CHAPTER II: COO COO PRINCESS

Ho Chi Minh City; three years ago – Liberation Day

Thuy had pulled the Engineer out of re-education two days ago and had instructed him to find Kim. And now he was in front of a dirty shanty and the Engineer promised that Kim was on the other side.

The Engineer pushed the curtain aside. "Come in, Monsieur Commissar."

He entered the pitiful excuse for a house and saw her on the floor, bowing to him.

"Kim!" He wanted to embrace her, but the damned Engineer was still here. "Three years I've been away. I kept faith we would meet."

"Me, I found her for you." The Engineer said.

Thuy turned to him, irritated. "You, out in the street!"

When the engineer left, along with the other women inside, Thuy turned back to Kim. "I knew in time, faith would weave a design tying your life and mine into one. Kim, each day I'd wait like a soldier must wait, trusting victory to come with the sun."

Kim didn't say anything.

Thuy knelt in front of her and took her hands in his. "After the fight, in the still of the night, I would picture my bride, bright as jade. You'll be my wife. We will build a new life and fulfil the vow our fathers made."

Kim gripped his hands. "My father's vow can't be honoured this way…and I pray in my heart he'll forgive."

"Kim."

"What you want now are some words I can't say. If I lied to you, how could I live?"

Thuy couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Don't say any more! Not a word! You will change, you will learn! Kim, look at me, please. Don't decide too soon."

She closed his eyes as if in prayer. "Somewhere deep in my soul shines the smallest of lights. No wind blows it out, it burns steady and strong through the darkest of nights. Dju vui vay, yu doi my. Dju vui vay, vao nyay moy. I made a promise once with these words, which neither time nor distance can change. He will come to me, still."

Thuy stood up, outraged. "You must be mad, your American jack has gone for good and he'll never come back! He ran away Kim, he left you to rot! I'm sure by now he already forgot! Kim – "

The Engineer barged in and Thuy quickly stood up straight again, the picture of a respectable soldier of Ho Chi Min City. Rid of all emotion, rid of all weakness.

"Come on now, princess, get off your cloud!" The Engineer glanced at Thuy with a bow. "I'm sorry, sir, she was talking so loud. The commissar is a powerful man. A girl with brains makes a life where she can! Princess, remember your place. Don't make people lose face!" He pulled Kim to her feet and pushed her towards Thuy.

With trembling hands, Thuy touched her cheek. "Why do you look away? I can end all this shame! All you need to say is 'yes'."

Kim looked him straight in the eye and said nothing.

From outside, they could hear the sound of soldiers marching by.

Instinct kicked in. Thuy was desperate, he didn't know what else to do. "You hear those soldiers outside? They'll do whatever I say!"

"I cannot change what I feel!"

"Soldiers, come inside! I think you will change before my eyes!" He started giving orders. "This me-my has just been found. She hid the day we closed the bars! Show them that we don't forget, no one betrays us without scars!"

His soldiers knew the routine. "You are a woman who lived without shame!"

"You're an infection left over from war!"

"You have dishonoured the national name!"

"Re-education will cure the disease!"

"You must be shown what we do to a leach!"

"See how we teach an American's whore!"

The Engineer was trembling. "I have heard hundreds of speeches like these. Take it from me Kim, you don't want to hear more!"

"It's time to act. My friends, it's time!"

Thuy's second in command started covering Kim's face with a piece of cloth. "Her face betrays her crime! She must pay, and her partner too!"

Thuy's heart was breaking. Kim was suffering and he was the reason.

The soldiers pointed their guns at Kim, ready to shoot.

"Stop! Get out!" Thuy shouted at them. "I said, get out!"