Read Three Sisters Online

Authors: Bi Feiyu

Tags: #Historical

Three Sisters (27 page)

BOOK: Three Sisters
11.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Yuxiu had managed to hide her situation for so long primarily because she and Yumi were together every day. Yuxiu's added weight is a case in point. She was much heavier than she'd been before, but since she hadn't gained the weight overnight, it was almost impossible to detect; the weight gain slowly and gradually became a sort of quiet transformation.

Yumi felt her scalp itch from sitting under the lazy sun for so long, while Wang Lianfang was in a "meeting" with his granddaughter. The more she scratched her head, the worse it seemed to itch. Deciding to wash her hair on the spur of the moment, she called out to Yuxiu, who had gone inside. The girl was more lethargic than ever; she'd been listless all morning and took to her bed whenever she got the chance. But Yuxiu was not lazy; she had a bellyache that made her walk with a pained look when Yumi told her to get some water. After setting the basin up, Yuxiu began to wash Yumi's hair, but her mind was elsewhere and her fingers lacked consistency, hard at work one moment then slackening off the next. She even had to stop for a minute, and when she did, she made a muffled noise as if her throat were blocked. Nothing emerged but her labored breathing. Growing impatient, Yumi said, "What's wrong with you, Yuxiu?"

Yuxiu mumbled a response, and it wasn't until she was rinsing her sister's hair that Yumi realized something was definitely wrong. Yuxiu should have dumped the water before the second rinse, but she didn't; instead she crouched down and remained motionless, her eyes staring straight ahead. Her lips were quivering wildly as if they were being seared by boiling water. Yumi noticed beads of sweat on her sister's forehead.

"Why are you still wearing that coat?" she asked.

But instead of answering, Yuxiu backed up slowly, a willful look in her eyes. When she reached the wall, she leaned against it for support and slid down to a sitting position as she closed her eyes; she opened her mouth wide, but no sound emerged. Then she reached under her coat, her hands a flurry of motion as she unknotted, tugged, and pulled at the sash. Her eyes were still shut and her mouth hung slack as she dragged the sash out little by little; the more she pulled, the more she held in her hand, like a magician. Finally she exhaled and made a guttural noise that, to Yumi's ears, sounded like agony but could have been ecstasy. But that was all—Yuxiu did not make another sound.

Sensing that something might be terribly wrong, Yumi walked up to her sister, water dripping from her hair, and tugged tentatively at the overcoat; Yuxiu did not resist.

"Stand up, Yuxiu," Yumi said sternly.

Her eyes still shut, Yuxiu merely twisted her neck from side to side, so Yumi pulled her up.

"Stand up, I said."

Yuxiu struggled to her feet, but with the cord untied, her pants slipped to the ground the moment she got to her feet. Yumi lifted Yuxiu's coat and undergarment, exposing a giant belly that presented a terrifying sight under the harsh glare of the sun. "Yuxiu!" Yumi cried out.

Cocking her head to look at Yumi out of the corner of her eye, Yuxiu continued her labored breathing and, holding on to her sister, slowly sank to her knees.

"It's all over for me, sister," she said softly.

Yumi grabbed a handful of Yuxiu's hair.

"Whose is it?" she asked.

"It's all over for me, sister," Yuxiu said again.

This time Yumi pulled Yuxiu's hair back to make her sister look up at her. "Whose is it?" she demanded furiously.

Wang Lianfang was standing behind Yumi.

"Stop asking, Yumi. He'll be part of the next generation of revolutionaries."

The following morning, Yuxiu gave birth to a baby boy at the county People's Hospital. Yumi had begged the doctor to abort the child, but she'd refused, saying it was too late and too risky. True to her reputation, Yumi did not panic. With a letter from Guo Jiaxing to the head of the hospital, she took charge, and everything went smoothly. But she had her own issue to deal with: She needed to know the identity of the baby's father.

On the way to the hospital, she had grilled Yuxiu while they were on the speedboat, even slapping her a dozen times. When her hands were sore from slapping her sister, Yumi had tugged at Yuxiu's hair, ultimately pulling out a handful; Yuxiu had remained stoically quiet the whole time. The corners of her mouth had begun to bleed, and even Yumi had not been able to bring herself to slap her anymore, yet Yuxiu had refused to tell her what she wanted to know.

"I've never seen a slut like you!" Yumi had screamed at her sister. After seeing her into the delivery room, Yumi sat quietly on the bench in the hallway with the speedboat skipper, utterly exhausted. Reclaiming her daughter from the skipper, she sighed and shut her eyes weakly. But then they snapped open. She glanced over at the skipper, slowly stood up, turned, and kneeled before him. Stunned, he tried to pull her up, but she said, "Skipper Guo, please, for our sake, don't tell anyone. Please, I beg you."

