Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Asia (02/26/09)
TITLE: Too Great a Shame
By Kellie Henningsen
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“Oh my!” exclaimed Ming’s sister, Li, as she rushed into the room. “Your hair…it’s simply magnificent!” Li reached up to touch the flowered headdress that sat atop the velvety black hair of her sister.
“No! Don’t touch!” Ming snapped. “I’m sorry, Li. I’m just a bit on edge today I guess.”
“It’s understandable,” Li assured her. “Every woman is nervous on her wedding day. I’ll leave you alone as I should look after the servants and the food preparations anyway.”
Ming pondered the events of the day ahead wishing her nerves were just those of a hesitant bride. What had been asked of her was more than she could come to terms with. How would her father react when he found out? Her fiancée expected this of her, and she could not disappoint him – it would not be acceptable.
“It’s time!” Li said excitedly. “The music has started – they are waiting for you.”
Ming’s silk gown flowed down around her feet as she stood and walked gracefully toward the door. Taking in a huge breath of air to steady herself, she prepared for the ceremony ahead.
The crowd gasped as they watched Ming walk toward the front to stand beside her fiancée.
“Have you ever seen anything like it?” “It’s unbelievable!” “So large … and so exquisite!”
Murmurings could be heard throughout those present as they marveled at the bride’s headdress and overall beauty.
Ming’s heart was heavy the entire day. She could not look her father in the eyes which he mistook for sadness on her part. She was, after all, moving far away now as her new husband was a prince in Kohtan. Ming would not return home again. She was aware that she would no longer be welcome after they found out what she was about to do. Her actions would bring disgrace to her family name.
At long last, the ceremonies were over. Ming and Prince Aamir started out on their journey toward his homeland. It only took an hour before they reached the border of China. Guards stopped them to inspect their luggage before allowing passage. There was a long standing law in China. Anyone caught smuggling silkworms out of the country was to be killed. The secret of the silkworm had been China’s for over 3,000 years, and they had no intention of changing that.
Ming watched as the guards sorted through their luggage. They apologized to the princess for this formality but it simply could not be avoided. Ming nodded her understanding while anxiously adjusting her headdress to a more comfortable position.
Once across the border a fair distance, Aamir ordered his caravan to pull over. He had longed for this moment and simply could not wait any more. With desire in his eyes, Aamir turned to Ming.
“Ahhh my sweet Ming,” Aamir’s voice carried with it nervous excitement. “Our time has finally come!”
Carefully, as if handling a rare treasure, he reached his hands up to Ming’s hair. She sat perfectly still – every nerve tense. Would he approve? Had she done right? Slowly, Aamir pulled out the pins that held up the infrastructure on her head. Tendrils of coal black hair fell down around her slender shoulders. Her heart beat faster as she looked into his eyes for approval.
Aamir’s face broke into a broad smile as he brought his hands down from her hair. In his palm lay a small white egg along with some mulberry leaves. Carefully placing the items into the tin he had ready, he continued on his quest. More hair fell as Aamir meticulously worked at finding all of the silkworm eggs that had been carefully hidden in Ming’s headdress.
When the entire process was through, Ming leaned back in exhaustion. She had done it. She had thrown away a three thousand year secret. She could never face her father or her country again. The shame was too great.
Aamir looked at her with approval. Approval but not love. Ming sadly realized she had only begun to pay the price this marriage would require of her.
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