Little Bean, Past Lives, and Prophecies
Tea Leaves and Diamond Bracelets
Match One: Little Bean, Past Lives, and Prophecies:
My name is Ju Wang and I am eight weeks pregnant. Everything is going fine so far. Little Bean is healthy and still alive. Yao and I decided to call them that after the first sonogram.
“It’s so tiny,” I said, looking at the screen.
“Yes,” Yao said.
“It looks like a little bean in a way,” I said.
“Really?” he asked. “I thought it was a little seahorse.” I tilted my head as I looked at the screen.
“I can kind of see it that way,” I said. “I still think it looks like a little bean.” The nickname stuck from there. It took Yao a little bit of time, but he thinks it’s cute too.
“You are okay with calling him that?” he asked.
“Now, now,” I said. “We don’t know if it’s a boy yet. It could be a girl. I don’t want to know until Little Bean is born.”
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said. “It doesn’t feel right to know ahead of time. I don’t want to force the child into a predetermined box before they are born.”
“But what if they get sick or something goes wrong?” Yao asked.
“We will go to the hospital and Bik to make sure that doesn’t happen,” I said. “I just don’t want to know the gender before Little Bean is born.” Yao sighed and pulled me into his arms.
“Fine,” he said. I smiled and kissed him on the cheek.
“Love you,” I whispered in his ear.
“Yes,” he said back. “Love you too.” The clan mothers have been taking good care of me. Bik has been getting me herbs and vitamins from the markets and her own stash.
“I have been keeping these just in case,” she told me after the celebration dinner. The fact that she smiled as she said that only made me slightly worried.
“Have you?” I asked.
“Of course,” Bik said. “I am a nurse after all. Is that wrong?”
“No, no,” I said, shaking my head. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome!” she said with a smile that made me shiver. I bowed my head and walked out of her house. Bik’s a little bit too excited for this, isn’t she?
Anyway, onto the other mothers.
Cai has been praying over Little Bean. She recites sutras over my stomach in the evenings. I let her go along with it given her own past with her pregnancies.
“You sure this will work?” I asked one evening.
“Shhh!” Cai whispered. She went back to her sutras. I stood there and took it. Anything to help her, I guess. Cai lowered her head.
“All done,” she said. “I will still take you by the temple on Sunday to get your baby fully protected, okay?”
“Thank you,” I said. I bowed and walked out of her house. On another note, my cooking has gotten better. The mothers and even Yao insist on cooking for me.
“No, you sit down and rest,” Hark said on a Friday.
“I’m not even that far along yet,” I said. “I can handle the cooking just fine.”
“No,” she insisted. “Don’t try to do too much. You already have the clan and this baby to shoulder. Get Yao to help you around the house.” Yao looked up at with big eyes.
“I already do that!” he said.
“Then why does your dear wife insist on doing chores around the house herself?” Hark asked.
“It’s fine,” I said. “Really, it is.”
“Not acceptable,” she said, putting her hands on her hips. “A good husband looks after his wife when she is pregnant, especially in the early months!”
“Yao is doing a good job of that,” I said. “He helps me with the business deals, doing the chores, and he helps with the cooking.” Yao nodded his head as he smiled. Still, I knew that my words will fall on deaf ears. Even with the mothers worrying over Little Bean and me, it’s just the status quo.
Except, Yao keeps saying strange things from time to time.
Like this morning for example. He and I were sitting at the table having breakfast. I had started on my rice when I heard him mutter something under his breath.
“Hm?” I asked. Yao blinked at me.
“What?” he asked.
“I just heard you say something about fire,” I said. “What were you talking about?”
“Did I?” he asked.
“Are you feeling okay?” I asked. I reached out to touch his forehead. He shoved away my hand.
“I’m fine, stop that,” he said. “I just have a lot on my mind lately.”
“Is work or the baby?”
“Neither. It doesn’t have anything to do with you. I’ve just had too much on my mind. But really, I’m fine.”
I didn’t look so convinced as I resumed eating my rice. Yao stared back at me, hoping that I would look away.
“Could you pick up more yams today?” I asked.
“Alright,” he said.
“Thank you,” I said. I shoved more rice into my mouth.
I couldn’t let the matter rest.
Last night, I overheard Yao talking to Man talking on the phone. I pretended to be asleep as he talked.
“I’m still having the visions, Man,” I heard him say. “I can still smell the smoke. Their screaming won’t get out of my head. I don’t know how much more I could take.” I furrowed my eyebrows as I listened to him talk. What was he talking about? What did mean by he could smell smoke? Who was screaming?
While Yao was out shopping for dinner, I walked all the way to the Sun house and knocked on the door. I backed up as it opened.
“Oh, Ju,” he said. “You should’ve called. What brings you by?”
“I need to talk to you,” I said. “Can I come in?”
“O… Okay…” he said. Man stepped aside and I walked into the house. I sat down on the couch. He joined me and sat down in the armchair across from me.
“What is on your mind?” he asked. I leaned forward with my hand on my stomach.
“Yao keeps saying random, strange things,” I said. “He was mumbling about something on fire under his breath this morning.” Man froze with his eyes on me.
“Why would he be talking about something like that?” he asked.
“That’s what I would like to know,” I said. “I heard him talking to you over the phone last night. Please don’t lie to me. Just… Tell me what’s going on.” Man folded his hands in his lap and pushed up his glasses.
“I really shouldn’t be telling you this, but I am afraid that if this keeps up, things will get worse,” he said.
“What is it?” I asked.
“He believes that he was a child laborer in the 1930′s in a restaurant,” Man said. He focused his eyes on me, waiting for a response.
“Okay…” I said. “What does this have to do with fire and smoke?”
“He thinks that he died when the owner of the restaurant set fire to it to cover his gambling debts,” he said. I paused as I tried to think of something to say. I looked down at my hand over my stomach.
“What brought this on?” I asked.
“I don’t know myself,” he said. “Has he been under stress lately, aside from your previous attempt to conceive?”
“No…” I said. I didn’t know why I said this next. It just slipped out. “But, I have something on my mind.”
“What is it?” Man asked. I took my hand off of my belly.
“Well, a while back at the dinner party,” I spoke up. “I went off to the bathroom and in the hallway, there was this strange woman who said there were things planned for my baby.”
“What kind of things?” he asked. I shook my head.
“I have no idea,” I said. “I found it crazy myself. But now…”
“You aren’t so sure anymore?” Man asked.
“No,” I said. I looked down at my stomach with that old feeling of dread. This time, I wasn’t going to be the only one to feel it.