RAINCOAT ROMANCE (Short Story)

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Steven Le

  • Số bài : 23
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  • Từ: 06.08.2008
  • Nơi: Biên Hòa - Đồng Nai
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RAINCOAT ROMANCE (Short Story) 11.08.2008 02:02:00 (permalink)
                                         RAINCOAT ROMANCE
 
                                                                                    ---Written by Steven Le (Le Duy Minh)---
 
(The English-Vietnamese version of the story can be read at my blog http://360.yahoo.com/leduyminh20022002 )

 
…I was stunned to look at her in silence, I didn’t expect the girl that rescued me to be her that I cherished in heart for years…
 
Three years ago, it was one Friday evening, the evening that changed my life. That night, it rained cats and dogs. It was thought to be a cold and dull day; in contrast, it was the coziest, sweetest and most romantic in my life.
 
The after-school bell sounded as if it would penetrate the blurred curtain of rain. I hurried out of class and got the bike from the parking lot before its closing time. Due to forgetting to take a raincoat, I had to shelter from rain on the verenda of the block of classrooms next to block M, where my English classroom was.
 
In the whitish and slightly dusky light of the very old flourescent light, I saw three other persons that avoided the rain on the verenda.  A boy and a girl stood close together on one corner; maybe, they were a couple. On the opposite corner was her. She was trying to lean close against the wall, with hands clutching a pastel pink handbag to her chest, sometimes she turned to one side to avoid water vapor splashing onto the verenda. She was a slender girl, shoulder-long and jet black hair, embellished with a tremendous lot of minute water drops, sometimes sparkling in the light. She radiated charm like a camellia flower smiling shyly in the early morning dew. How innocent and pure she looked! She was in a milky short-sleeved blouse and pale blue jeans. Her dainty and radiantly pinkish feet appeared inside a nice pair of sandals.
 
I had to stand in between. Every now and then I turned to steal a glance at her, then turned away quickly as if for fear that we might have an eye contact. Despite in between, I felt myself attracted towards her, I couldn’t resist the speacial attraction; sometimes I glanced at her again. Each time I did it, I had a feeling that she knew it and had a furtive look at me, too.
 
What a persistent rain! It drizzled down like a child crying nonstop for losing his parents in a busy market. This moment, I was completely overwhelmed by a strange feeling. Time and space seemed to pause, I just came back to reality when hearing the girl urge the boy to go home.
 
“Darling, let’s go, don’t wait. Probably, it won’t stop, I have a raincoat here.”
 
“Okay, let’s go. We won’t wait…”
 
As the boy passed me, he turned to ask:
 
“You are going to leave or keep waiting?”
 
“Well, I forgot to take a raincoat, the rain so heavy, I think I have to wait…”
 
“Sorry, we just have one raincoat only. If we had another, we‘d lend it to you. Well, I see, the sister over there has been standing waiting so long. She seemed to have nobody to pick her up. So, you wait the rain to stop and then leave together with her, will you? Bye.”
 
“Okay, bye, thanks a lot.”
 
Waiting for a while until the boy and the girl vanished slowly in rain, I turned round to look at her. Simultaneously, she was looking at me but said nothing. My heart beat wildly as if it was going to jump outside. I tried to calm myself down, summoned up all my courage and then walked over to her asking:
 
“Hi! You… wait rain to stop?”
 
“Yes.”
 
“I don’t have a raincoat, just wait, but it keeps raining like this, it won’t stop until midnight. I am afraid, keep waiting this, just wait in vain until the school closes.”
 
I just said, not knowing whether she paid attention to it or not. Afraid to realize it, I took an aimless look at the thickness of rain. All of a sudden I heard her call me:
 
“Hallo”
 
“Yes?”
 
“Er, yes, I had a class before your class and after class I went for a drink with friends. After that I got back here but late. The parking lot closed and I didn’t take the bike. It rained and I had to shelter here, waiting and waiting but rain keeps pouring down. I wonder if you can give me a ride. I live not very far from school…”
 
“Er… yes… okay…, but I don’t have a raincoat, how to leave now?
 
“I have, I have a raincoat. Here you are, take it and put it on, then we leave.”
 
“Oh, so great. Thanks.”
 
I took the raincoat in my hands and then was busy myself putting it on but wore it back to front. I tried and tried to pull it down but I couldn’t manage to help my head through its collar. It was very dark inside, I saw nothing and was embarrassed not to know what to do, suddenly hearing her giggle:
 
“You… you  have the coat on back to front, let me help you.”
 
