“What the hell do you mean that was the last bus to Queens till 12am?” I shouted exasperatedly to the man behind the ticket booth. “This can’t be happening,” I mumbled under my breath.
It was currently 7:14pm in Brooklyn, the snow was spilling out of the sky as if it had been boarded up for years, and it had no intention of stopping. It was Christmas Eve, and I was stuck here for 5 hours. I was supposed to be on the 7:10pm bus to Queens to meet with my family for the holidays, but due to a very stupid taxi driver...I was stuck. I whipped out my phone and quickly shot a text to my parents explaining my dilemma before sitting myself down on a bench. It wasn’t like I was in any rush to get home, knowing that the night would just consist of questions about the first couple of months college, my medical classes, and anything else they could think of that was related to school. My first ride of the day was from Columbia University, my college, to Brooklyn. And boy was it a solemn one. I was terribly miserable within these first couple of months of college, but how could I tell my parents that? How could I tell them that I didn’t want to be a stupid doctor, that I wanted to be a writer. All they cared about was me continuing the family tradition, not my happiness. My dad was the stricter of the two, always pushing me to strive for greatness and while when I was younger it benefited me, it was only stressing me out now. My mother on the other hand was more accepting, but she didn’t speak against my father. She always took his side and backed up what he said. Everybody on my dad’s side were doctors. From his dad, to his dad’s dad, and so on. It’s what we were known for in my dad’s hometown back in India. Although having a girl surprised him, it didn’t stop him from wanting me to pick up where he left off. “Why is it so f***ing cold!” I shouted in anger while rubbing my hands together.
“Well Ms. Sunshine, maybe you should’ve packed some gloves,” I heard an unfamiliar voice snicker. I turned my head to spot a boy around my age in an overcoat, looking at me in amusement. His black hair peeked out of his beanie and his blue eyes sparkled with help from the city lights.
I narrowed my eyes, “Well excuse me for not knowing I’d be stuck here for the night,” I shot back before blowing warm air into my hands.
He rolled his eyes and held out a pair of gloves, “Geez you’re a sad sight.” I snatched the gloves from him and quickly put them on, letting the warmth engulf my hands immediately.
I let out a content sigh, “Thank you-” I narrowed my eyes again, “wait a minute...I don’t even know you. Why’re you helping me?”
He laughed and flashed me a blinding smile, “I’m making it my good deed for the day. Where you from cutie?”
I felt heat engulf my face and quickly calmed myself down, “It’s Kaira, and I was supposed to be headed back to Queens for the holidays, but now I’m stuck in Brooklyn till 12am. On Christmas Eve.” I sighed.
He raised an eyebrow, “You’re saying this as if it’s a bad thing to be in Brooklyn on Christmas Eve. I mean come on!” he shouted. “Look all around you! There’s not a single square inch that doesn’t have light radiating off of it.” he grinned.
I couldn’t help but laugh, “Okay I can agree with that. However, it’s not much fun when you’re alone.”
His eyes danced mischievously and he offered his hand, “My name’s Toni...and now it’s kind of my duty to make sure you have a good Christmas Eve.”
I put my hand in his hesitantly, “How am I supposed to know you won’t kill me, or rob me, or kidna-,” I was silenced by a mitten over my mouth.
“I won’t. The closest I’ve gotten to crime is when I watch NCIS.” I laughed but my conscience and my heart battled together. I knew it was dangerous and that I didn’t know him, this was the city after all, not some safe suburban neighborhood. However, the adventure and energy that radiated off of him was too good for me to pass up, so I gripped his hand and stood up. Call me stupid but, a little fun would help before a dreadful return home.
“You have until 12am to impress me.”
He shot a grin back at me, “I’ve always loved a good challenge,” he winked.
By 10:00pm after a tour of the city, a small snowball fight, and almost getting hit by a car, Toni and I were situated on a not-so-sturdy gondola in the middle of a lake, clutching hot chocolates in our hands. “I can’t believe I let you talk me into this!” I hissed, “you said that the lake was open!”
He pondered before responding smoothly, “Technically...a lake never closes.” I decided to drop it, and laid myself back while sighing and looking up at the snowflakes and stars. Within the past 3 hours, I had felt more alive than I ever had before, and home seemed like hell compared to this. I spotted Toni looking at me inquisitively. “Why do I get the feeling that you’re not that eager to see your family?” he questioned.
“Maybe because I’m not?” I said quietly and sighed once again. Maybe it was the serenity of the atmosphere, or the peacefulness I felt around him, but soon I began to pour my heart out. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had my future laid out for me like a path,” I looked up at the stars once again. “Coming from two strict Indian parents...it’s hard to try and carve your own future. To my dad, if I don’t continue the doctor tradition, I’ll be embarrassing the whole family,” I bit the inside of my cheek. “My parents are far more concerned with what our family back in India will think, and not with what I think. They want to make sure I’m doing something that they know will get me somewhere, it’s just-that...that somewhere isn’t where I want to go,” tears blurred my vision and I chuckled slightly. “It’s not even something worth crying about. It’s just all so frustrating. It’s like the thought of them having to tell people back home that I’m a writer is instant shame. They don’t understand that this isn’t India. There are so many opportunities here...yet I’m limited to one.” I felt Toni’s hand pull me upright and his blue eyes cut right through my gaze.
“This is your life Kaira, not theirs. I know it’s scary to think about going against your parent’s wishes when that’s all you’ve been trying to fulfill your whole life, but it’s time to do exactly that. Your career isn’t a small choice. You’re stuck with it your whole life. Choose something you, and not your parents, will be happy with. He might be mad at first, but your dad will realize that your happiness is far more important than a stupid tradition. ” He reached into my pocket and handed me my phone. “Call them, right now,” he prodded.
I looked up at him, eyes wide, “I can’t just call them it’s not right-”
“Kaira. It’s now or never,” he said sternly. I bit my lip and took my phone, purposely lingering before clicking on my mothers contact and hitting the call button. I knew he was right, and I knew I needed to finally speak up to my parents. I closed my eyes, and rose the cell to my ear before taking a shaky breath. “Hey mom...it’s Kaira,” I looked at Toni and continued...“we need to talk.”