Scarring Jasmine-Chapter Nine Sakura

05/10/2024 Friday 48-58F Rain

Wang’s house was a western-style, two-story light grey stone structure, located in a quiet corner. Twenty years ago, he purchased it from an Englishman. In front of the house and against the entrance, stood a stone-built round goldfish pond; at the rear facing the back veranda, a garden was blooming all year long. Yu and Jasmine lived upstairs.

Jasmine’s world was still small. Except for her daily three meals and morning greeting to her in-laws, she seldom left her room. Wang’s study was on the main floor: He went to office every morning, came back home around noon, and spent his whole afternoon in the study, most of the time receiving guests. Jasmine was a newly married young lady; it wasn’t proper for her to show up in the presence of other men. Her mother-in-law was busy with napping, knitting, and chitchatting with her visitors; she hardly had any time or anything to talk to Jasmine about. Yu was working for his father in the office. No matter whether on working days or on weekends, Jasmine could only see him in early morning and late evening. Like now, it was Sunday; both Yu’s brother and sister would come, Jasmine had no clue about where he was.

So for most of the day, Jasmine was alone. The second floor was always quiet; it was so quiet that Jasmine even could hear the clock ticking in Yu’s study from the other side of the floor. And it was cold--Even in Summer, the marble floor and the burnished walls were like ice; they made Jasmine chilly. 

In this house Jasmine had nobody to talk to; her only friend was that large sakura tree standing outside her window. From Spring to Fall, Summer to Winter, Jasmine watched it bud, leaf, flower, and fall. Its world was busy; it knew exactly when it should do what, setting its own unique schedule. 

At present its long, fluffy, blooming branches were swaying gracefully in the breeze; it made everyone feel that there would be a long, long season ahead. However, Jasmine knew that one night soon after, it would fade suddenly; when she woke up and came to the window, all she could see was an empty tree surrounded by millions of its fallen petals, which were like tears from the crescent moon.

In some way, Jasmine felt that Yu was that sakura tree: He stood in silence, full of beautiful blossoms. But, in his world, there was no space for her; she could only watch him from a distance. And he would never share his comings and goings with her. “Is he a guest in this house, or am I? Will he be gone one day suddenly—like the Sakura—Without a sign?” Jasmine felt a pang in her heart.

Yu’s sister Ying came at noon, with her three-month-old son. Jasmine met them in the living room. “Jasmine, he likes you. Look, he is smiling at you.” Ying said to her, “You should have a son too; you don’t know how fun it is to have your own child.” 

The glow in Jasmine’s eyes dimmed. “I will go ask the maid to make some tea for you.” To hide her embarrassment, she made an excuse and left. Later she returned. Before entering the door, she overheard an ongoing conversation between Ying and Qiao: 

“Mother, they have been married for almost two years, why hasn’t she become pregnant?” 

“Well, who knows. Yu is busy all the time. Perhaps because the central government just moved to Nanjing, both your uncle and elder brother were transferred there, so Yu has more work to do.” 

“Father shouldn’t assign Yu so much work. But Yu also seems to not like Jasmine very much. It is a pity that she has such a pretty face, which can make every man pause. Since Min saw her on the engagement day, he has been praising her all the time, which really annoys me.” 

“But what’s the use? She can’t please her husband.” Jasmine heard a big sigh from her mother-in-law. “She is too quiet and old fashioned; in that way how can she excite a man like your brother?” 

“Mother, you should talk to her about this.” 

“I did, and I could see that she also tried; but it just didn’t work with Yu.” 

“Does Yu have any other women?” 

“I don’t think so. Alas, we got a hen that laid no eggs--Perhaps it is just our fate.”

Jasmine flushed crimson with shame. She withdrew herself from the door and ran upstairs. “We got a hen that laid no eggs” –That was her mother-in-law’s comment about her. Yes, Qiao did push her a couple of times, even instructed her how to act to attract a man. During the first few months after the wedding, this marriage seemed ok; at least Jasmine thought so. Then Yu became colder and colder to her; one day all of a sudden, he decided to sleep in his study alone without any explanation. Jasmine wanted to know the reason, but also was afraid that he might think her too sensitive. So she kept silent. The mother-in-law kept her eyes on them. 

Two days after Yu did that, Qiao asked the maids to remove Yu’s bed from the study and locked its door, forcing him to sleep back in the same bedroom with Jasmine. Weeks later, Qiao came to Jasmine’s room in an early evening and brought her a few lightweight silk sleeping gowns. “I asked someone in Shanghai to buy them for you. They were imported from France. It is said that all husbands love to see their women wearing them. Tonight, before Yu goes to sleep, you should wear it and make yourself prettier. Don’t be shy, it is a wife’s duty! You ought to make him happy.”

