I don't know how long I'd been asleep but it felt like seconds to me. Somehow, I was mentally awake but not physically so; my body refused to wake the hell up. I was completely unaware of where I was, until I heard the sound of two grown men arguing. Dada and Papa, (who else?).
Papa. "You get the bags and I'll carry her inside,"
Dada. "How about I get her and you slave over the bags."
Papa. "Those bags are heavy."
One of them sighed, presumably Umberto, (a.k.a Dada). I struggled to open my eyes but nothing happened so gave up and tuned them out.
I shifted... and got the wind knocked out of me. Ouch, that hurt! I peeled my eyes open, groaning when I found myself faced down on the floor, in a unfamiliar room. Groaning again, I got up head for the door. I twisted the handle and pulled it open, poking my head out and nearly jumping out of my skin when Dada's head popped out of nowhere, scaring the crap out of me. I pulled the door open wider and glared at him.
"The baby monitor went off," he explained, looking somewhat embarrassed or amused, I just couldn't tell. I looked back into the room and...sure enough, the little monitor sat nice and neat on the drawer next to the bed. I turned back to him with pursed lips and an arched eyebrow.
"You know I'm nineteen, right?" I said dryly.
"Hey, that was Papa's idea, not mine." He said.
I smiled. If it was Papa's idea then it's OK, I thought.
There was an awkward silence, and I broke it, asking, " where's the rest of the family, they're here, right?"
"Yes, they are," he answered, then he grabbed my arm, pulling me forward, "I was actually sent to escort you, Lindy's beside herself, she's so happy."
I grinned. My Aunt Lindy, his sister, was my favorite Aunt, (and that's saying something since I had, like, fourteen of them-on both sides of the family) and I missed her dearly. If memories served right, she should've be expecting her second child any day now. I followed Dada eagerly, unable to contain my excitement as he led me through a small, intimate hall and down the stairs. My foot barely hit the floor before I was bombarded by my family.
"Lola!" They all yelled, and before I knew it, I was in a major group hug with at least ten people. And I was loving it. A majority of Mama's family was back in Colombia, so this was mostly Papa's side of the family, but that didn't make me less happy. My mood escalated when I locked gaze with Aunt Lindy, I practically leaped on her-which was kind of difficult since her stomach had its own continent-and pulled her in a bear hug.
"I missed you so much, bella," she gushed, pulling back and cupping my cheeks, " you look so beautiful, so grown up. And, I love Maria, but you're never going away for so long again, you hear me?"
"Yes, ma'am." I said, with the biggest smile on my face. I pulled away and met eyes with her. My old sunday school teacher. My mother's ex-bestfriend. My father's current fiancé. Lily. Short for Lilith. Short for trampy whore who can't keep her legs closed...
I swallowed back the instinctive impulse to curse her out. She took a timid step towards me , looking scared. I took pleasure in that look. She opened her mouth and seemed to brace herself.
"Hello, Lola," she said in her high and soft voice. She seemed so uncomfortable and I reveled in it.
"Lilith," I said with a nod of acknowledgement. My voice sounded pleasant, enough. She winced at the sound, probably thinking I was going to be bitchy to her. Get over yourself, I thought.
There was an awkward pause. A long awkward pause.
I glanced around the room, and realized that everyone was being quiet on purpose, they wanted me to break the silence. With a heavy sigh, I did just that.
"So, how was the wedding?" I asked with a tiny smile. I asked that on purpose, I knew that the wedding was five months away, but I wanted her to squirm while trying to explain to me why she kept on pushing back the date, I wanted her to suffer like an ant under a magnifying glass.
I got the reaction I wanted.
Her eyes popped out. "Oh no, Lola, we haven't had the wedding yet. I would never rob you the opportunity of attending your own father's wedding-"
I have already attended my father's wedding, you moron. I was six months in my Mama's belly.
"-and the date we've picked is perfect. Maria will be back in the states, and she will be able to attend, too."
"That's very considerate of you," I said sweetly. Seriously, was that supposed to impress me?
