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Authors: Mingmei Yip

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Skeleton Women (27 page)

BOOK: Skeleton Women
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He winked mischievously, and as he scurried away on his chubby feet, I thought he looked exactly like Jinying.
The dream was so disquieting that I couldn’t sleep for three whole days. But now I had no doubt about keeping the baby. Since I would soon need to keep out of sight, I decided to fake losing my voice until after the birth.
25
The Birth
M
iraculously, my plan seemed to be working out. Five months into my pregnancy, when I couldn’t squeeze into my loosest
cheongsam
anymore, I took another leave. I told Mr. Ho, owner of the Bright Moon Nightclub, that I was worn out and needed time off to boost my energy and nurture my voice. Then Mr. Ho made an announcement to the press and guaranteed them a spectacular comeback.
Just a few days after the announcement, one evening, after Lung and I had sex and were relaxing on his bed, he cast me a curious glance. “What’s the matter, Camilla, have you been eating a lot while I was away?”
Of course he was referring to my protruding stomach.
I smiled mysteriously. “Indeed, Master Lung.”
“Then stop eating so much. You know I like your slim waist.”
I feigned shyness. “But, Master Lung, I
have
to eat... .” My voice trailed off.
“Why so much?”
I planted a kiss on his cheek. “Because I’m pregnant.”
He looked at me if I’d suddenly turned into a gold pillar. “Wah!” shot out from his mouth. “Is it a boy?”
“I think so.” Of course, I had no way to know, but it didn’t hurt to say so. At least my status would be elevated for now.
“Hmm ... It’d better be.” He thought for a while, then said, “From now on, I’ll tell my men that whatever you ask for must be granted.” The he asked, seemingly without thinking, “You want to move in here so my cook can prepare better food, some baby-boy-boosting dishes for you?”
This offer took me by surprise. A dropped-from-heaven bonanza for my mission for Wang!
But I suppressed my thrill and said gratefully, “What an honor, Master Lung! Of course I’d love to. But what about the newspapers? I’m sure once they get news of my pregnancy and my moving in with you, there’ll be a huge frenzy.”
Lung playfully knocked my forehead. “My little pretty, just leave everything to my men. They’ll make sure no one will find out.”
I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. Not only would I move into his house so I could snoop around for his bank accounts and other information, I’d be served by his underlings. I was sure his chefs would cook me the most delicious and nutritious dishes, his maids would tend to me like imperial nannies to their princess, his chauffeur would drive me around in a dark-windowed, bulletproof car so no one could see or bother me, his bodyguards would watch over me like I was a royalty... . But the question was, yes, I might find out what I wanted, but would there actually be a chance to have him killed in his own house? Probably not.
I thought of suggesting that he marry me, but I didn’t want to risk his turning me down or, worse, getting angry. Everyone knew that Lung liked to make decisions by himself, not be given suggestions. Marrying me, or any other women, would be a big thing, and I’d better be cautious. Besides, no one—not even his son Jinying—knew the whereabouts of his original wife. She might be dead in her grave or withering away in a Buddhist nunnery somewhere as a crazy woman. I only hoped that his inviting me to move in was to show he was serious with me. Maybe that would lead to a proposal. I’d wait and see. Of course I did not really want him as my husband, but it would solve my problems for now.
“Master Lung, when should I move in?”
“Anytime. Just let me know, and I’ll ask Zhu to take care of everything and Gao to pick you up.”
“What about next week?”
“Sounds good.”
 
Before the move, I also called Jinying and told him about the pregnancy. First he sounded very excited; then he asked the inevitable question, “Is it mine?”
“Yes, Jinying. But I had to tell your father that it’s his. You understand?”
At the other end, there was a long silence.
Finally, his voice, sad yet filled with concern, came through the wires. “I do. But, Camilla, you won’t even let me acknowledge my own flesh and blood and take care of the woman I love?”
“Jinying, please ...”
He started to sob.
When he finished feeling sorry for himself, me, and the baby, I said, “Don’t worry, sooner or later there’ll be a way.”
“How can you be so sure?”
Of course I was not going to tell him that I was planning to somehow get some money and run away. Maybe then Jinying and I and our child could reunite as a family. However, there was no guarantee that could happen, or if it did that Jinying would still want me, or that we would be happy together. Because as the ancient Chinese
Book of Changes
tells us, everything changes.
“Jinying, let’s deal with the present situation. I’ll let you know when I have a plan.”
“I’ll come to see you.”
As I was gripped by a sudden fear, my voice turned fierce and sharp like my throwing knives. “Absolutely not, unless you want your father to find out and have us killed!”
“But, Camilla ... you need someone to take care of you. You can’t do this by yourself.”
“I’m moving in with your father.”
“What!?”
“So when you visit him, we can see each other,” I said, then hung up.
 
After Jinying, the next person I called was Big Brother Wang. After I told him I was pregnant, his angry voice rolled all the way from the other side of Shanghai to assault my eardrum.
“Are you stupid or out of your mind? How come after all this training, you’re so careless?”
“So sorry, Big Brother Wang.” Of course it would be ridiculous to give my usual answer, “I promise this won’t happen again.”
“Then you’d better get rid of it.”
“Of course, you are right, Big Brother Wang. But I’m already four months along, so I’m afraid it’s too late now.”
“Then why didn’t you inform me earlier?” His tone was getting angrier.
“Because earlier I did not know.”
I might be a woman well versed in lying and scheming but hiding a pregnancy was not included in my training.
Before he had a chance to respond, I added, “I already told Lung it’s his baby. And he invited me to move in with him.”
A few seconds passed, and then Wang said, his voice no longer angry but excited, “Hmm ... So maybe your pregnancy is not such a bad thing after all.” He paused, then asked, “You mean move into his famous mansion in Junfu Lane?”
“Yes, Big Brother Wang.”
“Good, then you can look for all the things I need.”
“I already planned to do so.”
“But then you also won’t have a chance to contact me.”
“That’s correct.”
“That means even if there’s only you and him inside the house, you can’t tell me to send my people.”
“I’m afraid not, Big Brother Wang.”
Why did I keep repeating myself?
“Then I’m afraid you’ll have to do it yourself.”
“What? But, Big Brother Wang ...”
“I’ve decided.”
I protested, “But Lung’s mansion is always filled with his people, and I’ll be searched thoroughly before I move in and every time I go into his bedroom.” But my boss had already hung up.
 
