When Phoenix Blooms

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Hoa Phuong which can be literally translated to Phoenix flowers in English; in the Vietnamese culture when these red flowers fully bloom is associated with student’s tears, separation and lost of love and friendships. For when the last of the phoenix blooms is also when high school seniors leave behind the classrooms their friends, and most of all the memories of their student lives.

Submitted: January 28, 2013

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Submitted: January 28, 2013

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I sat alone in my bedroom waiting for his call. One third of my Sunday had gone by and I had done nothing so far. I stared out the glass window, the flowers upon the phoenix tree had turned yellow, and some had gone red. A month left, a month is all I have left before the last phoenix bloom. I stared down at the small empty street, hoping to see the same skinny body driving his bike toward my house. I was disappointed, no one was there; he hasn’t called either, I had not heard his voice since Friday and it was driving me crazy.

“Oanh” I heard my mom called my name. My instinct took me out of bed. I put on my jeans just as she opened the door. She sighed then spoke “Look at yourself, it’s 1 P.M and you’re not out of bed.”

“It’s Sunday mom.” I answered quickly.

“That’s no excuse hurry out of bed now.” She closed the door.

I fell flat on my bed. My mom did not understand, I did not have the will to do anything unless he was here. I knew my mom would not leave me alone though; it was time to leave the house. I put on a pink shirt, took out my phone and dialed his number… After my third try I was too frustrated to continue. I walked out of room, slowly passed my mom and got on her old Honda Dream (small motorcycle) and drove off.

Hanoi in mid-June is especially hot, the angry sun felt no pity for the people. The crowded street of Le Duan only added to the intense heat. I was in short sleeves and was still sweating profusely. The occasional wind gave me a second of soothing feeling, but soon came back to the horrible air. I stopped in front of the Dong Da Apartment Complex; the usual walk to the second floor of the building never felt so tiring before, but the heat was making it impossible to stay outside any longer.

I knocked on the door of room 206B. A bear chest skinny boy opened the door, he was surprise to see me at first, but then smiled. I could not find anywhere within me to smile back; I just glared at him.

“Are you gonna let me in?” I asked coldly.

“Yeah, Oanh, come on in.” he stepped aside to let me in. The room laid a mess, the only time this room looked clean was when I cleaned it for him; but it could only last a few days. After that it was back to it’s state of messiness with books and clothes lying everywhere. Thang sat comfortably on his bed, he waved me over but I stood still.

“What have I done this time princess?” He asked.

“Why didn’t you answer any of my calls?” I asked him back sourly.

“I didn’t hear the phone rings, it’s been on silent all day.” He looked at me and could probably read the unsatisfied expression on my face as he continued “I have been studying Oanh.”

“Studying?” I said in surprised “Thang, it’s Sunday.”

“I know but our final exam is less than two weeks away. Our college exam is in a month, and we have a physics quiz tomorrow. You should probably study too.” He said.

“Well I wasted my Sunday coming here.” I said coldly “It’s Sunday and all you could do is study.” I stared at him with difficulty then continued “You know the movie Yesterday is playing at the National Theater.” I brought the movie up hoping Thang would change his mind; he has always liked classic movies.

“Wow, I heard that’s a great film, maybe we should go watch it next week.” Not one second did his eyes leave the physics book.

“Then you go by yourself.” I stormed out of the house before Thang could say anything. “Hmm, what kind of boy is he?” I thought to myself. Always buried his face in books as if he cared for them more than his own girlfriend. He did not care for my feelings, I spent the whole day thinking of him and all he could do was read his book. It’s so true before love all boys talk sweets into your ears, then when in love they turn 180 degrees. Now he wouldn’t even chase after me. I’m not going to talk to him for days, let see how he feels.

********************************************************************

“You’re really not going to talk to him?” Hong Hoa asked, she was my best friend, and it’s been that way ever since I accidentally broke her tooth in first grade. It’s strange how sometimes those painful things can lead to a friendship.

“Yeah I’m going to play it cold, colder than ice.” I said, then went and sat down at my seat. He was already in his, right next to mine. “Hi” he said. I ignored him, suppressed the temptation to look at him, to say hi, and to smile at him. Besides looking at Hong Hoa I only stared at the chalkboard as if there was nothing better to look at in the room.

I can tell he would occasionally turned and looked at me, but still I ignored him. Thang would then sadly turned away; but I could only play it cold for so long. When Mr. Gia passed out the physics test, I stared at the test with desperation; more than half the problems I was not familiar with. I stared at Thang with wondering eyes begging for help. He looked at me, sighed then whispered in my ears “Oanh, try hard, there’s only ten problems.” He turned back to his paper.

Was this retribution for not talking to him? I begged him for help, but he left me there in the midst of confusion; lost between these physics problems, for the first time I was truly mad at him.

**************************************************************************

For the next week, I stopped talking to Thang completely. He would always helped me in tests before, I did not understand why he ignored me this time. All I knew was I will keep ignoring him until he says sorry. To watch him walk away full of sadness gave me a sense of satisfaction.