I was too ashamed to say anything, standing still while she was bustling about assisting me to pull the coat up, turn it and put it on. After all, I had it on. Then she continued to help me tie a tight knot in its collar. After the raincoat went to the right place, she gazed at me waiting. I knew what she wanted, I got on the bike as quick as wind, moved the bike close to the verenda, but suddenly I remembered the backseat of my bike did not have a cushion. I was so confused:
 
“I am sorry, the seat does not have a cushion. It is made of iron, very hard. I wonder if it may hurt you when you sit on…”
 
“No matter, I can. Don’t worry.”
 
Then she pulled up the back flap of the coat and slid inside and sat quietly on the seat. Seeing her already settle herself on the seat, I asked:

“Are you sitting okay?We leave now?”
 
“Okay, go ahead.”
 
Then I began to pedal the bike. I thought it was much heavy with her on, but it was only a bit heavier. After the rain of over one hour, all the ground of the University of Pedagogy was enshrouded with a dazzling white color, under water about 20 cm deep. We were lucky enough to reach the school gate before the guard closed the gate. I hurriedly made my way out of the gate into An Dương Vương street; at this time I asked her:
 
“Well, how to get to your place?”
 
“I live in the dorm on the top of Tran Hung Dao street, you know that place?.”
 
“Yes, I know… I… sorry, I address you as “Miss”, okay? Maybe, I am a bit older than you…”
 
I waited, but she was silent, I thought she didn’t mind. I added:
 
“That dorm, I know. I often pass there, so now we turn into Nguyen Van Cu, then straight into Tran Hung Dao, right?
 
“No, don’t take that road, it is a bit far. Turn into Nguyen Van Cu, then turn left into Nguyen Trai, then into Nguyen Cu Trinh, to the other end of Nguyen Cu Trinh you will see Tran Hung Dao, only a stone’s throw from my dorm.”
 
“It is okay.”
 
I did as she told. A moment later, we reached Nguyen Cu Trinh but it flooded, all over the street was a white color, we couldn’t see the street surface. She blamed herself:
 
“Oh, my God, I forget that it has been raining very hard so the street flooded. So, a moment ago, just do what you said, now no trouble…”
 
“Don’t worry, water might be half-tire deep, I can move.”
 
Then, not waiting till she said yes, I kept going ahead, exactly the same as I guessed. Rain water was half-tire high, pretty heavy to pedal but I could manage it. She sounded worried:
 
“Are you okay? It must be very heavy. Perhaps, you drop me off here to walk.”
 
“No, it’s okay. I can manage, just a little bit heavy. Water makes this, not you, you not heavy.”
 
Then I kept pedalling. Rain poured down the same much and seemed to be harder than a moment ago but I didn’t care about that much. Above me was rain, ahead of me was rain and under me was all water but I had her behind me.
 
We went on asking about each other while going. The bike sometimes went into a bump and came off a little. Then I felt her forehead or her cheek touch my back. I wished there were as many bumps on the road as possible. What a lovely desire! There seemed to be no space between her face and my back as the raincoat was really not large enough for both of us. Once in a while I could feel her breath on my back, it was a very warm and wonderful feeling. I wished that moment lasted for good; but not soon later we reached the other end of Nguyen Cu Trinh, water here became shallower and I felt less heavy on my feet but heavier in my heart.
 
After I turned left into Tran Hung Dao, instantly her dorm came into sight right ahead. I brought her to the dorm gate and then stopped there. She got out of the coat and said “thank you” again and again:
 
“Thank you so much, I couldn’t get home without you.”
 
“Not at all, just a little help. Well, wait a minute, wait me to take off the coat and give it back to you.”
 
“No, no, go straight home with it, rain so heavy now or else you will get all wet and have a cold. You can return it to me as you go to school. I also have an English class  in Block M, room M103, the class before your class. You just get there and ask the class monitor about Thuc Nhi.”
 
“So, thanks a lot.”
 
“You are welcome, take care of yourself. Bye.”
 
“Bye”
 
Afterwards, she walked into the dorm, I watched her disappear into the dorm. That night, I didn’t go to my lodgings till 10.30 pm. I took off the raincoat carefully and hung it up on one corner of my room. After having a bath, I took the coat down and dried it with a cloth. It was a dark blue raincoat, a bit old but still so strong for use. She must have preserved the coat carefully. Belongings of a girl were completely different. Cleaning it for a little while, I discovered a 15-cm-long cut on the right shoulder which was sewed up neatly. I thought to myself:
 
“She is incredibly clever with her hands.”
 