"Oh, it was nothing. I wa-"
"I'm hungry," I cut her off. It was kind of rude, but right at that moment, my stomach decided to growl viciously, backing me up.
"Oh, of course! The food is ready, we were just waiting for you."
"Well. I'm here now, so can we eat?" I asked. Everybody laughed, but I was being completely serious. I don't play when it came between me and my food.
"Of course," she repeated.
"You're seeting next to me, Lola," Aunt Lindy said, wrapping her arm around my shoulders, and pulling me towards the dining room.
No one dared to argue with her.
After dinner, the men (and I) moved to the living room and the women cleaned. I offered to help but was told to relax instead. Like a good girl, I did what I was told. I was sitting in the middle of the most comfortable couch in history of comfortable couches, with my head on Papa's shoulder and Aunt Lindy's two-year-old daughter, Becky, on my lap, while watching bad television. I was strangely in heaven, but I felt guilty as hell, I missed Mama like crazy. I wonder if she missed me-
"OW," I yelped when little Becky pulled a handful of my hair, and held on. Man, did she ever! I tried to gently unwrap her hand from my head but she was holding on for dear life.
"A little help here," I groaned when she pulled harder, her small hand surprisingly strong.
"Beck, let go of Lola's hair, honey," John, her dad and Aunt Lindy's husband, said soothingly. I smuggled back a moan when she pulled harder. It's official, this child's trying to scalp me.
"I'll give you candy," he said with a sigh, it was almost insulting how fast she let go and climbed off me, leaving me with half my hair sticking up.
"I guess I'm not as good as candy," I said pathetically, watching her run away from me, dragging John behind her.
Papa snorted. " I could have told you that," I turned and pinched him in the arm, hard. "Ow, what was that for?"
"For not helping me," I clarified with a smile.
"What could I have done?" He demanded,"she was holding on like her life depended on it. And I know better than to get between women and their hair."
"Smart man." Nicole, Lily's sixteen-year old sister, said coming out of the kitchen.
"What do you know about hair," her twin brother, Nicolas snorted. "Don't tell me you're referring to that wasps nest on the top of your head."
Everyone laughed. I held back a smile at Nicole's expression. If only looks could kill...
"That's not funny, Nico," Lily said coming out of the kitchen with Aunt Lindy, Becky, and John.
"Yes, it was," Tommy said,"and don't pretend you weren't laughing, we all heard you. You're the only one that snorts while laughing." Tommy was the last child of the Smith family and my favorite one so far. He was honest (sometimes too honest), straight-forward, and he seemed to thrive on making people uncomfortable. It's too bad he was only ten years old, he would have made one hell of an interrogator. He proved me right a second later when he turned in his seat and stared at me with great intensity.
"Why are you so beautiful?" He asked almost accusingly. My eyebrows shot up.
Papa answered before I could. "She looks like her mother."
"I don't believe it," Tommy asked, pursing his lips, "you have that one of a kind beauty thing going on. I can't imagine another person like you, it's simply impossible." He said with a pained sigh, as if the reality of the truth hurt.
"Allow me to prove you wrong," I smiled, pulling out my phone and scrolling to my gallery. I tapped on one of the most recent picture I had of Mama and showed it to him. My smile widen at his expression.
"Mary, mother of God, that's your mother?" He whispered in an awestruck voice. "Is she mix?"
"Yes," I answered," she's half Colombian and half Native American."
"Wow, that explains your hair," he said.
"What about my hair?" I asked.
"It's so shiny and pretty," he answered, never taking his eyes off the phone.
I looked down at my hair and had to agree; my hair was soft and thick, it grew fast but I liked it short, shoulder-length. It was black and straight, it was beautiful.
"Thank you," I said, "but my Mama's hair is ten times prettier than mine,"
Tommy nodded, his eyes still locked on the phone. It was getting kind of weird.
I cleared my throat. "Can I have my phone back?"
He nodded again and passed the phone over to Papa, who was closer to him. Papa cocked an eyebrow and smiled at what he saw, I leaned over to see and-
"Hey! That's not the picture I showed you," I turned and stared accusingly at Tommy.
