06 August 2008

Story: Studying Abroad, Chapter 1

Part of the Carlos/Danielle series.  Danielle is starting her year abroad in Mexico with her step-brother and his family.  They go to a birthday party where Danielle can only understand half of the Spanish and still manages to get herself into trouble.  (Excuse the excessive Spanish.  Thought I'd edited that up a while ago, and apparently I hadn't.)

Studying Abroad
Chapter 1

Music blared in my room as I looked at the outfits laying in front of me.

"Danielle, hurry up," Carlos called, rapping on the door.

We hadn't even been in Mexico for a week and I was already going to a birthday party. It was one of Carlos's 900 cousins that I hadn't met who was turning 11, so it'd be nothing spectacular, but still fun. The only problem was that I had no idea what to wear.

I opened the door to find my brother standing irritably. I dragged him inside, wearing my pjs. "What should I wear?"

He laughed. "No one cares. It's just a birthday party. You can wear that if you really want."

"You're absolutely no help," I told him.

He rummaged through my clothes and found jeans and a T-shirt. "Wear this."

"It'll be okay?"

He nodded. "And don't forget your swimsuit." As he ruffled my hair and walked out, I realized how muc hcloser we'd gotten since we'd crossed the border. Guanajuato was his hometown, at least it had been a place he'd lived for a long time as a kid, so he enjoyed taking me around and showing me different parts of the city. Not only that but since my Spanish was terrible, he had to help me out when everyone talked to me and had to teach me how to say important things. So in the five days we'd been there, we became more like good friends than brother and sister.

I slipped on the jeans and T-shirt over my swimsuit and pulled my hair back into a ponytail. I checked myself out in the mirror one last time, pleased with how I looked, then stalked downstairs where everyone was waiting for me.

"Lista?" Mrs. Rivas asked.

I nodded.

"Vamonos!"

I followed them to the red car that waited in the driveway for us. Mr. Rivas drove, of course, and Carlos and I slipped in the backseat teasing and joking around with each other. He was almost a different person in Mexico. I could see the pride in his eyes for his country, even through the poverty and hardships. And he was so much more relaxed... less tense. Of course, everything in Mexico is so laid-back anyway, so that probably had a lot to do with it.

"So will they have a piñata and everything?" I asked, bouncing excitedly.

"Just wait and see."

"But Carlos! You gotta tell me!"

He grinned. "You'll see once we get there. Enjoy the anticipation. That's half the fun."

I pouted, but not for long. "So whose birthday is it?"

"Eduardo's."

"Like I know who that is."

"It's grandma's sister's grandson."

"Right. So where's the party at?"

"You ask too many questions," was his answer and he turned away to look out the window.

"That's okay, I didn't wanna know anyway," I said, looking out my own side. I'd walked around the city enough to recognize some landmarks, but most of the stuff seemed new and different. It was so weird actually going somewhere in a car.

Carlos talked to our grandparents for a little while and I didn't pay enough attention to try to figure out what they were talking about. I just watched outside, observing and admiring the beauty. So much prettier than Texas... or the stereotypes of Mexico. Colorful houses were nestled in the mountains. The roads were narrow and winding, weaving through the mountains, high enough to see miles away. I painted the image in my head.

We pulled in front of a colonial-looking building. It was raining so grandpa dropped us off at the doorway and I followed grandma inside (she insisted that I call her that instead of señora Rivas). It was a clubhouse and the room was huge. There were tables set up on one side and a blow-up slide set up on the other. A woman greeted us, the Mexican way, with a handshake and kiss on the cheek. She was grandma's sister. I was then introduced to tons of more people, none of whose names I would have remembered if you'd asked me later.

I whispered in Carlos's ear, "are we going swimming?"

"Yeah, just wait a few minutes. Let's say hi to everyone first."

I almost told him that saying hi to everyone was one of the last things I wanted to do, but kept my mouth shut. This was his family, he hadn't seen them in a while, he wanted to catch up. I can live with that.

