Written by Princess Juliet
Philippines- The Tondo, Manila City.
The alarm clock went off. Atarah Jones groaned out loud, dragged out of a deep sleep by it’s continuous ring. She hissed, clutching the sides of her head with her hands, trying to block out the loud shrilling sound.
“Stop ringing please, stop.”She curled into a ball and tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t, her bleary eyes landed on the alarm clock.
“8:00am! Oh no!” Why didn’t Nana wake me up?” She sprang out of the bed with a jolt and ran into the bathroom to brush her teeth and wash up.
Blotting herself dry, she wrapped herself in the towel and returned to the room.
The morning sun was too bright to look at, its rays pouring in more through the rickety window.
Atarah squinted at it as she reached into the wardrobe beside her bed. She picked out a blue jean trouser and a black top, then scanned it up and down before proceeding to wear it.
“Atarah? You in there?” A rapt knock sounded on the door.
Atarah paused to open the door for her grandma. “ Good morning Nana.”She greeted and gave her grandma a half smile.
Her grandma nodded in response, her curious eyes was searching the big suitcase bag which laid open on the floor.
“Don’t tell me you are taking this with you.” she frowned disapprovingly as she noticed the old diary hidden in a corner.
“Taking what?”Atarah tossed a glance over her shoulder and chuckled when she saw her grandma’s quizzical look. “Of course Nana, my diary is going with me to America.”She applied oil on her dark long hair and began to brush it.
Her Grandma could only let out a sigh at her craziness—-Yeah, craziness. Who in this world still sticks to a diary, an old looking one for that matter?
“I’m also taking this with me,”Atarah grinned as she picked up a paper drawing from the low stool beside her, she folded it neatly before tucking it into her jean pocket.
“C’mon Tarah, you’re even taking a paper too.”her grandma threw up her hands in a dramatic exasperation,” Of what importance is that to you?”
Atarah chose not to answer. Her grandma would never understand how important the paper was to her. She’d been working on this particular drawing for a very long time and had just managed to come up with something nice, how would her grandma understand that!
……… “You acting like you want to stay in America forever,”Her grandma said a little sadly.
“But I am American Nana,”She retorted sharply,”or rather I use to be an American.”She rolled her eyes as she reached down and started to pull the strap of her sandal through the buckle.
“Not anymore anak,”Her grandma spoke in Pilipino,” You are grandma’s little girl, my Pilipino princess.” Reaching up, she cupped Atarah’s chubby cheeks with her hands and smiled slowly “I will miss you honey.”She whispered in a tearful voice and that shook Atarah.
“I will miss you too Nana.” Tears filled her eyes. She wiped her eyes, embarrassed to feel the tears streaking her cheeks.
She wanted to stop her tears desperately, but she didn’t know how.
“Don’t cry child,” Her grandma wiped her tears with her thumbs and kissed her forehead. “Nana will call you everyday, okay?”
Atarah nodded her head, feeling like a fragile child.
“Good girl,” her grandma cooed, “Remember I will always support and respect whatever major you intend studying.”she patted her shoulder gently.
Atarah opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out.
English Literature? Humanities? Economics? she got accepted into the College of Liberal Arts, Washington State University and was still very much confused on the right major to choose.
Not that it bothered her, it didn’t.
She just wanted to have a good life and……The sudden sound of the door creaking cut off her thoughts. She spun around and saw that her uncle was standing in the doorway, he was her mum’s younger brother, Nana’s last born child.
“Uncle Banoy,” Atarah beamed as she raced over to him. “How did it go?” She folded her hands behind her and stared at him with eager eyes.
“Erm…You see Tarah,” her uncle, Banoy glanced nervously in the direction of his mother and ruffled his hair, “ My boss refused to grant me the loan……”
What? Atarah stood shocked, she couldn’t believe her ears.
“……and I was unable to come up with the…erm…you…know…exact… amount, I was only able to raise this.”he dipped his hand into his pocket and brought out a wad of notes which amounted to about six thousand( 6000) pesos.
Atarah head snapped up, her expression one of surprise that quickly turned to anger. “But you promised me Uncle.” She yelled at him
“Yes I did, but……”
“But what?” She cut him off abruptly. “How do you expect me to survive in America with this? Tell me, can this even sustain me for a week?” She looked at her grandma who looked away immediately and she huffed. “Where do you guys expect me to sleep? Under the bridge, I guess.” She rolled her eyes sarcastically.
“No Maganda,”her uncle spoke in a hushed tone as he called her by the pet name he knew she loves—Beautiful. “Your Nana and I have talked about this and we think it is best you stay with your……”he hesitated for a moment, caution in his voice…”with your mother for the main time.”
“With my what?” Atarah broke into a gales of laughter which sent mother and son into a confused state. They both exchanged puzzled looks. “Tell me you’re joking, Nana, please tell me this is all a joke,” The pain was evident in her eyes, her jaw set as she glared at her grandma. “You want me to live with a mother who abandoned her own child?” Tears of anger and hurt spilled down her cheeks.
