“Ben, what did I say about this orphan girl you keep wasting your time with? Why do you keep spending time with her instead of doing something more productive with yourself?” Ben’s mother yelled at him when she saw the two young lovebirds strolling down the dusty village path.
“But mother, I really like her. Why can’t you just give her a chance?” Ben tried to stand up for himself but his mother was too angry for that. She picked up a long twig and charged towards Kayla, threatening to beat her up with it.
“You cursed orphan girl, stay away from my son. Don’t let me find you anywhere around him or my house again; or I will skin you alive!” Ben’s mother snarled viciously.
Ben held his mother to prevent her from hurting his girlfriend, begging her to stop insulting her. But his mother was determined to give Kayla a good beating to emphasize her message.
“There are many other decent girls worthy of my son than you, cursed girl! Why do you expect my son and everyone else’s love yet your own mother and father wouldn’t even spare a little love for you? Didn’t they dump you in the forest, to feed you to the wild animals?”
“Mother, please stop it already!” Ben cried, begging his mother to stop hurling insults at Kayla.
Kayla was used to people segregating her and she had developed a way to ignore the abuse by telling herself that it was done out of ignorance. Everywhere she went within the village people always whispered to each other and made it clear that she was unwanted. Although Kayla never quite heard the insults, she now knew exactly what they were saying to each other.
Kayla Han was a seventeen year old girl who was brought to the village as a newborn baby by a woman who claimed to have found her dumped in the forest. The woman, Mimi Shen, raised Kayla in her own house, despite the whole village protesting against it.
According to an old tradition, raising a child whose origins one didn’t know was taboo; and by Mimi going against this tradition, she was bringing a curse to the entire village. But it was just an old tradition which was not recognised as law, so no one had the power to force Mimi to give up the strange baby. Besides grumbling against Mimi, no one in the village could do anything else to force Mimi to comply with the tradition.
But Mimi could not force her fellow villagers to get used to Kayla, either. Initially, she imagined that with time, people in the village would get used to living with Kayla and probably even grow to love her.
But that never happened. With every passing day that Kayla lived in that little village, a new form of hate was directed at her. Other children were not allowed to play with Kayla and they were deliberately taught by their parents to torment the little child.
But through all that ill-treatment, Kayla had never encountered anyone who hated her enough to say such hurtful things to her face like Ben’s mother was doing. Everyone else simply acted weirdly around her but never openly insulted her. It was even more painful for her to realize that the mother of the boy she loved actually hated her that much.
In all of Kayla’s life, she remembered being treated with decency by only three people; Mimi, Ben and another village woman, Xue; who surprisingly seemed to always go out of her way to make Kayla feel loved. Kayla hoped that Ben’s mother might add to the list of her village friends but that afternoon, Kayla got a rude awakening.
Looking around, she noticed that the little commotion had attracted several other villagers who laughed at Kayla while others cheered Ben’s mother on; urging her to ‘teach the village’s curse a lesson’.
Hurt and embarrassed, Kayla ran home; crying and cursing herself for thinking that a girl like her could ever be loved by these mean villagers who could not realize the stupidity of their old repressive traditional beliefs.
“Aunt Mimi, please tell me why my mother threw me away as a baby. Am I cursed? Maybe the old tradition is real after all.” Kayla cried as she stormed into the house where Mimi was sitting alone.
“Where is that coming from? Why would you ask me such questions? What do you know about tradition, young girl?” Mimi asked half surprised and half angry at Kayla.
“Ben’s mother said I’m cursed, that I’m not worthy of love if my own mother and father dumped me in the forest. Is that true, Aunt Mimi?” Kayla sobbed so much that it pained Mimi, who also started to cry.
Mimi had an idea what had happened. She had heard through the grapevine that Ben’s mother was concerned that her only son was dating the ‘village curse’, as Kayla was known to the older villagers.
“Don’t take those stupid utterances to heart my dear. They are exactly that, stupid utterances that mean nothing but stupidity.” Mimi said as she hugged Kayla.
But deep down, Mimi knew that things would only get worse between Kayla and Ben’s mother unless she ends that budding relationship. She was about to suggest something to that effect when she heard heavy footsteps outside her house. Looking through the window, she noticed Ben’s mother approaching. She looked really angry.
Mimi told Kayla not to come out before she ran out to meet Ben’s mother. Apparently, a small crowd had followed her to witness the thrashing of the ‘village curse’, according to what the angry woman had claimed she was going to do.
Despite everything that had happened between Mimi and the rest of the villagers, she still commanded a lot of respect. Besides being adamant about keeping Kayla in her house against her fellow villagers’ counsel, Mimi had no other quarrels with anyone.
So when she went out to meet Ben’s mother, she managed to calm her down and send her and her little cheering crowd back to their homes before they caused any further incident. Within minutes, there was resemblance of peace again.
But just as she stepped back into her house to console Kayla, Mimi heard the sound of a new set of footsteps approaching; this time it sounded like someone was actually running towards the house.
Before Mimi could react, there was banging on the door. She imagined that Ben’s mother might have come back but when Mimi opened the door, there was another village woman, struggling to catch her breath from running all the way to Mimi’s house.
“Mimi, it’s Xue. She’s not looking too well, please hurry; she’s asking for you.”
“Don’t go out of the house, Kayla. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Mimi shouted as she ran out with the other lady towards Xue’s house.