I knew from the beginning our new home would not be an ordinary house. My mother had told me we would live in the household of Wu Tsing, who was a very rich merchant. She said this man owned many carpet factories and lived in a mansion located in the British Concession of Tientsin, the best section of the city where Chinese people could live.
As your mother slept soundly in Second Wife’s bed, Second Wife got up in the middle of the night and left the dark room, and Wu Tsing took her place. When your mother awoke to find him touching her beneath her undergarments, she jumped out of bed. He grabbed her by the hair and threw her on the floor. . . . Your mother did not scream or cry when he fell on her. . . . So when Wu Tsing asked your mother to be his third concubine, to bear him a son, what choice did she have? She was already as low as a prostitute.
[W]e both knew this: that on the third day after someone dies, the soul comes back to settle scores. In my mother’s case, this would be the first day of the lunar new year. And because it is the new year, all debts must be paid, or disaster and misfortune will follow. So on that day, Wu Tsing, fearful of my mother’s vengeful spirit, wore the coarsest of white cotton mourning clothes. He promised her visiting ghost that he would raise Syaudi and me as his honored children. He promised to revere her as if she had been First Wife, his only wife.
It is because I had so much joy then that I came to have so much hate. But even when I was at my happiest, I had a worry that started right above my brow, where you know a thing. This worry later trickled down to my heart, where you feel a thing and it becomes true. My husband started to take many business trips to the north. These trips began soon after we married, but they became longer after the baby was put in my womb. . . . I found out from my youngest aunt that he had left me to live with an opera singer.
Can I tell my daughter that I loved her father? . . . How could I not love this man? But it was the love of a ghost. Arms that encircled but did not touch. A bowl of rice but without the appetite to eat it. No hunger. No fullness. . . . Now I must tell my daughter everything. That she is the daughter of a ghost. She has no chi. This is my greatest shame. How can I leave this world without leaving her my spirit?