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  • Jean + Yana
    It is a scant retelling of Adam and Eve's loss from Eden's Paradise.

    Once, there was a boy and a girl – Jean-Paul and Yana. When they were very young, they met each other one sunny afternoon by chance, at a beautiful park called “Paradise Gardens.” The sun was in their eyes, and they didn't imagine they'd like each other at first. Girls had cooties, and boys were just pushy, muscle-obsessed bums.

    But it was when they both got lost and wandered by a huge fountain, where the angel statues were spewing out water from their lips, that Jean slipped and scrapped his knee. How it hurt – but his mum wasn't around, and so, Yana had the idea to try hugging the boy (like how her own mum would do whenever she'd get upset and cry), and he felt so warm and cuddly in her arms, and she could feel his own heart beating, like hers. And she'd put his knee under the fountain's water, to help soothe the pain and wash away the dirt and germs.

    It was a very happy moment for the both of them, and Jean told her about this one time when he was playing toys with friends that he saw a girl crying – because her action doll's arm (Lux Crownguard™, League of Legends) broke by accident doing a karate chop. The grown-ups couldn't seem to do anything except promise to buy her a new doll someday, but that didn't seem nice enough; so Jean tried putting the Lux doll's arm back together using glue. That seemed to work, except now the Lux doll seemed to have multiple sclerosis which paralysed her stiff arm. But at least, the girl was happy, and it made him happy too, ja.

    So Jean wanted to try meeting Yana again, but he didn't know her phone number or where she lived – all he could do was wander off into the park during the days, wanting to find her again. Luckily for him, he did. And they would sit under the tree's shade, telling funny stories to each other or jokes, bring their own toys, roleplay that noble Prince rescuing Princess Charming (from the bushes, the fountain, or anyplace that's interesting and conveinent), and even share their own secrets.

    But the summer was ending though, and Yana told him that she had to be going away, to a far off country around the world. It made the both of them sad, that fact. Their last day together, they spent sitting down on the grass, holding onto each other, watching the orange and pink sunset in the blue sky. If they could've kissed each other, they would. They were quite young though, and kissing was meant more for teenagers. Have you ever tried smelling someone else's breath? Most of the time, it's bleeh, unless they were chewing bubblegum.

    When it was fall and Yana left, their faces were embedded in each other's memories, making an empty hole in their hearts, where a sort of deep, aching sadness happened. I think that was the first time they'd ever felt.. pure love. For each other.

    So they grew older. They went up some grades in their respective elementary schools, and there, things were more boring, and more grey. They had to sit still in their seats and listen to their teachers drone on and on about subjects likemath, science, social studies, arts.. so that they were littered with homework and tests during most of the week. It was like a badly chore to do.

    For Yana, she discovered her passion for pretty colours and contours. She'd enjoy doodling with colour combinations like dark blue and bright yellow, or rouge and bleu. She'd draw the pretty roses intertwining with each other, or mermaids who splash in pink swimming pools. She'd draw during her spare time outside of school, and then during recess (while the other kids were playing sports and on the playground), and then during one of her boring classroom lectures – where one of her overweight teachers threw a badly fit: "This is the umpteenth time,I'm tired of telling you this!" and tore her paper into shreds before her very eyes, the whole classroom with their mouths gaping open, and she shrieked at her, "Next time pay attention in class, you little inattentive brat!" before making poor Yana stand in the corner as punishment where she silently wept and cried.

    For Jean, he'd enjoy watching the cartoons that came on TV. There was Inspector Gadget, Beetleborgs, Transformers, and also this show about cartoon dinosaurs but it's dubbed in Espanol. ("La Trrrooopa Rex!" its theme song went.) And during the night, there'd be exciting shows about Sci-Fi, espionage, murder mysteries..

    He'd improvise some memorable scenes with his own action figures – and during school, he'd try getting other kids with their toys to join along with him in the wildest scenes. It was marvellous. Using one of the pretty toys, Elise™ (the transformable spider queen, made in Canada), he'd get her to play the seductress Femme Fatale while Chip Hazard™ (from Small Soldiers) would be the private detective, prodding and asking questions about the cookie monster who stole all the chocolate chip cookies from houses. Hey, that dino over there looks like he's from that erm.. "La Tropa Rex" show. Why don't we have him barge in the scene, eh? He could be the cookie monster's henchman.

    Pretty soon, Jean obtained a home video camera, where he recorded his own ennactings with his toys and shared them on YouChew. He grew into making his own amateur movies – "With the best dramatic spectacles, I promise!" – starring his friends, and he'd host his own movie theatre showings; other people can pay a fee of one dollar to come over to his basement and see something that could rival Bollywood's action blockbusters. A movie with karate action, chase scenes through the neighbourhood.. an attempted kiss scene by the hero with his love interest, but it never seemed to feel romantic enough no matter how much Jean tried to adjust their acting.

    He made a hefty amount of money (around $237 I suppose), but his mum didn't really approve of strangers coming in, making a mess downstairs, so eventually that had to stop. And ever since, Jean decided he'd aspire to be an epic film director.

    In the occasional lapses.. Yana tried her best to remember that comforting face, Jean's face. She'd crawl into bed after a glass of water and dream strange moments,

    she's sitting with him under the tree, having him sip sweet honey from her picnic kit,

    the black ravens dropping their feathers from the infinitely blue sky,

    a lighthouse under the grim clouds, the ocean waves rolling and rolling with white foam,

    the angels with their white wings, carrying her into heaven, kissing her cheeks, telling her one day she'll find her beloved Prince.

