Viet Nam News
by Võ Hồng Thu
At the age of 35, Khánh Hương became a divorcée, although over the past 10 years, she had hoped in vain to bear her husband, a single male in his lineage, a baby boy. As a result, their marriage came to a bitter end for both. During that long period of time, she had been very depressed. Sometimes, she thought of death. Oddly enough, when that heartbreaking matter happened, she felt greatly embarrassed. After that, she had almost never enjoyed a sound sleep. Often, waking up early, she turned icily cold because of loneliness. Despite her bustling jobs during the daytime, they could hardly fill her time at night.
A few days after the court had made a decision on their divorce, she sold off everything in the house left to her thanks to her husband’s good will and generosity. Even the large bed, and the beautiful and comfortable cupboard made of Russian oak and designed according to her own ideas also shared that fate. The reason was very simple: she could not stand their existence in her former so-called cosy nest. In reality, her husband had been a good spouse, except for his seemingly diagnosed infertility.
* * *
One day, she made up her mind to learn how to swim. After checking a lot of pieces of information from the internet, she came to know that swimming was also a very effective method of de-stressing. She usually arrived at the pool at 6 o’clock in the morning when it was not overcrowded.
Looking at herself in the mirror inside the bathhouse, she felt extremely happy when she found her body still fairly shapely with a lily-white complexion, in comparison with so many other women her age.
Whenever she waded in the warm water she got goose pimples, though it was heated all year round. After making a few movements, she did not feel cold any longer. In the water, she tightly seized the float while practising breathing and moving her limbs. Her teacher was a national-level professional swimmer who highly appreciated Khánh Hương’s long legs while she was swimming rhythmically and gracefully as though. For many mornings, she stayed overtime to practise more. As a tour guide, she exercised at the pool of a five-star hotel and dreamt of being a good swimmer.
On the Friday morning of the previous week, it was there she met Morgan.
* * *
He took the initiative to make her acquaintance.
At the moment, there were only two of them in the pool, except for the lifeguard. Now it was nearly 8 a.m. and most of the others had left the place to return home for breakfast before going to work.
Morgan swam beautifully, with swift and smooth strokes. With one clever act he could reach the centre of the pool. He made the first, second then the third rounds skillfully like a professional athlete.
Finding her still clumsy in her movements, he made up his mind to help her. At once he swam close to her.
“Excuse me, Lady. You’re a newcomer here, aren’t you?” he asked her in an American accent.
“Not quite so, mate! This is my fifth day here,” she answered. Actually, she told him a lie, for she had been practising on swimming lessons for 10 days.
“If you don’t feel shy of my suggestions, I’m willing to help you swim much better,” he told her. “You’d better stay away from the float. So long as you still cling to it like that, it’d take you ages without effect. Just stand close to the pool wall, hold your breath for a few seconds then plunge ahead. In less than two days, surely you’ll be able to swim properly,” he told her in a convincing voice.
“But I feel rather frightened.”
“What makes you that worried? Now, you should practise breathing in the water first,” he went on.
Yet she refused to do it immediately as she had been told by Morgan because she was afraid that she might hurt her teacher’s feelings.
Surprisingly, the next day, his phone number had already appeared on her mobile.
* * *
Morgan was a director of a regional branch of a major foreign cosmetics group. His nature was romantic, although his business was rather boring. After a few rendezvous at a coffee house close to his office he had sent a message to her. “Surprisingly, at the age of nearly 40 you begin to practise swimming. In the twinkling of an eye, you’d find life shorter that the length of a pool,” it said. Khánh Hương burst out laughing at his metaphorical remark. In fact, he had a good sense of humour shown during their talk, which seemed to have eased the burden of her unhappy marriage and made her fairly relaxed while swimming. As a result, now she might enjoy a sound sleep throughout the night.
* * *
His amorous words finally came to her when she completed her swimming course. That day, he took a video of her swimming, while he himself did not swim at all. Without asking her for permission, he put it on his Facebook. However, she felt very pleased when she found it beautifully made. In high spirits, she accepted his invitation to eat dinner out with him one evening. In the bright flickering candlelight, she let him hold her hand in silence. On the way home, she just sat silently beside him at the steering wheel. Her heart went pit-a-pat.
Before leaving, he put a big cardboard box wrapped in red paper and attached with a rosy silk bow into her hands.
“My dear, open it only when you reach home,” he told her.
His offering came to her so unexpectedly that she felt greatly excited. Hardly had she entered the lounge when she switched on the light and opened it. To her surprise, in front of her lay a bridal gown made of snow-white tulle and adorned with a lot of tiny ivory-coloured glassbeats. She tried the dress on. Surprisingly, it suited her perfectly. She felt as if she was on cloud nine. “Is this what I’ve been looking forward to after such a long time?” she asked herself. In high spirits, she took a photo of herself in that gorgeous wedding dress then put it on her facebook before emailing it to Morgan. In her heart of hearts, she wanted to declare that she had broken off from her forlorn past.
Immediately, congratulations were showered on her from friends, far and near. She was deeply moved at their affection. It turned out that many were concerned about her fate and wished her happiness. That night, she was too moved to sleep soundly. On the following days she was online and opened many friends’ Facebook pages. One early morning, she received a message from an American, Morgan’s close friend. “You look like Kate,” it said. She could not help being curious, so she went into Morgan’s email and tried to consult the list of his classmates. She found three young women. All of them named Kate. Looking at Kate One’s information, Khánh Hương found that she had died in a plane crash. Going further down, she saw the photo of a young couple smiling happily. To her surprise, the girl was none other than Kate One in the very wedding gown that Morgan had given to her recently. Whereas the youth was her Morgan. She felt deeply embarrassed.
* * *
“Why are you still in two minds because of such a groundless basis? I find no reason why I have to sacrifice my life together with Kate? What’s more, I’m not to blame when I offered you her bridal gown that she had never touched, on the grounds that she had passed away in a plane crash two weeks prior to our pre-arranged marriage. Do you know that thanks to our rendezvous that you revived after so many years living in agony? I love you. I also hope that you may realise that I’d rather cherish my present conditions than cling to my past, haunted with moments of nostalgia. Obviously all of us have a past, joyful or sorrowful, don’t we?” he poured out his heart to her in his lengthy email.
Perusing his note, she felt a bit nervous at first. Then she found his explanations sensible. “As a matter of fact, both of us have a sad past indeed,” Khánh Hương said to herself. She shuddered at the thought of many solitary nights in her bed where she had rested her head on her arm, wept and wept, and of the period in the daytime when she had idled away her precious time for nothing. “What would have happened to me if I had kept on leading a desperate life like that?” she asked herself. “Would I behave so stupidly as to miss this golden chance when it is now available?” she added.
Of course, she was fully aware of the next steps she would take on her road to happiness.
Translated by Văn Minh