Synopsis: It is the end of the Vietnam War and an infant is found in an opium processing house by liberators, almost starved to the point of death. The soldier who finds her has compassion for her and decides to take him home with him, hoping that his wife will be understanding and help him raise her.
Chapter 1--Little Girl Lost
The Vietnam War was finally coming to its conclusion. It had been a long, arduous, bloody, tiring experience and Lieutenant Eliot Mathias Koenig was enervated. He had been responsible for freeing over 1,000 POWs at this time and got little if no thanks for the length and width of his actions. Eliot, frankly, didn't really care. He signed up for the war to begin with and he would be happy to be coming home to his lovely wife, Sarah and his new baby, Seth. He couldn't help but feel jubilant in thinking about his little boy; a boy he had never seen and had no idea as to what he looked like.
Lieutenant Koenig had been through hell, quite literally. He had been wounded a couple of times in battle and nearly lost his left leg to gangrenous infection. He had come down with 'jungle fever' at one point and time and nearly died. He hoped to God that at least President Nixon would give him a purple heart once everything was said and done, but the War wasn't quite through yet. They had to travel through one more patch of land and destroy the opium processing plants that were there before a possible opium feud that escalated into something worse.
The soldiers encamped close to one last processing plant that night, fitfully sleeping through the humidity and putrid stench that came from the factory and from the aftermath of death and destruction from the war. Before dawn came the silent signal was given and Lieutenant Koenig led his small battalion into the 'yellow cake' factory.
The men completely caught the workers unaware and Eliot was able to put the manufacturing of opium to a stop, at least in that particular factory. There had been others in Vietnam and Vietnam was a vast country. Needless to say, these Americans believed they had done more than their share of a good deed by putting one more drug hub to sleep for good. While the other men were rounding up the workers in handcuffs to be processed by local courts, Eliot heard a small noise that sounded like crying.
"Do you hear that, guys ?", he said.
"It's the heat. You're mental.", one Aussie private said, wiping his brow from excess sweat. The massive humidity did have an effect on people but the sound didn't stop. In fact, it grew louder.
"I'm going to check it out.", he said. His Aussie friend shrugged and continued cleaning out evidence for the police to process later. In a small closet, Eliot could hear the weak sound of mewling. He opened the closet and nearly gasped. There was a tiny infant girl, prematurely born, barely hanging on to life. Impulsively, he picked her up and began rocking her to quiet her but she was still severely dehydrated.
"I need water, fast !", he said to anyone who would hear. His Australian friend, Lloyd, couldn't believe what he was seeing.
"I'll give her some from my canteen. Maybe it'll be enough for her to get her strength back. Poor little Shelia.", Lloyd said as he fished his canteen out of his traveling sack and gave it to her. He had to hold it for her because she was too brittle to do so on her own.
"There you go, Poppy.", Eliot cooed softly.
"Poppy ? Don't tell me…You're taking the girl with you. You know what Sarge said about this sort of thing ! He'd shit his pants if he knew…", Lloyd whispered to him, warning him of the dire implications of taking a 'living souvenir' home with him.
"I don't care what Sarge thinks. I'm not going on the flight home with him. I'm going home with another company.", Eliot said as little Poppy began to drift to sleep in his arms. She seemed to be healthier since she had drank the water Lloyd had given to her. She still needed nourishment, but Eliot would find a way to keep the little infant healthy and do his best to provide proper parenting for her.
Chapter 2--Family Bonding
It was perilous to keep Poppy from crying on his flight home from Vietnam and getting her through customs was a circus act in and of itself. Yet, somehow he had been able to get Poppy home and fed her a bottle with no trouble. She was starting to look much hardier and had a sparkle in her adorable brown eyes. There was something about the little girl's spirit that touched him. She was determined to live, no matter what the circumstances.
Eliot had to explain what had happened to Sarah and now 7-year-old son Seth.
"So, this means I have an adopted sister ?", Seth inquired, his big eyes full of wonder at the tiny infant that grasped his finger tightly. Seth laughed.
"Woah, she's tough !", he observed, only after able to wriggle his pinky away from his adopted sister.
