Authors: Lucy Yam
“Prince?” Sharon looked at him up and down, “Devil suits you better for sure.”
The suitcases took most of the back seat and left little room for Sharon. While she was wondering how she would sit a woman ran to them from a shop, asking whether Nobul would take a little something to her relatives in the village.
Nobul agreed without hesitation.
Moments later he returned. The little something turned out to be a
box of beer. Nobul placed it alongside the suitcases. Sharon frowned at the tiny square of space left for her while Nobul got on the driver’s seat.
“What’re you waiting for?”
“There’s no room.”
He turned to look at the seat and measured her up and down. “There is room for one more person your size.”
Enraged by the way she made fun of her she squeezed in the tiny space between his broad back and the
wall of suitcases.
Soon they were out of town and into the mountains again. Sharon grasped the seat under her tightly to keep herself from bumping into the driver. But no matter how hard she pushed herself back, she couldn’t avoid touching his shoulder with her chin and detecting his scent that had the flavor of smoky pine. The bumpy road and the slippery seat made it impossible for her to keep a space between them. The tips of her breasts brushed against his back frequently and her inner thighs were pressing tightly against his. She hadn’t had such intimacy with any male for a long time
In the midst of roaring engine she could hear her heart pounding wildly.
The road got narrower as they went in deeper into the mountains. Sometimes half of the road surface was flooded with rain, other times rocks from landslides presented themselves as obstacles. It was a nuisance of rainy season. Nobul slowed down at these places, as he didn’t want to wet his passenger with rain water on the road. She was doing her best to keep a distance between them, but still he felt the warmth of her body behind him, and was aware of her nipples brushing against him. Only as the road became more and more treacherous, he forgot about her and focused on the driving. At a hairpin turn he had to push the bike to the edge to avoid some stones sitting on the road. There he heard her gasp and felt her arm slipping across his waist. He stiffened and almost faltered.
They were actually on a cliff and Sharon caught a glimpse of the river down below. The current was quick. She grabbed the man tightly while gazing wide-eyed at the formidable mountains and the devious river. There was a bridge swaying on top of the river. It looked like it was made of thin wires and would be blown away by the wind in any minute. They wouldn’t be passing that bridge, would they? Oh no, to her absolute horror, they were. Without warning the bike turned onto the planks held by the wires. Sharon closed her eyes tightly and prepared for disaster. This was some scene out of an adventure movie. She hadn’t expected anything like this when she was packing. Poor Charlene, how had she survived the cultural shock? She heard the roaring of water below, felt the rocking and swaying of the bridge, but it didn’t disturb her. For the driver whose waist she was holding onto was absolutely calm and confident. Curiously she opened her eyes to a narrow slit, and immediately saw frantic currents below that threatened to swallow her alive. The bridge was wide enough for two cars to pass side by side, but the bike steadily ran a straight line in spite of the uneven surface and the swaying motion of the bridge. She couldn’t help but admire the driver for his skills. Those rancorous motorcycle riders in LA might be able to show off with a dash on a well paved highway, but they wouldn’t last on a bridge like this! The realization cheered her and she looked back at the bridge with a triumphant smile as they reached the road on the other side of the river.
Raindrops splattered onto her face when she had gotten a glimpse of the tiny green squares of fields and the blue mirror of the lake beyond the valley.
Nobul stopped on the side of the road, took off his jacket and swung it over Sharon's head.
“I don’t need it!” She protested.
But he got back to his seat without listening.
In no time he himself was soaked. Rainwater dripping from the ends of his raven hair trickled down to his neck and his back. His shirt was reduced to
a transparent film pasted on his skin, revealing the beautiful curves of his shoulders and his arms. Leaning closer to that drenched body Sharon held up the jacket so it covered parts of him too. The action brought her cheek against his nape and she drank the warm and masculine musk.
It didn’t take long before the vehicle stopped.
“Are we there?” She asked when she peered out of the jacket.
They were on the foot of a mountain.