    And when it was Valentine's day in February, she cut out some colours from cardboard paper and glued them into beautiful heart shapes over an ivory card. But she'd only managed to make one, and she forgot to buy some candy to go along with it. It was time for the students to deliver their gifts to one another, and there was this one boy who managed to make her feel so gushy inside – he's cute, he's shy, as if there might be more to him than what meets the eye. She'd only witnessed him from afar, and this could be her chance to get closer to him. While the other students wandered around, chattering, she tip-toed to his desk when he wasn't around and left her handmade card there.

    When she saw him sit back down and see her card, she was awestruck when it left him with a little blush on his cheeks, and soon after, she agreed to meet him in a corner. He had shale eyes, and his hippie hair was curly. It felt awkward though; the conversation she tried making with him made her realise how he always seemed so distant, as if keeping everything an arm's length from himself. Yet he described to her the idea of soul mates – the people who wander in their lives, seemingly without any meaning, only to get close to each other in a perfect, blissful moment. And to tear them apart would be to place the opposite poles of very powerful magnets on the opposite ends of the earth, where they would eventually come back together sometime, somehow.

    "Are you my soul mate?" the boy asked her. "You can tell a lot about the other person through a kiss." And they tried pressing their lips to each other, and Yana felt a lot of strange sensations from her tongue meeting his wet saliva, and after that, the boy concluded she wasn't his soul mate.

    Yana found the notion of soul mates interesting though, and she went through the library, asking for anything that related to soul mates, destiny, underlying fate. She easily paged through the contents of dusty, archaic books, hoping to find anything that would confirm she could meet Jean-Paul again. There were scientific articles, myths, and faery tales. One person out of the world's seven billion felt like finding an irreplacable needle in several haystacks. And all you might really need is a strong enough magnet.

    The design of those books had her sidetracked – some of their haunting and dark gothic artristy inspired her into creating such nuanced artpieces, and passersby who'd see her sketching contours would stop by (if only for a second) to obtain a glance of mystery and depth.

    When she graduated from school, she found taking University to be dreadfully dull. No matter what, it always seemed that the grey concrete walls, the dreary brutalist environmentwas closing in on her, and there was no escape, and nobody else seemed to feel that way – or perhaps their vitalities had already been drained out of them to realise it. It was a more expensive, overrated extension of school, just so you could obtain an official degree and hope for the best that you get pigeonholed into an acceptable role in society; a bank teller, an IT manager, or a drunken martial arts enthusiast.

    There was a movie she saw once – Antonioni's Red Desert, about a young woman who felt the malaise of her pragmatic environment, where the rivers ran red, the blue sky was nowhere to be seen amidst the factory smoke, and real human connection barely existed. She could not bring others to understand her melancholy. It felt like there was no ground beneath her, and that she was always sliding down a slope, sinking, always on the verge of drowning.

    One day, the woman's son was paralysed from the waist down, and the woman wondered if he had suddenly contracted polio. And when her son was laying down in bed, she told him this tale:

    "There was a girl who lived on an island. Grown-ups bored and frightened her. She didn't like kids her age; they all pretended to be grown-ups too. So she always found herself alone with the cormorants, seagulls, and wild velveteen rabbits. She'd discovered a small beach far from town, with its crystal-clear waters and pink sand.

    "How she loved that spot. The colours of nature were so beautiful, and there was no noise. She'd leave only when the sun did too.

    "One morning, a sailing ship appeared. It wasn't like the usual toy boats that passed by. It was a real sailing ship. The kind that had braved the stormy seas all over the world, and who knows – maybe even beyond. Seen from afar, it was a splendid sight. But up close, it took on a mysterious air. There was no one aboard. It paused for a few minutes and then turned and sailed off as silently as it had come.

    "The girl was used to people's strange ways, so she wasn't surprised. But no sooner was she back on shore when she heard angelic singing.

    "One mystery is all right, but two are too many. Who was singing? The beach was deserted like always, but there was that voice, sometimes near, sometimes far. At one point, it seemed to come from the sea itself, or from an inlet among the rocks – the numerous rocks that she'd never realised were like flesh. And the voice was so sweet to hear."

    "Mama, who was singing?" her son asked.

    "Everything was singing.. Everything."

    So one cold day, Yana staged a spectacle where out in campus fields, she lit special papers on fire that would burn differently by colour, based on the imprinted chemicals. It was a very huge bonfire, its smoke extending and billowing to the skies. She meticulously tossed the paper onto the flames, and the fire flickered magenta, cyan and orange, and it looked like the tail-end of a fiery dragon, wavering with gusto. The students gaped in awe at her and her fire, their phones out for the recording, and they huddled by her inviting warmth, until the campus guards arrived on scene and hurriedly extinguished her fire, stomping on the ashes afterward. It left a smell like barbeque mixed with perfume.

    Yana got suspended from Acme University #203 for a year (what a shame!), but luckily on that day of her bonfire, a famous artist named Daniel Craig saw the spectacle and saw immense potential in her. He called her up at home, and asked her about the spectacle, and she confessed with him about the terrible malaise she felt – they were meaningless assignments, one after another, when she could be pouring herself into doing the beautiful artistry instead.

    "Everyone else keeps saying to get a real job and be productive," Yana told him. "That's how you're supposed to live and feed yourself. But I absolutely hate it. Why can't I live a life of my own choosing, where I could tickle people's imaginings through the eyes?"

