Zhu kept her tiny hands hidden in the sleeves of her Zhiduo. It was the price she’d agreed to pay in order to gain an education denied her gender. For three years, she’d worn her hair bound in the traditional masculine topknot. For three years she’d kept her face buried in her books, so that no one could glimpse her snow-blossom cheek and guess her secret. But when Liang came by, it grew more difficult to hide her affections.
They’d met on the journey out, forming an instant attachment that went beyond friendship or even brotherhood. And what it was now, Zhu could no longer deny. At the risk of losing her friendship, she had to let him know.
A mated pair of mandarins floated by, paddling in unison. Zhu slipped her tiny hand from her sleeve and gestured at the pair. “Let us be as they are,” she said.
I confess this story doesn’t have much to do with the Great Wall. I was hoping to find a Romeo & Juliet type-tale where the wall got in the middle. I never found one, but I did come across the story of the Butterfly Lovers, a Chinese legend that has a slightly happier ending than Romeo & Juliet.