I was having one of those lazy days, when Mama Sun came to find me sitting on the beach.
“I have a surprise,” she said to me. “We’re going to France!”
“To France?” I said back to her and jumped up. “For real?”
“Yes for real! I want you to meet my moms and see where I came from. You are going to love France!”
“When? When are we going? Wait what about Sophie?”
“We are leaving tomorrow and Sophie can’t come. No worries. We are hiring a dog sitter for Sophie. So let’s go inside and pack. I already made you a list.”
I couldn’t believe it. I had never been on a plane before. Mama Sun always loved to tell me stories about France ever since I was just a little baby. She made it sound like the most beautiful place.
The plane ride wasn’t as long as I thought it was going to be and when we arrived, we stopped at the base camp first.
“Where is everyone?” Mama asked. “This place is usually packed!”
“Not this weekend. I bought out all the rooms and sent the owners on a nice vacation. That way no one knows we are here and we won’t have to deal with any unwanted lookie loos bothering us.”
Jilly, what is a lookie loo and why would they be bothering us?
We unpacked our bags and Mama walked us to the middle of town.
Mama Sun walked us to a bench and pointed at it. “This is where I met your brother for the very first time.”
Jin shook his head at Mama. “I don’t think so. I’m thinking it was that bench over there.”
“Jin Charles Bell, I can’t believe you have forgotten where we met! This is the bench. This one right here!”
Jin just shrugged his shoulders at her and I think he did it to annoy Sun, because he had that little half smirk he does sometimes on the left side of his face. Jin can be a bit of a trouble maker I think. I wonder what he was like at my age.
Mama Sun had been calling her moms at their house, but wasn’t getting any response. They didn’t know we were coming you see. Sun wanted to surprise them. So since they weren’t home and we were all hungry, we went to eat at the town center cafe. When we finished, they still weren’t answering.
“Let’s take Jade out to the winery,” Sun suggested.
“It’s not really an appropriate place for a child, don’t you think?”
“Jin this is France, it’s part of our culture at any age. I want to check the prices of some of the wine varieties.”
So we went, but when we got there Jin told Sun he was going to stay outside to play frisbie with me. I wanted to play make believe and had already changed into my costume.
Inside Mama Sun ran into her old best friend from school.
They talked for quite a long time before she finally came out. I noticed that her accent was more pronounced too.
“I’ve tried calling again but I’m still not getting an answer. Maybe we should just go by?”
“Can’t hurt I guess. It’s not far from the base camp.”
So off we went. I was really excited to meet Sun’s moms. I guess in a way they are kinda my grandmothers’, if you look at it that way.
Sun knocked on the door, but there was no answer. We were just going to leave, when two older ladies came walking down the sidewalk.
“Margot! Manon! Oh Mamas I missed you so much!”
“Sun! What are you doing here?” Then they kissed each other on both cheeks. I thought that was really weird!
“Mama, you remember Jin yes? This is Jade. Jin’s younger sister. Oh Mama, I have so much to tell you!”
“You had better come in,” she said looking up and down the street. “We need to get out of the street.”
I started to follow them but Mama Margot stopped me.
“Jade, so nice to meet you. I’m Margot. Hmmm, I guess I’m like your grand-mere.” She hugged me and I started to follow Jin again
“Oh no sweetie. I think we had better stay out here. They have grown up things to talk about and I’m sure they don’t want you listening.”
“Grown up things?” I asked.
“I’m afraid so. Now tell me all about this new island of yours. I want to hear everything!”
Jilly, this is where things got really strange and after they were done talking grown up things, everything happened so fast! I have no idea really what happened. Or why.
“Mama! What’s the matter?”
“You shouldn’t have come Sun. I really wish you had called ahead. I would have told you not to come.” Mama Manon began pacing back and forth in front of me mumbling to herself.
“Mama, please tell me what is wrong.”
“You don’t understand Sun. He’s found you.”
“What do you mean he’s…………..that’s not possible. He couldn’t have found me.”
“Well he has….or he thinks he has. He has been making threatening phone calls and sending lawyers here since you turned eighteen. I don’t know what changed or how he found you. The only thing that matters is he has a lead, but he has people watching the house too. Not all the time, just here and there, enough to know we are being watched. He is hoping you will show up and he can grab you I am sure.”
“This doesn’t make any sense. I virtually disappeared in all aspects of things. Jin hasn’t even made the papers once, let alone me. I’ve been alone on that island all this time, until he came home. There just is no way.”
“Okay hold on here. What on earth are we talking about? What do you mean grab her?” he asked Manon. “And what do you mean you virtually disappeared? Who or what did you disappear from?”
I bit my lip. Crap, the moment Mama had brought him up, fear invaded my mind and I completely forgot where I was, who was in the room. I had hoped never to tell Jin this absurd mess I had been living since birth, but now it seemed I had no choice.
“Jin, you were never supposed to find out. No I’m sorry, that sounds all wrong. Like I was deceiving you. I wasn’t. I just thought that I was safe, safe on the island and I was. I mean I haven’t even thought about this since I arrived basically.”
“Thought about what?”
So I told him. The whole story right from the beginning. The man his mother had been married to named Shen. My mother’s forced marriage to the same man when Jin’s mother fled China with Ian. The years of abuse his mother had endured under this evil man. The abuse that continued with my own mother that had taken a more evil turn when Shen learned she was pregnant with another man’s baby before he married her, that led to my mother’s death shortly after I was born. I explained the Chinese marriage ritual, in the most basic terms so he would understand the awful situation I was now in. The marriage contract my aunt and uncle were forced to sign after my mother’s death, engaging myself to Shen, to be fulfilled on my eighteenth birthday.”