    "But you could! And I think you should!" Daniel said. "If you come with me and let me take a look at your artwork, I think I can help you find something nice to do. Oh wait – MI6 is calling me, I will be right back.."

    And at the same time, Jean was shooting 3-5 minute long music videos for aspiring bands who were wanting more publicity. He'd shoot them by the playgrounds and football fields, or by their cluttered garages with their favourite bikes/cars by the background. Sure, it was nice, and it paid decently – it gave him a chance to practise technique and the basic mechanics of filming, but he wanted to move on to the bigger things, like actual movie making.

    Then he leapt at the chance when two of his idol directors, Dr. Uwe Boll and Prof. Michael Bay, happened to be co-directing an upcoming movie "500 Days of Havana" close by his house. His mama would complain about the noise, but Jean found it invigorating to see one of his neighbourhood friends in the actors' chairs, reading his next lines in the script, before Prof. Bay would have him stand up and make tears in his eyes..

    the director of photography was adjusting the camera,

    and his friend had to enact breaking up with his girlfriend, because otherwise, the badly mobsters would want to hurt her to get to him. Meanwhile, the rain drizzle was pouring down and drenching them (it was actually a modified garden hose off-screen).

    "Cut – that's a wrap!" Prof. Bay went.

    "Ja, you two did goodly!" Dr. Boll added.

    And afterward, Prof. Bay was arguing with Dr. Boll over some directorial decisions – of which, they couldn't settle with words, so they had an improvised boxing match on the neighbourhood street. Everyone saw them skipping lightly on their toes, exchanging punches with gloved hands, the little kids just having bought their freezie ice creams from the ice cream truck. It was way better than TV, and Dr. Boll finally landed an uppercut punch that sent Prof. Bay wheeling onto the ground.

    "I guess Hans Zimmer is doing the music!" Dr. Boll shouted in triumph. "Ja, ja."

    "Drats!" Prof. Bay went. "I wanted Steve Jablonsky.."

    But when Dr. Boll became ill with food poisoning the next day, Michael Bay was desperate – there were so many things that would take so long if there was only him.

    Jean took it upon himself to enter the movie set; he helped set up the camera, mobilised everyone into their duties, made the lighting more naturalistic and softer, and also coached his friend on how to better deliver real emotion in front of the camera. The results were astounding.

    M. Bay was so impressed by this that he gave Dr. Boll more "extra time" off to recover, and Jean helped complete the rest of the filming, the magic flowing on-set, before saying good-bye to his family and friends and flew with M. Bay over to Bollywood Studios, where the post-production, editing and music-making was done.

    It was a very technical process, and it was very fascinating to be able to learn how things were done on real, professional movies. For the music, Steve Jablonsky managed to do the dramatic, romantic scenes first (they were his favourite moments), but the same food poisoning which took Dr. Boll also took Jablonsky, and M. Bay had no choice but to bring in Hans Zimmer, who did the rest of the scenes where there's exciting action.

    By the end, the film production was $2 million below expected budget, and one week ahead of schedule. Jean was credited as another co-director. When 500 Days of Havana was released to theatres,Jean snuck in line, pretending to be just another moviegoer, and with the smell of popcorn – he entered the darkness where everyone was waiting for the film to start.

    He felt everyone's reactions to the scenes – he recognised the places back home, more vivid and colourful on the screen, and it made him especially happy when the audience was tearing up at his friend's breakup scene with his girlfriend. Man, Jean had talent.

    With the overall box office, '500 Days of Havana' just tied with 'Stuck at the Galleria' at $790 million with the earnings, both rated 8.4 on that IMDb site, and when the producers learned the extent of Jean's involvement, Jean found numerous scripts being offered to him – those skeletal words that were potential movies, just waiting to be infused with the flesh and sinew of imagery and sounds.

    '500 Days of Havana' never reached where Yana was at though, due to local censorship laws. Instead, Yana was working in an arts studio; she wasmaking commissions for newspapers, fashion and game magazines, and also from some few people who wanted her to draw wacky stuff like large cows, gold and silver cowbells, shirtless One Direction band members, green and pink cowbells, and Garen Crownguard™wearing various armours from 15th century Germany.

    As things turned out, Daniel Craig, her co-worker comrade-in-arms, whenever he wasn't busy putting pen to Wacom tablet, he was always out on "travels." He said he was finding some inspiration, but in actuality, the British Government had him stationed where she was. They'd give him a modest salary of £100,000 GBP per month at his disposal in a Swiss bank account, and in return he'd take on their missions all around the world under the pseudonym 'James Bond', codenamed 007. There were various missions like retrieving classified documents that were taken into third-world countries, or rescuing other operatives taken hostage byAlejandro Sosa'scocaine-addicted paramilitary forces. He'd do those missions successfully, with flair and style, and when he wasn't busy otherwise, he was Yana's co-worker at the art studio, making an additional 6,000 bucks per commission on average, completing six commissions per day.

    Yana didn't know any of this – at the moment, she was too busy filling in dotted linesfor her piece.Visual artistry needed a certain delicacy and intuition from the artist to do nicely. And "Et voila!" she'd happily whisper to herself when she was done everything, happily satisfied, "C'est finis!" and she kissed her two hands that had toiled under the lamplight.

    And outside, she would take a walk, feeling the breeze kissing her cheeks, lightly and gently brushing her hair. She absorbed the intricacies of her surroundings through her eyes. She saw fallen leaves that skittered along the sidewalks and danced in the wind, as snowflakes would often do, and she saw the stylized graffiti people had painted over the depreciated buildings.

