Chapter 7

They spent the night in each other's arms, and Kim never felt safer than that night. All the events of the previous day drifted into the back of her mind, and for the first time in months, she felt safe.

The next day, when she awoke, she found Chris sitting by the window, seemingly lost in his thoughts. Quietly stepping out of bed, she walked towards him.

"Lost in thought, are we? What has gotten into that blond head of yours?" she teased, smiling as he gave a startled yelp at her sudden appearance.

He turned his head to face her, and gave her a sheepish smile. "Just…I was just thinking of what would happen after the war."

Kim nodded sympathetically, sitting on the table and looking out the window. It was still early, and she caught sight of the first rays of the sun. The light turned the sky a pinkish hue, fading into violet and then back to the dark blue of the night sky. She absolutely loved this time of the day, where it seemed as if night and day were fighting for dominance over the canvas of the heavens.

"I'm not sure if I should go with you," Kim whispered.

"Why?"

She sighed, "It's just that, I don't want to burden you. Don't get me wrong: I really appreciate your offer, and I'd love to go with you. But I can't let you spend any more money on me. You've done a lot for me already."

Chris turned around and took her hands in his. "Kim, I told you, I'd gladly spend another hundred dollars just to help you. Friends help one another."

She looked down, her eyes focusing on her bare feet. "You're right. But you're the only one who's doing the helping here. I haven't yet done anything to help you."

"But that's where you're wrong. You are helping me, you know."

"How?" she asked.

"You're giving me hope. I've done terrible things as a soldier, and somehow, with you, it feels like not all is lost. I feel that there is still good in the world…that there's still good in me."

Kim shook her head and said, "I know there's good in you, Chris. I hate this whole war, too. And I don't blame you for the horrible things around us. I just hope that this will all end soon, and no more blood will be shed."

Chris just smiled at her. "How do you do that?"

"What?" Kim asked, tilting her head to the side.

"How are you both so idealistic and realistic at the same time? How do you manage to have hope after all the things that's happened to your country? To you?"

Placing her arms around his shoulders, she rested her chin on top of his head. "I have to have hope. It's all that I have left."

"Your hope is one of the things that I love most about you," Chris said, his hands caressing Kim's arms. He immediately felt her stiffen.

"What?" Kim asked, her body rigid against his. She took a few steps backward, and Chris turned his head and gave her a sheepish smile.

"Heh, guess that was uncalled for, huh?" he chuckled while he scratched the back of his neck.

Kim just shook her head, then said, "Chris, what are we, exactly?"

"Friends?" he tried lamely. But he could see Kim looking at him dubiously, so he said, "I don't really know, honestly."

When she made no answer, he continued. "I really love spending time with you, and I feel like I can talk to you, you know? You…you make me feel something I don't understand. I just…I don't know what that something is yet."

Kim nodded her head slowly. "I…I understand. I feel the same about you. But, I really am confused, Chris. Do you…I mean…uhm…" she stuttered.

"Do I—what?" he asked her, raising his left eyebrow in question.

"Do you…well, what I mean is…are you expressing your wishes to court me?" Kim asked hurriedly, burying her face in her hands. She didn't want to see Chris' expression right after she asked that mortifying question. A few seconds later, she heard him let out a laugh.

"Are you laughing at me?" she fumed, finally raising her head to look at the laughing man in front of her. She grabbed a pillow and tossed it at Chris' head, effectively hitting its target.

"Woah, hey! No need to get violent here!" Chris raised his hands in surrender, still smiling as he looked at the angry girl.

"Look, I'm sorry for laughing at you," he said, kneeling on the floor and holding Kim's hands in his own. "It's just that…well…"

"Well?" Kim asked.

"The way you phrased that question was cute. It was cute. You're cute," he smiled, pinching Kim's right cheek.

"Cute? Am I like a puppy or a child to you?" Kim huffed indignantly, crossing her arms across her chest.

"No. But to answer your question, well…maybe I do want to court you," he said.

"You—you do?"

"Yes, Kim. I like you. I really do. And maybe, we can pretend we're just two normal people. We can pretend for a while that there's no war, no Engineer, no guns, no fire, no anything. Just the two of us. If that's okay with you?"

She could do nothing but smile at him, though she still had doubts in her. "I'd like that. But, wouldn't it be unconventional? A Vietnamese prostitute and an American GI?"

Chris frowned. "Kim, I don't care what other people would think. And you are not a prostitute. You're just a girl who's doing whatever she needs to do to survive. And I admire you for that."

Kim gazed into his blue orbs, finding nothing but sincerity in them. Her shoulders began to relax, and with a small nod of her head, she said, "Okay."

Chris engulfed her in a sweet embrace. "Thank you," he said.

"But…I have one condition," she added, a mischievous smile lighting up her face.

"Uhm…okay? What is it?" Chris asked.

"You must never treat me like a child ever again!"

Chris could only chuckle. "Very well. You're not a child anymore, anyway. You're seventeen, aren't you?"

She nodded her head.

With a hearty laugh, Chris said, "I really do love younger women."

"What?!" Kim exclaimed, pushing herself away from Chris. Her eyes were as wide as saucers as she looked at the smiling GI in front of her. "What now? How old are you, Chris?"

"Guess."

"Chris!"

"Alright! Alright, fine! I'm twenty-one. Is that okay with you?"

Kim tilted her head to the side. When she didn't give an answer right away, Chris felt his smile leave his face. He looked at her seriously, then asked, "Kim? That's okay with you, right?"

"I…" Kim said, her voice impossibly small and soft that Chris had to strain his ears to hear the single word.

He was nervous now. "Kim?"

Kim looked at him and scrunched her eyebrows together. With a pout of her lips, she extended her finger and motioned for him to come closer. So he did.

"Kim?" he asked again.

Kim leaned in to him, and whispered, "Got you." Then, she hit his head with another pillow and scooted to the far side of the bed, laughing.

As Chris watched the dark-haired beauty laughing at him, he felt his whole body relax. He felt…happy. Everything just felt right. With Kim, he felt like a person again, not just some killing machine. He felt human.

Kim was still laughing at him when he pounced on her and tickled her sides. This resulted in her laughs becoming louder, and Chris smiled, "You should laugh more."

Then, he kissed her forehead tenderly. Together, in each other's arms, they watched the sun rise over the city of Saigon. In that moment, the world was still and quiet, so they pretended that they were just two normal people in a normal world where there was no war.