Read Three Sisters Online

Authors: Bi Feiyu

Tags: #Historical

Three Sisters (8 page)

BOOK: Three Sisters
2.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

He placed them all on top of the bellows next to his army cap—its star shining bright and deep red. With all these items arrayed on the bellows, silence spoke more loudly than words. Peng Guoliang worked the bellows, each forceful squeeze heating up the fire in the stove. Flames rose into the air like powerful pillars each time he brought his hands together. For her part, Yumi added rice straw to the pillars of fire, moving in concert with Peng Guoliang as if by design and creating a moving tableau.

When the straw fell from the tongs onto the flames, it leaped into the air first, then wilted and turned transparent before finally regaining color, creating both heat and light. Their faces and chests were reddened rhythmically by the flames; the rising and falling of their chests, too, had a rhythmic quality that required some adjustment and extra control. The air was so hot and in such constant oscillation it was as if private suns hung above their heads and all but baked them joyously in a sort of heated tenderness. Their emotions were in chaos, rising and falling in their breasts. There was at least a little confusion, and there was something in the air that could easily have led to tears, here one moment and gone the next. Yumi knew she was in love, and as she gazed into the fire, she could not stop the flow of hot tears. Peng Guoliang noticed, but said nothing. Taking out his handkerchief, he placed it on Yumi's knee. But instead of using it to dry her tears, she held it up to her nose. It smelled faintly of bath soap and nearly made her cry out loud. She managed to hold back, but that only increased the flow of tears. Up to that moment they had not exchanged a single word and hadn't touched one another, not even a finger. That suited Yumi perfectly. This is what love is supposed to be, she told herself, quietly sitting close but not touching—remote but in silent harmony. Close at hand, though longing in earnest and calling to mind some distant place—all as it should be.

Yumi's glance fell on Peng Guoliang's foot, which she could see was a size forty-two. No question about it. She already knew his sizes, all of them. When a girl falls for a boy, her eyes become a measuring tape. Her gaze stretches out to take measurements and then, when that's done, snaps right back.

Custom dictated that Peng Guoliang not stay under the same roof with Yumi before she became his wife. But Wang Lianfang was used to breaking rules and was dedicated to transforming social traditions. "You'll stay here," he announced, for he took pleasure in seeing Peng Guoliang walk in and out of the yard; his presence created an aura of power around the house and brought Wang high honor.

"It's not proper," Shi Guifang said softly.

Wang Lianfang glared at her and said sternly, "That's metaphysical nonsense."

So Peng Guoliang took up residence in the Wang home. When he wasn't eating or sleeping, he spent his time behind the stove with Yumi. What a wonderful spot that was. A sacred spot for village lovers. He and Yumi were talking by this time, though the strain on her was considerable, since words in the standard Beijing dialect kept cropping up in his speech. She loved the way it sounded, even if she didn't always understand it, because those few added words conjured up distant places, a different world, and were made for talk between lovers. On one particular evening the fire in the belly of the stove slowly died out and darkness crept over them, frightening Yumi. But this sense of fear was augmented with hard-to-describe hope and anxiety. Budding love is cloaked in darkness, since there is no road map to show where it's headed; neither partner knows how or where to start, which usually makes for awkward situations. Absorbed in this anxiety, they had maintained a respectful distance out of fear of touching each other.

Then Peng Guoliang reached out and took Yumi's hand. At last they were holding hands. She was a little frightened, but this was what she'd been waiting for. Letting Guoliang hold her hand instilled in her the satisfaction of a job well done. A sigh of relief emanated from the depths of her heart. Strictly speaking, she was not holding his hand; her hand was caught in his. At first his fingers were stiff and unbending, but slowly they came to life, and when that happened, they turned willful, sliding in between hers, only to back out, unhappily, seemingly in failure. But back they came. The sensitive movements of his hand were so new to Yumi that she had trouble breathing. Then, without warning, he put his arms around her and covered her lips with his. It was so sudden, so unexpected, that by the time she realized what was happening, it was too late. But she did manage to keep her lips tightly shut.