    And she saw a couple making out on the bus bench, holding each other warm against the season's chill under the orange street light.The way they would move on each other, their shadows contouring their faces, wanting more of each other's embrace, and it fascinated her what they must be feeling in that intimate moment. That love. Vie..

    But for some reason, it paled in comparison with the happiness from the depths of her memories. There was the fountain of angels who had water spilling from their lips, sparkling under the daylight, and it trickled down onto the pool. There were the rose birches, their green leaves, the red and white and pink roses themselves beside them, sparsely populated – the way their scent entered her nose..

    so gently sweet,

    and the way the cicada's chirped in the summer, their orchestrated noise filling the air, brimming the heat with an added familiarity--

    And Jean. Yana wondered how he would look around her age – they say that as boys grew into adults, some of them lost their youthful look, and their faces grew solemn like the balding clerks she'd see in public transportation, grim-faced, hurr durr. Some of them were like ugly ducklings; they seemed alright in childhood, but as puberty hits them, they grew more and more majestic, and they could even pass for fashion models. (The ones who went the opposite way, they just needed better haircuts and some makeup.)

    Jean was.. it wasn't how he looked, it was the beating heart in his core that she adored. A lively heart. If she leaned onto his chest, she imagined she could hear it thump and thump under his ribcage, like a soothing metronome..

    When she was little in kindergarten, she often found it hard to sleep during the afternoon naps, like the other kids did. Then there was one of the grown-ups who went over to her restless self, kneeled down by her, and he showed her his watch – it ticked, barely audiable but visible to her hearing, and though she grew fascinated by the silver linings along the wristband, or the slowly turning second needle, she found her eyes getting droopy, and the next time she woke up, all the other kids were already up and about, and she was missing out on the fun.

    Now she put her hand to her own chest, and felt the quivering of her own heart, and that emptiness calling out to be filled.. Jean..

    Could he hear her heart? Across the world?

    Jean had a string of successful movies, one after another, released no more than two years from each other. His name was celebrated by the public, and often people were asking if he was to be the next Christopher Nolan. If you'd ask him, his own mantra for success was to express the feelings inside as honestly as he could, the joys and fears and sadnesses without hesitation, and to always strive for something that has never been seen before, and to believe in yourself and your desires, ja.

    Inside though, he never felt that the movies he made were perfect. Because there was always that something which was missing in his movies, story-wise. That something lodged inside him, ever since he met her.. that girl, Yana, at the park of his childhood home. What was the park's name? He forgot.. Paradise Falls? Paradise Park?

    Jean lived in a roomy five-room condo up in Mumbai, where he had a stack of magazines and newspapers that helped him keep up to tabs with current events. He kept a few of his favourite toys in a display case, to help remind him that childhood fantasies weren't just for childhood, they were what helped propel him to being a celebrated film director. He had a nice view out the kitchen window of the Parisian streets which were anodyne during the day and glowed wonderfully at night – it was truly a sight to behold.

    He kept his face clean-shaven; he felt that facial hair would itch, and that back in history, Alexander of Macedonia kept his troops clean-shaven too because the enemy during battle could pull at beards and moustaches as weak points. Besides, he looked younger that way.


    Damn, he forgot what she even looked like. And just to imagine her as grown-up as him – in a way it was almost unbearable. His imagination gave him images of a princess, who wore something like a white wedding dress, with a translucent veil over her face, a light lipstick of a subtle shade, and roses in her drooping hair. In his heart's eye, she was so.. beautiful.. and he would gladly fall into that gaping hole in his heart.. where there was yearning, searching..

    Jean liked to keep in touch with his friends and relatives. He would feel homesick at times – oui, sometimes the impersonal atmosphere of Bollywood could get to him, and to keep in touch with his liveliness he'd want to be able to chat about anything, things which caught his fancy (like exploding tiles and lunchboxes in mainland China) or romantic things and issues.

    His parents wanted him to have someone to care about, and they pressured him into finding a wife from the hoards of women wanting to get a date night sometime with him. Most of them seemed nice, but a little on the shallow side, and eventually he settled for a rich woman, Darlene, who would gladly share her fortunes to help fund his future films, without the need to be subject to producers' worries. In other words, he would have the freedom to make a dream come to life without compromise.

    So he did, albeit hesitantly – in the actual marrying, he was crossing his fingers after the priest said, "You may now kiss the bride." In kissing Darlene (the first time he ever kissed her), there was hardly any desire or excitement in that kiss, and he knew that it would be more of a pragmatic relationship.

    When Darlene moved in with him, it was stifling. She was uptight about the little things like household chores, and she restrained Jean's desire to buy the nice trinkets and snacks around – "You're gonna drain our finances dry like that!" It was a hell. She often shut the windows too, denying any fresh air, saying that it was always cold outside. Mira mira.

    He didn't imagine he would want to keep married with someone like that, but the money Darlene promised him - $90 million! Waw..! He could make several small movies with that amount.. or one big movie about almost anything he could imagine. Jean settled with the latter option, and made Darlene cough up the dough.

    What sort of movie would it be? There was so much pressure to get the things right, since he knew he only had one shot at this. He remembered how his past successes, however wonderful they were, always seemed to disappoint him. Because they lacked.. that ability to touch that empty hole in his heart. What came to his mind, thinking about that beautiful, aching sensation, was an epic romance movie. It would have a dash of everything he liked, that made him excited, but at its core would be that romance, true to the feelings he first felt with Yana then.

