It’s still early in the day when they arrive back at the house from El Jardin, but jet lag soon catches up with Tori and her hosts understand when she excuses herself to shower and settle in. As she sits on the bed in her robe, she can’t help but reflect on the past 24 years on her life. She was an only child to parents who hated each other. Burton and Winona Jackson divorced when Tori was nine, just old enough to understand the issues they were having.
Her father fled, getting as far away from herself and her mother as he could. Burton was killed in a motorcycle accident in Chicago, Illinois when Tori was fourteen. That was when her mother- who never moved on- switched from light drinking to heavy drinking and ultimately lost her job, leaving most of the responsibilities to Tori. She got a job at night when she wasn’t at school to be able to pay the bills, and fled from Melville to Queens to pursue her dreams of becoming an author. Whenever someone found out about her mom, or her dad, or her life, she’d just say “My story is far from the saddest.” and change the subject.
At the age of 21, Winona showed up on Tori’s doorstep, dropping the bomb that she had severe liver failure and needed someone to take care of her. Tori found it hard to have sympathy, and also felt guilty for the longest time, because she didn’t feel sympathy. She cared for her mother as well as she could, taking her from doctor to doctor, specialist to specialist.
Her health had been slowly declining, and she lost her battle just recently. Tori made all the arrangements, buried her with Tori’s grandmother, and that was that. Now here she is, in a completely new place. It feels a little cliche, but it really felt like she could have a fresh start. And maybe, just maybe, she could find someone to love her.
In the past, she had been so absorbed in drama with her parents, that she really didn’t think about relationships. Therefore, she’s never been in one. She didn’t have her first kiss until she was twenty, at a New Year’s Eve party, with a guy she didn’t even know. Before, it hadn’t been important, but sometimes, the thought of spending the rest of your life alone is scary. Here she is, in a new place. Might as well be open to new things as well.
Tori also hopes to walk around the city some, open her mind, and get ideas for her latest book. She promised herself when she was younger that she’d write about her life once her parents were dead, but right now isn’t the time. She knows that being here in Havana with Mariposa and Abuela will be the best thing for her, and she also knows that Mari will do anything she can to support Tori and her writing.
She’s startled from her thoughts by a knock on her bedroom door. Mari pokes her head in. “I made your favorite.” She brings in a mug of steaming hot chocolate.
“Ugh, te amo, Mari.” Tori grins, eagerly accepting the mug.
Mari laughs cheerfully. “Sleep tight, Tor. I took tomorrow off of work so we can spend time together.”
“Awesome, I look forward to it.” They bid each other goodnight once more, and Tori gratefully sips her hot chocolate until it’s gone, then tucks herself into the bed, noting that it’s more comfortable than the one she had back at her apartment.