“No,” her grandma shook her head sadly, “I want you to live with the mother who is never tired of loving you even when it hurts.”
“Oh yeah,what a wonderful mother that is!”Atarah mockingly retorted. She reached down to zip up her suitcase bag before picking up her white hang bag. “I’m gonna get a part time job as soon as I get to America.” She said this out loud and her grandma let out a sigh of relief.
“That is alright child.”
“Let me help with the big bag,” Uncle Banoy offered and Atarah readily passed it to him.
“Bye Nana.”She kissed her grandma goodbye and walked ahead of her out of the house and to her uncle’s tricycle where she found her god-father, Coco waiting…
“Good morning Uncle Coco,” She greeted the small statured man who was barely 5ft tall.
“How is my favourite god-daughter doing today?” Uncle Coco stood on his toes to give her a light peck on her cheek.
“Fine,” Atarah grinned from ear to ear and Uncle Coco leaned over to whisper close to her ear. “I bet you can’t wait to see your Prince Charming.”
“What Prince Charming?” Her grandma asked behind them and Atarah felt like squeezing the short man big mouth.
Gosh! Why did I even tell him about my secret fantasies? She bit her lips in embarrassment.
“That is because he is the only one who listens to your rubbish.” Her subconscious mind answered and yes, it was right.
Uncle Coco was always ready to listen to her even though most of her talks were rubbish, her grandma and uncle had no time for that.
“I am talking to you Tarah, Who is your Prince Charming?” Her grandma asked again.
“No one Nana,” Atarah chuckled nervously, “Uncle Coco is only joking around, isn’t that right Uncle?” She cuffed his shoulder playfully and he nodded his head vigorously.
Her Grandma looked at them suspiciously but didn’t utter a word.
“I’m gonna miss you so much, Tarah,” Uncle Coco held her hand as she climbed into the passenger seat of the tricycle.
“Me too poo,” Atarah smiled sweety at him.
“Here,”He pushed a few pesos into her hand and stroked it, “ I saved that up for you, use it to support yourself.”
“Thanks Uncle Coco,” Atarah shot him a grateful look.
“And remember, do not hesitate to call me whenever you need my advice,” He stepped back a little as Uncle Banoy carefully placed her suitcase in the back seat, got into the driver seat and started the engine.
Atarah nodded her head slowly, her eyes filling with tears as she waved. “Good bye god-father, Good bye Nana.”
“Safe journey child,” Her grandmother waved back at her.
Atarah positioned herself properly on the seat and stared straight ahead.
“Thanks Uncle,” she said after a brief silence.
“For?” Her Uncle gripped the steering wheel as the vehicle plunged down a steep hill.
“Everything,” She whispered the first word that came in mind. Her uncle glanced at her and smiled.
Out of habit, Atarah reached into her pocket for the paper drawing and stared at it proudly.
After so many attempts, she was finally done with it………Well, not really done as the hair was yet to be painted.
Black? Blonde? She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to think, contemplate. Yes, I will make it black, no blonde, Yes black, no, no, no ………… she was confused just as always……
It was exactly noon when Uncle Banoy drove into the busy airport and parked in front of the gigantic building.
“Ninoy Aquino international airport,” Atarah muttered as she stepped out of the tricycle. “Wow! This place is so huge,” she looked around in astonishment.
“You with your passport?” Uncle Banoy wanted to be sure.
“Yes,” Atarah nodded her head absentmindedly, “it is in my bag.” She slung her handbag over her shoulder and reached into the backseat for her suitcase bag, the paper drawing still clutched in her hand.
“And your Travel Visa?”
“Safe and secured.” Atarah tried not to smirk.
“Alright,”Her Uncle glanced down at his wrist watch. “This is 12:15pm, you’ve just 20 minutes to catch your flight. Run along so you won’t miss it.”he blew Atarah a kiss and she dramatically caught it, giggling like a little kid.
“Good bye Uncle.”she picked up her suitcase and hurried into the building and ran straight into someone right at the terminal.
“I am sor……” her voice trailed off when she looked up, she was staring into the gorgeous pale ocean blue eyes of a slim hot guy. He was so much taller than her and had the strangest hair colour she’s ever seen
Pink? White? Pink and White? she was confused.
But damn! She was breathless at how handsome he was.
“Are you blind?” His voice was so harsh and menacing.
What? Atarah could only blink in shock. Did he just ask her that?
“Oh! It seems you’re also dumb.”he stared down at her angrily. Atarah could tell he was American from his smooth accent. “Leave the way miss and stop staring at me like a zombie. Gosh! Or are all Filipina’s as stupid as you look?”he mocked and that was it, Atarah couldn’t take the insult any longer.
“I am neither blind nor dumb,You rude American,” she reacted with anger but the guy said nothing. He merely smirked, brushed her aside and walked away unhurriedly with his head held up high.
What a proud Jerk? Atarah stared after him for a few seconds, and then rushed to the check in counter to get her boarding pass..
“Good bye Philippines, Welcome America.”She laughed inwardly.