    And what would be the best love story Bollywood had in stock? He paged through every script that various writers made, and none of them seemed satisfactory to his desires.

    "But there's nothing else left!" the producers told him.

    "Damn," Jean went.

    It seemed without hope; Jean didn't think of himself as a writer – being able to transmute existing stories into tangible movies was one thing, but actually coming up with a story of his own was another – it just seemed ardeous to do.

    Maybe his friends could help him, and he asked if there was anyone who could swiftly come up with an original, heartfelt scenario. Most of them said no, but a few mentioned to Jean about an eccentric story-artist, who wrote things that poked and prodded in the deepest recesses of the human soul, but people were wary of her for her strangeness, her idiosyncratic ideals.

    Her name was Quon, and she lived in a pineapple-shaped house by Bikini Bottom. In a few hours, Jean took the bullet train over and rode his way to her place, where he saw her watering her florid garden. It looked like she hadn't trimmed the grass or anything in a long while. He greeted her and he sat down inside with her by a cozy fireplace, asking her about the story he had in mind, but needed help finding the right words to express things.

    "You want me to help you make a love story?" Quon asked.

    "Well.." And Jean felt that he could pour out that aching feeling in his heart to her, to tell her about the real reason behind it – he described his first encounter with a young girl named Yana by his hometown park, and how it made such an impression on him. And that he also wanted to put in the ingredients of exciting action, friendship, and charming humour into the story's mix.

    "I'll pay you anything," Jean told her. "Help me make this happen.."

    "I have never needed any money to write," Quon said.

    And Quon asked Jean if he knew about the 007 James Bond movie series, because she liked the exciting tactical espionage action, friendship, and witty humour in each of those movies. She asked Jean if there were some James Bond scripts that were yet to be made, and Jean said, "I think so – I'll have to travel back to Bollywood to see."

    "There is no need," Quon went, grinning. "I know what to do!" And she went to her lair-like computer room with the wires and cables covering the walls, with multiple monitors and keyboards, where Jean saw her entering the WGB's server (Writer's Guild of Britannia), bypassing every layer of security using her assorted cracking programs, and searched the files to find one new James Bond script, freshly baked from the oven, and she copied the PDF file to her hard drive, where she converted it to .ODT format (LibreOffice) for editings.

    Jean was with her every step of the way. This 007 movie script originally had some nice action setpieces in Paris's Eiffel Tower and the museums of Florence. An international action thriller. (Dan Brown would be proud.) And there was a bond girl who James Bond got to steal a kiss from.

    What Quon did was extract the essential plot from the script, while re-inventing aspects of it to fit Jean's needs; it was now set around his hometown where he made 500 Days of Havana. It had a backstory to James Bond: when Bond was a boy, he met the love of his life in Paradise Park, by the angel fountain. Now many years later, Bond must rescue her from local cartel villains, instead of SPECTRE's goonies. And the ending would have Bond reconcile with her, and they would consummate their love for each other – a love that will keep them close no matter how far away they were.

    It was wonderful, and Jean happily took Quon's completed script. It was time for him to get the right crew and cast on board.

    Usually, the producers gave him the crewmembers, but Jean felt he wanted it to be a personal, sentimental film, so he called up his friends all over and had them serve the necessary roles for production. News spread around that Jean the Director was making a James Bond movie, and this helped when it came to casting, as there were many actors and actresses who wanted to work with Jean, or wanted to kick some butt in a James Bond story.

    Jean told his wife Darlene to look after his home while he was gone.

    MI6 called Daniel Craig – his new mission, should he choose to accept it, was going to have him star the titular role in '007: Reminiscences.'

    "Shaken, not stirred," Daniel mumbled the iconic lines.

    Now Yana – she'd become an artistic polymath. Earlier on, she discovered an easy meditation method over the internet called "Conscious Mental Rest." All she had to do was sit down comfortably and close her eyes, focusing herself on an imaginary comfort zone, and wait for 20-30 minutes in relative silence, and she would feel refreshed afterward. To do just that twice a day, every day – before eating breakfast, and before eating dinner. There was no need to join a religious cult, or to do strange yoga positions, or pay $2500 for a special mantra that only certified TM masters could give out.

    As a result, she blossomed out from just making pretty pictures for a living.She expressed her inner poetry in other ways too; she composed some earthly music for soundtracks, she designed numerous perfumes for FragonardⓀ - she had the idea to make the perfumes cheaper, by simplifying the perfume production process and using substitute ingredients for the spices that had to be bought from Bolivian cartels. The final perfume had the same feeling to the nose, and it also lasted longer too.

    She also fashioned dresses and outwear.The cheap, pretty outfits she'd see in malls, she would buy and at home, she would cut them into pieces that she restitched back into far more interesting forms. Then she'd sell the designs to clothing companies, who'd use her design as the templete in which to mass produce more like it.

    Yana kept out of the public spotlight for the most part – she enjoyed the solitude where she could reflect to herself her moods and musings. She liked to sit by the lake where people would skate during the frozen winters, and where the swans would dwell during the springs and summers.

    She thought of herself as the waters, where she had no tangible form and she could run wild into every crevice, meandering as she needed to.

