As I looked out of the airplane window, I sighed and choked back mixed emotions of anger, sadness, anxiety, and hope. For the last time, I looked out and saw the brightly -lit skyline of Hong Kong, marred by modern skyscrapers. The red taxi cabs scurried along the roads outside, and the busy atmosphere of the congested city reached me even through the airplane window. I leaned back against my seat and thought about all that had happened in the last 5 hours. To me, those hours had changed my life forever. On the very day that I was leaving, I had learned that I would always have a home to come to in Hong Kong.
It was the last day of school, and I had a plane to catch. In just 5 hours it would whisk me away to the United States. As the final bell rang, I gathered my books slowly and said goodbye to my classmates. A blast of hot humid air hit me as I left my science class, and a brow of sweat immediately formed along my hairline. Usually, the thought of summer vacation excited me, but today I almost dreaded it. Turning the corner of the hallway, I was met by Connie, a good friend of mine. Standing nearly a head taller than me, I had to crane my neck to see her face as we walked together headed in the general direction of the cafeteria where we would meet some of my other friends who were hosting a farewell party for me. "Summer, Connie, " I heard a voice behind me call. I turned around and was greeted with a huge bear hug from my best friend Diana. I needed it. The fact that I had only a few hours left to enjoy the company of my friends in Hong Kong was deeply depressing. It was as if I only had a few hours to live and I had to cram in all the things I wanted to do before I died. The three of us continued to walk, laughing at another one of Diana's crazy stories. I appeared to have forgotten my worries, but they lingered in my subconscious.
At the bottom of the staircase, we turned left and entered the cafeteria. It was quickly being vacated by other students anxious for the start of summer vacation. As we approached our usual table, I realized something was wrong nobody was there. Had they forgotten? As we neared the table, I saw that there was a single carnation with a note attached to it. It read, 'To see the rest of the flowers, you must follow the trail to Chris' house on Redhill Peninsula. Just follow the trail. Love, Kai Chin."
"Oh no, the flowers have been taken hostage," cried out Diana while Connie giggled.
"Come on you guys, what's going on?"
"We don't know. I guess you had better follow the trail," cracked Connie. I sighed and rolled my eyes. I picked up my bag, tied my extra shirt around my waist, and followed Diana and Connie out the doors. As we passed through the gates of my school, I stopped and turned around, thinking of all the fond memories that this place had given me. "Summer, are you coming to rescue your flowers or not," Connie yelled. I nodded and turned back to face my friends, brushing away the tears that threatened to spill. We walked down the driveway of my "old" school arm-in-arm and ready to face any obstacle.
About every block, we would find another carnation petal, and by the time we reached our destination, I had a whole flower's worth of petals. I rang the door bell and no one answered, so I rang again. I heard someone running down the steps, and the door finally opened. "Hey, we've been expecting you," said Chris with a crafty grin on his face. His sidekick was another friend of mine, Kevin. "Come in," he said as he opened the door wider. We took off our shoes and dropped our bags. His house was decorated very ornately, and it made me hesitate to touch the polished oak banister for fear that I might dirty it. As we reached the landing between the second and third floors, I picked up another carnation petal.
"We must be nearing the scene of the crime," cracked Diana who was holding the other petals. We walked down a long hall which led to the den. The walls were covered with framed photographs of Chris' family. The last picture I saw before we reached the den was a picture of all of us--all of my friends--at our annual trip to the local water park. I knew that Chris wasn't very close to his parents, it it touched me that he considered us his family.
Diana snapped her fingers in front of my face, waking me from my trance-like state. I walked into the den and was met by a bunch of balloons and confetti. All of my friends were there, and on the table was a vase of the remaining carnations--one for each of my friends there. Banners were hung around the room, and one table was covered with an assortment of food and drinks. They had done all this for me. Tears brimmed in my eyes. However, I was determined not to spoil the fun and choked them back. I smiled and thanked everyone, then posed for a mini-flash session.
The 2-1/2 hours I spent there went by too quickly. We watched the movie "Clueless" and stuffed ourselves with food and candy. We used up three rolls of film taking pictures, and played "Twister." Stories and jokes were told, and people laughed. It was the best time that I had ever had.
However, all good things must come to an end sooner or later. At 4:30, I had to leave, already late. With all 15 carnations in hand, I slowly said goodbye to all my friends promising to write and inviting them to visit me. My eyes watered, but I refused to cry. I knew that if I started to cry, then everybody else would, and I didn't want to remember them that way. I called a cab, and as I waited outside with my friends next to me, Kevin commented, "Summer, I've known you for 3 years, and I have never seen you cry. Not at the movies, not even now."
I looked at all of them. "Just because I don't cry doesn't mean that I don't care or that I don't have feelings. I do. But I don't want to remember you guys all crying. I want to remember you as happy and smiling, like we are when we are together." We shared a bonding silence. Then the taxi pulled up noisily at the curb. Final goodbyes were said; last hugs given. I got into the cab, and as we drove off I looked back at the friends I had made. They would always be my family, even if we were on opposite sides of the world. I turned around. I started to cry. Tears streamed down my face expressing the silent grief which I had kept to myself all afternoon.
"Flight attendants, please prepare for take off," blared the captain over the loud speaker. The plane roared to a start and with a shudder, lifted off the ground. The plane circled the island once, and I strained to get the last glimpse of my home. Just as the plane reached cloud level, I remembered one of my grandmother's favorite sayings, "People come and go, but family stays forever."