After about 30 minutes of talking (well, I was just listening, still too self-conscious to talk), eating hot dogs, and watching kids almost plummet to a horrifying death from the top of the blow-up slide, my dream-guy walked in the door. He looked to be around my age, was wearing jeans and a decent button-down shirt, a pound of gel in his hair to keep it standing up. I was moving in on this guy.

I nudged Carlos. "Who's that?"

He looked up. "Oh, that's Edgar, another one of the cousins."

"He's close to my age," I said.

"A bit older, but yeah, pretty close."

He was greeting everyone at the table next to us and my heart almost stopped when he turned and smiled at me. Yay!

"Hola," he said to me after greeting all of his family at the other table.

I blushed and returned the salutation.

Carlos explained that I was his little sister and we were here to study a few months. He seemed impressed.

He got a hot dog then sat down at the conveniently empty seat next to me and we chatted for a while. It was a nice way to practice my Spanish, and nice for him to practice his English. He wanted to konw about the U.S., which places I'd visited, how I liked Mexico so far, which school I was going to, etc. etc. etc. He offered to give me a tour of the city, show me the fun clubs and stuff (I had to ignore my brother's evil glare when we talked about that) and help me learn more Spanish. I didn't point out that Carlos coulddo all of that. I also didn't realize that I was making an enemy -- a girl across the room who'd been staring at us the whole time Edgar had been around.

Finally, one of the girls at my table wanted to go swimming so I offered to join her. Edgar declined due to his lack of swimsuit and I couldn't convince him to just wear his clothes. He and Carlos did, however, decide they'd at least come outside and watch.

The pool was full of kids I didn't know, but being the only American around, they flocked to me quickly. Valeria (my new friend) and I stripped down to our swimsuits as thousands of questions were fired at me. "Where are you from? What's your name? How do you say my name in English?" Then they wanted to play a game with me and I noticed that everyone in the pool was crowded around me with the exception of two girls, maybe a year or two younger than me, glaring in my direction.

We agreed on Marco Polo, which was interesting enough to try and explain in Spanish. It was a lot of fun until I was the one running around like a maniac and suddenly felt myself being pushed in the water. After almost drowning, I looked to see the two girls laughing at me. "Oops!" one said. "Perdón! Sorry!"

The kids wanted to keep playing but I declined politely and joined Valeria. "Quien son? Who are they?" I asked, nodding to te two girls who were now joining the game.

"No las cognozco pero creo son amigas de Miguel. I don't know them but I think they're Miguel's friends."

I didn't tell her that I had no idea who Miguel was. "Creo que no les gusto. I don't think they like me."

She shrugged. "Es porque hablaste con Edgar. Y les gusta él. It's because you talked to Edgar. And they like him."

Oh so that's what it was -- they had a crush on the guy who was talking to me. Jealous bitches.

"Y tambien eres Americana. Tienes mas atención de las. And also because you're an American. You're getting more attention than them."

Oh? They want attention? I'll show them attention. This is war.

We stayed to ourselves for a little while, occasionally talking to a passerby. A little girl wanted to throw around a little plastic ball with us so we did that.. then I had a grand idea... and "accidentally" threw it too far, whapping one of the bitches in the nose.

She yelped and held her nose, checking to see if it was bleeding. Valeria and I were snickering. "Oops... Perdón," I said.

She checked her nose again then chunked the ball back at me, but I ducked in time. She was carrying on and on, yelling at me in Spanish like I could understand her.

I decided to take this time to test out some of the words I'd recently learned: "Callate, zorra," I said, which is basically saying "shut up, slut."

Her eyes widdened and she lurched forward, knocking me backwards and under water. I brought her down with me and we wrestled until we needed a breath and noticed Carlos yeling at us. I'm not sure what he said beyond "stop," but it was enough to get her to huff, splash water in my face and say in perfect English, "I'm not finished with you."

Carlos gave me a look and said, "cool it."

