I made it through my first official day of high school in the United States.
It was like nothing I have ever experienced before. I always stood out being the Prince of Calida, but for some reason, I thought I could be treated more normal going to a public school out of my country. It was a naive thought indeed.
My schooling in Calida was different than my schooling now. I attending the only private school in Calida where there were only 20 students including myself. I went to school with the same 19 people since I turned 5 and considered that to be my normal. I met two of my best friends through my schooling, Tommy and Theo, a rambunctious pair of twins born to a Calida Ambassador that I automatically clicked with on our first day of school. Tommy and Theo are the closest I got to growing up with siblings and they were now miles away. When I called them letting them know I was on my way to the United States, they were shocked but very happy for me. They knew how much I wanted this and although I would not be able to attend the final year of school with them, we told each other that we would keep each other in the loop. However, the time difference was not helpful.
I texted them as soon as I got into my driver’s car knowing that it was about 3 AM there, “First day has me wrecked.....met an interesting girl though.....more updates soon.” Not expecting an immediate response, I clicked off my phone and put it back in my jean’s pocket. I looked down at my new attire, really not recognizing myself in jeans. I never had owned a pair of denim back in Calida. Everything that I wore was sent to me specifically by designers. Thankfully, my driver Luke was about my size and lent me an extra outfit that he had in the car after my first class was over.
My father insisted that Luke, his personal driver, be sent with me for my protection. Luke was trained to protect me against any threats. I fear that those threats do not include high school girls I thought as I dug for my notebook underneath all the colored written notes I received today.
I continued to think about my first day as Luke drove us home. Not everything was bad today. With some ingredients substituted, I got to showcase a popular dish from Calida in my Culinary Arts class with top remarks from the Chef teaching. I also discovered some new American slang that I am sure Tommy and Theo would enjoy using.
Yet, my mind kept coming back to the encounters with a certain person. She said her name was Mila. I asked Nick about her during lunchtime, but he shrugged my questions off. All I knew about her was that she took her food serious and her journalism even more serious. I want to know more about her, but logic says that I should not interfere with a local journalist. Even as beautiful as she is. She made it clear that she only wanted an interview. Would it be so bad to just give her one? I shook my head. If my parents got word of said interview, I would be dragged back to Calida in these denim jeans. I could not give up everything I worked so hard for because of a pretty girl.
My thoughts were interrupted when Luke put the car in park. I waited for him to open the door, as was customary, and got off. I approached the small home that we were renting when I heard the small click of a camera behind me. Out of nowhere, the small click turned into a swarm. I turned around and faced a group of people taking pictures of me. I noticed some reporter vans were from different states. I froze, never being in this position before. We did not have paparazzi in Calida and never had to deal with them.
Luke grabbed my arm and rushed into the home as the clicks behind us got quieter.
“Luke, they were not supposed to know where I live! The address will get leaked and the group will triple in an hour!” I said as I paced back and forth in the small living room.
Luke took a seat, looking so relaxed that you would think he was on vacation. He got up suddenly and told me to pack a bag with some clothes. I did not question him. I got to my room and packed all my essentials. When I walked back into the living room, Luke told me that we were going to get back in the car.
“They will just follow the car as they did before,” I said.
“Just trust me.”
I did trust him. I got my duffle bag and backpack and prepared to go back outside. I got glimpses of the reporters, but mostly it was just bright flashes in my face. Luke lead me to the car and got into the driver’s seat once I was seated. Luke told me to get down as he reversed the car and reporters began to yell to their peers as they jumped into their vans. However, Luke was faster. He sped down the road until we hit a shopping center. He handed me a gray sweatshirt, black sunglasses and told me to put them on. I did what was asked. He entered the semi-busy shopping center where I noticed that the big building had the sign of “Meadow Mall” in bold purple letters outside of it. He made sure to take notice of anyone who looked suspicious, but the other teens that were around seemed to be glued to their phone screens.
“Get out. Take your phone and wallet. They will be looking for the car, but you won’t be in it. Go inside and wait for me. Stay hidden.” He said with determination in his eyes.
I jumped out of the car and watched him speed off just in time as I saw the news station vans catch eye of the car and drive after it. I ran into the mall before I could be seen by them.
I began searching for a place to hide in the two-story mall. After 30 minutes, I chose a lonely bench in a long hallway located near an emergency exit. Once it became evident that the hallway was totally isolated, I took off my sunglasses and looked down at my phone. It was almost dead. I did not want to risk being spotted while buying a charger in a mall. I stayed still and stayed still until I heard footsteps at the end of the hallway. I quickly put on my sunglasses and pretended that I was on a call.
“Good thing that your occupation is a prince because you are a terrible actor,” a familiar voice getting closer until I could see Mila crossing her arms against her chest.
“What are you doing here? How did you find me? Did anyone follow you?” I said with paranoia in my voice. I continued looking behind her, but no one else came.
“Easy there, buddy. I’m here alone. My pal, Jimmy, texted me when he saw you running into the mall. Apparently, people are rooting for me to beat Nick and get that interview first.” She said with a slight wink. Even in the poorly lit hallway, I could see that bright smile of hers.
