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Daddy's Little Tian-Shi This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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“Santa Claus isn’t real!!!” I shrieked as I watched Lizzie’s face dissolve. Her huge green eyes welled with tears as her bottom lip quivered with fright. Easing my ferocious glare, I watched as she dropped her red, fluffy stocking to the floor. The twinkling rainbow holiday lights that twisted around the Christmas tree cast colorful streaks across Lizzie’s glittery, white, reindeer sweater. Her back trembled as she gasped for air as the sobs overwhelmed her. Her blond pigtails swerved around and around her ear like a top as she spun around toward the stairs. I gulped, feeling my heart sink with guilt. I closed my eyes as I heard Lizzie’s thundering bounds down the stairs. I grinded my molars together as I dug my nails into my clammy palms, my fingers curling into fists. I was a destructive monster.

Glancing toward the bedroom mirror, I stared into my own brown eyes. “Mirror mirror on the wall, what have I become?” Who was I? Looking down on my dresser, I stared at the picture of myself before I’d come here, to America, back when I was still in China. The word sounded so exotic as my lips enveloped themselves on this word once so familiar. The photo was displayed in a shiny, bamboo frame. Taking a finger, I gently brushed the invading dust off of its glass surface. My skin was so dark now, compared to what it was before. Tanned from the hours in the sun, I could barely remember the days in the past in China where pale, milky white skin meant beauty. In the photograph, my hair was twirled into a sophisticated braided bun. My red fingernails were brushing my chin in a school-picture pose. My jade earrings dangled carelessly from my ears, perfectly accented by my bright, silky red Chinese traditional qi-pao dress, worn especially for the occasion. My black glasses had given me the trademark, Asian intelligence look. Staring into my distant eyes, I saw a spark of life, happiness, and kindness that I no longer saw in myself. At the bottom of the photograph, my father had branded it with his ancient calligraphy. My breath caught in my throat when I stared at the familiar words. Tian-shi. I whispered the words, letting them linger in the silence. Angel. I had always been Daddy’s little angel. My stomach quenched from memories of what had been. What was I now?

Falling back onto the cushy blanket of my flowery bedspread, my heart quenched from the memories and nostalgia of my daily routine of buying a delicious breakfast of bao-zi and man-tao for a dollar, kissing my grandma goodbye while she practiced tai-chi, then setting off for my two hour hike to school. I thought about the glorious Great Wall of China and the prominent Tianmen Square. The life I had left behind to go to school in America. The biggest opportunity you could ask for. Some kids would die to be here, away from their parents, to be in an American host family, to be in the richest country in the world, in the land of opportunities. And yet… and yet…

I glanced back at the mirror, staring at the stranger I had become. I wore my usual qi-pao style sweater, but instead of pairing it with some silk pants, I wore it with a pair of old, faded jeans. My earrings were the same pair I’d worn for years, but now I accented it with the rebellious layer of lip gloss. My long, silky waves of black hair fell loosely upon my shoulders, reckless without the guidance of my sophisticated bun. My eyes bored deeply into my reflection. I had tried so hard to adapt to the American ways and culture, but was that really who I was? A smile stretched itself across my lips. No matter how much I tried to pretend or change, I could never truly be an American. I would always be a China girl, now and forever.





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