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Nightcap in her room leads to being upcapped.

They were parting the next day, probably forever. There were tears in both their eyes as they drew apart, other participants brushing past their embrace, occasional words about them audible.

As they parted, Melanie's hand knocked Sandy's down as it rose in a V-sign at the back of a particularly unctuous French gentleman who had muttered his view of their behaviour: Silly, what does it matter what he thinks? She laughed at Sandy and he knew she was right. But what right did the old bastard have, to pass judgement on them?

They took their seats in the theatre. There were three prizes to be announced: for best novel, short stories, and poetry, from the authors invited to participate. The gathering hushed as the hosts assembled on the podium. After some formal and slightly pompous meanderings from the platform, the Malian woman next to whom Sandy had sat on the first night, rose and moved forward to receive the award for best novel.

As her applause faded, a Vietnamese man was invited up to receive the short story prize. He was about Sandy's age, small, and walked with difficulty, with a pronounced limp. He was a veteran of the war, on the Vietnamese side, and after he'd received his award Sandy couldn't help but notice that a few in the gathering didn't applaud him, including the US couple with whom he'd lunched on the first day.

Then the poetry award was being announced. The speech from the podium was long-winded, but Sandy was listening carefully to the French diction.

He slipped out of his seat and gave Melanie his arm, to help her rise. She was trembling, not quite believing what she'd just heard.

As she moved to join him on the tiered aisle of the theatre she whispered: Sandy, I can't get down there on my own. Help me please, darling? They descended slowly, arms around each others' waists, and she stepped up to the podium alone, bowed, and received the envelope she was given by the dignitary.

She was sobbing as they stepped together up the aisle, his arm firmly round her shaking body. Please, let's just leave now? she whispered.

Outside the theatre she collapsed in his arms. He stood in wonderment, holding her tenderly, licking the tears as they streamed down her cheeks. Sweetheart, he said, I just don't understand why you're upset? You've just won yourself a considerable literary distinction. And from what I know of your work, it was entirely deserved. These things don't just get handed out, you know that.

She looked into him: Sandy, did you see that some of those Americans refused to applaud the Vietnamese guy? I've read his stories, he's a decent human being and an incredible writer, even in translation. He was just a conscripted soldier then, he didn't have any choice. And unlike the Americans in the war, he really was fighting for his country. It was directly threatened. Vietnam never threatened the people of the USA. It wasn't his tiny country that invaded the USA, it was they who invaded his. How can folk be so hurtful?

*****

As they entered the refectory, Sandy noticed the Vietnamese man sitting on his own. He nodded to Melanie and they approached the table, asked the man in French if they could join him. Over the meal Sandy felt himself warming to the man. He had been a student in Lyons when he was conscripted, and had abandoned his studies to return and fight for his country. And received a leg injury which had left him crippled for life.

He had been nonplussed by the capitalisation of his country during recent years, and had retreated into writing, shifting in some disillusionment from the larger stage of politics to the smaller but more immediate one of interpersonal relations. By the end of the meal he was firm friends with Melanie and Sandy, and, taking them for an established couple, invited them to visit him in Hanoi. They embraced in the warm French manner when they parted.

The rooms in the residence had to be cleared by two pm and as they walked back to the building through the gardens in warm afternoon sunshine, Sandy was struck f

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