Dr. Brown couldn’t be sure how much time Chai Kau had left in his life. Chai Kau and Po-kei had been living together in Shanghai for over a year now and Chai Kau was surprisingly doing really well. His cough had practically disappeared over the last two months and he no longer needed to stay in the hospital. He and Po-kei rented a small place that was near the hospital so it would be more convenient when he goes for his check-ups. Although he no longer had symptoms, Chai Kau secretly knew that he would never fully recover from his illness. Tuberculosis was incurable after all (it’s the 1800’s). His eventual death was always in the back of his mind.
However, when he woke up every morning and stepped out of his room, he would see Po-kei setting the table for breakfast. She would turn around when she noticed him and give him the biggest, encouraging smile. The words she said to him a year ago still kept ringing in his ears. “Remember that you still have 60 years, 70 years.”
He knew he had to keep fighting for her. If she believed in the impossible, Chai Kau can also believe a miracle can happen. The two had spent a year together just living their best life. Even though he avoided getting too close to her physically due to his illness, their relationship had changed. They were living a happy domestic life together, cooking at home together and going out shopping, but they still kept a distance especially after dinner. There was always an avoidance when they talked, like there was so much they wanted to say, but never had the courage to speak, so they just retreated back into separate bedrooms in the evening.
Something felt different about this night. There’s a loud thunderstorm outside. The wind howls and the rain soak the windows. A lightning bolt suddenly lights up the room. Chai Kau had just finished getting ready for bed in his room when Po-kei walks into his bedroom, lighting a candle by the bed. Chai Kau thought this was strange because she usually kept her distance when he didn’t have a mask on. Chai Kau quickly puts one on.
“Are you ok? Not afraid of the storm, are you?”
“Then, you shouldn’t come in. You can get sick,” Chai Kau says.
Po-kei takes a seat on his bed next to him.
“I’m not scared. I’ve been living with you for a whole year. If I was going to get it, I would’ve gotten it already.”
Chai Kau could see there was a deep sadness in her eyes. Throughout the past year, she had only shown him encouragement and support. Any sadness that she felt, she hid from him.
Po-kei reaches out her hand and takes off his mask. Chai Kau quickly turns away from her.
“I don’t want to infect you.”
“I don’t care anymore. If I die, then I die with you. I’m not afraid. Chai Kau, what I’m afraid of is not being able to get close to you.”
“I won’t let you risk your own life.”
Po-kei touches his face and turns him to face her. Chai Kau could see tears falling from her eyes.
“I don’t know how much time we have left together. I don’t want to waste more time if we have this chance.”
“Don’t call me that. I was married but I’m a widow now. That’s in the past. I’m no longer Madam Kei, especially to you. Did the last year not mean anything to you?”
“Po-kei, you are the whole world to me,” Chai Kau leans in and whispers softly into her ear. He wraps his arms around her soft and thin nightwear as she leans into him. It was the first time he had called her by her name.
“I’m really scared of losing you, Chai Kau,” Po-kei finally lets herself sob.
“I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere,” Chai Kau comforts her.
“I’ve lost everyone in my life. My whole family; my dad, my mom, grandmother, even distant relatives and almost everyone in the Tseung family, Tseung-kiu, second sister, third sister…I don’t know what I would do if I lost you too,” Po-kei continues sobbing.
Chai Kau shed a tear.
“You won’t be alone. You will still have Bit-ching and Bit-mo. You still have a family waiting for you.”
“Chai Kau, even if we can’t spend a life together, can we spend tonight together? The time we have left together?”
Chai Kau breaks the hug and looks at her in a bit of confusion.
“What do you mean?”
Po-kei responds by kissing him on the cheek lightly.
“Are you sure?” Chai Kau asks.
“Yes, if you want to.”
“I want to. I love you. I love you more than I have ever loved anyone. But I can’t Po-kei. It’s because I love you that I can’t risk getting you sick.”
“You’re already close enough to get me sick. I’m not afraid. I love you too much to be afraid.”
