Sam was home from school for the summer. He did not like coming back home. It was very difficult. He missed his mom very much. Most of all he missed her big brown eyes and her sweet smile. Sam lost his mom to cancer when he was 8 years old. Sam’s dad Ravi could not cope with the loss and take care of Sam so he sent Sam away to boarding school.
Champa was 5 years then. She lived in a little house next to Sam’s bungalow. Champa’s dad was the gardener. He tended to the garden around Sam’s bungalow. He still does. Though the house is closed for most of the year now. The garden is always well kept. Champa’s mom was the housekeeper. She still works for Ravi and his new wife Nina whenever they are back in the house. Champa would come over sometimes and play with Sam when they were little children.
Every summer when Sam came home he would go looking for Champa. He liked her kind dark brown eyes. He found he could talk to her about anything and she would simply smile back. In a strange way, she reminded him of his mom. Sometimes they would sit on the bench in his garden for hours and just talk. At times Sam would bring his guitar and play her some tunes. She would smile shyly.
Today there is a big crowd at home. His grandparents, some of his cousins, aunts, and uncles have all come over. It is Sam’s 16th birthday. Ravi had invited the family over. There is a lot of talking, singing and eating. Champa’s mom had come over to help Ravi and Nina but Champa was nowhere to be seen. Sam began to open his presents. There is a lot of cash, electronics, clothes…He went over to the balcony to count his cash. There he saw Champa next to the railing about 5 feet from the house digging a little hole in the ground. She had a plant next to her. Her dad was a few feet away trimming the hedges. Sam went back in. Some of the guests left. The others were spending the night. They stayed up late, talking and playing video games.
Around noon the next day, Sam went out looking for Champa. She was nowhere to be seen. He saw a little card next to the plant she had planted last evening. It said ‘Happy Birthday Sam’ and on the back, it had the picture of a tree with white flower and the word ‘Champa’ written below it. Just when he pocketed it his cousin came over and they went back in the house. It was a long day again with all the folks at home. At night he emptied his pocket and saw the card. For some strange reason, he put it under the paper lining his top drawer.
Champa was almost thirteen years old now. She had grown shyer and mostly kept to herself. He always found her with a book on the bench. Sometimes he would sit next to her on the bench and they would talk. There would sometimes be long silences between them. He noticed she had grown to be beautiful. Much better looking than the girls at the girl’s school next to his.
Years passed by. Sam had graduated from school and gone on to university. He came home every summer. One summer he did not see Champa around at all. He asked her mother and her mother replied, 'Champa is now married and living in another city'. They found her a good boy she said. He is educated and works in a bank. Sam felt a small tug at his heart.
Sam graduated from university and got a job oversees. Every year he came home to visit he stood in the balcony and looked at the plant. It was bigger every year and had grown into a tree and had lots of beautiful white flowers now. One day he asked the gardener what the tree was called. ‘Champa tree’ he said. Sam smiled. So much like her, he thought to himself quiet and beautiful. He took in the smells. The flowers had a beautiful subtle fragrance.
Sam was 25 now. He had met Susan at work started dating. His father had passed away and Nina had gone to live with her sister. This time he brought Susan home with him. They had finished breakfast and Sam was on the balcony looking at the Champa tree. Susan came over & put her arms around him. For some reason, he did not feel comfortable. He walked away from her, went over to his room from when he was a kid, looked under the paper lining in the top drawer. The card was still there. He lightly moved his hand over it, put it back exactly in the same place, went over to his guitar, picked it up and started strumming -
Hey you got to hide your love away
Hey, you got to hide your love away….