You feel her eyes on you as you go into your study.
She’s smiling to herself again, little white teeth sharp under those slightly parted lips.
You don’t turn to look at her though, because she makes you shudder.
A young Chinese wife, you once thought, would be good for business here in Beijing. And your friends had found her charming, spring-like with her willow-branch body and her bright black eyes and her little birdsong laugh that was like a clear stream running over rocks.
Long ago now.
Now you are aware of something else. And it was a thing that had always been there, lying in the darkness of your marriage, tight-coiled and quietly waiting.
Now every night you go into this beautiful room, filled with your rare books and the white jade statues of horses, to see what the future will bring. To cast the i ching yes, and it was she that had taught you how to do that, years ago. How to read from the Book of Changes, those subtle hexagrams that showed you what would be. And while they had brought you great wealth, tonight you don’t want to know about business.
Tonight you have a different question for the dark country of the future.
And to get the best answer, a question must be precise.
You pour a glass of wine and sit at the big rosewood desk and unfold a square of black silk upon it. Then from a little jade box you take the three antique silver coins and hold them in your hand while you form the words in your mind.
Shall I divorce her?
Ah, there you are, now you’ve spoken it finally. You feel the question rising on your breath like the full moon over a dark sea. And you hold this thought tight in your mind, tight like the roots that net the sleepers deep in the ground, tight like that dark sea that will not give up those it takes.
You throw the three coins onto the silk square.
Two land showing their sides with the flower inscriptions and the third its Chinese characters. Three, three, two. You write the number eight on a sheet of paper and draw a broken line next to it. Young Yin, the bottom line of the six line hexagram.
Her face floats before you now and you are trying to concentrate but it won’t go away and those black eyes seem to brim with malice, with an unblinking anger, and with something else. Like she knows something.
And you realize you are afraid of her, afraid of what she might do. And that’s why you lie awake, night after night.
You throw the coins again and notice that your hands are shaking.
Three, two, two. You write the number seven and draw the unbroken line of Young Yang over the previous lines, building the kua from the bottom in the prescribed way.
Two three two. Old Yang. A broken line. The hexagram is forming now and the coins clink loudly in your hand.
Two two two. Young Yin. Another line.
And again, and then a final throw and the future rolls out onto the black silk, unburdening itself of its veil.
And there it is, the answer, staring at you.
The six lines are clear. A warm feeling of relaxation floods you, one that you haven’t known in weeks. You can call the lawyers in the morning and start drawing up the papers.
You take a sip of wine and smile to yourself, almost not noticing the unusually bitter taste until it is too late.
There is no need to tell her, you think to yourself. The lawyers can do that. Don’t rustle the grass or you’ll startle the snakes, as the old Chinese proverb goes.
A little later though she enters the room and stands over your body. She looks at the wine glass where it has fallen on the desk, its contents spilled over the table. And she pauses to look at the hexagram you have drawn and smiles to herself with her sharp little teeth. She recognizes it at once.
Number sixty four, the final hexagram of the Book: