There’s still time to pick up a copy of my debut novel published in Dec 2012 for only 99 cents. After April 7, it will settle back in at its regular price after that.
This little story still has a special place in my heart. I grew fond of both main characters, but I didn’t let that fondness change the story as it needed to be written. Some readers didn’t like what had to be done, but, hey, the story writes itself. I’m just there to fill in the words. So if you like fast-moving prose with some unexpected twists, please check it out!
Here’s an exclusive, short excerpt from My Phuong’s perspective:
We drove downtown past the city center and the market, which was boarded up and quiet. We passed the cinema which had a scarce crowd based on the number of vehicles out front. Then we pulled into the courtyard of a large old colonial house. The sign out front read “People’s Council Guest House.” I had spent many nights with many strangers, but for some reason I was nervous. I was used to men coming to me – coming to sing Karaoke and then asking for something more – coming to spend the night in a hotel only to spend the night with me. But this was different. I was no longer on my own turf, and I had no idea what to expect.
We both wore our traditional ao dai, and I must admit we were beautiful. We parked our motorbikes off to the left of the house and entered through the front door. A man dressed in a tux greeted us – it was the first time I ever saw a tux in Vietnam – and pointed us through the main doors into a large hall which was decorated with teak furniture with mother of pearl inlays. Only two men mingled about in the hall. They looked at us when we entered but kept their distance.
“Just be patient,” said Hoa. “They’ll come for us.”
I felt nervous – almost sick in the stomach. I had turned away from this kind of lifestyle only to find myself once again in a high risk situation. We stood there silently, glancing every few seconds to the individuals who whispered in the corner. Finally, one of those men, a tall slender one who walked with his shoulders back and head held high, approached us.
“Miss My Phuong?”
“Right this way.”
I glanced at Hoa, and she nudged me on with a soft push.
“It’s okay,” she said. “Go ahead.”
He led me to the opposite end of the room, and up the staircase to the first room on the left at the top of the landing. I looked down to where Hoa stood, but she had already gone. I felt very much alone.
“Go on in,” the man said and then turned and made his way back downstairs.
I slowly opened the door and walked into the large suite which was tastefully decorated with vibrant red and green colored paintings depicting various scenes of rural Vietnam. The room included a work space with a large wooden desk, a sitting area with a sofa, loveseat, coffee table, and a large bed with high wooden posts. On the opposite side of the suite stood a man in a business suit. He stared out the window and could only be seen from behind. He had black hair with strands of grey on the side. Closing the door behind me, I walked over to the sofa.
The man turned around. It was Mr. Duc.
“Hello, My Phuong,” he said.
My heart raced but my mind was blank.
“Please, sit down,” he said as I sat on one end of the sofa and he came over and sat opposite me on the love seat. “It is very nice that I get to see you again. Maybe you are surprised?”
“The American teacher said you were her best English pupil ever, so your English must be very good.”
“There is no need to be so formal, My Phuong. I thought maybe we could be friends, and perhaps you could teach me some English. Mine is only so-so, but I would like to improve. Would you be able to help me?”
“Yes, of course. It would be my honor to help you learn English.”
“Excellent. Could we start tomorrow evening around the same time?”
“Very good. I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“And I suppose you remember the way out?”
“Yes, of course. Goodbye sir.”
That was it. I strained to imagine what was really going on. Hoa had informed me about many things that went on at these get-togethers, but English was never one of them. He wanted help with English. Then I started wondering why he only wanted help with English. Did he not find me attractive? Did I do something wrong? Would Co Thu be furious with me tomorrow? Would I be in danger because I did not meet expectations? My mind twirled and turned as I left the room, descended the staircase and went out the front door. The tall, thin man had already pulled my motorbike around front and was waiting for me as I exited the building.
“Good evening, My Phuong. We will see you tomorrow.”
How did he already know that? I pondered.