Shanghai Girls

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See Read Free Book Online

Book: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lisa See
to talk to you.” Her hands grip the rickshaw’s armrests so hard that her knuckles have gone white. “That boy didn’t say a word to me.”
    “You don’t speak Sze Yup.”
    “It’s not just that. He’s like a little boy. He is a little boy.”
    “It doesn’t matter, May.”
    “You can say that. You got the handsome one.”
    I try to explain that this is just a business deal, but she won’t listen. She stamps her foot, and the puller struggles to keep the rickshaw steady.
    “I don’t want to marry him! If we have to do it, let me have Sam.”
    I sigh impatiently. These flashes of jealousy and stubbornness are so like May, but they’re as harmless as rain on a summer afternoon. My parents and I know the best way to handle them is to indulge her until they blow away.
    “We’ll talk about it later. I’ll see you at home.” I nod to the puller, who gives the rickshaw a heave and trots on his bare feet down the cobblestone road. I wait until they turn the corner and then walk to the Old West Gate, where I find another rickshaw. I give him Z.G.’s address in the French Concession.
    When we arrive at Z.G.’s building, I run up the stairs and pound on the door. He answers it wearing a sleeveless undershirt and loose khakis held up with a tie wrapped through the belt loops. A cigarette dangles from his lips. I fall into his arms. All the tears and frustration I’ve held inside pour out. I tell him everything: that my family’s broke, that May and I are to be married to foreign Chinese, and that I love him.
    On the ride here, I thought of the different ways he might react. I considered that he might say something along the lines of “I don’t believe in marriage, but I love you and want you to live here with me.” I thought he might be valiant: “We’ll get married. Everything will be fine.” I thought he would ask about May and invite her to live with us. “I love her as a sister,” he would say. I even considered that he might get angry, rush out to find Baba, and give him the beating he deserves. In the end, Z.G. says the one thing I didn’t expect.
    “You should marry the man. He sounds like a good match, and you have a duty to your father. When a girl, obey your father; when a wife, obey your husband; when a widow, obey your son. We all know this is true.”
    “I don’t believe in any of that! And I didn’t think you did either. That kind of thinking is for my mother, not for you!” I’m hurt, but more than anything I’m angry. “How could you say that to me?” I demand. “We love each other. You don’t say things like that to the woman you love.”
    He doesn’t speak, but his expression manages to convey weariness and irritation that he has to deal with someone so childish.
    Because I’m bruised, indignant, and too young to know any better, I flee. I make a great show of stomping down the stairs, crying, and making myself look foolish in front of Z.G.’s landlady by acting as spoiled as my sister. It doesn’t make sense, but many women—and men too—have acted just as rashly. I think … I don’t know what I think… That he’ll rush down the stairs after me. That he’ll sweep me into his arms like in the movies. That he’ll whisk me away from my parents’ home tonight and we’ll elope. Even if worse comes to worst, I’ll marry Sam and then have a lifelong affair with the person I love, as so many women in Shanghai do these days. That isn’t such an unhappy ending, is it?
    When I tell my sister what happened with Z.G., her face pales in compassion.
    “I didn’t know you felt that way about him.” Her voice is so soft and comforting, I barely hear her.
    She holds me as I weep. Even after I stop crying, I feel sympathetic trembling coming from deep within her. We couldn’t be closer. Whatever happens, we’ll survive together.
    I’VE DREAMED OF my wedding to Z.G. for so long, but what I get with Sam is nothing like what I imagined. No Chantilly lace, no veil eight yards

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