An Act of Balance

Finding the balance between faith and fortune, between love and pain, between anger and despair - a tale of a Chinese woman born out of time.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Chapter 2

Barbara soon found out that being on the run wasn't fun in the least. For four weeks, the Chings made their way south, often only a few steps ahead of the Communist army. Rumors made truth impossible to see. One day they would hear that Mao Tse Tung had been assassinated and the next day, it'd be Chiang Kai-shek who'd been.

Fearful that Simon would be taken to serve in either party's army, Sarah talked Simon into wearing women's clothes for the duration of the trip. Though Simon felt emasculated by his actions, he nonetheless had to face the truth: he wasn't a fighter. Simon had been reared to be the genius of the family. Early on, he was allowed to not participate in sports to further his studies in mathematics.

After two days of teasing by Barbara, (Carol had better sense, AND had been an early recipient of Simon's temper) Simon finally managed to corner Barbara and after a painful headlock, extracted a promise of silence from Barbara that she kept until after his death. During the exchange, Barbara had seen a wild panic behind Simon's eyes that just seemed too close to the surface for comfort. She made the promise not because she was afraid he'd hurt her, but rather, that he'd hurt himself.

Carol had withdrawn more and more the further south they went. Each town they stepped in seemed to have more stories about atrocities committed by the Communists and each story would make Carol blanch more. No one needed to say "And this was the crowd you hung around with?" Carol's stricken face told the family she was trying to reconcile revolution with being a Christian.

Barbara tried to approach Carol a few times; after all, it had to have been better than to be around a mortified Simon, but it seemed both her siblings had, for their own reasons, withdrawn from the world. Barbara took to watching her parents for sheer alleviation of boredom.

Isaiah was a very handsome man and he was fully aware of it. His skin was this luminescent pearl white; Barbara had often overheard their servants whispering that the reason for his skin was a Russian ancestor. Snickers would follow that observation which would anger Barbara. From then onwards, she had always made sure people thought of their family as pure Chinese, central stock.

Sarah, on the other hand, was rather stern looking. Even when she smiled, which was rare, she seemed to display dragon teeth. Few dared to cross her yet it seemed Isaiah did, frequently.

Isaiah had one weakness, and that was the theatre. He had a box at Shanghai Opera House and often on the way home, he would stop there for a song or two. Because Sarah was quite vocal in her dislike of Chinese Opera, none of her children grew up to understand just what Isaiah heard in those one-word-that-can-be-stretched-into-dozens-of-notes. Which suited Isaiah quite nicely. After a full day being at a school full of children, the last thing he wanted was his own children disturbing him during his bliss.

Three weeks on intense scrutiny led Barbara to believe that her mother and father didn't really love each other, they merely seemed to tolerate each other. Shaking her head, she vowed to herself she'd never end up in that state.

Then, just as Macau was within two day's reach, a test of their faith shook them all up. Isaiah collapsed with a stroke. Simon had managed to find a doctor, also a refugee. For his diagnosis, Simon had to promise a percentage of his future earnings. Recognizing Isaiah and the Ching family as devout Christians, the doctor made Simon promise on a Bible with Sarah as witness.

The prognosis wasn't good; Isaiah was completely paralyzed on the left side. Managing to create a make-shift stretcher, Sarah and the children took turns carrying Isaiah into Macau. Because of Isaiah's state, they almost weren't allowed into Macau, but Sarah slipped the border guard a very large emerald broach. The change in attitude was almost comical. In fact, it was the border guard who found them the residence in which they'd live for the next five years.

The first few weeks were spent in getting a doctor for Isaiah, a job for Sarah, school for the children and of course a church. The doctor and church were relatively easy to find; it turned out that the guard was a Christian as well, his parents having been converted by Portuguese missionaries. "Didn't I tell you God would provide?" Sarah would ask her children nightly as if to convince herself.

When it came time for the children to start school again, Carol decided to stay at home. "Baba needs someone to take care of him" was the reason given. Going around to the high schools in the area, she found that unless she had the proper papers showing proof of residency in Macau, she had to provide a sizable bribe. With the limited income she had and with Isaiah's rising medical bills, a bribe was out.

An answer came when Sarah was about to throw out Carol's application to the local university. Realizing that no proof of residency, age, OR graduation was needed to attend the school, she quickly enrolled both Simon and Barbara, counting on both their intelligence to keep up.

Another thing Sarah counted on was the fact that all three of her children had little deh tse or daam in the local dialect, Cantonese. No, daring was truly lacking in all three. Therefore, she had little trouble trusting them to stay out of trouble.

At 16 years old, Barbara entered the adult world of the university.

[949 words, 3108 total]


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