Though it has only been few months since the war was over and even though his boss didn't like the idea of returning to the country that probably blamed them for their loss, America couldn't help but go back. Even though his men had withdrawn a few years ago and no one back home really wanted to talk about the bloody war, America felt like he had unfinished business there.
He left his escorts back at the helicopter, requesting for time alone. They had looked uncomfortable at the thought of leaving a nation like him alone in another nation. The fact that half of the country's men had defeated the Americans (well, with assistance from Russia and China) was overwhelming for his people to understand, and the fact that the other half may not welcome him anymore...his men couldn't help but worry.
America strolled down a dirt path, and he could still see fragments of the war scattered around on the ground. Small shrapnel from grenades hid underneath the soil, and the long grass beside the path were still slightly stained red. However, unlike last time, he felt considerably calmer and the once growing stress was gone. But a heavy, lingering cloak of guilt weighed his heart down.
He never wanted to leave the South Vietnamese behind. He didn't want to leave Vietnam herself behind either. But orders were orders, and he still had a country to run. After the last of his men were gone, and only he himself remained, he remembered seeing the pained expression on her face, and that alone broke his heart. She had trusted him; they had been comrades through the tough times and to be suddenly abandoned...America wondered how that felt. He wondered how it felt to lose your strongest ally; she probably saw defeat coming after his leave. She probably thought from there on that losing was inevitable.
America stopped on the path and took the time to recollect himself. Adjusting his glasses, he continued down the path.
He had never felt so defeated before. He never knew he could get so serious and depressed after it. Other countries were genuinely surprised that he, the normally cheerful-to-the-degree-of-pure-arrogance kind of nation, was quiet and somehow, mourning. It was true, he felt incredibly discouraged and lost his usual patriotic feel. He had lost so many men, and he had left so many friends out on the battlefield to die.
As he started to descend a slightly slope, he sighed and glanced around. The countryside still looked menacing. He remembered how the Viet Cong used to hide themselves perfectly, waiting for the opportunity to attack. It worked fairly well, and since they were somewhat of a militia, it was near impossible to distinguish the Viet Cong from the friendly South Vietnamese. North against the South. They all looked alike, no matter what; they were all Vietnamese, they were all under the same roof, and yet...
Though there was a North Vietnam and a South Vietnam, Vietnam herself did not split. America had wondered about that, but he saw that physically, she was still intact because of the love she still held for all her people, but on the inside, she was torn apart. Some days, she seemed to have gone crazy; one minute, she was trying so hard to convince herself that America was a friend, and the next, she tried to strangle him. It was hard to watch the internal conflict; she seemed to be fighting herself, and that was exactly what was going on. The North Vietnamese against the South Vietnamese. Sister verses sister. Vietnam verses herself.
Vietnam, before the war, was a kind, clever country, very diligent and courteous. Though, she had a cold side to her, and it was probably because of her history with other countries trying to invade. Her own older brother, China, had given her up to France. Her other brother, Japan had saved her from France only to betray her and claim her for himself. She had to fight her own family, whom she used to be close with, for her independence. It must have been hard, and her cold eyes and fierce fighting spirit revealed the hardships she suffered.
America knew she admired him because he was so young and yet became so powerful, but America secretly admired Vietnam back.
Now, what would she say to him when she sees him? Would she hate him? His men, in fact, even murdered many innocent people, and innocent people were off limits, but it still happened. He didn't know about it, and he didn't find out until he found Vietnam coughing up blood. He had tried to help her but once his flesh made contact with hers, she screamed in pain and flinched away from his touch, understanding what had happened. He had caught a gleam of fear, horror, and betrayal in her eyes all in one second. Their bond from then on felt more strained and tense.
America found himself walking by her house. He stopped. The rice fields behind her house were still there, although the house itself, once big and impressive for a country like her in its splendor, seemed war torn. Of course, she had just gotten out of a war, so it didn't really surprise him, but the sight only made him feel more guilty.
He glanced down the road from where he had came from. The horizon was beautiful, but it seemed to contradict what had really happened, as if denying what the sky had witnessed all these years. In the other direction was a city, nestled in between rolling hills. There was a lake-or was it river?- in the far back and America made out bridges for vehicles to travel on. Vietnam could enjoy her time in the country and city at the same time; it was a perfect place to live.
America stared at the front door. In the window, he saw his apologetic reflection. His blue eyes were softened and subtle, as if he was afraid. They were usually bright blue and filled with excitement. When had he become like this?
It was hot, and he automatically removed his brown bomber jacket. Draping it over his arm, he walked up to the front door and knocked quietly, politely. He waited on the steps patiently, and he started to worry. What if she was really angry? America knew she could be frightening when aggravated. She could strike fear into America himself, although he had to admit he was sometimes easily scared, as said by England.
