Zhang Xiaohua’s pregnancy due date was approaching, almost at the end of the month.
In the past few days, Wang Tonghua and a few women in the brigade left early and returned late, as they went deep into the mountains to look for wild chestnuts. Because she didn’t have a ticket, she could not buy any sugar from the supply and marketing cooperatives. Hence, she wanted to exchange for more money, and ask someone to quietly buy some brown sugar from a nearby house.
The rabbits at home gave birth again. Generally speaking, a rabbit could give birth to seven, eight kits a year, but if they couldn’t keep up with their nutrition level, the female rabbit would not be able to bear it, and there wouldn’t be much milk during lactation. Du Baoqin had been controlling them this whole time, only letting them have three to four kits a year, sometimes a litter had five or six kits, sometimes seven or eight, and the most they had at a time was eleven kits.
If there were too many rabbits, they would not be able to completely care for them, and often a few would die, so it did not mean that more would be better. This time, eight kits were born. If they could survive until weaning, Zhang Xiaohua wouldn’t have to worry about eggs for the whole month.
For a while now, Jiang Rui had been digging for rabbit grass more diligently. She had almost gone through the entire back mountain, and she could be seen from time to time, on the roadside near the ridge. Sometimes she went to the river to wash clothes, and when she came back, she would be holding a handful of dandelions.
After exchanging for the eggs and brown sugar, they would be solemnly placed in the rice jar by Wang Tonghua, and no one could touch them without permission.
A few days later, Zhang Xiaohua had abdominal pains and she gave birth to a girl at home.
The Zhang family came the next day. Her mother and sister-in-law were both carrying a cloth bag, each full of clothes that were sewed using old cloth, for the child. After entering the house, they pulled out a bag of dried longan from the bottom of the bag.
Zhang Xiaohua’s eyes turned red when she saw this. The conditions of her maiden family were not much different from that of the Du family. To obtain this package of longan, she did not know how much effort it took for her family.
The addition of this new child had added a lot of things and increased the workload thus, the Du family divided the work among themselves. Du Youfu and Du Baoqiang would go to the brigade and dig canals during the day. After work, they were responsible for filling the large water tank at home, and they also had to take care of the private plot of land in the backyard. Jiang Rui still took care of the few rabbits, as well as, the three meals for the family. Wang Tonghua had experience, hence she slept with Zhang Xiaohua at night, helped her to take care of the child, and washed diapers during the day.
Zhang Xiaohua could not go out and she ate all the meals in her room. Every morning, she had a bowl of brown sugar millet porridge and a steamed egg. At noon she would have egg custard with rice, and in the evening, other than the usual meal, she would have an additional bowl of longan brown sugar water. Every other day, Jiang Rui would go to the fisherman’s house to pick up a crucian carp and stewed soup for her so that she could have enough milk to breastfeed.
Although such meals were not comparable to that of a wealthy family, it was within the Du family’s best capabilities. These days, the whole family had tightened their belts, as they prioritized the mother and her child.
On Friday night, when Du Baozhen returned home, after seeing her little niece, she was led to the kitchen by the sweet aroma.
Jiang Rui had just stewed the longan and was about to bring it to the room. When she turned around, she saw Du Baozhen standing behind her, staring at the bowl in her hands, while she swallowed her saliva.
“You came back pretty early this week. Go wash your face first, we are having dinner soon.”
“Okay.” Du Baozhen responded, but she did not move. She stayed in school this semester as her academic tasks were heavier than before, but the food there was not as good as the food from home. She used to think that the pumpkin porridge at home was made with saccharin, hence was not as flavorful as white sugar, but now all day long, her mouth felt so bland that she had to suck her fingers. (T/N: that’s what it says in the original text, but I don’t know why she would suck her fingers ╮(╯∀╰)╭ )
Jiang Rui saw the greed in her eyes, she said helplessly, “This longan was sent by our sister-in-law’s maiden family to nourish her body, we can’t eat it.”
“I know.” Du Baozhen took two deep breaths and with a look of longing, she said, “I’ll just smell it, sister, don’t worry about me.”