The skipper got down on his knees. "Don't worry, Mrs. Guo," he said, flustered. "I give you my word as a Party member."

Yumi sat down again, her mind now busily figuring out what to do with the doctor and the baby. How should she deal with the baby? And was it a boy or a girl?

***

Everything went smoothly, and Yuxiu had her baby half an hour later. When the doctor walked out and pulled down her mask, Yumi went up, grasped her hands, and asked, "Is it a boy or a girl?"

"A boy," the doctor said. Yumi fell silent as an unspeakable bitterness and sadness surged inside her.
You did well for yourself, you little slut,
she thought.

The doctor stood there looking at her and waited. Yumi's lips quivered before she sighed and said, "I think we'd better give him away."

After taking care of the details, Yumi walked into the ward and stood before Yuxiu with a grim look. Yuxiu's bloodless face looked paler than paper, but although she appeared to be drained of energy, she took her hands out from under the blanket and said softly, "Sister, let me see my baby."

Yumi had not expected such a blatant request, and her face turned dark purple.

"Yuxiu," she blurted out, "how can you be so shameless!"

Yuxiu, still breathing hard, swallowed and said stubbornly, "Sister, please." Her weak fingers clutched Yumi's arm, but Yumi flung her sister's hand away.

"It's dead, I tossed it down the toilet. What made you think you could give birth to anything worth keeping?"

The light went out in Yuxiu's eyes when she heard her sister's words. Reluctant to give in, she propped herself up on her elbows but lacked the strength to sit up. Her head drooped down from her weak neck, a tangle of hair hanging in front of her face.

"Sister, help me up," she said, cocking her head. "I want to take a look, just one look, and I'll die happy."

Yumi pushed her away and sneered. "Die? I don't mean to mock you, Yuxiu, but you could have done that long ago if you'd wanted to."

Yuxiu managed to hold herself up on her elbows for another minute before finally flopping back down in complete surrender, her energy spent. She lay there motionless, fixing her lovely, unblinking eyes on the ceiling; the light in those eyes was strangely clear and unusually bright.

As she looked down at her sister, despair and an almost unbearable sadness rose up inside Yumi; she tried but failed to hold back her tears. Covering her face with her hands and clenching her teeth, she said, "You've brought me nothing but shame."

PART THREE
Yuyang

N
O ONE WANTED
to run 3,000 meters. What did 3,000 meters mean anyway? It meant you had to forgo food and water like a jackass and stumble blindly around seven-and-a-half laps on the 400-meter track. Yuyang, who had no physical ability worthy of mentioning and was not gifted with the height, speed, or strength of her classmates, had a stocky, solid build and, at best, a bit of awkward stamina. Anyone with a sharp eye could tell she was a country girl with little physical training—her arms and legs lacked coordination and flexibility. Like most girls from the countryside, she was not endowed with any special talents; her grades were passable, but that was about it. Her looks were even less memorable. How could her homeroom teacher ever notice a girl like her? And yet, the young teacher was a sports fan, so athletic wins and losses meant a great deal.

He entered Yuyang in the 3,000-meter race, though he didn't expect much of her—a case of hitting a date tree just for the sake of making contact with something. But if she came in sixth place, it would add another point to their total. She might not be able to brag about any particular talent, but for the collective honor of Section Three of the class of '82, she had an obligation to work and sweat. Pang Fenghua, another girl in the race, curled her lip and said to Yuyang confidentially, "Now you see how much the teacher values us, always giving us the most glorious tasks. Let's not disappoint him."

Like Yuyang, Fenghua was a country girl who had passed an exam to attend school in town. The two girls had similar backgrounds, though Fenghua often appeared more worldly. Whenever the teacher criticized her, her tears flowed as easily as pee, gushing so much that the teacher had no choice but to take pity on her.

Yuyang could tell that Fenghua had more nerve than she. Her eyes might scrunch up as the tears streamed down, but she never lost her poise and knew exactly what to say to make a point. That was something Yuyang could never hope to accomplish. Of the two of them, Fenghua was more confident, mainly because she had a nicer face, even though anyone would be hard-pressed to call her pretty. If that weren't enough, Yuyang could see that Fenghua was a natural-born flirt.