    And also, Yana had her own line of specialty-made cowbells (it's the "Cowstian Dior" novelty line), for all the farmers wanting to help their cattle express their own unique individualities. Each of the cowbells were crafted in the art studio – some with curly shapes, some whose bells would ring the notes of Beethoven's 5th symphony. It was quick and easy to do, so the commissions were priced around $20 online, the price including shipping and handling charges. All the profits went to Alcoholics Anonymous, because she felt it was important to wean other artists from the need to get drunk to be creative.

    When Daniel left the studio for another 'trip somewhere', Yana wondered where her artist-in-arms was really going, so she secretly tailed him like a voyeur. She observed where he went home, and through the window, she watched him dance the boogie shake in his underwear, before Daniel started packing some tuxedos, undies and utilities into a silver briefcase.

    And she followed him as he took the early morning taxi to the international airport-- the taxi she was tailing him in had hydralics that bounced to the tune of La Cucaracha, because her Hinditaxi driver said 'Wrongfully Accused (1998)' was one of his favourite movies, she should go see it some time.

    By the time they reached the airport, Yana left the taxi a little dazed and dizzy, and she held onto a nearby parking meter just to get her bearings, before she saw Daniel Craig striding over to one of the terminals, destined for Mumbai City.

    Mira!Mumbai City – that was where Bollywood movies were made, but most of them were forbidden to watch here (under penalty of life imprisonment). Or Daniel could be meeting a pen pal overseas, who knows? Yana was right behind Daniel; after Daniel got his bags checked in, Yana told the terminal woman that she'd have what he was having.

    "The express flight to Mumbai City?" the woman said, typing a few keystrokes. "Ooh, lucky you, there's one last spot left!"

    That one last spot on the plane was right at the back, and while Daniel was cozing up front, first-class, Yana had to contend with everyone else snoring and blubbering like pigs for the 3-hour flight.

    At Mumbai, Daniel was heading over to meet Director Jean-Paul – Yana didn't know that yet, but she saw him enter a lavish condo, so she followed inside after him.

    In the lobby, she sat by the red comfy couch while Daniel was playing Tekken III on one of the arcade machines; Daniel was pitting Jin Kazama against his mother Jun Kazama, and Jin constantly got beatdown in the fights because someone earlier made the control buttons a little sticky, so it was kind hard to execute the special combos, gah.

    And then for Yana, like a flash, a shudder freezed her in her spot..

    Coming out the elevator,when she least expected it, there was Jean – he was all growed up! His features looked more refined, more mature, but the innocence and youth was still there in his eyes. Yana's heart leapt, almost skipped a beat. It was a dream!

    But it wasn't a mere dream, it was really happening.

    While Daniel shook Jean's hand, Yana stared at Jean from afar with the amazement of someone who just discovered that miracles do exist. All the time, she was hoping that Jean would take a look around and notice her by the couch – then panic seized her. She started feeling terribly shy about actually having to face him.. that vague possibility that Jean might have actually forgotten about her, and even if she'd told him how she remembered him as a child, she might be no more than a ghost to him, a mere will-o'-the-wisp. And if that happened, it would be so unbearable, and that hole in her heart.. it would implode into absolute anguish. Non.. she couldn't bring herself to just walk up to him and interrupt whatever was going on.

    So maybe it would be better to find out a little more from the sidelines.

    Yana remembered playing Hitman: Blood Money at a friend's house, where Agent 47 had to sneak around, subdue bad guys, steal their outfits for disguises – in order to complete level objectives. Now was a good moment to put that know-how to goodly use, except for the killing/subduing enemies bit, because that's no nice.

    She saw Jean and Daniel enter the elevator, and the elevator's marker went to floor 5. So she went up the stairs and upon reaching the 5th floor, she barely saw the door close by the end of the hall.

    Yana went out on a limb, and tried knocking on the door just beside. It was an elderly woman. Yana said that she was visiting a friend here, but the toilet got blocked, so she needed to use the washroom – fast!

    "Go right ahead dearie," the woman said. "The washroom's this way."

    The woman's washroom smelled like apple cinnamon, and the walls were tiled a lavish wine red, but the good thing was that Yana could hear the conversation going through the walls, between Jean and Daniel. As Yana found out, Jean was asking Daniel about his understanding of the James Bond character, like how Bond was when he was off professional duty, and what Bond's central traits were.

    And then Jean mentioned something about Bond's childhood, and how Bond would meet such-and-such Yomiko Readman by a fountain in a park, mumble mumble.

    Yana realised that Jean was going to direct – that Jean was a movie director, and.. he still remembered their encounter together. She went out, thanking the old woman for using her washroom for an hour, and for her first night in Mumbai, she stayed at a Daler Mehndi 5-star hotel, where she used one of the public internet terminals to look up Jean + Director on Mooo-gle search engine.

    19 years ago (circa 2016), Jean was first credited as co-director on '500 Days of Havana'. He made nine movies after that as an actual director, and Yana wrote down a list of his movies onto paper – she'd watch all of them in a marathon soon.

    Then she looked up how it summarised his past background; he made a bunch of YouChew movies with action figures and they were pretty popular back in the day. He had a passion for putting smiles on people's faces, and to make his audience experience the full range of human emotion, with the help of personally coaching the actors he worked with one-on-one.

    Inside, she compared Jean's own talents with hers; she'd like to try making a movie of her own too.. if she'd been lucky enough to live here instead of back there.

    She discovered rumours about Jean's film-in-announcement, 007: Reminiscences.They were just finishing up the hiring process for the cast and crew, but they needed an art director who could help with the look and overall aesthetic feel of the film – someone who could fix the environments, costumes and makeup.

