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***Based on True Events***

Seventeen-year-old America Gil has one goal in mind before starting college: to lose her virginity. At the heels of high school graduation and summer about to start, she decides to date Luis. Blinded by her caprice, America is unable to see the signs. When she and Luis are faced with an unforeseen revelation, America soon finds out that not everything is as it seems.

Growing up without a father has been difficult for Athena Gil. When she was young, she was forced to leave everything she had known behind to meet her dad. Athena loathed him ever since. Even though they have lived together for many years since then, the hatred has not banished. She wants to know why it took eight years for them to become a family again. But when her father begins to confide in her his deepest secrets, she uncovers the story of a man she had no idea she has been living with.

After her boyfriend of three years breaks up with her, Blythe Wright finds herself lost. Willing to do anything to forget him, she goes out on a date with a stranger. After the one-night stand, Blythe swears never to do such thing again and goes on with her life, not realizing that the stranger has left her with something she never wanted.

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3. 02. Athena

Athena

After spending the last two years at a community college working toward my associates degree, I'm transferring this fall to the State University just thirty minutes from home.

Well, that'll be three to four hours away from where I live since I take public transportation to school. I cannot believe I'm a nineteen-year-old girl, who graduated at the top of her class in both high school and college, and I'm petrified of driving. My body shivers as the memories kick in.

"Dude! What the fuck are you doing?" Sam shouted. I couldn't comprehend his words; dude was the only word running through my head in a questionable matter.

"STOP!"

I frantically pressed the brakes, unwilling to believe the truth. Looking up, the looming fence seemed to become more sinister with each passing second, getting close and closer.

The car stopped moving as my head made contact with the steering wheel and smoke began to come out of the hood of the car.

I heard a tap on the window. As I turned my head, Mr. Williams appeared to be shouting at me.

"Get out! Right, now!" he screamed. I opened the car door and stepped out as quickly as my legs could manage.

"Are you okay?" My Driver's Education teacher asked, grabbing me by the shoulders and turning me around to check for any injuries.

"Yes, I think so," I said. "What happened?"

"Athena, you crashed into the fence," he said matter-of-factly.

"What?" he motioned to the scene around us. I could hear sirens in the background with students on their phones taking pictures. The noise was so loud it pierced my ears. I looked around and then I saw what all the commotion was about. The car was smashed against the fence surrounding the Driver's Education parking lot.

I looked to Sam, but he seemed fine. Oh God. I covered my face with my hands to hide the tears coming out of my eyes.

No one got hurt, but after that incident, I had sworn not to drive again.

My dad has asked me to go out with him and practice, but that didn't go well either. We got stopped by a police officer who thought I was a drunk driver. He said I was moving the car in a zig-zag motion and got worried I was going to crash. So, after a year with my permits, I went to the Department of Motor Vehicles, gave the lady my waiver and she gifted me with a license. No test, no questions asked. I'm crossing my fingers and praying to God that Google comes out with their car already. My parents say it's good I have my license because by the time I get over my fear of driving the insurance of the car will go down a little. But that was three years ago and I'm still horrified to drive.

I guess I would drive if the steering wheel of the car would be in the center of the dashboard and I'll be able to see the nose of the car. Is that even the name for it? See! I shouldn't be on the road if I don't know the proper technicality for a vehicle. I'm doing a favor to all the drivers in Miami. And the traffic in Miami sucks; people honk all the time for no reason. Yeah, I might have switched lanes without looking in the mirrors first, but give me a break; I was learning to drive!

I need a distraction. I get out of bed and walk over to my painting studio connected to my room. With my painting smocks on, I start collecting oils and brushes, setting them in front of the easel. I pull my black hair into a low bun and roll up the sleeves of my shirt. Just as I'm about to sit down on the wooden stool, I hear a knock on my door.

"Yes?" I call out.

My bedroom door opens, I turn around to see my grandmother sticking her head through the crack. "Sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt you. I just wanted to see if you'd like to go with me to pick up America from school?" she says, Spanish rolling off her tongue.

I was just about to paint, but I guess I can do that later.

