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Another Romeo and Juliet
“Quan. Quan. Quan,” I called, his foreign name resounding over and over on my lips. The weird sounds and accents in his name would have tickled my lips with delight under different circumstances. Maybe I was saying it to comfort myself. Maybe I was saying it so I wouldn’t feel so lonely. Maybe I was saying it â€˜cause he was all I could think about right now. Maybe I was saying it â€˜cause he confessed his love for me only a few hours earlier.
We were a regular Romeo and Juliet, although why our love was forbidden was unclear. I was never good and hiding things from my family or lying, so they knew something was up when I came home one day all loopy. I was on cloud nine after I first glimpsed him. “Love at first sight,” they said. I told them I didn’t even know his name and they only believed me because it was the truth. You may think I’m strange, you may think that love at first sight only happens in fairy tales, but I’m here to tell you, it can happen in real life, but only if you believe it to be so.
The next day he was waiting for me. “Quan,” he said, holding out his hand for mine. “Mary,” I said quietly. I gingerly placed my hand in his. He took it and pressed his lips against my wrist; he was very old-fashioned. “Pleased to meet you,” he muttered. “May I walk you to class?” How could I refuse? “Of course.” I could have laughed with delight. (I smiled thinking of the memory.)
Arriving home, my family bombarded me with questions, mostly about who the mystery boy was. I spotted my older sister and gave her my special smile. It was a code between us. It meant that I would tell her and only her and that it was a secret meant to be kept. She smiled her special smile in reply. “CLEAR OUT!” she yelled. Everyone knew not to mess with her and listened. When everyone was gone, she walked over to me. “You can tell me tonight, I don’t have a lot of homework to worry about.” I was so pleased and happy, I almost told her right then and there.
Later that night, we each lay on our beds on opposite sides of the room, looking like mirror images. We were lying on our stomachs and our hands were holding up our heads. Our legs were crossed in the air to feel the cool breeze of the open window and the fan above our heads. We made synchronized movements; part of our little code. It was sort of like a secret handshake. Together, we lowered our arms and rested our heads on our flat arms. “So? Who’s the mystery boy?” she asked calmly; she had learned not to rush me. I sighed. I knew I couldn’t hold this off much longer.
“Quan Hoang,” I whispered, my tongue delighting at saying his name. My sister’s reaction was unexpected. I thought she’d be happy for me.
“HOANG?!” she could have screeched but didn’t for people were sleeping in the house. “Hoang,” she said again, more quietly this time.
“What’s wrong with the Hoang’s?” I asked curiously. I didn’t see anything wrong with any of them. They were a very sporty family and did well in school. Our family, on the other hand, was very musical and we also did well in school but I didn’t see how that small difference would cause my sister or anyone in my family to be upset.
“Let me tell you a story, Mary. This story started before we were born. It has to do with our parents and Quan’s parents. They are rivals but no one knows why,” she said, trailing off at the end. She sounded like she was going to cry. “I am the oldest so I had no one to tell of my new found love, and you were too young to understand. His name was Thu Hoang. I told MamÃ¡ and PapÃ¡ of him and they freaked out. They were all â€˜He is not good for you!’ and â€˜You can do so much better than him!’. I swear, once I heard them say he was a worthless piece of garbage and so was the rest of his family. When I realized that Thu and I were never meant to be, I told him so. I broke his heart and mine too, but I healed. We were like you and Quan are now. â€˜Love at first sight,’” she said, sighing at the end.
“Oh, Laura,” I said. I walked across the room and wrapped my arms around her. Her breathing was unsteady; she was probably crying at old memories long forgotten; only remembered because of me. Guilt overtook me.
“Don’t feel guilty, MarÃa,” she sighed and used my full name like she always did when she was serious. It was like she was reading my mind. “But, chica, you must not love him. He is not good for you. You know MamÃ¡ and PapÃ¡ would tell you the same. And don’t forget that they only want what’s best for you.” She looked in my eyes pleading me to give him up.
“Okay,” I said, believing it was the truth so that she would believe me.
“Good,” she smiled. “Now get some sleep, dear sister.” (Again, another memory I would have treasured if not for Laura’s outburst.)
I didn’t listen to Laura the next day, but she must have seen me with him because when I got home, MamÃ¡ and PapÃ¡ were waiting for me. My father started talking angrily in Spanish, which I wasn’t exactly fluent in, although I did catch some of what he was saying. Luckily my mother translated for me.
“NiÃ±a, is this true?” my mother said. She was close to tears. “Is it true that you have fallen in love with one of the Hoang’s?” Anger filled me. How could Laura have betrayed me? I clenched my fists but instantly relaxed when I felt someone’s hands on my shoulders.
“Do not be upset with me, hermana,” I heard Laura beg. “I only told MamÃ¡ and PapÃ¡ because I saw you with Quan after you told me that you would not concern yourself with him anymore.” PapÃ¡ had another outburst. It sounded something along the lines of “His name is Quan?! I’m gonna kill him!”. MamÃ¡ had to calm him down but she was talking so fast I couldn’t understand her.
“Please, hija,” my mother begged, “do not associate yourself with him anymore. He is bad.”
“Yes, MamÃ¡,” I said, but only out of respect.
The next few days, my bad, months, were living hell. Every time Laura caught me with Quan, she told my parents. But she never knew what PapÃ¡ did to me, and neither did MamÃ¡. They were oblivious to my increasing bruises and cuts, as were everyone else in my family. The only one that seemed to notice was Quan. The only thing I found humorous about the whole situation was that we got beat at the same times and our wounds were almost the same.
My last beating was sometime in the winter; being with Quan made me oblivious to time. I remember last beating because it was today. my mother had walked in the room and said that she was tired of this, just kick me out of the house. So my dad did. That’s partially why I’m lying in the snow right now. The other reason was because about an hour after I was kicked out of the house, I got the worst phone call any person could ever get. Quan’s little sister called me. I could hear her crying on the other end. Her name was Anh. We were close friends for our age difference.
“What’s wrong, Anh?” I asked anxiously. I heard her try to collect enough breath to answer me. when she was ready to talk, her words made me want to die.
“You know how Quan was getting beat for being with you? Today, dad did too much and, and, and…” she gasped.
“And? Anh, what happened?” I was close to tears now, not wanting to believe my assumptions.
“Mary, he’s dead.” She was on full scale crying now; Quan was her favorite brother.
“No,” I whispered. No, it can’t be. No, no, no! I fell to my knees and my cell phone dropped from my hands. I thought there was no reason to go on if I couldn’t have Quan as my boyfriend. Now I had found a real reason to go on: Quan was dead. I fell in the snow and laid there.
I am still lying here, hours later. It’s dark out now. I can hear Quan’s deep voice. I can see him hovering over my. I sit up and cup the side of his face with my hand. He cradles my hand with his.
“You’re so cold, Quan,” I sobbed. “What have you been doing to yourself?” He smiled at me.
“I know a place where we can be warm together,” he said. His figure was drifting away from me now. “Follow me.”
“Wait, Quan!” I called, stumbling to my feet. “Wait for me!” Tears slid down my face at the thought of being left behind. He started flying up to the sky. And somehow I followed him. He suddenly turned around and caught me.
“Dance with me,” he mumbled in my ear. I was about to protest but I was already dancing. And we waltzed together up to Heaven and lived happily ever after.