    The other people Jean tried hiring, when they showed off their portfolio of prior work, Jean didn't think they were right for it. It didn't have the right feel, that nostalgic and delicate feel he wanted.

    So Yana headed to the hiring offices where she asked to apply for the art director of the new 007 movie. It was a balding guy with some sleek geek glasses – his name was Tre Listman, the director of the competing movie 'Stuck at the Galleria' which by coincidence tied with Jean's first film. Jean and Tre had since been best friends, and Tre was the go-fer guy for the hiring process.

    Yana showed him her portfolio of artistry over Mooo-gle's image search. Her assorted outfits, her cowbells, portraits and art commissions.Much of Yana's art was done under a pseudonym, a pen name, but I won't tell you since I'm not creative enough to come up with one for her yet-- oh never mind, it's actually "QDesj--*beep*"

    Tre was quite impressed, and he promised to show her stuff over to Jean. Yana told him that if it was alright, to use her penname to keep her own anonymity.

    "Sure!" Tre nodded.

    While Yana waited for Jean's reply back, she went through all of Jean's movies at once in her hotel room for the rest of the day, ordering takeout and Oriental cuisine to be delivered straight to her room. She'd eat, and then she'd be stretching and doing aerobic exercises while the magic of Jean's film vividly poured through the UHDTV (Ultra-high Definition TV, 8K resolution). All the time for her, it was like peering through the memories of that life she'd never got to enjoy with Jean.

    When Jean called her over the next day for an interview, he felt that Laputa Madre, the patron saint of fortunes, shewas smiling on his side. He thought that this QDesjardin was a sign that his magnum opus, this penultimate film from his heart, was going to really happen. So when he saw her stride into his condo's lobby, he thought for a secondif he was seeing things; that woman, she couldn't be, could it?

    Yana introduced herself as Miss Desjardin, and as she kept her best composure during the discussion with Jean, a tear almost let down her eye, but she managed to cover it up with a well-timed 'sneeze', wiping her eyes on her arm. The whole time, her heart just wanted to.. (confess) it was swelling up like a balloon on the verge of being oversaturated, and it could delicately pop out of a misstep. So she had to wait.. keep herself cool, and wait untilshe and he managed to find their home again. She wondered if he really didn't recognise her for some reason; but after all, it was so many years, where most other people could easily forget, and they were very little then.

    Jean felt that this Miss Desjardin was just perfect for being the art director, as she described how she might want to dress up the sets in such-and-such scenarios; he hadn't given her the entire script yet – if that woman really was.. Yana, she'd be able to recognise what'll happen inside the story.

    But drats, he had to wait; all the copies of the script had already shipped out to his hometown already, under the highest security protocols (this was a very, very high anticipation movie – if you were involved, it would be no goodly if some bum spoiled the plot before production started).

    The entire cast and crew flew out to Jean's hometown. Daniel Craig was chatting up with Jenny Everywhere, his co-star who'd be playing the Bond girl in this one, and he found her to be quite an alluring enigma.

    When they drove down the roads in a coach bus, there was a tense look in Jean's eye as he stared out the windows. All the sweetest memories of his childhood came flooding right back – the adventure of life had carried him afar, wandering the world, and he felt like he'd almost forgotten everything important. And maybe a lot of things had changed, but the general colours were still the same. The yellow that ran through the landscape was unmistakable.

    And yet.. if he didn't know that this was supposed to be his hometown, it could be a different place entirely.

    Yana noticed that one of the cows from the outskirt farms had her green and pink Cowstian Dior cowbell around its collar, hehe.

    They all stayed where Jean's mum lived; that old house that had been renovated numerous times over the years to be more roomier, jazzier and sexier to his mama's tastes. Jean hugged his mum – and she told him that he looked much different than she'd expected, a little shorter, even though they'd talked online plenty of times before. He introduced her to the people who'd be staying in the spare rooms down in the basement for his upcoming movie, it was way cheaper than renting out a hotel; during a film production, it would often cost a lot of money to keep a crew away from home, fed and provided for.

    His mama told him not to worry – she always had the desire to push her maternal abilities to her limit, and in case she couldn't keep everyone fed, there was always takeout and pizza as an option, wooarrgh!

    For the location scouting, Jean asked his mum about that park she used to take him to when he was young.

    "I don't remember what it's called.." Jean said. "Paradise Park? Paradise Falls..? Or Paradise--"

    "—Gardens?" Mme. Desjardin pipped.

    "Gardens.. Paradise Gardens.. yeah, I think that's it, Paradise Gardens! Mama, Paradise Gardens, you used to take me there to that park, but you didn't later on for some reason. What happened?"

    His mama told him that the park's caretaker ran out of money to pay property taxes, and he couldn't keep the gardens open anymore. So the entire park was foreclosed, left to ruin, and the city officials still had yet to decide whether to tear it down in place of a new building. It seemed like an old, sentimental relic, and it made Jean and Yana depressed – it was their only tangible connection to each other.

    The next day, Jean got permission from the officals to have the garden gates opened, and he brought Mme. Desjardin along in the location scouting – to see how she felt about the place.

    They were the merest silhouettes in the abandoned park. The flora had grown all over like rampant curly hair, the grass uncut and looking like moss growth, the trees bending over from their own weight, the grass and flowers growing in the cracks of the worn, cobwebbed pavement. It was a terribly distorted version of what Jean remembered, of what Yana remembered. But in their hearts, they could almost feel that same magic in the air as back then, and Jean briefly heard the circadas chirping from that summer, before hearing silence again, and the ho-hum of city life just outside.

