Coming home

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It was a sleepless night of excited anticipation. I couldn't wait for the next day, for him, for master Li He to come to pick me up. I daydreamed of things we could do. The memories we had when we were children.

They're mostly us playing in the courtyard, me catching him with girls around the neighborhood, or him trying to teach me how to read and write in his spare time.

He was never good as a teacher, he often lost his temper with me and yelled in frustration, while I often cried from him yelling at me.

I owed it to him, he's the reason I could read and write, unlike most illiterate slaves. 

Two hours before sunrise, I fell asleep and I didn't wake up until I heard the rustling footsteps of people outside my room. I yanked up from my bed knowing it was him. 

The sun was already high and bright and it blinded me squinting when I opened my door. 

"Master Li He!" I greeted grinning.  

He entered the room while my current master stayed outside giving us some privacy. Master Li He smiled at me, his smile was childish, and it was mischievous. I threw my arms around him while he wrapped his around me, picking me off the ground. We both laugh like we were little children again.

I thought life was great and all my troubles would go away....forgetting overall that he's a married man. 

Master Li He let me go and picked up my bag. "Let's go home." He murmured, his smile never left his face and so did mine. We were at our happiest.

The trip to his home was only an hour long on a rickshaw. It's not too far away. It was midday by the time we arrived inside his gated property. His property was a smaller manor compared to his parents, but it's massive nonetheless. 

I found out during the trip he'd gotten a job serving one of the lords from the imperial palace. I don't have any understanding of the rankings, so I took it as someone very important. Master Li He seemed very proud of his career and it made me happy for him. 

"Congratulations, master Li He. You accomplished a lot in a short time." I told him.

He smiled and loosened a breath. "I worked hard on it, and it's all I focused on within the last couple of years."

Our conversation was simple, we caught up with what we're up to in those years we didn't see each other. A lot happened to him while nothing ever happened to me. I remained a slave, unmarried, probably will never be - unless I'm lucky enough to have a man fall madly in love with me and willing to buy my freedom from my master. 

The rickshaw came to a halt, master Li He stepped out of it, he held his hand for me to take and helped me on my way out. 

He picked up my bag and started walking over to the house. I followed closely behind as I tried searching for other servants around. I didn't see anyone.

Master Li He doesn't have any servants, unlike his parents. That's probably why he bought me, his wife could use some help cleaning this massive house. 

We entered the house, my chest tightened with nervous anticipation getting  ready to be introduce to his wife. Master Li He's steps quickened and his strides widened as he distanced himself away from me. His blithe smile disappeared, leaving me confused and unaware of the reason why.

His wife stood in the kitchen, I took my cue and paused right at the mouth of the room as I watched master Li He greet his wife. He gave her a peck on her cheek while she turned and smiled at him.

They seemed like a happy couple getting along, despite being in an arranged marriage. 

Master Li He murmured something to her, a little too soft for me to hear, and with the sound of the dishes slamming on each other, It was impossible for me to overhear. 

She turned, her eyes met mine. I lowered my head because that was what I was supposed to do. Her smile faded as she realized I was the same girl from yesterday, narrowing her eyes as to further observe me. 

"Hooney, isn't she Mr. Chao's slave?" She asked her husband without taking her eyes away. I felt the prick of her stare stung every inch of my skin as she observed me further.

"Yes. I brought her from his manor." He answered with a slight quiver in his voice.

"Yes, you didn't tell me it was going to be her, though." She moved closer and I'm prompted to step back, feeling naked, and intimidated. She's the elegant wife of my master, and I'm brought here to relieve her of her household duties. I'm sure a woman like her is not used to working around the house. 

"She's young." My new mistress said. "And not that bad looking, she's pretty actually."

Her scrutinizing observation got me worried instantly. I don't like what's happening and where this introduction is going. She's not happy to see me, not happy at all. I could tell as I saw the spite in her face, the way her eyes thinned into narrow slits and how her lips twisted unpleasantly. 

I realized she could be trouble and this house may as well be my new hell.

"She's a slave, we need someone young who could work, not no older woman who could barely move around the house. She'll clean the house, take over the cooking, and the laundry." Master Li He reasoned. 

"She must be expensive, being young and beautiful as she is. Tell me how much fortune did you spent on her, darling? We both know Mr. Chao can be quite greedy."

Master Li He granted her no response. He remained immobile, his stare far away.

I sensed a heavy atmosphere of a fight brewing.

"What's her name?" Asked my new mistress with an edge on her voice.

"I don't know." Master Li He lied. "Don't ask me any more about her." He murmured with finality and walked away, leaving me and my new mistress standing alone in the kitchen.

*****

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