You recall it with dread, as if it all could happen again. It was the vacation of your nightmares. You wish you'd never gone. But it was just too appealing, the warmth and the adventure. However, it turned out quite different from the brochure. It was an odd convergence of fates, that scared your family down to the marrow of your bones.
You were the youngest daughter of a lawyer and a school teacher. A typical, bland, Caucasian upper-middle class family on a Florida vacation. All of you seemed to think you were relatively free of stress, as you waited patiently to board.
You got onto the plane, smiling, without a care in the world. It didn't matter that you were seated between Grandma and other Grandma. You loved them both, but couldn't stand having them in the same room together. And you were too young to decide which of them you were referring to as other Grandma.
Mike, your boyfriend, was sitting two rows ahead. He hadn't traded tickets with either of your grandmothers, because the two of you had nearly broken up yesterday. For a moment, you were afraid he'd disclose your entire lack of a sex life to your pervert of a brother and your sister's fiancé who sat beside them. But he just looked out the window, longingly.
With the smooth gliding of a plastic button, you put your new iPod rose up to full volume, so as to drown out the arguments your grandmothers would inevitably have, about abortion rights or a man's place in the home. The iPod was new, a few days ago, from Christmas. Even over the boy band singing loudly into your ears, you could hear that they had chosen a new and frightful topic: homosexual marriage.
You didn't even notice as your ears popped, and the plane rose out of Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada. Looking past your maternal grandmother, you saw the 'Greater Toronto Area' fade away below the clouds. It should have been covered in snow, but global warming had promised a late snowfall that evaded your winter holidays off from school. Greater Toronto Area. The term came to your mind, and seemed like such an oxymoron.
Your idle thoughts turned lethargically from one thing to the next. Soon, you were eagerly looking forward to your fifteenth birthday that sat in the middle of the vacation. You had no idea what your father had planned, but you were sure it must have had something to do with the dinner reservation he'd booked at a Rainforest Café.
Somehow, despite the booming promises of love in your ears and the fervent Biblical quotations of your seat mates; you managed to fall asleep. It was probably the anti-depressants you'd taken this morning and forgotten to pack. They messed with your sleep schedule like an unseen, unheard, shrieking monkey. Last night's insomnia had left shadows beneath your eyes.
You were still rubbing the sleep from your eyes as your family checked into customs. They confiscated your giant blue bottle of aloe gel you'd packed for the inevitable sunburns, as well as a tube of toothpaste, muttering something about terrorists. But you weren't sure whether the man had said 'terrorists' or 'tourists' in his Texan accent. It seemed like the Canadian authorities at Pearson Airport hadn't cared as much.
A shuttle brought your family to the hotel. It was a long ride, into the theme park. You weren't even sure whether you were in Universal Studios, Disney World or some other place.
Mom checked your group into the hotel, while Dad took a cab somewhere to pick up a rental car. You dreaded the room arrangements. Your boyfriend was sharing a room with your obnoxiously crude moron of a brother, and the other bed in their room was taken up by your older sister and her fiancé.
You, however, were stuck in a room with Grandma, other Grandma and your eternally snoring parents. You knew the widows would share one bed and your parents would take the other. That left you with the uncomfortable cot they'd have folded up in the closet. You weren't looking forward to it at all.
Everyone, except you, carried things in from the shuttle. Your job was to sit in the lobby, making sure nobody took the bags. However, you walked off because it seemed like such a foolish waste of time.
Passing the resort's indoor pool, you realized you'd forgotten to even pack your swimsuit! And with a sly grin, as you passed the gift shop, you realized that that promised the opportunity to go suit-shopping with Mike.
And then, you walked a few steps too far. You saw the hotel's bar, and something caught your eye. You turned your gaze back, over the chatting people, and saw something you'd never be able to get unimprinted from your mind.
It was, to begin with, out of the ordinary to see two men kissing in public. However, these were old men with tongues down each other's throats. That wasn't what had caught your attention. Homosexuality was something you never bothered to think about. It simply wasn't part of your life. However, when they pulled away from each other, that was what caught your eyes.
There was your grandfather, who you'd presumed dead, staring back at you with a gaping mouth. He was balding, red-faced and stunned, like a browned tomato with a hole in it; and very much alive. You remembered seeing his pale corpse in the cancer ward, and so it all seemed more confusing. Even the story of how he'd lost his testicles to cancer.
The other man turned, and you saw ragged, masculine features and bushy white eyebrows. He looked distinctly Eastern -European.
You let out a quick scream, and looked from one to the other. They were speechless. Even the other man seemed to recognize you. And all you could do was run.
However, things were just going to get worse.