Yu Zhou Zhou still remembers the winter solstice of 1993. Mama Yu had said they were going to make dumplings for dinner when they got home.
The avalanche of snow blocked track and no matter how long they waited, the bus still didn’t come. There was only 45 minutes until the appointment at the client’s house. Yu Zhou Zhou felt Mama Yu held her hand tighter as if she had finally come to a decision. Mama Yu asked her, “Zhou Zhou, let’s walk there okay?”
“Okay!” Actually, she really wanted to walk there. She would be able to walk in the soft snow that had no footprints.
However, no matter how fun stepping in snow is, after twenty minutes, her face had been blown numb by the wind and her feet were half numb, half in pain.
She looked up, and saw that her mom’s eyes were red.
It seemed that the house they were going to today was very, very far.
They walked on until they reached a quiet area where only the creaking sound of their steps in the snow could be heard.
Mama Yu called her and waited but there was no response. Mama Yu looked down and saw her silly daughter had an indistinct gaze, she was staring in front of her with a silly smile.
To be exact, Yu Zhou Zhou was chatting with her two best friends- the Rabbit Duke and the Rabbit Viscount. Before, when they walked past the orthopaedics clinic, she saw people throw out boxes from a window in the first floor. Not knowing how, she suddenly saw a little orange plane spiralling around with smoke coming out spiralling into the snow.
Yu Zhou Zhou’s spirit left her body and floated over. From inside the plane, she pulled out two rabbits. They were wearing a blue blazer with a red bowtie but no pants so their soft and thick furry tails could be seen.
“Hello miss.” The big rabbit smiled, showing two buck teeth, “We are guests from another planet. I am Duke Geli Geli, this is my son, Viscount Keli Keli.”
With the demeanour of a human, Yu Zhou Zhou smiled, “Hello Duke.”
Only, she didn’t know her stupid smile was scaring an old grandma in a wheelchair outside the clinic.
Yu Zhou Zhou wasn’t bored during the walk, the Rabbit Viscount asked her questions the entire time. They pointed at a car and shouted, they then asked Yu Zhou Zhou how the houses were built so high. They also asked what was cooking inside the chimney. Did the vendors selling candy apples sleep in their stalls at night? She patiently explained it all to them and the two rabbits were touched by her grace and kindness. They sincerely invited her to go back to their land with them to be the Queen……
Yu Zhou Zhou was astonished and quickly retreated.
“Our land needs a majesty as kind and beautiful as you, please accept us!”
Yu Zhou Zhou’s face turned red and smiled stupidly, being praised by others was an embarrassing thing, but she also truly thought they weren’t just flattering her… Hence she could only mild and tactfully rejected them again.
Perhaps she was concentrating too hard on the scene in her mind as she acted out loud.
Hence, Chen An’s first image of Yu Zhou Zhou was a little girl wrapped in a red scarf and hat that only showed her pretty eyes, smiling at a grass patch. She said in a low muffled voice, “Thank you for your good intentions, but I have to stay on Earth.”
Mama Yu resisted the urge to laugh and patted her head. Yu Zhou Zhou snapped out of it and looked at the person in front of her. It was a boy wearing a white shirt with his ears frozen red. His smile was warm and he was taller than her by a head.
“Sorry, did you wait a long time?”
“No, I only just came down. Auntie*, please come in.”
*[Ah yi- polite way of addressing a woman, not actual relative]
His voice sounded very nice. Although it was a little boy’s voice, it sounded much better than the loud voices of the wild boys who lived in Yu Zhou Zhou’s yard.
They followed Chen An into the building. Chen An’s family lived on the 12th floor. It was Yu Zhou Zhou’s first time taking the lift. As the lift started, Yu Zhou Zhou started smiling, feeling that it was a fascinating experience. Chen An looked back at her and also smiled. This kind of experience made Yu For many days following that experience, Yu Zhou Zhou’s daydreams changed from magic worlds to one filled with space ships, lifts and machinery.
