Tea Leaves and Silver Rings

Gamble

Match Ten: Gamble:

Szu clenched her fists just below her short blue shorts. Ju gave her a stunned look. “What do you mean you would be dead if Yao hadn’t made that deal?” The younger girl sat down on her bed.

“Back in December,” she said. “I tried to kill myself.” The clan leader covered her agape mouth.

“Szu…” she said.

“Please listen,” the younger girl said.

-December-

Szu lay in her bed with the pillows over her head on the morning of the twenty-fourth. She couldn’t sleep in the dark anymore. Her pain started to leak through her upbeat mask. Qian swore up and down that he would help avenge her, but he wouldn’t say exactly how. Her parents tried her best to help her out. Even Qian’s step-father, Man, had begun counseling the girl through her trauma.

“This wasn’t your fault,” he told her last night during their first session. “You are a victim of a horrific crime. Don’t let anyone tell your otherwise.” Szu drew her knees to her chest.

“What if he’s never caught?” she asked. Man looked up from his notes.

“I’m sure they will,” he assured her.

“How can you be so sure? We don’t even know who did this to me.” Her hands shook as she grabbed her knees. She could feel her attacker all over her body again. The attack happened in mid-November, but it still haunted her. At one in the morning, he forwarded her the text saying, “It’s done.” She didn’t get it until hours later.

Back to the morning, Szu could feel herself breaking down again. Her eyes welled up with tears. What if she would be stuck with this pain and her attacker got away? She turned over onto her side as tears ran down her cheeks. It was then a realization came into her mind.

I can’t hold on like this.

Szu sat up in her bed and dragged herself into her parents’ bathroom. She let her mind go blank as she walked down the hall. Her steps grew heavier and heavier. Her throat felt like it was on fire. The burden sat on her shoulders, looking around her. More tears ran down her face.

I just want the pain to stop.

She opened the bathroom cabinet and grabbed her father’s straight edge razor. Szu was never a fan of pain. Maybe she could make this quick. It would all be over with afterwards Szu closed her eyes as she angled the razor at her neck. Her tears grew heavier as she moved the blade to her throat.

Szu opened her eyes when a stronger pair of hands grabbing onto hers. She looked up and saw Yao standing over her. The girl looked at him with a bewildered look in her eyes. Yao shook his head.

“You shouldn’t do that,” Yao said in a soft voice. “You would make Ju very sad.” Szu collapsed to her knees. The sharpened razor hit the bathroom floor.


Moments later, Szu and Yao sat at the kitchen table. The older man eyed sternly.

“What were you thinking?” he asked. Szu looked down at the table.

“I didn’t want to feel the pain anymore,” she said.

“What?”

Szu broke down crying. “I can’t take this anymore. What if we never catch this guy?” She buried her head in her hands. “I am going crazy here.”

“We will catch this guy,” Yao said. Szu froze.

“How?” she asked. The older man leaned over to her ear.

“We know who did this to you,” he whispered. “And we’re going to break him to justice.” Szu whimpered as she pressed her lips together.

“How can you be sure that it’s the right guy?” she asked. “How can you be so sure I’ll live to see that happen?” Yao pulled her to his chest.

“You have to believe in me,” he whispered. “I won’t let Ju down and I’m not going to do the same. I will check on you every day if I have to. You have to keep living through this. Think of how sad you would make your parents, Qian, everyone in this clan, and Ju. They are working so hard to bring you justice. If you kill yourself now, all it would be for nothing. Please don’t try to kill yourself again. At least live for Ju.” Szu sniffled as she nodded.

“Good,” Yao said. “I’m going to stay here with you until your parents get home, okay?” The girl nodded.

“Yao,” she said.

“Um-hm?” the older man asked.

“How did you get into my house?”

“Ju gave me a copy of your house key.”

“What?”

“I am going to be living with Ju from now on. Ju gave me copies of keys to all the houses on the property.”

“Why did you stop by here to see me?”

“I just came by to check on you. When I you didn’t answer me calling you from the front door, I walked in and investigated. I found you when I saw the light from the hallway.”

“Did Ju tell you come here?”

“She doesn’t even know that I’m here right now.”

Szu lifted her head. “You’re joking.” Yao smiled as he shook his head. The girl didn’t know what to say.


Yao kept his word about staying with Szu until her parents came home. He still had a problem, however. The adults knew who raped the girl, but brining him to justice was going to be a nightmare because of his parents. Most of the normal measures wouldn’t work this time and he had to keep his word. After some thought, Yao came to a conclusion that he dreaded.

He pulled out his cell phone and dialed that number. The Chinese man gulped as the other line rang.

“Ivan!” he said in a nervous tone. “How are you this evening? I see.” Yao bit on his lower lip. “Listen, I have a favor to ask you…”

-Present Day-

Ju covered her mouth, gasping.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked.

“I wasn’t ready just yet,” Szu said. “Yao promised to let me tell you myself when I got myself together.” She grabbed onto the purple sheets that she sat on. “If you’re going to get mad at someone, get mad at me! Yao only went to his friend to help me!” Ju stood silent before she pressed her lips together and shook her head.

“I am not mad at anyone,” she said in a low voice. Ju turned and walked out of the room.

“Ju?” Szu asked.

The clan leader found Yao sitting on the couch in the living room. Her husband looked up at saw her trembling. He tilted his head, blinking.

“Ju?” he asked. His young wife ran over and hugged him wildly.

“You idiot!” she said aloud. “Why didn’t you tell me anything? Why? Why? Just… why?” Yao calmly put his hand on her back.

“It wasn’t my place to,” he said. “She wanted to be the one to tell you herself when this whole mess was over.”

“Thank you,” Ju whispered.

“You’re welcome,” Yao said back.


Elsewhere in the city, Jianjun pulled up into the city jail parking lot. He walked up to the front doors. The guard about to doze off for the evening jumped to attention.

“Hold it right there!” he said. The middle-aged man in the nice suit stopped with a smile on his face.

“Easy there, officer,” Jianjun said, putting up his hands. “I’m just here to visit a friend.” The guard raised his eyebrow.

“May I ask who?” he asked.

“This young man right here,” the middle-man said as he handed him a slip of paper. The guard read the name to himself. He handed it back without saying a word. Jianjun smiled and nodded.

“Thank you, officer,” he said. The nicely-dressed man pretended not to hear the guard saying, “I’m amazed that asshole still had any friends left.” Jianjun made his way through the guards and took a seat at a table in the visiting area.

“The inmate will be out shortly,” another guard told him.

“Thank you,” the con man said. He looked at his silver pocket watch. Minutes later, Junjie came out in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffed looking disheveled with bruises on his face. Jianjun smiled as the former heir sat across from him. The younger man stared at him with black eyes.

“Who the hell are you?” he asked. Jianjun gave him a cat-like smile.

“Aw, that’s not nice to talk to a potential friend like me,” he said. The former heir raised an eyebrow.

“What do you want, old man?” he asked.

“Oh come on, I am not old,” the con man said. “Besides, I’m here to help you.”

“Why?”

“Oh, let’s just say I too have a grudge against the Liao clan myself.”

Junjie gritted his teeth when he heard that name. Jianjun smiled as he prepared to make his case.

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