All along they'd planned on a boy. She honestly had no opinion, a child was a child, and she would love them no matter what. But her husband did, and made it blatantly clear.
"They're good luck," her husband said, “He’ll take care of us in our old age. Girls are too weak".
She utterly disagreed, after all, who was it that labored day after day, cooking his food, and cleaning his house and laundering his clothes? But as was custom for wives in her culture, she bit her tongue. She did want to make her husband happy, after all. However, as her due date drew nearer and nearer, she began to feel more and more apprehensive. What if it wasn't a boy? She shivered at the thought....
“Is it a boy? Please tell me it is…” She whispered.
He stared at her with… Could that be pity?
“It’s a girl.”
The blood rushed through her ears. The world seemed to crash down around her. She sat back, stunned into silence. What would her husband say? What would he do to the baby? What would he do to her? She gathered her thoughts.
“That’s no way to be,” she chided herself. After all, she promised to love the new child, no matter what gender. The doctor tenderly placed the child in her arms. The baby cooed as she stared at her mother. She gazed lovingly back at her child and then out the window, deep in thought. The cherry tree’s pink blossoms were especially beautiful and this time of year. An idea came to her. She proclaimed, “I shall call her Hua, which means blossom, since love for her will always blossom in my heart.”
The city was usually a welcoming sight, with all it’s twinkling lights. However, tonight, it seemed chilly and forbidding. The twinkling lights mocked her as she scuttled towards the gate, still clutching the basket, thinking of what she was about to do. She'd begged her husband the day before, pleaded to let the precious contents of this basket stay. But no, "it", he said, must go. Nothing she said would change his mind. He’d even threatened to kick her out too. She continued her brisk pace towards the steps. "It", he'd said, as if “it” was just a worn hat, or perhaps a piece of parchment, something that could easily be thrown away or replaced. Not as if this was a child, her daughter, only three weeks old. She choked back a sob as she reached the gate of the orphanage at last.
Pain seared through her heart, driving sorrow into the deepest crevices of her very soul. She laid the basket down at the worn step, gazing down at her peacefully sleeping infant, taking in for the last time her tiny button nose, the way she breathed so lightly as she slumbered, her beautiful chocolate eyes, with long, black, fluttering lashes, picturing the way her eyes sparkled with innocence and mischief upon waking. She stared at her plump cheeks, her rosebud lips, miniatures of her own, imagining the half moon smile that shone on her face, and wondering if it would ever light her child's face again. As she crouched over her daughters basket and unclasped the necklace from around her neck, her opaque hair fell in a veil around her neck, shielding her fast-falling tears. As she made to lay the necklace in the basket and stand, she realized the baby had grabbed a fist-full of her hair. She bent back down, and brushed her lips against her daughter's minute ones. She then gently pried her daughter's fingers from her hair, with a small prick leaving one piece in her baby’s hand, replacing it with the necklace that had been passed down through generations of her family. The ornate gold chain and lilac gems complimented her petite features, just as they had for many others throughout hundreds of years of her ancestors.Yet her baby would never know this. She’d never know the joy of having a family.
She was fully sobbing now, tears shining on her face in the once dreamy full moon's light. She rose once more, and as she turned to leave, to walk back home in woefully painful shame, she whispered for the last time through the night, "Wo ai ni." I love you.
By the time she got back to her humble home, the gentle light of dawn was beginning to spread its fingers through the darkness. Her tears had long since dried, she was determined to be strong. But when she turned the corner, as a strong breeze blew, she saw hundreds of cherry blossom petals floating through the breeze. They were everywhere. Carpeting the hard packed dirt road, swirling, twirling, and dancing in the wind. It was a sea of pale pink, and she felt like she was drowning. They gently touched the ground, like a thousand soft kisses. As she stared around her in awe, the tears began to flow again. The flowers… It was a cruelly ironic scene, how she was drowning in the blossoms that reminded her so much of her child. As the petals touched her shoulder, she brushed them off. When they floated to the ground, it was as though the earth were crying with her. Weeping a thousand tears for her precious angel, Hua.
8 years later
Down at the street below, people bustled along, laughing and chatting with their friends and family. Family. The word was so foreign to her. She didn’t remember her family, just this sadness, this pain, this loneliness. All she’d ever known. If she dug back deep enough, she could remember a tear touching her face, a kiss, and then… darkness. And that was all it's been since.
Hua fingered the necklace that hung around her neck. It had always confused her, with it’s ornate lavender gems encrusted in real gold. Why had her parents been able to give her the necklace, but not keep her? Or at least the nannies at the orphanage told her it was her parents. They said that she’d been found outside at the crumbling stone step next to the gate when she was just 3 weeks old, with nothing but the clothes on her back, a small blanket, and the necklace. They’d also said she was gripping one long, silky, black piece of hair. Possibly… her mother’s? One of the nannies had saved it for her, and now it was woven through her necklace. She treasured the necklace, as it was the only decorative thing in the whole orphanage. The only thing she had to hold onto her mother. The only thing that could cheer her when she felt crushed in the tsunami of sadness that was her life. Hua stared out the window, a tear tracing a track through the grime…
Years of waiting and watching, lying, and forcing the puzzle pieces into place had paid off- Hua was alive and healthy, a beautiful young woman.
She’d spent the last eight years watching at the orphanage, playing the role of a caring nanny. Nothing more. Just a kind caretaker, perhaps more interested in the well-being of the children than most, but still, there was no special bond between her and Hua. Or at least, none that Hua knew of. But today she knew she had to tell her the truth and come clean about her past.
She sat down and gazed at Hua. Hua looked slightly confused, and asked what was wrong. She looked at her, and without further ado, announced,
“Hua, I’m your mother.”
By Amie Rapp