After Xi Men’s confession towards Xiao You, everything had been going on a positive track ever since.
Since Xi Men is based in Taipei and Xiao You in Toronto, they are officially on a long distance relationship with Xi Men travelling over to Toronto to visit her for a week, once every 2 to 3 months.
On the weeks and months that they do not meet, they made an effort to call each other and sometimes writing emails too.
And also, Xiao You is Xi Men’s FIRST serious girlfriend, that obviously, lasted more than a week.
About 9 months into relationship,
In the suite room of a top, luxurious hotel in Paris, France.
Xi Men lied down on the lush and comfortable king bed with his right hand pressing on the phone’s keypad. [*author’s note: it is 10 years ago where touchscreen smartphone hasn’t been widely in use/available yet]
Xi Men immediately diverted his gaze to his left.
He smiled. “Hi darling,” he said, upon seeing the eyes of hers opened and then closed back.
She slowly raised the blanket up and covers her face, and eventually her head.
He laughed at the sight of it.
He extends his hand and patted the comforter that is covering and keeping his loved one warm right beneath it. And thru the action, he is basically patting on her shoulder.
She slowly pulled the blanket off her head, and then only one of her eyes is shown, looking back at him.
“Hello,” Xi Men playfully waved at her.
He saw the curve on her eye, meaning she is smiling underneath the comforter sheet that is still covering everything other than her left eye and above.
“Hi,” she replied back.
“Decided to wake up already?” Xi Men asked.
“I can sleep back if you don’t disturb me,” she said (because patting on her shoulder is considered as ‘an act of disturb’).
He laughed. “So, pushing the fault to me?”
“Yes,” she said. “But what can I do…”
“You are so handsome. I have to wake up to see that face… it is a sight not to be missed,”
He laughed. “So now my face is the problem, huh,”
She giggled as she slowly pulled the blanket off from her face.
“So I assume you can miss all the tourist places in Paris,”
“Why do you say so?” she asked.
“You said my face is a sight not to be missed, that means everything else can be missed,”
She laughed as she moved slightly, yet holding the blanket tightly. “Seeing you and the tourists spots together will be marvelous,”
He just smiled as he reached over and caressed her cheek. “Tired?”
“Slightly,” she said. “You don’t sound tired, after about 14 hours of flight from Taipei all the way to Paris,” she opened her eyes to look at him for a brief second. “And you waited for me at the airport for 2 hours for my flight to land… before coming to the hotel…”
“And you sound extremely tired after 8 hours of flight from Toronto to Paris,” Xi Men said. “Which is odd, I supposed, if compared to me?”
“Hmmm…” she hummed. “Wait, what time is it now?”
Xi Men turned over to look at the wristwatch he had placed on the side table that he had adjusted the time to Paris’ current time. “It is 8am,”
“Urgh, no wonder,” she said. “It is 2am now in Toronto… I am supposed to be asleep now,”
Xi Men laughed. “I finally get it. So jetlag it is!”
“And that explains why you don’t look tired at all despite the 14 hours flight. It is 2pm now in Taipei and your body recognizes it is day time…” she said, closing her eyes again.
“Hey, Xiao You…”
“If you go to sleep now… you won’t be able to sleep later at night, you know?”
Her eyes stark open.
He laughed at how she responded to his statement.
“Then can I laze around…?” she pouted, looking at him.
“That, yes,” he smiled as he puts his phone onto the side table and he turned over to face her, seeing she is still comfortably wrapped under the luxurious comforter.
And she happened to just… casually… close her eyes.
He happened to lean over and kissed her forehead. “By the way, good morning,”
She smiled, “Good morning to you too,” she slowly opened her eyes and fight against the desire to go back to sleep.
“Trying to wake up?”
“Yes… I don’t want to stay awake at night listening to your snore,”
He laughed. “I don’t snore, so don’t try to frame me,”
“Just because you couldn’t hear yourself snore, it doesn’t mean you don’t snore. You do, okay? But it is just a mild one,” she then smiled.
He laughed again, “Fine, I let you win,”
“Definitely,” she said, to which he laughed again.
His laughter then fades to a smile on his face. “I don’t remember when the last time I laughed this much was,” he said.
“You make it sounds like you hardly laugh,”
“I probably should say… you brightened up my life and make me laughed so much,”
“Thank you for the compliment,”
He couldn’t help but laughed again.
She just smiled. “I am so glad for this short one week break from class. So I get to spend some time with you,”
“And a vacation in Paris. You are gonna go back to class becoming the person everyone is envy of,” he smiled. “And since this is a vacation… so, should I let you sleep or should we talk to wake you up now?”
