Once, in Beijing, a young girl in a red gown huddled in a doorway.
Two weeks ago, she had rebelliously boarded a ship from the island of Taiwan, left her grandparents who had raised her, and traveled back to China to find her parents -- who she wouldn't have recognized at all. She had been sent off as a baby during the Civil War; no sane Republican would have wanted their children brought up where intellectuals like her learned mother and her professor father were being publicly humiliated, abused. It is why she, as a baby, was sent away in the first place.
When she arrived in Beijing with only a few yen in her pocket, she met an old grizzled lady who was selling old dresses in the cold, wet street. It had begun to rain, and the girl only knew her parents lived in the great capital. Which ring? Which building? Were they alive?
The old lady eyed her with curiosity, and said, "I know you're waiting for someone. I can see that you're nervous because you're about to meet someone."
The girl replies, "How did you know?"
The woman says, "The look on your face. Here, I will sell you this beautiful satin red dress for a low cost. You will look beautiful for whoever you are meeting."
"Really? You think so?"
The old lady grins, crow's feet tickling the edges of her sly eyes. "Of course. It is said to be magical, this dress. It will make a good impression -- you will look like a princess."
The girl agrees, pays for the dress, changes in an alley, and finds a house that is familiar. She waits.