Chapter 1: Bon Voyage
People pass by in a hurry trying to reach their plane before it leaves them behind.
Suitcases are rolled hastily behind them swinging from side to side. The owners of the suitcases don’t give a care in the world that their bags are banging into those around them as all they can focus on is getting to their flight on time.
A cold sensation that I realize is my mother’s hands cupping my cheeks brings me back to my reality.
Huffing in annoyance I roll my eyes and focus my attention on my dramatic mother who has unshed tears at the bridge of her warm brown eyes.
I give her a weak smile assuring her that there is no need to be crying, “Ma todo va salir bien, no llores por favor.” I beg the women that has raised me alongside my father to not cry because it will only make me cry from the sight of her tears.
A mother’s tears are her children’s tears...
Translation: “Mom everything will be fine, do not cry please.”
All my mother could muster was a weak nod in my direction. Taking in her features I sigh at the messy sight of her once clean and collected self and bringing her in for yet another hug.
From over my mother’s shoulder I have a view of my aunt and I see that she is hugging my younger cousin Sofia goodbye as well.
Feeling my gaze on the two my cousin’s eyes meet my own warm chocolate orbs and she mouths a silent ′help me,′ in response to her silly antics I lightly chuckle before pointing my finger to the back of my mothers head where the women was currently getting snot on my right shoulder and was a weeping mess.
Sofia’s eyes glance towards my crying mother and her eyes widen like saucers and a cring adorns her cream complexion; her light brown almost hazel eyes stare at me in concern.
′And she thinks she has it bad...′ I chuckle to myself.
I gently pull from my mother’s warm embrace and lightly caress her back giving her one last tender smile. This was goodbye but only for two weeks.
My mother wipes the area under her eyes getting rid of the tears running down her rosy cheeks. She then weakly smiles at me while sniffing and motions to my father.
Nodding in understanding I turn my gaze to face the rest of my family and stare at my siblings and tall unemotional father. My eyes softening when taking in their sad smiles and tear-filled eyes.
‘I would be back, this was only a vacation. It was not temporary.’
I give my Papi a small assuring smile only to not receive one in return from him. His lips stay in their usual thin line not wanting to show how much me leaving the country with the school for a trip is really affecting him.
Deep down I know he wants to throw me over his shoulder and toss me in the back of the car so I can’t go, but it was too late for that. We were here already. I was ready to venture the world.
Seeing neither my siblings or father move to embrace me as they were still looking at me as if this was going to be the last time, ‘but it isn’t’ I tell myself.
I huff and choose to ignore my father’s stone cold stance knowing this is how he always is when placed in a situation he is not comfortable in. My father like many men uses a stone cold facade to hide his true feelings from the world, call it an emotion protection mechanism.
Without having to think about it I run towards my father instantly wrapping my arms tightly around his torso. My smile only widens when I feel his arms wrap around my tiny waist protectively not wanting me to venture the world on my own without his watchful gaze on me twenty-four seven.
My father holds on to me tighter as I go to pull away, from him. Frowning I look up into eyes similar to mine, a dark chocolate brown color with flecks of amber, “Papi nada va pasar ya soy un adulto se ti acuerdas verdad? Yo mi puedo cuidar.” I assure him finally pulling from his arms and kissing his left cheek.
Translation: “Daddy, nothing’s going to happen, I’m an adult, you remember right? I can take care of myself.”
I know it’s hard for both my parents to let me go to a foreign country with my schools abroad club but going to Paris has always been my lifetime dream... Is it not every girl’s dream? Or is it just mine?
I can still vividly remember the day I came to know of this great opportunity to travel without having to place a bigger money weight on my parent’s shoulders if they were the ones that had to take me overseas themselves. God knows that would have never happened.
It was a usual day at school and the thought of going to Paris this summer not once having crossed my mind. This specific sunny day I was walking down the hallway in the history building to reach my second class of the day when a yellow flyer on the door I was just about to open caught my eye. In that instant it was just me and that yellow flyer with a picture of the famous Eiffel tower with two girls both sporting a smile.