Po-kei gazes at him with determination and heartbreak. Seeing her lack of fear, he brushes her long hair behind her ear and peppers her face with kisses, carefully avoiding her lips, still afraid of transmitting his illness to her. Chai Kau slowly moves down to her neck. Po-kei lets out a small breath feeling his lips on her body.
He gently guides her down onto the bed and slowly begins to untie her nightgown. He gasps when he finally sees her exposed in front of him.
“Chai Kau…” Po-kei gasps when Chai Kau’s lips glides down and kisses and sucks on her body from her breasts slowly down until he reaches between her legs.
Chai Kau gently separates her legs revealing her beautiful pink folds. He uses two fingers and gently touches.
“Ah…” Po-kei gasps at the sudden sensation.
“Are you sure?” Chai Kau asks again.
Chai Kau quickly takes off his own clothes and gazes at Po-kei as his fingers begin working hard. He flicks her area over and over, watching her eyes close and her mouth opening wide as she lets out louder sounds. He then inserts his middle finger into her warmth as he sees a clear substance leaving her body and oozing out onto the bed. He inserts one more finger into her and starts flicking.
Po-kei grabs his back tightly gliding her fingers along his scars. He had so many flogging scars.
“How does it feel?” he suddenly asks, getting her mind off his scars and how he got each one.
“Really good,” she nods just before moaning loudly again digging her nails into his back when he hits her spot.
“Don’t stop,” she adds.
Chai Kau keeps pace and watches her enjoy his every movement. He takes out his fingers and places himself in between her legs.
“Just relax,” Chai Kau whispers into her ears as she felt him carefully and slowly insert himself into her.
Po-kei cries out in pain.
“Are you ok?” he asks once he sees her wince in a bit of pain.
Chai Kau did not expect her to be in any pain but then, he remembered. It had been a few years since her husband died. Even before he died, he got sick shortly just after they had married. It had likely been a long time for her.
He waits for her to adjust to him and seeing no pain in her eyes any longer, he slowly begins to move. He increases speed seeing her reaction.
“How does this feel?”
“Really good. Keep doing what you're doing.”
Chai Kau felt Po-kei’s body tighten around him as she began to moan louder and louder again more frequently. He looks into her eyes as she shuts them tightly. He also begins moaning as he can no longer control it. He’s so close and about to pull out of her when she grabs onto him tightly.
“Stay in me.”
Chai Kau gasps as he releases and feels his fluid pump into her body with Po-kei feeling herself release at the same time.
Chai Kau collapses next to Po-kei.
“Chai Kau, are you ok?” Po-kei quickly asks seeing his exhaustion and remembering his illness.
“I’m fine,” he gives a quick smile back after catching his breath and cuddles her body into him.
“Po-kei, why did you tell me to stay inside?”
“I just want to feel you.”
“But what if you get…?”
Po-kei smiles at him.
“If it happens, it happens. I want to have a child with you. I never had the chance to before. Shortly after our marriage, Tseung Kiu got sick. I thought I would never have the chance to but now, I do.”
Hearing these words, Chai Kau smiles sadly.
“I’m sorry. I know you would be a great mother, but I’m worried. I want to be a great father. I want us to be a family. But if anything happens to me, I would have failed you. The people of Wuxi will gossip. Bit-ching can kick you out of the family.”
“He won’t. He’s the one who told me to come here with you, remember? Let’s just take it one step at a time. The main thing right now is for you to get better.”
“I wish I can marry you, Po-kei,” Chai Kau sheds a tear. “But I know I won’t be able to because you’re still part of the Tseung family.”
Po-kei frowns a little, then smiles. “I can ask Bit-ching to write up a divorce paper.”
Chai Kau quickly shakes his head. “No, I can’t ask you to do that. If I die, you won’t have a family. You’ll be alone.”
She sighs and looks up at him.
“Whatever happens, as long as we’re happy together living everyday that we have left, that’s all that matters. Marriage isn’t important. It’s just a status.”
Chai Kau nods.
“I promise that I will fight this disease to the best of my ability and you have to promise that whatever happens, you have to continue living happily.”
Chai Kau blows out the candle as the wind outside dies down and light rain patters against the flimsy windows.