Sunday, Oct. 30, 4:13 p.m., Hammond, Louisiana — Yesterday was my new school’s homecoming dance. St. Thomas Aquinas’ Homecoming. Not Hannan’s. That doesn’t matter, though, because my Hannan friend Cassie — who is at St. Thomas with me — managed to convince me to attend.
I wore an icy blue dress with white flowers. It had a halter top to it, and the bottom swished when I walked. I saw it at the mall here one weekend when my mom brought me. It was on sale, and in the end, I only paid $11 for it. It came back to the camper with me because of its price alone, but it really is a pretty dress.
Saturday morning, Mom and I drove to the Target a few Interstate exits away so that I could get a coat. It’s cold here now, and I lost my coat in the hurricane. We wound up finding a gorgeous, inexpensive red one from Ross, but first, we went in Target so Mom could find some things she needed.
I went to find a heavy jacket and I was in the dressing room when my cell phone started ringing.
I answered it, and it was Jenn, my best friend from Hannan. She seemed excited, and when I asked why, she said she just saw my mom outside.
I started screaming into the phone, and I rushed out of the dressing room, hauling everything with me.
Jenn saw me as soon as I stepped out of the dressing room area, and we ran to each other, screaming. Everyone stopped to watch, but that’s never something Jenn and I cared about. We hugged each other, and the two of us cried right there, jumping up and down, up and down, in the middle of Target, everyone watching and smiling because, somehow, they knew.
What made it even more special was that it was her birthday.
We walked around for an hour, talking about everything, before she had to leave with her mom, but I knew that if Cassie hadn’t convinced me to come to Homecoming, I would never have seen Jenn yesterday. It was so good seeing her. It made me realize even more how much I miss her.
I got ready for the dance at our family friend Mark’s house. His wife Kristie did my hair, twisting it and pinning my curls up. It looked really nice, and I was still so excited about seeing Jenn, which made it even more spectacular.
Mom brought me to Cassie’s house trailer because I didn’t know the way, but we wound up getting lost anyway. I called Cassie, and she asked where we were. I told her that we were parked in the empty lot before a church. She said to stay there, and a few minutes later, a car pulled up, our friend David behind the wheel.
Mom left us to go visit my grandparents, and I climbed into the back seat of David’s car with Cassie and our old Hannan friend Bunch. Another Hannan friend, Amanda, was riding in the front. It was good laughing with Bunch again. Laughing is an amazingly powerful thing these days.
We ate at a Chinese restaurant not far from the school, and we found that it was the Hannan spot. Four other refugee Hannan students were there, ready for the St. Thomas Homecoming. All of us sat close, so there was a Hannan corner of the restaurant, loud and laughing. Bunch started saying that he wanted doughnuts before we had even left the restaurant.
The dance wasn’t as fun for us as it was for the St. Thomas students — except for Cassie. She was on the floor dancing the whole time, but David and I walked around the school with a few friends. Stars hung in the Commons and the whole entrance was decorated. By the end, we were talking about doughnuts again, so we made plans to go find a coffee shop after the dance.
It ended at eleven, and Cassie found us sitting on one of the benches on the side of the room. She came over, shaking her head at us, obviously disappointed. At the last slow dance, she grabbed us all to make sure we danced, she said. Just once.
We piled into David’s car again after that, and we started driving around Hammond. We all knew the parish like the back of our hands, but we were lost that night in a strange town with strange streets. We found a Tastee’s doughnut shop that was open, but the parking lot was eerily dark and deserted. We all laughed then because it reminded us of the unsafe parts of St. Bernard.
David pulled away and drove around some more, getting us lost. Eventually, we stopped at a gas station for some Frappuccino and directions. They made me laugh a lot more there, but eventually I had to come home to a little camper with a little bed and no more Bunch to make me laugh.
Still, I need to thank Cassie later, because I’m so glad I went.
Yesterday was a day of reunions with Hannan people for me, and I wish I could make every day like it. I loved being with them, and I loved even more spending that time with Jenn. I miss her every day at school. We were always together at Hannan. It’s so strange not having her with me now.
I’m so glad I did see her, though. That made my day.
Samantha Perez is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.