Lucky Monkey bowed her head and listened to the birds calling back and forth to each other. She wondered if Bending Willow had heard her just now as he had entered the courtyard. The day was coming to an end, yet she could still feel the warmth of th lingering sun on her shoulders.
She knew that she shouldn’t be there, if she was found in the garden her Father would be furious with her. Quietly she tipped toed to the vine-covered swings. Her heart skipped a beat, would Laughing Bird be there she wondered. Then she scolded herself for being silly.
Laughing Bird had been so serious when he had told her that if she wanted the secret of the whispering shells she had to meet him after evening prayers. Little Monkey could still see his earnest face peering down into her eyes. Just as she had been about to ask him if he meant what he was saying, Bending Willow had come and pulled her away, scolding her for talking to Laughing Bird. Laughing Bird had been her constant companion till one day her Father had told her she was too old to be romping with the boys, she was now to focus on her studies.
Bending Willow was the same age as she was, her Mother was concubine to Little Monkey’s Father, and currently the favourite. Little Monkey’s Mother, Shining Star had fallen from favour when she refused to consent to Little Monkey’s Father’ wish to bring hone another concubine. Shining Star was No.1 wife, she did not wish another concubine in the home.
Fragrant Pearl, Bending Willow’s Mother had been understanding and had taken her master’s part in the quarrel. Roaring Lion, Little Monkey’s brother had stood by his Mother, so Master Wu had not brought home his latest love. He had been forced to rent a house on the other side of town. He had not forgiven Shining Star and had stayed away for days and days.
Then one day, news had come that a stranger had come to the village and was looking for the husband of the woman known as Shining Star. Little Monkey’s Father had called to him, they had met and talked for hours. When the stranger left, Little Monkey’s Father had come home and gone straight to Shining Star’s quarters and begged to be forgiven. He had brought with him a box carved in the finest ebony. When Shining Star opened the box, her eyes had grown wide with wonder.
Leaning forward to get a better look she gave a small sigh and fainted. In the box sat the prettiest of shells, beautifully sculpted by nature, from which came the faint whispering sounds of the sea.
There was a hush in the House of Wu. Shining Star had not regained consciousness. She slept an endless dream. A smile played on her lips, her breath was sweet and pure, but she did not stir.
Little Monkey breathed a sigh of relief, Laughing Bird was sitting hidden under the heavy growth of the lush wisteria vine.
“So, Little Monkey you have come” he smiled up at her.
Seeing him sitting crossed legged his head resting on his hands she smiled remembering all the times they had st across from each other, each telling a secret trying to outdo the other.
“Oh Laughing Bird” cried Little Monkey, her hands reaching out to him, her eyes searching his face “yu know how sad I am that my Mother will not wake. Tell me you were not teasing, do you really know the secret of the whispering shells?”
“Here, come sit beside me” Laughing Bird patted the ground beside him. Remember when I told you that I saw your Father in the village talking to the stranger from the big city?”
Little Monkey was sitting across from him, leaning forward so she could hear. She knew that she would have to let him tell her the story his way. “Well do you remember?” Laughing Bird was looking at her intently. Her fragile beauty stirred his emotions, he held back his desire to reach out and touch her.
“Yes, yes I remember Laughing Bird, please tell me what you know” Little Monkey wondered if he was stalling for time. Why was he looking at her that way?
Laughing Bird began, “I saw Bending Willow and her Mother talking to the stranger before the stranger spoke to your Father”
Little Monkey could not believe her ears, “you what! you saw Bending Willow and Fragrant Pearl speaking with the stranger?”
“Yes, but not only that, there was another man there too, he was wearing a big ring that shone like the stars. He carried a big black bag out of which he took a package. I crept closer trying to hear what they were saying but I could not get too close for fear that I would be heard. By the time your Father arrived, Fragrant Flower, Bending Willow and the man with the ring were gone” Laughing Bird paused, “this is the interesting part Little Monkey” his voice dropped a pitch, she had to lean even closer so that she could hear. “I could see your Father was worried, he kept shaking his head, then suddenly Fragrant Flower and Bending Willow came back. They began to talk to your Father, by their gestures they seemed to be reassuring him, they didn’t want the man to leave, they wanted your Father to take the package. Finally your Father took the package and left with Fragrant Flower and Bending Willow. Seeing my chance I went over to the stranger.”
Little Monkey gasped, her little hands balled into fists “you, you went and talked to the stranger, but what did he say?”
“I told him that I was a friend of Master Wu’s daughter”
He said, “ah, so you know Little Monkey”
“Little Monkey, he knew your name! ”
Little Monkey could not speak, she looked at her friend in wonder, “then do you know what he said ” Laughing Bird seemed to expect her to answer, but Little Monkey was too caught up to answer. Laughing Bird leaned closer and whispered so quietly that she had to strain to hear
“Little Monkey, he said that your Mother’s spirit has gone into the shell. If she is to return someone will have to reach her spirit in the shell. When I asked what the package had been, he only laughed and said “son, you are young, you do not understand the ways of the old” then he laughed and turned to go. I begged him to tell me about the whispering shells.” Laughing Bird stopped, his eyes staring off into some far off place.
Little Monkey could not believe Laughing Bird’s timing, “yes YES? ” she tugged at his sleeve, “tell me please, this is not the time for your games, you know that I am listening to you, did he tell you what the secret is?”
“Laughing Bird do you hear me, please, did he tell you what the secret of the whispering shells is?” Little Monkey was now leaning very close to Laughing Bird, yet even so she had to really listen when he spoke.
“The secret Little Monkey is .. love..”
“Love ?” Little Monkey said the word over and over, “..love.. what did he mean?”
“Laughing Bird, what is love, what has love to do with the whispering shells?”
I did my best not to edit, or correct, I simply retyped what I found. I wrote this many years ago, finding it today, was a reminder to me that the Universe will give me answers, I need only listen, this time it gave it back to me in my own words.
Namaste – Oyashikiri
graphics – Pinterest