Written By Sher Trott-Bailey.
The year 2026: Belize, Toledo Community
It was 5:30 pm and the weather was warm and balmy.
“Perfect weather to have a party in,” Maria Cortazar thought.
” Hey, Ms. Cortarzar. I brought you some soursops.” Meera, a pretty and vivacious creole girl shouted in her usual manner.
“Hey, Meera, welcome! put them in the kitchen and thanks! I have been wanting some to make juice for a while now.” Maria Cortazar called out to her daughter’s young friend.
Maria Cortazar was moving from inside to outside as she was preparing a small party for her daughter Juanita, who had graduated in the top three in the country for her final year exams. It was Maria’s biggest boast in a long time and she wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to rub it in the faces of those competitive church mamas.
As a single mother who had become pregnant at fifteen, Maria had always carried a stigma on her back in the little tight-knitted community where she had been born and raised. Secretly, she was surprised Juanita had done so well. Maria had stopped school early and had only learned to read, write, and do some basic maths. Everything else she knew was from street smarts and a few computer courses for her job as Head Housekeeper up by the Martinez Family’s Estate. She had never been able to help Juanita with any of her school work; so having a daughter so smart was a surprise.
The other family members would be arriving soon and so would some of Maria’s friends. Maria shook her head and placed her hands on her hips wondering again, why her daughter only had one friend. Maria secretly thought Juanita, her daughter was very boring. By this time Meera was already making her way to Juanita’s room. She was no stranger to Juanita’s house. They had been best friends since their start at the Queen Mary’s All Girls school.
” Juanita, Juanita,” Meera called out before bursting into Juanita’s room.
Meera entered Juanita’s room only to see the calm girl engrossed in her phone. Standing at the door holding it open, Meera put her hand on her hips and stared bull-headedly at her friend. Clearing her throat after what felt like minutes but was really only thirty-three seconds, Meera loudly closed the door behind her.
” Girl you’re not even dressed yet for your own party! And you’re ignoring me. Wah, you doing so?” Meera asked frustratedly.
As if noticing her for the first time, our heroine Juanita, looked up to see her friend. She calmly answered
“ I’m on 1Drop, Meera.”
” Oh no, not the Trott-Bailey’s again! Juanita those people are on another planet girl!” Meera said while shuffling through her handbag.
” I like how they think, they are grounded,” Juanita replied.
” Well, you can always go back to 1Drop later. Right now you need to get dressed. I invited some of the cutest boys from Saint Michael’s College and you need to look nice.” Meera said while attempting to put on some lip gloss.
” You want me to do makeup on you for once? Please Juanita, even some eyeliner, it will make your eyes pop!” Meera pleaded.
” The last time I agreed to let you do makeup on me, my eyes were swollen the next day and I got three huge zits,” Juanita replied rolling her eyes.
” You were just allergic to that brand of mascara and I told you to clean your face really clean before you went to bed,” Meera replied unapologetically.
” Well, I did clean my face and never again! Besides, I already have great skin and I don’t want to mess it up with makeup.” Juanita replied while going through her closet.
“I wear makeup all the time Juanita and my skin is ok,” Meera replied
” You are still young so you won’t start seeing the effects until a couple more years. Which woman ever got better skin for wearing makeup? show me one that doesn’t become dependent on makeup like they are in a fucking cult after a while.” Juanita questioned
” Well do you blame us? We women start to diminish after 30, we have to look our best now while we are still young!” Meera said matter-of-factly.
” Look at that fucked up rationale and mentality you have picked up. The reason why so many women start deteriorating is because of all the fucked up shit they’ve done to their faces while they were young. How does what you’re saying make sense? If when you’re young you are at your best then why are you still using so many enhancements? shouldn’t what you have, be good enough? Do you see guys doing even half the dumb shit we women do to look beautiful?” Juanita asked.
” Ughhh Juanita why do I bother? Whatever girl, makeup, and women enhancing themselves have been around since the start of time. Anyway, after I’m thirty and after the kids, I am going to get all the plastic surgery I need to keep looking hot.” Meera said haughtily.
