Authors: Lucy Yam
When Sharon finally sank into the luxurious queen size bed, she sighed with content. It had been the longest day of her life, and the most adventurous. The fact that Charlene didn’t look as bad as she had imagined soothed her quite a bit. And the fact that Charlene had agreed to go back with her in case she didn’t get better also comforted her. The worries that had weighed on her for the past forty hours had drifted away little by little and she felt relaxed. It would be a nice little vacation by the lake. And maybe a little… she couldn’t stop her thoughts from going astray. Nobul had not returned yet. He might be in bed with Namu. The possibility that Namu was enjoying that glowing body was unbearable.
Nobul returned to Shangari-la soon after all the lights were out. He left the gate open for his brother who would return soon, and leaned on the pillar next to an azalea bush. After lighting a cigarette, he glanced up at the room where their new guest was occupying.
His heart pulsated as he again thought of the intriguing creature that he had met a few hours ago. Reserved yet daring. Fragile but proud. Her arrival had brought him excitement. She wasn’t one of those pleasure-seeking tourists that he had played with. She had come for her dear sister and didn’t have any interest in the place or in him. Yet she had trembled in his arms…the remembering of the feel of her body stirred him again. He longed to rip off her coat of snow and kindle the fire inside her. Why did he only long for the impossible? He might have had less worries over the years if he hadn’t given up his secure mountain life to pursue his dream of becoming a world famous architect. Why wouldn’t he settle for something readily available? Namu had nearly lost her subtlety when she told her that Binma would be sleeping with his grandmother for the night. But he couldn’t get up the stairs to her room.
He had been curious about her body as a boy, and he had been jealous when she had taken other men for her lovers over the years. She could be a perfect lover for him. They were both the heirs of the chief, their union would produce fine children-- that was what his mother and her mother had suggested. That was probably her thoughts as well. But he couldn’t stand it. The children would belong to her. All he could do was to go check on them for an hour or two after dinner, before their bedtime. And if he broke up with their mother, he wouldn’t even be granted the visits. He might insist on taking his share of responsibility, but he had no rights to them. His presence wouldn’t matter to them. His role was dispensable. As they grew up, their impression of him would fade away in their minds. In short, he would be no more than a sperm donor, just like his own father was, just like every Moso man… Except his own grandfather, the chief, who had broken the rule and taken in a Han woman for a wife.
He himself didn’t plan to break the rule, but he didn’t plan to stick with it either.
For a while he thought he would settle with having occasional affairs with tourist women, whose purpose of having sex with him wasn’t procreation, but solely recreation. But he had never been content with that kind of relationship. Although those women would come see him a few times a year, he himself had never gone to look for them.
He longed for a relationship in a more intimate level, a relationship that was neither purely sexual, nor purely reproductive. He wanted a loving relationship free of condoms.
The next day Sharon didn’t wake until noon. When she opened her eyes she saw sunshine filtered through the carved window frames and cast on the wall facing her, in intriguing patterns of squares and dots. She knew that it would be a gorgeous day.
She put on her robe and went out to the balcony. The lake was a vast blueness glittering with golden specks.
Quickly washed and dressed, she went to Charlene’s door. It was open. Charlene was sitting on her desk typing notes onto her computer. “Good morning Sharon, did you sleep well?”
“Never so well for years. Not a stir. How about yourself, better?”
“Much better. If I get up really slowly I don’t even feel the dizziness.”
“Great. Should I help you with the exercise?”
“Um, no. I did one earlier.”
“It won’t hurt to do it again.”
Obediently Charlene sat down on her bed and with Sharon’s help she started the exercise.
“Have you had breakfast?” Sharon asked her sister.
“No, I ate so much at dinner last night that I thought I should skip breakfast. I’ve gained weight since I came, Sharon. My jeans don’t fit anymore.”
“How could you have gained weight here, on such a healthy diet?”
“That’s what I’d like to know. I guess it’s because I’ve been so relaxed working on my own schedule. It feels almost like a long vacation. Besides, the cookies and chocolates you’ve been sending me!” Charlene smiled contently.
“Well, I was worrying that you would starve!” Sharon laughed. “While you were having such a good time.”
Noticing a smudge in the corner of Charlene’s eye, Sharon asked, “You haven’t washed, have you?”
“Not yet. I was going to do it after I finished the input...” Charlene was going to get up but Sharon stopped her.
“Wait here!” She ran into the bathroom, soaked Charlene’s towel in hot water, wrung it and brought it to Charlene.
“Thanks, Sharon, you’re the best sister on earth.” Charlene mumbled as Sharon covered her face with a damp towel. Sharon laughed. It felt like they were back in time. When they were little, their parents spent all day working, and Charlene was pretty much Sharon’s sole responsibility. In the evenings Sharon would take care of their dinner and shower long before their parents came back home.
Charlene’s cheeks flushed after the rubbing of the towel. Sharon couldn’t help pinching her cheeks.
“You haven’t changed. Still my little sister.”