“Come on, let’s get out of here. I’m sure Nick is on his way,” Mila held out her hand to help me up. I took it and followed her as she lead us through a back entrance where her White Jeep was parked. I got in.
“I need to charge my phone. My driver is coming back here to get me” I told Mila.
She nodded her head “Yeah, you can borrow mine at my house.”
She turned up the radio, 80′s pop music blared out of the speakers and she drove us in the opposite direction of where my rented house was located. I put my sunglasses back on, still paranoid that someone would see me and chase us to Mila’s home. Mila, on the other hand, began to passionately sing to the music on the radio and whip her hair around. Her lack of concern actually put me at ease. I began tapping my foot along to the music.
It only took us about ten minutes to get to her home. It was a small brown brick home located at the end of the street. There were no other cars parked in her driveway. I wondered if her parents were home or if she had any siblings. She turned off the ignition and we jumped off the Jeep.
“Mi casa es tu casa.” Mila grinned while leading me up to the front door.
She unlocked the front door and held out her hand signaling me to go in first. I walked into a small living room that felt very cozy. I glanced at the walls that had pictures of a woman that did not look much younger than Mila now, with a small baby.
“Is that your mother?” I asked getting closer. The woman in the picture looked like a spitting image of Mila.
“Yes, it is. She was around 18 in the picture. She had me young. The baby with the chubby cheeks is me. Here toss me your phone so I can put it to charge.” I reached into my pocket and handed her my dead phone. I had to call Luke and tell him where I was now. At a girl’s house that I had just met this morning when I crashed into her in the hallway. He was going to lose it.
“Fancy a drink? We can’t have wine here, but we do have the finest tap water and juice boxes.” Mila said with the smirk. She had done her research. In Calida, the legal age to drink is 16 and not 21 like in the states. A glass of wine is exactly what I needed right now.
“I will take a glass of water,” I said.
She nodded and headed towards a room that I assumed was the kitchen. I walked over to where my phone was charging and waited until it turned on. It only took a few minutes for my phone to turn on and for me to start panicking at the missed calls from Luke. I called him back and he picked up on the first ring.
“Where are you? I have looked all over this damn mall. You hid well.” Luke responded. I could hear that he had been running.
“Actually, I had to leave the mall.”
“Excuse me? Your highness, I told you to stay here.”
“They found out that I was at the mall. A friend from school brought me to her home. She took me out through the back entrance. We were not followed. I will text you the address. We are only about 10 minutes away.” I said before he agreed and hung up.
Mila came back in the living room with two glasses of water. I chugged mine. I pictured my mother yelling at me about manners as I did it, but the car chase had made me extremely thirsty. I wiped my mouth with the sleeve of the sweater that Luke gave me. Mila looked at me like she was about to burst into laughter and was trying her hardest not to.
“I think I am rubbing off on you already,” Mila said with a raised eyebrow.
“Maybe you are. Here text my driver your address so he can come to pick me up,” I said handing her my phone. She took it and sent back a message. She continued to tap the screen for a while before she handed my phone back to me.
“I added my phone number to your contacts. Text me if you’re ever in need of my services your highness.” She said bowing at me.
I laughed and tucked my phone back in my pocket. A part of me wished that I could stay here all night and talk to Mila for some reason. We sat down on her living room sofa and talked briefly. Mila told me that she is the only child, her mother is a nurse that works long hours, and that it was only the two of them. I remained quiet about myself, only asking questions about Mila’s life. I was still not sure if I could trust Mila with certain information about myself just yet. I already had a long day and did not want personal information of mine being plastered online tonight.
We were interrupted by a car honking outside. I gathered my stuff and walked outside. Mila stood by the door.
I turned back around, “Thank you for helping me Mila. You are a generous person.”
“See you tomorrow Phoenix,” She said with that soft smile of hers. A smile that you would spend days dreaming about.
Luke was parked behind Mila’s Jeep, however, he was in a different car. This car was an old beat-up Toyota. He visibly relaxed once he got sight of me. I felt guilty that I put Luke in this position. He opened the back door of the car for me and I slid in. The inside of the car was actually quite clean and smelled nice. Once we began to move, Luke explained to me that he had to ditch the car for one that would not risk any attention. He said that we could not go back to the house and that he actually rented out an apartment under his name. I tried to process everything that we have been through today. I never pictured living in America would be like this. I do not think Tommy and Theo would believe me if I tried telling them.
“Hey Luke, how did you know where the mall was? You seemed to know that it was a good spot to drop me off.” I questioned. We have not been here long enough to go sightseeing.
“Years ago, I had a girlfriend that lived here. I visited her and her family during the summer. Everything looks the same.”
I was not expecting that answer. I knew nothing about Luke besides the basics but did not expect him having a connection to this place. I looked at Luke through the rear-view mirror. Luke was not an old man, he still had time to get married and have children if he chooses to.
“and this ex-girlfriend of yours.....have you told her that you are going to be here for a whole year?”
“We did not end on the best terms, your highness I decided to stay in Calida to serve your family. She chose to come back to the States. Last I heard, she moved away to another town a few years back.” Luke added. I chose not to push further. I had no place to ask in the first place.
We continued to drive until we entered a small apartment complex. Luke parked the car.
“It is not a castle your highness, but it is your new home.”