Girasol, Girasole


2017: Sunday, June 18th, London

Three months.

She was a legal adult in three months, and yet she still made her way into the small grocery shop, bills clutched tightly in her palm, clad in pyjamas, running an errand for her uncle with the same energy of an eleven-year-old who’d finally been given permission to go out unsupervised into the world. Not that it was inherently a pain, mind you. It was just a bizarre observation that had been plaguing the mind of Marina Lopez.

She felt juxtaposed against the men in suits and women in stilettos who walked, robotically, in and around the mall in a pointed hunt for their daily coffees in the spring of morning rush. After entering the store, Marina swept past the flower bouquets, swerved around the cereal boxes, and wooshed her way through the freshly made bread aisle in search for the pasta box her uncle had asked her to get. Leaning on her tippy toes, she reached across the shelf and fished out the very first one she could get her hands on. Her mind was elsewhere. Skipping quickly to the cash register, she periodically checked her watch, mimicking the lawyer-looking person in front of her. Pulling her phone out of her pocket, she checked the date again. Three days. She exhaled. There was time. She placed it back in her pocket. With bills in one hand and a pasta box in the other, adorning a bedhead and a tacky Hawaiian flower-patterned tank top, she could’ve passed as a fourteen-year-old.

She made her way out the mall, shopping bag in tow, and immediately regretted not having brought a hat or a cap. She’d been spending the summers with her uncle in London since she turned thirteen, and she had still not grown accustomed to the fact that it could, in fact, get quite hot during the summertime. Her uncle never hesitated to make her do things that were productive—gardening, pet-sitting, babysitting for his coworkers, et cetera. And every year when it was time for her father to send her off once again, she made the same mistake of packing beanies instead of sunglasses and trench coats instead of summer dresses. Her uncle had grown unsympathetic as time went on, resorting to buy her purposely tacky articles of clothing such as the “Aloha!” top she sported, with smiling palm trees and winking coconuts and Hibiscus. Fanning herself as she walked across the block, she shot death glares back at all the condescending stares her flamboyant clothes were earning. Her uncle lived in one of those cramped, ground-floor flats with a small staircase leading up to the front door.

Aloha.”

“You’re home early, Tio,” Marina announced, rolling her eyes. She slung the shopping bag on the counter so it slid until it came to a full stop at her uncle’s palm. The fan did its best, but failed at warding off the sweat that had grown on both their foreheads. Marina wondered why he hadn’t drawn the curtains down.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, waving a hand dismissively, “Marina, can you tell me what this is?” Seemingly nonchalant, he stopped cutting up the red capsicum in front of him to pull a ticket out of his pocket. St. Pancras to Roma Termini, June 20, 5:40AM.

“Ah, jeez, I was gonna tell you tonight...”


“Look, Marina,” he said, exhaling through his mouth and crossing his arms, “You’re an adult soon, so this really shouldn’t be an issue. But

“But...?” Marina insisted, “I’ve been planning this, Tio. I’ve got my passport, and I’ve been saving up for ages, all those jobs since I first got here, you know? I checked blogs for people who’ve done the trip underage, I mean, I’m above sixteen, anyway. I know the stops. Paris Gare du Nord, de Lyon, Milano Cent

“Let me finish, kiddo,” he interrupted, holding a palm up. Marina nodded.

“The problem isn’t your age, per se. You’re a solid kid. And it’s a train ride, not a trip to Iraq. The problem is with your father.” Her eyes went cold and shot daggers at the floor. Of course.

“Because I don’t think you went over this with him, didja?” She shook her head slowly. “As expected. Look, Mari, what if he happens to phone me and

“He never does,” she mumbled.

“I know, I know, but on the off-chance he does

“Like he gives a damn, Tio! Like he ever did. Why does he always ship me off here whenever he gets the chance, huh? Did he ever tell you? He certainly didn’t tell

“But you like London, don’t you?”

She locked eyes with her uncle, whose raised eyebrows were enough to get her to tone it down a little. “Okay, not the point, but...”

“You wanna spend the summer solstice in Rome?”

“Yes.”

“Why? I thought we could take a train up to Stonehenge this time, you’ve always wanted to go, haven’t you?”

“I’ll be here next summer too, Tio,” she shrugged, “and the one after, ‘cause I’m probably gonna apply here.”

“Fair enough.”

“So, you’ll let me go?”

Parli italiano?

“Uh, mas o menos.”

“Think you meant più o meno.”

“They understand Spanish easily enough, don’t they?”

“Not unless you’re going to Portugal. You got a place to stay? El Papa got any rooms up for rent?”

“Look, can you just

“I can’t really stop you, no,” her uncle remarked, shrugging and turning back to his chopping board after sliding the ticket back to Marina. She took it with hesitance. “Vatican’s probably in high season right now, though. Thanks for the pasta, by the way. Bring some back from Roma,” he said in a mock Italian accent, holding his thumb against his other four fingers in the stereotypical hand gesture.

Tio!” He laughed his big, booming laugh, the kind that was funnier than the joke since it had unironic snorts sprinkled in between. Contagious, Marina couldn’t help but join in. Unfortunately for her, she’d inherited that exact same laugh. The neighbours probably assumed they’d bought a pigpen.

“You sure you don’t want me coming along? I mean, big, exciting world and all, but I wouldn’t mind kicking off from work a bit.” Her uncle asked, pouring himself a glass of red wine. Odd timing, Marina thought.

“Ooh, but then you won’t get to see your lovely Pamela.”

“That,” he said, raising his glass pointedly, “is true. Think I could get away with asking her to Stonehenge instead?”

Pamela was her uncle’s boss’s petite, redheaded secretary for whom he fostered a huge crush since day one of his interpreter job at the Embassy of Argentina. Marina had been quite jealous of her uncle’s status as a polyglot, and though she aspired to one day reach his level, she continued to skip French during the school year to vape with her best friend whenever there was a quiz. Spanish, English, French, Italian, and Russian. How had he done it? Who knows, at least I’m not monolingual.

“Go for it. I’m gonna go get changed,” Marina said. She started making her way down the small hall leading up to her bedroom, which rested adjacent to her uncle’s.

“I’m sure decent summer clothes are cheaper than a train ticket. Well, ‘least Brexit hasn’t happened yet.”

“Yeah, yeah, Conservatives sold their soul to UKIP and Cameron was somehow still surprised when they broke through the referendum, I know,” Encouraged by the look of shock her uncle offered, she smirked, “you’ve been over it on the phone with Pamela a billion times.”

“Better pack that wit before I change my mind about letting you go, kiddo,” he called out, failing to keep the smile off his face. Closing the door to her room, Marina laughed.

By Claudine Urdaneta

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