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(International Church Shanghai) was my school, well my new school, a European organisation that established church schools all around the world to as my stepmother Niang called it ‘educate girls in the proper European way.’ At exactly 4:00 pm the school bell struck a chord signalling the end of the school day. There was hushed whisper’s around the classroom as the teacher dismissed the class. I and my fellow classmates run to the Tíngyuàn (courtyard) outside. Outside the gates were a swarm of mothers next to their chauffeur driven cars ready to pick up their daughters. I stood and waited behind the gates, behind the prison walls for what seemed like forever as each mother beckoned their child, forward, towards their car, towards a happy family where everyone cared for each other. It’s not like I knew how that felt.
Though Niang was a mother in legal binding, she treated me as if I was scullery maid that lived in the basement. I was no more than 3 when she first invaded this family, wrapping my father around her little finger, we all knew she married father for money and fame rather than love. I meant nothing to her. Aunt Baba was my ‘aunt’ but had was the only kind of mother figure I had ever had. She made sure I had food, that I had done my homework, she tucked me into bed each night and picked me up from school. Well, that was the issue.
Aunt Baba was in Tianjin, looking after the house and my Grandfather Ye Ye. Not here in Shanghai, waiting for me after my first day at my new school. Not waving frantically at the back of the crowd of mothers picking up their children. Not ready to take me home and ask about my day. I soon began to realise that no one was coming for me. I had to make my way home on my own. The cobbled stone footpaths were rough under my feet and I could sense the soles of my shoes about to give way. The streets were bright and filled with colour as neon. As I walked down the bustling cobbled streets I can hear snippets of-of people conversing in Mandarin, arguing about the overpriced Napa Cabbage and the New Year festival that was about to begin.
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