He shrugged. "You never said I couldn't scroll to other pics, and I needed evidence of your likeness, so far I'm convinced, by the way."
I rolled my eyes, that was something I could have done.
"Maria got a tattoo," Papa said, it was not a question. I frowned at the look of disapproval on his face, usually Papa agreed with anything and everything Mama did.
"And so did you, apparently," he turned his disappointed eyes on me. Anybody else would have flinch away from that look, but not me.
"That photo was taken two years ago, Papa" I said with a sigh, rearranging myself so that my head lay on his knee, my feet went on Dada's lap, and then I continued, "you haven't even seen the piercings yet. Well, I guess you've seen most of mine," I said, toying with my nose ring.
"You have more piercings, aside from your nose and ears?" Dada asked, eyeing me curiously.
"Not yet I don't,"I answered. I was planning on getting my belly botton p-"OW!" I yelped, rubbing my forehead, I glared up at Papa.
"What was that for?" I pouted.
"You're not getting any more piercings or tattoos, and that's final." He said. He leaned down and kissed my forehead, right on the spot he flicked me in. I stick out my tongue at him but decided not to argue. It was simply not worth it.
"I cannot believe Maria got a tattoo," Aunt Lindy said, she was cuddling with John on the loveseat, Becky sat on John's lap blissfully sucking on a lollipop. "Was she drunk?"
I snorted at that. Mama? Drunk? Yeah, right.
"No, I begged her to allow me to get one and she decided to get one herself after I got mine, apparently I made it looked painless,"
"I bet it wasn't," Dada chuckled.
"She cried for three days straight," I laughed, "and she grounded me, can you believe that?"
"Yes, I can," Papa said. "So, that's the only tattoo she got, right?"
"Her? Yes. Me? No. I got my entire right arm tattooed," I rolled up my sleeve to show them. Some of them were actually older than others and I was thinking of- "PAPA!" I screeched. By now my forehead was probably turning red!
He sighed. "Why would you do that?"
I clenched my teeth. "At the time it seemed like a good idea." I bit out.
He muttered something unintelligible and laid the phone on my scorching forehead, I was graceful.
"Umm, Papa, don't you have a tattoo?" Lily countered, she was sitting next to Tommy.
I gasped. "Hypocrite, how can you frown upon me and Mama having tattoos yet you have your own?" I was shocked and pissed, but not pissed enough to get up. No, I was way too comfortable.
"Mama and I," he corrected, " and I don't need to justify my actions to you,bella, I'm an adult."
I sighed, I was so not going to argue with him.
Papa always treated me like a child, like his child. From as far as I can remember, I was Papa's little girl. And I was fine with that, but sometimes he treated me too much like a child.
"Sure papa," I said, "whatever you say" that was not me giving up, no, that was me savoring the moment; I was so comfortable and everybody was so quiet and I didn't want to ruin it by starting something.
I inhaled deeply and snuggled closer to his lap. Everybody went back to watching TV and having quiet side conversations, it was perfect, a little too perfect . . . a loud, piercing siren blaze through the room, scaring the crap out of everybody. Papa jumped. Aunt Lindy yelled. Becky screamed. The cat cried...wait there was a cat? Lily gasped and let out a small "oh"- I couldn't help but roll my eyes at her, I swear that lady always started her talking with the word "oh"-while I, one the other hand, was on the verge of doing all of the above, (except for the cat and Lily's, of course) well that was until I recognized the sound as my ringtone for Mama and not an alien attack, as Tommy had said it was. I sat up so fast it gave me a head rush, grabbed my phone with shaky fingers and answered.
" Mama?" I asked, which was stupid because I know it was her, but I needed reassurance of so kind. I nearly wept with joy when I heard her beautiful voice.
"Lola, baby, how are you? "
I exhaled deeply.
"I'm fine, Mama, but I miss you."