Jiang Rui went into the house and when she came back, Du Baozhen was still scenting the residual sweetness in the kitchen, looking gluttonous and pitiful.
She shook her head, took out the jar of brown sugar, and looked at it. She found a fingernail-sized piece and stuffed it into Du Baozhen’s mouth.
“Mmm…..it’s delicious!” Du Baozhen squinted her eyes and said sweetly, “It’s still my sister who loves me.”
“Alright, let’s go set the table, then ask dad, mom, and brother to eat.”
“Yes yes, okay.” She got what she wanted, and ran outside while bouncing around with joy.
Du Baozhen’s greed and cravings lasted till Zhang Xiaohua was out of confinement and only eased when her family took care of her.
At the end of the year, the commune distributed grain dividends. Other than money, they also distributed several cloth and cotton tickets to each family.
When Wang Tonghua and the rest of the family were present at the dinner table, she talked about how the tickets would be used一一when it came to the cloth tickets, she glanced at Jiang Rui with happiness on her face, “This year’s cloth tickets will be used to make new clothes for Baoqin, and everyone elses’ will be pushed back.”
“Aren’t there more? Mom, I also want to make new clothes.” Du Baozhen pulled on Wang Tonghua’s hand and acted like a spoiled child.
Wang Tonghua glared at her weakly, “Baoqin is making new clothes because she has to meet someone, why are you joining in on this?”
Du Baozhen was surprised: “Sister is meeting someone? Why am I not aware of this?!”
“You, this child, just need to focus on your studies, why do you need to know?” Wang Tonghua ignored her and turned to instruct Jiang Rui: “Tomorrow, go to the commune, sell the rabbit furs, and buy some cloth and cotton back. If we are too late, the good designs and colors would’ve been chosen by others.”
Jiang Rui nodded, and seeing Du Baozhen pouting unhappily, she softly persuaded: “Xiao Shanzha does not have any new cotton-padded clothes yet, the extra cloth would first be used to make her one. You are now an aunt, you have to give way to your little niece.”
Xiao Shanzha was the nickname of the Du family’s newly added granddaughter and she had not yet been given an official name. Hearing Jiang Rui’s words, Zhang Xiaohua glanced at her gratefully.
After eating, Du Baozhen followed Jiang Rui into the kitchen, “Sister, who are you meeting? Are they in the same brigade as us?”
“Yes.” Jiang Rui said truthfully, “It’s Zhao Nan who saved you before.”
“It’s him?” Du Baozhen was surprised, “How could it be him? Does sister know him?”
“Help me start the fire first.” Jiang Rui put the tableware and chopsticks into the pot, added half a pot of water, directed Du Baozhen to boil the water, then said, “We’re not quite acquainted.”
Du Baozhen sat down and put some firewood into the stove. Hearing her answer, she frowned, “You don’t know him, then isn’t it strange to meet him? Sister, why don’t you choose someone you like?”
Jiang Rui just smiled and shook her head.
Du Baozhen stared at the fire in the stove, and after a while, she seemed to be telling her, or maybe she was talking to herself, “I would never do this……”
│Mochi: bruh, she’s marrying him because of you (ꐦ ಠ皿ಠ )
Zhang Xiaohua happened to be walking around the yard with her child and she heard the conversation between the two. She snorted in her heart and went back to the room. When she saw Du Baoqiang soaking his feet comfortably, she felt even angrier, she stepped forward and gave his wooden basin a kick.
“What do you think is wrong?” Zhang Xiaohua lowered her voice and said angrily, “At the dinner table just now, Baozhen was about to snatch away our daughter’s new clothes, and you didn’t even give a sh*t!”
Du Baoqiang scratched his cheeks, “Mom didn’t say to give it to her.”
“That’s because Baoqin spoke up! If she didn’t say anything, with Mom’s partiality, do you think that cloth could still belong to our girl? I understand clearly now, this Baozhen is a blood-sucking worm, sucking the whole family dry, all for the sake of supporting her alone!”
