I was 16 when the English burned our home.
They say that hindsight is twenty/twenty. And from a distance of a hundred and fifty years, I can see that I may have overreacted a little when I begged my mother to take me to the Old Summer Palace so I wouldn’t have to see my sister and her husband when they got back from their honeymoon.
Of course no matter how good my vision was, I still couldn’t have foreseen what awaited us at our beloved vacation home. What happened was so disconnected from my privileged, fairy tale existence. But all these years later I remember every horrible detail. I can still smell the acrid odor and feel the heat as the thick, dark smoke started seeping into the chamber that had been our sanctuary for more than a week, while we hid from the English soldiers who were ransacking the palace.
I can still see my mother’s reassuring smile as she grabbed my hand, then opened the door. We peered out, the passage was flickering. The halls danced with the images of thirty generations of Chinese royalty as the ancient silk paintings burst into flame.
We ran as fast as we could, holding on to each other for dear life. As we broke into the night air, my mother’s hand was torn from mine. An Englishman was dragging her away. I tried to follow, but someone grabbed me by my waist, stopping me. My mother disappeared from view, never to be seen again.
I struggled to get away from my captor. He was tall, blonde, with a broad mustache. I grabbed a hairpin from my hair and tried to stab him, but before I could do any real damage he raised his fist to my face. There was a flash. And a loud bang.
His face was the last thing that I saw in life...
Now I have the chance to find out what happened to my mother all those years ago. To uncover the truth I’ll have to leave everything and everyone I’ve ever known and risk everything I have – especially my heart.
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Ming 23 is a romance adventure told through a multimedia digital publication for iPad. This new format includes feature articles about astrology, fashion, travel, and adventure.