This week, we are ecstatic to present our first serialized story of the year. “To Kill The Second” will be published over the next three days, chronicling young Jade’s celebration of her first-born status in the wake of the repeal of China’s one-child law, and her rebellion against the social stigma of her sex and intelligence. This is Di Bei’s first English publication, and we can’t wait to share her powerful story in full.
I studied her expression as I spoke, trying to find a trace of something. She had a face like dough, pale and plain. Normally I didn’t mingle with girls not my kind, but Swallow and I lived in the same building. I wondered if she had heard something from my household. Noises or rumors. Something from last year, about my suicide attempt.
Outside the barbed wire and crudely built brick walls, parents were waiting. Cars, motorcycles, a few tricycles and bikes, feet, feet, feet. At Hebei No.7 Experimental High School, we had one weekend off every month. For the rest of the days, we studied and slept on campus. When the college entrance examination ended, half of our graduates would be accepted into top universities in China, defeating rivals from Beijing and Shanghai even with the preferential policy for residence.
Students flooded into the hallway as soon as the last class ended. Chen Ben was waiting outside my classroom. As usual, we chatted about his girls. “She flew all the way from Hong Kong,” Ben said, “just to see me.”
“What a pilgrim.”
“Her name is Spring,” he continued. “I bought her lunch. That’s all. My girlfriend at the time was mad at me. I don’t get it. Would you be mad if you were my girlfriend?”
He was waiting, so I lingered a little before I answered.
“You know,” I said, “you are not that innocent.”
“What do you mean?”
“It is not good for boys to be pretty. You get spoiled so easily.”
His laughter was drowned out by the tower bell. It was the last notice for students to leave. Startled pigeons flew across the wine-colored sky. Roofs and bricks were dyed rosy in the sunset. I watched Ben’s reflection in the blazing glow on the glass window behind him. He had long and curly eyelashes, casting shadows under his eyes with a subdued softness.