Jasmine did what the mother-in-law told her. After bathing, she put one of them on: Its fabric was semi-transparent; under the light and from the mirror, she could see the lines of her body clearly. She had never worn anything like that; it was just as she was wearing nothing! But it was the mother-in-law’s order with a good purpose, she must obey it.

She rushed to the bed and covered herself with the blanket. The gown had a very pleasant, cold touch, like a second layer of skin, like Yu’s skin. She then thought of another man, who was in the same country where this gown was made. She closed her eyes, trying to recall how that night’s moon shone over the barren bridge…

Yu’s footsteps brought her back from the moonlight. He was back. As usual, he didn’t talk to her; he walked directly to a bench near the bed, sat down and was about to take off his socks. She knew this would be her best chance to make him notice her; she also knew that she shouldn’t let this chance slide away--For sure tomorrow morning her mother-in-law would ask her to find out the result. She couldn’t lie to her; she even didn’t know how to lie. Besides, the mother-in-law had many pairs of eyes around her; even if she, Jasmine, wouldn’t say anything to her, someone else would. She had disappointed her mother-in-law for so long; she desired a child to satisfy everyone including her own parents and herself. Therefore, she must take the initiative to try. 

Jasmine collected all her courage, got out of the bed, and knelt by Yu’s side to help him take off the socks. 

Her gown successfully attracted his attention since she heard him ask: “Where did you get this gown?” 

Jasmine’s face was burning: “Mother-in-law bought it.” 

“It doesn’t suit you, don’t wear it anymore. If mother asks, tell her that it’s my opinion.” He stood up and walked away.

Jasmine didn’t rise; she remained in her kneeling posture and felt terribly ashamed. 

Yes, she had the most beautiful face; her face could make every man stop. But she failed to stop her husband and was a hen that laid no eggs—thus she was useless.

Tears dropped on her dress. She searched for her handkerchief, and at that moment saw Yu come in. He must have seen her tears; he gave her an embarrassed sniffle and said: “My brother’s family just came. I think you should go downstairs and meet them.” Then he turned into the bathroom.

Jasmine carefully dried her eyes with the handkerchief, then inspected them in the mirror—She mustn’t make the others be aware that she had cried. The sister and sister-in-law were smart ladies with good noses.. She couldn’t afford to be caught by them and bear more fault.

She went down. Everyone including Wang was in the living room, talking and laughing loudly. Her arrival didn’t attract any attention, so she picked a quiet corner and sat. 

Ying was speaking with Jin’s three daughters: “How did you come here from Nanjing?” 

The eldest kid answered right away: “We came here by Blue Steel Express train. There were four stops: Zhenjiang, Changzhou, Wuxi, Suzhou. If we continued, it would take us to Shanghai next.” 

Another kid jumped in: “The compartment of the train was huge,” she opened her arms to show Ying how large it was, “and we had soda; in each soda bottle there was a huge cherry, a real cherry. Aunt, how could they put that cherry inside the bottle? The bottleneck was so narrow!” 

Ying just had a baby boy while her sister-in-law Yan, Jin’s wife, had only three daughters—This fact made Ying feel supreme. But the issue was, she neither had the chance to take that glorious Blue Steel Express train, nor knew how people bottled the cherry, so she brushed her niece off: “I won’t tell you. Go ask your parents!” 

Then she turned her head to Yan, whose father was also an important government official: “My husband Min told me that his friend in Shanghai just bought a German car. It is so stylish, costs eight thousand silver coins. Why not ask Jin to buy one so next time you all can drive here?” 

“We don’t want a car.” Yan simply turned that proposal down, “My father and father-in-law always tell us to be humble. We don’t like showing off.” 

Wang heard this conversation and remarked: “That’s true. It’s too flashy to spend eight thousand for a car. We are not those new money guys; we should conduct ourselves more properly.”

Ying seemed to pout: “Father, I was just joking, and you made a big deal of it.” Then she called to her two brothers across the table: “Jin, Yu, did you hear of Little Ninth Phoenix when you were in Beijing? This evening he and his troupe will perform at an opera here. The seats are quite hot, but I still managed to reserve a box for us. Let’s all go together.” 

Yu shrugged. Jin turned to him and asked: “Why not? I listened to his performances of opera quite a few times before, I have to say that they were pretty good.” Then he said to the parents: “Father and mother, you should join us too.”

“I won’t go.” Wang replied88 from the other side of the sofa, “It will be too troublesome if I meet my acquaintances there. Ying, you can ask Min to take my seat.”


Popular Posts