A Christmas Gift From Santa
Lina was always in her skimpy jean, short top, and black jacket. Her five foot seven was flawless for her outfit. Her finger nails were polished with purple color. Moreover, her big grey heavy skull ring was never off her left middle finger. She liked wearing red lipstick, and purple black eyeshadow. Beside that, Lina could never stop smoking cigarette, except when she’s off to bed. She had short, black hair which fit with her diamond face shape. Lina barely smiled, that made her become a hard person to deal with. Especially, Lina hated Christmas. When Lina thought of Christmas, she thought of loneliness. Every year when the season was coming, Lina did nothing but kept sighing.
I met Lina on my first year of college in Vietnam. She was quite outstanding compared to other girls in the college. She was an eye catcher. People always talked about her when they saw her passing by. Lina ignored them even they glanced at her contemptuously. She walked slowly, smoked her cigarette, breathed the smoke to the air, her face looked to the sky. People thought that she was a weirdo, but I didn’t. She was one of my classmate in art class. Her painting was always perfect, but she never showed that she was happy with her work. Whether it was a complement or a scorn, she just smiled then walked to her seat. I didn’t have any friend in the college, so did she.
There was a time we bumped against each other on the corridor when I was in a hurry because I was late for class. It was my fault for running too fast. No matter how hard I tried to apologized, Lina just ignored it and only said, “don’t worry about it”. She didn’t grimace nor did she make a pleasant face. She walked away, left me a feeling of guilty. After that I tried to talk to her whenever I saw her. I wanted to be her friend. I had a feeling that we had something in common, but Lina never gave me a chance to talk to her. I wished one day we would become best friend.
I remembered exactly the first time we actually had a talk; and that was on December 20th in 1992. I just got out of the mall from shopping for Christmas. It was at 9:00pm. The street was so dark, and it was so empty since the houses around the street had already closed for the day. People usually went to sleep around that time, or they just stayed inside watching T.V. Five blocks away from the bus stop, I tried to walk as fast as I could because the street looked scary. I heard rumor saying that there were some girls got raped around this time in the city. I never believed in those things. My life had never been any better, whether it happened or not, I didn’t really care at all. I only believed when I saw with my own eyes. I heard the footstep moving toward behind me. I got a little nervous but I was too scared to look back. Again, I tried to walked as fast as I could to wherever the light was. I didn’t make a sigh to run because they would chase me after all. I could only run when there were a crowd, I thought. Suddenly, I saw a shadow was waiting ahead of me. It looked like that those bully people already had plan for their prey. I couldn’t help but keep praying that some kind of miracle would come to rescue me. As I was walking, I could imagine what would happen to me after. It was cold, but I was sweating. I saw a little fire burned up; it was the light of a smoking cigarette. Hopelessly, I stopped for thirty second to breath. The street was so long that day. Normally, it took me only ten minutes to walk from the bus stop to the mall, but that day, it took me forever to find the place. I didn’t want them to catch up with me, so I continued to walk again. As I got closer, I saw the shape was similar to someone I knew. It was Lina standing right in the corner. I was wondering why she was there. Perhaps, she was with those bully boys. It made sense as the way she dressed just like some of them. She was still smoking her cigarette, looking to the sky, and thinking. She lowered her head to look at me as I got close to her.
“Hey Nana, what’s up?” she said.
I couldn’t do anything but tried to act normally, “I’m great! What about you? What are you doing here?”
“I’m fine. But I think I should be the one to ask what are you doing here.” she said, smoking her cigarette.
“I just got out of the mall from shopping.” I smiled crookedly.
“Oh, I see.”
It was one minute silence from both of us. I was shivering because of the cold, and also those boys behind me who I never had a chance to look back. I tried to keep myself calm so I didn’t look stupid.
“Nana, I think you should go to the bus stop, five minutes left the bus will come.” she said suddenly.
I didn’t understand why she told me that. My eyes were wider; I felt like there was a little hope to get away from this situation. I smiled, but wondered.
“What about you? Aren’t you going to?” I asked her curiously.
“I have to do something, I’ll catch the next bus. You should go home, or you’ll get trouble.” she warned.
I was scared when she said that. I passed by her to the bus stop. “Thank you, Lina.” I said. Even though I didn’t know what was going on, I believed in Lina. She would make it through. Especially, she had helped me to get out of the trouble.
It was safe at the bus stop, but I was worried for Lina. What would happen to Lina, I wouldn’t know. At that moment, I decided to go back to see what was going on, maybe I could help her when she needed.
“What the hell are you doing here Ms. Lina?” one of the boy said.
“Nothing.” she answered, got out another cigarette and fired it.
“Hey, you bitch don’t talk to us like that.” the other boy screamed.
“What the fuck? What did you just call me? Said it again please!” Lina yelled. She kicked a rock to the boy’s head just right after that.
Then those other boys just ran up and fought with her. It was amazing. Lina was incredible. If I didn’t come back, I wouldn’t have seen this scene, and I wouldn’t believe that Lina could fight. She looked like one of the hero in an gangster movie. Two minutes, she defeated them.
