The calm before the storm
The day started out as perfect as a dawn breaking over the Xe Pon. I remember walking barefoot along the beach as the mist of the night dampened the white sand. The coarse feeling between my toes while we girls frolicked in the shallow waters. This morning began such as that.
“Girlfriend, you look perfect.” Maria called me a little after my mother left for work. I wondered why she was so inquisitive about her workday.
“We almost match. Oh, how I wish I had that hair.” In the short time I knew her, she already formed a habit of fingering or stroking my straight black mane. I would hear about its length and the natural shine. I have to admit the attention was intoxicating.
“Rosie, he’s gonna die.” After giving me the American name of Rosita, it seemed a shorter version was preferred.
“I hope I won’t get in trouble.” The tone showed my fright. It was gym day and we were not dressed for it. Maria’s plan was for us to appear unprepared for PE. I was new, and she would tell the PE Teacher I didn’t understand English. I guess she intended to show a map of my country, Bru. She just did not care about an unsatisfactory mark and would have support. Two Black girls overheard the plan and decided to join our non-participation. All four of us were showing our knees. I owned two skirts, and Maria said Mario would like the black one, “cause he’s Italian…they love that damn color.”
My shirt was an A & F cap sleeve that was a little loose on top. I only mention it due to standing next to Maria. While she admired my pleated skirt some inches over the knees, I marveled at her blouse. It was a lovely sheer white silk-looking shirt. A see-through print design ran from the top of her left shoulder over her breast. That was my focus. I knew she told me it was an XL, but her bust was straining the fragile material. I was grateful for the slip of white material layered behind the print. Nothing was visible, but to me, this top was scandalous. I wanted one.
“I though you were stuck up, but Maria clued us in.” Cookie was tall and slender. Her skin was dark and looked as soft as silk. I knew she wore extensions, as she bragged about the price. It was well worth it. I think, and still do she was the most beautiful teenage girl I had ever seen. Lip-gloss gave her lips a moist natural quality I knew mine were lacking. She wore a lovely silk top. I knew this was real silk. The yellow blouse sat as if fitted over her black skirt. I could tell the material was not the same as my blended mix of cheap fibers. Without touching the lining, I knew this was luxurious. Her heels were black and stunning.
“She wasn’t stuck up, she’s got the hots for that white boy.” Brenda squeaked with a high-pitched tone. She wore a white summer dress, decorated with pink flowers. I though it was beautiful. Her flip-flops matched the dress, as they were pure white.
“What?” The girls saw me in the cafeteria and must have waved. Since, I kept my head down at all times, it was obvious that they thought my shyness, or a better description, my fear, was a slight. “I mean,” my mouth continued to move. How?”
“I told them.” Maria was so forceful and confident in her speech. No one could question her decisions. Certainly not me, the little girl from Bru.
Due to construction or something to do with an asbestos inspection, the girls would share the gymnasium with the boys. Maria’s plan was after being berated by the female teacher, the four of us would sit in the stands, writing something equivalent to I must be prepared for PE, a thousand times. It was a composition on the need for proper attire during physical activity. I was excused, being new and looking scared to death as the wiry 30ish woman kept asking me if I needed an interpreter.
“Ting,” a Chinese student that knew at a glance I wasn’t from the land of thedragon. The tiny girl with incredible eyes was kind enough to explain that I was from Vietnam and this caused the usual confusion.
“Oh, your Vietnamese…I will call Phoung.” Raising her hand to hasten another interpreter.
“No. I am not Vietnamese.” On this point, I was not shy.
Maria jumped into the conversation.
“No no, she’s just transferred from another country.” Her shirt looked as if carrying a bundle of juggling softballs. No kidding!
After Maria’s outfit ceased moving I thought. “North Carolina is another
“This is my friend, Rosaita.” My BFF’s revelation concerning my name change helped the bewildered woman. She was still trying to pronounce Nước Hoa. “She’s from another place near Korea or India…I think they are at war with Vietnam or China or someplace like that?” Don’t you love her?
The PE period did not disappoint. Some of the boys decided to take their shirts off during a heated basketball game. It was only for a short time, before the male teacher growled and they dressed. However, it brought a rosy glow to my face when Cookie blurted out. “Look at her, she just licked her lips. You go girl!” Can you guess who thegirl was?
The boys in North Carolina were perfect gentleman, and some were very attractive. The reason, I did not date was not due to lack of interest, but the effect of being so close to my mother. Our life was hard, and though we felt safe in America, our dependence on each other became cemented. That might be acceptable for a widowed mother approaching her mid-40s but not for a teenage girl. Something that will lead to the worse conflict of our lives.
Mario and I talked several times during the day. His sweetness and smile, oh what teeth! Just intensified at each meeting. He understood that I could only speak on the phone before nine PM. “I have so much work to do.” He wished he were so academically motivated. The truth was that my mother arrived home after nine. I was afraid to tell her about Mario. My fears were magnifying as the days passed. Mario managed to get tickets to the Prom. He did not plan to attend, as his ex-girlfriend was going with someone else. But using his service to the school, evidently he was a decent football player and helped sell drinks and chips at basketball games, the young man was allowed to purchase tickets.
Can you guess whom he asked? Can you guess what the lead-in for Part 6 is?