Alright, guys, it’s time for my short story collection “Choosing You”!
I announced this project back in January and recently finished it on Patreon so it’s going public now. This collection includes 30 BL stories, half of them being contemporary or interstellar ones while the other half have an ancient or fantasy setting. I like to think of them as glimpses into the life of the couples so some of them will have a very open ending or start smack-dab in the middle of things.
I’ll be uploading a story each Saturday from now on. Since they’re all different stories I’d love hearing how you liked each of them and if, maybe, you even have a favorite! 😍 Personally, I have a handful 😁
Now, onto the first short story, “Hello, Handsome Stranger!”
“Here, take these!” Lian Mei handed a stash of cards to her brother while the announcement for the flight already rang out in the distance, hardly understandable over the noise in the waiting area.
“These are …?”
“Oh, they’re just some ‘Oh gosh, what should I do?!’-cards.” She grinned and took the first card that read ‘Please point me in the direction of …’ in Chinese and then turned it around. There were English words written on the other side.
Lian Ming’s eyes lit up. “Are these the translations?” He took the card from her and turned it around again before looking at the English sentence again.
He recognized a few of the words but he wouldn’t have been sure what the sentence meant. His language skills were … not that good. It was also because of this that he had decided to go to the United States. His sister had meant that living there for a bit and using the language every day would help him learn it faster. Well, he could only hope so.
Meanwhile, Lian Mei nodded her head. “Yup. Just look through them on the plane and keep them with you. If you don’t know how to say something, just show the card and then add whatever other information you need to give. I’m sure you’ll do well.” She patted his shoulder and then motioned to the gate where the stewardess had started to check the boarding passes and passports again.
“Then, I’ll better go. Wish me luck!”
“Mn.” Lian Mei nodded again but then grabbed his arm just when he turned around. “Wait! Don’t forget: You’re not in China anymore when the plane lands. That’s the land of infinite possibilities. It’s the perfect chance for you!”
“Mn, I’ll learn well.” Lian Ming nodded earnestly, giving her an ‘I’m a good child’ expression.
Lian Mei’s lips twitched. Thankfully, she had prepared. “What I meant was: Nobody will care that you’re gay over there. You should find yourself a boyfriend.”
“Don’t ‘ah’ me! Do you want to stay single for the rest of your life?”
Lian Ming shook his head. “No, but … I don’t even speak English that well. How could I find a boyfriend?” He lowered his head and looked at the cards in his hands. These would work well for everyday situations in the first few weeks but he couldn’t very well use them to seduce men, could he? Anyway, who would want a boyfriend he couldn’t understand?
Lian Mei didn’t see the problem at all. “Don’t worry so much. Don’t you guys all have some gaydar or something? If you have a problem or want to ask for anything, just look around and see where the gay guys are, then go and ask one you’d like to be your boyfriend. Who knows? It might just work out.” She shrugged her shoulders and then patted his arm again. “Anyway, you should hurry up. There’s no flirting to be had at all if you miss your flight.”
“Ah, you’re right.” Lian Ming gave her a quick hug and rushed to the gate. He wasn’t sure if he should go along with what she had said but that was something to worry about in the future.
He showed his passport and boarding pass to the stewardess and then followed the other passengers to board the plane. After they set off, Lian Ming looked through the cards his sister had given him and did some exercises in a workbook in the hope of learning some more words at the last minute.
When the plane finally touched the ground again and he got off, he felt that maybe things wouldn’t be as troublesome as he had thought. Even though he didn’t know the language very well yet, he could just put in some more effort to learn. Together with having to use it every day, he would surely be able to make progress in no time!
Anyway, the apartment had been rented for a whole year. Even if he couldn’t find himself a boyfriend in the first month, there were still another eleven to go! There was no reason to give up hope before he even tried.
Lian Ming left the airport in a much brighter mood. He hailed a cab with the help of Lian Mei’s cards and finally reached the city where he was supposed to stay. He first had to get the keys and then bring his luggage to the apartment. After that, he should go and explore the neighborhood where he would live from now on. It wouldn’t do if he got lost right around the corner.
He looked at the address that Lian Mei had written down for him and then up at the building on the other side of the street. He thanked the driver and handed over the money before he got off and approached the door. Behind him, the cab drove off.
This was the place of a good friend of the apartment’s owner, Bai Juan, that she had left the key with. From what he had gathered, the woman who rented the apartment to him was a middle-aged auntie who had originally lived there with her husband since they went to America because of his work. Unfortunately, her husband had an accident and died a few months ago.
