When I rushed back from school, my mother was already in her funeral garments, lying on a door panel put up in front of the house. My mother’s picture was in the mourning hall: a pale face, eyeballs slightly bulging. Looking at that face, I didn’t even make a sound before my tears fell.
The only reason I went to school was to graduate and find a good job, so I could earn money to take my mother to a big city to treat her illness. But only one more year, only one more year before I would graduate, and she couldn’t wait until then!
“Zhaodi, when your mother left, she was still worrying about you.” My father patted my back. Very rare; his voice wasn’t harsh or menacing.
I thought the reason why he spoke in a mild tone was probably because my mother left, and he had to be a little sad, but his next words were like a thunder on a sunny day.
“I’ve promised your mother to find a good husband for you, and I have already settled your marriage. Your mother was still alive then and approved it; the family is rich, and if you marry him you would be the mistress, with anything you could ever want.”
I stared at him, stunned. So I was unknowingly sold by my father! Now I understood. When I was younger, he used to say all the time that no matter what a son does he would still be part of the family, but a daughter was raised for other people, no matter how she excels! So, he sold me……
“I am an adult now, and you can’t tell me what to do!” For the first time, I expressed my anger at him, yes, I want him to know, that in this house his word is not the law, I’m still here, I’m still a person! Even though I understand perfectly by saying this he would give me another beating.
As expected! That pair of big hands slapped onto my face, stinging badly. I covered my face, too angry to cry. I stared at him hatefully until he started cursing again, drawing all the relatives in the yard over. A few uncles came and pulled my father away.
As a matter of fact, the villagers have seen this happen more than they’d like. When I was a child, he used to beat me without a reason when he was drunk. Until I got older did I find out that he despised me because I was a daughter!
“Old Mo! Old Mo?”
Someone started calling outside the gate, and after giving me a hateful look, my father left. My uncles shook their heads without saying anything, and I leaned against the doorframe watching the outside proceedings.
The person calling my father was Granny Liu. Everyone in the county knew her, for she was a matchmaker!
Granny Liu set down a cloth bag on the table, smiling at my father: “Woohoo, this bride price will only go up never down! Your Zhaodi is so lucky!” The voice of Granny Liu was infamously loud, making it hard for me to not hear it. When I stood on my tiptoes and looked over the wall, I saw my father hugging that bag tightly, his eyes glittering, continuously thanking Granny Liu.
“Old Mo, this isn’t right! Sister Lin was sick at the time and she doesn’t know, but you…… ” The person talking was my second uncle, the only person in my family who was kind of nice to me, but only “kind of”! After all, that man was my father, and nothing they say would change his mind. But why did this sentence sound wrong
Granny Liu said that was the bride price, and then went on about how lucky I was, so obviously the marriage my father told me about was made through Granny Liu. The only thing I don’t understand was why second uncle was hesitating in his speech, his face dark.
My second uncle was an honest man, and shut up after my father glared at him. The rest of the people sitting with second uncle started pointing at my father and Granny Liu, muttering quietly, and then looked at me with pity.
Of course I wouldn’t agree to this marriage. After my mother’s burial, I would go back to school! Thinking about school, I became depressed again. When I went to the head teacher to ask for leave, she had told me that my tuition was long due and I needed to pay. But…… I looked at my father, will he give me money for my tuition?
The answer was of course no!
“Why wouldn’t you pay my tuition?” I yelled at my father.
But my father sipped his beer, and after a long time said, “Why? Didn’t you just said you were an adult now? I can’t tell you what to do! So of course I shouldn’t pay for your tuition!”
I was dumbfounded. I did indeed say that, but that was totally a different thing! Looking at my gloating father, I could only hate him in my heart; I glared at him, but not daring to do anything. But I have to finish school, or my whole life will be ruined.
“Tell me! What do I have to do for you to pay my tuition!”
My father laughed, pulled me to his side, and forced me to sit down, “If you agree to this marriage, I’ll promise to pay your fees until you graduate, huh?”
I know that he wanted me to agree to this marriage because he had already accepted their bride price. Marriage! There’s nothing extraordinary about marriage, you can always divorce! All I have to do is to get a divorce after I graduate! Making up my mind, I nodded and agreed.
“Good!” My father laughed, drinking the rest of the beer in one gulp. “The other family has already picked a time. On the thirteenth of this month, they will come and pick you up!
“The thirteenth?” My eyes widened, “This month is the seventh month in the lunar calendar, and isn’t the thirteenth the Ghost Festival? Who would choose such a day to pick up their bride!” My heart thumped. And today was already the tenth, this marriage……