“ Oh gosh! another one bites the dust. If your husband really loves you he won’t care about all that Meera. Frankly, the women getting plastic surgery are only doing it so they can compete with other women while claiming it helps with their confidence.” Juanita replied
“ Yeah well so? So what if it’s to keep us looking better than another woman? What’s wrong with that? who doesn’t want to be ahead of the pack? Won’t your husband be looking at the next young thing anyway? You need to get your head out of the sand Juanita!” Meera said angrily.
” No your husband won’t be looking at another woman because your not looking at another man just because he may look better than your husband. Where is the love in such a relationship where you have to be worrying about every attractive woman who your husband sees? if that’s the case your marriage relationship is shallow and worthless as fuck!” Juanita replied passionately
” Well whatever, I will still be getting my breasts done, my pussy rejuvenated and my face regularly plumped with fillers or botox as needed,” Meera replied stubbornly.
” With that type of thinking, You’re the poster child for ” Can’t help a bitch”. Juanita said pointedly, never one to mince her words with Meera.
” What’s that suppose to mean?” Meera said taking offense.
” It means that when you get your tits done they will be hard as rocks, your husband can look at them but can’t squeeze them so there goes any passionate groping during sex, the Fake breasts will randomly pain your ass- Imagine… even natural breasts sometimes pains you during hormonal changes, can you imagine those silicone tits? Your botox and fillers will spread and settle in random places on your face and move to other parts of your body etc. You will have to face all the real shit that those fake surgery bitches don’t tell you they have to go through daily after having surgery. Real breast any day!” Juanita replied.
” If you say so…” Meera said shrugging her shoulders.
” The real secret to staying naturally beautiful is to be a well-rested and happy woman, and not become a jaded, cynical, bitter bitch that has fucked out her youth. Which is what many women are like nowadays. Did you know that if you asked God he can keep you looking young and beautiful?” Juanita said passionately while getting up to change into her party dress.
Meera took in Juanita as the girl undressed into her brassiere and panty in front of her. She watched as Juanita slipped on a red halter dress that stopped a little above her knees. An uncaring and beautiful Juanita quickly brushed her curly hair into an updo and then pulled a few tendrils out to frame her face.
“ Gosh, why does she have to have that much of a good figure,” Meera thought in her mind.
” I don’t know why mom insisted on throwing this party, I could do without it really,” Juanita said and plopped herself back down onto her bed, returning to her phone.
” Ms.Cortazar would take any excuse to have a party much less her daughter being the number three top scorer in all of Belize,” Meera said
“ How’s that top three position really going to help me? Sometimes I feel like school has barely prepared me for real life. It’s like school was a bubble and now it’s been popped. What next?” Juanita said out loud looking up at her ceiling.
” Well we go to a prestigious college and we get jobs after,” Meera replied with a nonchalant little shrug.
“ Well even if I wanted to go to college, which I don’t, mom doesn’t have that kind of money,” Juanita replied.
” Mhmm, there are scholarships that a bright girl like you could get, and you know my uncle is high up in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. He could pull some strings.” Meera replied helpfully.
Juanita looked at her friend who was always making big promises but usually short on delivery. Meera was loud and vivacious with a tall slender figure. She could have easily been recruited as a world-class model with her cool chocolate-colored skin and her unique almond-shaped grey eyes.
Oftentimes Juanita wondered how they had remained friends for so long since their personalities were so different. Meera loved partying and flirting with cute boys. Juanita was more interested in being by herself and learning new skills. Meera’s family was pretty well to do by Belizean standards and were able to travel regularly for vacations outside the country. Meera was actually going off to attend Harvard University in America by the end of summer. Not one to compare or mope, Juanita quickly reminded herself that she didn’t envy her friend. Juanita thought that attending Harvard was only worth a few brags when Meera returned to Belize, but nothing that was worthwhile to life would be taught there.
“ No, I don’t want to go to college,” Juanita said strongly.
” Well, what are you going to do then?” Meera asked her.
