BARRIERS

Originally written as a contest entry. ( I didn’t win. :p )

Barriers

By Rachel Kelly Davis

The wind was warm and it smelled of salt. It was a clear night; pleasant despite the humidity. Tiny bulbs lit the pathway up to the small bungalow. Music and laughter could be heard from the inside. All the other women were probably already here. Vicky made her way slowly up the path.

“You’re here?!” Carla had opened the door.

Vicky hesitated. “You invited me?” She adjusted her posture and smiled. “Of course I came.”

Carla looked unsure. “Come in, come in. Everyone, Victoria has come to join us.”

Vicky walked into the main living room. Twenty-two pairs of dark eyes stared at her light ones. They belonged to the girlfriends of the small group of British, German, and Dutch men who had retired in Bohol. About two of them were younger than her, one was nineteen. Most of them were slightly older, in their late twenties and thirties. All their boyfriends were in their fifties and sixties, divorced from their first or second wives. Only Vicky’s boyfriend was in his twenties.

“Can I get you something to drink, Vicky?” Anna said, smiling as she walked up to her.

Vicky liked Anna. She was always so sweet and never made her feel like an outsider the way the other women did. It didn’t bother Anna that Vicky was half European and half Filipino. It didn’t bother her that Vicky was raised in Europe most of her life. More importantly, it didn’t make Anna jealous or shy.

“Yes, please,” Vicky said. “What are we having?”

“We bought some wine, and don’t worry, no one here will judge you!” Anna said teasingly.

Vicky smiled. She was referring to how some of the small restaurants in town refused to serve Vicky alcohol because “proper” women weren’t supposed to drink or get drunk.

“Please sit,” Jennifer said, and shyly patted the seat next to her. The tension in the air could be cut with a knife.

I wonder if this was a mistake.

It was Mick, her neighbor and Anna’s boyfriend who had convinced her to go. Mick was a retired British cop and he had taken a liking to Vicky and her boyfriend. He treated them like they were his kids.

“Just cause you moved here mainly to support your boyfriend’s research doesn’t mean you can’t make friends.” Mick had said.

“Vicky, we hope you don’t mind,” Anna said. “But we only prepared Filipino food. I know that you usually eat cheese.”

“Are you kidding me? I love Filipino food. I just don’t know how to make it. But my mom makes it all the time,” Vicky replied with a smile. “And I don’t just eat cheese,” she said laughing.

Some of the women laughed with her. “So what do you eat?” Carla asked. “Like what is your favourite food?”

“I go through phases,” Vicky said, taking a sip of the wine. “Right now I think my favourite would be anything flavoured with black truffle.”

“What’s that?” Jennifer asked.

Vicky hesitated. Whatever ice she had broken by saying she ate Filipino food had refrozen. She could see some of the women looking at her skeptically again.

“It’s… a fungus. You get a pig to harvest it, and um… I also really really like sinigang na baboy.” She said, naming what truly was her favourite Filipino dish.

Jennifer smiled. “I am sure your truffle is very good.” A pause. “I just need to tell you, you are so pretty Vicky. I really like your nose.”

“My nose?” she was confused for a minute and looked at the women. Then she realized why. Though Vicky was Filipina looking, her straight nose and her light eyes were what made her face different, European.

“Vicky! Tell us about life in Europe!” Anna said, changing the subject. “Is it true it feels like the entire place is aircon?”

She laughed at the question, grateful to Anna for the change of subject. “It can get pretty warm in the summer. Um… what would you like to know?”

One woman, Rhea, who had been sitting quietly on the edge of the couch opposite to Vicky, finally spoke. “Why are you here?” she asked, looking straight at Vicky.

“Excuse me?” Vicky asked. All the other women were quiet.

“Why are you here?” she repeated. “Why are you going to have dinner with us?”

“Carla asked me to come.”

Rhea shook her head. “In another life, if I wasn’t dating who I was dating, you wouldn’t even talk to me. Not unless I was your housemaid.”

Vicky was completely thrown aback. She looked around the room, at twenty-two dark eyes nervously looking at her and each other.

“We don’t live in that life,” she said. “We live in this one.”

She took another sip of her wine.

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