“There’s no need to say it so unpleasantly.” Du Baoqiang frowned.
“Heh….” Zhang Xiaohua sneered, thinking of what she heard just now, that Du Baozhen said that she would never want to be like Du Baoqin, what a big joke. She let the whole family take care of her, study, go to university and move to a big city in the future. She was like a phoenix flying out of a chicken coop, different from them, the rural people. Of course she wouldn’t have to be like them! She never even thought about, if without everything the Du family had done for her and without Du Baoqin’s sacrifice, would she still be able to say such sarcastic words?
“Let’s wait and see, have a look at what this precious little sister of your Du family can give you all in return, in the future.”
The next day, Jiang Rui went to the supply and marketing cooperatives to choose a piece of cotton cloth with red printed flowers. From the taking of her measurement, boarding, and tailoring, it was all completed under the guidance of Wang Tonghua.
When Du Baoqiang got married, the family bought a sewing machine. Because they seldom made new clothes, it had accumulated dust in the corner. Du Baoqin took it out, pedaled it every day in her spare time, and made a new dress in seven to eight days.
She had been Du Baoqin for quite some time and she felt that this was the most interesting thing, thus she took another two to three days to finish Xiao Shanzha’s new clothes.
In the blink of an eye, it was the end of the twelfth lunar month. Wang Tonghua waited eagerly and finally, there was news that Zhao Nan had returned home to visit relatives.
Zhang Liyun quickly came to an agreement with her, about the time and place for the two young people to meet.
Because it was their first time meeting, it wasn’t good for the two parents to meet this early on, but they could not let Jiang Rui go alone. The Du family discussed it and decided to let Zhang Xiaohua accompany her.
That morning, after Jiang Rui had breakfast, she was pushed into the room to dress herself up.
Zhang Xiaohua took out her dowry from when she got married, drew Jiang Rui’s eyebrows, and painted a little red on her lips. It was only because of Jiang Rui’s strong resistance that Zhang Xiaohua did not put powder on her face, but she was pale and white, hence it did not really matter.
After drawing her eyebrows and combing her hair into two braids, Jiang Rui came out of the room wearing her new clothes. Wang Tonghua and Du Baozhen were stunned for a while.
It took a while for Du Baozhen to react, “Sister, you are so beautiful today!”
“It really is not bad.” Wang Tonghua said happily.
Zhang Xiaohua smiled and said, “Baoqin’s craftsmanship is good. The padded coat she is wearing looks no different from others, but while they looked bulging, she cleverly tucked it in around her waist, making it look more western-styled.”
Du Baozhen nodded as she circled Jiang Rui, then held her hand and said: “Sister, I will be making new clothes next year, and I want the same as you. Can you do it for me?”
“I think, Baoqin won’t be in our house next year.” Zhang Xiaohua smilingly.
Wang Tonghua glanced at the sky and urged both of them: “It’s almost time, you two set off now, don’t let others wait too long. Baoqin, an unmarried girl, would feel uneasy. Xiaohua, you are her sister-in-law, just say what you need to say, and ask what should be asked, don’t let there be any awkward silences.”
“I know, Mom, don’t worry.”
The two of them left hand in hand. Those who met Jiang Rui on the road did a double-take, then curiously asked them where they were headed to. Zhang Xiaohua only briefly said that they were going to the commune to buy some New Year’s goods.
As the two walked to the commune, they saw a man standing at the bus stop from a distance. Looking at his back, he was tall and straight like a green pine, also like a sword.
Zhang Xiaohua laughed as she whispered in Jiang Rui’s ear: “Is that him? He looks very spirited.”
Jiang Rui looked up at him, and as though the man could feel it, he turned around.
│Mochi: they’re finally meeting each other!! ≧ω≦
Some cubs asked if the male protagonist had an illness. He’s indeed sick, already broken into 800 pieces, how could he not be sick? Heeheehee, the male protagonist is sick, and the female protagonist is his cure.
Author: Come come, time for your medicine.
Male protagonist: Okay. (Happy-ing…)