Note from the author: Long ass chapter!! I thought I was never going to post this chapter, wow, it took me forever to get here. I hope you guys like it, I will have to come back later and do some more editing to some words and such things, I just wanted to get it out there because I felt I would never publish and always have it as draft. -__-
I don’t even know what the hell I wrote anymore!! I wish I was an eloquent writer. 😦
“How life is strange and changeful, and the crystal is in the steel at the point of fracture, and the toad bears a jewel in its forehead, and the meaning of moments passes like the breeze that scarcely ruffles the leaf of the willow.” All The King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
Chapter Four: An Early Snow
“Who did woman? Who left?” Asked Milka in a rush trying to hide her confusion. Lily pressed her hands together against her bosom, the note wrinkled between them.
“You need to calm down and tell me now, what happened?”
“I’m sorry Missus Milka, they left… he…” as she tried to elaborate an explanation, Lily could not come up with any other way to say it, “they left… my Lidia. He took her away.” She continue to repeat in hysterics.
As she read the note her pale skin turned the color of fading stone. She started walking away from the group,
She walked towards the balcony in an idle state; her body in the present, her mind…
Patricia stumbled against the piano stool, she held her forehead with trembling hands, “I cannot believe this! You could have knocked me down with a feather and…”
3 hours earlier
To get to Riverview, one had to come by boat or –like most people did –through the eastern Mountains that connected the town to Sunset Valley. Annabelle and her mother opted for the latter. Of course, being from Sunset Valley they had an advantage, and a trip that would have taken others one to three days, it only took hours for them.
Annabelle had never been to Riverview or any other parts outside of her town for that matter. She watched with fascination while the car drove them past the mountains and into the town,
Fall was so more vivid in the country side; the scenery struck her as coming out of a Seurat painting, with its shades of greens, and reds, and yellows; and the occasional blue in the southern style houses.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” her mother was now saying pointing at the local police station; yes it was, agreed Annabelle quietly, she did not want to join her mother in casual conversation. “What’s wrong? Are you still feeling queasy?” she had felt queasy alright; getting out of her house that morning had been a mission, what with her parent’s argument ending in her father storming out of the house at 3 in the morning, and her mother locked up in her room crying herself to sleep, Annabelle could not relax and close her eyes the entire night. Add to that she had been growing extremely nervous since she had tried on the dress; it had been like stamping a paper. If she had hopes of suddenly waking up from a bad dream, looking at herself in the mirror with that dress had made it disappear. But now, the queasiness had been quickly replaced by revulsion. the question lingered in her head far longer than she wished: how can she act like last night never happened?
“Anna,” her mother was looking at her with a big grin on her lips, it was almost creepy to see her so cheerful, “I just want you to know that I’m very happy you finally decided to do this. I know how you feel about this whole marriage, but I also know that this is the best for you. Soon you will understand, and then you will appreciate it all…”
“Oh look!!” she cut her off, “they l have a saloon type of place, how cool is that?” her mother smiled widely, but her eyes showed a different story. Annabelle was almost sorry she had acted so indifferent, but at the same time she was relieved no more talk would be done for what was left of the drive.
As the car pulled into the driveway, everything inside Annabelle twisted into a sharp, fleeting pain that ran from her stomach to her throat, and whatever it was, was threatening to come out her mouth but she grabbed the handle on the car’s door and pressed her belly, and breathed profoundly, in and out, in and out; and all was normal again…almost.
The house was beautiful, and Annabelle had to admit, anyone in their right minds would want to live in such a house… and marry a well off arrogant snob? Perhaps. However, she would never tell her mother that.
Camille, that was now next to her, was about to say something when the red doors opened and an elderly woman came rushing out with a big, dorky smile on her face, and behind her was a younger girl and a much older woman wearing an apron. They reminded Annabelle of little girls in Sunday school, running one behind the other, fighting over the possession of a toy that belonged to neither one.
“I take it the trip was pleasant? With all the threats of early snow I feared crossing the mountains would hinder your way to town; its bad omen…too many blizzards up in those paths.” she was talking without stopping once, not even to catch her breath, “well, let me see…
“Grandma all the Mellarks look the same. Especially the ones from Sunset Valley.” They heard a voice say behind the elderly woman, whom now Annabelle was sure to be Patricia.
Patricia gave her granddaughter a threatening look and slapped her hands lightly, “such manners Clare. Come out from behind me and say hello to your cousins.”
“Come, come inside where is warmer.” Rushed to say Patricia who was already half way into the house, “Milka is taking care of dinner herself.” she shouted, and all the women followed.
Annabelle’s eyes didn’t know where to look, one minute she was admiring the beautiful contrast of the reds and golds,
“Thank you cousin dear, it was Jonathan’s father who inherit this house back in the start of the 20th century. We try to keep it as much similar as to how it was back then, but some things have been changed; the furniture of course.” Camille and Annabelle could only listen; once Patricia started talking there was no way to cut in.
“It is now regarded as one of the best houses, not only of Riverview but the whole country, yes.” She giggled, “I love it so much. I could never part from this house. It is open to the public, you know? We have to let tourist come in and take a look at the architecture, of course we get rewarded for it.”
Clare got up from her chair twisting her eyes at her grandmother. “Grandma once you start about this house there is no stopping you. I’m stealing Annabelle, ” she said extending her hands to the girl, “I’m taking her to see my room and then Peet.” Annabelle looked at her inquisitive, “my horse,” answered Clare. She kept fanning her hand impatiently in front of Anna, urging her to get up.
“Don’t think of going anywhere young lady.” They all stared at the woman standing by the piano. Annabelle had never seen someone that looked so much like…her father. She had always heard all the Mellarks looked alike, and as Clare had said earlier, especially the ones of Sunset Valley. Marrying cousins it was hard not to. But this woman looked so much like her father, it was disconcerting.
The woman, Annabelle concluded to be Milka, Aaron and Clare’s mother. Based on what her nana had told her, Milka was the only female member of the house missing from the group of people there present, and she knew the lady with the apron was certainly not Milka. Not if she was, what was it nana called her? she thought in amusement; a fox.
Clare mumbled unrecognizable words, but by her looks,
Annabelle assumed it wasn’t anything she would want to know exactly. “Don’t make that face young lady. Dinner will be served any minute now,” continued her mother, “as soon as your brother comes down. Oh that’s right, where is he?” she asked turning to the woman with the apron.
Lily quickly turned to Milka, “I will go get him Missus. Please excuse me.”
As she went up the stairs Milka took a seat on the remaining empty chair, next to Camille, and when she spoke again she did directly to her, as if they were the only two in the room.
“That’s all right dear; you tell him he is forgiven. As it is, we might as well start the dinner without Jonathan. It’s almost six, and he has yet to show up; any minute now. I reckon some very important business has taken his time.” Annabelle noticed the clock by the end table; it read 30 past 4…she reckon, it would take longer than any minute.
She sat back on her chair, and listened while the ladies continued to chat; apparently it was imperative to understand the reason why the male members of the house weren’t showing their faces yet. And to an extended this also had Annabelle curious. She found it rather rude that her “future husband” had not even been there to greet her when she first came in. However her father…Annabelle once again recounted the event of the night before. The last time she saw her father, he was getting in his car at 3 in the morning, what sort of business could he have that required him to leave at such hours?
Riggo stood in front of the iron gates thoughtfully. He was wondering whether to go inside or to ring the bell, surely she had the locks changed, but for a fleeting moment he had hopes that she hadn’t; that she would be still waiting for him, and this was pure egotism of him since he had long ago stopped wanting to come over. His purpose to see her now was infinite more different than it was twenty-three years ago.
As he stepped inside the house, he was pleased to see nothing had changed; it was still the same as it was back then.
“Long time no see, Riggo Mellark.” Olivia said from behind him. “I know,” was all he answered.
When all the formal greetings were made, Riggo started thinking going there had been a mistake.
She walked ahead of him and signaled him to follow her into the living room. He noticed it was messy with books on the floor, and pillows and throws by the fireplace, and on the coffee table was a cup of tea served with carrot cake, just as back then.
“I see the books, and cups…”
“Besides, ” pointed out Olivia with a dismissive wave of her hand, “the short noticed was enough just to get the tea and carrot cake ready.” She gestured at the mini screen that showed her gate outside.
Riggo scratched his head, lost for words, trying to make sense of what she had said…then he retorted a bit embarrassed,
Olivia sat in the sofa and padded the space next to her, “sit with me. It’s been a long time.”
“Yes it has.” Riggo agreed not directly looking at her, as if he had just spoken out of an innate sense of cordiality; he was more preoccupied with the cameras outside her house and whether or not he had made the right choice by coming.
Snapping out of it he made his way to the sofa, where she was, and sitting next to her examined her face;
“I take care of myself,” he paused and then added hesitantly, “well, uh…Camille does.” Olivia eyed him teasingly,
“So how-how-how is Danny?” He stammered changing the conversation. “I came here to talk about him; I think is best if we cut to the chase. Is he still thinking about acting? How is that going for him?”
Olivia gave him a pleasant smile, when she spoke, she did with that proud voice only mothers could conjure,
“But you know? He will make you proud, I’m sure Riggo, you just have to show him that you really care about him. I mean, the money… all that other stuff you send him is not enough…as you can see, we don’t need money.”
Riggo looked down at his shoes and tap the carpet softly.
Olivia rubbed his shoulders reassuring him, telling him without words that everything was all right. It was all that he needed at that moment, like before; she knew exactly when to speak, and when to offer a warm gesture.
