Story by Simon Nguyen
Hien was drafted into the military right after high school and he absolutely hated it. He did not like war and despised the very thought of taking arms. To add insult to injury, his unit was assigned to a remote post on a hillside overlooking a small farming village. Hien, who spent 18 years of his life in the hectic beats of the city, found the serenity of the countryside unbearable. He had thought many times of deserting his unit to escape this monotonous enclave, but had yet to find a good opportunity.
A stormy spring gave way to a beautiful early summer. Flowers of all colors and varieties blossomed under the sun's watchful eyes. Hien's unit was patrolling a hilly area when they passed by a majestic lavender field. A young lady was harvesting the flowers. Although Hien only caught a glimpse of her from behind, he was intrigued by her slender beauty.
How I wish I could see her face?
His unit passed by the field again the next day. The young lady from yesterday was there, filling her basket with flowers picked from the glorious field. As he was watching her intensely, the girl suddenly turned around and her eyes met his. The eye encounter lasted only a few seconds, as she quickly resumed her work, but left an undeletable impression on the young soldier. He was completely smitten by her youthful but enigmatic eyes. He had never met anyone whose eyes were as beautiful.
From that moment on, Hien could not stop thinking about her. Every time his unit patrolled the area, his eyes would wander the lavender field hoping for another glimpse of her. They would encounter again several times and occasionally exchange glances. On one occasion, the young lady gave him a bright smile. His heart was filled with ecstasy.
How could I ever forget her beautiful smile?
A civil war had started and Hien's unit was to be deployed to the battle's front lines. While his comrades were busy packing up their belongings, the only thing on his mind was her. He wanted to see her one last time. He wanted to confess to her his feelings.
Hien went to the lavender field but she was not there. The young soldier could have gone to the village to seek her whereabouts, but he hesitated. What if she does not love him? Even if she accepts his love, it would be too cruel to make her wait for his return.
Hien's unit moved out of their post that afternoon. The sun was setting and the clouds were gathering. The lavender fields and their audacious colors dominated the environment, creating a giant glow that reached the broadened sky.
"It's a purple sky!" exclaimed one of the soldiers on the departing bus.
The purple sky brought a smile to Hien's face. Only her smile could match this majestic sight, he thought to himself.
Although I dislike war,
I want to do my best to protect the serenity of this place
and that beautiful smile as well.
The civil war devastated the country and turned the once peaceful land into rubble. Hien's left leg was injured in the fighting, but he survived the war. After he was discharged from the military, he took a trip back to the village of the lavender. The first thing he did when he got there was to visit the lavender field. What he saw was heart-wrenching. A bomb had wiped out the lavender field rendering it cratered land. In the middle of the empty land stood a small memorial, inscribed with the following words:
In memory of a young lady who died on this field.
Upon reading the inscribed, Hien was devastated; tears were streaming out from his eyes. Could his love be the one who laid rest here? His knees became weak and feebly dropped to the ground.
I could not protect the people and the things I swore to protect.
My love, please forgive me.
Ten years had passed from Hien's last visit to the village. He had since become an internationally recognized painter, whose paintings of lavender fields helped him win his country's top prize for the arts. For all his successes, Hien still had not gotten over the pain he felt that day. The cratered field and her enigmatic eyes continued to haunt him in his dreams. He decided to make one final trip to the village to seek a resolution.
It was late afternoon when the bus reached the perimeter of the village. A young passenger suddenly screamed with delight, "The sky is purple!" Hien opened the window and looked outside. The sky was indeed purple, just like the one he saw when his unit left the village. The lavender fields that were destroyed in the war were now roaring back to life with their audacious colors.
Hien got off the bus and sprinted to the lavender fields. As he approached the field, he saw a woman harvesting the lavender flowers. She turned to him and greeted him with a smile. He smiled back to her, and together they observed the scenery under the purple sky.