This is a short story that was originally for my creative writing teacher but I've decided I can let you guys see it too. :) (You should feel special. ;) jk) So Please, enjoy.
…Somewhere In China…
Lien hurried along the empty streets, her eyes flitting between the darkening magenta sky and the roughly paved cobblestone path before her. All around her merchants were cleaning up their wares for the night and she only hoped she wasn’t too late to see her old friend, Mr. Chung. Tonight she had a specific purpose for speaking with him and she knew she was running out of time. At this thought, she quickened her pace to a steady jog and her mind was taken back to the time before she’d met him.
…“Lien,” her mothers voice echoed through the market place, “Lien, where are you?” But Lien wasn’t listening. She watched in fascination as the majestic dancer before her swayed to the simple tune that wound its way through the busy market place. The woman was draped in blue, her black hair pulled into a position where it was out of her painted face. Her petite hands delicately gripped the handle of a sky blue silk fan. She gracefully blended her movements with the fan until they were one, making Lien hold her breath at such beauty. Lien was still holding her breath when a desperate hand landed heavily on her shoulder.
“Lien,” her mother panted as she spun the girl around, “Why didn’t you come when I called?” Her eyes were wild and she shook Lien slightly as she said this.
“I- I was watching,” Lien stuttered shamefacedly, “I was watching the dancer.” Her eyes cast a fleeting glance at the regal woman to her left and then to her holey slippers. Her mother sighed, and hugged her little girl to her chest.
“There was nothing wrong in watching,” the woman whispered as her hand rubbed the girl’s back, “but I thought I’d lost you, my little blossom. Don’t ever do that to me again, you hear?” Lien nodded tearfully into her mothers shoulder and let herself be held.
That night, as Lien said her prayers, her thoughts turned to the dancing woman from the market place. Remembering her grace, Lien had prayed to be just like her one day, if not better. She’d prayed to have a beautiful fan just like the woman had had and she’d prayed that she would have the strength and beauty to be the best. Her prayers through, Lien looked out her window and gazed pleadingly up at the stars. Just before she’d looked away, one had twinkled brightly as if to say, Sleep, and all will be well.
The following morning, Lien had been summoned to the palace with a multitude of other young girls. They’d had a single dance class and those that had shown potential were told to come back again the next day. Lien had skipped down the many steps of the palace and through the cobbled streets, a radiant smile fixed to her rosy cheeks. Her eyes barely saw the market place as she pranced along. But with a glance at a shabby stall to her left, her eyes registered enough to make her stop dead in her tracks and stare at the sleek white fan resting pristinely atop a black velvet display cloth.
The fan was intricately inlaid with violet, green and silver stitches that portrayed a delicate butterfly lighting gracefully upon a violet and silver lotus blossom. The white silk shimmered faintly in the last light of day and Lien found herself reaching out to touch this thing of splendor.
“Hey! Get your hands away from my merchandise!” A sharp voice had barked making Lien jump and snatch her hand back as if she’d been burned. She’d turned to see an ancient looking man with long white hair and a beard to match. He was shaking at fist at her menacingly and Lien could have sworn that there was murder in his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” she’d sputtered as she backed away, hands raised defensively, “I’m so sorry! The fan looked so pretty, I just wanted to touch it. I swear I just wanted to touch it.” Her dark brown eyes pleaded desperately with the wizened old wraith and he stared at her for a second, particularly her eyes. He’d then smiled warmly, his own eyes twinkling like stars in a deep blue sky, and apologized for scaring her half to death. He had kindly asked her name and introduced himself as Mr. Chung in return…
Mr. Chung. Lien snapped out of her daze as Mr. Chung’s market stall came into view and she practically sprinted the last hundred feet in her haste.
“Mr. Chung,” she puffed as she came to a stop before the aged old man, “Mr. Chung I have it.” The man chuckled and rocked forward onto his walking stick.
“Are you sure this isn’t another false alarm?” he teased playfully, a grin spreading across his ruddy cheeks.
“Of course I’m sure,” she said hotly, offense plainly reverberating in her voice, “I counted it myself no less than three times.” Mr. Chung chucked again, his shoulders shaking at the effort. After his laugh had died away, he took her hand and patted it consolingly.
“I’ve no doubt that you have it this time, child.” He told her in a grandfatherly tone. Lien smiled at the sound of her name; his name for her. Even though many years had passed since the time when she had first met Mr. Chung, he unwaveringly referred to her as child. This gave Lien comfort that even if she no longer had grandparents, she still had a substitute that more than made up for it.
Retrieving a little bag from its hiding place in her robes, she tenderly turned Mr. Chung’s hand until it was palm up and placed the little sack in the space where her hand had once been. His fingers curled around the little bag and his deep blue eyes sparkled as they stared into Lien’s dark brown ones.
“Why has it taken you all this time to come up with the money?” he mused thoughtfully. Lien laughed and dropped her gaze to the stones of the street.
