Gu Ming pointed at a mean looking woman with a bony face and thin lips and said through gritted teeth, “When mom was still alive, mei mei was healthy and outgoing. What about now? Why do you think mei mei looks the way she does right now? She been starved this entire time!”
The clan member of the Gu’s who came to help looked at the skinny and obviously malnourished Gu Ye and could not bear the sight but turned away.
“Mrs. Gu won’t let mei mei join us at the table during meals, and she never saved any food for her. Mei mei was so hungry that she had to eat wild plants. On top of that she was too frightened to bring them home to cook them so she had to eat them raw. She was so young that she couldn’t tell what was or was not edible at first and regularly ate the poisonous ones, making her vomit and causing her to have diarrhea.
“Look at her! She is covered in bruises! She had no food to eat so she had no energy. She gets beaten whenever she was slow to work. Never mind that Da Zhuang and Xiao Zhuang1 also beat her, kick her, strike her with stick and hit her with stones…. Dad, mei mei is your daughter too and she also has your blood in her veins. How could you just let this woman starve and beat her to death like that?”
Gu Ye’s sleeve was lifted up and bruises and wounds were for all to see, as though they were complaining loudly about the treatment the owner of the body has received.
“You damn child, stop spewing nonsense! Who had seen me beating her? You ungrateful thing, all you do is lie! Fellow villagers, just you think. She was the one who prepare the meals everyday. When we come home from work we just assume she had already eaten. If she hadn’t eaten yet she could have said something. How would I know that she hadn’t eaten yet? As for all the injuries that she had sustained, that was her being naughty and I have no idea what she had bumped into. Nothing to do with me!” Mrs. Gu’s mouth was no decoration. She could talk the death back to live.
Gu Ming wanted so badly to tear up her lying Mrs. Gu, “What about today then? Mei mei was alive and well in the evening; she was even talking to me. Why did you toss her out like this? There are so many beasts in the mountain, you didn’t even want to give her a chance to survive!”
“When I got home she was lying there motionlessly and I couldn’t wake her so I thought she was already dead! In these daring days kids die at home all the time. Your brothers will get married and live in our house after they got married, I can’t let her die inside the house!” said Mrs. Gu unabashedly.
Gu Ming hrmphed, “I know what your plans are! I heard what you said to Da Zhuang the other night. You said mei mei is a money sink, keep her around is just a waste of food. You can save the dowry if she’s dead…. You can toss mei mei into the mountains for that paltry dowry today, what is to say you won’t try to kill me tomorrow so I won’t fight over the inheritance with Da Zhuang and Xiao Zhuang! Dad, are you just going to stand by and let it happen?”
“What are you talking about? Your mom is not like that. Okay, that’s enough talking, it’s all a big misunderstanding! We’ve found her now, let’s hurry up and go home!” said Gu QIao as he waved his hand impatiently.
He still has some feelings for this son of his, but over the years with Mrs. Gu saying all sorts of stuff to him day and night, there weren’t a lot left. He didn’t care about anything that Gu Ming had said; quite the contrary, he was angry that he had caused him to lose face in front of the patriarch and the villagers.
“No, if we go back like this, she will try again to toss mei mei out. Dad, we want to get it all straightened out in front of grandma patriarch and all the uncles in the village. I want Mrs. Gu to swear in front of everyone that she would not make mei mei do any more heavy labor and will feed her!”
1. Da = big, Xiao = small. Zhuang = strong. Not relevant to the story, just a common name.
2. It is customary to refer to elders as uncles, aunties, grandpa, and grandma depending their age. They don’t have to be actually related.
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