The day started like any other. However, to Clarence it felt like the world was coming to its end. He was travelling across the seas to meet his wife-to-be. He felt like the world would crumble with one wrong word or wrong move. It literally made him feel sick and a bit tired of thinking about it all the time. As if the thought was a virus infesting his mind, tearing away at his energy and sapping his strength. But he couldn’t escape it.

His parents, Samuel and Florence Zerkel, were to blame. He had never wanted to marry someone he didn’t even know. Her parents, John and Lillian van Patten, had agreed to it, too. Clarence didn’t even remember the name of his fiancée and, to be frank, he did not even mind. He could not imagine what she was like. Was she nice, like his best friend Beatrice? Or was she like one of his sisters, mean, vicious and unkind? Watching the sailors preparing to throw the bottle at the new ship he was about to embark, he did not wish for a safe journey; instead, he really hoped for something good to be waiting for him on the other side. Does the woman even want to marry him? This thought was eating him alive as he walked around the deck of the ship, his head lowering as he watched his shoes. His thoughts were running wild in his mind, making him feel dizzy. Did she propose the idea to her parents or were the parents pushy and she had to follow their sayings?

All the people that were on the steamship had left the deck, only two of the captains stayed to watch the sea. They were talking quietly about something unknown to Clarence and, to be honest, he didn’t really care that much. A soft sigh left his lips and he walked to the railing, watching as they left the shore. He asked himself if he should stay on the deck and listen to the waves or go to his small cabin under the deck and sulk in his own sadness.

He felt as if he had been left alone on the deck of the small steamship. It was strange, almost unbelievable that he felt somehow happy. The sun was beating down. He is staying on the deck, he decided. The humming of the water overwhelmed him, he understood it: he will need to make his first big decision far away from people.

He was happy because he was finally leaving Britain and his dysfunctional family behind. It made him feel free and relaxed. But he knew that new adventures were waiting for him and some of them may not be pleasant. Like meeting his mother-in-law and father-in-law. Maybe his fiancée’s siblings. The thought made him shiver slightly and he sighed softly.

Clarence’s father Samuel was an amazing man. He loved travelling around the world and learning new things about every culture around. He loved taking care of Clarence and his two sisters, Angelica and Peggy. The bad side of his father only came out when he was drunk and that was about once in three months. On such occasions he was aggressive and possessive over everything in sight which usually meant that he would clutch onto his wife and kids tightly, not letting them go for a long time. The thought that his father’s arms grabbing onto him, holding him close, was the worst thing that his father could do, only made Clarence understand how lucky he was to have a father like him. Kind, respectable and loving. But that was just one side of the story.

His mother Florence, on the other side, was the worst. She was cold hearted and aggressive towards him and Peggy. She only cared about Angelica who was the perfect daughter in her eyes, which angered Clarence to no end. She spent all of their money on booze and she whored around with other men. His father was oblivious to everything that was happening around him. He loved her unconditionally while she never returned the love to him.

Suddenly, a loud bang rang out from behind Clarence. He shook his head to clear his thoughts while his head whipped to look around. He found two sailors carrying a heavy rod. Clarence quickly skipped to them and smiled. “I’m guessing you need help?” He asked as he held it up at one part. The two sailors nodded thankfully and they carried it to the lower parts of the ship. Clarence knew that he had done a good thing and he smiled faintly, knowing his best friend would be proud of him. After they laid the rod on the floor, the two sailors thanked him and Clarence nodded to them before leaving back up to the deck of the ship.

He leaned against the metal railing and looked down at the seat, the feeling of freedom rising in his chest. He felt like he could scream at the top of his lungs and it wouldn’t be enough. He could finally do what he wanted without his mother scolding him for doing that. He could laugh with anyone that seemed funny to him, he could talk to any person on the ship or in the city he was going to be living in. He only hoped that his new family would understand that he was never this free before.

The sea was hitting the side of the ship and it somewhat calmed Clarence down. The sound was like music to his ears and he closed his eyes, enjoying the silence and tranquillity. He missed that while he still lived with his family and neighbours. Even though they were usually quiet, when they started fighting it was like there were 10 of them, not just 5. As he stayed still and listened to the waves, he thought about his sisters.

Peggy was the older one of the twins but she acted older than Clarence. She was serious and collected, never stepping out of the way that was directed to her. He looked up to her even though she was younger than him. He always envied her poise and confidence. But sadly, his mother didn’t see that.

Angelica was a polar opposite of Peggy. She was loud and childish, always doing something that her mother loved. She’d make fun of everyone and she acted all snobbish and superior to everyone else. Their mother was like that too. The only thing Clarence envied about Angelica, was the love she got from her mother that he was missing.

Clarence let out another sigh as he watched his home town disappear from his sight. He was raised there for over 20 years and he felt anxious to be leaving it after so long. He had never travelled so far away from his town. Negative thoughts started eating him from inside out and he put his head in his hands, trying to get them to stop. He had to stop these thoughts and believe that everything would be alright and he would finally be happy.

The sun that was disappearing under the horizon and the sky was full of colours. Orange, blue, pink, purple. It was nearing the sun down and it was the most beautiful thing to see. At least in Clarence’s opinion. His fingers itched and he had to stop himself from not grabbing a piece of parchment and draw it. But of course, he didn’t have it. His mother had taken it from him while he was packing. He looked towards the sea again and smiled as the last rays of sun warmed his cold, pale face. Everything else was history.

After two weeks of travelling, they finally arrived to the greatest city in the world, New York City. Clarence smiled widely as they all got off and he looked around for anyone who was waiting for him. “This really is amazing.” He thought out loud and smiled. The city was big and so many people were on the streets, walking and talking with each other. So much chattering and loud noises made him feel overwhelmed and a bit scared.

He felt a tug on the edge of his pants and he looked down to see a small child at his feet. He smiled gently and crouched down. “Hello, little one.” He said gently and the child smiled widely at him. There was a big family standing a couple of feet behind the child and the small boy pointed at Clarence. An older man walked up to the two. “Hello, son. Are you Clarence?” He had asked and the young adult stood up slowly. “I am, sir.” The man smiled. “Welcome to The City of New York.” He said and Clarence couldn’t help but smile. His life was finally taking a turn for the better.

Irena Gnezda, 9.b