The following week, I moved in with Lung. But to my utter disappointment, I was not invited to share his master bedroom. Instead, I was allotted to one of the house’s spare bedrooms at the farthest corner from his. A young maid was assigned to take care of me and run my errands. Though Lung was often away managing his empire of rickshaws, opium, firearms, and prostitution, the house was always filled with people—staff, underlings, bodyguards, servants, visitors. Even with Lung away, guests came to gamble and eat the banquet dishes, whether cooked by his chefs or ordered from famous restaurants.
When Lung was away, his bedroom and study, where I suspected he kept his valuables, were locked. And now that I’d moved in, I did not get into his bedroom at all; indeed, he never asked for sex at all. When he wanted something from me, he’d come to my room. He never said anything about it, but I knew Chinese men feared that pregnant women could contaminate them.
Life shut up in his mansion was thus tedious, especially with no possible opportunity to carry out my plans. So I told Lung I was unbearably homesick and pleaded with him to let me go back to my own place. His permission was as easy as his invitation had been. It was then that I realized that, though he was happy to have another son, I did not matter very much to him.
 
After I stopped singing at Bright Moon, a new singer was chosen to replace me temporarily. To my disappointment, the audience seemed to get used to her rather quickly. Of course there were still articles in the newspapers conjecturing about my sudden absence, such as this by Rainbow Chang:
Retirement at Nineteen?
It’s rumored that our Heavenly Songbird is taking a long break due to some health problem. But she always looks beautiful and healthy. So what can possibly be wrong? Is it because she feels guilty about hurting Shadow at her last appearance that she decided to drop out of Shanghai’s entertainment business?
Anyway, she must have made enough money for an early retirement. But at nineteen?
 
More to follow... .
Rainbow Chang
One morning, just seven months into my pregnancy, I started to have pains in my belly. I stayed in bed to rest and sent my amah, Ah Fong, with my driver, Ah Wen, to buy tonic and nutritious herbs for me and my baby. I dozed off but was awakened by even more severe pain, so severe that I couldn’t think or do anything. Worse, my servants had not yet returned, so I was alone in my apartment. At first I felt a wave of panic because I had no idea what I could do. If I told Jinying, he’d rush right over, which was dangerous, and I didn’t want to deal with either Wang or Lung. The only person I could think of to help me was Madame Lewinsky. I immediately hired a car to take me to her place.
When my teacher opened the door, she cried into my face, “Oh, my dear, are you all right? You’re as pale as a ghost!”
She let me in, closed the door, and walked me over to sit on her sofa. Then she sat down next to me and handed me a cup of tea. “What happened, Camilla? Please tell me.”
I sipped the burning liquid, my tortured nerves soothed by the hot steam and calming fragrance. “I’m pregnant.”
“What? Why didn’t you tell me last time you visited me?”
There was nothing to say. So I didn’t say anything.
“Tell me who’s the father of the baby, and I’ll call him.”
“I ... don’t know... .”
Anyway, I couldn’t respond, for the pain in my abdomen came back with a vengeance.
Lewinsky said, her eyes widening in alarm, “I believe you’re in labor, Camilla.”
“But ... I ... the baby is ... not due yet.” I struggled to breathe the words out.
She thought for a while, then said, “Don’t worry, I’m here, and I’ll take care of you. Back in Russia, I helped my sister give birth to three healthy babies.”
“Can you take me to the hospital now?”
“I’m afraid we don’t have time. Stay right here. I’ll go boil water.”
I was breathing heavily. The cramps came and went like the revolving horse that Jinying had taken me to ride. To distract myself from the pain, I tried to focus on the noise and energy from the kitchen. Soon Lewinsky came out and half carried me to her bedroom. She put me into bed, squeezed pillows and towels under my head and body, slipped off my underpants, then spread my legs. My hands held tightly on to the edge of the mattress as moans and groans rolled out from between my trembling lips. Lewinsky quickly left and came back holding a pail of boiling water and a ceramic bowl.
Before I had a chance to ask, she said, “I’ll break the bowl and use the shard to cut the umbilical cord. I don’t have anything to sterilize the knife, so the inside of the bowl will have to do.”
Now the pain was getting so bad that I didn’t hear anything except my own screaming. Then I lost consciousness.
I didn’t know how long I’d been “gone,” but when I woke up, I didn’t see any baby, only Lewinsky’s pale, exhausted face.
“Where’s my ... baby? Is it a boy or a girl?”
She wiped a tear away with the back of her hand. “I’m so sorry ... so sorry, Camilla. The baby didn’t make it. It lived only for a few hours.”
A deadly silence filled the air.
I gathered up courage to ask, “Was it a boy or a girl?’
She sobbed softly. “I’m so sorry, Camilla. It ... was a boy.”
Still too shocked to feel anything, I could only ask the obvious question. “Then where’s his body? I want to see him and say good-bye.”
She looked alarmed. “Trust me, Camilla, you don’t want to see him.” She paused to inhale deeply, then blurted out, “While you were asleep, I buried him.”
BOOK: Skeleton Women
7.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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