Note: The timeline in this story isn't constant because it's intended to be completely internally narrated. When I think it gets particularly out of order, I'll do my best to help you out, but if you find yourself getting lost or anything, just review and let me know what you think would help. Thanks.

Sometimes as I walk across campus, even now, a scent or image will catch my attention and suddenly I'm home and eight years old, standing in my mother's bathroom as she carefully does her makeup. I always thought she was most beautiful woman in the world, with her long, straight dark hair that framed her delicate featured face. She had the smooth white skin and dark eyes of her Chinese descent, but where most Asian women had nearly slits for eyes, my mother's were wide and seductive, giving men a glance they could hardly forget. The faint scent of cigarettes and daisies always seemed to follow her, clinging to her skin and her clothes, hanging in the air of the room she had just left. My mother was the image of beauty to me for many years, and even now when I think of her, I remember her blood red nails and smiling mouth that matched, always framed by that endless, black hair.

When I was twelve years old I decided that it was time for me to clean out my closet and peruse the treasures I found there. As it came to pass, one summer afternoon found me deep in the back of my closet, clothes scattered across the floor and forgotten dolls laying limp on my bed. After a few hours of poking around and making a mess of the entire room, I emerged with what I considered my crowning triumph. A box of photo albums that I had never before encountered. I pulled album after album from their dusty confines and flipped through the pages. At first I didn't know who the people in these pictures were, they were simply crowds of unknown Oriental faces, smiling out at me from their distant world. And then I saw it. A faded, black and white photograph of a beautiful young woman, standing on the steps of a university in a short white dress and summer shoes. Her hair was blown out around her by a sudden breeze and she had the most beautiful smile on her face. As I stared and stared at this picture of innocent beauty, I realized who it was. I knew those eyes, dark and deep and full of some mystery I have never, in my twelve years of life, managed to discover. It was my mother, eighteen years old and starting her first year at Taipei University. I flipped it over and read the date written carefully and painstakingly in English on the back. "Tso Chi Tsang, First Year, 1944." I tucked the picture into the back of a small box of letters I kept, most from my estranged brothers, and a few from old relatives here and there. I wonder sometimes if that box is still there, hidden in the corner of the closet in my old house, and when I think of that little secret box, I can see in my mind's eye my mother, with her sweet innocence, smiling forever at nobody, and I want to go home.

When I was three years old, my parents divorced and my mother remarried to a man that she would later tell me made her more miserable than any person in the world. When I was seventeen, I found an address book my mother had left in one of the guest rooms, and after flipping through several pages of appointments, phone numbers, and names, I came to a page covered completely in my mother's careful handwriting. I read the first line. "I regret being so hard on my son." The second line. "I regret never going back home." The third line. "I regret never finishing school." It was a page covered in my mother's regrets, and the more I read it, the more I wanted to cry. How could my beautiful mother regret so many things in her life? She always seemed so happy with everything, and always told me that coming to America was the best choice she ever made. I turned the page, and at the top of the next page, there was only one thing written. "I regret divorcing Jim." That night I tucked the address book under my pillow, held close the stuffed penguin my dad had given me nine years ago, and fell asleep with tears in my eyes, feeling sad for the woman I thought I had understood for so many years.

When I was three years old, my parents divorced. As a result, I never knew what it was like to grow up in a household where my mother and father lived together as one. Sure, my mother remarried, but she and my stepdad never got along. He was sweet and caring, but very distant, and my mother's domineering nature made it hard for them to connect. I wonder often why it is they married each other in the first place, because for as long as I can remember, they were like this. Meanwhile, while my mother and stepfather argued and fought day in and day out, my poor father lived alone in a small apartment a few miles from the house where we had once lived as a family. I always loved my father in a way I could never love my mother or my stepfather. He had this gentle sadness about him that made me want to comfort him all the time. The weekends I spent at his apartment with my shy, quiet brother were like blessed vacations from a daily hell. We would go camping and hiking and walking on the beach, and on Sundays he would take us to Disneyland. Those days are surrounded by a halo of sunshine and love that I will always remember. I was always a daddy's girl, and my favorite thing to do would be to sit on the couch next to him late at night and watch the news, my father drinking a glass of white wine, and me munching thoughtfully on a lemon creme cookie. I had one cookie at night, and he had one glass of wine at night. We believed in moderation.

