1 — Forbidden

Tucked away deep in a forgotten paradise, a young girl basked in her self-inflicted misery and regret. Her name was Sofia Aguilar. She was sixteen, beautiful, reckless and as miserable as could be. Sofi was currently lying on her bed, staring up at her stained ceiling. The mattress under her was stiff and unwelcome, and the ceiling above her felt too low and unstable, as if it would cave in on her at any minute.

I didn't ask for this. I didn't want this.

Sofi somehow got stuck talking to herself again. Rambling about how nothing in the world belonged to her. Not even the ugly bed where she slept. That belonged to Arturo, her brother. Even this old, weather beaten house belonged to him. She had lost her father — her papai. She was going to lose her mother soon. And nothing could make that go away. And so Sofi was merely waiting out the days for her mother to reach her unfortunate but inevitable end.

For the first time since arriving, Sofi realized how impoverished her family was as she observed the decrepit clay walls of her bedroom. Slim rays of sunlight barely penetrated through the musty window glass. The lack of sunshine caused the walls to push out a putrid green hue that heavily fogged the room. The foul color was an accurate reflection of Sofi's grim mood. Everything about this house disgusted her. And everything outside of it drove her insane.

A week ago, she was home with her father living on a gorgeous ranch in an affluent region of Colombia. Although she was born Colombian, Sofi spent most of her time living in the United States, jumping between exchange families. There she was enrolled in St. Simons, a prestigious boarding school in New England. During the breaks, Sofi would fly back home to Colombia.

For a sixteen year old, Sofi's life was relatively comfortable until her father fell victim to a phantom strain of illness. Sofi remembered getting a call at school from him when it all started.

"Pai!" Sofi greeted cheerfully on her cell phone. There was a pause and then her father answered in Spanish.

"It's good to hear your voice, Sofi. I understand that you don't have another break until December, but I want you to come home for a while. Do you think you can book the next flight?"

Sofi looked at the mouthpiece in uncertainty. Something wasn't right. Her father only spoke in Spanish when something was wrong. She swallowed and asked, "Pai, did something happen?"

With forlorn stillness, her father answered, "I think I'm dying."

Over the course of three months, Sofi's father suffered from a debilitating sickness that no one had a cure for or even a diagnosis. Doctor after doctor let down the Aguilars with no prescribed medicine or treatment. It seemed so surreal to Sofi that nobody in the realm of medicine knew what was going on with pai. Sofi didn't want to accept it, but regardless, her father spent what seemed like an eternity in the hospital. And then when the experts could do no more, he came home and spent the rest of his days in hospice. Sofi stayed with him until he finally passed.

Now Sofi was alone.

She had no other family members in Colombia to help her with the funeral arrangements and her father's legal engagements. Her closest living relatives were more than three thousand miles away in Brazil. Sofi had a brother, Arturo and a mom too, whom she visited every other summer.

It crossed Sofi's mind that perhaps she shouldn't go back to the States. She did have a family afterall. She wasn't as fluent in Portuguese as much Spanish and English, but she got along well with Arturo and her mom, whom she referred to as mãe.

That's when she got the second call that changed her life forever. This time it was Arturo calling to inform her that mãe was sick too.

"Oh my God, Art. How sick?" Sofi asked him, praying for the best.

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