Cleaning the coat over and over, thoroughly, many times and feasting my eyes on it, I endeavoured to picture her face in my mind. I felt so sweet. I couldn’t sleep, but kept tossing and turning in bed all night. I wished Monday would come faster to be able to see her again.
 
 
---
 
 
After all, Monday came and that day I went to class half an hour earlier than usual. I went to room M103, met the class monitor and asked about her but he said she didn’t come to class. I went to her class again on Wednesday but didn’t see her. I did the same on Friday but things were unchanged. I began to feel anxious, not knowing what had happened to her. Throughout the second week, I went to her class to look for her but the monitor said he didn’t see her.
 
I was tormented by anxiety, I decided to go to her dorm. I asked the guard to allow me to go up to Thuc Nhi’s room and see her. But he said he just knew Tuyet Nhi and Khanh Nhi in the dorm, no girls had the name Thuc Nhi. I couldn’t believe this, it was her that said she lived here and I myself saw her into the dorm but the guard insisted on that nobody like that was in the dorm. I failed to convince myself to believe in what I heard, I tried my best to ask the guard to let me up to several rooms to ask about her. I knocked at the doors of all the rooms for girls but just met the two Nhis as the guard told. Not being able to believe what I saw and heard, I fell into despair. All of a sudden, a girl who just came back said:
 
“You are looking for Thuc Nhi? She is my friend but she doesn’t live here. Over half a month ago, she had a few day stay here, but later it seemed that something happened to her family and she had had to get to her home village since that day.”
 
“So, do you know where she is now?”
 
“Yes, I do. Er, no, I used to share a room with her outside. I already got there asking about her but they said she didn’t stay there any more. Why don’t you go to her school and ask someone there about her?”
 
Later, I went to her school asking and asking about her and knew that she had quit school. The school didn’t know where exactly she was now and I just heard from some of her friends that she seemed to come from Dong Thap – a province in the Mekong river delta of Vietnam. At that time I gave up all my hope. I felt my heart ache and lost. I already lost her.
 
And time went by slowly, but her image in my heart never faded away. And each time I felt lonely and depressed, I went to the University of Pedagogy to bring back distant memories. On rainy evenings, I stood on the former verenda alone, on the same corner she seemed to look at me with a smile. Apart from times seeing her in dreams, I could feel her closer to me these moments.
 
I walked on the roads where she and I used to over and over, even I myself couldn’t remember how many times I did it. And then I felt myself share the same mood with the poet Cuihu – a poet of the Tang dynasty in China – in the poem, “The Peach Blossom Beauty”.
 
 
THE PEACH BLOSSOM BEAUTY
 
 
Right at this doorway, this day of last year,
 
The beauty’s cheeks and the peach blossom colored.
 
Which corner of the earth the beauty has gone,
 
                       The peach blossom still gives the same color in spring breezes.
 
---
 
 
After three years, I finally graduated, and got a suitable job, but her image was engraved forever in my mind. I dated some girls but we didn’t go any further, I couldn’t have the feeling that I had each time I thought of her. Once, I went on business to the Mekong river delta, I passed Sa Dec – a town in Dong Thap province, and destiny smiled back at me.
 
On my business trip, I had a stay in the house of an acquaitance of a colleague in my company. On my way there, I had to cross a small river. There were no other means of transport to cross the river except for small sampans. I was so scared of “water” just because I couldn’t swim. I had no choice but got across the river with eyes closed. The sampan that carried me and five or six others across the river was almost rotten, I couldn’t do anything else but grinned and prayed for myself.
 
As the sampan finished its halfway to the other side of the river, another bigger sampan suddenly hit us from behind, which capsized both. Everybody fell into water. I couldn’t swim and so attempted to stretch out arms and legs to surface and yell for help. The river water flowed freely into my mouth, my belly became bigger and bigger. I was swept away by the fast-flowing current farther and farther. Everybody seemed to forget about me. I was suffocating due to gulping too much water. My eyes darkened and I slowly lost consciousness. I thought my life would end here. At this moment I felf a soft arm putting around my chest, pulling my head out of the water surface and dragging me away. Then I sensed nothing. As I came to, I just dimly saw the face of a girl looking at me, but I failed to see her clearly. I heard a lot of hurrahs around me:
 
“How lucky! He came round, he swallowed so much water but… how lucky!”
 
I didn’t know that the girl saved my life had gone away until I totally regained consciousness, sitting up. Asking people there, I knew her name was Nhi, the daughter of Mrs Seven who lived nearby.
 