“No matter how rich the emperor may be, he doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of a decent pay.” she explained quietly, should a passing palace guard hear her comment and arrest her.
“Ah,” Mr. Chung said with a sigh, “But was the dancing worth it?” He still held the little bag of money out before him where she’d placed it. Lien considered her answer and smiled tiredly.
“Every moment of it,” she said wearily, “especially the ones spent with you.” Mr. Chung grinned and handed the little jingling bag back to Lien. Puzzled she looked inquisitively at her old friend for an answer.
“Can’t you hold it until we get to my home?” he said, a teasing undercurrent in his voice. Lien laughed.
“Of course, now load me up.” she said holding out her arms. Lien had carried Mr. Chung’s remaining merchandise back to his little hut on the outskirts of town ever since day one. At times it had been a grueling task, but as the seasons changed, she’d grown stronger and the task had turned to one of enjoyment. That night’s walk was no different. Lien laughed at Mr. Chung’s quirky comments and his description of the brilliant hues of the last light of day. They’d joked about the nobles who wandered the market place and about the emperor himself. But by the time they reached his home, the sun had disappeared behind the mountains and the pink heavens were quickly fading into tones of deep blue and purple.
Mr. Chung fumbled about in the dark until he found his tinder and was able to strike a decent spark for the lamp to flicker to life. As the hut was slowly illuminated, from what she could see, Lien was reminded once more that Mr. Chung was not a rich man. A few sparse articles of furniture were scattered about the space but otherwise the room was bare.
“Where do you want these tonight, Mr. Chung?” she asked, slightly out of breath.
“Here in the corner, child.” he replied kindly. Hardly able to see through the mess of baskets as fine linens she held, Lien followed the sound of his voice as best she could until she felt a small amount of her load disappear. She then stood as still as a post until her arms were empty and she could once again see Mr. Chung’s grandfatherly face, lined with weariness.
“Thank you, child,” he said with a yawn as he meticulously settled onto a ragged cushion, “Now, the fan is inside the topmost drawer of the dresser there.” Lien crossed the room, and opened the drawer to reveal the immaculate white fan. The stitching hadn’t faded a whit and the depiction of the butterfly still encompassed much of the fan’s lower left corner. As she stared at it, she realized that is still took her breath away, but Lien forced herself to avert her gaze and slowly close the drawer. After all her years of saving and scrounging, she’d decided that Mr. Chung needed it more than she did. He could have the money and still sell the fan for the same price.
Digging in her robe once more, she retrieved the money bag and shuffled to stand before her old friend. She looked at her slippered feet thoughtfully, her face void of all expression. When she finally lifted her eyes to the old man’s face once more, they were filled with tears.
“No. Thank you,” she finally managed around the lump that had quite suddenly risen in her throat, “for making me strong when I was weak.” A single tear slid down her cheek as she dropped the sack before him. Mr. Chung hesitated before he picked the sack and himself up from the floor.
“Lien, what’s this?” he said, holding the money bag out to her. She stared at the dirt floor beneath her feet for a moment before looking into his dark blue eyes.
“Mr. Chung, I’ve been to this home every night for the past eight years. It hasn’t changed once in that time and neither have you. You need this money more than I do, so take it and sell the fan,” she said as another tear carved a salty track down her cheek, and repeated, “You need it more than I do.” Mr. Chung smiled sadly at her tears and placed the bag once again in her upturned palm. He then placed his hands on either side of her face and wiped the salty tears away with his thumbs.
“Lien, my lotus blossom, my child. You’re kindness is far above that of an angel. But you are wrong. I have everything I could ever need. Now take your money and be at peace. You are strong, you are more beautiful than the sunrise, and you are a magnificent dancer. All you lack is a fan.” Mr. Chung smiled his sad smile and turned away from her dejected form long enough to retrieve the fan from its place in the drawer. Balancing it between his wizened hands, he tenderly presented it to the woman the young girl had become.
As Lien stared at the work of art before her, the tears became a flood as they coursed down her cheeks. Unable to hold back much longer, Lien threw her arms around Mr. Chung and buried her face in the crook of his neck. He hugged her tightly and shed a few tears of his own for the thoughtfulness of the bright young woman he held.
When her flood had died down to a stream, Lien pulled back and looked into the sparkling dark blue eyes of the angelic being before her. She hugged him one last time, kissed his sun browned cheek and hurried out the door into the dark of night.
Mr. Chung watched her go, a smile tugging at his lips. His work was done. With that, he turned his twinkling eyes skyward and disappeared, leaving not a trace behind.
Lien gazed at the stars that night before she drifted off to sleep and thought she might have seen a certain star wink mischievously at the world below. A twinkle for the goodness it had seen and for the knowledge that in helping a blossom bloom, a rare flower had been discovered. And to think it had only taken a simple, yet beautiful fan to make it all happen. The star sparkled and winked in satisfaction and watched lovingly over its flower as she slept, the fan resting gently on her bedside table.
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