The Start of a New Life

The sea is very calm behind the clouds of steam. It is so different than the storm that shook the ship the previous night. It seems that the weather is reflecting my mind. This is our last night on the ship. Tomorrow, we will be sailing in New York. Strangely, I am peaceful. Maybe it is because, after having spent two weeks on the ship, the arrival feels a bit surreal to me. I'm not the only one to feel this way though, most of the people who are on the deck tonight are quiet. Even Colin, who is usually quite the boisterous one, has fallen asleep on the seat next to mine. The constant sound of the waves crashing is soothing but it is getting late. With a last look at the still and infinite sea in front of me, I decide it's time for us to go to sleep.

A voice in the speakers announces that we are now twenty minutes away from New York. I feel my heartbeat quickening at this thought. People around me start talking frantically : those who speak English feeling thrilled about the awfully long journey finally coming to an end and the few who didn't understand the announcement trying to find someone who would explain to them what is happening. My carefreeness from yesterday is gone as I clench my hand around the scarf that my mother gave me before we left Scottland. I feel excited and anxious at the same time. Of course, the promise of a land of freedom, of opportunities and of prosperity is appealing. However, it is not enough to overcome the pain that I feel whenever I remember that there is no turning back. That I will never walk the streets of my village again or that I will never push the door to what has been my home for nineteen years again. But, most of all, I will never see my mother again. This is not a supposition, this is a certainty. If I ever come back, which is unlikely, she will be long dead. And the fact that I won't hear her voice or feel her touch anymore is what hurts me the most. Paper and ink will never replace that.

« Isa, come here ! We can see New York ! »

Colin's voice breaks me out of my reverie. I walk toward him and the other boys he has befriended over the past few days. Indeed, the huge buildings that I have heard about are visible in the distance. Another pang of fear hits me. Will we fit in ? Will we leave this life of poverty behind us ? Is life as wonderful as they say there ? What if we are homesick ? However, my anxiety is interrupted by loud squeals around me. I look up and release the lip on which I had been absent-mindedly chewing as I see it. The Statue of Liberty. It is very tall and impressive but I can't help noticing that its torch doesn't seem so out of reach. Maybe there is a place for us here, after all. Suddenly, a voice tells us to pick up our baggage as we are about to disembark. I take our small bag in one hand and grasp Colin's smaller hand with my free arm and we wait behind the other people. When it is our turn to take our fist step on American soil, I can almost feel my heart swell with pride and hope. We have made it to New York.

The next events happen very fast. We are asked to wait in line as someone examines our baggage. Then, some middle-aged men dressed in white blouses check our health. After that, they ask us to climb the stairs to a great hall and look at us expectantly, as if they were looking for us to trip or something. One of them asks Colin to come closer and I immediately follow, worried about what they would do to him. The man puts his hands on Colin's eyes, which makes him whine at first but he stays still and the man releases him quickly saying that everything is alright. He leads us into the hall and tell us to wait for someone to meet us for questioning. We sit quietly for about twenty minutes, watching the other people in the room talking, rehearsing their answers to the officer's questions, walking round in circles or simply reading the newspaper, when someone finally comes for us. It is a man with dark hair and an equally dark thick moustache. His voice is low but his tone is soft. His face is unreadable. He leads us to a room with a desk and a few chairs. We sit down and he stares at us for a few seconds without saying a word as I force a smile. Colin's little hand clutches mine and I suddenly realize that he has been really brave so far for a seven-year-old.

Everyone knows that the tests are grueling. That is why Colin and I are here alone. Our mother knew she was too ill to ever be able to pass the tests. That is why we waited until I was old enough to take care of Colin. The man asks for our names and my voice is shaking as I answer « Isabella and Colin Murray ». I can't make a single mistake now. Our destiny is in this man's hands. I think about all those years we have been saving to be able to buy two tickets on the SS California. God knows that it has been tough, especially as, since our father has died, we had lost a great deal of income with him. I can't accept the failure of watching all that money and all these efforts go to waste. I feel a new-found confidence filling me. I am not going to let them sent us back to Glasgow. This time, I don't have to force the smile that appears on my face. I just know that we are going to make it. I can hear my mother's words in my head: "This is the start of a new life".