Indeed, a long time it’s been! He thought,
and he held her gaze for a minute, and in her eyes he found kindness, and acceptance. But there was more than that, there was that feeling of comfort he had not felt in many years, it was something he had been missing and now he felt it with all his being and he knew that it was the one thing he needed at that moment; to be welcomed, to feel like he had finally come home.
and when he met her eyes again, it was warm and soft, but measured; and in the while all he could think of was that night when he had left Olivia and gone back to her. He remembered how she looked exactly; her golden hair that fell gently on her fair shoulders glowed against the pale light of the moon. And when she faced him, the blue in her eyes was so dark he found himself lost in them, bewitched, and forever lost. She was beautiful, and so was that first time;
Olivia got up from the sofa and started making her way to the bar,
“Relax Ri. Okay, I get you. You feel lonely, misunderstood; suffocated? Yeah you do seem like you are a bit stuffed. I thought Camille and you were happy, you left me for her, what happened that night? Did she find out about us?”
“I’m sorry Olivia, I-I…” he took a deep breath before continuing, “I know I’m the lowest man possible for leaving you and Daniel, for even giving you the hope that it could all work when I knew from the beginning that it wouldn’t.” he stopped waiting for her to say something but she didn’t say anything not even turned to acknowledge him; she kept busy making her drink.
Riggo stopped talking; he sensed he might have gone a bit overboard with his half-ass apology.
Olivia continued preparing her drink; and he watched her as she put two iced-cubes in the glass and filled it up with the thick liquor. “Want some?” she offered him as she took a sip, Riggo shook his head.
Olivia shrugged her shoulders and gulped down the liquor like it was water, leaving her throat burning. That was the first one, the second she allowed herself to savor the distinct taste like anise of the rum.
Both continued to remain silent; the tea had gone stale in the coffee table.
She took another gulp of her rum and chewed on a cube of ice, the cold getting to her head; she realized it was time to wrap things up.
“After twenty-three years you come here to tell me you never loved me and that’s why you left? I know you have a conscience Ri, but I don’t think you’re this kind hearted. So spill it, what do you want with Daniel?”
“I want him to take over the hospital.”
What was she supposed to do now? There was no one in the big house except for her. She turned to go back to the house and saw Lily standing behind her, her expression was more pleasant now, but the mascara was still all over her plump cheeks.
Annabelle remembered the woman crumbling to the floor, her face a dark puddle.
“Are you okay?” Lily seemed confused with her question.
“Ah! Yes Miss Anna. I’m ‘kay now.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I ought to be now.” she answered as if it was an obvious thing, “I have to take care of you Miss Anna. Come, I’ll make you hot cocoa while we wait for the Master and my husband and son. They ought to be back any minute now, its almost six.”
“What is a minute to you folks? Because since I got here 2 hours ago, Patricia kept saying the same thing, and still they are not here.” Annabelle heard Lily giggle, and was glad to see the woman more relaxed.
“You’re too funny Miss Anna.” Pointed out Lily cleaning her muddy tears.
They went inside the house and Lily hurried her way to the kitchen, where Annabelle heard her grabbing cups and turning the stove on.
“Who plays?” she asked Lily without lifting her eyes from the pearl white keys.
“Master Aaron. Oh! He loves that thing, and the guitars he has up in his room…he collects that stuff.
“Well, there is someone alright.” She said in annoyance; to which she immediately wished she hadn’t said anything. Why did she care if he had eloped with another girl or not? It was none of her concern.
The girl cleared her throat, “Oh nothing…
“Oh nothing Miss Anna, I just don’t know where he could be at this hour. I reckon he ought to be after the young master and my Lidia. That’s the only explanation.” Annabelle lifted her head in unexpected surprise; she thought she had heard the woman wrong,
“Oh I don’t know Miss Anna. I’m hoping he is, is all.”
“No.” Persisted Annabelle, ” why would you say that of Aaron when earlier you came down with a note…” and then it downed on her, the way Lily was looking at her like she had been hit by a flying rock. There was also the older brother of Aaron; Joshua. She had understood it all wrong, “but Patricia said – you said young master… I thought-”
“You thought what?” she heard a masculine voice coming from the foyer.
“You thought I had abandoned you for another woman?” he was now coming toward her; his eyes bright, mocking her; his mouth slightly opened as if ready to burst out in scandalous laughter,
“Ha! That’s a stupid thought,” he said instead brushing his hair back with his fingers.
Annabelle noticed how much he had changed from his teen years; his eyes had taken a more serious expression, and there was even something candid about them; as if he had one day realized he was not a prince everyone catered to, but just a man in charge of his own life. Still, the arrogant smirk that she had despised so much during those months in summer school remained.
He lowered his face to her level, and whispered, “that will never happen, dear cousin.”