My Stories, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 3 of 20)

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.

 

Friday, 17th September 1920

I bought a cabbage at the market and had it in the broth I made from the bones of the roast chicken I lived on last week. Cabbage is a most unexciting vegetable, but I derive an unfailing pleasure from it. What I really want now, though, is winter melon soup, with pork bones. (Q: why is it called winter melon? It can’t only be grown in winter, since we had them back home in the most tropical of climes. Is it a joke?)

It was a beautiful autumn day–the city glowed in the sunlight and the skies were that truly cloudless blue you never see back home. Sunshine is so precious here, though England is sunnier than I thought it would be, having been told so often about its greyness. I think it is because the greyness is so depressing that it makes the sunshine all the more spectacular.

But it is certainly autumn. I folded my batik and plaid sarongs and put them away for the next summer, when it shall be warm enough for me to wear them again when I’m pottering or writing or sleeping. Continue reading

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My Stories, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 4 of 20)

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.

 

Friday, 8th October 1920

There’s too much to say about the party. I hardly even know where to start.

I started to regret accepting the invitation the minute a butler the approximate size of a mountain opened the door. He looked at me as if he were wondering why I hadn’t gone to the traders’ entrance. When I had managed to persuade him that I had been invited and was led to the drawing room, it was like being plunged into a jungle full of hornbills and parrots. It was bright and noisy and close and warm, and so horribly crowded with dashing people all of whom knew each other, and none of whom I knew.

A nice Indian servant gave me a drink (I wish I could have spoken to him). I skulked in a corner clutching it and trying as hard as I could to look inscrutable and aloof, but feeling scrutable and loof as anything.

It was one of those London townhouses that have long narrow faces on the outside but turn out to have unexpected dimensions on the inside–they go up and out forever. The rooms were large, and the furnishings were beautiful, but almost pointedly worn, just in case you thought they had been bought new. I expect Hardie’s great-grandfathers themselves obtained them in a looting on some colonial excursion. There were some very bad examples of Chinese porcelain on the mantelpiece.

The people were the sort of people whose grandparents could have had chicken every day if they had wanted it. The men were beautiful and the women looked intelligent. They were a pleasure to gaze at, pretty as a picture and as real, but the whole thing made me wish I read the papers more. At parties it is as it is with gossip: it’s not half as good if you don’t know who the players are.

One of the guests passed me her empty glass, thinking I suppose that I was a servant, and I was just wondering whether I should take it as an opportunity to make a break for the kitchen and thence outside when someone tapped me on the shoulder. Continue reading

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My Stories, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 5 of 20)

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.

 

Tuesday, 19th October 1920

I shouldn’t have gone. Why did I go? Curse this restless thirst for excitement! You would think living on one’s own miles from home in the most thrilling city in the world ought to be enough, but no. I’ve got to rush off to see married authors in clandestine circumstances.

Sebastian Hardie is married! I suppose I ought to have known that, but he isn’t quite posh enough to be in Debrett’s, and he certainly didn’t mention it in his letter. What a lot of nonsense he spouted about it in person–but I am getting ahead of myself.

It was a whole week before he wrote. I’d almost persuaded myself that he wouldn’t when I received the letter. It was rather warm in its sentiments, considering we’d only met the once. But I must confess something shocking: I wasn’t shocked.

The problem is that I have never had the chance to be naughty. When I was little I was too busy reading books for it to occur to me. When I was older there was never any opportunity–everybody I knew was so well-behaved, and it’s no fun being bad on your own. Now I am living on my own in London and ignoring pleas to return home, which I suppose is badness enough.

But I want a chance to be properly bad. So far all I have done as an unaccompanied maiden in London is read and write and cook. This is hardly tasting the delights of debauchery in the immoral West.

Continue reading

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My Stories, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 6 of 20)

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.

 

Friday, 22nd October 1920

Succour from an unexpected source. I am to go to France with Aunt Iris. The beautiful Rose and the exquisite Clarissa are staying with friends; Uncle Gerald is tied down with business; and Aunt Iris must go to Paris to see a tailor about a dress. What strange exigencies drive the rich. But Aunt Iris cannot go anywhere alone, and so she has commandeered me.

