Copyright © Moras Dela Paz, 2016.
All rights reserved.
Book Cover Illustration © Fides Visorde
No part of this book may be reproduced or used in any form without permission in writing from the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, business, events and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously, any resemblance to any actual persons or living or dead, events or locals are entirely coincidental.
Because food is love
Serena’s 8th birthday
I turn eight today I thought, I look quickly at the alarm clock beside my bed and see that it’s 4:00 am, I woke up hours early before my actual birthday party. When I say party it’s not a one with lots of kids, I only made one true friend in grade school and her name is Joy. I told my mom I’d rather have a tea party, with milk tea and pastries with Joy than a party that would invite kids I hardly care about.
To be honest a party would mean Eli would be invited and whenever Eli’s around my day turns into a disaster. Well not this birthday! Eli is… I couldn’t even begin to explain Eli. It’s my birthday and he’s not allowed to rain on it, that’s all everyone needs to know.
I woke up and head for the kitchen to look at all the pastry mom bought for my birthday, they all look so pretty but I won’t eat them yet not even a bite.
“You might want to close the fridge sweetheart.” I heard my Mom’s voice from across the room. I reluctantly close the fridge door.
“Good morning, Mama. Thank you for all these treats.” I said.
“Don’t forget to thank your Father, he’s the one who bought them.”
On cue my father comes to the kitchen carrying my baby brother Santiago, we call him Santi in the kitchen.
“I have one more surprise for you. It’s underneath your bed. I bet you didn’t even notice.”
My eyes grew big like the size of saucers, I ran to my room and look underneath my bed. There’s a box wrapped in pink gift wrapper with a yellow bow in it. I couldn’t help it, I tore the wrapper as fast as I could. When the wrapper was off the box I see a doll but not just any doll, I see a mermaid doll! Though I am not a fan of dolls, I like picture books, trivia cards and puzzles more. This doll came from my Father, I’m going to treasure it for life.
“Do you like it?” I hear from the doorway.
“Yes!” I told him. I ran and embraced his leg, while he pats my head.
“When you were still inside Mommy’s tummy you kept kicking and kicking. I said you must be having fun swimming in there, we called you our little mermaid. When you were born we decide to name you Serena. That’s how you got your name.”
I called my best friend in the whole wide world: Joy on the phone, I told her I’d come get her for our afternoon tea party. I was clutching my brand new mermaid doll so people could see it as I walk around our village. Joy and I live in the same village and I’ve been going to her house since I was 6. I have to tip toe to reach the doorbell but I was able to press it, I wait for her to come out and we could be on our way.
“Well, well, well, what do we have here?” I heard a voice so familiar I refuse to turn back and acknowledge his presence. It was Eli with his neighborhood friends.
“Who’s that? A friend of yours?” One of them asked.
“No! As if I’d be friends with a girl.” Eli said indignantly. “What’s that you’re holding?”
“None of your business.” I tell him.
“A mermaid huh? Is that because you’re name means mermaid?” Eli asked. “Well, I think you’re no mermaid, you’re more like a pufferfish.” Eli said.
“What’s a pufferfish?” one of his playmates asked.
“That fish that blows up.” Eli explained.
Pufferfish or blowfish, I read about them once from a trivia card that my Mama got me. They could inflate themselves to avoid being eaten by other predators in the ocean. They’re also a delicacy in Japan called fugu that requires a special training for chefs due to the fact that almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them lethal to other fishes. When humans intake tetrodotoxin it’s up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. Knowing that I want to force feed Eli with tetrodotoxin for saying that I look like one.
“You’re right she does look like a pufferfish! Being all chubby and all.” one of them observed.
“Pufferfish… chubby... we can call her puffy!” Eli said mischievously.
“Puffy! Puffy! Puffy!” they chanted like a bunch of idiots.
I was tearing up. I wanted to shout that there is nothing wrong with me being chubby but they kept teasing me, calling me puffy. I felt a burning ache in my chest and I had to stop the urge to vomit.
“Leave her alone!” I hear my best friend Joy shout at them. She came running from the inside of her house and tried to shield me. When they didn’t stop she started scooping up mud from the ground and started throwing it at my bullies and they started running away.
She got mud on her pretty pink dress and I know Aunt Annie would get mad at her for it but at that moment I knew Joy and I would be friends forever.