Feeling something akin to stage fright, Yuyang stepped onto the track and immediately froze, making a fool of herself. The starting pistol sounded after the starter yelled, "On your mark." All the other students rushed ahead, necks stretched to the limit as they fought for position, pushing and shoving to take the lead, all but Yuyang, who stood there like an idiot. She didn't know that in races above 800 meters, only "on your mark" was shouted and "get set" wasn't used. How was she supposed to know that? So, after all the others had taken off, the starter walked up with his pistol and said in a pleasant voice, "Are you done thinking? Do you need more time?" Then he shouted, "What are you still standing here for? Go—run." Startled into her first step—it was more like a leap—she drew laughter from the spectators.

She had begun the race in utter disgrace. And she was surprised to see that Pang Fenghua was already five or six meters ahead. During lunchtime, Fenghua had dragged her along to see the homeroom teacher to tell him with a pained look that she was "inconvenienced" and could not run. The teacher was visibly displeased, but he could say nothing about a female student's physical condition. Gazing into his eyes, Fenghua changed her tone: "I'll do the best I can, but don't be upset with me if I don't do well." So reasonable, so accommodating. The teacher nodded and patted her on the shoulder to show his appreciation.

The second the starting pistol fired, Fenghua took off like a racehorse with no sign of being "inconvenienced." But then she quickly slowed her pace and contorted her face in apparent agony. She kept running slowly, making each step seem like a struggle. Yuyang recalled how Fenghua had managed to skip a physical education class recently using the same excuse. The little whore had been inconvenienced twice in one week like a faucet. She knew how to get what she wanted—she was shameless.

In fact, after counting the days, Yuyang realized that her own misfortune was only a couple of days off. She'd felt bloated during lunch, but Yuyang would never let on to anyone; it was not something she could talk about. When she was on the second lap, she realized that Fenghua had a reason to be shameless. Yuyang was in agony. She could hardly breathe, and the heaviness in her chest made her wish she were dead. Fenghua, on the other hand, had gotten what she wanted; she ran one-and-a-half admirable laps before collapsing in the arms of the homeroom teacher. Yuyang saw it all. Fenghua looked so frail, with her seemingly weightless arms draped around the teacher's neck as if she were presenting him with a Tibetan
hada.
Her eyes were shut. She was so delicate, all she lacked was a pillow; she might as well have been the teacher's own little girl.

Meanwhile, Yuyang struggled, as Fenghua, after drinking a glass of sugar water, was talking and laughing with classmates. Yuyang would have loved to give up halfway too, but the homeroom teacher was yelling at her sternly from the bleachers. Standing straight as a javelin, his arms crossed, he was watching her with a worried look on his face. She was in agony, and she was afraid, but she had to soldier on, one step at a time, for the collective honor of her class.

Yuyang had no idea where she finished, which, in reality, did not matter. When a second ring was draped around her neck after the second lap, the first six girls, maybe even the first twelve girls, had already crossed the finish line. Some were being congratulated, others were pouting like spoiled children. By now there was little happening on the track, but Yuyang kept running, silently, diligently—her neck thrust out like a little turtle's.

Sheer embarrassment made her want to stop at one point, but a resonant, lyrical sound came through the PA system to encourage her, awarding high praise to her "spirit." Yuyang felt that she was no longer herself; her torso was gone and so were her arms and legs. All that remained was her spirit, an involuntary force that propelled her forward. She was undeniably slow, but her second wind kicked in, revitalizing and keeping her going. The boundless power of her spirit made it impossible for her to stop even if she'd wanted to. She believed that she could keep at it till dark and reach her symbolic Yan'an before daybreak, just as long as someone first brought her two bowls of rice and a glass of water.

By the time Yuyang crossed the finish line, the spectators' attention had shifted to the field, where some of the students had gathered. A tall boy from the class of '81 was trying to break the school's high-jump record. He was the track and field star—in fact, the star of the school in general. Knowing that everyone's eyes were on him, he felt especially inspired and energetic. He kept running his fingers through his hair, taking deep breaths, and making charming but bogus motions with his sticklike arms. Finally, after four or five sets of those, he took off running, but stopped just before he reached the crossbar and trotted past it, eliciting shrieks from the bleachers. Then he lowered his head as if deep in thought, and returned to the starting point, where he once again ran his fingers through his hair, took some more deep breaths, and repeated the charming yet bogus motions. This was the moment when Yuyang crossed the 3,000-meter finish line. Except for the judge who was recording the finishes, no one noticed.

BOOK: Three Sisters
11.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Last Kiss by Dominique Adair
The Bluest Blood by Gillian Roberts
Thunder on the Plains by Gary Robinson
The Hundred-Year Flood by Matthew Salesses
Burning It All by Kati Wilde
The Blue Hackle by Lillian Stewart Carl
Vlad by Carlos Fuentes
Thin Ice 5 - Checkmate by BANKSTON, KR