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Don't Worry, Be Happy!

It was a hot, humid day in the middle of August near the Texas border town of Brownsville. Sweat was pouring down the brow of Valaria's face as she moved some limbs off her driveway into her yard. They had fallen during the night from an old oak tree. She was late for school, but the branches had barely missed her car from behind. A few neighbors looked over at her, nodding and going along their way. There were plenty of stares but no help to aid her. She was used to that. It's hot, and life in this town moves rather slowly except for her. She was a go-getter with big ambitions and dreams of leaving this place for the big city. She had already planned out her life, as far as her work was concerned. She was working hard to make her dream a reality. She planned to transfer to Austin to finish her degree at the University of Texas.

First, she needed to finish all of her credits and be accepted into her program of study. She wasn't worried about it too much since she had the top grades at the community college she attended in town, even while working a full-time job at the local Bookstore as a barista. The only problem she had was leaving her family, but she planned to convince them to move in with her in Austin when the time was right.

Valaria arrived at school and ran into her class only ten minutes late, but the Teacher was not pleased and made it known in front of the other students. He reprimanded her and asked that she stay a few minutes afterward to talk with him. The rest of the class time sped by, and then she met with Mr. Morales. She was planning to receive a scolding, but he only wanted to talk to her about her plans. Mr. Morales knew people in the technology field in Austin, and he told her he was trying to find her an intern job that she could do while living there and working on her degree. He was also a family friend and had been a mentor to her since she was a young child. She often thought that she owed him for the love of technology since he always showed her things he was working on in his classroom.

After all her classes were over that day, she rushed to reach her work on time, and it never failed to be within minutes of being late for that too! She was always running and never slowing down. She liked it that way. Valaria was always on her toes, going from school, work, and meeting up with friends for fun. She was one type of student who never needed to study for a test; it just came easy for her.

At work, she was popular with the customers. She was a talkative Barista and loved to get to know everyone that came in. There were a lot of tourists and Rv'ers that traveled through her town headed to Harlingen. It was a popular area for RV'ers because the rent was cheap as well as the utilities. She lived in an area that the cost of living was probably the lowest in Texas. She loved the people, and the people loved her. If there were more opportunities in the town's technology field, she would be happy to stay, but there wasn't. She knew she had to leave.

Today at work, a stranger in town ordered a latte from her, and she struck up a conversation with him. He was tall, handsome, and had the biggest smile she had ever seen. He looked to be her age as well, maybe one or two years older. She found him interesting and even more so when she heard that he was from Austin. She told him her plans, and he thought that was a great plan for her to pursue. By the time he left, she felt she had made her first friend from Austin and made sure she took down his name and phone number. She spent so much time talking about herself that she didn't think to ask him what he did for a living or anything pertinent in his life. She suddenly felt so shallow and self-centered. It had all been about her. Well, she had his number and promised to call him when she finally arrived in Austin.

Valaria was closer to her dreams coming to fruition as the months went by since she had sent her application to the University. She was also getting ready to graduate in May, which was only a month away. Valaria was on pins and needles, waiting to find out if she was accepted. It seemed like an eternity. She held off on asking Mr. Morales to contact the school to help her find out sooner. She needed to work on her patience. She already had a place set up to live. It was a family friend's house that they rented out to students each year. She was so anxious to move. The month of April seemed to tick slowly on the clock, and she started to become a nervous wreck.

Then one day, she received a package wrapped in brown paper. It was small, and it came to her work address. She had no clue as to what could be in it, and there was no return address. She didn't want to open it at work if it was a prank joke from a friend to embarrass her! She decided to wait and bring it home with her to open. She got sidetracked when she was home, sat the box on her bench by the front door, and forgot all about it.

The following week flew by, and she still had not heard from the University. She was so frustrated and disappointed. She finally decided to ask Mr. Morales to help her find out. She approached him after class and explained the situation. She needed to find out because she had plans to move right after graduating and then start classes during the summer semester. He agreed to help and told her not to worry and wait it out.

She thought back over her life and realized worry never solved anything. It only made life more difficult. If things didn't work out, she had a job, a home, family, friends, and a good life. She had nothing to make her worry. What happens will happen no matter what. Reflecting on this calmed her soul, and she felt her worry dissolve; she felt free.

The following week, Mr. Morales told her he had contacted the University about the application she had sent in. Since they had her return address as the Bookstore and not her home address, they sent out her acceptance letter with a University of Texas t-shirt, and it would have been in a small box. He asked her if she had received one. She had and not opened it. It was still on the front door bench where she had left it. She had forgotten she changed her address on her application because their home mail didn't have a secure box. She didn't want to risk not getting it.

She went home and quickly found the box sitting where she left it unopened. She unwrapped it or, more like, ripped it to shreds, and there in the box was her letter, a t-shirt, and a handwritten note. The note read in the most beautiful cursive writing a personal message addressed to her.

Dear Valaria,

It was so lovely to have met you while traveling through your beautiful town. I enjoyed our talk and can't wait to see you here at the University. Hopefully, you remember me from the Bookstore while you served coffee. I work as a graduate student in the technology department, which you didn't know, and I should have told you. Hope to be friends while you are here.

Yours truly, Benjamin

Her dream was coming true, her ambition was now in focus, and her friends in a strange new town just grew by one even before she has arrived. How does the phrase go? Don't worry, be happy, and life is good!

This was first published on vocal. Media as a writing challenge July 2021.


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