‘That is going to be me,’ I had thought as I took a quick snapshot of the picture to show my mother when I got home from school later that day. I was very excited to tell her and see what she thought. Maybe I could finally go to another country, my dreams would become reality after waiting for so long.
My mother and my sister had both gone on a one month long trip all over Europe when I was eight to celebrate my older sister turning fifteen which for a Latina girl is a very special time. My sister wanted a trip instead of the traditional quinceanera party and so did I when it came time but in the end I had chosen Hawaii over Europe and sure the tropical beaches and green palm trees were beautiful but still there was always that nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach constantly reminding me of what going to Paris, the city of love and art, would be like.
I am brought back from my memory of a few months back when my fathers gravelly Spanish accent calls out to me, “Ya se que ya tienes dieciocho.” He huffs referring to every time I had to remind him I was old enough to make my own decisions.
Translation: “I know you’re eighteen already.”
I inwardly chuckle from the memory of the day I had asked him for permission to come to Europe those few months back.
I bounce on the balls of my heels watching my mother take a look at the brochure I had collected from the teacher coordinating the trip to Paris.
Biting my lip anxiously I lean over our black marble kitchen counter. Eagerly waiting for her opinion on the trip.
Was she going to say yes, no or would it be the traditional maybe?
I was nervous about her reaction especially when she finds out the price of the trip; It was Europe so It wasn’t going to be a few hundred dollars try more like three thousand dollars!!!
I inwardly sigh in relief when I watch how her lips curve into a smile while she intently reads the papers informing parents on what the trip was about and why it would be a great experience for your child to attend.
’Please say yes’, I pray to the gods as I watch her reach the end of the paper where the trips price was located in bold letters.
The four digits scaring even my none existent bank account, $3,888
My mother’s eyebrows furrow and she frowns looking down at the price her brain no doubt already calculating the payments we will have to make to pay the trip off- if I do end up going.
Biting the inside of my cheek I mentally curse knowing that my dreams had just been crushed but then hope flourishes in me as I see her think to herself some more a smile of understanding on her lips.
“Victoria it sure is a lot of money but I know how much you have wanted to go to Europe and I have been there and can assure you It’s worth the cost,” she says with a beaming smile.
When her words register in my mind I sequel jumping up and down not believing my ears.
“So is that a yes!” I all but shout feeling my face heat up with excitement and the butterfly’s in my stomach begin to flutter.
My mom chuckles at my bubbly excitement and she places her hands on my shoulders to clam my bouncing, “I say it is a wonderful ideamijabut...” She starts with a sigh at the end.
‘Great there’s a but.’ I groan to myself with a pout.
“But..?” I say not wanting to hear what comes out of her mouth next.
“You need to ask your Papi Victoria, you know how he is,” mom says reminding me of just how protective my dad is when it comes to his family.
The man doesn’t even let me sleepover at any friends house or even my cousin Sofia’s for that matter and the girl lives just down the street from us. He is like the family’s personal house guard coming into all our rooms late at night to check on us and make sure we are still breathing and making sure we are not out on the streets past curfew. It’s sweet but kind of annoying, I’m almost eighteen for crying out loud and he still baby’s me around as if I was in middle school or something.
Sometimes, as cute as it seems, I am convinced he still sees me as a little girl with pigtails and a missing tooth with a pink Barbie shirt instead of seeing me as the grown adolescent women that I now am today.
Don’t get me wrong I will always be his little girl but it’s time this butterfly flaps her wings and ventures around the world on her own. This is the time to make mistakes and learn from them. My life starts now and I will still need both my parents there to support me.
“Ugh, Mami he’s gonna say no. What do I do I really want to go to Paris?” I plead wanting to cry as the image of me eating a croissant in a black skater skirt and white striped crop top on the streets of Paris slowly fades away from my mind.
“I’ll help change his mind.” She assures with a smile and a kiss to the temple. I vigorously nod my head in appreciation and thank her before taking the papers from the counter to closely read them in my room.
As soon as I made it inside the comfort of my bedroom I fall on my bed sighing in content as images of me traveling to Europe invade my mind.
“I need to call Sofia.” I think out loud to myself as I begin to pull out my gold iPhone and quickly dial my cousin’s number, after the third ring she picks up the call.