“Talk,” she said, despite her eyes are closed. “I need to adjust to the local time,”
“Alright,” he said. “So… since we haven’t exactly talked for the last 2 days since I have boarded the plane to come to Paris… anything you want to update me?”
“Hmmm…” she hummed.
He looked at her, waiting for her to talk.
“OH YES!” she suddenly exclaimed and opened her eyes.
Xi Men is surprised with that sudden yell that he pushed himself back by slight, distancing himself from her.
“Oops,” she lifted her head and looked at Xi Men. “I am sorry for that,”
He looked at her and then he chuckled. “Okay,” he then leaned forward again. “So, what is it?”
“Have you heard of Phantom of the Opera the musical?” Xiao You asked, as she pushes herself to sit up.
“Yes. They are in Broadway and West End. I know,” he sits up as well.
“Have you watched it before?” she asked excitedly as she folded her legs on the bed.
“Nope,” he leaned his back against the headboard.
“I thought you’ve been to New York and London,”
“Yes, I did, but that doesn’t mean I watched it when I was there. But why? What about the musical?”
“OH! They are having a world tour now… and they are coming to Toronto!” she said.
“I am going to watch it!” she said happily.
He frowned. “Is this the reason you OH YES and give me a scare just now?” he asked.
“Umm… yeah…” she embarrassingly said.
He could only laugh in disbelief.
“Sorry…” she mumbled.
“It is okay,” he then smiled. “You like this kind of stuffs? I never knew you like these,”
“Not all. Just some. And I haven’t watched the musical before. That is why I am excited!”
Xi Men smiled. “I see. So when are they coming?”
“In 3 months,”
“3 months?” and then suddenly Xi Men bursts out laughing.
“HEY. Why are you laughing like that?!”
“They are coming in three months and you are already so excited?”
“It is one of my ‘must watch’ musicals since I heard about it 2 years ago from my class, okay? It’s just that I haven’t gotten the chance to watch it… and now that I get to see it, that is why I am so happy and excited,”
He smirked. “So, some musical is more important than me, huh?”
Xiao You frowned as she looked at him. “More important than you? What do you mean?”
“They are coming in 3 months and you are already so excited, but I have never seen you being this excited when I said I am going to visit you in Toronto, like once every two to three months,”
She laughed. “Don’t be jealous, dear. I have always been excited about you coming to visit me!”
Xi Men smiled. “I know. Just messing with you,”
“So have you bought the ticket? Do you want me to go and watch it with you? I can arrange my next visit to coincide with the play,” Xi Men said.
“Oh, the ticket is given by my University to all of us. So I will be going to watch it with my classmates,”
“University?” Xi Men asked.
“Amazing, right? The faculty’s head said students of Performing Arts shouldn’t miss the musical so all of us get a ticket to go and watch a matinee show!”
“Wow. I am jealous now,”
Xiao You laughed. “Seriously?”
Xi Men then laughed. “Just kidding. I can fly to New York or London to watch anytime if I want, since money has never been an issue,” he then folded his hands on his chest.
Xiao You smiled. “So, you are interested in these things too?”
“Actually, not really. I just thought that if you want to go, I’ll go with you,”
Xiao You smiled gratefully, “Thank you for the offer,”
“Anything for my cutie. And you are welcome,” he smiled.
“Hmm… since you said you are not into the musical… have you, at least know the story or synopsis about the musical…?” Xiao You asked.
“Oh, okay,” she said, and she slowly adjusts, having her back leaned against the headboard, like what Xi Men is doing.
“So, you are saying you only heard about this musical from your class?” Xi Men asked. “I mean, that musical has always been popular worldwide for over a decade…”
“Actually I’ve heard the musical many years ago, but I have never had the exposure or the desire to know more about this musical until it was mentioned by my lecturer in one of our classes on my freshman year,”
“They said it is a magnificent musical. All Performing Arts students should watch it. Regardless if you are into stage performing, music or even ballet; this stage musical has them all. Everyone from this course wants to be a part of this musical,” Xiao You said. “Which is why the head of our faculty decided to get us to watch the musical now that they are coming to Toronto,”
“Hmmm… did you just say everyone wants to be a part of this musical?” Xi Men asked, looking at her.
“Yes,” Xiao You said. “It is sort of like a dream,”
“Mentioning of that, I have never asked you before, Xiao You. With you taking this Performing Arts course and majoring in ballet… what is the career path?”
Her eyes strayed a little.
She had never told him about what she wants to do after she graduates.
She has a dream.
“Career path?” Xiao You asked, looking at Xi Men.
