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Bridge by Parker Cooper
 

Red Packet

by Xin (Cindy) Nie


Blue Moon (Lunar New Year’s Eve)

The pendulum swings one way and then another as her eyes follow the rhythmic pattern. Each swing is closer to twelve. Until, at precisely the hour, her phone screen flashes.

Staring for a moment, she realized who it was from and let out a sigh. As her phone screen faded, the gleaming red reflected into her pupils.

On New Year’s Day, it was customary for adults to prepare red packets, a sum of money folded in tiny red pockets, for the junior members of the family.  

This one was a digital transaction from Mr. Lee, the title which she addressed her dad.

Moments later, her family rose from their resting position in the living room and let out a thunderous “Gong Hei Fat Choy.” In the background, the sound of crackling fireworks shooting up into the sky before fragmenting into colored sparks. And then, “Click,” a New Year’s memory that would be framed on the living room wall.  

Mr. Lee was not in the frame. He had withered from this frame since she was a child. As a plant withers day by day, the leaves lose their luster, the stems begin to droop, and eventually the feeble remains vanish into the dirt. His approach to compensating for his disappearance was the customary parental gesture. In his eyes, it paid for lost time and neglected fatherhood obligations.

To her, it was an act of fraud that fueled her resentment. Was she a charity project? Was she so unremarkable that this was the only day she was worth acknowledging?

She bit her lip and scratched the sides of her fingers; perhaps she was too harsh. Mr. Lee remembered his daughter, so is that not enough?  

Be grateful. That’s what a good daughter does.

She kept all her thoughts buried and managed to type, “Thanks.”

The chat would be vacant for the rest of the year, and this brief exchange would repeat the next New Year’s Day. The vacancy was filled with ignorance and hurt. A decade had passed since she lived with Mr. Lee. Waiting for a conversation to strike up between two strangers was like forcing a spark between two burnt-out tips of wood. They shared nothing more than the last name Lee, the cold truth to her.

Furthermore, she didn’t want to engage in knowing him again. She rehearsed this scenario in her head a million times. What if he came back and apologized? She would stare into his eyes with her fists clenched tightly and tell him it was too late. Then, she would slam the door shut. This time she would turn her back on him before he could. However, the scenario was like an infestation intruding deeper inside her mind because he never returned. She was eighteen in a few months. Then, this new year’s transaction would end.

To her, it was a relief to cut ties, the long-awaited closing chapter.

New Moon (The Following Morning)

The piercing buzzing sound of the front doorbell woke her. Rubbing her eyes, she stepped into her slippers and walked to the front door. She gripped the doorknob and twisted it to the left.

An empty silence and no delivery at the door. She scoffed and pushed the door shut before a hand slammed against it and a voice uttered, “Wait.”

Opening her eyes, she stared at a man with wisps of grey in his hair but a pair of glasses she would never forget. The frames of her eyes became heavy, and she blinked, trying to hold back the flood of tears. All the rehearsals inside her head did not prepare her for this moment.

She knew what she wanted to do but she couldn’t bear to stare him in the eye and slam the door.

She opened her mouth slightly, only making out the words, “Mr...”



Cindy Nie is a 17-year-old aspiring student writer. She writes fiction which is inspired by her cultural background and she hopes to share her stories with a broader audience. She is currently published in Teen Ink and Ice Lolly Review. She is attending Shanghai American School in Shanghai, China.


Parker Cooper is a student at Savannah Arts Academy and is enrolled in Photography as one of his art classes. During his free time, he draws maps of fictional places.

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