“No, we’ll take shelter.”
“Take shelter?” It didn’t take her long to understand what he meant. There was a cave a few steps away. The idea of staying in a dark cave alone with a stranger, an attractive stranger, made her uncomfortable.
“We don’t need a shelter.” She clung to her seat, “we should just keep going. After all, you’re already soaked.”
“But you aren’t.”
“I don’t mind if…”
He lifted her off the seat and swept her in his arms.
“Put me down! I can walk!” She screamed, kicked her legs, and beat his arm with her fists.
But it was useless. That man’s grasps were firm and his arms were made of steel.
She felt like a helpless kitten in a hawk’s talons.
He deposited her at the entrance of the cave and took off her wet jacket.
“Now, Snow, be a good girl and wait for me right here.” He patted on her head as if she was a pet dog.
She glared at him “Sure, Prince!”
He grinned. When he was running back to the road she realized a subtle allusion: Prince and Snow…white?
He parked the bike under a big pine tree, and covered the suitcases with the jacket. Then he held her hand and led her into the cave.
There were tree branches scattering on the floor and in the center of the cave was the remnant of a fire.
“Good, someone has been here not long before.” He went to the fire and added branches to it. After a few blows, the flames burned fiercely.
“It’s a rest station,” he explained as he was making the fire. “Not long before the only transportation tools were our own legs. And it took at least half a day to get to town from the villages. So we made use of the caves along the way.”
Still resentful about being forced into the cave, she muttered, “What kind of a rest station is it? Doesn’t even have a chair.”
“Chair?” He laughed as if the suggestion was absurd. “Chairs are not part of our culture.”
"You must be kidding." She looked at him skeptically.
But Nobul looked serious when he said, "No I'm not. We sit on the floor, just like the Japanese." While saying, he sat down cross-legged on the floor matted with pine
on the space next to him, beckoning her to join him.
Oh my god, she gasped. She hadn’t expected such primitive conditions. Poor Charlene, how she must have suffered!
And why didn't she tell her?
Without a consideration she blurted out, “A fatherless and chair
His smiled vanished quickly. “What did you say?”
Feeling the threat in his eyes, she wavered, “A society without fathers, that’s what Moso is called.”
“That’s bullshit created by the media. And don’t ever say that
She regretted her sarcastic remark but she argued nonetheless. “Isn’t it what walking marriage is about? A free relationship. Men seek women for pleasure and children do not grow up with their fathers?”
“No, that's not
. And there are fathers.” The shadows in his eyes became darker.
That look made her curious.
She had a feeling that she had touched a sore spot of this man. But she went on. “Of course, if a father i
s someone merely begets a child
He didn't respond, but stared at her silently without a smile.
Oh my god, she had definitely hurt his feelings. Sharon began to regret her comments and added quickly. "Well, whatever it is,
you have the envy of many.
The Han man who sat next to me on the bus today
He seized her hand
, “You have no right to judge my culture.”
“I’m not judging it!” she said while trying to break free,
and when he let go of her hand she said,
“But if I were to judge it, I would say it’s a wonderful system, for both men and women.
no contract and
. You're together only when
there is love, and when love vanishes
, which it often does
, you separate
, no fetters
, no worries
Sharon was hoping that Nobul would at least nod, but h
didn't seem to be pleased with what he heard. Instead, he
and looked away from her
Then they sat down silently on the pine-
Nobul had taken off his shirt and was holding it above the flame.
His smooth, bronze skin glowed. His muscles were taut from shoulders down to waist. The sight made Sharon's mouth dry. She tried to quench further wild thoughts, reminding herself that she wasn’t here to seek romance like those tourists. Her mission was to take care of Charlene, and possibly rescue her out of this backward, chairless region.
But before long her eyes wandered again at that beautiful bronze statue in front of her, separated from her by a flame of fire. How would it feel to run her fingers along the curves of those arms, and to put her cheek on the center of that chest? She could anticipate the sensation…sizzling was the word.