I watch the ocean passing by me. I hear the wind whooshing around and a little bit of sea water sprinkles on me. I listen to the big waves and I watch as days go by. We still haven’t reached France. We travel for days watching them go from morning to late night, and then one morning I wake up and hear bells ringing and people talking. I look around and I am on the shore. The ship has stopped and I’m in France.
I walk off the ship with my young sister who is seven years old, and she starts whining about how long that was. Then she starts crying, saying she’s hungry, and tired and she wants to see Auntie Lucia. I pick her up and give her a piggy back ride and then she stops. She has always loved that. I watch her smile and that’s the first time in days that I’ve smiled. Ever since my dad died everything has been broken. But I finally decided to cheer up. I know it’s very sad and I’m heartbroken but all I can do is be happy. It’s Thanksgiving (in America), and I should try to enjoy it and then I can go back to the days of misery.
My sister and I get our luggage and we walk around the large city that we arrived in called Marseille. I try to find a place to eat that’s nearby to eat a small lunch, but all I can find is an ice cream/pastry shop. So my sister runs and looks in the window while I slowly walk with all the heavy luggage. It probably weighs like 25 pounds in all. Finally for what seems like hours of walking only one block I get to the pastry shop. I put the bags down and tell my sister to watch them while I order ice cream, but one thing I know now is never leave a young seven-year-old in charge of your bags and valuables because when you turn around they will be gone, and that’s what happens. I go to her to give her ice cream, but what I found was not my sister with our luggage.
My sister is sucking a lollipop she had taken from the store and the store manager says, “You have to pay for that, missy, you can’t just go around taking food.”
So assuming she didn’t pay I hurriedly give the women money, run over and grab my sister hard and yell, ”Where did our luggage go? I gave you one simple job and you lose your clothes! Everything we have was there, including money and valuables.”
She stares into my eyes and whines, “You’re being so mean, I just wanted a lollipop.”
I start to sweat and I clench my fists together because I felt like I could just pick her up and drag her home. I almost do it, but instead I just pick her up and start walking toward my Aunt’s house. As I walk I eat my ice cream and all of the sudden my sister screams and wiggles because she isn’t getting ice cream.
She begins to throw a tantrum. I quickly grab her by her shirt and yell, “Quit it, that’s enough, behave yourself! You’re acting like a baby. Look around, I don’t see any other seven-year-olds crying like you do. You lost our stuff and stole a lollipop you don’t get any ice cream, so stop complaining!” But that didn’t do anything, except make her cry more,
I give her one last chance and say, “If you don’t stop right now I will leave you here, you can stay right here on this street while I go and see Auntie. It’s your choice, You stop your racket and come home or you could just stay here.” She should have stopped, but all she does is keep going.
So I walk away saying, “Bye, I’m going to see Auntie Lucia. That’s when she screamed and stomped and got so mad.
So I run over, pick her up and yell so hard, “Stop!” Then she stopped.
I pull her around the streets by her shirt dragging her because I am so mad about the way she was acting. I was sick of the baby coming out of her. We walk along the streets with everybody staring at us until I get to the house, put her down and try to say kindly, “Now behave you have to be good in front of Auntie Lucia, do you understand?” I just see her small head nod and I give her a small kiss on the head to make her feel better. We walk into the house and I see Auntie come out of the kitchen. I run over to her and give her a big hug like I haven’t seen her in years because I haven’t really last time I saw her was eight years ago.
Then all of a sudden not expecting this at all, I see my mother. I stay frozen because I am very upset with her and I haven’t seen her in so long. I just stare blankly at my mom and continued to hug my aunt.
I look up at my aunt who’s admiring us (she does this every time) and she says, “Lana tu et tres grande, tu as combien ans?” That means “Lana you’re very big! How old are you?” in French.
I respond saying, “J’ai dix-sept ans maintenant,” meaning “I’m seventeen now.” I smile at her and tell her that next year I’m going off to college and we’re going to need someone to watch my sister, but since mom is not close to us anymore, I ask her if she could watch my sister.
She asks me to sit down at her dining room table, which is a beautiful piece of wood that she just added legs too and her dining room is filled with marvelous french antiques. Just as I go to sit down, she asks me where our luggage is, and that’s when I remember we lost our luggage. I sit down and say that someone stole it. She looks at me with sharp eyes and tells me in French that we will have to go shopping and get clothes and bathroom supplies that were going to need. She tells me places we can go and things we can get, and we all talk for hours. We go out for a small walk and come back. When we get back my auntie tells me she prepared us a special Thanksgiving dinner. I am so pleased to hear this because in France they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving so it’s nice that that she thought of us. I set the table and we all sit down to eat. I see all the good-smelling foods that my aunt cooked for tonight. I can smell garlic, mashed potatoes with salt, and the turkey with gravy spread onto it. We serve the food once my aunt sits down to eat we are allowed to start.
I stuff a mouthful of turkey into my mouth and I can barely chew because there is so much food filling up my mouth. The turkey is delicious, and with the gravy it’s even better. It tastes juicy and fresh and my aunt added a tiny bit of honey, which makes it even better. Once I finish my meal, I get up from the dinner table wash the dishes and then go sit down on the crystal blue sofa. Once I sit down it’s obvious what’s coming next (my sister). So I decided to ask my aunt where my room is, every time it changes. My aunt was busy at the moment so my mom says, “Girls come, both of you. I’ll show you your room.”
I stop for a second thinking, “our room?” No that’s not happening. No way will I be sharing a room with my sister.
So I ask my mom, “ Uh, why did you say, our room? I can’t share a room with my sister, I don’t think that’s happening.”
“Darling, I’m sorry but I can’t save you from this one, that’s all the room we have,” whispers my mother.
“Excuse me. Did you just say you won’t save me from this one? When have you ever saved me? When have you been here for me, my whole life you were never here and now you pretend like you were. I grew up and took care of myself with dad, and you left me at the age of five, came back and then left. You don’t care about our family. I have been watching your daughter and my sister, taking care of her by myself for two years. You didn’t even bother to help. So no, don’t say you can’t save me from this one because you never saved me, you don’t know what I have saved myself from.”
I reach out for my sister’s hand and she takes it, we walk up stairs and I go into the room put my purse down and lock the door. My sister watches me looking at my every move while I just pace back and forth through the room. I finally sit down on the bed and I tell my sister that I want her to know how we grew up and who took care of her. She nods silently still staring at me with her beautiful hazel eyes, and her shining blonde hair.
When I was about five years old mother left, she said she would be coming back in two years, but she never did. She never came back for me or our dad. She said she had a ton of work and that involved travel, but it wasn’t all work. I thought she didn’t care about me and I was right. Dad took care of me until I was nine. That’s when mom came back. She acted like nothing happened and we played along, I guess I played along, but dad still loved mom. Then one day out of a sudden, mom said she was having a baby and that’s when she had you. At the time I wasn’t pleased because I was upset that she just got to come right back and have a baby.
I didn’t understand how my dad just fell right into her. But I just kept playing along until you were born and then a year later. When I was 12 mom left again, this time she didn’t say anything, she only left while I was at school and dad was at work and she was supposed to be taking care of you.
Dad picked me up from school and I went home and when we got home you were crying and you had gotten out of your crib somehow and fallen. We settled things and looked everywhere for mom but I knew she had left us once and for all. We lived the rest of the years happily until dad died when you were five and I was 15. I was devastated because I didn’t know how to take care of you and I didn’t know what to do. But I did know that for a year we had to stay undercover because I was only 15 and I had to be 16 to take care of you. I took care of you for two years until now when I’m 17 I don’t have much time left with you since I will have to go off to college.
I finished my story and told my sister not to worry. I tucked her in bed and I went downstairs. Once I was downstairs I went over to my aunt and said, “I think we are going to have to go home soon. I’m sorry but I can’t stay here with my mom, she has done too much damage to this family.” I tell her I love her and it’s not her it’s my mom and I’m sorry. I go upstairs, brush my teeth, put my pajamas on and get into the cozy warm bed.
Next thing I know is my sister is on top of me saying, “Morning, morning, good morning!” multiple times. I open my eyes wide and pull the covers off to get out of bed. I get ready and me and my sister go downstairs to have breakfast. Aunt Lucia made us scrambled eggs and croissants, with a special chocolate one for my sister.
We finish our delicious meal clean up and my mom says, “Why don’t we go to the museum? It’s beautiful.” Again, she acts like nothing ever happened.
I pretended she didn’t say anything and then I say in a bratty way on purpose, “Oh were you talking to us? Sorry, didn’t hear you, but we can’t. We were thinking to go to the zoo.”
My mother stares into my eyes sharply and whispers in an angry way,“The closest zoo is far away, and it will take you a long time to get there.”
I tell her, “It’s fine, it’s always good to walk and get exercise.” And then I put on my shoes and ask if my aunt wants to come. She says she would love to and she gets a map. I quickly push her out because I don’t want to talk to my mom anymore and we leave. I’m really happy that she said yes and we didn’t have to go with my mom because if I had to go with her I would end up having the worst day ever. We walk down the streets to the subway and we go about three stops (not long like someone said) and then walk a block until we reach the zoo. We pay euros and we walk around the zoo. They have really nice animals. Racoons, baboons, giraffes, penguins, meerkats, birds, lions, tigers, bears, monkeys, kangaroos, zebras, panthers, and wolves.
I walk by loads of animals and admire them for a while. I draw a few and keep going. This zoo is so beautiful and they have thousands of animals. I think we’ll have to come back to see the other half of the zoo.
I keep walking and then while I’m drawing I hear my sister yelling, “Lana, Lana, Lana, look at the animals! They are so cute.”
I laugh because she is reaching her arm in and jumping up and down so I mumble laughing while saying, “Alice, you’re going to scare the animals, I know they’re cute but don’t scare them, why don’t you go feed the ducks?”
She shrieks and jumps up, then runs over to feed the ducks. I hear her going, “Quack quack quack” with the ducks and I smile happily. I wonder to myself for a minute and then get back to my drawing.
Once we get to Aunt Lucia’s house I notice it seems empty, I pause for a minute and look around and notice a small note on the ground. I pick it up and its says “goodbye.” I open it up and read out loud.
To Lana and Alice,
I know things haven’t been perfect between us and I made a little mistake but, I keep trying and trying to be friends and you don’t seem to accept me. I wanted to come back but I just felt like I already left and I can’t come back. I’m sorry if this hurts you because I know deep inside you love me but I can’t be with you if you won’t accept me as your mother. Maybe I didn’t grow up with you and I wasn’t there for you but you’re still my daughters and your still related to me, so since you won’t accept me as your mother I can’t stay. I’m sorry but I’ve left fFance and gone back to America where you grew up so you can stay here and be with your aunt.
I think about what she said and I’m really glad she left, I don’t mind it doesn’t hurt because my aunt is my mother to me. My mother is just a selfish woman who doesn’t care about anyone else or her family. I don’t need to live with her and I’m just fine for another year with my sister and my aunt. Then I go off to college and my aunt takes care of my sister. I think I can handle a few years without my mom.
Five years later
“Lana, Lana wake up! Come on, we’re gonna be late for class, also today is our last day of college!” my roommate Coral tells me.
I lift my head up only hearing the last few words she said, “last day of college.” I jump out of bed and think to myself, “Last day, it’s been such a short four years. Oh and I almost forgot, I get to see my sister. I can’t believe she will be 11 years old. I think it will be much easier to take care of her. I haven’t seen her in four years! Because college has been very stressful.”
Coral calls me again and I tell her I’m ready to leave. I quickly stuff everything into my bag and we get to class. I get to school and I see a lot of my best friends crying. We talk about what we are going to do for the next few years and we enjoy our last day. When I finish my last course of college for the year, I walk out and meet Coral and Avery and Alex and we go eat lunch at this ramen food place. I tell them that I get to be with my sister in four days and I will move to Australia for two years while my aunt takes care of my sister, and then I will come back to my sister and take care of her for a few years while I’m in grad school. Everyone else tells me their adventures, and that’s the end of college.
Four Days Later
I see my tall, skinny, beautiful sister run out the door and she grabs me tight. I hold her for a long time because I can’t believe I haven’t seen her in four years. She tells me she missed me so much and everyday for the first few years she would go to bed crying because she didn’t have me around, then she got used to it but would think about me all the time. We have a small conversation outside and then we go into the house with my sister still clinging onto me and and I see my aunt. I go up to her and squeeze her hard. She asks me thousands of questions about college and I tell her my stories. We eat dinner, and watch this French movie that my grandmother loves, called Cache. I get ready for bed and my sister hops in my bed with me, I snuggle her close to me and feel her warm body breathing softly. I give her a kiss and tell her to sleep.
That’s the end of my story, sweetheart. That’s what my life was like, that’s how I grew up. My mother was never close to me, and so we never saw each other after that. But don’t you worry, you will always be my small little princess and I will never do anything to you that my mother did to me. Now close your eyes — tomorrow will be a beautiful new day.