“Ouch,” Charlene complained, “You haven’t either. Still playing mom.”
The mention of mom brought a brief silence between them.
“Have you seen dad lately?” Charlene broke the silence.
“No. The last time when I saw him was Christmas. But I
once a week.
o more than five minutes though. We
have much to say to each other.”
“Well, I imagine all his thoughts are on the twins now.” Charlene sounded resentful. She hadn’t seen her father for a long time, and had never met his new family.
“The twins are very cute.
You should see them when you go back home.
haron said, still trying to fix the relationship between her sister and her father.
Charlene changed the subject.
“Do you think dad loved mom?”
Sharon’s shook her head. “I don’t know. He must have.”
Charlene responded with indignation: “You think so? Well,
I don’t think he’s capable of loving anyone. He only loves property and money.”
Sharon tried to soothe her sister’s anger, “I think he loves us too. Otherwise he wouldn’t have given us that San Marino house.”
“He feels guilty about mom. That’s all. Poor mom, she sacrificed her youth and her dreams. And she had lived in that million dollar house for less than a year.”
father for the way he treated
mother. He had never beaten her but he overworked her as if she were his slave. First it was the fast food restaurant that required the two of them to work twelve-hour days. Then when the business got better and could afford to hire employees, he purchased his first apartment complex.
She not only had to help him with carpet-cleaning and painting, but also plumbing jobs.
Sharon didn’t remember her mother resting at home. Even when she was pregnant with Charlene she worked in the restaurant and as soon as she got out from the hospital she carried the baby with her to work. Her stomach cancer must have started back then…
Sharon sighed and fought back the tears that threatened to rush out. Charlene held her hand silently, understanding how her sister was feeling.
At first Sharon had cried and asked her mother to take her back to China. She had missed the days when her father was alone in the U.S. while Sharon and her mother were in China. She was much happier then. Her mother, an elementary school teacher, would read her stories at nights and take her to the parks on weekends… Little did she know that the good days were gone forever when she boarded that plane at age eight. Even her little friends had envied her for the chance to go to America, a
modern high-risers and fancy toy-stores that she had seen in movies
, but upon arrival she was disappointed. Chi
natown was not that different from the country towns in Sichuan, except that there were many cars and not enough trees.
There weren’t any gold-haired, blue-eyed Americans that
she had imagined, but people who looked rather like the various ethnic groups she had seen everyday in China. Their apartment, the elementary school, and their restaurant were all within five blocks of distance, therefore h
er life was limited to
For the first year,
she would go to their restaurant to have dinner after school, and stay home alone until bedtime, when her parents came home. Thank goodness it didn’t last long, soon she had a little baby for company. Charlene was noisy and troublesome for sure, but she brought Sharon immense joy. Sharon remembered reading to Charlene before bedtime and answering her silly baby questions.
The remembrance of Charlene as a baby brightened her mood. Sharon pinched her sister on her nose and stood up.
“Ouch!” Charlene cried and tried to retaliate by pulling Sharon’s ear. Sharon dodged and pretty soon they were playing fight and giggling…
While still laughing they heard Sadama calling from the courtyard. “Summer! Snow!”
“Yes?” they answered simultaneously.
“Lunch is ready!”
“Thanks! We’ll be there!” Charlene shouted and jumped off the bed.
Sharon stood up and smoothed her hair.
“Summer Snow! Did mom have that in her mind when she named us?” Charlene mumbled.
“I don’t think so,” Sharon said, “She’d never called us that way. Besides my real Chinese name was Fangfang, like the Panda’s.”
A man was helping Sadama to set the table when Sharon and Charlene got into the dining room.
“Hey, Urcher, when did you come back?” Charlene shouted happily.
“After midnight. The road was damaged by the rain quite badly.”
Urcher walked over t
o them. With a warm, but boyish
smile he extended his hand, “Hi, I’m Urcher, welcome to Lugu Lake.”
“And I’m Snow, Summer’s sister.” Sharon shook hands with him. Urcher was a good looking young man in his late twenties. He was shorter than his brother and much slenderer.
Sadama brought four bowls of noodles in clear broth lightly sprinkled with chives and chili peppers, and sumptuously topped with bacon and cabbage leaves. Sharon realized she was hungry at the sight of it.
“Where is Nobul?” Charlene asked after she swallowed her first mouthful.
“No, he rose at dawn and left for Empress Island.” Said Urcher.
“Already?” Charlene said, looking disappointed. “I thought he would take my sister for a tour on the lake.”
“I could do that.” Urcher looked at Charlene and then at Sharon, “after I gather hay.”
Sharon said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. I don’t need a tour.”
“You are not interested in it?” Sadama looked surprised. “Everyone who comes here wants a boat-ride. The lake is beautiful to look at.”
Sharon realized that it would be impolite to refuse. “Oh, I am interested in it. It’s just that, I don’t think I’m up to doing it today. I’m tired of transportation. I don’t need any more rides, not today.”