Kickoff written by fefedove


When you are forced to say goodbye

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I do my homework as I treasure my seat on the full bus, on my way to the hospital, like I've been doing for the past three days. Papa has been sick for a long time, but he always refused to go to the doctor, because he didn't want to “waste” money. And it's true that it's expensive. Almost too expensive.

Suddenly, the bus jolts to a stop. A scraggly line appears across my homework. I sigh. At least it's in pencil. I stuff the paper into my bag and join the mob of people trying to get off the bus.

Everything in the hospital already seems so familiar. I even recognize some of the nurses and patients. I reach 32 B and gently open the door. Papa is sitting up in his bed, staring at the wall. He sees me though. Before I can open my mouth, he smiles and says, “Qi-qi, you've come.”

Qi-qi. No one else calls me by my pet name. But then again, no one else is in my family. I push that thought away and put on a smile.
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“Papa, how are you today?” It is a stupid question, but he doesn't seem to mind. We talk a little, then he grows serious.

“I have something very important to tell you, before I go.”

“Papa! Don't say stuff like that!”

“Well, it'll happen sooner or later.” I make a face. “It's a long story, but I'll simplify it. So, let's start with your grandpa. Long ago, he had a very close friend and they decided to set up an arranged marriage with their children. That way, they can become an actual family. But then I was born and they're child was born also. We were both boys.”

He pauses and I let out a small laugh. That must have been an awkward surprise. Papa continues. “Of course we couldn't marry, but our families met often and we became close friends, just like our fathers. So we all decided that our children will be the ones to fulfill the marriage. My child, that would be you.”

With the story finished, he looks at me, waiting for me to reply. I try to process what I just heard. There are still
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arranged marriages? In the 21st century? And I'm in one? “Uh, Papa, I. . .”

“Don't object now. You have never met their child. Who knows if it is also a girl?” I try to smile. He reaches over to the desk next to his bed and pulls out a slip of paper. “This has the name of my friend and also his address. Well, unless he moved in the past ten years. In that case . . . Anyways, keep this in a safe place. You never know when you'll need it.”

I look at the paper. “Papa, but what am I supposed to do with this?”

“You can visit them. They are nice people.”

I give it one last try. “But. . .but how do you know they didn't move or anything?” 

Papa laughs and pats my hand. “They invited me to a party a couple of years ago when they first moved in.”

“Oh. Did you go?”

“Of course not. I don't do well in those parties.” It's true. He would be the one sitting awkwardly in the corner, waiting to go home.

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the paper into my bag, I stand up. “Ok. Papa, I have to leave now.”

“Oh yes. Hurry home and do your homework. Don't forget to make a nice dinner too!”

“Bye Papa.” With that, I leave for the bus station to go home. 

The next day, a Friday, I wake up and get ready for school. I may be familiar with the hospital already, but I'm still not used to biking to school by myself. Usually Papa rides and I sit in the back, but he's not here. 

My school isn't far from where I live, but the environment is so different. Somehow, I was accepted into one of the best high schools in the nation. Although Papa was proud of me, it doesn't change the fact that I am in a class full of rich snobs who love making others miserable.

Halfway through the day, the classroom phone rings. Ms. Li picks it up. When she hangs up, she calls, “Deng Ziqi."

I stand up. “Yes?”

“Your father has just passed away."

The world starts spinning and I grip the table to keep from falling. No no no. Not Papa. Not true. No no no. Passed away. Not alive. Dead. Gone. Papa. My family. My everything. Gone.
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