Unwanted Gifts

Detailed cards were exchanged, and it was agreed after consultation with a seer that it would be a fortuitous match. She knew nothing about her future husband, other than that he was born in the third moon.

Eight jars of betrothal wine were delivered a week after the seer’s blessing.  The gold-colored bottles reached above her knees, etched with chrysanthemums and swathed in crimson silks embroidered with butterflies.

Their two house servants, Mei Zi and Ah Jiao, struggled with a massive gilded chest, laden with mutton, pheasant, exotic dried fruit and nuts, candies, cake and fragrant orange blossom tea. She sat with a stiff back in the main hall while her mother bent over the chest, admiring each gift. Her father sat in the opposite Elmwood chair, observant as always.

The two house servants entered again, now with bolts of bright silks and brocades—ten in all. This took several trips. Her mother immediately flew to the fabrics, rubbing them between her fingers, nodding her head in appreciation.

“These will make wonderful new-wed tunics and dresses to take with you to the Wang Estate. We can go buy patterns tomorrow.” She lifted her head from a bolt of emerald silk and smiled.

Ai Ling nodded, unable to feign enthusiasm. She was being bought off, to be taken forever from her family.  For a few bottles of wine and bolts of pretty material. And neither her mother nor father appeared at all saddened by the prospect of losing their only child.


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