Scarring Jasmine-Chapter Seventeen Water

07/05/2024 Friday 74-95F Sunny

Jasmine stood under the sun for a long time until she felt faint. She slowly walked to a stone pier shaded by a tree and sat down. She fixed her eyes on the water: It was still glittering, same as how it looked when Yu and she crossed the bridge. But it couldn’t be the same. It ran toward the east, unstoppable; the old stream had passed, the new one was coming. She couldn’t tell the difference in the water between then and now, just like the water also didn't know what had been changed in her since then. 

The past forty-eight hours were a big drama: Zhao’s July garden, that night-blooming cactus, his jade pin… had become vague; while the sakura tree in front of her window, Yu’s frustrations and enthusiasm became clearer. She reached for the pearl earrings which she was still wearing—They were all she had from him now and they witnessed the farewell. 

Was there an invisible hand dragging her here and there, up and down? She was thrown from Heaven to Hell regardless of her will. Now that the hand stopped, she found herself sitting by the water, alone, near her parents’ house.

A fishing boat sailed by along the stream; a man sat at the end of it, paddling the oars and singing:

“Weeds in the lakes,
Breezes bring their scents.
My boat drifts, rootless.
Gone fishing at daybreak,
Paddling back at dusk.
Busy all-day, can’t fill my stomach.
Foggy the water,
Ragged my garment;
Year by year, my life is bitter.
Dim the room,
She shows in the dream;
When can I take her home?”

A tear slid from Jasmine’s eye. She looked for her handkerchief but couldn’t find it, then realized that Yu must have forgotten to return it to her in that jewelry shop. “Will he keep it, or throw it away? How could he look so natural like nothing had happened? Didn’t he feel pain? If so, how heartless he is! Yes, he will forget about me, about our marriage, very soon; I am not important to him.”

She sighed, letting the breeze dry her eyes.

An old woman walked toward her and stopped at a pier which was about five feet away. Then she nodded at Jasmine and sat on it. 

“The river breeze is pleasant, isn’t it?” She turned her head to Jasmine, expecting her answer.

“Yes mama.” Jasmine replied. 

She looked over Jasmine in a loving way, “You are so young, and pretty, I guess you must have been married?” She asked. 

“Yes mama, I am married.” Jasmine tried to make her voice not sound distressed. 

“Does your husband’s family live nearby?” 

“Yes mama, he lives nearby.” Jasmine forced back her tears. 

“That’s nice! I feel happy for you.” The old woman moved her eyes to the river. “I had a daughter; she would be thirty-seven if she is still alive. She was also pretty. At the age of eighteen she was engaged to A Zai, a good young man like a buffalo who lived on the other side of this county. The wedding day was scheduled for that Autumn. One Summer evening, I still remember that day was as lovely as today, she went to wash vegetables at the pond. ‘Mother, wait for me to come home and cook the dinner.’ Then she left, and never came back. The neighbors and I went out to look for her, but only found her bamboo colander as well as some bok choy scattered by the pond. Later rumor had it that she was caught by bandits! Whether it was true or not, she was always a good girl; she ought to come back to see me. Bandits, I have seen too many bandits in my life! The governments are bandits, the police and soldiers are bandits, everyone can be a bandit! So even if she became a bandit’s wife, she should come back to see her widowed mother; I wouldn’t say anything bad to her. Last month I met A Zai on the street, he told me that soon he would be a father-in-law. I congratulated him. It is understandable that people must move on. But, as a mother, I can’t give up on my only daughter. I have been waiting for her for nineteen years; I will continue to do so in my old house. I can’t leave there because one day if she comes back and can’t find me, she will get worried.”

She arose slowly, turned her wrinkled weather-beaten face to Jasmine again, “I must go now. You are a good girl. Life isn’t easy yet is beautiful; there is hope. An old woman like me still enjoys it. Go home, don’t let your family worry about you.” 

Jasmine stood up, responded with a nod, and watched her tottering away. “Yes, time for me to go home, to go to my parents’ home.” 

After slamming the door, Wang sat back to the armchair in his study. He felt annoyed and disappointed. “Rude”, “hate”, “scapegoat”, “puppet”, “freedom”… How could his own son say such words to him? All these years, he had worked very hard to keep the family’s fame and prosperity, to make his children and grandchildren’s lives easier. Weren’t these enough? Shouldn’t he have his son’s respect and trust? Jasmine’s affair wasn’t a big deal. Before anyone else knew it, he could just simply lock her up and in a few days find out who that man, “Peach Blossom Boss” was from either Jasmine or A Liu, then give that guy an unforgettable lesson. Afterward, Jasmine would never have the guts to betray her husband. 

For the family’s sake, Wang didn’t want Yu to dump her at least for now; he needed this marriage to keep Yu around so he could have his eye on him. Yu was a smart diligent kid, who would have a very bright future with his help. Or if Yu chose to live a simpler “normal” life, it was ok too; he had more than enough fortune to support his son. So why did Yu still rebel against him? For what? For that sinful bloody freedom? Freedom was bullshit-- it meant nothing when you had no money. How many young men would die for Yu’s position, only Yu didn’t appreciate it. “His life has been too easy. If he decides to be fucked, let him be! He deserves a punishment! Once he tastes the bitter, he will be more realistic and remember his old man!” He clenched his fist.

Now the most urgent thing left for him to do was to inform Bai about this divorce. “I must silence him in one shot and distance my family from any issues.” Wang tapped his finger on the table figuring. Then he started to write:

“Bai, long time no see. Unfortunately, today I am writing to you about something that I can’t tell you in person. Please see the enclosed letter and fingernail which I received from someone yesterday, as well as the divorce notice posted by Yu in today’s newspapers.

Yu is a perfectionist thus he wants a flawless wife. We don’t yet know who wrote that insulting letter; he must be either arrogant, or ignorant, or both. But thinking about our families’ names and Jasmine’s future, this time I will not pursue him; I will consider it water under the bridge. That’s it!

Ps: Jasmine’s belongings and dowry will be packed and delivered afterward.

Best Regards, Xuesong Wang”

Wang sealed the letter, called to a servant: “This must be delivered to Bai before noon!”


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