She tried to hold on but the place was too full of memories so she finally handed the key over to this friend of hers and went back to her maiden family. She had rented out the apartment for a year in the hope that she’d be doing better by then and could return. After all, all her friends were living here and she had grown used to this place after so many years. She just needed a bit of time to herself.
Lian Ming walked up to the door and rang the bell, waiting nervously. There hadn’t been much he needed to talk about with the driver but this was different. He would need to introduce himself and tell that person he needed the keys. He might still be able to do that but what if the person wanted to know more?
He fumbled around with the cards, looking again if there was anything he could use in this situation. Finally, the door opened and a blond woman appeared.
She raised her brows and then gave a smile. “You should be Ah Ming?”
Lian Ming heard his name and nodded eagerly. That was him, yes!
The woman laughed. “It’s alright. Bai Juan already told me that you’d come today. No need to be afraid. I’m Linda. Do you want to come in for a cup of coffee?”
Lian Ming gave a strained smile. “Uh … Mn.” He nodded again. A cup of coffee shouldn’t take that long, right? He’d be out in no time. How much could he need to talk until then?
Linda stepped back and opened the door wider for him. Lian Ming nodded and followed her inside, leaving the suitcase in the corridor and changing into a pair of slippers. Her house … from inside, it looked a bit like herself: The style couldn’t be called modern and was instead something that his parents would have liked. It gave him the feeling that America wasn’t that different from China. There would be people with the same likes and dislikes everywhere.
Lian Ming calmed down at that and followed her into the living room, sitting down on the couch. Linda went to the kitchen and returned with a pink cup in each hand that had a floral pattern at the rim. It made him feel that Linda was still a girl at heart even at her age. Come to think of it, the blouse she wore looked a bit like the coffeecup. It had the same color and pattern and even the petals of the flowers were both in white.
Lian Ming took the cup from her, nodding profusely. “Thank you, thank you.”
Linda smiled and sat down opposite him, slowly stirring her coffee. “So did you just arrive? How was your flight?”
“Good. Very good.” Lian Ming nodded again and stared at his coffee. It was still steaming and spreading an aromatic smell.
Linda looked at this guest of hers and couldn’t help but sigh. Bai Juan had already told her that the youth that would come over seemed a little awkward. She hadn’t thought that it would be to this degree though. What could she say to make him relax? “Do you want me to drive you over to the apartment? Or go pick up some things from the supermarket?”
Lian Ming stared at his coffee more intently. Ah, why was she speaking so fast? He couldn’t follow at all! Was it something with supermarket? Maybe if he had already gone there? He shook his head. “No … I … I haven’t.”
Linda opened her mouth but didn’t know how to continue. What did he mean he hadn’t? Hadn’t what? She brushed her hair back behind her ear and gave a strained smile. He probably meant that he didn’t need her to?
She glanced out of the window. There wasn’t any cab in sight as if he had walked here. She couldn’t help but worry. Well, there was nothing she could do. “I’ll go get the key first.”
Lian Ming glanced up and nodded before staring back into his cup. He took a sip, contemplating his life choices. Why had he thought it was a good idea to come here? Even if he put in a lot of effort to learn, he still wouldn’t learn fast enough! He should have gone and taken some courses before coming over. The bit of courage and optimism he had worked up on the plane was drained just like the coffee in his cup and left him feeling queasy.
When Linda returned with the key, he looked visibly relieved, making her lips twitch. Was she that bad of a host that he couldn’t wait to grab the key and run away? “Here you go!” She grabbed his hand and put the key on top, making Lian Ming leap to his feet. She almost wanted to laugh but held back to not embarrass him more.
“Bai Juan probably told you already but she moved all of her personal belongings so you’d have room for your things. The furniture and the kitchen supplies are still there though and she also left some daily necessities for you. There’s a supermarket just down the street from the apartment so if there’s anything else you need, you can go there first. If you need somebody to help you get around …” She brushed her hair back again that had fallen to the front and pondered.
A young man probably wouldn’t want an old lady like her to accompany him. Just who could she ask to help out? Finally, her face lit up. Ah! Wasn’t there that boy … What was he called again? Anyway, he was also living in that neighborhood. It shouldn’t be asking too much to have him go and check on this Lian Ming every now and then. She should call him to head over there after Lian Ming left for the apartment. “Alright, I’ll ask somebody to show you around when there’s time. Until then, maybe stick to the neighborhood and go explore a bit on your own there.”
Lian Ming nodded in a daze. He had no idea what she had said. He held onto the key. Giving this to him … did she mean he should go? He would be happy if he could. Seeing that apartment and unpacking might help him to calm down. Maybe things wouldn’t look as … incomprehensible then?