“Hello?” I hear her soft voice call through the other end of the phone.
I instantly perk up and all but sequel out the news,” Sofia! Remember that trip to Europe the abroad club at school is hosting this summer!?” I ask her while I get up on my bed and begin to jump in excitement.
No doubt hearing the noise of my headboard hitting the wall my mom soon opens the door to my room and scolds telling me to not jump on the bed. I huff as she rains on my parade but I comply nonetheless.
“Yes?” Comes Sofia’s unsure voice the same time I bounce back down onto the surface of the bed.
“Well, my mom said I might be able to go if my dad says yes!” I beam in excitement which was soon followed by Sofia’s own squeal of happiness for me.
“Victoria that is amazing, you might go to Paris your dreams will come true. Ahh, hot European guys!!!” She sighs in content making me laugh in response to her dirty girlish thoughts. She’s right about the hot European guys though.
“I know right I hope my dad agrees,” I say groaning into the phone already dreading the moment I ask my father for permission to go on the trip.
Hearing my dejected mood my lovely cousin is quick to assure me all will be well, “He has to say yes! You’re his little princess make those puppy dog eyes. They always work.” Sofia advises reminding me of just how much my dad loves me and can’t fight the round doe puppy eyes I can pull off.
“I will definitely be taking your advice Sofia but that’s not why I called you. I was actually calling you to see if you wanted to come along with me. Ask your mom maybe she will let you go. Remember how much we wanted to do this together to travel, well now is our chance.” I tell her hopefully before biting my nails nervously as I wait for her reply.
I know It’s a lot of money for her family to pay off right now especially since they just moved to a new house and all but like I had told her. Ever since we were young we always talked about traveling the world together and going to Europe and now our dreams can become a beautiful reality.
‘We can have yard sales and get a job.’I think to myself already planning ways to save up money.
“I don’t know Victoria... But I do want to go so I’ll let my mom and dad know about it tonight and maybe your mom can help change their minds if they say no.” She asks me hopefully.
“Definitely,” I assure her nodding my head despite the fact that she couldn’t see me.
“We’re going to Paris...” I hear her sigh over the line.
“We might.” I correct her.
In response to her small mistake she giggles, “Right,”
“Victoria!” Comes my mothers voice from what I believe is the kitchen.
“Coming!” I shout back sticking my head out of my bedroom door. The phone pressed to my chest.
“Hey, Sofia I got to go mom wants me to help her cook dinner. I’ll see you at school.” I say bidding my goodbyes.
“Alright bye.” Comes her instant reply before we both hang up.
After helping my mother cook dinner she heads to the bathroom to shower and I stay rooted in the kitchen to watch over the cooking food.
The sound of the front door opening alerts me that my dad is home from work and I begin to get nervous. My eyes then divert to the set of paper on the table that I brought with me from my room.
I bite my bottom lip nervously and tap my right foot impatiently trying to stop from saying anything regarding my dream trip to my father.
‘This type of news takes patience Victoria,’ I remind myself only to have all my previous control diminishes with the sight of my father coming into my view.
With hawk eyes I watch as he sets down his lunch box and takes his hat off, giving me a soft smile when he notices my presence in the kitchen. I give him a nervous smile in return while bouncing in my spot.
My father goes towards the sink and washes the dirt from his calloused hands. His back faces me and I warn myself not to do it but I don’t listen to my conscious and the next thing I know is I am abruptly telling my father the most shocking request he could ever hear, “Can I go to Europe in the summer!” I shout in one breath.
My fathers back tenses through his green work uniform and I curse myself knowing I messed up.
‘Shit what have I done!’ I panic watching in horror as he slowly turns around to face me with wide eyes.
I slap my palm across my mouth when I realize what I have done even if it was a little too late now.
“What!?” Comes his booming voice as he watches me in shock.
Giving him a sheepish smile I laugh out nervously and avoid eye contact, “Umm...” I say not able to form any words with the sight of my father’s still gobsmacked expression.
My father raises both his eyebrows waiting to hear what I am having so much trouble saying. His arms are crossed over his chest making the muscles under his work uniform noticeable.