After arriving in the house of an acquaintance of my colleague, having a bath, putting on new clothes and getting control of myself, I paid a visit to the house of the girl whose name was Nhi to give her special thanks. The girl’s name sounded somehow familiar to me, but this was just a coincidence. Right in front of the girl ‘s house gate, I raised my voice and called out:
 
“Is anybody home?”
 
I couldn’t believe it was her that answered the door. I stood still, staring at her. At first, she was a bit surprised, but later she recognized me and I felt that. We both seemed to be hypnotized, four eyes were fixed on each other. A moment later I was able to break the silence:
 
“You are Thuc Nhi, aren’t you?”
 
“Yes, long time no see, are you okay?”
 
I stammerd:
 
“No, er no, okay”
 
“How about you?”
 
“I am fine.”
 
“Well, come in and have a talk. Oh no, don’t…, my home was a mess. Behind my home was a very beautiful lotus lake, let’s go there and talk, shall we?”
 
“Fine, it’s up to you.”
 
Then she went through the gate and walked ahead of me and I followed her. Over a short distance, the lotus lake appeared ahead of us. Lotus flowers were in full bloom everywhere in the lake. It was flooded with a Dong Thap Muoi pink color, the atmosphere was filled with the strong scent of lotuses.
 
She strolled by the lake. She both walked and touched lotus leaves rising close to her. A few remaining water drops on the leaves rolled down to the ground, and my heart palpitated rhythmically. My heart throbbed to urge me:
 
“Nhi”
 
“Yes?”
 
“I…, sorry, I have something to ask you.”
 
“What is that?”
 
“What happened to you that year, Nhi? Why did you have to quit school and disappear? You know, during 2, 3 weeks after the day we met each other, I arrived at your classroom to look for you but didn’t see you. I was afraid that something bad happened to you, I continued to go to your dorm but I only met your friend there, she didn’t know where you were. You know, I was very worried. I kept going to your school to ask about you but they said you left school and told me that they didn’t know where you were. I was totally depressed. So what happened to you? I…”
 
“You… you… asked me so many questions, I don’t know where to start from.”
 
“I… I am sorry. But…”
 
“What? Sorry again… why do you like saying sorry?”
 
“I…”
 
“Okay, let me tell you. It was a long story. Generally speaking, that year my dad died suddenly, I had to go home immediately. And then my mom got sick and even my young brothers and sisters’ things, so I had to quit school to return home and take care of my family. That is all. Well, the day I dropped in school to withdraw my files, I remembered the date between us and really wanted to meet you again, but I thought I shouldn’t just because I wouldn’t stay in the city any more. I am sorry…”
 
“You just say sorry and then over?”
 
“Please don’t be like that, I apologize.”
 
“Okay, forget about it. Now, I accept your apology.”
 
And she and I walked together while asking about each other’s things. I soon felt our conversation seemed to be as intimate and warm as it was before. It was time for me to get to the point.
 
“Well, Nhi?”
 
“Yes?”
 
“When do you remember we both met for the first time?”
 
“It was raining”
 
“Yes, that’s rain, all water, we nearly got soaked to the skin. And this time I fell into the river, got all wet and nearly was killed. Fortunately, you saved me but it made you all wet. Don’t you think it is a coincidence?”
 
“Yes, think again, what a coincidence!”
 
“We were destined to meet in water, right?”
 
“Yes, destiny.”
 
“Um, and now we see each other for the third time, but why no water?”
 
“You want water?”
 
“Yes? Er, no.”
 
She smiled mischievously, gazing at me, I had a hunch that she was going to do something. All of a sudden, she took hold of my hands and pretended to push me into the lake, frightening me to death.
 
“Water here, a lot here.”
 
“Oh no! I can’t swim, you want me to be drowned again?”
 
“Sorry, I am only kidding”
 
“Not at all, I see.”
 
And we kept chatting so naturally and comfortably that there seemed to be no barrier between us. Surroudings seemed to  be our world only. Our talk was going to an end and I had to bare my heart to her, but I had just seen her, how could I say it immediately? I thought and thought trying to find out how to make her know my feelings tactfully and thoughtfully to avoid shocking her. And eventually I got it, I pretended to ask her:
 
“Do you like poetry, Nhi?

“Um, why do you ask me this?
 
“Well, I just ask to ask”
 
“Yes, I like it and occasionally in my spare time I read some lines for fun.”
 
“There are several Vietnamese folk verses that interests me very much. Now I recite the first two sentences for you to see whether you know the next two or not, okay?”
 
“Okay, do it, please.”
 
I winked at her and started to read:
“Now, Plum would like to ask Peach, have you allowed anyone to go into the peach orchard? – Plum is the boy, Peach is the girl and the peach orchard is the girl’s heart
 
“That’s all. I finished it, so what are the next two?”
 
