A Bouquet of Flowers for You

 Feng Jicai

Flowers should be presented to winners who have returned home with flying colors after competitions. Why should they be given to this disgraced loser?

Since she fell on the mattress from the horizontal bar four days before while doing a somersault, she had kept her beautiful and once proud head bent. Now she was back at the Capital Airport from abroad. Upon entering the lobby, she wished she could hide her head under her collar. She was ashamed to face the people who had come to welcome her right at the airport, to be interviewed by the reporters, or to meet her sister and brother-in-law. She was even afraid to see the warm-hearted stewardess—one of her admirers. Each time she went abroad from the airport, this stewardess would rush up to help her with her luggage. What a shame that she had absolutely failed!

Before she set off for the International Gymnastics Championships, she was fully confident of winning the World Titles for horizontal bar and uneven bars, and gym experts both at home and abroad had so expected. But her poor performance had shamefully shattered all of their expectations.

Two years before, she had gone abroad to take part in an international competition for the first time. Among so many girls who had already won fame abroad, she attracted little attention. Yet because her mind was kept free of her anxiety about failure, she unexpectedly won two World Titles. When she returned home that year, she was given an enthusiastic welcome in the same lobby. Many hands stretched out to her, many camera lenses focused on her. A reporter in glasses kept pestering her with the question: “What do you like best?” She was wondering how to respond when she caught sight of a bouquet of flowers. Then she said, “Flowers!” Following her remarks, bunches of flowers were at once presented out to her, too many for her to hold. During the past two years, she had participated in many international competitions and brought back one shining medal after another. What she got in return was all smiles, flowers and camera flashes. Was it because of this that she became preoccupied with winning? The more she won, the more obsessed she was with the fear of losing. So her mind was in fact more burdened with success than with failure. The mind could control physical pains but could not free itself from mental strain easily. This time when she was a little off balance on the horizontal bar, she became so worried that she lost self-control and fell off. This failure was followed by several more in other events.

Afterwards in order to avoid people at the airport, she trailed along behind the team. When she found that very few people greeted her and reporters seemed to shun her, she felt hurt and deserted and became more humiliated and shamed of herself. However hard she tried, she couldn’t turn the tide; she was a complete failure. Indeed, who would side with a failure?

All of a sudden, she saw a pair of shoes in front of her. Who could it be? She raised her bent head slowly and saw a navy blue suit, long legs, brass buttons and then a clear fair face under a brimless cap. Before her stood the stewardess with her hands behind her back, speaking with a smile, “I watched your performance on the television. I knew you would come home today. So I am here especially to welcome you.”

“I did very poorly.” She lowered her head again.

“No. You did your best.”

“But I failed.”

“Nobody can avoid failure. I believe failure is as important to you as success. Failure belongs to the past, and victory is the future.” The stewardess’s voice came gentle but firm.

Hearing these words, the girl raised her head. The stewardess held out her hands from behind her back with a big bouquet of colorful flowers, and presented it to the girl. The strong fragrance seemed to turn into a magic, powerful current that went through her body. She was moved to tears.

Flowers are usually given to victorious heroes. Why to this disgraced loser?

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