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The stench of the airplane intoxicated me. It felt like the plane was caught in a tornado. My disgusting, ripped up, tiny chair was as comfortable as a wooden bench. Karly’s fine, blonde, curly hair tickled the side of my neck. Her purple folder was laid out on her pull-down tray and she was hunched over trying to memorize every word on her paper. How could she study during the last few minutes of the eight tiring hours of a bumpy flight? The plane shook like a hurricane and Karly dropped her green mechanical pencil. She reached down and grasped the pencil with her tiny fingers, “Why aren’t you studying? You’re going to die!”
“It’s no big deal, Carlos. Stop freaking out; you know what you’re doing.” I slammed her folder shut causing her tray to shake. Leaning back in my seat and cocking my head to look out the small, yellow, tinted window, Karly carefully opened her folder again.
Over the loudspeaker, an extremely raspy voice talked in an unrecognizable language. He spoke briskly until something familiar caught my attention, “Fazen you seatbelz, we zar about to zand.”
We circled around the airport as if we were on a merry-go-round. My ears popped painfully while we took a long descent back down to the earth’s crusty soil. “Molly, I don’t want to do this anymore. Let’s go back home.” Karly clenched my arm to the point where my heartbeat was pounding out of my sleeve..
“Carlos, stop freaking out. You know what you’re doing. I know you know what you’re doing; I’m the clueless one.”
The plane bounced with force when the wheels touched the ragged pavement. Palm trees swayed across the foreign land I had just entered. Then it hit me. What am I doing in France? Why did I decide to study abroad? I don’t know French at all; I slacked off in class. I knew how to say hello, I could ask a simple question, but I couldn’t speak fluently.
The humid air in the small, tight plane added to the sweat dripping off my forehead due to my nervous breakdown. My host family will think I’m a stupid American and my French teacher, Madame Snorek, will be extremely disappointed in me. “Molly, it’s time to go.” Madame’s ice cold hand shook my shoulder rapidly.
I unclenched my ragged seat and stood up slowly, slightly disoriented. I took the sleeve of my new shirt and wiped it across my forehead. My arm was drenched in sweat which made me worry more. I passed the two flight attendants dressed in navy blue who looked like they wanted to shoot someone. Their fake smiles secretly told me to hurry off the plane so they could go on with their boring lives.
Sweat slithered down the sides of my face as I searched for ways out of the beautiful airport. Still wanting to turn around and hop back on the plane, I kept walking forward at a snail’s pace following Madame who was chipper than a chipmunk. “Molly, that’s your bag.” Karly pointed to the black bags slowly passing me on the tiny carousel.
“Bon chance touts de monde!” Madame directed us to a mob of smiling, awaiting families.
‘Good luck everyone’ immediately had been translated in my brain. Oh my God, I’m in a foreign country. Where’s my mom? Why is she letting me go for two weeks without her at the young age of sixteen?
I saw her, the beautiful girl who wrote me in excellent English. The fashionable girl who told me she was excited to meet me and teach me French. The excited girl who sent me a crumpled photo to help me navigate her in the airport was bouncing up and down as if she were on a trampoline.
Her chocolate brown eyes and dark brown hair made her rosy cheeks pop. The grin on her face flaunted all her pearly white teeth. I’m pretty sure I brushed my teeth today. Is it today or is it tomorrow? I was on an extensive flight for ten hours, it should be 11pm, but I think it’s 9am?
I managed to curl the ends of my mouth as she embraced me in a tight squeeze. She smelt of sweat lavender and her skin was as soft as velvet. Remembering the letter she wrote me, she lives near a field of lavender which is extremely common in France. It was soothing and I immediately felt relieved. After being hugged for what seem like forever, her mom put her hand on my shoulder. Her touch was cold and electric which made the hair on the back of my neck stiffen. She smiled a welcoming smile, looked me peacefully in the eye with the same pair of eyes as her daughters, and said, “Now we are family, and we will protect you.”
Can I switch moms? I had never felt so content; freaking out would be the typical thing to do because I was alone in a foreign country! I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t nervous, I was calm. We had immediately connected and it felt as if we’ve know each other for years.
I glanced over to Karly who was bowing her head shyly and speaking broken French which made me realize that I’ve been hugging these amazing people and haven’t said a word to them yet; Madame would be so disappointed. I opened my smiling mouth and said, “Hola!”