Just as my mother will always carry the scent of cigarettes and daisies with her in my memory, my father will always be associated with the clean smell of shaving cream and Irish Spring soap. He always smelled like he had just taken a shower, and I loved it. I did my best to mimic my father's every movement, from the way he folded his clothes just out of the laundry to the way he cut his food at dinner. My mother always used to laugh at my table manners, because even as a small child, I would fastidiously lay my napkin on my lap, arrange my fork and knife ever so carefully, and be sure to cut, chew, and place my fork on my plate, always in that order. I would think of my dad and the way he would carry on a funny, casual conversation at every dinner, taking the time between bites to ask guests thoughtful and interesting questions and encouraging even my young friends to join in. My dad was ever the polite one, his years at Westpoint and in the military dictating even his every day attitude. He was not one of the cliche Army dads who barked orders at his children and grilled every new boyfriend. No, he was of a different class of military men, raised to it from childhood by a strict, unaffectionate father, and given the kind of training that turned him from a wild, rebellious youth who ran rampant through the woods of Virginia and North Carolina to a Southern gentleman in every sense of the word but the accent.

It's nine in the morning on a Thursday when my phone vibrates on the edge of my bed. I always leave my phone on, even when I'm sleeping, because you never know who's going to call you and when. Thus, at nine o'clock on Thursday morning, my phone vibrates. You have to understand, being a freshman in college means that nine is a very early and ungodly hour for anyone, especially when you've been out drinking until all hours of the night before, as I had. So, when my phone vibrates, I open my eyes slowly and sigh in my head. I know who it was, and I don't want to answer, but it has to be done. I pick up my phone and look at the screen. One new message from Rachel. Read. Exit. I press Read. "Hey sleepy, you awake yet? I'm in class right now but I get out in twenty minutes and I was wondering if you wanted to get breakfast." I lie in bed, staring at the brightly glowing screen for a minute. My stomach growls at the thought of food, but still I lay there, inert, tired, hung over. Finally I press Reply. "Yeah, I'll come get food with you, I'll meet you outside Admin when your class ends." Send. I let my head sink back down into my pillow and sigh again, this time out loud. I am so tired. After a few minutes, I get up slowly and slide out of bed, my hair disheveled and my shirt wrinkled. I don't even bother to change my shirt, instead pulling off my pajama pants and putting on some jeans. I stand a moment in the middle of the room, looking around in vague confusion. The church bells outside my window begin to ring, and I close my eyes in irritation. Stupid bells. After nine chimes, I move again, pulling on first one Velcro shoe, and then the other. I feel so slow and stupid and tired, and I begin to regret agreeing to get breakfast with my roommate. That just means that I would have to sit in the noisy cafeteria, feeling like something the cat dragged in, while Rachel chatters away and eats the same yogurt parfait that she eats every morning. Her ability to be conscious so early always amazes me, but it probably has something to do with the fact that she doesn't go drinking almost every night. She's a good student. On the weekdays. I'm not. I look at the clock and am surprised. 9:20. I'm going to be late. I pull on a hoodie and then another, lifting both hoods up onto my head and grabbing my keys on the way out the door. I wander towards the Administration building in a daze, not seeing the people moving quickly around me or feeling the rain the dripped slowly, lazily from tree branches and eaves.

It's summer in California, and I'm fifteen. It's the year before I start high school and I'm more excited than anyone can imagine. We always made such a big fuss over buying school supplies and new clothes, my friends and I. I was a social butterfly in those days, flitting from one group to the next, calling people to "hang out" and watch movies at one house or another. Three days before school starts, my best friend calls me and delivers devastating news. Her parents, who had just gotten through a messy divorce four months earlier, were now no longer on speaking terms at all, and her impetuous and somewhat immature mother had decided to up and move to Laguna Beach, a good 30 minutes from where we lived and a world away for a fifteen year old girl with no drivers license and no car. We were doomed. Needless to say, I started high school under a cloud. The magic of being an official teenager was gone, and I wandered listlessly from class to class, not really knowing how to get where I was going, instead relying on my fellow students to lead the way. It seemed like the longest day of my life. When I finished with my last class, my mother picked me up in her shiny new Nissan 350z.

"How was class?" I looked at my hands.


She slammed on the breaks just in time to stop at the light, and glanced over at me.

"Is something wrong, honey?"

Being fifteen meant you didn't want to tell your parents anything about your life anymore, because after all, you were an adult now.

"No, things are fine. I'm just tired." My mom nodded understandingly and drove on, occasionally cursing under her breath at the other drivers.

When we got home, I dragged my backpack off to my room and immediately got on the phone and called Robin. We talked for three hours, comparing school days and complaining about our separation. We did that every day for three months. One day, we stopped calling. I haven't talked to her since.