Chen An’s family lived in a duplex apartment. It was Yu Zhou Zhou’s first time seeing such a big house. The lift was actually inside the house. That was too fascinating, it was just like a palace! Many years later in politics class, the teacher jokingly asked the class what the difference was between the houses poor people and rich people lived in. Yu Zhou Zhou’s answer was, you’ll have to see if the lift is inside the house or outside.
Mama Yu went to help Chen An’s grandma. Chen An’s mom came out to greet them before going back inside her room, leaving Chen An to look after Yu Zhou Zhou. Not knowing why, Yu Zhou Zhou who was usually calm inside maintained a calm expression but inside, she was actually very nervous.
Naturally, she was nervous- today, it wasn’t a stage but an actually palace and in front of her was an actual price.
Only, Yu Zhou Zhou forgot to bring her glass slipper. That was what authenticated Cinderella.
Chen An poured Yu Zhou Zhou a hot cup of milk while the housemaid carried over a blue glass plate filled with fruit and candy. Yu Zhou Zhou sat on the sofa, not daring to breathe. However, she still smiled at the housemaid and Chen An and thanked them.
Chen An smiled and affectionately rubbed her hair, “What’s your name and age?”
“Yu Zhou Zhou, six years old.” She paused, “How about you?”
“I’m Chen An, twelve years old.”
“How do you write it?”
“Chen, an, how do you write it?”
Chen An paused before reacting. He stood up and ran to the study to get a pile of paper. He wrote on it, “Chen An.” Then, he smiled and asked her, “Do you recognize the words?”
Yu Zhou Zhou nodded, then shook her head and pointed at the “An” word, “I don’t recognize this.”
“This is An from An Shu [eucalyptus tree], my parents met under this type of tree so my name is Chen An. However, there isn’t this type of tree in the North. Write me your name, Yu Zhou Zhou is such a pretty name.”
Actually, he was only being polite but Yu Zhou Zhou’s face still turned red. She took the pen and wrote in immature letters, “Yu Zhou Zhou”. These three shaky and ugly words placed under the elegant two words, “Chen An”, made her feel defeated.
“Your words are so pretty.”
Yu Zhou Zhou ‘travelled widely’ with her mom and went to many houses. She had said “Hello” to all sorts of people and have listened to all kinds of polite remarks but no one had praised her so sincerely- it was as if he was telling the truth.
“Let’s watch cartoons.” Chen An tidied up the paper on the table then clicked on the remote control to open the television. Yu Zhou Zhou stared at the blue screen and watched as he pushed a video table into a black machine.
“Yesterday, I got up to the finale then went to sleep. Wait till I finish the last two episodes then we can watch Tom and Jerry okay?”
In the cartoon Chen An was watching, there was a dark skinned girl with short hair and a white boy wearing glasses. Many years later, Yu Zhou Zhou found out that the name of that cartoon is ‘Nadia: the secret of the blue water’. At the time, Yu Zhou Zhou didn’t know the plot of the story so she followed Chen An in watching the finale.
The boy wearing glasses was extremely brave but he was shot down by the villain. The female lead, Nadia decided to use the ‘blue water’ in the mysterious blue jewel she wore to save the boy’s life. However, she was reminded by her mother that if she did so, she would never be able to use the ‘blue water’ to meet the gods.
Nadia still decided to give up the ‘blue water’ without a second thought and shedding tears, she saved the male lead.
Chen An rubbed his eyes as if thinking that the ending was flat and boring. He took out the tape and pushed a different one in.
“It was really boring right?” He laughed and handed Yu Zhou Zhou the fruit platter, “Eat an apple.”
Yu Zhou Zhou shook her head, “It’s fine……And it wasn’t boring either.”
Chen An’s laugh was very pretty. He always laughed prettily, as if the Yu Zhou Zhou next to him was a baby. Yu Zhou Zhou was reminded of her Qiao gege who was also around twelve or thirteen. However, he always ran off to game houses to play games with his classmates and was 120% impatient with Yu Zhou Zhou’s existence. Her first thought was, the gap between people sure is big.