I could not in any case have refused without awkwardness, but I will be glad to go. I must be out of London, even if it means days of uninterrupted Aunt Iris. And she has promised to pay my expenses, so that will mean at least a week’s outgoings I needn’t worry about.

I had a dreadful thought yesterday. Wouldn’t it be terribly good for my career to have an affair with Sebastian Hardie? This literary high life is in a fair way to turning me into a monster of depravity.

 

East Asian girl holding a mirror

Photograph by Panorama Media/PanoramaStock/Getty Images

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My Stories, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 7 of 20)

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.

 

Wednesday, 3rd November 1920

I am in Paris, the city of romance! It is a most peculiar place. You walk along gazing at the wonderful pretty buildings and their graceful wire railings to the tune of your intolerable aunt going on at you for not dressing better and not being married and not having a respectable profession etc. etc. etc. Then suddenly the scene is interrupted by the pungent stink of manure and urine, which rises out of nowhere and envelopes you. It is difficult to have the correct sentiments about the sight of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night when the smell is that of a poorly kept public toilet.

But we have had wonderful food, despite Aunt Iris’s faces at the bills. I know I say a great deal that is unConfucian and unkind about Aunt Iris, but she has never forgotten herself so far as not to appreciate good food. Today we had a sultan’s spread of a brunch: gigantic cups of milky coffee, little flaky croissants and sugared crepes, perfectly spherical roast potatoes like tiny yellow suns, crispy bacon and fat sausages and a bowl of scrambled eggs like liquid gold. (I suppose not quite a sultan’s spread, then, given the bacon and sausages.) And for dessert, yoghurt with an elegant comma of raspberry coulis in it, and skinless pink segments of grapefruit that burst juice all over your fingers when you picked them up.

The grapefruit was a novelty. It is like pomelo, only smaller, bitterer and more pink. I must see if I can bring one for Ma to try the next time I go home–whenever that is.

I have written a letter to Ravi. I saw him last Tuesday and he said he would like to hear what I thought of Paris, so he shall. I have written the letter twice and have copied it out fair once. I expect he won’t answer it, though.

 

East Asian girl holding a mirror

Photograph by Panorama Media/PanoramaStock/Getty Images

Smashwords | Amazon

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My Stories, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 8 of 20)

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.

 

Monday, 8th November 1920

Disaster: Hardie is here. I opened the newspaper this morning, thinking of looking for a cartoon and seeing if I could make out its meaning, and there in the letters section was his face staring up at me.

Blast the man! What is he doing, turning up in every corner of the world one thinks of visiting? You would think following Aunt Iris to Paris to carry her bags and watch her try on an endless series of hideous dresses would be enough to propitiate the gods. And yet here Hardie is, to give some talk or other at a loathsome Institute. The next thing I know, when I think of doing so much as sitting down on a comfortable sofa, it will turn out to be Hardie on his hands and knees, with a figured cloth and some cushions laid on him.

It is ridiculous! Continue reading

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My Stories, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 9 of 20)

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.) Continue reading

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My Stories, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 10 of 20)

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.

 

Thursday, 18th November 1920

Our last day in Paris. Hardie took me out to lunch, then we went for a walk in the Jardin du Luxembourg. It was very very cold, but startlingly pretty despite the weather: orderly European gardens with wide gravel paths, statues, flowerbeds. It would be lovely in the summer. (How European it makes me feel to write that!)

“It is nice to meet outside a hotel room for once,” I remarked.

“I am fittingly reproached,” said Hardie. “I have not been very gallant, have I?”

“No. But you have been very instructive,” I said to comfort him, but Hardie was not listening.

“My dearest, if you would come to me in London, preferably auntless, there would be no need for these sordid assignations in hotels. Diana and I would welcome you into our own home–”

“Oh no no no,” I said, alarmed. “Of course I shan’t see you in London. I have been perfectly happy with the sordid assignations. I simply meant that it is nice to see these gardens, and not be cooped up in a hotel all day. I’ve not had many chances to see the city. Aunt Iris doesn’t much like to go out for anything besides shopping.”

Hardie looked away, so I knew I had hurt his feelings. For a celebrity he has an awful excess of sensibility, and is very anxious about one’s opinion of him. Perhaps it comes of being an artist. Continue reading

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