She snorted. "Already? That's probably because you haven't met any boys yet," she said in a teasing voice. Than in a totally serious voice she asked "you haven't met any boys yet, right? Lola?"
It was my turn to snort. "Relax, Mama, how many times do I have to go through this with you? I'm nineteen. I've already past the age of damnation, two years ago!"
Mama's family had this tradition-well not tradition, it was more like a reoccurring event that happens in every generation-where a all the females would get pregnant at the age of sixteen or sometime around that age. The story goes that back in the old age where the first lady to bear our family's last name was cursed by a witch (a.k.a a crazy ex-mistress) after she captured the heart of the wealthiest man in her village.
The curse was that every female and the family was to conceive at an early age (which makes no damn sense to me, but hey) another part of the curse was that every mother would hold a big, dark secret from their daughters. In my opinion, it was just a bunch of baloney, but every time I tried to express my feelings about it or the fact that I'm nineteen and am not a mother they just shrug it off and tell me it's different for me because I'm a hybrid (an offspring of two cultures).
"Mama," I sighed heavily, "it just a myth and its not even accurate. You were eighteen when you have the privilege of bringing me into the world." I sighed again, this time with arrogance.
"Privilege?" She asked, confused. Which, by the way, was really insulting. I'm special, darn it!
"OK, I'll ignore that," I muttered. "Because I'm one hundred percent sure that you called to know if I landed safely,which I did by the way, and to enforce rules that we both know I won't follow, so you might as well get it over with."
She laughed."You know me too well, baby. And of course you're right, except for the part where you're not going to follow my rules because we both know that Papa will have you under lock and keys until I come."
I frowned and looked over at Papa. How'd I forget about that?
"And the rules are simple, anyway," she continued. "Don't drink. Don't smoke. And listen to your father. Oh! And most importantly, do not make me a grandmother, or so help me, I will evaporate your ass."
I bit back a laugh. The more Mama talked the more pronounce her Colombian accent was.
"Yes, Ma'am. I believe it's my turn now."
"Your turn for what?" She asked.
"To give you my rules, of course," I clarified.
"Oh, really?" She sounded amused.
"Yes, really. They're more expectations than rules. Like, I expect you to eat three times a day-and before you can say you won't have time for that, I've already hired Mrs. Dior to to cook and clean the apartment when you're at work."
She groaned."Mrs. Dior! Lola! You know that lady hates me!" I could have sworn I heard her stomp her foot
"Exactly. I hired her because I know she won't take any B.S from you or anybody. And you shouldn't feel bad, Mama, Mrs. Dior is French, she hates everybody-her words not mine."
Mama giggled. It was one of the most beautiful sounds in the world.
"Expectation number two, you will be here in four months or less or I will come and get you. And after that you'll get a more stable job, like you promised."
I stopped, waiting for her to argue, but all she said was "OK. Anything else?"
"Expectation number three, you will miss me and hurry back home."
"If I must," she sighed heavily.
My lips quirked up. "You must."
"I will miss you dearly," she said sincerely. "Listen Lola, baby, I've got to go, I'll call you as soon as I can, but if I don't leave now, I'm going to be late for work."
"Okay, Mama. Oh, but one more thing, please."
"What is it?"
"When you get back to America, you'll let me set you up with a date." It came out sounding like a question.
Just like I expected, Mama burst out laughing. She laughed so hard I had to take the phone away from my ear.
"Yeah," she said in between laughs, "not going to happen. But thanks for the laugh, though. Okay, I've got to go. I'll call you later."
"Okay, bye, Mama."
"Bye, baby." And she hung up.
I removed the phone from my ear and locked it. I tried not to wince at the sudden despair that attacked me when Mama hung up. This is going to be a very long four months, I thought. Sighing, I looked up and finally noticed the silence and the fact that everyone was staring at me.
"What?" I asked. "Did you guys want to speak to her?" I looked over at Papa, his head was cocked to the side, he seemed to be debating something in his head. He's probably just worried about Mama, I thought. After long second, he reached over and-
"OW!" Oh, my poor, abused forehead. It must be the color of a tomato now!
