Envy I
Chapter information


Written by


Release date

4th April, 2014

Word count



Envy I, II
Wrath I
Lust I
Sloth I
Pride I

insatiable desire; to covet an entity of another

You look at all the other girls. You can see them, from the corner of your eye, as they prance about in silly (beautiful) green dresses with ugly (gorgeous) golden tiaras, talking about stupid (fun) things. You don't have time to waste glaring at them, though, as you're called back inside; Father needs you to cook dinner. Your mother is sick—she can't do it—and Father is a man.

Men don't cook.

You wonder what men do do, as it doesn't seem like much. He spends his days drinking some foul golden liquid; the smell permeates through the entire house, and you sometimes sit on the roof just to get away from it all. The first time you found it, you emptied it down the sink; what purpose was there for this vile drink? He spends his money on it and you watch your mother become more and more ill; could that money help her? He says it can't, and what choice do you have but to believe him? Instead, you sit with her. Laughter is the best medicine, and so you try to cheer her up. She sleeps with you in your bed while your father takes the master room (when he's not passed out in the not-really-family room).

When he found the empty bottle, at least he had the courtesy to wait until your mother was asleep before he beat you.

Mother is sick. You don't want to wake her.

You learned your lesson, but you still have a scar (of the wedding ring as it sliced through your arm), and more than a few problems. He asks the spirits why he couldn't have had a son; why did they have to punish him like this? You eavesdrop as he lists the hardships you have placed on him. He has to find someone who will marry you, a task that takes time and effort. Then there's the matter of your dowry.

You wonder if other girls are like you. You wonder if they are treated like you.

Your mother succumbs within weeks, the illness burying itself deep within her bones as it forces you to bury her. You cry at the funeral; wet tears turning your face splotchy as you try in vain to hold them back. The moment of silence is broken by your stifled sobs.

He beats you again when you get home.

The other villagers know. You know they know as they look at you with pitying eyes. Sometimes Mianbao gives you a little cupcake from the bakery and tells you to gobble it up fast. You smile a small smile, and give a bow in thanks. She pats your head and ushers you off, but you still catch the frown as you turn away.

Walking past the dojo, you notice the door has been left ajar. The sun tells you that you don't have much time, but you still can't resist the urge to sneak a little closer. You peer through the door, your heart in your chest as you see about three dozen girls, ranging from your age all the way up to adulthood. They are frowning in concentration, and you stand bewitched as the gracefulness of their movements captivates you.

They don't notice you duck inside for a moment and take one of the golden fans just lying around the area.

You take it home and keep it secret as best you can. Every night you sit on the roof and allow the metal to catch the light of the moon. Every day, you hide it in your pillow before you head off to the town hall to learn sums and words.

You are careless one day; your father isn't quite drunk enough to remain in one spot, and he surprises you by following you to the roof. You already have the fan out when he announces his presence; you never realised how big your house is until he accidentally knocks you off the roof as he tries to wrestle the golden instrument from you. You land on the garden overgrown with hydrangea and campanula; he's never bothered with it, and the bushy plants break your fall. You come out of it with a sprained wrist and a broken leg.

It is three days after your seventh birthday (five months since the unfortunate 'accident' on the roof) when a stranger comes to the door. The sun hasn't yet risen, and so you are carrying one of the last candles you have left. Your father is passed out on the floor, and you almost step on him as you rush to stop the knocking. Pulling the heavy wood open, you stop and stare as the person steps through the threshold. She notices your father and places a finger over her lips, beckoning you close to whisper in your ear. She says your name with such care and tenderness that you wonder if that's how it should sound, or she's just gotten the pronunciation wrong.

The birds are welcoming the day when you step into the bright morning sun, a small bundle of clothes at your side and the woman holding your hand.

By the time your father comes to collect you, he can't even recognise you amidst the other green-dress-golden-tiara wearing girls.

Notes: 'Mianbao' actually means 'bread' in Chinese: 面包.

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