It was a Tuesday; a week and one day after my retched physics quiz. I stood in the school courtyard. The two phoenix trees had almost bloomed fully. The red flowers covered the school ground, I had never paid much attention to these flowers; but they were counting down the days with me. Two weeks left, two weeks left before I have leave my beloved school. Three long years I spent here, so many memories. From the time when Thang and I first met; the shy red faced boy who talked to me with difficulty. He was always the laughing stalk for Hong Hoa and I.

“Hi, how are you?” That was what he always asked me. I would always smiled when I answered, but my smiles would always changed his face to a bright red color. For this reason to this day Hong Hoa still calls him red faced boy. That was the story of two years ago; he slowly became more comfortable with me, even with the evil words from Hong Hoa.

It was my junior year when he first asked me out. I was surprised and embarrassed. I did not know where he found the courage from. Though of all places and times he chose to ask me in front of the class before break time when everyone was around. I felt all forty people staring at me.

“Look guys, the monk of the class just asked Oanh out.” I heard a voice said out loud, then many voices and laughter joined in. My face felt hot, I could not stand being in the classroom for another second. I ran outside and did not stop until I reached the school gate. I would have climbed out the gate if the school guard was not around.

“Oanh, Oanh.” I heard my name. I turned around and relieved to see Hong Hoa. She finally caught up to me breathing hard. “You don’t have to run so fast, no ghost is after you.” I didn’t laugh at her joke, I just stood there with a red face. “You want me to kill him then?” She asked me in a serious voice. I knew she was joking, but that still worried me.

“No, his fault is not enough for that yet.”

“Well then what about the movie?” Hong Hoa asked.

“What about it?”

“Are you going to go?” She stared at me as I turned red again. How could she expect me to go after what happened. “You should go.” She continued, I stared at her; why would she of all people tell me to go. She could see the uneasiness on my face as she explained. “You’re too naïve, tell him you’ll go with him then we’ll make him pay there.”

It was five o’clock, Hong Hoa and I stood in front of the National Theater. I was still worried about how Thang would take the presence of Hong Hoa. He only asked me to come, but this little devil came along to do nothing but cause troubles for him. It was five-twenty when Thang and his bike arrived. He was wearing a button up shirt, khaki pants, his hair combed neatly; he was wearing a watch I have never seen him wear before. “Red faced boy dressed up to be your prince.” I didn’t react to what Hong Hoa said, I was too busy staring… at my red faced prince.

Thang must have seen me as he edged closer and closer with a smile on his face. But that smile soon died off when he realized Hong Hoa was next to me.

“Hi Oanh, hi Hong Hoa.” Thang said, his voiced died at Hong Hoa’s name.

“Hi,” I smiled at him.

“Why aren’t you smiling anymore?” Hong Hoa asked suddenly. “Not happy to see me?”

“No, not at all.” Thang panicked, his face was turning bright red again.

“See, the name red faced boy is perfect for him, his face is turning red.” Hong Hoa was not only making Thang red, she was making me red as well. I felt bad to have agreed with her idea. This evil girl was torturing him, how could his face not turn red, but now I’d gladly be his red faced girl. Thang just smiled, he could not talk back to this girl. He has always been a laconic person, but one moment of listening to his friend, Thang has gotten himself into a quagmire.

“So when did the monk of the classroom decided to come out of the temple? And in front of the community too, you were so close to nirvana.” Hoang Hoa continued. Thang’s face was getting redder and redder, he probably could not take that much longer. “I’m going to get the tickets.” He blurted out, and left in a hurry. I watched him with wondering eyes; it was a mistake, a big mistake to bring Hong Hoa along.

“Now we leave.” Hong Hoa said.

“Leave?” I stared at her.

“Yeah let him come back and find no one, we are suppose to punish him today.”

“You leave, I’m staying.” I heard my voice said, and found Hong Hoa staring at me with wide open eyes. “And stop saying those mean things to Thang, you gave him enough troubles already.”

“Ok, ok I’ll let your red faced prince live.” She laughed a little then left.

Thang came back with three tickets in hand. He was surprised to find me standing alone. He smiled, I smiled back. He must have been real glad Hong Hoa left. He came next to me, his nervousness disappeared and together we walked into the theater.

**********************************************************************

“Oanh.” A firm voice called my name and brought me back to reality. To the empty school courtyard, under the phoenix tree, that was slowly turning to a scarlet color. I turned toward the voice. I found the familiar red faced boy. His face to the ground, I had not seen Thang like this in awhile.

“A… are you busy?” He asked me hesitantly. I looked away from him, as much as I missed him, I will be cold to him until he says sorry.

“I’m going to the movie with Hong Hoa.” His heart must have sunk for miles at my words.

“Oh.. umh.” He wanted to say something but decided not to. He said bye then walked away. I stared at his slow moving body, his head still down to the ground. Had I been too cruel to him? He seemed to be in pain and I was at fault. “I’ll talk to him tomorrow.” I thought to myself “I’ll say sorry.

I did not have much time to linger with the idea. Only five minutes after Thang left, the devil’s child started toward me.

“About time.” I said.

