Robert made his way across the roofs risking life and limbs a second time. Inside the house, he led Ayaou to the bedroom. As stark as this worn-out house was, the bedroom was the closest to being a home of sorts. The other rooms made him feel uncomfortable as if they were designed to hold coffins.
“Guan-jiah, I want you in here too.”
“Master?” Guan-jiah looked shocked as if he were going to be asked to join them on the sleeping mat and take part in the lovemaking.
“Don’t worry,” Robert said. He stifled his laugher, and it took an effort to keep his face composed. “I only want to talk. You’re both going to Macao tomorrow.” Robert held out twenty pounds. “Take the money.” It was more than one-hundred-twenty yuan.
“I am not leaving without you,” Ayaou said.
A surge of anger overwhelmed him. “You have no choice!” Heat flooded his face. His voice roared.
She talked louder to match him. “I have never been to Macao. I do not know what the place is like. I might get lost there. You might not find me. My father told me it happened to a concubine that belonged to Captain Patridge. He forgot about her!”
He swallowed his anger. “You have nothing to worry about.” He forced his voice to sound calm. “Guan-jiah will look after you and stay in touch.”
“You want to get rid of me, because I carry your child.”
“What am I going to do with you?” It frustrated him that no matter what he said, he couldn’t convince Ayaou that he wasn’t going to abandon her. “I curse your father for the poison he planted in your head. I curse the fortuneteller who has filled your mind with nonsense.”
“Do not talk about my father like that. If my father told me to leave you, I would.”
Guan-jiah moved between them.
“Leave the room.”
Hurt appeared on the eunuch’s face. He didn’t move.
Guan-jiah was a gentle man. Robert doubted that he’d hurt a fly. “It's okay. You can leave.”
The eunuch’s words came in a rush. “No, Master, I have never seen you this angry, you might hit her, she deserves it, but you said I was the child’s adopted uncle; it is my duty to protect him, I have to protect him, you know that I would help you beat her if it weren’t for him. Beat me instead.”
Robert’s anger evaporated. Guan-jiah was willing to die to protect the unborn child. The look in Guan-jiah’s eyes said so. He pitied any Taiping who came near Ayaou in her condition. Guan-jiah would fight to the death.
Ayaou had dropped to the sleeping mat and was staring at the floor with a lost look. She rubbed dirt off her feet.
“You went outside against my orders!” His heart leaped into his throat.
“You do not own me. Ward does,” she replied.
Without thinking, he raised a hand as if to slap her. Guan-jiah grabbed his wrist. “No, Master, you cannot hit her. You are letting her words stir up evil. Do not damage the child. I promise to beat her after the child is born.”
He stepped away from Guan-jiah. The eunuch moved so he remained between them. “You’re going to Macao. Guan-jiah, tie her up. If you have to, stuff her in a burlap sack and carry her.”
She dropped to her back and stared at the ceiling. Her face was a mask of fury and pain. She’d given up.
“She’ll calm down,” he said. “Let’s go in the other room. Brew a pot of tea. We will plan how you two are going to leave the city so you get out safely. Have you ever been to Macao?”
Links to Reviews for "Our Hart"
Honorable Mentions in General Fiction