My grandma has lived with us for the past five years, ever since my grandfather passed away. I can't imagine how she survived seeing his death right in front of her eyes. They were getting on a plane heading to La Havana in Cuba to celebrate their 30-year anniversary when he got a heart attack twenty minutes before the plane landed. My grandmother saw it all happen and had to finish the last minutes of the flight with her dead husband next to her, on the way to an anniversary destination that was a reminder of what she had just lost.

The death that hurts the most is that of your spouse. You live with them for so long, know their habits and what they are thinking by just a glance at their eyes. Once your children leave home, your spouse is all you have left. Your children make a life of their own and create their own family, but your partner is there with you through it all. Ever since my grandfather died, she has dedicated her life to God. Goes to church as often as she can and trusts in Him to lead her on the right path.

His path.

My thoughts are interrupted by my grandma shouting for me to hurry up. Jeez, relax.

• • •

America's school isn't far away; it only takes us twenty minutes to get there. I spot her as she waves her hands in the air to catch our attention.

"Hey, Grandma. Athena. How was your day?" she asks with a small smile on her face.

America and I are two years apart. She used to be different and by that I mean she used to be herself, but then she went to high school and got sucked into wanting to be popular and began acting like someone she is not. She wants to be just like her so-called friends. That's why she joined the dance team and wants to have what they all have. It hurts seeing her like that because I know she's so much better than any of them. She has no reason for wanting to be like them.

She is unique like...like a flower. All flowers have the same things, petals, stem, leaves, but they are not all the same color or size. They are unique, and that's what sets them apart. But like any person, we all want the perfect flower in our bouquet. That's often where people do things they don't want and are pressured into doing something because society or the people around them are doing it. But my perfect will never be anybody else's perfect, and it takes us all a while to learn that.

"Nothing, stayed home. Oh, I looked at the bus schedule for my classes this fall," I say.

"Athena, summer just started. Relax, stop being such a nerd!" she says, sitting in the seat behind me and clicking the seatbelt.

"Oh, shut up Miss Cum-laude." I turn around and stick my tongue out at her.

I'm actually very proud of her. I remember the day she got her test scores, how she didn't want to tell anyone. My dad demanded her to work harder for her grades, saying that he didn't come to the United States for his daughters to fail. I always hate it when he compares us. You can't compare a peony and a sunflower. Add that to the list of reasons why I detest him. After her low score on the SAT and ACT, America—being daddy's little girl—worked her ass off to get better grades and even applied to some scholarships, but got rejected.

"Hey! I like getting good grades, I am fine with a C, though, unlike you. You get an A- and start crying." She can barely finish her sentence because she is laughing too hard.

"Once! It only happened once!" Okay, maybe twice, but no one needs to know that. I hate it when I put my all into an assignment and get an A- because I missed, like, one question on the test or something. Who even invented minuses on letters? They're not part of any alphabet in the world and except for it ruining my grade point average, it serves no purpose.

Grandma begins to laugh. America and I look at each other before thinking, what is she laughing at? She turns to us with a serious look on her face, the traces of laughter gone.

"You do know I don't understand English, right? Speak Spanish, please."

"Sorry," America and I mumble in unison. Grandma's caramel eyes turn a fighting shade, just like the bloodthirsty wolf in Red Riding Hood.

"Sorry, sorry," we both say in Spanish.

"Are you going out with Luis tomorrow?" grandma asks America as she gets out of the school zone and heads home.

"Yes, dad said it was fine. Luis is picking me up around nine or ten," America answers.

She looks happy and excited for this date; I hope Luis is a nice guy and treats her right. I have never had a boyfriend or dated any guys. It kind of sucks because being the big sister, I'm supposed to experience everything before America and give her advice on what to expect, do, or say. I won't be able to do so.

It always got me mad when I would go visit family and the first thing to be asked was if I had a boyfriend. Why do you care? Hispanic families always want to get in your business and know everything there is to know about you so that they can sit on their porch, drink café Cubano and gossip about their family's life.

I mean, I have had crushes, but nothing serious. I'm one of those girls who believes that when I see the guy I'm supposed to spend my life with, I'll know. I rather focus all my attention on school and getting good grades, so I can become a better artist and have my own shop. I don't need a man with me to feel whole, I just need myself.

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