    Jean felt Mme. Desjardin's hand holding his, and he imagined that she must be feeling the same sense of.. nostalgia, of yearning and searching for that beautiful thing lost in the past.He might've been right to have picked her over all the other contenders.

    They went down the meandering pathways, glancing at what might've been familiar, until they encountered that area where the angel fountain used to reside. Now it was dulled rubble, with one of the angels having chipped off onto the ground.

    And Mme. Desjardin told Jean that she could direct a renovation crew into restoring the magic, as accurately to Jean's (and her own) sensibilities as she could. She promises.

    So she did; it took only seven days to do, and the day after that,Mme. Desjardinshowed Jean the garden, as it had existed at their tender age. Jean was flabbergasted, and a little perturbed actually at how uncanny it evoked those feelingsinside him. He asked her if she wasn't actually that person called Yana, and to that, Mme. Desjardin could only give a shrug, with a little blush showing on her cheeks.

    And Yana observed as Jean found two kids, a boy and a girl aged 5 and 6, and Jean coached them on their lines, when they meet because they wandered by the fountain, and petite James Bond slipped and scraped his knee on the pavement.

    It was fascinating also to go through Jean's family album, as his mama showed all the pictures she took when Jean was young, growing up, older and older into the man he was now. If these pictures had anything important to say to future generations, it was this: I was here. I existed. I was this young, I was this happy, and someone cared enough about me in this world just to take my picture in this moment. The shutter has been clicked, and the flash goes off, and time stops into a blink of an eye – just for thisone moment. (When people's houses are on fire, what's the thing they'd want to save after their loved ones and pets? Their photos, holding memories.)

    Yana saw all the old toys Jean used to play with; they were the toys featured on YouChew earlier ago, and here they were, stored neatly in the cupboard, clean from dust, and Yana held onto petite Elise, as she figured out how to transform her into her menacing spider form, and back again.

    Then she dressed up little James Bond and Yomiko Readman in those outfits she'd liked to have worn as a girl, and if she had been a boy. It was something with a gothic flair; Yomiko got adorable glasses and a black and white dress, while Mr. Bond got something more casual for his childhood: some shabby, yet understatedly cute hand-me-down clothes.

    And Yana saw Jean animate his child actors into action, from when she helped sooth his knee scrape under the fountain's crystal water, to when they were roleplaying Prince and Princess – she would have to mend their outfits when they tore through the fabric in the bushes – to when they were lying down together under the tree's shade, and finally.. when they had to hold each other goodbye when the sun finally set.

    And she could not bear to hide any longer.

    It was one night, when Yana saw Jean quietly shuffle out the house, that she silently followed him under the moonlight, until he was at the Paradise Gardens, apparently alone, but with her as a sort of guardian angel justshying behind him.

    He stood there by the gates for a while, staring off over there, gazing at some projection screen showing him all those moments, slipping from the very clutches of his soul – and he held his own arms to his chest, as his inconsolable aching was reaching its peak under the full moon. That hole in his heart, it was bleeding, and there seemed to be no one else around for him to cry to, so he held that suffering inside him as he wandered down the path, like a lost child.

    He slowly went over to the fountain of angels, where the angels trickled water and he put his hands out to receive the wetness. And he closed his eyes, tears going down his face.

    "Jean.." Yana said, like how one would whisper to console someone young and sad. "Jean.."

    The man before her slowly looked up, and she saw that boy Jean in his haunted eyes. He was lost and hurt, but it wasn't his knee anymore that was hurting.

    "Yana..?" he asked.

    She felt her own tears start to flow. She couldn't help herself. "Yes," she went, "..I'm here."

    And the dam inside themselvesjust burst and they ran toward each other by the fountain, and they held and embraced each other, and pressed their lips together and their tears and saliva mingled together with the sweetest taste like nectar – and wave after wave of ever-intensifying feeling surged from their beating hearts, clasped tightly, never wanting to let go, until it became a frenzy of deep, tumultuous rawness,

    where they tore at each other's clothes until they felt their own burning skin, and their bodies clung to one another with humid sweatwhen he entered her, and they were making the most beautiful love they could ever manage to experience and give to each other,

    until all their melancholy pain went away and they found their peak, their uncontrollable climactic joy and happiness, of one lifetime meeting another lifetime,

    and they filled the hole in each other's hearts.

    And at last, they slept under the moon's gaze, where together they drifted off, beyond the stars and galaxies, unseen angels guiding them over to that place where dreams are born.

    ○ ○ ○

    the things you would always say
    even now, I remember them

    the one you love is
    right here
    though you don't know it

    if you open your heart and close your eyes
    surely you'll understand

    the moon goes down
    the sun comes up
    these echoes engraved in time

    only in between the light and the darkness
    is the truth engraved

    if you open your heart and close your eyes
    surely you'll understand

    the day is near when everything will perish
    but this love will continue on forever

    (I feel your sadness
    and your happiness —

    I've loved a long time
    your heart is free)

    only in between the light and the darkness
    is the truth engraved

    if you open your heart and close your eyes
    surely you'll understand

    the day is near when everything will be born
    but this love will continue on forever

    more more more more higher — crossing over time
    more more more more faster — running through the sky
    more more more more stronger — exchanging love
    more more more more longer — embracing