I shrugged him off and went back to Valeria to talk about the girl and ways to get her back. I should've done as my conscience suggested and just left her alone, but part of me knew that she was just awiting for a vulnerable moment to attack again.

After a few minutes of peacefulness, Carlos was back talking to some family and the girl grabed her towel and flipflops to go inside. I noticed taht she'd left her clothes next to the pool. Why give her the chance to attack me first?

I showed Valeria my plan and she stood on the lookout -- any sign of Carlos or the bitch looking, just throw my shoe at me. That'd get my attention. I crept out of the pol and towards her stuff, sitting nearby on a chair Valeria gave me a thumbs-up from the pool and I grabbed the girl's things and quickly slipped back into the pool, everything in my arms. The two of us giggled as I soaked her things. Have fun riding home in this!

We dispersed from the pile of clothes shortly after we were sure that they were good and wet. We should've gone inside, but we just had to see her reaction. So when she finalyl came outside, Valeria tapped me on the arm and we watched intently. She searched for her things like a mother hen who'd lost her egg. Giving up, she finally took off her shoes and towel and jumped in the pool. By this time Valeria and I were choking on laughter. The girl noticed this and looked around for what was so funy, finally seeing her clothes floating around. Needless to say, she wasn't happy. She picked them up and threw them at me, cussing and crying like you wouldn't believe. She then swam towards me to retrieve her clothes, promptly slapped me and left. I was stunned and embarrassed. To top it off, Carlos was standing right there and ordered me out of the pool. I promised Valeria that I'd be back soon.

My brother spared me anymore embarrassment than necessary and ushered me to a secluded area.

"What did I tell you?" he asked.

"To cool it, but..."

"Leave her alone, Danielle. You're acting like a seven year-old"

"She started it."

"I don't care. I'm finishing it. Keep it up and I'll spank you right here, and don't think I won't."

He was glaring at me angrily, but I didn't understand the big dea, especially when she was the one who pushed me first! And then she slapped me... the bitch. Besides, Carlos wouldn't really spank me there -- it was just an idle threat, right?

"Do you understand?" he asked.

"Yeah," I murmured, then walked off.

It was bad enough that the girl slapped me, worse that Carlos lectured me, and even worse when I came back and the girls were mocking me. Valeria suggested we go back inside to avoid more conflict, but I wasn't finished yet. I didn't know what I'd do, but I knew it'd have to be worth it if Carlos decided to carry out his threat.

The girl and her friend eventually got tired of provoking me into another fight and stopped mocking me. And Carlos went back to talking to people. And Edgar disappeared. Valeria and I were just swimming around. She was still half-expecting me to do something, even though neither of us had a clue. Then the girl moved a perfect distance from the diving board. With a good enough jump, I could land right on top of her and could always use the excuse that I hadn't seen her.

Valeria must've seen the look in my eyes. "Que pasa?"

I held up my finger to tell her to wait a minute as I climbed out of the water.

"Que estás haciendo?" she whispered.

"Vamos a ver," I replied, quietly climbing onto the diving board. I judged the distance from where I was to her. Perfect. Taking a deep breath, I braced myself, one hope, two hop, three -- jump! I sailed through the air, everything in slow motion. I stretched out to do a belly flop and she looked up in horror, ducking just in time for my body to crash into hers. I heard everyone gasp right before I went under water. I was smiling when I came to the surface again.

"Perdón, no te ví," I apologized.

"Mentirosa!" she answered, pushing me.

Before I had the chance to push back, Carlos was there, like a coach on the sidelines at a football game. He was just waiting, not yelling or anything. I glanced in his direction then pushed her back. "Danielle!" he yelled.

She pushed me again and within minutes we were at it. We were pushing, wrestling, biting, pulling hair -- you name it. People were yelling from all around, but it didn't stop us. In fact, we'd have probably gone on forever had someone not pried us apart. I don't know who it was, I couldn't really see straight from all of the adrenaline, but he must've been strong because he handed me to Carlos who carried me kicking, struggling, and dripping wet to the bathroom.

"I don't understand what your fascination with fighting is," he said as I rubbed my face where I'd been hit a few times. He tried to lock the door, but it was broken. I'd figured he was just going to yell at me, but then he put the lid of the toilet down and sat, dragging me over.

"Wait... you're not gonna..." I began and broke off.

"I told you I would, didn't I?"

"But... the door isn't locked!"

"I don't care," he replied and pushed me onto his lap, disregarding my bikini bottom immediately and smacking me hard.

I hadn't expected it to hurt so much, but since I'd been swimming and my backside was wet, it stung like crazy! "Ow, Carlos! Wait!"

"Wait? You could've killed her! Broken her neck!" he fussed, spanking even harder.

"Owwies, it was an accident!"

"Accident my ass," he responded, then "move your hands," when I reached back.

"Please," I begged, "not here," not moving my hands.

He sighed exasperatedly and moved them for me. "I told you I'd spank you if you did anything else."

"But not here," I gasped, squirming like crazy over his lap. "People might listen!"

"Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is for me to have my little sister a guest at a party and still picking fights?"

I bit my lower lip to keep from yelping too loudly. "I knowww... I'm sorry!"

"I don't believe you are," he told me, moving down to my sitspots. I howled in pain, covering my mouth with my hands so if anyone was listening they wouldn't get the satisfaction of knowing how much pain I was in.

I don't know how long he kept up, just that it hurt so much he restrained one hand while I bit my other hand. And I was kicking furiously. When he stopped I breathed a sigh of relief.

"We'll talk about this when we get home," he assurred me, pulling my bottoms back up and lifting me.

I wiped the tears away from my still crying eyes and gave him a hug. I then washed my face and turned around, looking at my bottom in the mirror. This set me off crying again. As if it wasn't bad enough I'd gotten spanked, everyone could see it, too!

"Carlos, please don't make me go back like this. Please bring me my towel," I begged.

He shook his head. "Nope. That's part of the punishment. Besides, look at me"

I glanced over and noticed that his pants were covered in water -- it looked like he hadn't made it to the bathroom in time. I giggled.

"At least you can use the hand dryer," I offered.

"And I'm wearingm y swimsuit. But I also didn't do anything punishable like you, kid sis."

I pouted.

He took off his jeans to reveal the swimsuit underneath then stuck them under the dryer. I leaned against the cool sink trying to let it ease my throbbing bottom.

"I didn't want to hurt her," I told him.

He looked back. "I know, but you could have done some pretty bad damage. Besides, it's just the fact that you were acting like a kid and kept on after I warned you. You know that's not the right way to act, much less at a party that you were invited to by someone you don't even know. What kind of impression do you think that gives them about us? About Americans?"

I nodded. "You're right. Wish I would've thought about that."

He took his jeans out from under the dryer and inspected. THey were dry enough for him 'cause he slipped them back on. I glanced at my bottom again and arranged my swimsuit so you couldn't see as much red. It didn't look as bad.

The two of us walked out together and I was triple self-conscious wanting to cover my bottom but not wanting people to wonder why I was doing it. So I just hurried over to my towel thankful that the girl hadn't thrown my clothes into the water. I put my clothes on over my swimsuit and went inside where they were about to get ready for the piñata. At least Edgar had been inside during the fight.

We sat at a different table this time. I eased gently onto the chair while Carlos introduced me to those I hadn't met.

"Vas a estudiar?" one lady asked, then went on to explain she was hosting a student from Japan. As if she'd known we were talking about her, the student suddenly appeared at my side, hotdog in hand. I knew instantly that I was going to like her -- she just had those vibes. She plopped down next to me as everyone explained that I was an exchange student, too. Then we figured out we were going to go to the same school.

"Y como te llamas?" I eventually asked.

"Emi. Y tu?"

"Daniela. Y hablas inglés?"

"No," she answered, then began laughing which made me laugh because she was so funny.

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