I looked at her, watching after my question, I found that she turned red and looked extremely pretty. She gave me a shy smile. Maybe, she partly knew what I meant. So I hustled her gently:
 
“What are the next two? Recite it to me if you know, please.”
 
She turned away, bewildered. I waited and waited and then kept hustling her gently:
 
“How? Recite it, please.”
 
“Yes, don’t hurry me up, wait a minute…and I ‘ll recite it to you.”
 
I waited and just heard her soft voice a moment later. She recited but still turned away to avoid me.
 
“Okay, I recite… now. Plum asks, then Peach would say, the peach orchard always opens but noone inside yet.”
 
Then she turned away again, one hand held the stalk of the lotus leaf, the other nipped off the leaf. I slowly moved closer to her, probing:
 
“So, do you know what these verses say?”
 
She spoke in a mumbling voice like the buzz of a mosquito, but I heard it very clearly.
 
“Yes, I do.”
 
Then I got the answer that I needed and kept inquiring her:
 
“So, can I go on seeing you?”
 
She hung her head, saying nothing.
 
I went on:
 
“So, I will drop in on you if I am on business here, okay?”
 
She said nothing.
 
I looked at her, adding:
 
“If you don’t say anything, I take you to mean yes.
 
She remained silent, then walked away in a hurry, I hurried after her, calling:
 
“Nhi, wait a minute, I forgot to tell you something.”
 
“What is that?”
 
“Thanks for your gift, I love it so much, thank you.”
 
“What gift? I remember not offering you any gifts.”
 
“Yes, you did, try to remember.”
 
“No, I didn’t. I remember very well, I gave you nothing for the first time we met. So strange.”
 
“What gift was it?”
 
“Forget it, I won’t tell you now. I won’t tell you until we see each other again. Have a deal?”
 
“Come on, say it please, I want to know what it is right now, please.”
 
“Sorry, wait until I tell you next time.”
 
She insisted on asking me about the gift but I determined to delay it until I saw her next time. Throughout months later, I often travelled between Sai Gon – the old name of the present Hochiminh city – and Sa Dec. Each time I got there, I went seeing her. Our love grew as natural and gentle as it was.
 
 
---
 
 
One day, I decided to show her the gift she used to give me on the first day we met each other. It was the raincoat that she lent to me. I always treasured it and preserved it carefully, so it looked as it was before.
 
I had a date with her by the lotus lake. She looked at the raincoat, choking with emotion. Exquisite lotus fragance was like a moral support for me. The lotus in my hand helped me express my feelings. The raincoat – our memento – hepled me send her my sincere feelings. The velvet grass under my feet let my knees rest on helping me speak sweet nothings. I knelt down on the grass and handed her a lotus with delicate pink petals and sunshine yellow pistils adorned with a sparkling ring. I proposed to her and she said yes.
 
A couple of months later, we got married. I moved to Sa Dec and worked there though I would have a better future with a job in the city. I felt I made a right decision for her, I felt particularly happy just because I did it. As for the raincoat – our love memento – I decided to keep it carefully. Until our children grow up, I will be proud to tell them that this is our love memento and thanks to it, we came together.

 
 
 
***THE END***
<bài viết được chỉnh sửa lúc 20.08.2008 12:52:55 bởi Steven Le >
Steven Le (Le Duy Minh)
 
#1
    Steven Le

    • Số bài : 23
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    • Từ: 06.08.2008
    • Nơi: Biên Hòa - Đồng Nai
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    RE: RAINCOAT ROMANCE (Short Story) 25.08.2008 10:00:34 (permalink)
    Hey, what do you guys think about the story, my readers? Leave me a comment, please. Thanks a lot.
    Steven Le (Le Duy Minh)
     
    #2
      Steven Le

      • Số bài : 23
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      • Từ: 06.08.2008
      • Nơi: Biên Hòa - Đồng Nai
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      RE: RAINCOAT ROMANCE (Short Story) 25.08.2008 10:07:18 (permalink)

      What is love?
       
      Does one’s heart only know what love is as its onwer gets onto a love boat? Why does love bring one now happiness like drinking honey, now sorrow like swallowing gall? Why does one know that one day his heart will ache and shatter but he keeps loving? It is love. Love is love, not necessary to explain. That is all.

      ...
       
      To know more about love, you readers can visit my blog at http://360.yahoo.com/leduyminh20022002 to read my first romantic novel - FIRST LOVE DIARY. Enjoy your time.
       
      Steven Le (Le Duy Minh)
       
      #3
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