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Alexis’ Heirloom Pearl Necklace: Chapter 5
Alexis closed the door in front of her best friend, who was still talking, before throwing herself on her bed. “I’ll be down later!” she yelled. She loves Maia, but Maia is a talkative person. Alexis needs quiet to read Grandma’s next letter.
From her 16th birthday, Alexis cared more and more about the letters and less and less about the party. Her friends don’t understand, but she doesn’t care. All she cared about was reading the next letter. She sighed happily as she opened the envelope, inhaling the now-familiar scent rising from the old envelope.
I hope your 20th birthday inspires you to make courageous choices – just like our forefathers did.
The eldest of Charlie and Tai’an’s great-grandchildren is daughter Wei. She is a direct female descendant of her great-grandmother Charlie, not only inheriting Charlie’s adventurous spirit, but also inheriting her bravery.
Wei was already well known in the region as the expected heir to the family’s wildly successful silk farm. However, after the fall of the Han Dynasty, you have money, which means you are the target. Her father pressures her into an arranged marriage, and the family is tense; Wei’s brother Tang thinks he should inherit the farm, not Wei. He said it was against custom for a daughter to inherit an inheritance.
At a recent family gathering, an urgent whisper from a cousin confirmed her worst suspicions. My cousin said: “Wei, people say that you will not be able to survive if you take over the business. Your brother wants blood, so he provoked the farm workers to oppose you.”
So Wei sewed pearls into silk pockets on the inside of her skirt, reinforced them with hemp to prevent them from tearing, and set off in the dark of night on her stolen mare, Tallulah. Beside the pearl, there is a piece of cloth sewn between the hemp and silk, on which there are hundreds of silkworm eggs.
Wei took a big risk. The penalty for smuggling silkworms or silkworm eggs out of China is death, but she conceived the plan when she was 16, when her mother entrusted her with her grandmother’s heirloom string of pearls. Her spirits were lifted by the weight of the pearl and by the memory of the morning when her mother put it in her hand and told her the stories of the older women.
Upon reaching port, she kissed Tallulah goodbye, sold her to a good-looking horse dealer, and used the money to pay for her journey to Japan. It’s time to meet the man who visited the farm when she was 16: Akira.
Shortly after Wei’s birthday, Akira shows up at the farm looking for the secret to making silk. She overhears her mother scolding him: “Go! Do you want us all to die? I don’t know what you’re talking about—we can’t make silk!”
Wei knew this was her only chance. She slipped out the gate of the farm and gave chase.
“I’ll tell you the secret,” she said. “But I need shelter in return.”
“How did I know you’d come?” he asked.
“I have no future here. My father wants me to marry a man I don’t know who doesn’t know anything about silk. My brother wants to kill me.”
Akira still looked puzzled. “I’ll give you a clue,” Wei said, eager to prove his reliability. “The secret is small. It comes out in winter when the trees are bare.”
Akira nodded, still puzzled, and gave her an address – a market. “If you’re successful, that’s where I’d go. I’m a trader who wants to know more. I won’t stop until I find it.”
And she was in front of his stall. He didn’t recognize her when she spoke. “I’m here,” she said. He frowned. Wei watched as the confusion on his face turned to surprise, then to respect. he laughed. Then his smile turned into a big laugh. “you did it!”
Wei stroked the pearl pressed against her side with her fingers. Of course I did, she thought. With these pearls by my side, how could I not?
We hope this story has inspired you. If you don’t already have heirloom pearl jewelry to gift your daughter or granddaughter, visit our store to start your own heirloom pearl tradition. Your daughters can draw strength from this, and it will remind them of how you overcame difficulties.
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