I’m posting a section a day of my epistolary romance novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. You can read it online for free here (click on the “Perilous Life of Jade Yeo” category to access the other posts), or you can buy the ebook at Smashwords or Amazon. The ebook contains the complete 23,000-word novella.
Content warning: today’s installment contains adult content.
Tuesday, 9th November 1920
Hardie came to see me.
I don’t know how he found me out. Perhaps he is some sort of clairvoyant–a Theosophist–a qigong master. Perhaps he asked a medium.
I am in a daze. I will try to set things out in order.
I was in our hotel room, reading. Aunt Iris had gone out to meet one of her friends.
(Aunt Iris is an odd fish: even though she makes at least three trips to France in a year, the only French person she ever goes to see is her tailor, and all her friends in Paris are English people. I suppose it is because she can only say “too expensive” and “the silk, please” in French. Perhaps I shouldn’t blame her, but I have already learnt to say “chocolate cake” and “pigeon” and “where is the station?” in French, and I have only been here a week.)
But I digress. I was reading Charlotte Bronte, and Jane was being serenaded by Mr. Rochester. (I see the source of all my problems: a Bronte was completely the wrong thing to be reading, unless it were an Anne. I should have been reading George Eliot.) A knock sounded on the door and I said, “Come in,” without looking up, thinking Aunt Iris had returned early.
“This is just how I imagined you,” said Hardie softly. “Sitting in the sunlight with a book–don’t move! You were perfect.”
I had leapt about two feet in the air and then scuttled behind my armchair.
“I beg to disagree: I think I am even better here,” I said. “The chair hides all my problem spots. The feet–the stomach–the knees–”
Hardie was looking amused.
“I won’t pounce,” he said. “There’s no need for you to hide from me. I shan’t do anything you don’t want me to, I promise.”
“That’s all well and good,” I said, not moving. “But I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you.” I considered my arms. “And that wouldn’t be very far! No, you can say anything you like, but don’t you think I don’t know what you mean just because you are using words that mean different things from what you really mean.”
“There’s your felicitous way with language,” Hardie remarked. “Will you believe me if I say I simply want to talk?”
“Very wise,” said Hardie. “But I am telling the truth–part of it, at least. A talk is one of the things I would like to enjoy with you. May I sit down and try it?”
I glared at him, but he kept standing there at the door with that mild courteous look on his face. His lips were quirked in that daydream smile, but his eyes were clear and serious.
“You may,” I said. “But order us some tea first. The beverage, and the buns. And you must pay or Aunt Iris will toss me into the Seine.”
He did it without a murmur–not quite enough to restore him to my good graces, but he ordered hot chocolate as well, which did. It came in gleaming metal jugs with white foam on the top, and I poured it out and sat there with a bowl in my hand until the heavenly smell went all the way through my head and cleared it out. I forgot and smiled at him.
I should have hated him if he had made some comment about it: “There, that’s better”, or something to that effect. But he only smiled back.
“Do you like chocolate then?” he said. I liked him for asking, not stating it. But I was in a contrary mood, so I said:
“That is a silly question. Like asking one whether one likes sunshine, or flowers, or babies.”
“Babies, at least, are not universally popular,” Hardie pointed out.
“People who dislike babies are fools, unless they hate everyone,” I said firmly. “Babies are nothing more than little small humans, only they’re pleasanter and better-smelling and more attractive than your average adult.”
“You’ve never been kept awake by a hungry infant squalling at an ungodly hour of the morning,” said Hardie.
“Oh, as if you have,” I said. I’m sure Diana Hardie cultivates a pure artistic passion for feeding babies at three in the morning!
Hardie paused a moment, his face working as if it did not know what expression to wear, but then he grinned and inclined his head.
“A hit,” he said. “Where did you get that sharp tongue?”
“Is honesty sharpness now?” I said. “I can never understand the English. We Orientals are meant to be inscrutable and mysterious, but whenever I say what I think, the way my mother brought me up to do, the English fall about swooning. I can’t imagine what you must be like by yourselves. How does anything ever get done if none of you say what you mean?”
