After Qian left the Li residence that day, he had resigned himself to the fact that it was impossible for him and Yan-Luo to have a life together and he immersed himself in matters pertaining to the Yin family. He had found a place to rent near the university and after the family belongings were moved in, it felt more like a real home.
He avoided serving in the military as he had previously vowed he would but for an unexpected reason. He was forced to report for his physical exam but he was exempted from serving due to his poor physical condition. The stress of working three jobs with little to eat and the frequent blood donations had reduced his weight below the minimum standard requirement for a soldier.
The admonition by Yan’s father did not affect her that much and even though Qian had attempted to break up with her, she was not ready to give up their relationship. Perhaps there would have been a chance for them to reconcile except for the incident at the hospital. Li-Mu had at first been an advocate for Qian and strongly favored her daughter’s relationship with him. But now her disdain for him and Mr. Li’s open hostility made it impossible for Qian to face Yan’s family.
Despite all these obstacles, Yan still tried to maintain contact with Qian in hopes of rekindling the dying embers of their love. Gradually though, she came to the realization that love demanded more than hard work and struggling to survive. This combined with Qian’s continued resistance finally forced Yan to let go.
The shadow of a broken love could not be erased from her heart and she did not make a new boyfriend in the next several years. Then, a chance meeting with Du-Jie (Doo-Geeyeh), a schoolmate from her childhood years, changed her life. His parents were rich Chinese residents of Malaysia and had sent him and his brother to Taiwan for education. Later, his father gave him the capital to set up a business in Taiwan and he opened a textile dyeing factory.
Mr. Li was familiar with the Du family and felt that Du-Jie could provide his daughter with the kind of life she deserved and urged Yan to pursue marriage with him. Their relationship gradually developed in to a commitment of love and Du-Jie proposed to her. However, they had to put their marriage plans on hold for a while. His factory business was faltering due to lack of orders and was operating at a loss. And, his mother was always pressuring him to move back to Malaysia to take care of her husband’s business and so she could be closer to her beloved son.
Du-Jie finally gave in to the pressure from his mother and the reality of business and decided to return to Malaysia and convinced Yan-Luo to come with him. His mother wanted him to marry a local woman with a known background of pure living and strong cultural habits. But, because of her son’s insistence and the strong support of Yan’s father she had to compromise and accept their marriage.
On the wedding night, his mother purposely had the maids put fresh white sheets on the bridal bed instead of the traditional pink or red colored bedding. Her motive was to confirm the next morning whether or not her doubts about Yan’s virginity were justified.
Of course, there was no blood on the sheets and Du-Jie’s mother quickly spread the gossip around the household that her son had married a prostitute and brought shame to the Du family name. As a result, Yan was disrespected by even the lowliest of servants which was normally forbidden behavior toward the wife of the oldest son of the master of the house.
When Yan complained about this, Du-Jie confronted his mother and asked her to reprimand the servants. She refused, stating that a “used” woman was not fit to be a mistress in the Du household. Jie lied to his mother and told her that he had taken Yan’s virginity in Taiwan and that she had no right to besmirch her reputation and humiliate them both in the eyes of the servants.
His mother ceased the open hostility but still held a strong dislike for Yan. That coupled with the fact that she had yet to master the customs and rules of the household made her daily life an ordeal of suffering. While her primary focus was meeting the needs of her busy husband, the servants took care of her every need and she had all the food and clothing any woman could hope for. But, she had no money and therefore was trapped in this house indefinitely until she could figure out a way to gain her freedom
A marriage without love will soon die and theirs was no exception. Ever since the incident involving the wedding night sheets and the ensuing altercation with his mother, Du-Jie had become increasingly more apathetic toward Yan until they were so detached that he was no more than a benefactor to her. Predictably, he found another woman to satisfy his desires and rarely came home anymore.
Before this, her husband’s house provided a safe haven against persecution by her mother-in-law. But now, she was living in a purgatory with no possibility of escaping the daily torture. Du-Jie’s mother never believed that her son had been Yan-Luo’s first lover and became increasingly resentful that her son had insisted on marrying her instead of a local woman; especially since Yan-Luo could not bear a child to ensure the longevity of the family name.
She resorted to alcohol to numb the pain and at first it provided sufficient relief but eventually it became ineffective and she realized that the only solution was to get away from the house and the family. She asked Du-Jie for a divorce several times but he always vehemently refused asking her why she couldn’t love him.