"That's right. As you know, Poppy has no biological parents to speak of. I am sorry if I did something terribly rash, but I couldn't allow this precious gem to be discarded in such a den of negativity.", Eliot confessed.
"I would have done the same thing. I think what you did was honorable. Now all we have to do is do our best to care for her, teach her, and love her. She's our responsibility now.", Sarah said, approaching little Poppy and kissing her forehead. She then kissed Eliot's forehead, cheek and lips affectionately. She couldn't have been more proud, humbled and touched by the opportunity to influence this baby's life and watch her grow over time.
Chapter 3--Flood of Memories
As Poppy grew, she was insatiably curious about her origins. The entire Koenig family was helpful in rearing her the right way and teaching her all they could but she never felt like she truly 'fit in' with them.
"Mom, dad, Seth. You know I love all of you intimately, but I have known from my time here in this country that I am different from you. I know my actual parents are dead, but I wanted to know what Vietnam was like. I hope you don't misunderstand me.", Poppy said, with some sorrow in her voice. She felt guilty for feeling unattached to her mother, father and brother. This was most likely a passing phase in her life but she needed to see her homeland to understand her culture. Sarah and Seth were supportive of her, but Eliot was a bit nervous about returning to Vietnam. He hadn't had any bouts of post traumatic stress disorder and feared that returning to Poppy's homeland would spark some subconscious memories that he had kept buried for many years.
"Even if I am attacked by terrible recollections, I support you, and so do we all. Besides, we're all going to learn something together.", Eliot said, patting his little girl, who wasn't so little now, on the back. She was now 14 and Seth was 17. She couldn't have been more tickled by the news. The Koenig family wasn't rich, but Eliot wanted to take her there, and also take a side trip to Australia to introduce her to the man that was like a godfather to her, Lloyd Sheldon.
Knowing what he would have to be cautious, Eliot decided to take his daughter and family to Vietnam. It would help her come to terms with who she truly was. Poppy was overtly jovial when she heard from her father himself that they would be taking a family summer vacation to Vietnam with a stop In Australia. They had been able to pull this off by selling miscellaneous items at garage sales they didn't need as well as setting up a cheap 'ice-cream shop' to passersby during the hotter months in order to stop for a sweet, refreshing treat.
Almost immediately when the Koenig family entered Vietnam, Eliot's eyes began to well over with tears. He had seen so many soldiers die here and had killed his fair share of Viet-Cong. It wasn't the most defining or proud moment of his life but he had done so out of self-defense and protection of the soldiers that were on his battalion.
"I'm sorry. I can't fight back the tears.", he admitted. Sarah hugged him, remembering how jumpy he had been in the past after returning from the fray so long ago. He had since improved, but she knew it was still difficult for him with these awful memories teeming in his mind.
"It's alright dad. It doesn't make you less of a man if you cry.", Seth declared as he hugged his dad from the side. Having the support of his family helped him collect himself. Poppy was overwhelmed by everything she was taking in. She hadn't seen her father's display of emotion earlier since she was so transfixed with each and every minute detail she experienced. Eliot understood. Having put himself in his daughter's shoes, he knew he would feel the same way if he felt lost and misunderstood in a Caucasian world.
Chapter 4--Growing Up
Vietnam had awakened Poppy's inner-knowing as to who she truly was as a person. She knew now why this location was so difficult for her father to bear for the second time. She had seen what post traumatic stress disorder had done to him in the past and only now was she beginning to grasp as to why his time here had been so traumatic to begin with.
"I'm sorry I dragged you to this place, dad. I've gotten all the culture and reconnection I need. I was selfish and foolish to bring you here against your will. Let's leave as soon as we can tomorrow and make our way to Australia to meet Lloyd, her godfather in the flesh.
"You've just taken your first step toward maturing, Poppy. I know it hasn't been easy feeling like you don't belong. I think we all go through that when we're children, but I cannot imagine what's going through your head right now.", Eliot whispered as he hugged his daughter from behind the neck in their hotel room. Poppy smiled gently, knowing she had made her first big step toward becoming a woman that night. She knew where she truly belonged. It had been evident from the moment she came into her dad's life. Had she not chosen to continue fighting to breathe for breath even as a tiny baby girl she would've never gotten to know her incredible family. All she knew now was that she was looking forward to the future ahead of her, not really knowing where it would lead her, but so long as she had her family to lean upon, she knew she could never go wrong.
