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Rose watches her mother sweep the kitchen, waiting for the right moment to tell her that she’s divorcing her husband Ted, knowing that her mother will want her to save the marriage.
Rose met Ted in college and started dating him because he was different from the Chinese boys she had dated.
Neither of their mothers approved; Ted’s mother pulled her aside and commented unfavorably on Rose’s race.
The two of them therefore clung together against the world.
She played the role of victim, he of hero.
After they married, Ted became the proverbial decider, choosing everything from their furniture to their vacation spots.
After a malpractice suit, he began pushing Rose to make more decisions.
Then he asked for a divorce.
Rose has a flash back to the day her mother lost her faith in God.
The entire family went to the beach, because Rose’s father wanted to catch ocean perch.
Rose is assigned to watch her four younger brothers.
As the family is enveloped in chaos of different kinds – some of the boys get into a fight, Rose’s father gets a tug on his line – Rose watches her four year old brother Bing fall into the sea.
The rescue people can’t find Bing.
Rose and her mother go back to the beach the next morning.
Rose’s mother begs God for the return of her son. She also begs the Coiling Dragon who lives in the sea, offering sweet tea to cool his temper, and her ring of watery sapphire to distract him from Bing.
Finally, Rose’s mother gives up.
The flashback ends.
Rose draws a parallel between Bing’s death and her marriage; both times, she sees the danger coming but does nothing about it.
Rose and her mother chat at a funeral. When Rose tells her mother that Ted (Rose’s husband) has sent her a check, Rose’s mother concludes that Ted is "doing monkey business" with someone.
When Rose refuses to talk more about the matter, her mother argues that Rose should talk to her mother, not to a psychiatrist, because mothers know their children best.
We flash back to when Rose receives the check and divorce papers from Ted.
She doesn’t know what to do, so she puts them away in a drawer.
Absolutely frozen with indecision – she doesn’t know what she wants or what she should do, Rose says in bed for three days.
Finally, she’s ready to confront Ted one last time.
They meet in the garden (his former pride and joy, now completely neglected), and Rose asserts herself.
She tells Ted that she wants the house, and that her lawyer will serve him papers.