The last time she ever asked him he responded in a rage. “You are mine forever and I will never let you go!” He then seized her passport to ensure that she could not leave the country. Yan’s despair reached a new level that she had not thought possible and she desperately waited for any opportunity to extricate herself from this suffocating confinement.
Not long after, she began to contrive a plan to victimize Du-Wei, the youngest brother, by exploiting his animosity toward her husband. Yan-Luo, Du-Jie and Du-Wei had attended the same school while growing up in Taiwan and were very familiar with each other. There was always a rivalry between the two brothers and especially regarding Yan. Du-Wei suffered deep chagrin when he lost her to his brother through the marriage. He also closely observed the disintegration of their relationship with a certain degree of satisfaction and speculation.
He ended up marrying a local Chinese woman at the urging of his mother. But, he never lost his desire to humiliate his oldest brother and rival by conquering Yan’s affections. His intentions were very transparent to her and she decided that Du-Wei was her best chance of escaping the isolation of this magnificent prison but she loathed the thought of the inevitable physical intimacy necessary for her plan to succeed.
Du-Wei was very aggressive in his advances toward her and seized every opportunity, with abandon, to make his intentions known; assured by the certainty that if he were caught he could convincingly blame Yan for seducing him. Yan-Li was painfully aware of her husband’s desire for Yan-Luo and resented her intensely which only exacerbated her already unbearable ostracism by the Du household.
She made every attempt to ameliorate her situation by keeping a low profile; mostly by drinking herself into a stupor in the confines of her room. On one such day, she decided that she had had enough and decided to leave the house. But once outside her room, she was confronted by the maid.
“Where do you think you are going?”
“None of your business, I don’t have to report to you.”
She then pushed the maid out of the way who immediately called two guards to take her back to her room. They each grabbed an arm and dragged her, kicking and screaming, to her room. She now realized that her confinement was not only psychological but also physical. Out of exasperation, she bit one of the guards on the arm but despite her violent struggle, she ended up back in her room.
Tomorrow she would be reprimanded by her mother-in-law but what else lie in store for her. House arrest, tied up, beaten or commitment to a mental ward? The uncertainty of what her impending fate might be, caused her to burst into uncontrollable crying for what seemed to her like an eternity.
Suddenly the door to her room opened slowly and Du-Wei entered. She immediately became alert as the adrenaline rushed through her body preparing her to fight off this man. This family had already taken away her youth and happiness. What next? Did they want her to die?
Du-Wei could see the terror in her eyes and tried to calm her. “Don’t worry. I won’t hurt you.”
“Then what are you doing here?”
“I just wanted to make sure you were alright. After all, we are family.”
He extended his hand to gently touch her face half expecting her to turn away from him as in the past but, this time she did not evade his touch.
“I have warned the servants not tell anyone about what happened here so Mother will not find out that you tried to leave the house. Please believe me, I will protect you.”
She didn’t really know how to react so she stood there motionless. Du-Wei interpreted this as implicit approval of his advances which encouraged and emboldened him. He leaned forward to kiss her but this time she turned away.
She now knew with certainty that Du-Wei was the chink in the Du family’s armor and that now was the time to put into action her premeditated vague intent to victimize him in order to break free from this hell. She had to somehow use him to create turmoil in the household so that they would agree to let her go despite her husband’s insistence on keeping her prisoner.
Until now, she could not bring herself to consider such measures because of her pride in being a good person. Such actions would have previously been beneath her dignity. She had rationalized that even though the family stripped her of everything else she still had her dignity.
This seemed so ludicrous to her, now that she was fighting for her very survival and she inwardly sneered at herself with saddened eyes for being so naïve. Nothing would change this family’s opinion of her even if she gave her life so, it wouldn’t matter how shameful her actions were.
Du-Wei was surprised by her sudden smile that the irony of it all brought to her lips but couldn’t guess the meaning of it.
“You’ve wanted me for a long time haven’t you Du-Wei?”
She had been sitting on the floor leaning against the bed. Still smiling she spread her legs slightly and unbuttoned the top of her blouse to reveal her cleavage knowing that this would entice him to advance on her. He had never seen her this way and he was instantly intoxicated by the implications of her actions. The sight of her soft white breasts caused him to salivate and he had to swallow to keep from drooling. He reached out to feel them but she pushed his hand away. She smiled at him and imitated a prostitute negotiating price before servicing a man.
“How much money do you have?”
At the mention of money, Du-Wei was abruptly jolted back into reality and withdrew from her, assuming a defensive posture.
“Don’t be nervous. I want to play a little game with you.” Her eyes and facial expression took on a fierce look as she spoke in a rough dominating tone. “What’s the matter? Don’t you think I am better than the hookers you solicit in the street?”
He was now genuinely frightened and so paralyzed that he could not answer.
“Let me see how much money you have.”
She reached into his pocket searching for his wallet and deliberately rubbed up against his penis several times. He could no longer control his lustful impulse and his budding erection blossomed into a raging hard-on. She took the money out of his wallet and stuffed into her skirt pocket. He immediately pushed her down onto the bed and feverishly tried to unbuckle his belt and unzip his pants. Now Yan-Luo’s expression turned serious and cold.
“Your parents are returning to the house. We have to end this for today and do it when we know they will be gone for a long time.”
“Don’t worry. They won’t come back so soon.” He was not willing to give up and let her go. Who knows? Maybe she would change her mind in a couple of days and he would never get a chance like this again.
“Right now, we would only have a few rushed minutes at best. We couldn’t have really fulfilling sex and if your parents caught us you would never get me. You know that no man has touched me for years and it will be worth the wait. I won’t refuse you. Besides, your wife is in the house. What if I moan too loudly and she finds us? Then how will you deal with that? I’m drunk today and smell anyway. You wouldn’t enjoy it.
Go back to your wife and satisfy her so she doesn’t suspect anything.” She reached over and softly stroked the bulging lump in his pants. “After all, I am your sister-in-law and worth much more than your street hookers. Tomorrow send me money equal to what I am worth and in a couple of days make arrangements for your parents to be out of the house for the afternoon. Then we can take our time and I will do whatever you ask.”
Her arguments were convincing and with the guarantee of sexual fulfillment from this beautiful woman, he decided that it would be worthwhile to wait for two days. He turned and walked out as if nothing had happened but he could not hide the blissful smile of anticipation on his face.
The next morning, an envelope arrived with an amount of Malaysian currency equal to 300,000 NTD. She calculated that, combined with what she had saved from her monthly allowance and her gold jewelry, she could return to Taiwan and support her living until she found a good job.
She stood for a moment contemplating the beauty of this wonderful palace and she was saddened that for her it was really a prison. The sun shone brightly through the large glass doors to the veranda and the dust undulating in the beams of light reminded her of the ebb and flow of her own emotions.
She went out on the balcony and leaned on the railing to feel the warmth of the morning sun and to have a smoke. She was so preoccupied mulling over yesterday’s events that she lit the cigarette but never took a puff and it eventually burned away to ashes. Recalling how badly Du-Wei wanted her and how she had rebuffed him and conned him into leaving with a promise brought a smile to her lips.
But what will happen next? This was a dangerous game and now that it was set in motion it was impossible to turn back. As in a chess game, she had to plan her next move very carefully and think ahead several more to avoid a catastrophe.
She took all the money out of the envelope except for $10,000 then went to Du-Wei and Yan-Li’s room next door. She took a breath and knocked on the door with slight trepidation.
“What do you want?” Yan-Li opened the door and when she saw Yan-Luo she deliberately sniffed the air. “Drunk already and it’s only morning!”
Yan-Luo restrained herself and did not respond to her provocation. “I’m not here to quarrel with you.”
“What is it you want to tell me?”
“Can I come in and sit while I talk?”
“Whatever you have to say can be said here.” At that, Yan-Li leaned against the door jam to block the opening.
Yan-Luo’s patience was wearing thin and she contemptuously flipped her hair and sneered maliciously. “If you don’t care that everyone in the house hears what your husband did in my room yesterday we can talk here. I thought you might want to exercise a little more discretion.”
Yan-Li was stunned with disbelief at what she heard and was caught off guard as Yan-Luo pushed her aside and forced her way into the room..
“OK, spit it out.” Yan-Li was resentful of Yan-Luo’s intrusion and angrily slammed the door shut.
“I think you strongly suspect that your husband lusts after my body. If you are unsure or in denial, I am here to erase all doubt.”
“Did you come here just to brag about your sexual appeal to men? I am next in line to be mistress of this house and I don’t have to battle with you about anything.”
“I don’t want to fight with you. I just want to escape from this hell hole. I am at a breaking point and I will lose my sanity if I am trapped here much longer.”
“So, how does that require my involvement?”
Yan-Luo walked over to the bed and sat down on it. With an arrogant smugness she began gently stroking and patting the fine silk comforter. “Yesterday, when your husband returned, he was very anxious to have sex with you here wasn’t he?”
