Another Chance


“I’ll see you later.”

The sweet words didn’t stop the car that sent her flying.

Searing headlights, and hard asphalt. 

Blood pooled around her head. (There was screaming.)

Her eyelids fluttered. The horrified faces around her would be the last thing she saw. 

Her vision went dark.


Mei opened her eyes. At first she thought that she had gone blind, before realising she was in some dark, endless void.

For someone who just died, she felt very alive.

“Han Mei Zhu?” 

She frowned at the voice that echoed around her. She didn’t care for this nonsense. Where was Li?

“How cold.”

“I didn’t say anything.” Mei pointed out, and the Voice chuckled, like she made a joke. 

“You don’t need to. I can hear your thoughts.” 

“I’m sure you’re confused. You’re in the Judging Room. Where I,” they paused, “decide whether you go up, or down.”

Mei swallowed. She didn’t want to be anywhere away from Earth, where she could not be with Li.

“How romantic of you! I like romance myself…that’s why I’m giving you and Li a chance.”

“A chance?”

“Another chance at life. Oh, this is where it gets exciting.” 

Stop treating it like a game.

“Watch your tongue.” Their voice lowered to a growl. “I could send you to Hell and back.”

“Fine…sorry.” Mei spat out, though she didn’t feel remotely sorry. “Another life?”

“It’s okay.” They hummed, like they were a volcano set to rest. “I’ll give you another chance on Earth. Twenty years to find Li Yue. Unless you don’t, and you’ll never meet again.” Their tone darkened. “I’ll ensure it.”


“There are rules to this game, Mei. Are you going to break my rules?”

So they did see this as a game. Mei gritted her teeth. She thought of her last words to Li. It wasn’t a goodbye; it was a promise. And Mei never broke her promises.

She supposed the only way out of a game was to play it. 


“Alright. Goodbye, for now.” She felt her surroundings melt away, and before she could reply, Mei was born for the second time in her life.



If you told Han Mei Zhu a hundred years ago that she would be working as a barista at a coffee shop, she would have laughed in your face. But alas, here we are.

If you asked Mei, the thing that had changed the most about her were her hands. Though her face was different, her hair was still long and dark, her stature slender. She kept her elegant nature that seemed more fitting for a wealthy heiress than a barista (though of course, she was both. But no one knew that). But her hands were rough, hardened by life.
Mei, or Liu Ming now, looked around the cafe. There weren’t any customers, save for the old man sitting in the corner. 

She sighed. Curse her coworkers for taking the rush hour shifts. Now she barely got any customers, though she guessed that it was better than having no customers at all. 

But money problems weren’t the only thing weighing on her mind. Her twentieth birthday was drawing close, and she hadn’t gotten any closer to finding Li. 

The door jingled, snapping Mei out of her moping; a customer. Mei could sulk later; more customers meant more money, and that was always a good thing. 

“Welcome. How may I help you?”

The girl who walked in smiled up at her. Mei was shocked by her friendliness, though she didn’t mind it.

“One Americano, please. Thank you…” Her eyes skimmed Mei’s name tag. “Liu Ming.”

Mei nodded, smiling back at the girl. She reminded her of someone.



“Who’s this?” 

Mei looked down icily at the girl. She’d been woken up at the crack of dawn (she was over-exaggerating, but she’d always loved theatrics) by some girl she didn’t know, and now she was talking to her mother, which always gave her a headache.

“This is the new maid, Li Yue.” Her mother’s words carried a sharp tone that warned her not to cause a fuss. 

“What was wrong with the old one?” Mei questioned. Her old maid may have been wizened and wrinkled, with failing memory and vision. But she’d known her for practically forever, and Mei liked her.

“She was getting too old.” Mei’s mother turned to leave, the fabric of her dress swishing noisily.

When you are old, I will lock you up and never visit again.

Mei refrained from retorting, turning to the new girl.

“Come with me.”


The air was cold that night, sending a chill down Mei’s spine every time a gust of wind brushed over her face, like the skeletal fingers of the dead. 

The neighbourhood was eerily quiet, far away from the rest of Shanghai. The houses that were once filled with people were now desolate and crumbling. 

That means no one will interfere with my investigation then. Mei thought, ignoring her racing heart. 

She glanced at her phone (funny little devices with glass screens) to check her location. Good. She was in the right place. 

Ever since she regained her memories, she’d been searching for any trace of Li Yue. But no matter how much time she wanted to dedicate to finding Li, she was just a teenager, with commitments and limited resources. She had a life outside of Li, a future. 

“What a disappointment.” The voice cackled, as it would every damn time she contemplated the matter. “Giving up already?” 

“Shut UP!”

But she wouldn’t abandon Li. So she kept going.

She discovered that Li had quit after her death, moving to a house in Hongkou, dying alone four years later. She felt a pang of guilt. I’m sorry that I hurt you.
Ivy creeped up the walls of the abandoned house. She pushed at the unlocked door, sighing in relief when nothing collapsed on her head. She’d died enough times for a lifetime (or two). 

“I pity you, Mei.”

Of course the Voice would ruin her mood. 

“Get lost. I’m busy.” She snapped. 

The interior seemed as rundown as the outside. Mei navigated the pitch black darkness with her torchlight, before freezing. Something caught her eye. 