He listened. Without interrupting. But the look of horror that deepened across his face as my story continued on, drew impending fear into my heart. When I had told the last of it, I waited in silence, holding my breath till he reacted.
“Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
“I’m so sorry Jin! I truly am, please believe me. It’s just a nightmare of a situation and I’ve been so ashamed of it all. I never ever wanted you to know. Engaged to a man who must be 70 by now! I don’t understand why me? It’s like he has some vendetta to fulfill. As if abusing your mother and killing my own wasn’t enough for his evil mind. He has his mind set that it’s me he must have. Enough time has passed since I was sent out of China. There must be other eligible compatible young women he could have. Not that I would wish this on any other female.”
Jin just stared at me and I had no idea what was running through his mind. Then he spoke. “Was it all a lie then? The engagement to me. Moving to the island to be part of my family-”
“NO! No Jin, please don’t think that. It’s not anywhere close to the truth.”
“Really? Because from where I am standing, it explains it all really. Not wanting to marry me. All these doubts. Refusing to have children. Were you just biding time or did you plan on going through with the marriage just to ensure your safety?”
“Jin I LOVE YOU! I want to marry you. Please stop! I can’t believe you would even think that after all this time.”
Jin scoffed then continued. “My father thought my mother loved him too when he brought her home to the island. Until the morning he woke up to find she had LEFT! She fooled my father well. Taking him to her bed, while she was still married apparently just to get what she wanted. Looks like I’m just as big a fool as my father!”
“Jin you take that back. I didn’t seduce you into my bed! YOU did that!
“No, you seduced me long before that, while I was visiting France! You with all your innocent assertiveness that came off all irresistible. I can’t believe what an idiot I was-”
“Okay, okay! C’est assez! Enough, before you both say something you will regret. Sun, go calm down.” Then she took Jin’s arm and pulled him away to talk to him.
“Look at me Jin. You’re angry and you have every right to be, believe me. But remember who the enemy is here and direct your anger to him. Not Sun. Once your mind is calm, you will know that what you are saying is not true. Sun loves you. My daughter has never been…uh what is word….well lets say no marriage contract would have made her do such a terrible thing. To use a young man so. Ashamed I would be for raising a daughter who would do such a thing. Yes? You see?”
Thankfully Jin did agree and I could see he was less angry than he had been. “What do we do? How do I save her from Shen?”
“Well, to me the solution is simple. You get married. Like you planned. Still the plan, no?”
“That has always been my plan. And that will break the contract?”
“As far as I can see, Shen can not marry a girl already married! You get married, we will publish the marriage in the papers and hopefully he will leave you alone.”
Jin nodded his head.
“Good,” Manon said. “Now, don’t leave a girl crying in the corner. Go make it better.”
Jin touched my arm and I turned to him with tears still in my eyes. “Sun. I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean it, truly I didn’t.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before now. I did tell your mom. I want you to know that, so you don’t think it’s been this big secret till now. I just don’t understand how he may have found me. There has been no link to you or your family recorded anywhere. How Jin? You were a cop. Tell me how he could have done it.”
“I don’t know, ” he said then as a thought crossed his mind and he cringed. “I put your name on as owner of the island. With me, joint owners. That has to be it.”
“I…I own the island? Really?”
“Sun. You were going to be my wife! Of course I put your name on the deed.” He sighed. “Nothing we can do about it now. Let’s just try to solve it best we can. So what do you think? Is it time to get married?”
I can’t explain it, but suddenly I was so happy I felt like I could burst. “Yes, yes! I think we get married!”
I have no idea what happened inside my grand-mere’s house, but once Sun came out and asked me if it was okay to marry my brother (that was weird), our lives became a flurry of activity. Sun and Jin had decided to get married in this little camping park where they had spent time together as teenagers. Only my grand-meres and mama’s old best friend were invited. She and I had bought dresses for the wedding, then Jin and I went to get hair cuts.
“I want my hair cut like Jilly’s,” I told Jin.
“But that is so short. Are you sure? I mean really sure?” I just nodded my head and he told the hairdresser what to do. It’s not exactly like yours Jilly but I really like it and it’s much easier to manage. No more rats nests in the back by my neck!
The ceremony (did I spell that right?) was really fast. Everything happened so fast! I thought weddings were big events with lots of things going on. We went back to the base camp and Jin went upstairs to pack.
“But Sun, you said we would get to explore some tombs and stuff! How come we have to leave now?”
“We just do. I can’t explain it to you now okay. Please just behave and listen to us.”
I felt really disappointed, but I said yes and plopped myself down on the sofa.
“Oh Jade, I think Jin left something for you in the kitchen. Can you go check?”
I stood up with a sigh. “Fine!” I said in the most unhappy reply.
I walked into the kitchen and looked around. “There is nothing here,” I yelled.
“Oh he said he definitely put it there. Just look around.”
I glanced around at the counters and table top. Nothing. There was nothing there. I was about to leave when I saw something move out of the corner of my eye.
Sun must have been listening at the door because she came into the kitchen when she heard me scream. “A PUPPY! OH MY GOSH! He is soooo CUTE! Is he mine?”
“His name is Biscuit, but you can change it if you want. Do you like him?”
“I LOVE HIM! Thank you thank you thank you! Best gift ever!!!”
So that was my trip to France. I saw the outside of a winery. The inside of a cafe and my brother married my Mama Sun. But I got a puppy out of it all and I am so happy! Maybe I will get to go again someday. See those tombs and stuff that Mama Sun talked about.
I need to go to bed now. I came home and wrote you my letter right away because I didn’t want to forget a thing. Now I have two letters to send you, but I will wait to send you this one.
Write back soon! Miss you a lot!