My Fake Canadian Wife
M. Hollis © 2019
All Rights Reserved
My hands shook around the letter, the words blurring before my eyes. This couldn’t be happening. Not to me. Almost two years living in Toronto, without any complications, and now I received notice I was going to be deported. Thrown out of the place I was learning to love as my own. And honestly? I was to blame for missing the expiration date on my student visa.
Now, I had to race against time to legalize my immigrant status, or I’d have to go back to Brazil. To a home I barely thought about anymore.
I sat on the couch, letting the letter fall to my lap. I was screwed. Completely screwed.
My roommate, Julie, came out of her room, stopping in her tracks to give me a curious glance. “Geez, you look like someone died,” she said. “Don’t you have to go to work?”
When I didn’t say anything, Julie gave up and walked to the kitchen. I heard mugs being moved around and cupboards opening and closing. A few seconds later, she came back, a small frown creasing her forehead.
Julie was a cute tomcat bisexual girl who was into indie movies, the ones with barely any dialogue, where one watched people live through a vintage faded screen. Some of them were actually nice, if one was in the right mood to understand its meaning behind the many layers of subtext.
Technically, the apartment we shared belonged to her. She was the rich kid of a famous Canadian producer, and her mother was a well-known director in the Toronto film community, so her family paid for most of her expenses. Or, well, now our living conditions. I couldn’t really complain since I had a bedroom to myself, a cozy living room, and a kitchen large enough for more than two people to move around comfortably.
What more could a girl like me ask for in life?
“Okay, please tell me no one actually died,” Julie said, her bangs falling in front of her dark eyes.
I shook my head, finally coming back to myself and jumped from the couch. “I need to go to work.”
“Well, you can still get there in time.” And then Julie was back to her morning coffee rituals.
I had a life to take care of. This situation wasn’t going to fix itself if I sat around, missed work, and stared at this letter all day. I moved quickly, shoved the letter into my backpack before grabbing my keys and my bike helmet.
“Have a good day!” Julie said from the kitchen as I opened the door. “And be careful with the traffic.”
I rolled my eyes at her worry. Julie had been struck by a car last year when she was biking around the city, and now she believed bicycles were monsters from hell, instead of realizing drivers can be the real assholes. She even tried to get rid of my red beauty, but I obviously didn’t let her touch my baby.
“Don’t worry! You have a good day too,” I said as I closed the door behind me.
Racing down the stairs, I almost tripped over someone. I took a step back, cursing to myself when I caught a glimpse of dark blonde hair. It was our neighbor from downstairs, Carol.
“Hi, Dora,” Carol said with a sly smile. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”
She played with her hair in a flirtatious way, leaning closer. I tried to get past her, but she was quicker and trapped me against the wall.
So maybe I had slept with our super-hot neighbor when I had just moved in and desperately needed to get laid. I still regretted the decision. Not that the sex was bad, but Carol didn’t seem to get the message that casual sex with her wasn’t something I was going to make a habit of.
I pushed past her to gain a little breathing space. “You know how it is. Super busy with work and life.”
Carol’s mouth formed a little pout. “If you ever have free time, you know where to find me. I’m right under you.” She winked at me and waved before saying, “Bye, bye,” and walked the last steps to her floor, swaying her hips suggestively.
I blinked a few times, trying to bring myself back to reality. Work. I needed to get to work. I ran the last steps, opened the garage door, grabbed my bike, and left the building.
My favorite thing about Toronto was I could go anywhere with my bike when it wasn’t raining or snowing. I saved extra money by not using the TTC, and I didn’t mind rush hour too much. A car was obviously not high on my priority list, not that I had ever learned how to drive one.
I turned left at King’s College Road, almost out of breath, and reached the parking space for our bikes. My scalp was sweaty and my legs were starting to hurt, but at least I got there in time.
After walking through the back door, I quickly put my red apron on. I washed my hands in a small sink outside our storage room before going to the counter.
The Darling Baker, a small, cozy bakery café, served the most delicious baked goods in the city. Cupcakes filled with peanut butter and chocolate pastries, donuts with all kinds of toppings, and extra fluffy creampuffs. We weren’t as well-known as Tim Horton’s or Starbucks, but we had our regular clientele. Mostly, we served students from the university and local workers from the area who came in when we opened and for their breaks. The front area held only four tables, but we also had an outside deck behind the kitchen with a glass-covered garden and a cute floral decoration. People easily fell in love with the place.
“Good morning!” Paige said with a smile as she hurried past me, her red curls bouncing around her face.
“Good morning,” I answered without the same enthusiasm. “How busy are we?”
Paige shrugged. “Not bad. Can you take care of table two for me?”
I nodded and walked to the deck. A white couple wore sullen expressions at that table. The girl scrolled on her phone furiously as if she could find the answers to all the questions in the world there. In the other seat, a guy stared at the flowers in our garden like he wanted to set them on fire.
“Good morning. What can I get you?” I said in my best fake-cheerful voice.
Neither answered me immediately. I wondered if I should leave them be. But then a moment later, the girl put down her phone, let out a long sigh and stared at me as if I was a nuisance.
“What beverages do you have?” she asked.
“We have a few different types of juice, coffee, milkshakes, and cappuccinos…” I listed everything I knew by heart at this stage.
The girl frowned deeply as if she wasn’t sure exactly what she was doing there. From the corner of my eye, I could see the guy getting impatient.
“Honey, just get a coffee,” he said, legs twitching.
“Excuse me? I’m the one who’s gonna drink it.”
The guy raised his hands in surrender and leaned back against his chair. I waited, pen and notebook in hands, my smile becoming more forced at every moment.
A minute or two passed. There was a new customer at the table across from us, sending me an impatient glare from time to time. She was probably asking herself if they were going to take much longer or if maybe I could clone myself and take care of two tables at the same time.