“I’ll give you a hint, so you can stop floundering around like an idiot.”

“What do you want?”

It was a hairbrush. Her hairbrush. Made of ivory, with boar hair bristles. Her heart sped up. They didn’t make brushes like this anymore. Warmth filled her chest. She’s been holding onto this all this time.

“She’s closer than you think.”

Immediately after, the door creaked, and Mei spun around. It was the girl from the coffee shop. 

“Liu Ming? What are you doing here?”

Mei frowned. “What are you doing here?”

The girl tensed, as if she was the one who had just been caught in an abandoned house. Mei hid her smile. Her similarity to Li was overwhelming.

“I didn’t mean to come here. I was just having nightmares, so I took a walk. I ended up here.”

“What nightmares?” 

“A girl getting hit by a car.” Mei winced, and the girl frowned, misinterpreting Mei’s reaction to the memory of her death as being upset by the graphic image. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine.” 

Is this just a coincidence? 

“Let’s walk together.” Mei suggested. “Talking to someone can help you feel better.” The girl nodded, seemingly relieved at the invitation. 

“So, what’s your name?”

“Si Niang.”  

The two walked for a while, before splitting, leaving Mei smiling up at the sky. Talking to someone really did help you feel better.



The first time Mei had considered Li a friend, the two of them were sitting in her bedroom, sunlight hitting her hair as Li ran her fingers through it, braiding it. It had been a year since they first met.

Initially, she didn’t think much of Li, before she acknowledged her, and then she started to…like her. 

She liked her sincerity, how time flew when she talked to her. Mei had never liked someone this much before. Her old maid was like a mother, but Li was… a friend. 

“Is anything wrong, Miss? You’re awfully quiet.” Li asked.

Mei smiled unconsciously, before clearing her throat. “Nothing. Just thinking.” Li didn’t reply, fingers grazing Mei’s cheek as she reached for stray hairs, and Mei’s heart fluttered. A friend. 



“Marry me.”


It was Mei’s twentieth birthday. Li was accompanying Mei in the city when she pulled her into an alleyway. 

Mei grew closer to Li every second together. There was a feeling that blossomed in her chest when they talked, a sense of pride when she made her smile. Love. She was in love. 

“I asked you to marry me.”

“What will others think? We’d be outcasts.” Mei whispered furiously. Being the daughter of an influential family meant that all eyes were on her. If somebody found out about the two of them…

“We don’t need a wedding.” Li protested. “Marriage is just a promise between two people. That’s all it’s ever been.” Her hand bumped against Mei’s.

“Think about it please, Mei.” Mei froze as Li slid her hand into her own. Her brain screamed at her. This was wrong. It held her in an ironclad grip. This wasn’t right. She should’ve been with a man. 

She wanted to say yes. She wanted to scream it from the rooftops, for everyone in Shanghai to hear.

 “I…I’ll think about it.” She pulled her hand away. “I’m heading home. Stay safe. I’ll see you later.”

She turned to cross the road. 

And that was when it happened. 

She froze as the car hurtled towards her, bracing for impact.

At least she woke up this time.

“Are you okay? You were muttering in your sleep.”



Mei opened her eyes to the fluorescent lights of the cafe and Si Niang’s concerned face peering down at her. 

“Have you been overworking yourself?” 

Mei sat up straight, embarrassed at having been caught sleeping on the job. “No. I’m fine…Thanks.”

“No problem.” Si Niang sat down opposite her. “That’s good to hear.” Her dimpled cheeks and gentle nature felt too familiar. 

‘She’s closer than you think.’

It couldn’t have been a coincidence. Her personality, mannerisms; she was even at Li’s house. It would make perfect sense for Si Niang to be Li, especially since the Voice was a jerk. It’d probably love to watch the two of them stumble around each other, not knowing the other’s identity.

The only problem was that Li Yue had no recollection of her. Mei gritted her teeth. She would make her remember.

“I’ve heard that faces in dreams are people from real life. Have your nightmares been getting better?”

“No, and I don’t think I know the girl in my dream.”

Mei paused. “Why’s that?”

“Everyone in the dream is wearing traditional clothing. Even the setting looks old.”

“Was the girl wearing a green Cheongsam?”

Si Niang paused, and the silence was deafening. Mei’s heart pounded. So close. She had to be Li.

“How did you know that?”

“I am that girl.”
Si Niang stared at her blankly, and her cheeks heated up. Apparently whatever failsafe the Voice had created for Li to regain her memories took time to work. Does she not remember me? Goodness, this is embarrassing. 

Slowly, Si Niang’s gaze shifted from confusion to shock, and slowly, recognition. Her eyes were wet, flooded with memories.

Mei smiled. 

“I’ve missed you, Li.”


The sun streamed through the windows, just like that day. 


There was so much Li wanted to say, but it was best to pick up where they left off. 

“Will you marry me?”

This time, Mei didn’t hesitate.

Maybe her emotions had led her astray, off the straight path carved into stone for her, but if loving Li Yue was a mistake, it was the best mistake she had ever made. 

Marriage was a bond between two people who loved each other. And she loved Li. 

She looked up, smiling. 

“I will.”

Charisse Han (Class of 2026) is a passionate writer who writes for herself and is uninterested in competition. Unless you want to compete of course. Do you?