No answer. He circled around the weathered house and glanced into the rice fields. A small smile tugged at his lips when he saw a lone figure working in the middle of the fields, back to her usual green ao dai, her conical hat, non la, perched on top of her silky brown hair. Her hair was tied into her usual long ponytail, but unlike her hair in the war, it was neatly put up and tied with a flower adorning the tie.
America started to go towards the nation, but stopped to ease his shoes off and roll up his pant legs; it was for the best, since the rice fields were flooded with water that went up to the knee. He quietly waded through the water and, quicker than he would have preferred, found himself standing behind Vietnam.
He watched her work for a while, noticing her wounds. Her right arm was heavily bandaged and it seemed to limit her movements. There was a gauze pad on her right cheek and she was leaning on her paddle for support, meaning that she had an injury on her left leg or foot.
Vietnam sighed to herself and glanced up at the sky. America thought that this would be the best time to interrupt. "It's been a long time, Vietnam."
Vietnam didn't seem to hear him. He was about to say something but her quiet voice confirmed that she did indeed hear him. "What is it, America?"
There was no trace of accusation or blame in her voice, but he heard pain and caution. She had not gotten over his leave. Her tone told America that she didn't seem to trust him anymore, and he didn't blame her.
"How are you?" he asked softly. He hoped he sounded genuinely concerned and kind.
Vietnam still didn't turn to meet his eye. There was a small hesitation, but she responded. "Recovering."
"That's good to hear."
And then, Vietnam said sternly, "What is your purpose here, America?"
A small breeze followed her curt tone and made itself known with the help of the water, producing ripples. America couldn't tell if she was being hostile to him or if the silence had worn her out. Maybe both. During the climax of the war, Vietnam's patience worn out quicker than usual. It would take a while before she returned to normal.
"I'm here...to apologize." America said quietly, running a hand through his blonde hair.
Vietnam still didn't move. America continued.
"I really didn't want to go. I wanted to stay, I really did, Viet. I was going to send my men back but I wanted to stay behind, even if it's just me."
Vietnam's grip tightened on her paddle.
"I'm sorry I left." America said, his voice starting to break. Painful memories flashed through his head. There was so much red...so...much...red... "I don't care if you don't forgive me, Viet. I don't deserve your forgiveness, so I understand, but listen!" His voice rose and he found himself speaking loudly, almost to the point of shouting, but he wasn't shouting at her. He was shouting to prove his sincerity, and even though it probably wasn't the gentlemanly thing to do like England had always told him, it was something America was good at doing, and maybe, just maybe, the sincerity could be passed on.
"I don't care if you don't forgive me, I don't care if you hate me, but always know that from now on I will do anything in my power to help you! I know I tried playing 'Hero' and it failed, and I'm so sorry...But please...don't hesitate to call me for help, and even though I might not be able to do everything you ask, I'll still do my best!"
America found himself tearing up. He watched Vietnam for any reaction as warm tears slipped down his cheek. She didn't move. It was like none of his words affected her. "I'm so sorry..." he whispered. He wasn't sure if Vietnam heard him that time, because his whisper was lost with the wind that blew over them.
"America..." she whispered after the wind died again. "My people...are they safe?"
The boat people...America bowed his head. "They're having a rough time adjusting..." he answered truthfully. "But they're safer there than here, aren't they?"
Vietnam bowed her head. "And the children?" Her voice shook with a hint of urgency. "Are the children safe?"
Her tone was like a plead; she really cared for her people, and especially the children. America remembered how Vietnam had broke down completely when she saw corpses of young children bleeding freely on the streets. Her cries were long and mournful, and America couldn't stand hearing the agony.
"They're safe as well."
And then, Vietnam's shoulders shook. Her grip on her paddle tightened and sobs escaped her. "I'm glad...I'm so glad that they're s-safe..." The moment she allowed her cries to be heard was the moment America's tears escaped. He stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her waist gently and burrowed his head onto her shoulder. She shook with every sob and he could only cry with her as a comfort.
"I'm sorry," he choked. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm sorry..." He repeated the words over and over again and Vietnam placed a shaky hand over one of his hands around her waist and held it there. America was stunned that she did; did that mean she forgave him?
He didn't know how long they stood there in the rice fields, crying. It seemed to be hours, but it had only been minutes. As their tears ceased, leaving their face numb and stained with tears, America released his grip around her and Vietnam let her hand fall to her side. She then finally turned to look at America, whom she had not seen in years.
Vietnam's golden eyes were warm again, free of killing intent. Her brown hair swayed with the wind, and she said, "I'm willing to forgive, America. However, I'm in the middle of forgiving, and my people need time. I'm sorry-"
"Don't be. I understand."
Vietnam smiled at America, and at once he wrapped his arms around her again, burrowing his head into her hair. He felt her hand resting on his right arm, and she made a movement to gaze up at him with hopeful eyes. It was a look he hadn't seen in a long, long time.