I fear I have nothing to give
One: Coraline Gilbert
Aunt Diana sat awkwardly next to me in La Guardia Airport. We were waiting for my flight out west to Seattle. I was going away to college at the University of Washington in Seattle. I was fulfilling my predetermined destiny. No one said it, but my parents had laid down the foundation of a free ride to that college before I was even born. The catch was that I would have to study the same thing they did, which was anthropology. I actually didn't mind it. The math and statistics got monotonous but it was easy to me. The hard part was – and I looked over to my right at my tall, beautiful Aunt Diana with her long blonde hair and bright blue eyes, former super model, turned senior editor of Vogue magazine in New York City, as a reminder – the social aspect. Sure I could assimilate, but could I fit in?
"Nope," I answered my thoughts as I played a game on my iPhone.
"What Corey?" Diana asked with as much interest as possible.
"Nothin'," I replied apathetically.
I can't blame Diana's lack of interest in my life. She tried really hard, and I thought after our first two years together we would be best friends. That didn't last. See Diana is the epitome of 'individual' and has to be free to do what she wants. She was always like that – after graduating from Fordham with a degree in journalism; she went on to be a model (because the two were so related). She modeled for a long time, like until she was thirty at least. As her modeling career waned, she finally starting using that college degree of hers and began moving up through the ranks in Vogue.
My parents died eight years ago, and at that time in my aunt's life, she was transitioning from model lifestyle to journalist lifestyle. Diana had no other choice, she was my only family and my mother (Diana's sister) named her the sole guardian in case anything happened. Well, at the age of ten I found myself packed and shipped all the way across the country from Seattle to Manhattan. Diana didn't have much on her plate at the time, just editorials and a few editing gigs for the magazine, but nothing too extensive. So the first two years were almost pleasant.
Well she hit it big with the editor-in-chief and her career skyrocketed. I got placed on the backburner. She tried; I don't deny her efforts, but it wasn't what I needed. I needed someone to talk to, to explain how to wear my first bra, how to deal with puberty, and boys. Diana offered as much advice as possible, but I usually got the 4-1-1 from my nanny, Emily. The only good thing throughout my whole experience with Diana: I could have anything I wanted.
Normally kids would start asking for sweets and toys, but I wanted something else. My mother's family was 100% German, and while Diana rarely exercised her use of the guttural language, I embraced it – as well as every other language possible. My aunt got me private tutors so I didn't have to go to school and special people to come and teach me all sorts of languages. I perfected my German, and forced my aunt to speak it whenever she interacted with me (which I felt was one small sacrifice on her part). After German, I moved on to the Romance languages. There was just something so natural about the languages. I could pick them up with almost no problem.
I was going to the University of Washington to study anthropology, but my tutoring schedule was loaded with languages. I clearly didn't have to worry about fulfilling that requirement at school since I had received perfect 5's on my AP German, Spanish, Italian and French exams. I was still In the process of perfecting my Portuguese and Russian when AP exam time came around so those were nixed. My aunt thought I should be a translator for the UN instead of an anthropologist, but I couldn't abandon my parents' work.
"No, I can't," I answered my own thoughts again. Bad habit. People thought I was nuts when I talked to myself, but when you're alone most of the time, it becomes habitual.
"Flight 223 La Guardia to Seattle now boarding First Class," the woman at the gate said over the load speaker.
I sighed and looked at my aunt. I had dreamed for this day when I would leave behind the life I once knew and prepared to start a new one. I didn't want to be shuffled around in limos anymore or whispered about as I walked through her office. I knew I wasn't as pretty as she was, and people wondered how we were related. But somewhere deep inside I was going to miss her.
"I guess I should get going," I looked at the phone and clicked out of the game, sticking the gadget in my carry-on backpack. It was the same backpack my mother used when she was alive.
"Yeah I guess so," Diana stood, her legs supporting an impressive 5'8" frame without the three-inch stiletto heels she always wore. She bent down awkwardly to embrace me. I was barely 5'2" and I had a feeling the scene was making onlookers snicker.
"Thanks for everything, Diana," I said sincerely and looked up at her. Though we didn't say it, we both had a feeling that this would be the last time we would ever see each other again.
"If you need anything, and I mean anything," she held my face in a strange maternal way, "you just call and ask." She sighed as tears formed in her eyes. "God you look so much like your mother right now. She would be so proud to see you off. I know I haven't been the best guardian, but you know I love you, right Corey?"
"Of course," I held back my tears, which caused a burning sensation in my throat.
"Your bank account is full, so you shouldn't need any money, but if you do, don't hesitate to call. I don't care what time it is, just call or text and I'll respond. I swore I would do the best I could with what I know, and eight years later I'm still trying," she hugged me and I barely came up to her shoulders. "I love you Coraline."
She said my full name and I couldn't hold back the tears any longer. I simply nodded and muttered something along the lines of, "I love you too." We broke away for a moment, both of us dabbing our eyes, trying to hide tears from the other. We just laughed at our stupidity, hugged again, and I boarded the plane. I had a window seat (of course Diana wouldn't get anything less for me), and apparently she had also bought the seat next to me, knowing I hated close contact with strangers. I kept my backpack on that seat as a protective barrier between me and whoever would occupy the end seat.
Once the plane was off the ground and I had my soda in hand, I heaved a great sigh, turned on my iPod and closed my eyes. And that's when the dreams began …