I love Jamaica was one of the stickers I glanced at the gift shop. It was as though my thoughts had been colorfully printed on that sticker. Definitely, our vacation in Jamaica was one of the best my husband and I can recall. The people were vibrant and friendly, and the island was a tropical beauty surrounded by its blue sea and inviting beaches.
On our second day in Jamaica I visited the sports center wanting to get information on tours and schedules. Three girls were at the desk. They wore white and blue uniforms, looked very fashionable, and well groomed. One was on the phone. The other two spotted me as I approached the desk.
“How can I help you?” one of the girls asked, in her gracious Jamaican accent.
She provided me with the information I needed.
“What are you reading?” the other girl--who I noticed was starring at a book I was holding in my hand-- asked.
“It’s a novel, it has to do with mystery and murder,” I answered, showing her the book cover.
“I see you’re almost finished!” she commented. Her keen eyes viewed the book, including where I had last left the bookmark, revealing that I was close to the end of the book.
Does she want the book?, I wondered.
Her eager eyes continue to view the book --my book.
I can’t give it away, I thought.
I glanced at the book -- "The Prairie Grass Murders" a signed copy that I had recently won on a blog contest. My blogging friend, Ann Best, gave away two copies signed by the author, Patricia Stoltey. The book was meaningful to me. I had actually emailed Patricia to let her know how excited I was at being one of the lucky winners.
And now, a Jamaican girl wanted to take away my book, I lamented .
“Well, let me finish reading it, and I'll bring it to you tomorrow,” I promised.
“What’s your name?” I asked her.
“My name is Natoya” she proudly replied, while pointing at her name tag. I looked closely, and using my almost-always-successful mnemonic trick, I repeated in my mind: Natoya, Latoya Jackson...Natoya, Latoya -I'll remember!
As I was whispering my mantra-like memory technique, I spotted something peculiar on Natoya’s arm. I noticed she had a huge scar on her left inner arm. It had no doubt it was a burn scar. What happened to her? I wondered. Was it an accident from her childhood? Did someone do that to her as a punishment? I shook my head, and blew off my unpleasant questions and impertinent thoughts.
I’m just glad she is alive!, I mused, and sighed.
Immersed in my thoughts about the book, I headed back to the beach where my husband was waiting for me. The humidity was high, and so was the speed of my thoughts. A pale idea of buying a book at the gift shop crossed my mind. I was sure Natoya would have appreciated a new book anyway.
That’s cheating, I reprimanded myself.
I returned the next day. My husband and I were waiting for the boat that would take us snorkeling. I looked for Natoya. She wasn’t at the desk. I sat in the shade, talking to my husband, and scanned the surroundings, hoping to see my Jamaican friend.
“There she is!” I exclaimed. She was heading to her desk. She looked elegant again. Smiley. I noticed she held a notepad and a pen in her hand, walked strong and confident.
“Natoya!” I called as I approached her. A beautiful smile blossomed on her face. “I brought you the book.”
“Oh, you did!”, she exclaimed, with evident surprise.
Did she sense my hesitant thoughts yesterday? I feared. Has Natoya’s precious heart been broken by false promises in the past?, I wondered.
I was glad I kept my promise.
“I got to tell you something, Natoya” I warned her. “This book was signed by the author” I opened the book on the page where Patricia had signed and showed it to her.
“Oh, it’s a special book!” Her eyes open widely.
“Yes, it is,” I confirmed. I told Natoya that I communicated with Patricia over the internet, and in simply terms, I tried to explain about my blog. I think Natoya knew nothing about blogs, but she did have a vague idea about the internet. She seemed to understand that I could post public messages. Her eyes brightened as if it was an amazing discovery for her.
And I gave Natoya the book.
She thanked me, and told me she had to go back to work. I went back to sit in the shade where my husband was still waiting for our boat ride.
A few minutes later, Natoya returned. She sat next to me. She told me that she was actually in training as she had recently started the job. Then she started writing on her notepad. I glazed at Natoya. She is precious, I thought, and took a picture of her. She grinned as if she had become a celebrity.
She became my celebrity.
Then she handed me a folded piece of paper, and told me she had to leave or she might get in trouble with her supervisor.
While walking away on the beach, she paused, turned, and waived goodbye, I unfolded Natoya’s note: