the way in the front

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Chapter eight

Lotus requested a sick leave for a few days. She was still lost in thought, and refused to talk with others. Throughout the whole week, stirred out of doors, nor helped mum with house chores the way she used to do before. It seemed as if she was paralyzed. She kept her mouth shut, and kept herself alone in her own world, indifferent to what happened around her. Nobody knew what she was thinking. Sometimes, Mum could see Lotus’ eyes were filled with tears without a reason. Dad wanted to ask her questions, but Lotus just shook her head, and said nothing. Many times, Dad was on the edge of losing his temper, but was pushed away by mum, afraid that Lotus would suffer even more. Lotus was just like a sleep walker, as if the real world was a show or a movie, and she was not part of it.

“Lotus, would you like to have some dinner?” Mum asked. Mum took some potatoes

out of the big pan.

“Um.” Lotus did not even raise her head.

“Lotus?” Mum called Lotus’ name quietly.

“Hush, leave her alone.” Dad was annoyed by Lotus’ silence. ”Take your long face away. If we feed you, and send you to school, it is not to look at your long face. I give you three minutes, if you don’t get up, you will never have supper any more.”

“Hey, dad” Mum tried to make peace with.

“Hush, the girl is running wild.” Dad roared.

Lotus had tears in her eyes, but she still sat there unmoved.

Father peeled two or three potatoes himself, intending to put them on the plate, but the potatoes all fell on the ground. Dad was very annoyed, and he stared at Lotus who was still sitting there motionless. With a flash of anger in his heart, he broke out suddenly as if a volcano eruption. He picked up a bottle of wine from the table, and smashed it hard on the ground. “Bump!” Lotus saw the bottle was smashed into pieces, and her heart was torn into pieces, too.

Mum looked at Dad and then looked at Lotus. The storm was going to sweep over the humble home.

Father stared at Lotus with bloodshot eyes. His face was all distorted by anger. Words fell out of his mouth as if the bullet from the gun.

“Ha, I work hard, I toil to death to support you at school, um? You don’t study hard, but are sent home, um? How dare you face your relatives? How does it make us look? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? You seed of sin!”

Tears rolled down Lotus’ check like a broken line of beads. There were small wet flowers on her clothes.

“Father, don’t talk like this. The child must feel bitter in her heart.” Mum’s heart was broken.

“I am also bitter in my heart. But who cares?” then he turned to Lotus, “you promised me before that you will go to a good school in the future, and never let your mother and me disappointed. But where is your courage? Where is your promise? Where is your backbone? We have never seen a more heartless child than you!”

Dad’s words weighted heavily on Lotus’ mind. Her mind was in a perplexed state of guilt mixed with weakness, fear and a ray of hope. Lotus would never forget that row even in her later life. She clearly remembered how Dad kicked all the furniture on the ground, and shouted at her, as if this way the only way which could make Lotus again stand on her feet. The following days were all similar. Cries, quarrels, scolds, and the breaking sound of furniture echoed in Lotus’ ears. The chilling coldness in the family circle became a new part of Lotus’ nightmare. She lived as if a corpse.

Lotus was thinner and thinner day after day, which made Mum very worried. Though

dad was still cursing and swearing every now and then, he was secretly worried about Lotus’ bad spirits. He became resorted to alcohol more and more often, until one day he said to mum in a drunken voice, “What a low cad I am! I am an useless person who couldn’t take care of the family.” Mum saw there were tears in Dad’s eyes, “I am would do anything to make the child cheerful and happy. What should I do? The child is so low now. I am a bad dad.”

Mum knew “men do not find it easy to shed their tears.” Even if Dad was a little hard on his child, Lotus was still the apple of his eyes. She herself was troubled by Lotus’ illness too, so she consulted Dad, “what about going to see the doctor, witch Wang?”

Dad suddenly turned sober, “go to see the doctor, witch Wang, go to see the doctor, witch Wang!”

Mum put her hands on Dad’s shoulder comfortingly, and dad dropped the bottle in his hands.

If sick, the villagers here, they would go to see witch Wang, who was a doctor treating half a village. She had some medical skills, and also learnt the book of changes. It was said that she could bring back life to the patient after giving them her medicine, and some people said it was because she could talk with God. When she was not being a doctor, she would practice divination, to tell the future of the family, and judge what is the best place for a house, or grave, etc. Village people were superstitious so that everyone would consult her when they were in trouble. It was said even some officials from the nearby town would come to see her and let her tell their fortune. Nobody knew why she always guessed right about people who were strangers to her, about their family condition, so her reputation was wide-spread. She had earned a lot of money.

Father brought witch Wang to his home to consult with her the Lotus’ illness. Witch Wang was wearing a blue grown, and was carrying some Taoist magic figures. She greeted mum with a sense of marked dignity.

“Witch Wang.” Mum bowed respectfully.

“Um.” Witch Wang nodded her head. “Who is ill?” Mum looked at Lotus who was

reading a book silently, “Lotus. The child was sent from school by the teacher who said Lotus needed to have a little rest and brace up for the middle school exams. Ever since she came home, she was always silent towards her father and I. She answered us not when we asked her questions. We were wondering what was wrong with this child.”

Witch Wang frowned. Then she eyed Lotus for a while, and then took two charms from her bag. She said to mother with some reserve “From her behavior and facial expression, I think she isn’t seriously ill, but maybe she had some knots in her mind. Seek her salve, where she get her sore. Ok, I have thought of a way to cure her. Hang these two charms on the roof, and it will help her to drive away the demon that haunts her.”

Father and mother immediately knelt down, and kowtowed to witch Wang.

“I’ve got to go. These two charms cost fifty yuan. If they don’t work, you can send her to the hospital to see a psychology doctor” Witch Wang said languidly in her long gown.

“Thanks. Here is the money.” Dad hurriedly gave Witch Wang the money with trembling hands. Witch Wang took the money avariciously, and she wiped the sweat on her greasy head with her palm. Then she walked out of door. When she was about to reach the door, she thought of something, and turned back, “She stays home all day long?”
“Yes.” Mum asked confusedly, “she refuses to go out.”

“No friends see her?” Witch Wang looked at Lotus with an interested look.

“Oh.” Mum began to interrogate herself,” I didn’t ask her.”

“Um, maybe you can bring her to her friends. I think children always need friends.”

Mother and father were startled at first. Why didn’t they think of this before? Indeed, we cared about our friends, and our families’ physical wellbeing, but how much we cared about our beloved ones’ inner world?

“Lotus, are you lonely at school?” Mum asked later.

Lotus was surprised by this questions. She was tired and lonely. She felt there was a flame in her bosom which wanted to go out. Since she went home, she talked with mum for the first time, “ I have two or three friends.” Lotus thought of Gao Sheng and Wang Xing at the occasion, but doubt herself again. Was she the friend to them? Memories came back suddenly. She thought of that dark afternoon when a pack of boys insulted her ridiculing her identity, she thought of Wu Qing’s sarcastic face happy for someone’s misfortunes, and classmates misunderstanding her and biased against her during the two years. She was hurt and weak. Maybe, no one really cared about her.

“How is Gao Sheng?” Mum asked cautiously.

On hearing Gao Sheng mentioned, Lotus was confused again. Why didn’t he come to see her these days? Where was Wang Xing? Have they forgotten her? Weren’t they ever friends? Her spirit suddenly sunk. The long suppressed anger and loneliness were rekindled too. She wanted to be alone. “ Excuse me, Mum.” Lotus said to mum, and rushed out of the room. She wanted to find the answer outside, and she wanted to find out what she should do next or what she wanted now.

It was afternoon. It was very vast and wide outside. The blood-colored sun hanged proudly in the edge of the sky, shinning to its largest degree. The tinted color of cloud was changing, from the light yellow, to golden, to orange and to red. Suddenly, the redness spread out, as if a drop of blood spread in the water. The sky turned into blue green, showing up under the decoration of the yellow land. It was really beautiful. Lotus was deeply absorbed into this picture, dreamy and wondering.

The villagers abandoned their work on the farm and started coming back home. Some old people all went out of doors, sat in the shade place to kill the afternoon time, some old people were standing around chess players, shouting and laughing.

“Check!” one grandpa crossed his legs, sitting on the ground. He suddenly stood up and called out.

Lotus casted a glance at the board. The grandpa was moving his rook from the fourth

row into fifth row. The other grandpa wiped his forehead, and moved his Mandarin

forward.

Haha, I will move my another rook forward three row.”

This grandpa won.

It shocked Lotus that the loser’s checker outnumbered the winner’s for three pieces.

However, in order to win, the winner still throat cut checkmate by losing his rook. In

order to win the final success in life, entangling with individual’s misfortune was useless. As teacher said, that she should be open minded, and trying to adapt the society by throwing away her vain esteem.

“Lotus!”

“Lotus!”

Lotus heard someone familiar was calling her name from behind. Her heart was jumping and racing. She looked back immediately, and saw two city friends, Gao Sheng and Wang Xing, who were wearing shining clothes like angels’ clothes, running towards her. The surprise was so big that Lotus was lost what to say to them. She was blank in her mind, and suddenly, happiness swarmed into her mind. She had friends. She was not alone.

“Lotus!” Wang Xing hugged Lotus with joyful tears, “I am sorry. I miss you so much. Oh, you look so thin.” Wang Xing clutched Lotus’ hands tightly, “are you still angry with me? Can I make it up to you? We are always friends, aren’t we?”

Lotus felt that she was choked with emotion. She was unable to speak.

“Lotus.” Gao Sheng held Lotus’ hands warmly, “ We wanted to see you long before: as soon as we heard that you went back home, but the teacher didn’t give us leave. Wang Xing is very worried and she blames herself. Several days ago, she consulted me that she wanted to escape the quiz and beg me to lead her to see you. Your mum came to school yesterday. She told us you were not so well, so we took the morning six o’clock bus at six o’clock in the morning and came to see you directly” then he added, “I hope it will not be so late.”

Excitement, tiredness, bitterness, and happiness mingled together, sweeping over Lotus, and she found her heart was overwhelmed with feelings. At last, she buried her head in her hands, and burst out crying.

Gao Sheng and Wang Xing looked at Lotus in surprise. They never saw Lotus drop a tear, even if she had been greatly wronged at school.

Wang Xing patted Lotus’ back lightly. Lotus looked up and in her tears she saw Gao Sheng was looking at her attentively. There was a kind of sweetness. That was enough.

“Lotus, look there!” Suddenly, Wang Xing pointed the gilding weeds in the nearby mountain. “this is your village. I heard you and Gao Sheng mentioned it many times before, but I don’t think it is as bad, and wild as your thought. Look there. It is so beautiful in the sunshine.” Wang Xing acclaimed in excitement. Lotus was surprised when she heard Wang Xing’s words. She lived in the villages for more than thirteen years, but she never found the village was beautiful in her memory. She only remembered that the villagers lived in a harsh life. So she looked at Wang Xing’s direction,---

Really, not far from here, Lotus saw under the last rays of the sun, the weeds on the mountain looked extremely beautiful, which made people think of the green in the waste land, and diamond in the dullness!

“They are common weeds in the village.” Gao Sheng also looked at weeds, “Whenever I come back from the city, I would climb the mountain in order to see the weeds waving in the wind. They are so common and ordinary, and I can find it everywhere. But compared with grass and trees, I like them best, because I know it is hard for them to grow in this area, especially in the mountain.”

Lotus looked at the weeds dancing in the wind, and could not help praising its marvelous too. Why didn’t I notice it before! They are so beautiful. Lotus sighed. Their roots clutched the earth deeply, adapted to the environment, and grew bravely. The sun became redder and redder, as if a fireball. Lotus suddenly felt her world became brighter, and she was alone dancing under the sun, smiling, and laughing.

“Lotus, what are you thinking about?” Wang Xing asked.

“Nothing,” then she wiped her tears and then turned to Gao Sheng with a fresh smile,” I think I can go to school tomorrow. I think I have understood what the teacher said before.”

Gao Sheng and Wang Xing looked at each other in confusion, but they exchanged a smile later.


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