“We muddle along somehow,” said Hardie. “I take it a forthright manner runs in the Yeo family, then?”
“It is nice when you ask questions instead of assuming things and pouncing on people,” I observed. “Yes, I suppose so. My mother is a great talker, and she is not very good at subterfuge. She has a grand mind that will not be trammelled by little things like etiquette. I like to think I am like her.”
“You are fond of your parents,” Hardie said. He poured me some tea. “An unusual affliction.”
“Do you think it’s an affliction to like your parents?” I said.
“It seems an inconvenient feeling when you live so far away from them.”
“When they are all the way over in China, you mean?” I said maliciously.
“Malaya, I believe,” said Hardie. He saw my look and laughed. “I do apologise. I asked Ravi about you. You see, I’m interested in you. I should like to be your friend, and not make you leap behind furniture every time I appear. I thought if I spoke to someone who knew you, I would get a better idea of how we could arrive on better terms.”
“What did Ravi say?” I said.
“Not a great deal. Nothing bad, if you were worried,” said Hardie. “He refused to tell me why you left Malaya, however.”
Everyone asks this. But I was beginning to like Hardie despite myself, and I thought I wouldn’t mind telling him. (Of course, I’d liked him enough to kiss him before. But one may like someone enough to kiss them without liking them enough to confide in them. The two are quite different emotions.)
“It’s not a very interesting tale,” I said. “I came to study at one of the universities here. And then I started writing, and found I could make enough by it to keep myself. That was exciting–you see, before that everything I’d had was given to me by my parents, so it was refreshing to be able to do things for myself.”
“They were fond parents, I take it,” said Hardie.
“Oh yes. My mother and father are excellent creatures,” I said. I hesitated. “I should have gone home and tried writing for the Straits Times, if they would have me. But then this blasted marriage business came up.”
“Marriage?” said Hardie.
“Yes. My mother and father think it would be rather a good idea if I were to marry the son of one of his business friends,” I said. “They would never force me. But they are so tedious about it. There is no turning aside to talk about one’s walk to the library, or the iniquities of one’s landlady, or one’s trips to Paris. It all comes back to the son. And he’s fallen in love with me, the gudgeon. And he is kind, and reasonably good-looking, and would look after me–”
“A romantic hero, in short,” said Hardie.
“And my mother is convinced that I harbour a secret passion for him, only in my girlish naivete I don’t know it,” I said. “It is a bother. My parents write and say: you had better come home soon to marry him, or he will marry someone else. I say: I shan’t come home until he has married someone else. They respond: well, you had better come, he won’t wait for you forever–and so on, without end. My mother and father have very focused intellects. And they’ve never grown out of the habit of treating me like a delightful baby that doesn’t know what it wants.”
Hardie looked at me. It was coming on to evening and a soft dying light came through the windows. His face was half ivory and half deep purplish shadow, and his mouth was tender.
“What do you want?” said Hardie.
I said what my parents always hate hearing me say.
“I would like,” I said, “some excitement before I die.”
I kissed him.
Let me try to put down what happened as unblushingly as I can. Perhaps I will never engage in the activity again, and I shall have to go off this recollection of it for the rest of my life.
We kissed a while–Hardie very gentle and restrained, I trying to work out what I was meant to do with my teeth and tongue and lips. In ordinary kissing one aligns one’s lips with the kissee’s lips, and presses them together, but in–well–I can’t think of a better term–in sex kissing the insides of one’s mouth is involved, and it is quite difficult to make it so the respective lips are aligned. One folds one’s lips on top of the other’s. But caution is required: if anyone’s lips stray too far beyond the mouth it gets very damp, and one feels as if one is being eaten by an excessively friendly lion.
