Yun Li first came to him with the idea he might have a son, he scoffed at it, but still had a flicker of hope. He knew he never strayed from his wife, but before he met her perhaps, if they had mistaken the age....However, the boy was indeed fourteen and looked very much like Chao in his youth.

Then his wife came up with the idea of twins. She experienced only one pregnancy. If in her delirium, the doctor took one child from her and lied about it, she would never know. So, together they broke into her obstetrician's office. Chao was now as crazy as she.

But they needed to find out the truth.


Shu Lan came home from school humming a happy tune. Yun Li found herself surprised to hear it. Her daughter excelled as a bright student who enjoyed school, but she did not usually celebrate it.

“What has you so joyful, daughter?” she asked, smiling in response to the song. “Have you brought home good news?”

“I just had a nice day,” Shu Lan hedged, avoiding the answer. “It's nothing.” She escaped into her room and Yun Li soon heard the humming resume.

She decided she would let the girl have her secrets for now. It seemed only fair, as she and Chao hid some very important information from their child right now. They did it for her protection, but still it felt wrong to exclude Shu Lan. This secret affected her life as well. If she had a twin, her life would change drastically.

Yun Li began to cook dinner minutes before Chao came home from work. He looked exhausted, likely from their late-night excursion. Yun Li gave him a kiss and a glass of baijiu. He smiled gratefully for the alcohol and kissed her back. Content, she let him relax on the couch for a little while as she finished cooking.

Shu Lan appeared to set the table and welcomed her father home. He asked about school and Yun Li could swear her daughter blushed. They sat down as a family, though Yun Li felt eager to get the meal over with so she could review the flash drive with her husband.

“May I go to a badminton match on Saturday after classes?” Shu Lan asked unexpectedly, drawing both of her parents heads up from their food.

“With whom?” Chao inquired, ever the diligent father.

“Friends from school,” she answered vaguely.

“Do we know these friends?” Yun Li questioned.

“Yu Yan, Fei Hong, Biyu, Jian—”her daughter began, listing off her female friends and then sneaking in Jian's name.

“Is this a date?” Chao asked seriously. “You know Jian must ask for permission if he wishes to court you.”

“Father,” the girl grumbled. “You're so old fashioned.”

Chao exchanged a look with Yun Li. “You remember what I said. No dating until I speak with the boy, understand?”

Shu Lan gave an expression of appeal to her mother. Yun Li shook her head.

“Fine,” their daughter gave in, less than graciously.

For now, they would accept it.


“She's talking on the phone with her friends, probably telling them how mean and old-fashioned we are,” Yun Li reported, coming to Chao's side and smiling widely.

“It was all I could think to say in that moment,” Chao replied with a self-depricating shake of his head. “I sounded like my father.”

“Better to sound like your father, than for our daughter to mistakenly develop a crush on a boy who is her brother,” his wife consoled. She nudged his briefcase towards him. “Aren't you going to open that?”

“I thought perhaps we'd wait until Shu Lan goes to bed,” he countered. “I don't want her to become upset.”

“I have been waiting since last night to see this. No, I have been waiting since I saw the boy and realized he may be our son. I can't wait any longer.” She toed the briefcase again.

“Very well,” he capitulated with a sigh. He took out his laptop and set it on the low table next to couch. From his pocket, he withdrew the flash drive from the doctor's office. He turned on his system and booted everything up.

“How will we find it?” Yun Li wondered worriedly, once the flash drive began spitting information up on the screen. “There's so much to look through.”

“This is recently stored documentation,” Chao explained as he quickly scrolled past it. “We're looking for records dating back fourteen years. It'll take a moment to get to those.”

He could feel his wife squirming anxiously beside him and tried not to become annoyed by it. They shared an eagerness to figure this out. Both would need to learn a little patience for the process and each other.

“Here,” he found, finally. “Birth records from the year Shu Lan was born. If Jian is in here, he should be with these.”

The two of them searched together through page after page until finally, they found something even more indicting. One of the documents read, “Mother: Subject Miao”. As the last name could not be found commonly in the area, it raised their immediate interest.

“This is my record,” Yun Li asserted. “It even states, 'unusual birthmark shaped like shark, on left buttock'. That's me.”