Oh, no, he's kissed me!
But then her body felt electrified, and it was as if she were floating on water, wave-tossed, weightless, and buoyant—isolated and completely surrounded. She tried to free herself from Guoliang's arms, but they only held her more tightly, and she had no choice but to give in. She was gripped by fear, and yet she was still at ease. Yumi knew she could not hold out much longer. Her lips weakened, then parted slightly, cold and quivering. The tremors quickly spread through her body and infected Peng Guoliang. Their two bodies trembled as they pressed together, and the longer they kissed, the more they could not help feeling that they weren't kissing the right place. They kept trying to find that place, only to fail. All the while their lips were actually right where they were supposed to be. The kiss seemed to last all evening, until Shi Guifang cried out from the courtyard, "Yumi, dinnertime." Yumi's acknowledgment of the summons brought the kiss to an end. It took her several moments to catch her breath. She flashed Guoliang a tight-lipped smile to show that their actions had gone unnoticed. They stood up from the pile of kindling straw, but Yumi's knees buckled, and she nearly fell. She pounded her leg as if it had gone to sleep, telling herself that falling in love was hard work.

Yumi and Guoliang moved out into the open, where they brushed pieces of straw off of each other. She carefully removed every piece from his clothes, no matter how small, making sure that nothing marred his uniform. When she was finished, she wrapped her arms around him from behind, feeling as if she had stored up great quantities of a mysterious liquid that flowed through her body in all directions. She was approaching the point of sentimentality. In her mind she was now his woman. He had kissed her, so she belonged to him, she was his.
That does it,
she said to herself.
Now I'm Guoliang's wife.

The following afternoon Peng Guoliang reached under Yumi's blouse. Before she realized what he had in mind, he was already cupping one of her breasts, terrifying her, though the chemise kept his hand from her skin. How daring she felt. They had reached an impasse, but what can stop a hand capable of flying an airplane into the sky? The way Guoliang touched Yumi had her gasping for breath. She threw her arms around him, holding him so tight that she was dangling from his neck, nearly suffocating him. But then his fingers crept under her chemise, and this time there was nothing between his hand and her bare breast. "Don't. Please don't," Yumi pleaded, grabbing his wrist.

His fingers stopped moving, but then he whispered in her ear, "Dear Yumi, I don't know when I'll be able to see you again." That melted her resolve and saddened her at the same time. She began to weep silently as a cloud of gloom settled over her heart. Within seconds she was crying openly, but managed to choke out, "Elder Brother." Under normal circumstances she would have never called him that, but now that was what the situation called for. As she released his hand, she said, "Don't let anything keep you from wanting me, Elder Brother."

By then he was crying too.

"Dear Little Sister, don't let anything keep
you
from wanting
me.
"

Even though he'd simply echoed her plea, the fact that he'd said it made it sound so much sadder; that worried her. Straightening up, she quietly gave herself to him. He lifted her jacket, exposing nicely rounded, lustrous breasts. Taking the left one in his mouth, he detected a salty taste. Suddenly, Yumi's mouth fell open as she arched her back and grabbed him by the hair.

Their last night together—Peng Guoliang had to return home early the next day and report back to his unit—they abandoned themselves to desperate kissing and touching, their bodies pressed together, writhing in agony. For days they'd been engaged in alternating attack and defense. Yumi now knew that love was not a matter of words but of deeds, the mouth giving way to the body. From holding hands they had moved to kissing and from there to touching; now the barriers were falling. Yumi advanced cautiously, and Peng Guoliang took advantage of every step to go further as Yumi yielded. She could not have stopped if she'd wanted to, and in truth, she did not want to. Finally, inevitably, Peng Guoliang told Yumi he wanted to "do it." By then she was close to fainting, but sensing a critical moment, she forced herself to be clearheaded and firm. As she grabbed his wrists, their two pairs of hands pushed and pulled atop Yumi's belly.

"I'm in agony," Peng Guoliang pleaded.

"I am too," Yumi replied.

"Do you know what I mean, dear Little Sister?"

"Of course I know, dear Elder Brother."

Peng Guoliang was falling apart. So was Yumi, but she was not going to give in this time, no matter what he said. This stronghold could not be breached. It was her last defense. If she was going to hold on to this man, she needed to keep at least one fire of desire burning in him. Wrapping her arms around his head, she kissed his hair and said, "Don't hate me, Elder Brother."

"I don't," he said.

She was already in tears the next time she said it. "You mustn't hate me, Elder Brother."

Peng Guoliang looked up, as if to say something, but all he said was, "Yumi."

She shook her head.