“Yes, career path,” Xi Men said.
“Umm… typically to be involved in performances…”
“Performances?” Xi Men asked.
“Yeah,” she bites her lower lips.
“As a job?”
His reaction makes her feeling utterly uncomfortable.
“I mean… like, umm… professional dancer, umm… or attached to stage performances like musicals…”
“Professional dancer?” Xi Men repeated after Xiao You. “Professional… dancer?”
Xiao You looked at him. “Yeah,” she softly said in agreement.
There is an unreadable expression on Xi Men’s face; which looks like a mixture of surprise, disbelief and uneasiness but she could not exactly pinpoint what that means.
Xi Men looked at her, and then he swallowed the lump in his throat. After taking a deep breath, “I hope you realized that not all artists changes dancers all the time… and stage musicals don’t hire ballet dancers all the time too… and I am pretty sure when they need a new batch of ballerinas, they don’t hire a hundred for that,”
She pressed her lips together at him, “I know,”
“And there are roughly hundreds to thousands of Ballet majored graduates yearly from different colleges and Universities… isn’t the fight for that one position is a bit… too much?”
“Actually, there are a lot of jobs available for ballet graduates. It is just where you want to be based at…”
“Enlightened me,” Xi Men said.
“Broadway, West End, cruise ships, Las Vegas, umm…”
Xi Men frowned again. “Really?” he asked, deadpanned.
His reaction disappoints her.
How is she supposed to tell him about her dream, if he reacts like this?
“Do they really have a lot of jobs all year round?” Xi Men asked.
She then sighed. “I don’t know. I hate it when you put me under pressure like this,”
“What pressure? I was just asking you,”
“You are asking me to give you a definite answer right here, right now!” she said. “And I don’t know everything. How am I supposed to answer you?”
“I am just wondering about job vacancies that these places had,”
“Vacancies? What I know is, those few venues I have just mentioned earlier are considered as career destinations but whether they have vacancies or not, or whether we can get in or not, it is a different story,”
He looked at her. “Explain your statement,”
“Just like what you have said. Every year, we have damn a lot of graduates and talents appearing around the globe. It is a very fierce competition when it comes to landing a post just to dance ballet for some reputable companies or performances,” Xiao You said. “So, what I know is, I don’t know if I will ever land a job. And even if I could, I don’t know how long I can do it for, because sometimes ballet dancers are hired based on contracts. If the contract ends and not to be renewed, we have to go out and look for other companies. On top of that, injuries are bound to happen and there is a tendency the injuries may terminate our careers faster than expected,”
He folded his hands on his chest, and then exhaled a deep breath. “So, it sounds like there is no security,”
“One more question,” he interrupted Xiao You when she tried to defend.
She looked at him, and since he cuts her short, she can’t explain her views now.
“Are you planning to be a ballet dancer until you are in your 40s? 50s?”
“In general, it is quite unlikely to still be on my tip-toe at 50s,” she replied. “Ballet dancers usually retire around 30s,”
“Huh? 30s? Then what are they supposed to do after that? Or ballet dancers really get paid so much in the 10 years of their career that they can live off with the 10-years-salary for the next 50 years until they die?”
She rolled her eyes. “Ballet dancers don’t get wages as much as a Manager of a giant corporation would,” she mocked.
Instead of feeling offended, he laughed at how she twists his question to reflect on him.
“Some became teachers. Some became choreographers,” Xiao You happened to say.
“Ballet teachers,” she said. “Hmmm… yeah, I probably should aim for that,” she mumbled to herself.
He then looked at her. “Now, you want to be a ballet teacher?”
“I think that’s a good choice,” she said. “And probably less chance of over-performing as a professional ballet dancer,”
Xi Men nodded briefly. “Sounds like a good idea,”
She then smiled. “Get to dance, get to teach… and get to have adequate rest. On top of that… didn’t have to worry about contract expiring and wondering if the company wants to renew the contract or not,”
“I think that is a good plan,” he said. “So, you are saying, your career path includes becoming a ballet teacher?”
“It is best if you have the certification,”
“Aren’t you graduating as a ballet performer already? Isn’t that a certification?”
“Oh, I mean the teaching certification,” Xiao You said. “It is a separate certification from what I am studying now,”
“Ah?” he stares at her. “Teaching certification?”
“I mean, it is better to have that,” Xiao You said. “Not a must,”
“Oh…” Xi Men replied. “So, how does one go about getting the certification? Is it a totally different course? Do you need to spend few years just for that certification?”
“It is offered as a separate course, but for me, as an existing student in Performing Arts with Ballet major, I can enroll it for just an additional class on my final year,” Xiao You said.
