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My Whirlwind Trip
I remember that afternoon of March 17, 2009 like no other.
The afternoon that Mom had the task of delivering the news to me.
I trudged along the side of the road listening to the whoosh and wisps of the cars passing by. Every once in awhile I looked up hoping to see the Sonata. With its always cool interior, I dreamed of the water bottle awaiting my return from this stressful day of high school. As I approached closer and closer, the California sun seemed to be beating my back repeatedly with its stinging rays. I finally spotted the car, with my mom in the driver’s seat drinking some water. I hurried along trying to escape the sun’s wrath and when I finally made it, I quickly hopped into the passenger’s seat, and greeted her while I eagerly unscrewed the bottle’s cap. As I was gulping down the remaining water, my mom looked at me and spit out the words, “We’re moving-- again.”
My palms grew cold, and I could feel the bile rising in my throat. Tears began to swell up in my eyes. Thoughts, questions and curse words were swirling in my brain, fighting to be the first out of my quivering mouth. With my throat muscles constricting, fighting the nausea, I asked when and where. “In 2 weeks, at the end of March,” she said as she began to drive towards the elementary school to pick up my younger sister, “… and to Washington.” Washington. The sound of that word, that word that would soon alter my life for good, was ear piercing. Suddenly the dreadful walk over to the car didn’t seem nearly as bad. My head spun at the idea of moving thousands of miles away when I had just moved eight months ago from Riverside. Moving a city away from the life-long friends you’ve had since kindergarten and having to start high school as the “new kid” in Orange County was hard enough. I mean I've lived in Southern California my entire life. Moving from city to city wasn’t nearly as bad as having to move all the way to the Northwestern side of the country. But now when I finally began to develop new friendships and everything seemed to be falling into place, this news seemed so surreal.
I wanted to attend one high school, start to finish; was that too much to ask for? By now I had already began to sob quietly, eyes shut as if by some miracle opening them would reveal that this is all a dream and everything would be alright. In a barely comprehendible tone I asked why. Why we had to move again and why she hadn’t told me sooner. She claimed that my dad told her earlier that morning and that she too had cried. I looked over my shoulder and as her tender brown eyes grasped mine, I knew she was telling the truth. Her face had a yellowish tint but for the most part seemed drained of any blood supply. Her eyes and nose were tinted by a light pink haze, as if they had been rubbed a tad too much. She turned her head swiftly and she let her long, black hair curtain her face.
As we approached Yenni’s school, I began contemplating how I was going to explain to her what was going on. Unfortunately, by now my tears we’re on a rampage and they just did not want to stop. I was a bawling, pathetic mess. The bell rang and Yenni soon arrived to the car and hopped in as well. She spoke excitedly about some class party they were going to have this upcoming Friday. It wasn’t long until she noticed the crying mess sitting in front of her. She asked what was wrong but I couldn’t even force the words out. My stomach was in the worst pain it had ever felt and the pounding heart in my chest was on fire. I held onto my torso tightly trying to grasp for air, finally managing a deep breath. Mom decided to just get it over with and spit it out like she had done with me a mere ten minutes ago. Yenni, however, didn’t weep. She simply sat in her seat and had not one word to say.
We finally pulled into the driveway of our polished house. Freshly cut grass surrounded the rose bushes and tulips, whose petals were wide open, as to welcome us home. Little did they know they’d be greeting a new family in less than a month. I dragged my feet out of the car and onto the pavement. My legs, once firm pillars, seemed to have become as fragile as glass, as though if any slight pressure would shatter them and I'd fall to the floor. I carefully walked to the door and as I turned the knob and opened the door, I felt as if I was going to collapse right then and there. Despite my best efforts I broke down once again and sobbed my sorry self to the top of the stairs, all the way across the hall and onto my bed. I cried for hours. It wasn’t even like I really needed to, I just couldn’t stop. Eventually I fell asleep and upon my awakening I realized this wasn’t a dream at all. I climbed out of my bed and I could feel the emptiness from inside. I was hollow. I wanted to tell someone but I knew that I’d end up crying again so I kept it to myself.
The next day at school, I tried to pretend that nothing had changed. That I was still Raquel, all smiles. My facade wasn’t very good because people could tell right away that something was wrong. I remember my best friends Bryan and Karla coming up to me and asking what was wrong. Of course I smiled and said that I was fine but they didn’t buy it. I told them I was going to move in two weeks and they began laughing thinking it was a joke. I just looked down at my shoes. I remembered buying theses shoes at the mall a couple weeks ago with them and a small tear dropped onto the new fabric. They soon realized I wasn’t joking and hugged me real tight. They apologized and I told them they didn’t have anything to be sorry about, it wasn’t their fault. They too almost shed a tear but they just smiled instead. Bryan and Karla were always happy people. You could tell just by looking at Bryan’s wild hair and Karla’s stunning perma-smile. The bell rang just at that moment and we walked to Biology together. It wasn’t long until the entire class knew and they all came up to me asking questions I myself didn’t have the answers to. Soon enough they had planned some elaborate party at Karla’s and they were going to make sure my last days here in Southern California were the best ever.
The thought of not doing homework for a few weeks was pretty nice and now that my life here was almost gone, that gave me an excuse to go to as many theme parks I could possibly go to. This whole Washington ordeal didn’t seem to be such a terrifying thing after all. With that in mind, I set off to plan the most “fun-packed” week ever. My first destination, Market Night in downtown Redlands. I took a stroll downtown with my cousin Abigail that night, and took in the many sights and smells of Market Night. Hundreds of vendors were lined side by side, competing for customers. My favorite part of the whole night was buying the freshly popped kettle corn and feeling the warmth of the bag as I held it close. The salty-sugary mix coating the fluffed corn kennels was to die for. That night was calming. Listening to the local band perform, while observers chattered about and the children played and giggled all night. It felt like home.
After several days of staying out late, I was exhausted. I made up my mind to take one day out of the week to stay home and just enjoy what was left of my room. Most of it was already stuffed into dull cardboard boxes. I laid in my bed lazily and played my Super Nintendo for a few hours, ate some ice cream, played some more, went for a swim and ate even more ice cream. I couldn’t stop thinking that in two days I would be on the road and I would leave this all behind. I could feel my stomach start churning so I decided to go to sleep.
The next morning at school I was welcomed into Biology with balloons, a huge lemon cake, and the 30 smiling faces behind this evil plot to make me weep. I laughed and hugged them all, thanking the teacher who had given them permission, and especially thanking those who had gotten us all out of listening to another lengthy and boring-ass lesson. We ate cake as we watched one of my favorite films, The Nightmare before Christmas. Throughout the day I was gifted cards of all sorts, handmade friendship bracelets, and face-burying hugs as if they were trying to camouflage puffy red eyes.
After school we went to Karla’s house and had a “Happy Trails” party and got home around three am the next morning. I didn’t realize how late it was because my house was completely in motion, stacking boxes in the moving van and cleaning out the fridge. I walked up the stairs, stopped at the balcony and looked down the empty street through the top window of the house. My eyes focused on the dimly lit street lamps that aligned “Shore Avenue” and there was a soothing tranquility that blanketed the warm Californian night. “Goodnight,” I quietly whispered to myself as I flipped the light switch and went to bed.