Scarring Jasmine-Chapter Thirteen Invitation

06/10/2024 Monday 67-77F Sunny 

Three weeks later, the messenger delivered a written message from Gao to Jasmine:

“Dear sister, hope you are well. We all are fine here, don’t worry about us. The day before yesterday, Little Red came to our house, and became mother-in-law’s adopted daughter. She was so generous. When she heard me praise her gold bracelets, she took them off immediately and put on my wrists. Don’t tell parents-in-law about this, you know they are too conservative. Especially if father-in-law knows, no doubt he will give me a big lecture and force me to return them.

Little Red also mentioned you. She said that recently her night-blooming cactus was flowering, and that you had promised to go to see her. She invited both of us to watch the flowers in her house—to which I agreed.

Please do come, don’t make me lose face nor let parents-in-law know about this. Tomorrow evening Little Red’s rickshaw will come to pick me up at the entrance of Moye Lane, then I will come to meet you outside your house around five thirty. See you then. From sister-in-law, Gao”

Jasmine put the paper in her drawer. Night-blooming cactus, Little Red, and her brother Zhao…She thought of the day when they met in her parents’ house, and under the moon how his eyes had shined—those were Shanyuan’s eyes. “What’s wrong with me?” Jasmine blamed herself, “Shanyuan has gone for a long time, and this man just looks a little like him. He isn’t Shanyuan. The invitation was sent from Little Red; it has nothing to do with her brother. Perhaps he even won’t be there. And the most important thing is, I am a married woman.” 

Jasmine leaned against the window and gazed at the Sakura tree. She felt very lonely. 

The two sisters arrived at Little Red’s house. A man opened the door; it was Leopard. Upon seeing Jasmine and Gao, he shouted at the window in a thick voice: “Miss Little Red, the guests are here!”

Gao snorted with laughter. She whispered in Jasmine’s ear: “This guy is really uncouth!” 

Little Red directed the sisters to the room: “Welcome to our little house. We just moved in not long ago. Please make yourself at home.” 

A maid brought in the tea. Gao asked: “Are you alone at home? Where is Zhao?” 

“He will be home later.” Little Red stood up from her seat, and offered her hands to the guests.

“Let’s take a walk in the garden. The dinner is under preparation, and the night-blooming cactus is developing. Soon we can enjoy both at the same time.”

The maid set the dining table on the veranda, facing a large night-blooming cactus. It was about four feet tall; dozens of its large fat buds were locked under their reddish orange stripe-shaped calyxes. When night fell, the buds began expanding and trembling, as if they were in the process of giving birth. Then the calyxes opened and showed the white buds underneath. 

Right at that moment, Zhao came back. Little Red called to him: “Brother, come, we are here! The flowers are about to open!” 

Zhao walked to the veranda right away and made his apology to the guests: “I am sorry I came late. I hope that Little Red served you well.” 

“Shhh!” Little Red interrupted him, “Don’t disturb the flowers. They are working so hard to get the job done!” 

The others laughed. Zhao picked a seat to sit between his sister and Gao. They all turned to look at the night-blooming cactus.

Three pure white buds had reached their tipping points: After another slight tremble and almost at the same time, they burst open. Jasmine suspected that she had heard a faint snap come from them. The air was scented with a charming fragrance.

“Gee, I have completely forgotten.” Little Red jumped to her feet. “I made one pair of earrings for sister-in-law and was supposed to go get them in the shop this afternoon. It’s not very late, sister-in-law, since you are here, why not go with me and try them on in person?” 

Gao was surprised, but still tried to cover her excitement: “Little Red, you have been very generous to me. I can’t accept any more gifts from you.” 

Little Red pulled her up from her stool: “Don’t say that, sister-in-law. I like you and want to share the good things with you. You mustn’t refuse me. Let’s go! Don’t worry about sister Jasmine, my brother will take good care of her.” 

She gave Zhao a playful wink. Zhao’s face turned red, but he still spoke to Gao: “Yes, you should go with Little Red, she always has an awesome taste in that sort of thing. I will arrange a rickshaw to take Jasmine home after dinner.” 

Jasmine offered to go with them, Little Red pressed her back to the seat: “Sister Jasmine, it isn’t easy for you to come here; please stay longer, more flowers will open. I shall come back soon.”

Gao and Little Red left. Zhao shifted a little in his seat and asked: “How is the dinner?” 

“It is very delicious, thank you. And the flowers are just beautiful.” Jasmine answered. Then there was a long silence, which embarrassed her. Without knowing how to end it, she pinched one pine seed and began peeling its skin. 

“You have a pair of long, beautiful little fingernails.” Zhao praised.

Jasmine lifted her head, wanting to respond to him with a smile; but when she found him looking at her, a flush of embarrassment rose to her cheeks. 

Zhao stood up, “I guess Little Red didn’t show you the jasmine tree, which is another treasure of mine. Come along, I will show it to you.”

He directed Jasmine to a small room; outside its window stood a moonlit blooming jasmine tree; thousands of blossoms were glistening like a galaxy of stars. 

Zhao walked to the window, picked one flowering branch, and took a deep breath from it. Then looking at the branch in his hand, he began to talk, as though he was talking to it:

“Do you know how I spent my past four months until now? I have been busy building my path to you. Since the first day I saw you at the opera, I just can’t forget about you. I think I must be mad: I had someone follow you; I tried all the ways to approach you; I suppressed my feelings so I wouldn’t scare you. Eventually, here I am, alone, with you.”


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