Since Chao knew that birthmark intimately, he had to agree it did look very similar to the head of a shark. Though Chao and Shu Lan's surname was Fu, Yun Li kept her father's last name, Miao. The description, with the name seemed too fitting to be a coincidence.

“Yes,” he assented. “It's you.”

“'Baby gender: boy',” she read from the bottom. “No name assigned, only a number.”

“It's a cross-reference. There will be adoptive papers in here somewhere stating who took him.”

Chao stopped searching as he felt a hand on his arm. His wife sat crying, quiet tears. He took her into his arms.

“We have a boy, Chao,” she told him thickly. “Even if it's not Jian, we have a son somewhere.”

He stroked her long black hair. “Yes,” he soothed. “And we will find him, I promise you.”

After a few minutes, she composed herself and looked back at the computer. “I think I need a break from this. Do you think you could carry on without me for a little while?”

“I can wait until you're feeling up to it—” Chao started.

“No,” she interrupted, pleadingly. “Please continue to look. I wish to know, I just can't do this.”

He nodded as she rose and left to go to their bedroom. With a sigh, he turned back to the monitor. They had a son, now he only needed to track him down.


Hours later Yun Li carefully crept out into the living area to find her husband. The hour had grown late, yet he had not yet come to bed. She found him still sitting on the couch, staring at the computer screen.

“Chao?” she called softly to him. She hated to interrupt, but he needed his rest.

“I found the paperwork,” he replied, dully.

The tone in his voice worried her. She cautiously stepped closer. “What does it say?”

He looked up at her, a ravaged appearance on his face. He had been crying.

“Come here and look,” he invited.

He turned the laptop toward her as she came to sit gingerly beside him.

“These are the adoption papers for our baby?”

“I checked it repeatedly,” he assured her. “It is.”

“'Father's name: Jian Wei',” she read. She looked into her husband's dark eyes. “Just like the boy.”

“You were right,” Chao told her. “Now we must do something about it.”

“But, what?” she asked. She hadn't thought beyond proving the boy indeed belonged to them.

“I'll leak this to the papers and to the police,” Chao suggested. “An investigation will be done. Charges will be brought against the doctor.”

“He's still doing it,” she ventured.

“Yes. With twins. With single-birth children of lower income families. He tells the mother the child is still born. He must have some sort of arrangement with a hospital to further this lie. He sells boy children to wealthy families who can't have their own.”

Emotionally torn, Chao said, “Let's go to bed.”

They retired to their room and lay close together, holding each other.

It took a long time before either of them slept.


Ten days later, the story broke about the obstetrician who conned over a hundred women out of their babies and sold them to innocent adoptive parents who just wanted a child. Over the next six weeks, since the adoptions were proven to be illegal, children under the age of two went back to their birth parents while all other circumstances waited to be worked out between both sets of parents and the courts. Including Jian's case.

The day of Jian's custody hearing, Yun Li and Chao received service in another matter.

They were summoned to show up before a judge in the custody matter of Shu Lan Fu.

“I don't understand,” Yun Li protested. “Why should I fight for custody of my own daughter?”

Chao read the documents carefully and a single tear ran down his cheek. “You didn't give birth to twins, Yun Li, but to a boy child only. The doctor switched children and gave us another family's girl child, telling them she was stillborn. Shu Lan is not our natural child.”

“But she's mine!” Yun Li raged. “She nursed at my breast. She slept in my arms. She grew at my feet. They can't take my child from me!”

“And what of Jian?” he said softly. “What of his parents? Aren't you asking the same of them?”

“They adopted him falsely,” she spat angrily.

“And we were given a stolen child,” Chao returned. “Don't do this to Jian's family, I beg you. Let them keep their son. I want to keep our daughter.”

Yun Li blinked fat, heavy tears from her eyes. She took in a ragged breath and nodded shakily. “I will keep my daughter. They will not take her from me.”

Chao nodded as well. In simple retrospect, he wished desperately, when she came to him with her outrageous proposal, he could have just told his wife “no”.

February 05, 2020 20:03

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Pamela Saunders
13:21 Feb 09, 2020

Oh my goodness! Totally engrossing all the way through.


Amelia Coulon
21:10 Feb 09, 2020

Thank you! It was my first time writing set in another country and I was nervous about getting the environmental feel right. I'm glad it flowed for you.


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