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Chapters 9 & 10
Winnie now comes to that part of her life where she meets Helen. Pearl’s Auntie Helen, at that time was known by her Chinese name Hulan. Here, Winnie makes it clear to her daughter that Helen does not have any blood relationship with her. Their encounter is a matter of chance, not chosen, just like the other events in Winnie’s life.
The newly wed Weili is anxious to please her husband and her in-laws though they are not easy to please. In their early days of marriage, Wen Fu pretends to be a gentle husband. About a month after the wedding, Weili learns that her husband is a military man and has to go to Hangchow for military training. Weili has to accompany her husband to Hangchow.
Since the 1930’s China had become weaker, both politically and militarily. There was no unity among the Chinese themselves. As they were busy fighting with their own men, they overlooked the steadily increasing power of their enemy, the rival country Japan. The Japanese took this opportunity to establish their supremacy over the Chinese who were insecure due to the political instability. This was the time when the Chinese communists and the Kuomintang decided to join hands to fight their common archenemy, the Japanese.
At the training center, Weili meets Hulan who is the wife of Wen Fu’s boss, Long Jiaguo. In Hangchow, the pilots stay in a monastery, which has been provided to them by the monks. The monks firmly believe that these pilots are going to save the nation. Therefore they are willing to provide the best available facilities to these saviors.
Winnie is extremely hesitant to reveal to her daughter the darkest portion of her married life, that is, Wen Fu as a rapist. She finds it very difficult to express to her married daughter, the trauma and the most abject cruelty that, she was subjected to every night. Weili is so naïve that she thinks that all the husbands are like Wen Fu, the tormentor. She finds Wen Fu’s boss, Jiaguo, to be totally different from her own husband. He is very patient with his nagging wife. Hulan, at times, even tests Weili’s tolerance levels. Her uncouth appearance and crude conversations irritate Weili and she wonders why a first-class pilot married such an unrefined woman. It is only later that she comes to know that Jiaguo’s marriage to Hulan was a sort of compromise. More than a compromise it was a compulsion, a duty, towards the girl and the unborn child who had lost their lives due to his negligent, irresponsible actions. This girl, victim of Jiaguo’s misdeeds, was Hulan’s sister. Jiaguo’s decision to marry Hulan was only to ease his fear of her sister’s curse and to reduce the feeling of guilt.
The scenic beauty of the lakes and the tea plantations around the monastery appeals to Weili and Hulan and their time passes smoothly in such picturesque surroundings. Weili has been feeling somewhat sick for some time and her appetite has also increased. Hulan promptly recognizes these symptoms and manages to convince Weili that she is pregnant. Weili can hardly believe her ears. She hardly knows anything about the process of childbirth and whatever she thinks she knows is incorrect information. Explaining the process of childbirth to Weili, Hulan reveals the tragedy of her sister and her consequent marriage to Jiaguo.
Wen Fu’s attitude to the other pilots, is in many ways similar to the way he behaves with his wife, that is, he wants to emerge as the hero in every situation. Weili notices that the pilots, including his boss Jiaguo, meekly accept his tantrums. In fact, Wen Fu is quite popular among the pilots. Contrary to Weili’s expectations, Wen Fu is nonchalant on hearing that his wife is expecting. Weili has to beg him to stop the aggressive compulsive sexual act, as she is very concerned about the safety of the unborn baby. Though Weili is used to the daily sexual torment to which she is subjected to, she earnestly wishes he spare the baby.
Meanwhile, the Second World War begins. The Chinese high command orders the pilots to begin the attack. Hulan, Weili, and the other wives hurriedly pack the all the necessities for their husbands. They bid farewell to their husbands at the air force base, from where they would take their course. When the planes take off, there is a mixed feeling of anxiety and fear in the minds of the women. But at the same time, the hope of victory also filled their minds.