It took a while for the Koenig family to find Lloyd and his family but when they did the reception they received was nothing less than grand.
"How many years has it been, you old wallaby !", Eliot chuckled as he hugged his friend around the neck.
"It's been far too long. And would you look at our little girl ! My, how she has grown.", Lloyd exclaimed as he picked up Poppy and spun her around giddily. Poppy squealed in glee, and remembered Lloyd's scent.
"The smell of the sea. I can recall the same scent when I was a baby.", she said, hugging him tightly. Lloyd was impressed, tearing a bit at the remark. It was uncanny how sensitive Poppy had been, even at birth. That is why, even though Lloyd knew it was risky to take her from that negative place that it was necessary to do so. He reminisced a bit and felt proud of what he had done. Poppy was now a remarkable young woman, with an equally impressive family.
Melbourne was nothing short of gorgeous. The whole Koenig family relished each second as they traveled past the gorgeous, pristine beaches and heard the mournful cry of the seagulls. Lloyd knew all the best places to shop for souvenirs, where to eat the most sumptuous meals and where to see the most fascinating sites and view the best entertainment known to Aussies and tourists alike.
"You're so good at this, Lloyd. You should've thought of going into tourism.", Eliot complimented. Lloyd wasn't the type to blush, but this comment took him off guard.
"Ta muchly, mate.", Lloyd thanked him.
The family only stayed about 2-3 weeks in Melbourne and had the chance to see Sydney, Ayres Rock and chat with local aborigines. The whole experience was magnificently spiritual and inexplicable. It was difficult for the Koenig family to depart from a place they felt was like home even though they had only been there for such a short time, but they had been feeling homesick for the States. Besides, the goldfish weren't going to feed themselves being watched by their absentminded neighbor, Terrance.
Chapter 6--What I Did For Summer Vacation
Poppy would rant and rave for days with her closest friends at school about what she did during the holidays and bragged about her enjoyable days on Rainbow beach. She even had photos of her trying out the waves with Lloyd showing her the ropes. She had never taken her godfather as a surfer type, but Lloyd was the sort of person that could surprise others with his spontaneity. Even Seth tried windsurfing during the trip. He wasn't very good at it, or graceful, but he and Poppy had the time of their lives out on the ocean. And it was true what Aussies said about the waves there; they were some of the best waves known to man, and that is why surfers from everywhere came to shoot the curl and hang ten.
Poppy had overcome her 'snit' and now knew what was most important in life. Of course, she was still a teenager and had her klutzy moments as well as times in which she was difficult to live with but she was still a very loved young woman. Her parents supported her in all she did and her big brother adored her. Her brother often called her a 'flower blooming in adversity'. Like the ancient Chinese saying mentioned, she was both rare and beautiful, and she would grow to be an exceptional woman someday and every day, she exuded more and more promise to the family she had blessed so long ago.
Before long, Poppy and Seth were moving on to bigger and better prospects in life as they continued their education in college. Both had been accepted to rather prestigious colleges in the area. Eliot's book Poppy's Way had been superbly successful and much of his stardom had come from that. He had been writing other books concerning the Vietnam War that were historical fiction and had since overcome his post traumatic stress disorder thanks to writing those books.
It had been a challenge adjusting to an empty next, but the Koenig family wasn't always alone. They had friends that came to visit every so often and during the weekends, Seth and Poppy would come home and enjoy some homemade goodies that Sarah had made specifically for them to enjoy. The treats were always ambrosial no matter how many times Seth and Poppy ate them. They even had some snacks left over to take back to their apartments before the next year of college began. It had been so pleasant reconnecting with them and seeing them mature. They had become so adult in such a short amount of time and were living lives of their own that it was hard for Sarah and Eliot to let go at times, but they didn't object to hearing their children ask questions. Of course, there would be questions they couldn't answer but that was what made life worthwhile and enjoyable. Even after the siblings departed, the parents snuggled together on the front porch to watch the September sun sink into the horizon and the stars begin to dot and dazzle the sky. A new day would come tomorrow, even more exciting and adventurous than the last and they would be delighted to greet it.