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character development short story

By , nyack, NY

The Lily Pad
  The blood orange sun dipped into the waves as it disappeared behind the pacific coast of California. Andy was fiddling his thumbs as he sat waiting for his mom to greet him at the front door. He had had a long and invigorating day at school and his stomach was calling for his mom’s famous chicken noodle soup. It was nearly 6:15 pm, and his mother was usually already home turning on the stove burner by now. The sky was turning an eerie tint of purple and the clock read 6:42pm. He picked up the landline that his mother had left unhooked on the kitchen counter that morning, and dialed the same number he’d dialed a million times. For some strange reason, his mom wasn’t picking up the phone. Andy thought back to this morning contemplating if he’d forgotten if his mom was coming home late. Police sirens sounded in the distance interrupting his train of thought. “Mom is coming home real soon” Andy assured himself. The landline rang on the counter and relieved, Andy hurried to answer the phone expecting his mother’s sweet voice. The voice was not that of his mother, but was a man Andy had never spoken to. Andy listened to the police officer, “There has been a car accident. We found a woman with Black straight hair, Asian descent…”. The words became muddled. Blurred and jumbled until he heard nothing at all. Andy knew his mother wasn’t coming home. He knew his life would forever be changed from that moment on. He had only ever lived with his mother, and his mother alone. 
The following weeks were a blur. Nothing felt real. He replayed the man’s repugnant words as he realized his mother was truly gone. His reality became dark and direful as he felt he had no place in the world with his mother's absence. When his mother had died, he had been taken to Vietnam where his Uncle Thuan lived. Andy did not know his uncle, nor did he know the new land he now called “home.” School started tomorrow and Andy was petrified of the day to come. He could only imagine the worse scenarios. He knew he wouldn’t make many friends if any at all, for he couldn’t speak Vietnamese. Andy went to bed that night for the first time not thinking about his mother. Instead, he dwelled upon his first day of school, the people he would see, and the interactions he’d make.
“Beep-beep!” Andy’s eyes shot wide open. Andy threw on his favorite blue jeans, and red coca-cola shirt and headed downstairs for breakfast. Thuan sat squinting at the news while he sipped a large cup of green tea. He had a kind round face, softened by his gray hair that had once covered his whole head. Andy wasn’t intimidated by him, but was not completely comfortable around him either. “What’s for breakfast today young man?” asked Thuan with an upbeat voice.
“Anything you’ll make me” replied Andy. Andy studied the still unfamiliar landscape of Vietnam through the window of the kitchen as he waited for his breakfast. He  jumped back when he looked down at a plate of whole grilled fish. It smelled odious and the fish eyes stared right back at him. He thought back to the corn flakes and bright red strawberries he’d eaten with his mother back in California before school. Andy picked up his fork and ate one bite before he disposed of the fish, after Thuan left the room. He picked up his school bag and got on the bus destined for his first day of 9th grade.
The kids on the bus examined him as he scanned the aisles for an empty seat. He found a seat next to a boy who looked his age. “xin chào tên b?n là gì?” asked the boy next to him. Andy had studied basic Vietnamese phrases and knew he was asking for his name. “Andy,” he proclaimed feeling the relief of a friendly face. “nh?ng gì m?t tên ng??i M? x?u xí” said the boy with a smirk on his face. Andy didn’t understand what the boy had said, it was far too complicated for his understanding. The boy behind them spoke some English and translated the distasteful words. “What an ugly American name” shouted the boy, causing an outburst of laughter among the kids surrounding Andy. He felt ashamed and more than anything wanted to be back with his friends in California, where the name Andy was common and not ridiculed. The day went on as expected; Andy was tossed around and stared at. When the day was over, he decided to explore the streets of his new village, rather than go straight home to Uncle Thuan. He did not want to be asked how his first day of school was. He didn’t even want to think about the days to come.
Andy walked down the street as the sun set into a deep magenta hue. It reminded him of the California coast and soon enough, he was back in his small apartment that he missed so much. He thought about his mother and all of his friends back home. He couldn’t believe what had happened to his life. Tears welled up in his eyes and he searched for somewhere to settle. On the street corner, there was an old man with a long beard who looked very wise and old. The man was painting a beautiful watercolor lilypad and Andy found it to be absolutely breathtaking. It was the first thing he’d seen in weeks that gave him joy. He asked the man if he could learn to create such beautiful art and the man replied in Vietnamese. They had no way of communication but it didn’t stop Andy’s growing curiosity for this foreign art. He bought supplies the following day after school and set up his supplies by the river near his house. For the next couple of weeks he’d watch the man he had met on the street corner, create a new masterpiece of watercolor everyday. Watercolor became Andy’s outlet when the kids at school would make fun of him, and ignore the things he had to offer. After about 2 months, Andy had gained enough knowledge to make a substantial work of watercolor. He began by painting the rigid motions of water until he could make it almost flow off the page. He perfected the long elegant paint strokes he had observed so many times by the man on the corner. He could make anything he wanted come to life with a brush, paints, paper, and a mindset. His canvas could harness a landscapes sight, a flowers smell, or even a human touch. He would paint the world he wished to live in to escape his alienating surroundings.
As Andy became even lonelier as the school year went by, he decided to bring his passion to the school yard. Since school was so unbearable, he thought it necessary to paint in order to get through the school day. More and more days went by as more and more people gathered to watch Andy create magnificent works of vietnamese watercolor. Watercolor had not become just a hobby, but had developed into a skill of Andy’s. He could paint elaborate landscapes, and portraits of the people in Vietnam. His classmates became inspired by Andy’s work and even befriended him. He was well known for his role as an artist, for his talent uplifted his peers bringing them joy and respect towards him. He had in a way embraced the culture of Vietnam and felt he had found a comfortable place in society.
From then on Andy realized that the change in his life, yet harsh, helped him blossom into his best self. Vietnam had introduced him to his passion of watercolor and he could not be more grateful. The passing of his mother had brought him to find himself. And out of all the masterpieces he made, he dedicated his favorite to his mother; the lilypad.




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