” I’m going to start several businesses and see which ones take off,” Juanita replied sincerely
“ Well won’t you need capital for all these businesses?” Meera asked matter-of-factly
“ Mhmm, you’re right I will need some start-up capital. So I plan to work for a bit and save up some money.” Juanita answered.
” Well, what are you going to do? Where are you going to work? What kind of businesses do you have in mind?” Meera shot out questions after questions.
“ I don’t have all the answers yet Meera! I just know that I am not cut out for working for others for the rest of my life and I don’t want to go to college. Those two things I’m sure of!”Juanita said passionately.
“ Well, what does your mom think of all this?” Meera questioned
” You know mom, she thinks I should take up my Aunt’s offer to pay for me to get married to some man in America so I can get a green card,” Juanita replied.
” Well plenty of people do it, Juanita, two of my cousins, Eliza and Selena are in California now with their green cards after paying their guys $US 15,000 to get married until they got their green cards,” Meera said shrugging her shoulders.
” Well, that’s not me. That’s not how I imagined my life would go or my marriage. I won’t dishonor myself for a green card.”Juanita replied.
” Hear you! So judgemental! What’s wrong with it? It would only be for few years and then you would get a divorce. It’s not like it’s a real marriage.” Meera replied.
” Yeah, that’s what you all say! My mom, my aunt, and now you. Well, I’m a virgin and I don’t plan to sleep with some random man who I paid to marry me.” Juanita replied with deep conviction.
” It’s not like you have to sleep with him!” Meera replied.
” Oh please, I’m no fool! Are you, my mother, or my aunt going to be there when he thinks he should get his husbandly rights? Please like I can beat off the man should he repeatedly try to assault me or like I can run to any authorities to say I was raped. What you guys are asking me to do is despicable to my soul! Plus I suspect my aunt won’t exactly be looking for the most honorable man for me, she’s never had a good relationship herself…you really think she wishes me well? oh plz! I can see right through her and her evil intentions” Juanita replied
” There you go again being all moralistic and suspicious. Jeez! then lose your virginity to some guy you like or love down here and then you know… if your would-be husband wants some sex every now and again it won’t be such a big deal.” Meera said.
“ I can’t discuss this with you. You just won’t understand. I want to be married only once in my life and to someone I love. Also, I haven’t fallen for the lie that America is a bed of roses. Oh plz, all I have ever known any of our foreigners to do over there is to go get cheap cleaning jobs or wipe old people’s shit.” Juanita replied.
” Ok, Ok my friend, let’s just put this on snooze and think of another way,” Meera said trying to ease their growing tension.
” If you want I can ask my uncle about all the employment programs or initiatives going on in his ministry and other government ministries.” Meera offered.
” Well if you can live up to your promise Meera, I would be interested,” Juanita replied.
” I will now! I will. Anyway back to other topics. Do you know that cute football player from St. Michaels College? the one who got recruited for our National team? Well, he’s coming here tonight. He’s friends with my cousin Carlos. He is so sexy and looks like he has a big dick” Meera said gushingly.
” Ah, when the sum total of a man is the size of his dick, Meera” Juanita responded sarcastically to Meera’s description of the football player.
“ I also invited Ava and Angelli, you know those girls know how to make a party hot! There is no way this party can flop, that would not be good for our image.” Meera continued talking.
” Our graduation will be next week Friday, so you know there will be parties galore after that. I’m sure that bitch Adriana will try to outdo everyone as usual!” Meera said sneeringly.
Hearing the name of their arch enemy both girls had similar reactions and expressions. Adriana Martinez had been a thorn in Juanita’s neck, side, back, and feet ever since the first day Juanita had stepped into Queen Mary’s All Girls school. It didn’t help that Juanita’s mother was the head housekeeper at Adriana’s mansion home.
There had been so many summers and Christmas breaks where her mother had taken her to work with her on the large five hundred acre estate. She had played waitress, clean up crew, assistant baker, errand girl, and more at the property all while having to endure Adriana’s taunts and digs. It also made Juanita resent her mother because her mother doted on Adriana. For Ms.Cortazar, Adriana Martinez could do no wrong.