“Looking at it… if you want to be a ballet teacher in the future… it is best for you to have that certification,” Xi Men said.
“You’d really think so?” Xiao You asked.
Xi Men then nods. “I think the certification will be an advantage to you,”
Xiao You smiled. “Hmmm… I do agree with that,” she then took a deep breath and exhaled it with satisfaction. “I felt good all of a sudden. It is like I know what I should do now for my future,”
He just smiled, and suddenly it became like a forceful one before it slowly fades.
“Alright! I’ll enroll that when it is my final year,” she happily said.
“Aren’t you at your final year next year?” Xi Men asked.
“Yes… ah, it means I need to submit the form within the next 2 months if I want to add this certification into my course…” Xiao You said. “Oh wait…” she lightly bites her right hand’s point finger.
“The certification is quite pricey…” she looked at Xi Men. “The certification itself costs slightly more than half of my total course fees,” she then sighed. “My parents cannot get that amount of money in such a short period…”
“I can pay for it,” Xi Men said.
“Yeah. It is not like I cannot afford that,” Xi Men said.
He gazes at her. “What’s with the ‘but’?”
“I… I don’t think it is appropriate to ask you to pay…”
“Ask? You didn’t ask me to pay, I offered,” he said. “And besides, you needed the certification. It is not a waste of money,”
She remained looking at him, skeptical with that solution.
“I understand what a certification could do to one. And I totally believe the ballet teaching certification will be good for you. And if you want to take it, you should,” Xi Men smiled.
“I didn’t know when I can pay you back…”
“You don’t have to pay me back. It is just a small amount for me so it doesn’t matter. Whatever is good for you will be fine with me,” he smiled.
She smiled briefly.
“So… enroll to the class, alright? I’ll settle the payment for you. Don’t worry about it,” he said.
She smiled wider and nodded. “Thank you Xi Men,” she leaned forward for a hug.
“You are welcome,” he hugged her back and gave her a kiss on her cheek.
She smiled as she could feel the warmth from the hug.
Soon, they retracted from the hug.
“Ah, I can be a ballet teacher someday!” she excitedly said.
He smiled, and he is delighted that she is happy.
“Hmmm… but I haven’t thought about the teaching industry for ballet in Toronto yet,” she said.
Teaching industry in Toronto?
The smile on Xi Men’s face fades.
“I hope the industry will mature when…”
“Xiao You…” he interrupted her, and then lowered his head.
“Hmm?” she looked at him.
“Do you know that… I want you to come back to Taipei after you graduated?” Xi Men asked.
Xiao You stares at him. “I…”
“I am fine with this entire long distance relationship because I know you need to stay put in Toronto and complete your studies,” Xi Men said, looking at her. “And this is also exactly what you told me 3 years ago when you come back to show me the billboard, that you had agreed to your parents to complete your studies in Toronto,”
“Yes. I remember because it hurts me to see you leave at that time,” Xi Men uttered, the incident of her leaving him at the airport plays in his mind. “I haven’t exactly told anyone about it… but it felt terrible at that time,” he lowered his head down.
She extends her hand and rubbed Xi Men’s arm.
“Because I know you want to be a filial daughter to your parents and to fulfill your promise, I endured the long 14-hours flight to come and see you every few months,” he said, and he then looked at her. “But right after you graduated, I want you to come back to Taipei. I didn’t want to travel 14 hours to see you only for a week in Toronto, and then have to go back to Taipei and wait patiently until the next flight to see you again,” he said. “And having to only hear your voice in the phone calls and couldn’t even see or touch you is a pain on its own,” he said. “So near yet so far…”
She immediately leaned forward and hugs him, with her cheek on his chest. “Xi Men…”
As she hugs him, he extends his hands to hug her in return too, “I didn’t want you to be so far away from me anymore… I want you to go back to Taipei…”
She could feel his sadness.
But… what about… the dream?
“I can put up and do this for a year… but I don’t want to do this permanently for many years to come…” Xi Men said.
She pressed her lips together, and then swallowed the lump in her throat.
“Don’t you ever want to go back to Taipei?” Xi Men asked.
This is a choice she has to make.
She gently pressed his upper chest for support to push herself up from the hug.
Xi Men released his hands from the hug as she sits up and looked at him, face to face.
She paid attention to his facial feature.
“Don’t you ever want to go back to Taipei, Xiao You?” Xi Men asked again.
“Xi Men, I…”
Xi Men looked at her.
She took a deep breath, and then exhaled it thru her mouth.
She lowered her head. “I want to go back to Taipei too… but…”