“A friend of mine is looking for a surrogate mother and she’s willing to offer one million for compensation. If a boy is born, she will give an extra half a million as a reward.”
‘Surrogate mother?’ The words echoed in Xia Mo’s mind as she stared blankly at Cho and then looked at Mo Na for confirmation.
“No!” Mo Na grabbed her hand automatically, “Cho, she’s only eighteen. Is there any other way?”
“Now, you’re just being too stubborn.” Cho smiled, “Where can she earn one million in such a short time? Even selling sex needs time, young lady.”
Mo Na knew that Cho was simply telling the truth, but she could not let Xia Mo do that to her own body.
They had been best friends for years, and she had the duty to take care of her no matter what happened.
“Is there anyone looking for a mistress?” Mo Na scavenged for an alternative, choosing a lesser evil to reject making such a difficult decision.
“You or her?” Cho raised an eyebrow and appraised Mo Na with her beautiful, slanted eyes, “To be honest, if we were talking about you, yes, you might have a chance. But look at her, she’s too naive and innocent.” Her gaze slipped past Mo Na and settled on Xia Mo, sending a nod her way to emphasize her point, “She knows nothing about being a mistress, and trust me, it won’t end well if you force her to take on the job. On the other hand, if she agrees to do surrogacy, the only thing she needs to accomplish is to give birth to the child secretly. Nobody’s going to find out about it, and it’ll do her no harm or loss except for accepting the fact that she’ll no longer be a virgin anymore. It’ll do you well to think this over one more time.”
Xia Mo paled at the her face and lost herself in thought.
“We’ll find another way!” Mo Na exclaimed and tried to comfort Xia Mo, “I’ll ask if my friends can help. Let’s go.”
“One million is no small fortune; this amount of money always comes with dire costs.” Cho reminded them sympathetically, “And you never know what those loan sharks will do.”
The hand that held Xia Mo’s wrist to give her some semblance of peace started trembling in fear. Mo Na knew how ruthless those people were, and it was near impossible to hide from them.
“I’ll do it.” Xia Mo cut in determinedly, pulling away from Mo Na’s touch, “But I need the money right now. Can you lend it to me first?”
“Not a problem. Come here tomorrow morning and I’ll give you the money,” Cho smiled gently until her demeanor changed into a threatening one as she continued on, “But I have to remind you that once you agree to do this, you can’t go back anymore. You won’t want to mess with me, young lady.”
They left the bar after their engagement was settled. Mo Na silently led the both of them back to her place, the tremors still racking her body with dread for her precious friend.
When they arrived, Mo Na poured Xia Mo a glass of hot water before they sat opposite of each other in the kitchen.
No words were exchanged between them for a long time. They remained mute and still; dutifully waiting until the cold light of the dawn casted them in a soft glow, signifying Xia Mo’s scheduled departure. She stood up and glanced at the window, pausing before saying, “Let’s go.”
“Are you sure? There’s no turning back.” Mo Na looked at her with worry apparent on her features.
“Mo Na, you know me. My mom has done everything for me since I was a child. I can’t let her do any sacrifices for me again,” she murmured, solemnity washing over her face as she stared at the rising sun in the horizon. “Don’t tell her about this. Let her divorce with my father,” Xia Mo turned to her companion, pleading, “Could you please take care of her for me, Mo Na? Just for the next year. Can you do me this favor?”
“I will, don’t worry.” Mo Na stood up, hugging her tightly while she burst into tears.
Later that day, Cho took them to a private hospital and gave Xia Mo a health check-up. Once everything was prepared, Cho was finally ready to send Xia Mo away.
“Mo Na will pay the debt for you,” she assured her, “And my people will make sure no one will ever disturb your mother from today on.”
“Thank you, Cho,” Xia Mo said sincerely.
“I don’t need your gratitude. I just hope that you’ll do well as you had initially promised. Otherwise, I’ll take back everything that you have now.” The look in Cho’s eyes relayed a seriousness that Xia Mo could not help but take to heart.
“Understood,” she nodded obediently as a chill went through her.
Xia Mo proceeded to move into a small, detached house where she spent ten days waiting for that fateful night.
At her last day of expectancy, she was pushed into a tub full of flowers and bathed for about an hour before she was ushered into the bedroom.
Everything passed by in a blur, and Xia Mo woke up the next morning with a sore body. She winced at the harsh glare of the early sun, squinting her eyes as a reflex to its blinding light that had seeped in the space through the bedroom window. She groaned and tried to turn over when she felt a sharp pain from her lower body as a response to the slight movement, reminding her of what had previously transpired inside the chambers she was currently in. Memories erupted in her mind and overwhelmed her with emotions she could not handle all at once.
The recollection made her cry helplessly, prompting her to curl up into a ball as she tucked her aching head in her bended knees. It took a few minutes for her to calm down, and afterwards, she opted to take shower to somehow relieve her stress before sitting beside the bay window, an absent gaze present in her soulless eyes.
A knock sounded from the door, but Xia Mo did not bother acknowledging the arrival of Mrs.Wu so she invited herself in, carrying a plate of food on one hand.
At the sight of Xia Mo’s drained figure, she could not help but feel sympathetic towards the little girl.
Ladies at Xia Mo’s age were as delicate as flower buds, yet here she was, playing the role of a surrogate mother for money. She was indeed, a poor lass.
“Have some breakfast!”
Mrs. Wu placed the food on the table and was just about to make the bed
when Xia Mo jumped to stop her. Mrs. Wu was stopped, clearly startled by her reaction.
“I’ll do it myself.” Xia Mo blushed, reviving the cuteness of her pale face. Mrs. Wu offered a small smile in return,
Leaving it be, Mrs.Wu passed a white bottle to Xia Mo instead and said, “Apply this to that place. It will make you feel better.”
Xia Mo looked at her, confused.
“Her Ladyship said that you’re ovulating now, so you’ll need to do that every day for the next five days.”
Xia Mo flushed deeply and looked away.
“Hardships are inevitable in our lives. It’s the same for everyone,” Mrs. Wu sighed and continued, “If you think about it positively, you are simply exchanging what you own for what you don’t. It’s a fair game, so don’t be too upset.”
After Mrs. Wu left, Xia Mo removed the quilt and saw the bloodstains marring the sheets. The red was a vivid color, and the view of it etched into the recesses of her mind and instigated a newfound pain and sadness to emerge from her heart.
She was not the same person she used to be. Not anymore.
The fast-changing pace of her life was a reality she was still learning to adjust in, so her shock from these events caused her to bawl in the bathroom once again. She applied the balm to her private parts right after, the soothing ointment and the words of advice Mrs. Wu said to her earlier beginning to make her feel a bit better.
And so, with renewed vigor, she freshened up, had breakfast and cleaned the sheets all by herself.
At night, after she had prepared herself for her nightwear, Mrs. Wu came again and put a blindfold over her eyes.
“Less information means less trouble,” Mrs. Wu said earnestly, “Ten months later, you’ll forget everything that had happened here and live your own life just like before.”
“I know,” Xia Mo could tell that Mrs. Wu meant no harm, so she nodded. “I will not open my eyes even without the patch.”
Her first encounter with that man was rather fearsome anyway, so she preferred not to see his face just in case she might get more intimidated.