Once, in Beijing, a young girl in a red gown huddled in a doorway.
It was raining, her hair was plastered to her face in a black sheen as she raised her arm to cover her head, even though she was already soaked through. The once beautiful crimson dress made of expensive silk now hung in tatters. Black kohl and the remains of red blush slide down her cheek, collecting in the dimples of each side of her face. The jade hairpin holding up an elaborate hairstyle had long since fallen out, leaving her long wave of black hair spilling to her waist. She was crying, tears mixing with rain as she pressed a hand to the mantle of the doorway as she gasped and heaved, clutching at her chest as she fought for breathe.
Liun Wu was late.
She was late for a wedding she never wanted, she was late for her father's disappointment, she was late to be primed and plucked at like a prized horse.
She was late, and she didn't care.