Although he had no way to have his letters carried to Macao where Ayaou’s family lived, Guan-jiah sent news through the British consular mailbags out of Hong Kong. It couldn't be easy for the eunuch to keep Robert informed.
In one letter, Guan-jiah suggested that Robert write to Ayaou care of the Hong Kong consulate. He followed his servant’s advice. When she didn’t respond, he started to have doubts. What if Guan-jiah’s warnings were true ? He dashed off another letter to Guan-jiah asking why Ayaou hadn’t replied.
Guan-jiah wrote back that he had tried to get Ayaou to write. She wouldn’t listen. It was as if she were mute.
“Master,” Guan-jiah wrote, “since we have been in Macao, Ayaou found Mr. Yin-Yang’s replacement, a Mr. Sua-min, another fortune teller. He has become the guru of her spiritual life.
“Ayaou is convinced you are the moon’s reflection in the water that Mr. Yin-Yang predicted, and that she will never truly have you. Mr. Sua-min told Ayaou to get as much money as she can from you while you are still part of her life.
“Mr. Sua-min is a thief. I believe he will take the money you send her for his services.
“Master, if she asks for money, do not give it.”
Ayaou would never cheat him even for a fortuneteller. He would not take Guan-jiah’s advice. He was sure that the love Ayaou felt for him was too strong for anything like that to happen. Whatever she was going through, it wouldn’t last.
He spent sleepless nights fantasizing that things would return to the way they had been in Ningpo during the best of times. Life would be as it had been when Shao-mei was alive. They would laugh over Chinese ink paintings, poetry, music and haircuts.
He didn’t want to remember the jealous fights between the sisters. He followed Uncle Bark's advice and only thought about the good times they had together.
* * *
Ayaou sent one of her cousins to Canton in July. The fifteen-year-old girl’s name was Fooyen. The note she handed Robert asked for one hundred yuan.
“Why so much?” he asked.
“The money is for the family,” Fooyen replied. “The junk needs repairs. It is old and leaks. We have borrowed enough that we will never be able to pay back in this life. The moneylenders will not give us more. If the junk sinks, we will all die. It is where we live. It is how we make our living.”
He gave the girl a hundred and twenty-five-yuan, more than Ayaou asked for. He also trusted Fooyen to deliver the letters he’d written that he hadn’t sent care of the consulate in Hong Kong.
Fooyen became their messenger, and he kept up a correspondence with Ayaou for the next few months. Her only replies were when she asked for money, and he sent it.
It was through Fooyen that Robert learned how to find Ayaou in Macao.
Honorable Mentions in General Fiction