“Sorry, it’s Mr. Gia, I’m never getting help from him again. The more he explained the more confused I got.” Poor Hong Hoa, it must have been a hard session. Mr. Gia was known to be the hardest and strictest teacher in school. “So what movie are we watching?” She asked.

Yesterday.” I answered. Hong Hoa looked at me then smiled. “If you miss your red faced prince just go talk to him.”

Since when was she able to read my mind? But I still denied this true statement. “Who would want to miss him?” I was lying to myself, there would be no holding back my feelings when I would talk to him. For the last week, my feelings had been suppressed, any moment now they would blow. I would not be able to hold my feelings in. I would hug him, kiss him and wants to be under his firm arms again. Then I would tell him it was just a game; a game that I lost, he won.

********************************************************************

“Thang was here earlier.” My mom said as I stepped into my house. “He found your workbook and left it in your room.”

“Ok thanks mom.” I hurried to my room and found my notebook sitting neatly on my desk, next to the glass window. I opened it, and found writing in my brand new book. He had guts, took my book and wrote in it.

“To Oanh, my stubborn girl,

I know you must still be mad at me for not helping you on that physics test. But Oanh, I wanted you to do it on your own, because I can’t be next to you forever. I will have to leave your side sometime. You’ll have to fight your own battle from now on, and I won’t be there to wipe your tears every time you cry. I wanted to tell you this earlier Oanh, but you were busy with Hong Hoa. My dad passed away in an accident three days ago. Now, I must return to Bac Ninh, I’m the oldest son in my family, I must go work and take care of them. I will miss the city, miss our classes, miss Hong Hoa, all of our friends, but most of all I will miss you. It is too cruel that I got ripped away from you, but that’s life Oanh, we never know what is going to happen. Oanh, you never cared for your studying; but study Oanh, study for your future. It will help you in the long term. Stay our of troubles, Oanh, I can’t sweet talk your mom or anyone else for you any longer. Though what I regret most is what a weak little boy I am; I couldn’t find the strength within me to say sorry, to say goodbye to you. I can’t see your pearly black eyes for one last time, can’t hold your soft hands, or feel your cloudy hair. Sorry my tears wetted your notebook, but sometimes boys can cry too. All I can say is I’m sorry, sorry I did not help you on that test, sorry I can’t be next to you any longer. Goodbye Oanh, I hope this will not be forever.

Your red faced boy,

Le Thang.”

With Thang’s letter in hand I ran out, not waiting for my mom to say anything. I started the motorcycle and drove off. I reached the familiar room 206B, but it was too late. The books and clothes no longer lie on the floor. The room seemed empty and strange without them. I was staring into the room when a voice startled me “Thang left to the train station thirty minutes ago, if you hurry you may still catch him.” I didn’t wait for another second. I stormed away from the apartment without a word, or looking back at the woman; but silently I thanked her.

I reached the Hanoi Train Station with an ebullient feeling. My eyes couldn’t stop moving, once in awhile I thought I saw that familiar skinny body but no. I saw an officer and quickly asked “Train to Bac Ninh please.” He stared at me with a sorry face. “It left ten minutes ago.” My heart sank at his words, I missed him, I missed the last chance to talk to Thang. What he wanted to tell me earlier, he wanted to tell me goodbye and the last of his feelings, yet I acted so coldly. I must have been like a knife that cut his heart to pieces. All I want is you back Thang. I want my red faced boy back.

Tomorrow in the working class, there will be a new face. Someone who grew up in the midst of loving friends. Someone was never meant to work this early. Thang, our last summer together has ended, it ended before it could start. Thang, you never had the chance to give your final speech like you were supposed to. You’ll never take those tests you studied for. Thang we were supposed to be together so much longer, but life, life has cruelly ripped us apart. Thang, the phoenix has bloomed early for us this year.

********************************************************************

“Nguyen Ngoc Oanh.” The principal called my name. I walked up to the school stage to receive my diploma as the number one student in school. I stared at the phoenix tree, it had turned red at last; the red flowers were falling off the tree with every light wind that blew by. The tree was crying with me, we were shedding tears of separation. The tree was crying for all us seniors who were leaving the school, and I, I was crying because Thang was no longer with me. I stared at the blue sky. “Thang what are you you doing right now? You’re supposed to be here now, but instead you’re kneeling in a rice field with the harsh sun over your head. That harsh sun was here too, it shined over us students. Some were crying, some were talking and laughing; the last of the student’s laught. There was happiness but also bitterness, last of the student’s memories.

Thang this was suppost to be your place. I was only holding it for you. I did as you said, I studied. I studied for you, and for everyone else who chances were ripped away. Thang, please wait for me, when I’m done with college, I will be a teacher. I will go to your village of Bac Ninh and teach. Thang, we will meet again , it will also be somewhere where the phoenix blooms, along with the fast pace school drum. This time it will not be drum of goodbye, but of us two being together again. We may no longer be two innocent students; you may no longer be the same red faced boy, but a grown working man. I, I will no longer be the same stubborn girl; but Thang we will meet again when the Phoenix Blooms. 


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