Adriana’s father Mario Martinez was a big deal in their country and was getting prepared to run for the position of Prime Minister of Belize. He was a wild card entry as he had never held any political positions before but the time and Belizean people were ripe for political change and he was well-reputed as a very rich man.
“ I’m not interested in going to that witch’s party,” Juanita said decisively.
” Oh come on Juanita! Even though we hate her she still throws really good parties. Plus this is the end of school as we know it, everyone will be going off in their own directions from now on. ” Meera said almost getting teary-eyed.
” Save the sentimentality for someone who cares Meera, there was hardly anything about high school or Queen Mary’s that I liked!” Juanita replied while scrolling through her phone.
” All that bravado is nothing more than you copying those radicals and their thoughts about school and corporate work. Those Trott-Bailey’s!” Meera complained,
” Well those radicals as you call them seem to be doing something right, they are happily married and obscenely wealthy with lots of good-looking kids. Not to mention all they have done in the world.” Juanita replied saucily.
Having no reply to that, Meera quickly changed the subject,
” Well come on, let’s go outside, see if any guests have arrived. Oh, I just got a message from Juan the footballer and my cousin Carlos, they will be here in another ten to fifteen minutes they say. Hmmm, Ava says she and Angelli will be here in another hour. All the better, I don’t want them fawning over my Juan!” Meera uttered.
Getting up to put on some comfortable sandals, Juanita braced herself for the night ahead. It would be the same ole same ole, her loud drunk uncle’s, stupid cousins, and her mom’s nosy church friends. Juanita and Meera exited her room. Walking through the Living Hall, they could already hear excited voices outside on the verandah and in their little yard.
“ Hey, Juanita, smart girl!” that was her uncle Davido already on his fifth beer while drinking a styrofoam cup of goat soup.
” Davido, watch out for the wheelbarrow you idiot. Eres tan estúpido cuando estás borracho Davido” another Uncle, Uncle Tiomar called out.
“ Juanita come over here, Mrs. Hernandez wants to say a few words to you.” Juanita’s mother, Maria called her over.
By this time Meera had already ditched her to go stand at the end of their house gate so that she could spot Juan the footballer’s car arriving. Internally getting ready for the typical greetings and questionings, Juanita slowly walked over to the group of women her mother was standing with.
” Good evening everyone,” Juanita said politely to the group.
” Ah, Juanita you have really grown into a beautiful young lady and your eighteen with no babies! What an accomplishment. Keep it up” Mrs. Hernandez an active community leader and gossip praised.
” So true, you know these other young girls around here have already had two babies and moved in with their boyfriend by sixteen.” Mrs. Graham who was Mrs.Hernandez’s sidekick piped in.
” So Juanita what will you do after school, you have any job offers yet. I mean we know Maria can’t afford to send you to college, but working while your friends are at college will give you a head start in life, toughen you up.” Mrs. Hernandez said.
” No, I have no plans so far really,” Juanita responded nonchalantly.
” Well now, one of my friends owns a small lending agency, they are always willing to take on interns. The pay is small but you know the experience gained for a girl like you would be priceless. I already talked to your mother about it. You could start in mid-June. Just send me your resume and I will give it to Mr. Carillon the owner. “ Mrs. Hernandez said smugly as though she were doing the greatest favor in the world.
” Well, I will think about it. Oh if you will excuse me I have some friends who I need to call to give directions. Excuse me.” Juanita said hurriedly looking off to the road and waving goodbye to the busybody group of women.
Dodging a group of running boys, Juanita made a determined walk to find Meera. By this time Meera’s guests were just parking their car by the side of the road, right alongside their house gate. Juanita caught up to Meera who was waving happily at the car’s occupants. Three fit-looking young guys and two pretty light-skinned teenage girls emerged from the car.
” Yow cuz! Hey Juanita! Let’s blow up this party.” Carlos, Meera’s cousin shouted. He was always hyped and certainly full of excitement.