Yan-Li could not believe what she was hearing but couldn’t deny that her husband had rushed in the door and practically tore her clothes off getting naked enough so they could have sex. Looking back now she realized that he had become very hard much quicker than usual and her face flushed hot as she finally got an inkling of what Yan-Luo was trying to tell her. But, still not willing to fully embrace what was becoming obvious, she retorted.
“Our relationship is none of your business. Are you so crazy about getting attention from a man that you can spew out such shameless accusations?”
“What makes me crazy is this wretched family! What you call shameless accusations are the actual facts. Yesterday Du-Wei came to me with intentions of forcing himself on me and the only thing I could do was to convince him that it wasn’t safe to have sex with so many chances to get caught. By that time, he was already primed and frantic to relieve his passion. It was only because I told him to go home and please you to avoid suspicion of his actions that he finally left. I have no shortage of men I can have if I wanted them; including your husband and mine. If I really wanted to have sex, I could have my own husband. Why would I pursue yours? I need you to help me escape from this place.”
“Why should I want to help you?”
Yan-Luo took the envelope from her pocket and showed her the thick stack of bills. Yan-Li recognized the logo of her husband’s company on the envelope and knew that Yan-Luo was telling the truth. Her chest was burning with anger and she reached out to snatch the envelope from her but could not grab it before Yan-Luo pulled it away.
“If I have to stay here I will have to protect myself and I will become your nightmare. If I leave, it will benefit everyone. Find my passport and book a ticket back to Taiwan for me; the sooner the better.
“And if I don’t?”
In a few days, your husband will try to make an excuse to get everybody out of the house so he can come to me again. If you are comfortable with that, fine. I’ll have to fight him off. If you want to avoid a big scandal, do what I say.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“When he is in a hurry to get you and his mother out of the house, you will have the evidence to support my claims. So, if you choose to ignore me, don’t come back later and say I didn’t warn you.” Then she walked out and slammed the door; leaving Yan-Li in a state of confusion and frustration.
She went back to her room and packed her bags with the certainty that Yan-Li would take her advice. But it had been two days since she had confronted Yan-Li and there was still no word from her. There was a knock on the door and she went to answer it with great anticipation that her deliverance was at hand. Instead, when she opened the door, Du-Wei was standing there and her heart sank. He was in an aroused state and put his arms around her but she just stood there frigid and indifferent with her hands at her side.
His expectations of a passionate sexual encounter were dashed. “Two days ago I left with a promise of sexual fulfillment. Now I feel as if you poured cold water over me. What is wrong?”
She seized the opportunity to delay the inevitable as long as possible. “Was the money you sent me your idea of what I am worth? I expected more.” She tried not to arouse his anger for fear that he would hit her.
“How much do you think you are worth? How much do you want?” He took out his wallet and gave her all the cash he had.
She took the money and gave him a feigned charming smile while she tried to think desperately of another excuse to delay him. “You came unexpectedly today without letting me know. I haven’t prepared anything.”
“What do you need to prepare. All I need is your body and the bed.” He tore open her blouse and grabbed her breast with one hand and tried to force his other hand into her under pants. “I’m going to take you today. I won’t let you escape again.”
Yan-Luo knew that it was useless to resist him. Stupid Yan-Li she thought. Why couldn’t she follow my directions? Then she heard quick footsteps in the hall and Yan-Li burst into the room without knocking.
Du-Wei was so preoccupied with conquering Yan-Luo that he didn’t notice his wife at first. When he finally saw her, he acted like a mouse with a cat stalking him. “This isn’t what you think. Yan-Luo was trying to seduce me. You’ve got to believe me!”
Yan-Luo was trembling in fear and uncertainty about what would happen to her. She quickly lit a cigarette, took a deep drag and exhaled in a long sigh; sending a cloud of smoke into the room.
Yan-Li did not want anybody in the house to know about her husband’s betrayal. She wanted to protect the family’s reputation at any cost. Of course she did not believe Du-Wei’s lame accusation of seduction and gave him a hard slap across the face. Then, glaring at Yan-Luo with disdain she grabbed her husband by the ear and dragged him out of the room. “Come on you bastard. Why are you still here looking at her?”
After they left and the door closed, she could not quell her distressed emotions. What about the future? What if Yan-Li refused to help her? Her mixture of fear and apprehension brought her to the realization that she no longer resembled her former self. She took a bottle of red wine from the locker and began guzzling it down; hoping that the drunken stupor soon to follow could dull the shock of what had just happened.