Howdy! We’re visiting Florida over our Easter Holidays. I sure do wish you were here! First we visited Tampa where we went to Busch Gardens and Adventure Island.
We are now very sunburned! Ouch! Right now we are in Ft. Pierce, but we are going back home tonight thru Georgia where we will stay 1 night.
Well, see ya soon!
I smiled as I placed a stamp on the top right-hand corner of the postcard, and almost giggled aloud at the silly greeting of “howdy” that I’d picked up from an attractive young man I ran into at Busch Gardens. There was no romance involved, although I wouldn’t have minded if something had sparked a desire within him to suddenly marry me, and move me to America forever.
As much fun as I had had being a tourist, I couldn’t wait to get back to England to see my sister Julie again; to tell her about all the amazing things I’d seen during my first trip overseas with my best friend Tessa, and Julie’s best friend Beth.
Of course, I’d have to be gentle about the trip as a topic; Julie was supposed to go with us, but there was a major medical emergency at the hospital she is working in at the last minute, and they needed all the EMTs to stay in town and work. Although Julie assured us all that she would be fine staying behind, I knew my sister – she was truly crushed knowing she wouldn’t be able to take her first trip off of England soil with her siseter and closest friends.
“Do, keep in touch, love,” she had told me while we were at the airport departing on our adventure. She was so busy at work, she couldn’t even physically be there to say goodbye to us, so she had called me. “I eagerly await your return, and cannot wait to hear of the wonderful things about America!”
I was so close to staying behind with her, but she insisted that I go. “Really, I’ll be fine! This is such a great opportunity; who knows when you’ll be able to go again!”
“Charlotte, come on!” Tessa urged.
I looked up to see Tessa and Beth waiting for me to get into the taxi they’d called without my knowledge. I guess I’d been so occupied with the postcard writing, I hadn’t realized it was almost time to make our first small flight back towards home.
I made my way towards the open door of the vehicle, and squeezed in the middle seat, bumping Tessa with my arm.
“Ouch!” we both exclaimed.
Beth fell into the seat next to me, asking, “What’s the mat-OW!”
I quickly moved my arms forward so as not to touch either of my friends. Our sunburn was pretty terrible; we had been so intrigued with seeing the sights and riding the rides yesterday and the day before that we’d forgotten to reapply sunscreen. Despite our efforts to take care of our skin after our misfortune, we still ached.
“Sitting on the plane so closely is going to be a nightmare,” Tessa whined.
Beth spoke up, “Well, at least the flight isn’t over three hours. And once we land in Georgia, and get to our hotel for the night, we can see if there’s a place we can get some aloe vera to help it out a bit.”
She then turned her attention to me and said, “By the way, it would’ve been nice if you’d helped with the luggage! Your bag was especially heavy!”
I cringed. “Sorry, love, I was writing to Julie!”
“That’s odd,” Tessa replied, “we’re going back home tomorrow, so why send her a postcard now?”
“I’m not sending it. I just thought writing to her on one with a nice view that we’d witnessed would be a good ‘I’m home and I thought of you’ gift. Better to hand it in person, though, than for her to receive it a week or so after we’ve gotten back,” I explained.
What I truly didn’t explain was that the postcard had been an after-thought; I’d been so occupied with having adventures with Tessa and Beth that buying souvenirs and gifts for my sister, or any of my family for that matter, completely slipped my mind. But because Julie couldn’t come with us, I felt especially bad that I hadn’t gotten her anything. Hence the postcard.
Beth rolled her eyes. “That still doesn’t make sense, but all right. I’m excited to see Julie. I’m nervous to talk about the trip with her, though. I don’t want to brag about it.”
With that comment, we sat in silence for a moment, each of us probably trying to figure out ways in which we could make the trip seem less extravagant to Julie than it actually was.
The truth is, our trip was extremely fun. Our flights were on time; the hotels we stayed in were beautiful, with some great service. The southern American meals we ate, although a bit greasy in Tessa’s opinion, tasted amazing. I’d always had these ideas about what America was like, and knowing that I’d only seen a portion of it made me want to visit the rest of it someday.
However, as much we wanted to tell each detail of our trip to Julie, we knew that with every fun thing we explained, there would be a small pang of hurt, and maybe even jealousy, because she was unable to go with us, and none of us wanted to hurt her feelings. And it would even be hard to bring up things in front of her later, such as inside jokes that we’d made about American culture and whatnot, without her feeling left out.