I take in a deep breath and tell him about the trip calmly this time.
“Papi, there is this trip to Europe the school is hosting in June and I was wondering If I can go-mom said yes!” I quickly add noticing his posture tense up at the mention of the trip.
I cross my fingers behind my back silently hoping and praying he says yes. With pleading eyes I watch as he pinches the bridge of his nose in frustration before he says the one word with two letters and one syllable that breaks my heart into pieces.
“No.” He confidently says leaving absolutely no room for argument and I soon feel tears welling up in my eyes as the word ‘no’ echoes around in my mind taunting me.
I raise my head to look into his eyes my own growing blurry from the tears and my breath coming in small pants, “Please Papi this is my dream to go to Europe, to Paris. I have been good and have gotten the best grades this is all I am asking for please. As my graduation present.” I plead adding the last part silently.
My father looks at me with a frown as he takes in my teary eyes. He sighs and brings me into a hug that only makes me feel worse.
“Carino It’s too dangerous. I mean Europe? Have you not been hearing about all the terrorist attacks or what about all the sex trafficking going on over there. I can’t let you go to a new county all by yourself, I’m sorry.” He sighs looking at me in sorrow.
I nod my head letting him know I understand. I don’t want to fight with him, maybe my mom can help me change his mind in the near future. I still have another two months to decide and start paying for the trip.
Before I leave to cry my eyes out in the comfort of my room I grab the trip brochure and gently give it to him before I walk away and towards my room my eyes casted downwards the entire time to hide the silent tears that run down my cheeks from the realization that I won’t be going to Paris anytime soon.
Later that day during dinner my family all ate quietly which in this family is odd... Very odd, we are usually fighting or teasing one another during our dinner time, being the middle child (in this family at least) I am the one that gets picked on the most during our talks.
‘Ah, The struggle of a middle child.’ I think to myself bitterly.
Averting my eyes from my dinner plate I come to see my fifteen-year-old brother tiredly scooping rice into his mouth and then my eyes move to my older sister Eloisa and her husband Mathew as they whisper to one another a smile on both their faces.
I sigh at the pair with my elbows on the table wanting nothing more than to be in a relationship like her and my brother-in-law who she has known since middle school and now out of college at 24 the two are still attached to the hip and married, working their butts off to buy their first house.
‘These two are goals.’ I think to my myself while I think about where my dream man could be at this moment.
A cough brings me out of my daze and I look to my right with arched eyebrows to see my mother smiling at me as she elbows my father on the side. I give her a questioning stare and then look to my father with a puzzling stare.
“Victoria I was talking to your mother and she has somehow changed my decision into letting you go to Paris but-” he starts only to have me cut him off by jumping out of my seat to hug him.
I pepper kisses all over his face in excitement, “Papi I already know the rules, I have to call you day and night and I need to tell you what I am doing and where I am at all times.Ohmy gosh thank you, thank you so much I love you guys!!!” I squeal looking between my two amazing parents in awe.
My father huffs but nods his head, “I’m serious Victoria I want to know that you are safe and please stay close to the adults that are going to be on the trip.” He warns with his usual serious facial expression.
I nod my head in understanding before dismissing myself to my room where I pull my phone out to dial Sofia to let her know the good news.
As soon as she answers the phone we both replied with a ‘guess what!?’
“You first,” I encourage edging her to tell me what she is so excited about.
“Okay, I asked my parents about the trip and they said yes!” She squeals making me squeal in return.
“Now it’s your turn.” She encourages.
“My parents said yes too!” I shout laughing loudly when I hear her scream coming from over the line.
I pull the phone back to my ear after her scream subsides and I listen to what she has to say next, “Ahh we’re going to Paris in six months!” She sighs in delight.
“I can’t wait!” I sigh as we both fall into a very long talk about what we are going to do in Paris.
We were going to Paris. This was going to be an amazing trip and I couldn’t wait until those six months came and gone so I can be in Paris at last.
“Alright, guys say goodbye to your family for now. We need to board the plan in...Five minutes!” Mrs. Ross says looking down at her gold wristwatch with wide eyes when she realizes we’re a bit behind.