Linda cleared her throat again and awkwardly patted his shoulder. “Alright. I shouldn’t keep you any longer then. You’ve had a long flight so you’re probably tired.”
Lian Ming understood a bit this time. At the very least, he knew what tired meant. He glanced at his watch and noticed that it was early afternoon here. A middle-aged lady might want to take a nap? Thinking like that, he nodded and stumbled through a farewell.
Seeing him look at her earnestly and try to get out a few words, Linda couldn’t help but feel that this boy was a bit cute. She patted his shoulder again and gave him a warm smile. “Don’t worry too much. You’ll get used to life here in no time.”
Lian Ming nodded again. He was pretty sure he had understood right this time.
Linda walked him to the door. “You do remember the address?
This time, Lian Ming nodded with some more conviction. He seriously recited the address of the apartment, looking at her full of expectations.
Linda laughed and couldn’t help but pinch his cheek. “Yes, yes, that’s right! I see I don’t need to worry. I’ll still call that boy from the neighborhood, just to be sure. Anyway, it can’t be wrong to get to know a few people, right? Especially if they’re of your generation.”
Lian Ming … gave another nod. Things were really similar in America … The elders would also say things about the younger generation. He grabbed his suitcase and Linda ushered him out of the door, waving from the top of the stairs.
Lian Ming nodded and then dragged his suitcase down the street, looking for another cab. He only found one three streets later. With a weary sigh, he got in and showed the driver the same card as before. Seeing the driver nod, he leaned back in relief. Having to hold a conversation was tiring, ah! Thankfully, the driver didn’t try to speak with him and just drove him to the front door of the apartment.
Lian Ming gave another sigh after saying goodbye and dragged the suitcase into the apartment, taking a look around to familiarize himself with everything. The apartment wasn’t big if he considered that a married couple had lived here before. Other than the kitchen, the bathroom, and a small corridor behind the door, there were only two other rooms. It made him wonder if the owners hadn’t had any children.
Lian Ming went into the bedroom and started to unpack his things, refolding the clothes before he put them away. He went to the kitchen next and took a look at the fridge. There were a few things inside but not enough to cook for today and tomorrow. He pondered and then went out again. He should first find a supermarket and get some ingredients. Eating a good meal would help him get used to living here.
He walked down the streets at random and took a few turns. Sooner or later, he was bound to find a supermarket, right? There should be at least one in every neighborhood, maybe even more.
Even though he thought so, it still took him half an hour to find one. Ah, it wasn’t that easy to get to know a new place. He pushed the bag with the groceries up on his arms and then carried it ho…
Lian Ming stopped after walking for a few streets along what he had been sure was the way back to the apartment. Looking around now … it didn’t seem familiar at all. He bit his lip and turned into the next street but it was still the same. He had no idea where he was!
Lian Ming stared in a daze, not knowing what to do. Should he casually walk around in the hope of getting back? But what if he went in the wrong direction and got even further away? Then hail another cab? But that’d be embarrassing if the apartment was just around the corner.
He glanced around uneasily. Just then, he spotted a man talking on his phone on the other side of the street. His eyes lit up. Chinese! He rushed over and excitedly started to talk.
The man lowered his phone and stared at him in a daze. “What?”
Lian Ming’s eyes widened. This … Don’t tell him this guy didn’t speak Chinese?! He opened and closed his mouth but then, his expression lit up. He shoved his grocery bag into the guy’s arms and took out the cards his sister had given him, sifting through them until he found the right one. He held it in front of the guy’s face and earnestly recited his address.
The man looked at the card and his brows very slowly raised higher before he lifted his phone to his ears. “Linda, I think I already found him.” He said goodbye to her and then sized Lian Ming up who repeated his address. Ah, really young.
The man looked back at the card and took it from his hands, turning it around to see what the other side said. Huh. As expected. Who knew what kind of fishy website he had used to translate this but the seemingly innocuous plea to point him in the direction of the place where he lived had turned into a … slightly more ambiguous variation:
‘Hello, handsome stranger! I am Lian Ming, aged 23, gay, and have just arrived here. I’m a little lost right now so why don’t you bring me home? You can come in for a cup of coffee and a snack. If you’re not in a committed long-term relationship yet, I don’t mind being the snack either.’
The man scratched his head and looked up at Lian Ming again. He tried hard to remember the bit of Chinese he had been forced to learn by his grandparents when he was young and gave a strained smile. “Alright, let me bring you home then.”
Lian Ming’s expression lit up when he finally hear familiar words and he nodded fiercely, putting the cards away and taking hold of the grocery bag again. Then he followed him back to the apartment.
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