“I already knew that this sort of happy ending is very boring but I still wanted to watch it. After watching it, I felt it was even more boring.”
Yu Zhou Zhou tilted her head, “The name ‘blue water’ is so pretty.”
She didn’t understand why everything she said made him laugh.
“Mm, yes, I also like this name.”
Thus, she was very happy, as if she was just praised. Her confidence grew and she continued, “If it was you, would you give up the opportunity to meet the gods to save that boy?”
Chen An’s eyes turned round, making her feel awkward and lower her head as a result. Of course, she didn’t know that ‘meet the gods*’ was a word that made people speechless.
*[Can also mean go to heaven]
Chen An thought for a long, long time. So long that Yu Zhou Zhou’s neck hurt from lowering her head.
Yu Zhou Zhou was unable to describe her happiness then. Her intuition told her that she received her first very honest reply because it was an honest yet flawed answer.
“How about you?”
Yu Zhou Zhou started seriously thinking about it. She wasn’t able to weight up the pros and cons of the question like Chen An hence she used the most conventional way- closing her eyes and pretend that she was in that scene just then. She watched as that boy wearing glasses slowly fall to the floor after being shot.
Only this time, the boy’s face turned into Ben Ben’s. Yu Zhou Zhou had no feelings for the boy, since he was Nadia’s best friend hence she turned him into Ben Ben. She opened her eyes and looked at Chen An, “I would.”
He had long guessed her answer. He laughed, “Kind girl.”
She shook her head and explained, “If I love him, I would. If it’s just a normal person I know, I wouldn’t.”
If I love him.
This time, Chen An burst out into loud laughter and softly rubber her head. Yu Zhou Zhou felt embarrassed but she didn’t know that in Chen An’s eyes, a six year old girl’s love sounded so naïve and cute. Naturally, what Yu Zhou Zhou understood of love mostly came from cartoons. To her, best friends in cartoons were in love so Ben Ben and her were also in love. For love, sacrificing the ‘blue water’ was only expected. But, if the one to die was Qiao gege who she didn’t have much feelings for, she wouldn’t give up the chance to meet the gods.
It was just that simple. A child’s simple view of the would.
They watched Tom and Jerry together too. Tom and Jerry was much better, you didn’t have to worry about the two dying or worry about choosing between life and death. That world was filled with sunshiney happiness.
“Just then, you closed your eyes. What were you thinking about?”
Just as Tom grabbed Jerry’s tail, Chen An randomly asked her.
“I was thinking……” She felt embarrassed, “If I was Nadia.”
“Then just then outside, were you talking to aliens so you had to say sternly that you had to stay on Earth?” Chen An suddenly had a big interest in her, as if she was a little toy.
He was correct. Yu Zhou Zhou nodded her head a little with difficulty.
Chen An leaned his head on the sofa and laughed happily. In Yu Zhou Zhou’s eyes, even if he laughed like this, he was still extremely elegant.
Right at that time, Mama Yu came downstairs with the housemaid. She took Yu Zhou Zhou’s black coat and red scarf from the clothes hanger and smiled at Chen An, “Thank you for looking after her. Zhou Zhou, come here and put on your coat. We have to go now.”
Noone heard the soft sigh inside Yu Zhou Zhou’s heart.
Chen An paused the cartoon and stood up to send her out. Seeing Yu Zhou Zhou stare at the paper with their names written on it on the table, he laughed. He took the paper, folded it into a small square and put it in her hands.
The security door closed, locking Chen An’s smile inside. Yu Zhou Zhou held Mama Yu’s hand and walked into the vast snow.
She put her hand into her pocket, the sharp corner of the paper pricked her palm making it itchy. “Was the cartoon good?” Mama Yu asked.
Yu Zhou Zhou nodded, “It was really good. ‘Blue water’ is really pretty.”
Chen An gege is also very pretty, she said inside.