With one last military salute to Yumi, Peng Guoliang left. His retreating back was like an airplane rising into the clear blue sky, leaving no trace behind. When he disappeared behind an embankment, Yumi's thoughts scrolled backward.

Peng Guoliang is gone. We just met, just got to know each other, and now he's gone.

She stood there like a simpleton, but now something was stirring in the pit of her stomach, stronger and stronger, more and more aggressive—a willfulness that was impossible to keep at bay. But there were no tears; her eyes were as empty as the cloudless sky. She hated herself and was filled with heartbreaking regret. She should have said yes, should have given herself to him. How important was keeping that last stronghold from being breached? What was she saving herself for anyway? Who was she saving herself for? If the meat turns mushy in the family pot, what difference does it make which bowl it goes into?

"How could I have been so stupid?" Yumi demanded of herself. "He was in such agony, why did I refuse him?" She looked behind her. The crops were green, the trees dried up, and the roads yellow. "How could I have been so stupid?"

Youqing's wife had been under the weather for a couple of days. She could not pinpoint the cause, but something was making her listless. So she did the laundry, scrubbing clothes to pass the time. Then she washed the sheets and the pillow covers. And still she wasn't satisfied, so she dug out her summer sandals and brushed them clean. That done, she suddenly felt lazy, not wanting to move. She was bored. Wang Lianfang wasn't there. Peng Guoliang had no sooner left than Wang had to attend a meeting. She'd feel better if he were here. Anytime she was restless or bored, going to bed with Wang reenergized her. Youqing had stopped touching her, refusing even to sleep in the same bed. She was shunned by the village women, which left her nothing, nothing but Wang Lianfang. From time to time she was tempted to seduce one of the other men, but that was too risky. Wang was such a jealous lover he frowned if he even saw her having a pleasant conversation with another man. He was, after all, Wang Lianfang. But what does a woman live for? All that makes life interesting is a little pleasurable roughhousing in bed. And it's not a pleasure she can simply call up whenever she wants. Everything depends on whether or not the man is in the mood.

The sight of all that fresh laundry depressed her even more, since now she had to rinse it out. Too sore at first to bend over, she finally summoned energy from somewhere and carried a few articles of clothing over to the pier. She had barely rinsed the first piece, one of Youqing's jackets, when she spotted Yumi crossing the concrete bridge, coming her way. One look at her distant gaze and ashen face told her that Yumi had just said good-bye to Peng Guoliang, for she appeared weightless, like a shadow on a wall. It took a special girl not to just go sailing off the bridge into the river.

Yumi cannot go on like this, Youqing's wife said to herself. It could ruin her health. So she walked up the bank, stood at the foot of the bridge, and greeted Yumi with a smile.

"Gone, is he?"

Yumi looked down, but her gaze was a puff of smoke, ready to be blown away by the first gust of wind. She acknowledged Youqing's wife despite her callous feelings toward her, nodding as she walked past.

Youqing's wife wanted to say something to make her feel better, but Yumi was clearly in no mood to accept kind words from her. So she just stood there watching the girl's back take on the appearance of a moving black hole. Absentmindedly, Youqing's wife asked herself,
Why are you trying to make her feel better? No matter what you say, she'll soon be an aviator's wife—the pain of separation eating at her represents something worthwhile, a stroke of luck, a woman's good fortune. And what do you have? No need to do anything.

After Yumi left, Youqing's wife ran behind the pigpen, bent over, and retched. It was lumpy and watery; she threw up more than she'd eaten that morning. Then she leaned against the wall of the pen and opened her eyes; dewy tears hung from her lashes.
I must be sick,
she said to herself.
There's no reason I should be this nauseous.
But as she thought back she realized that her discomfort over the past couple of days had been just that: nausea. She bent over again and emptied a puddle of bile. With her eyes closed, she laughed at herself.

BOOK: Three Sisters
2.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Sweetest Taboo by Kent, Alison
Cloud Rebel: R-D 3 by Connie Suttle
Mother's Day Murder by Leslie Meier
Titanic by National Geographic
The Ins and Outs of Gay Sex by Stephen E. Goldstone
To Breathe Again by Dori Lavelle
Undead and Unappreciated by Maryjanice Davidson
Beats by Kendall Grey
The Thorn by Beverly Lewis
Cast In Fury by Sagara, Michelle