CREATIVE Francesca Rhydderch

NWR Issue 100

Extract from The Rice Paper Diaries

'Where have you come from?' he asked me gently, reaching for his pen. He had two pots on the table, one for brushes, one for pens. Sheaves of paper were rolled up underneath his chair, on a tray. He pulled out one of the smallest ones. He must be used to this. A girl off one of the ships from the Pearl River Delta, still smelling of the mulberries that grow on her parents’ poor smallholding. He knew what to expect. A few words, just to let the family know I’ve arrived. You too will have to pay someone to read it to you, after all.

‘Between Canton and Dongguan,’ I whispered, the words catching in my throat despite my best intentions, and somehow just saying the names attached to my birthplace brought my story out all in a rush, like the rivers that run downstream towards the South China Sea. Once I had begun I found it easy to keep going, and although I had only given him a little money, the letter writer kept going too, until I saw that his knuckles had turned into swollen yellow bulbs like lychees, and he let the pen drop from his grip.

I picked it up from the pavement and put it on the table.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said, getting up. ‘It’s just that there is so much to say.’

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