"Jesus, Papa, was that necessary?"
"Yes," everybody said in unison, "it was."
I raised an eyebrow. Oh, really?
After that little stunt Papa pulled with my forehead, I went to bed early. It wasn't because I got my feelings hurt or anything,(in fact it was really funny) I was just really tired. Dog tired. Traveling from Europe to America did that to a girl. And so did stressing. Which I was; I was stressing so hard my hair was probably turning gray by the second. Sighing, I grabbed the dress I was looking at, grabbed a hanger, walked over to my closet and hung it. Walking back to my bed, I repeated the process. I'd been doing this for almost two hours now (organizing my room) and I was still on the first bag. Only Mama would be able to fit so much clothing into such little bags. Only Mama. I gazed around my room again and smiled. It was truly beautiful. The walls were a light blue and everything matched, from the bed to the bureau to the carpet. As much as I hated Lily I had to handed to her, she really know how to decorate. Someone knocked on the door.
"Come in," I called out. Papa opened the door and walked in, carrying a glass of water. I smiled and took it from him. And drink.
"Thank you." I said, setting the half empty glass on the small drawer next to my bed.
"You're welcome," he replied, sitting on the corner of the bed, he held up one of my blouses, helpfully. I took it from him and hung it up. We worked that way for a while.
"Everyone still here?" I asked, starting on the second bag. It's funny how fast I worked with Papa.
"No. Lily took her brothers home-Nicole's sleeping over. Lindy and John called it a night early."
"Really? It's only 7:30 p.m, on a Friday."
"Yes, well they function around Becky's schedule and right now she's asleep so they're getting as much rest as they can."
Wow, it must be tough being a parent.
"What about you?" I asked, folding a pair of Levi's jeans and adding them to the bureau. Great, almost done.
"I'm heading home but I wanted to say goodbye first," he answered, neatly folding three more pair of jeans and handing them to me. I added them to the stack in the bureau. Since when have I owned so many pair of jeans?
"Why can't I leave with you?" I blurted out. Real smooth, Lola.
Papa sighed."Lolita, we've been over this countless times, you're staying here until Maria comes and that is final."n
"It's not set in stone," I whined, stomping my foot.
"Yes, it is, Maria made everybody promise to keep you here, no matter what. I plan on keeping my promise."
I grunted and stomped my foot again, hoping it will make him take me seriously. It had the opposite effect; Papa burst out laughing.
"It's not funny Papa," I bit out through clenched teeth, "I have so much on my plate. I start school Monday- this Monday and I have to make sure everything is fine, that my classroom looks okay, and let's not forget but I'm a nineteen year old teacher about to teach kids only one or two years younger than me. I don't have time to be bothered with Lily and her please forgive me bull crap." Any other day I would have felt bad about cursing in front of Papa, but not today. I was so anxious and worried that I was literally trembling.
Papa stood up and enfolded me in a hug. "Shh, it's okay Lola, everything will be okay." He pulled back and looked me in the eyes. "You got this, and I will be there anytime you need me." He pulled me back to his chest and mumble something. I couldn't hear him correctly.
"Can you repeat that, I didn't hear," I mumbled in his chest.
"I said so will Lily,"
"What!" I tried to pull back be he wouldn't let me.
"Um, did I forget to mention that she works at the same school you'll be teaching in? Or that she's an administrator? I knew I forgot something."
I stood frozen in Papa's arms, seriously contemplating biting off his nipple. I was really thinking about it. I sighed deeply and tried to pull back again, this time he allowed me to. Smart of him, he gets to keep his nipple. I sat at the edge of the bed and sighed again. There was no way I could handle Lily both at work and at home. There was absolutely no way. I looked up at Papa and made a decision, the right decision.
He snorted, walked up to me and kissed me on the forehead, then sautéed over to the door. "Tell that to the principal."
"You are the principal!" I yelled behind him.
He looked back over his shoulder and said,"not today I'm not. Talk to me on Monday Ms. Brown." And with that, he left the room, leaving me there, stunned.