” Hey Juan, Alejandro, you already know my cousin Meera and this is her friend Juanita. Girls these are my boys- Juan and Alejandro and Alejandro’s sister’s Paola and Roxy.” Carlos said making the introductions.
” Hey guys, welcome to my home, food and drinks are out in the backyard if you’re hungry,” Juanita said doing her best to be a polite host.
” Ah, so your the girl who placed in the top three in Belize. Wow, nice to meet you.” One of the sisters, Paola said with a sweet smile.
” That’s great girl but I will take you up on that offer for food. These El cheapos wouldn’t stop anywhere for us to get some refreshments!” Roxy said with a huge grin on her face and taking Juanita by the arm.
Smiling at her, Juanita walked her to where all the food was spread out. Carlos and the others followed behind while Meera had already paired off with Juan the footballer.
Ava and Angelli also showed up later at the party, and like most parties, random people from the neighborhood passed by to dance and eat. However, the most unexpected guest arrived two hours later. Her mother hadn’t told her anything. So when Adriana Martinez and her father Mario Martinez showed up at her house, at her party- Juanita was irked, to say the least.
” Ah ah, what is she-e-e-e doing here! Juanita, did you know about this?” Meera asked her friend wide-eyed.
” I am as startled as you Meera, it could only have been my mother’s doing. Why they would come to a small house party is beyond me too.” Juanita answered.
Not thirty minutes later it all became clear, Mario Martinez the wild card political candidate had microphones, speakers and some news reporters ready at hand reporting on how he was a ‘man of the people’ and ‘not too good to mix with locals in his territory’. So they had turned her celebratory party into a political campaign. But what irked her the most that night, and drove the wedge between her and her mother even deeper, was when her mother invited Adrianna up on the raised verandah in front of everyone and asked everyone to sing “Happy Birthday” to the girl whose birthday had passed one week ago. Her mother then proceeded to cut the cake made for Juanita, in celebration of Adriana Martinez’s birthday.
Of course, when the media had left and Mr.Martinez was done giving his speech and handing out money, the father and daughter combo quickly left the party. When the party had finally concluded by midnight and only a few stragglers were left, Juanita finally went to her room. Meera had already left with her cousin Carlos and his crew an hour ago, claiming they were going to a new popular club in Punta Gorda.
Taking off her clothes and donning a towel she went to take a quick bath and hurried back to her room, turning off the lights so that her mother would think she was asleep already. She locked her door, no doubt her mom would have a guy over for the night. Juanita would take no chances, ever since Tony, one of her mother’s old flames had once tried to make his way into her room late at night. She had been fifteen then, luckily she had an iron beside her bed and had taken the iron and slapped him hard across his face and had then beaten him in his back all the way out of her room.
As Juanita laid on her bed, her thoughts turning over in her mind, she could not pinpoint exactly what it was that made her heart feel so heavy. She felt as if she had no one really in her life that was truly in her corner till the end. She felt lonely. She felt like she didn’t really know her mother. Yes, they lived together and even laughed together too, but they never spent any time together. They didn’t think alike either, the green card plot was a stark example of how different they were. Her mother had even told her blatantly that staying a virgin beyond a certain age could make her turn mad. This from a so-called devout Anglican, when Juanita pointed that out to her mother she said
“God knows that everyone is having sex these days, he will forgive you.”
There were so many things she just couldn’t tell her mother. Even if she told her mom how betrayed she felt when she gave her cake to Adrianna and sang the girl Happy Birthday on her, Juanita’s supposed big party day, her mother wouldn’t understand. She would most likely give some half-assed apology. Even when she told her mother about Adriana’s behavior towards her all throughout high school, it was always:
” You’ve got to toughen up Juanita!” or you’re being ” too sensitive” or ” maybe you misunderstood something Adriana said”.
Sighing Juanita briefly thought of her upcoming graduation next week Friday. İt would really all feel final that day. Yawning wearily, she turned over on her belly and shortly after, drifted into a deep sleep.