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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Family Reunion (06/05/08)

TITLE: Six Years, Ten Months, Twenty-Eight Days
By Cindy Posey


She checked her watch again. 4:16. He was scheduled to arrive in fourteen minutes. Ni Tao believed that somehow the next quarter of an hour would go by more slowly than the past seven years had. As she waited in the airport, she checked on her children. Her oldest son, Lay Wah sat quietly studying his English flashcards. The twelve-year-old had certainly matured since his arrival in America. What had been a boy trembling behind his mother’s legs now sat beside her, confident and strong. Next to Lay Wah sat Lay Key, engrossed in a book. It warmed Ni Tao’s heart to see her only daughter reading in English. It seemed just yesterday that she had come home from school in tears, worried that she would never be able to understand the teacher or make new friends. Now the ten-year-old was among the first to greet Karen families who moved in and was an eager interpreter for Ken, the American who taught English, gave driving lessons, and even learned to eat with his hands like the Karen. Lay Key’s friendly brown eyes set newcomers at ease immediately. Sleeping quietly next to Ni Tao was Lay Bi. Ni Tao recalled terror she’d felt when the kind doctor told her she was going to have another son. She’d only been in America a short time; she didn’t even have a job yet. As Ni Tao stroked Lay Bi’s head, memories of the day he was born snapped into focus. Born two months prematurely, Lay Bi came when Ni Tao least expected it. That was the day she met Ken.

She had been waiting for the bus with her friend We Blu when Ken drove by and waved. We Blu motioned for Ken to stop, so the American quickly pulled a U-turn, parked his car, and ambled up to the bus stop. After a warm greeting to We Blu, Ken turned his attention to We Blu. With a warm smile, he pointed to himself and said, “Ken!” We Blu tried to explain who the man was, but at that moment Ni Tao began to scream. Quickly the stout American and We Blu helped Ni Tao into Ken’s car, and they sped to the hospital. Lay Bi came into the world just three hours later. Now Ni Tao’s children called Ken grandpa. He’d wanted to be here today, but his own daughter was having her first child.

Now Ni Tao’s watch read 4:18. Only twelve more minutes before Lay Shon would arrive. Ni Tao’s heart raced, wishing her watch would do the same; but the seconds remained steady. Tick….tick….tick. Her children still occupied, Ni Tao allowed her mind to think back to the last time she had seen her husband: six years, ten months, twenty-eight days ago in the Bangkok airport. He had promised that we would come, but month after month, year after year, the government had denied his passage. As she thought of Lay Shon, Ni Tao subconsciously spun the plain gold band on her left ring finger.

Ni Tao sat lost in the memories she’d made the past seven years as a single mother in America. She thought back to her first day of “More School,” a school for adults that brought together ethnicities from around the world. She remembered agonizing again over homework, and feeling the pride swell in her heart when she received her certificate of completion. She recalled smiling for a week after passing her driver’s test the first time. But she also remembered crying herself to sleep because she missed Lay Shon so much. Her heart ached as the memory flooded in of Lay Bi pointing to a picture of Lay Shon and wondering who that stranger was. He’ll know soon, she thought.
Her watch now read 4:30. Ni Tao felt her heart reach a new gear as she saw an older version of the man she’d left in Thailand walk into the terminal. Lay Wah and Lay Key ran ahead of her, shouting to their father, whose smiled spread across his entire face. He hugged them both and kissed the tops of their heads. His eyes met Ni Tao’s as she and Lay Bi walked toward him.

“Lay Bi,” Ni Tao said in her native Karen, “There’s someone who wants to meet you.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Sara Harricharan 06/12/08
Oooh! I love the title and how it fits in, especially the touches of culture in the names and the story as I read. I loved it, nicely done! ^_^
Karen Wilber06/14/08
Title caught my eye and I just couldn't stop reading until I they were reunited. I like how you alternated between memories and the building anticipation.
Allan Morelos06/17/08
You've captured the feelings of families separated for many years due to immigration issues. It's obvious you're familiar with the Karen people and their struggle for freedom and their dream to live normal lives. Good writing!