“Don’t let me see you again, stupid!” she yelled again.
“Just wait, we will come back!”
“Sure, come again. I look forward to it.” she smiled.
Another boy came up, talked politely to her, “we haven’t done anything to you, why did you hit us?”
“I didn’t want to but one of your guy was just bullshitting with me. Moreover, that girl is my friend, I heard what you saying to each other to do with the girl.” Lina explained. “If you want to rob someone, find some big rich guy, not a weak school girl like her you dumb ass!”
I couldn’t believe what I just heard. Lina already considered me as her friend even though she never showed it to me. She had rescued me from those robbers. I was so happy.
“It’s none of business!” another boy said.
“It’s my business when you try to rob my friend, especially she’s a good friend of mine.” she said, blowed the smoky air to the polite boy.
“I know who you are Lina, we are sorry about what has happened.” the polite boy apologized with his head looked down.
“I’m sorry for making you guys injured too. So, have a great night guys. Bye.” she walked away, smiling.
Lina was surprised as I was still here. She looked at me making a wry face.
“Why haven’t you gone home yet?” she asked.
“I was going to, but then I was worried, so I came back.” I told her, shyly.
“I have nothing to worry about. But thanks for worrying for me.”
“I should be the one to thank you.”
“It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it. I know those guys. Everything is fine now.” she explained.
“Thanks a lot, Lina. If there weren’t you, I don’t know what would happen to me.”
“I told you, it’s nothing. Why are you keep saying that to me. So annoying.” she yelled, laughing.
It was the first time I saw Lina laughing. She was so cute.
“Even it’s annoying, I couldn’t help but keep thanking you for helping me. No one has ever helped me like you did. I appreciate that.” I spoke faithfully.
She stopped laughing, “Okay, I’ll take that. You’re very welcome.” she smiled, a beautiful smile ever since I met her. “Now let’s go home or you want your parents to worry about you?”
“I don’t have parents.”
Lina was surprised. She stopped smoking her cigarette. We walked slowly and silently to the bus stop.
“Me too,” she whispered.
At that moment, I felt like we actually had something in common. I could feel what she felt. I could understand what she did. We were both orphanages. She lived with her aunt, and I lived with my uncle. However, it seemed that I was more lucky than she. Her aunt was always mean to her. She started to work when she was thirteen to get what she wanted. Her aunt would never give her anything except food for lunch and dinner. She never had breakfast. Lina got used to it after all. My uncle was like a second father to me. Although I didn’t have parents, my uncle took care of my like I was his own daughter. He never got married nor did he had a girlfriend. I wanted my uncle to have a girlfriend, but he always told me that when love came it would come. He didn’t want to look for it.
“Lina, you know what, you should come celebrate the Christmas Eve with us.” I said.
“No, thanks. I don’t want Christmas.” she denied my invitation.
“Just simply I don’t want to. I don’t feel like it.”
“Lina, I think I know something about you. If there isn’t anything bad, you won’t speak like that.”
“You’re right. But it’s hard to say you know.”
“If you don’t tell me it means you haven’t trusted me as a friend of you.”
“I trust no one, not even myself, Nana.” she spoke sadly. I could feel that the tear was coming out of her eyes, but she was trying to keep it inside.
“I know you’re a good person Lina, it’s just you don’t show it to other. I saw you one time helping a girl outside of school from other boys too. And there was one time you helped an old lady when she got to an accident. And I saw a lot of good thing you had had done.”
“What the heck! You were stalking me.” she asked, her eyes opened wide.
“No, no, I didn’t stalk you. They were just coincidences.” I explained.
“Oh really?” she smiled, mockingly.
“Yes, that’s why I tried to talk to you, but you just ignored me. That was sad.” I made a sad face, but it looked funny.
“Because I don’t want to be like those girl in school, just looking at the other people and gossiping.”
“I’m not like that. Can you see that I don’t even have any friend in school.”
“I don’t know. I never notice it.”
“Damn you, Lina!”
“Hey Nana, I’ll tell you a secret, but you have to promise me you won’t tell it to anyone.”
As I heard what Lina just said, I felt like I was the first person she could trust, and of course I wouldn’t turn her down. “Your secret save with me.” I told her, made a finger promise.
“Before I got into college, I was actually a gangster.”
“You don’t have to tell me that, I could’ve guessed already.”
“How did you know?”
“Well, I saw you fighting with those boys, and moreover, they knew your name.”
“Damn you girl! You were really stalking me!” she punched me softly. And we both laughed.
That night we spoke a lot about each other. She told me her story. I told her my story. We started to get along so well. Lina told me she didn’t want to be any of gossiper, but we actually talked a lot on the phone. It felt like we had never had anyone to talk for so long. We talked about the world. We talked about the future. We talked about our school girls and school boys. We were inseparable. We were always together, everywhere.
To Lina, Christmas was always bad timing for her; but to me, it was the best Christmas season that I had ever had. Lina, a best friend that Santa had given to me. I promised myself that I would cure the scar that Lina had through the year. I would make her life joyful when Christmas came. And I did. We were like a family after all.