I release my dad from our hug and turn to the rest of my family one more time feeling the tears slowly gathering now that the time has come to leave but the excitement of traveling to Europe is too much that it takes over any sadness I started to feel.
’This is what growing up feels like, I’ll be back home before I know it.′ I assure myself trying to ease my worries once again.
From the corner of my eyes I can see Sofia wiping a tear from her cheek as she kisses her little brother Giovanni goodbye and then she moves to give her older sister Gaby a warm embrace. I then smile at the sight of my aunt who is currently nuzzled against my uncle’s side as they watch their seventeen years old say goodbye for the time being.
“I still can’t believe you’re going to Europe.” My little brother Cristian huffs in annoyance but nonetheless a small grin plays on his lips.
I chuckle and bring him into a tight hug.
“Don’t miss me too much,” I mumble into his shoulder. His musky wood cologne filling my senses.
“I won’t, just remember to bring me something cool.” He says pulling out of the hug with teasing eyes.
‘Typical of him to ask me to buy him something,’I think rolling my eyes.
I lightly shove his shoulder and he laughs before going to our cousin Giovanni.
Shaking my head in disbelief at my little brothers retreating figure I then turn to my sister who has a small sad smile playing on her pink lips. I exhale and give her a sad smile of my own causing her eyes to soften and her lips purse into a frown.
“Come here.” She coos standing beside Mathew her arms opened wide for me to run into. I do as she says and hug her tightly and then hug Mathew as well.
“You okay?” Mathew asks me and I nod sending him a sad smile.
“Take lots of pictures and facetime us when you can okay. You will love Paris it is so beautiful and makes sure you take a picture touching the Eiffel tower...I regret never doing that.” Eloisa who’s arms are around me says sounding annoyed that she didn’t do as she just told me to.
I smile and nod my head making a mental note to do just that.
After giving all of Sofia’s family a hug and promising I would watch over her I look at my family one last time before me and Sofia wave goodbye to the big bunch and walk ahead with our group to board the plane.
“Wait!” I suddenly shout stopping in my tracks as we reach the desk where the lady was collecting the plane tickets and checking our passports.
Mrs. Ross gives me a confused look and the other twenty students going on the trip with us look at me in both confusion and annoyance. A guy who I graduated with last week even groans and rolls his eyes giving the lady in the desk his ticket and passport. Rolling my eyes in response to his attitude I ignore him and I don’t look at any of them for long because before I know it I find myself dragging Sofia with me to our family where we embrace each other one last time before we officially board the plane.
I quickly wipe the lone tear that has rolled down my cheek and smile to myself as my entire family embraces one last time as a big family.
A flash can be seen and I lift my eyes to see mine and Sofia’s friend Beca smiling with my Polaroid camera in her hand. I give her a grateful smile which she returns with one of her own before handing me the photo she had just taken.
“I love you guys,” I tell my family and can hear as Sofia says the same thing as she gives her parents one last embrace.
My mom and dad hug as they watch me enter the terminal that leads to the plane both of them sporting sad smiles and waving at us.
My sister and her husband are close together and smiling at me all while waving goodbye as well.
Meanwhile, Giovanni and Cristian mess around in the airport as Gaby tries to stop them from causing trouble by forcing the two apart.
Both me and Sofia wave goodbye to our family and even blow a kiss towards them before we finally make our way behind our awaiting group. Mrs. Ross kindly waits with a smile on her face by the desk for me and my cousin to go in before her.
Once we have been seated on the plane for a few minutes the lights finally turn off leaving only the early morning sunlight as our source of light.
Suddenly a beeping noise is heard and the light from above our seat turns on indicating we have to click our seat belts in place. Then the sound of one of the airplane assistance voice can be heard throughout the big plane.
“Good morning folks, we will be leaving LAX in ten minutes and we will be landing in Paris France 7:30 am, say bon voyage to California.” The woman cheerily exclaims making everyone on the plane cheer in excitement.
I look to Sofia who is sitting to my left in the window seat and I give her a smile which she instantly returns with one of her own showing me her teeth.
Our dream was coming true and we couldn’t be happier. This is going to be one unforgettable trip I can feel it.
Bonvoyage California hello Paris.