Ah, the joys of customer service.
“I don’t know…” the girl said. “Babe, just choose whatever.”
The guy smiled as if he had won the lottery. He ordered, and I moved to attend the next table.
Luckily, the morning improved from there. I was glad my mind was busy with work unrelated to my huge new problem. But in my subconscious, it still bugged me. Like when someone forgets to close the windows on a rainy morning and spends all day wondering what the damage will be when they get home.
By the time the afternoon shift started, I was already exhausted. I took my usual tuna sandwich and coke to the lonely table on the deck, ready to enjoy my break. But the food tasted like dust, and the coke was not as cold as I liked it.
Paige came out of the kitchen, but instead of joining me for lunch as usual, she sat with a girl who was waiting for her on the other side of the deck. I knew she was Paige’s best friend, a nerdy girl who was always surrounded by a pile of books.
Trying to find a distraction, I got my phone out of my pocket to look at my social media. There wasn’t much on Twitter since I last checked as everyone I followed was probably still asleep or busy at work. And at this hour, Tumblr had the same pictures of cute girls kissing that I had already seen and always made my heart ache for something I never had.
I sighed, wishing my life worries were still only about cute girls. My poor lesbian heart was always falling for strangers who were probably straight, never landing on the right choices. Besides a few girls I had met in gay clubs here and there and a pushy neighbor, Toronto still hadn’t given me the love story I dreamed about in all these years of solitude. Being a lesbian in Brazil wasn’t easy for me and coming here, away from my family and every boring person I knew back home, had helped me find my way. But it still wasn’t quite enough.
My thoughts were interrupted by Paige dropping into the chair in front of me. She had a puzzled look on her freckled face.
“Something’s wrong,” she said, a curious and questioning tone in her voice. Her brown eyes bored into mine as if begging me to tell her what was going on.
I shook my head, unsure of how to explain my current situation. “Weren’t you supposed to be with your bestie there?”
Paige glanced over her shoulders, watching as her friend brushed through the pages of another tome.
“She’s used to waiting.” Paige turned back to me, placing both her elbows on the table. “Come on, Dora. I haven’t seen you like this since the season finale of The Get Down.”
So, maybe I got emotional when I finished watching something I loved. Mylene Cruz, my diva, put on a good show. Oh, how I missed her already.
Paige clicked her fingers to regain my attention.
“I got a letter from the IRCC. I may be deported if I don’t find a way to get legal here in under a year.”
There. I finally said it. It felt like a huge relief not to keep this to myself anymore.
“You what? But…but…” Paige’s words trailed off. Her eyes widened, and she opened her mouth a few times before she could speak again. “I thought… You’ve been here for so long sometimes I forget you’re not Canadian.”
That was such a Canadian thing to say. I was used to filling out forms and thinking about it all the time when I moved here. Living between two worlds was like that. But I did blame myself for being careless recently and letting the big mess happen with my visa. Where was my mind this last year?
“What are you going to do?” Paige whispered.
I shrugged. “I have no idea. Maybe I’ll go back home, after all.”
“Do you want to go back home?”
“No! I love it here.”
We fell into silence, neither of us knowing what to say. I couldn’t imagine going back now. I was in love with Toronto, with its people, with the sights and sounds. This was my life. I had friends here. Sure, I had screwed up a few opportunities after finishing college last year. My camera broke when it fell from the rooftop as I was taking a picture at a party, and I couldn’t do anything without it or afford to buy a new one. But it wasn’t as if I had any opportunities waiting for me back home. I’d have to start everything again from zero.
I loved Brazil. After all, I spent the first twenty-two years of my life there. My parents were there, my brother and the rest of my family. But what was most important? My happiness here or being close to them?
I let people choose things for me all the time. Canada was the only choice I made for myself.
“I have an idea,” Paige said, all of a sudden. “But I don’t think you’re gonna like it.”
“I think right now I’m open to anything…”
“Get married to a Canadian girl!” she said in a cheery voice.
I raised my hands to make her stop. “Wow. What?”
“Just hear me out. You tell the immigration people you have a fiancé. You get married, live together for two years, and your wife can sponsor citizenship. Done.”
“What about the part where this is illegal?”
“People do this all the time. If the law doesn’t help you, you work around it.” She thought for a moment and then shrugged it off. “It’s simply extra help, Dora. You don’t need to have an actual relationship. We’ll get someone we trust, and then you two live together for a while. It shouldn’t be that hard; you’ve been living with Julie for what? Almost two years now? What about her?”
I cringed at her suggestion. “No. Julie has a girlfriend, and there’s no way either of them would agree to this.”
“It can’t be me either if we’re going by who’s romantically unattached…” Paige trailed off. She wasn’t available because of her boyfriend who lived in Vancouver, and again, Julie had a girlfriend. Who else was left in our circle?
I could see the light bulb over Paige’s head before she even said it. This was not going to be good. “What about Abigail?”
“Your best friend, Abigail?”
Paige nodded as if it was obvious. I stared behind her, taking a look at her best friend. Abigail was a hard person to read. The pile of books on her table was messy, but I think they were organized by genre. The pink sweater she was wearing was plain and simple. That was how I’d describe Abigail. A plain white girl. Pale skin, straight brown hair. She didn’t exactly stand out in a crowd. I didn’t even know if she was into girls because she had that Canadian thing where you couldn’t tell if a girl was gay or just…well, Canadian.
I turned back to Paige who waited for my answer eagerly. “Why do you think she would ever accept this?”
“We may have things to work out. But hey, it wouldn’t hurt to ask.” Paige got up from her chair but stopped when she noticed my stunned face. She leaned down, touching my shoulder in a comforting gesture. “Everything will be all right, Dora.”