“Maybe we could just tell her the funny things about America?” Tessa suggested, “ya know, the weird things that we saw – that way it wouldn’t seem so great?”
“I mean, we should be honest,” Beth argued, “we can’t just lie about the whole thing, and tell her that our trip was awful; she’ll know we’re lying for her sake.”
I nodded. “Julie won’t mind us telling her about the trip. Sure, she’ll be a little sad, but she’d rather us be honest, and tell her the details than lie. And it’s not like this will be the last trip to America that we’ll ever take!”
At least I hope not, I thought.
* * *
The first leg of our journey proved successful. We made it back to Georgia, and settled into our hotel that was only minutes away from the airport so that the next day would be easy for us to deal with.
We arrived at the airport the next morning, and went through security without any trouble. As we made it to our gate, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that our vacation was truly ending, and we only had one more flight to end our journey. So many fun, new memories were made during our trip, and I wasn’t quite ready to leave the place in which we’d made them.
Once we boarded the plane and got situated in our seats, I looked into my bag to find that the postcard I’d written for Julie was gone.
“Oh no…” I mumbled, looking through my purse.
Tessa and Beth looked at me worriedly as I answered their silent question with, “I’ve lost my postcard for Julie.”
They both seemed relieved at my answer. “Oh, Charlotte, it’s all right! What’s one little postcard? You’ve got something else to give her, don’t you?” Beth exclaimed.
The regret and guilt of not getting Julie anything else sunk deeper into my chest. I wanted to tell Tessa and Beth the truth, but I didn’t want to seem inconsiderate to my sister’s feelings. But now, my one and only gift (if you could even call it that) for Julie was gone, and I knew that the truth that I’d been pretty selfish during this trip would eventually come out while conversing with Julie about everything.
But I gave a good try at defending myself anyway. “I mean, when would I have had time to get more gifts? We only stopped at a couple of gift shops, and there wasn’t really anything in either of them that Julie would’ve liked.”
“Yes, but a lot of the places we were in, although not necessarily ‘gift shops’ still had a lot of fun knick knacks and things that would have been nice to get,” Tessa replied.
Beth chimed in, “And I’m sure Julie wouldn’t have cared whether or not she liked something that came from America…because it’s something from America. From you.”
I saw it click in Tessa’s eyes before I could continue defending my case.
“You didn’t get her anything else?!” she asked incredulously.
She and Beth both looked at me in shock, making me feel all the more guilty.
“Charlotte! What on earth, you’ve been worried about talking about the trip to Julie, but didn’t think any souvenirs would make it better?” Beth demanded.
I suddenly no longer wanted to sit with the travel companions I’d had all week. Despite how guilty I felt, I still tried to explain my logic. “I mean, gifts would only be a reminder of what she wasn’t able to do with us, right? Plus, I don’t know…I was just so caught up in everything we were doing…it kind of just slipped my mind. It’s not like I got gifts for everyone else in my family and missed Julie -”
“You didn’t even get gifts for your family, Charlotte?!” Tessa asked in that same incredulous voice, “I won’t lie, I’m a little disappointed in you. Your family’s never been able to go to America, yet here you are with the opportunity to be here, and you don’t even think to bring them back anything?”
There was no other way to defend myself. I had to face the truth – I was completely selfish during this trip. I was caught in the moment of being able to be free from England and from my family, to do the things I wanted to do. My mother didn’t even want me and Julie to take this trip; her preconceived opinions about America and Americans were anything but positive. Getting her a gift wouldn’t have done her any good anyway.
And the rest of my family – what did they need gifts from America for? They’d probably place them on shelves only to have them eventually covered in dust. Maybe they’d talk about them with their friends, but how could they have explained anything if they hadn’t been to America themselves?
I stopped all my justified thinking, realizing I had wandered in thought without answering Tessa’s inquiry, but both of my friends had engaged in other things such as reading or listening to music, taking my silence as all the answer they needed from me.
As the plane took off, I felt as if I was being squished in my seat; as if the guilt that had settled in my heart now settled atop my head, weighing me down.
Julie would’ve loved whatever you’d gotten for her, I thought, and you let her down. You’re going back to England with nothing more than words, stories, memories – nothing tangible for her to feel as if she could possibly travel there – be there – someday.
I struggled to sleep during our flight back to London. I wanted to talk to Beth and Tessa, maybe bring up some of our inside jokes and memories from the trip, but I wasn’t sure if they were super upset with me, or just shocked at my thoughtlessness.
Suddenly, I wasn’t so fond of heading back to England.
💙 Mishy 🦋