Red Envelopes: Year of the Rat-1

The small envelope sat on the red marble counter of the kitchen. It was a deep red color and just barely stood out against the Rouge de Rance stone that had been imported from Belgium.  Jinlan didn’t notice it until after she almost knocked over the half gallon of organic orange juice on the floor because of the loss of friction between the matte paper and the polished surface.  She gave it an initial glare, poured herself a small glass of the orange juice and then picked both up and sat down at the mahogany kitchen table and then after taking a sip of the juice put the envelope down and stared at it.

There was no mistaking the fact it was for her, formally addressed to Wu Jin-lan, but with no actual address.  Apparently it had been hand delivered, which made a small chill run up her spine. No one was supposed to know that she was staying with her parents right now, she had only told a few people; and none of them would have written her name in Chinese tradition like this was, and she most definitely did not recognize the handwriting.  She supposed she should open in, but she was anxious about what she might find inside; she could only think of two possible sources, one a friend of a sort, the other the Tsoo.  It was easier to stare blankly at it then actually open it, and there was a feeling in her gut was both sinking and fluttering. It was as if the tangy golden liquid she had just swallowed was some sort of magical potion that both was made of lead cocoons that had quickly metamorphosed  up a row in the periodic table into tin butterflies that danced near her esophagus.

Her mom walked in mid stare down.  The woman had been uncharacteristically bubbly since the day Jinny had showed up on the porch with several suitcases and news that was as obvious as a glance at her abdomen.  Ami had insisted she not be on her own with the due date fast approaching; and the only other person in the world she really had was Daniella… and Daniella was in a coma; or rather a winter hibernation. Only time would tell if the end result of what Crey and her mother did to her made her an annual or a perennial.  There was only a sparkle of hope in that, it was overwhelming for Jin to think about Dani in her current state. Somehow, with the help of the thorn tree, Dani was the “father” of the twins in Jinlan’s womb.  Jin had tried and failed to explain this to her mother; in the end Ami had just covered it with a blanket statement of “science does some very interesting things these days” and the subject was dropped. It didn’t seem to matter to Yu Chen; she was getting grandchildren and that was what mattered to her, to the point that her daughter’s sexual orientation had ceased to matter as well.

Jin had hid the fact she was pregnant from the world and for the past seven months she had sent out a robot duplicate in her place. It was funny, no one had really noticed the difference. There had been a few remarks about the “power armor” that was the robots shell, and there had been a few run-ins with psychics and others who could tell the difference, but largely, no one but whom she had told knew. Jin had wanted it this way, less people knowing Jin was a mother meant less people who would be plotting to try to kidnap or hurt them.

Jin’s attention got pulled from her thoughts when the other woman sighed and grabbed the envelope from her.

“The cleaning service I sent to your apartment brought this over a-Lan.  So if you are going to be rude and not open it, I will.” Yu Chen was an imposing woman, as soon as she figured out her daughter was of genius level intelligence she had begun homeschooling her. It had been strict, Yu had wanted Jin to be a lawyer like herself, or a doctor like her husband.  Neither of the two fields had ever really interested Jin, and in the end, all the pressure had led to a falling out between mother and daughter.  She started opening the thing before Jin could protest and she really hoped that it was from Sun Kai and not the Tsoo.

Relief filled her head as her mother read the mandarin out loud, and then started building again as her mother got a look on her face. “Of course we shall go!”

“Mother…” It wasn’t any use, once Yu had gotten something in her head, it stayed… and this was staying.  It didn’t matter how many good reasons Jinlan cited for not going; the twins, Dani, the late rsvp, they were going to this party no matter what now it seemed.  Frick.  So much for secrecy, the woman was already breaking out her calligraphy set to send in the rsvp.
On behalf of my stubborn daughter, we humbly accept your invitation for New Years.
Chen Yu



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