When he got too excited to stop at kissing, Hardie picked me up and put me in his lap and put his hand up my skirt, kissing my face and my mouth and the hollow of my throat, and parts lower than that as well. How warm my face is! It’s strange how embarrassed I am now, writing this down, when at the time I didn’t even think to blush, but took his hand and showed him where to touch.
He has great big hands. The skin was rougher on the top and the fingernails were blunt (good job they were–I wonder if he cut them in advance). They were soft, except for writing calluses. Oh I do love men’s hands.
Hardie put his fingers inside me. That hurt a little, but it was somehow exciting too–it was such a novel sensation. I thought I ought to do something other than shiver and sigh, so I tried opening his shirt and touching his chest (having observed that he seemed interested in mine). But I am not sure if he liked it. He did take it as a cue to lay me down and take my blouse off and kiss my breasts.
I have to say that it is very pleasant for one’s bosom to receive flattering attention after years of its inspiring no warmer emotion than maternal disappointment. Pa’s side of the family runs to flat-chestedness, so Ma should really have been prepared for my shape–or rather, my lack of one. But instead she nurtures the hope that some day, perhaps at the age of thirty or thereabouts, I will blossom into voluptuousness.
Oh dear, it doesn’t seem right to be talking about one’s parents when one is describing being debauched. I must try to focus my mind.
When he had been kissing my bosom for a while, both of us breathing very fast and heavy as if we were running a race together, I decided to take initiative and undid his trousers. Hardie laughed a low wobbly laugh and murmured something, but I was too busy looking at his parts to listen.
The male member is a peculiar thing. Of course complaints can be made about the female parts as well, but I think there is something rather pretty and charming about the mound of Venus and the soft crinkly hair that covers it, like grass on a hill.
Hardie’s member, which presumably does not deviate wildly from the average, was a dark pink cylinder of flesh, which bulged out into a sort of knob at the top. It was covered by a veined skin out of which the knob emerged on occasion. This member and his testicles were a different colour from the rest of him, which is a pale doughy hue. It created a singular effect when most of his clothes were off. I felt rather tender of him, he looked so absurd and vulnerable.
The skin on the male parts is very soft, and one is not meant to try to strip the shaft of its outer skin, for this makes the possessor say, “Ouch!”
After this Hardie took my hand away, and kissed me, and settled down between my legs. I helped him push his way in. It was a little painful–I am still sore–but I did not mind it.
There was something very primal about the whole thing. That is a silly obvious sort of thing to say–but people are so sophisticated about sex. They say such a lot about it, or they don’t say anything, so that it becomes something mystical and elusive. But the act itself was so wordless and unsophisticated and basic. Hardie could have been any man. I could have been any woman. And yet at the same time it was so personal, because one is so much in the moment. There was no distance because there was no thinking–no more than one thinks about what one’s body is doing when one is in the WC.
Hardie is different when he is not talking. He was gentle and flustered and earnest. I liked him better than I’d ever liked him before. When we were done, much quicker than I would have liked, he was embarrassed and apologised: “Sorry–sorry”, without looking up.
“I don’t mind,” I said, though I did rather. You’d think a married man and habitual philanderer would do better. “Was it all right?”
He was all tousled and sleepy, like a boy.
“Yes,” he said. He touched my face. “Thank you. You were lovely.”
I rousted him out pretty briskly. I can’t imagine how awful it would have been if Aunt Iris had returned early.
He says he will come to see me again. I don’t really know if I want to see him again. I feel I would be embarrassed.
How long this is! I started writing it in the morning and it is past lunchtime now. Aunt Iris has come in three times and looked begrudgingly approving of my diligence (though she thinks writing is bad for my back and eyesight, and also for my prospects of getting a husband). I must put this away and write something that I would be paid for.
(Could I sell parts of this? One suspects that anything with sex in it might sell for quite a good price, if one could find the right buyer. Imagine Ravi’s face if I asked! Oh dear.)
I must not feel ashamed, I must never feel ashamed. One must be true to oneself, and taste as much as one can of the varied buffet of life: that must be the guiding principle.