Chapter 11: One of a kind

One Saturday in the middle of November, Aunt Camilla came to visit. She hugged everyone cheerfully,  investigated her nieces about potential boyfriends like aunts do  and teased the boys with uncalled-for advice about always using protection. Then she rushed to the dinning room and spent the rest of the afternoon there, chatting  with her sisters over a cup of tea.

“This will be my last year in representation, I’m afraid. I feel like I can’t keep up with the new girls on our team – but I’m turning forty so it’s understandable.”

Carlie showed up, too, much to Tori’s delight.

T: “Carlie! Long time, no see, huh? How are you doin’? Are you still painting?”

C: “Oh, come on, Tori. Painting is for idiots that have no life.”

T: “Uhm, okay then. So what are you up to these days?”

C: “I’m glad you asked – that’s what I wanted to talk about! there’s this awesome party happening in Windenburg next week and I want you to come with me. My dad lives there, so we can stay at his place.”

T: “Sounds great! But I don’t know. I’m not old enough to attend a party like that and my parents…”

C: “Boohooo! Little baby is scared of her parents. Do they still change your diapers, too?”

T: “No, but…”

C: “Gee, what’s wrong with you? Don’t be such a stuck up moron. It’ll be the best night of your life. Dancing, boys, juice…everything. You’d be stupid not to come, seriously.”

T: “I didn’t say I’m not coming. I’ll go! Just calm down, please.”

Etta was on the way to her room, when she overheard the end of the conversation. She didn’t like it. But the worst part was just about to come. Because in that moment, Carlie opened the door and saw her standing there with a guilty face.

The heck? You were eavesdropping on us? How pathetic!”

“I guess I have to ask you to come, too. Lucky for you, I’m generous like that, so yeah… you can come with us to the party, Etta.”

“Thanks, Carlie, but I have work soon in the morning every day and I can’t skip it. And I have to study for my science project. me and my team are supposed to test different metal conductors to…” 

“Who cares. This is the annual Summer Soltice Dance Party of Windernburg. It’s the party of the year, you bimbo.”

E: “I’m not really into that, I’m afraid.”

C: “Oh, whatever. I didn’t want you to come anyway. You’d just spoil all the fun.”

E: “Then why did you ask me in the first place?”

C: “Because I’m nice like that, obviously. I should have known better. Next time, I won’t bother with a lame nerd like you. See ya!”

Confused and upset, Etta retreated to the safety of the room and tried to comfort herself with a book.

It worked a bit, but just when she was getting to the really thrilling, suspenseful part, Amon walked in and sat beside her. Etta could tell he just returned home from a date with Brylee – he still smelled like her perfume.

A: “Hey, Etta! You busy?”

“Uhmm, kind of, yes. Do you need something?”

Etta was cautious. She didn’t know what this was about, but it was suspicious to say the least. She couldn’t remember last time Amon came into the girls’ room. If ever.

A: “I was wondering if you could help me with my homework.”

E: “I could. But I’m not… I probably don’t know much about the topics you study, since your two classes above me and everything. You should ask Seth.”

A: “Yeah, Seth! You know how nice and helpful he is – I bet he would strangle me in my sleep if he could figure out how to do it without becoming a prime suspect.”

E: “You’re too hard on him, he’s not that bad… But I see your point. So what do you need?”

A: “So, I’m supposed to write this essay about a certain book –  The eyes were watching Watcher or something along that line – and…”

“You mean Their eyes were watching God? Oh, that’s a wonderful book, Amon! You’re lucky to be writing an essay about that one. I hope one day we’ll get the assignment, too!”

A: “Or! You could write it now, maybe? Just in case the curriculum changes in two years or something.”

E: “You mean like…write it for you?”

A: “Well, I didn’t say that. But it’s a good idea. So what do you say?”

E: “I don’t know. I think you should read it – it’ll do you no harm. Besides, it’s a wonderful book with powerful themes such as judgment, isolation and unconditional love…”

A: “It’s a book about a middle aged woman analyzing her marriages, Etta. It’s boring as plum and absolutely unreadable. Please.”

“Middle aged women are people, too, and it would really open your mind to see their point of view. Watcher knows you need that.”

E: “So. I’ll help you with the essay, but only after you read the book. I’ll answer any questions and discuss everything with you and…”

A: “Right. That’s what I thought – you’re just like Seth. Condescending and arrogant and convinced that you’re better than anyone else because youre so well-read and cultured.”

A: “Well, guess what. I’m not interested in your plum, so keep your lecturing for someone who cares.”

And with that, he left. Etta just sat there, stunned and perplexed.

‘What on earth has just happened?’

She couldn’t stop thinking about it for hours. It was still bothering her when Aleksey, her classmate, showed up to work on the physics project. She was so distressed that even Aleksey noticed it. He’s never seen her so unfocused.

A: “Hmm, Etta, are you okay?”

E: “Do you think I’m a bad person, Aleksey? We’re not friends, so you have nothing to lose. Just tell me.”

A: “What? NO! You’re a great person. You’re smart and kind and driven…

“…and just great! The greatest girl, I mean, classmate… yes, the greatest classmate I like. I mean have. The greatest classmate I have!”

E: “It’s just that… maybe I appear arrogant or pretentious to some people…”

A: “Don’t listen to those people. They’re just jealous because they wanna be like you and they can’t.”

A: “Because you’re one of a kind.”

Etta scanned the boy. She knew him from school, but not very well. Up to this point they only talked about homeworks. Suddenly, though, he felt like a friend to her. His expression was sincere and his smile warm. He looked like he meant it.

E: “Well, that’s…that’s nice of you to say. I mean, really nice. So, ehm… Thank you.”

Chapter 10: As it should be

“Last week, I met a friend who is interested in music and I told him you’re giving lessons. is that all right?”

“A friend, you say? Do I know him?”

“Just a boy from our school. He’s in Amon’s class. He used to come here as a little kid to play wh…”

“Ooooh! A boy friend, then! I’d be delighted to meet him.”

“Devi, don’t. Don’t be that nosy grown up everybody avoid, please.  You’re too cool for that.”

“Oh, come on, Etty, I’m your beloved aunt. Who else would you tell about these things. Your mom? Surely not.”

“But there’s nothing to tell. He’s just a friend, I only know him briefly. So…what should I say to him?”

“As I said – I’d be delighted to meet him. And to teach him, of course. I just hope he’s more talented than Amon.”

Amon asked aunt Devi for lessons once he found out girls loves musicians. He wasn’t particularly talented, but he didn’t care. He just wanted aunt Devi to teach him a few well-known, simple songs to impress ladies.

A: *sings terribly* “And after aaaaaall, you’re my wonder…”

Etta didn’t really understand why. Amon’s girlfriend, Brylee, seemed impressed enough to her. She came over daily, staring amorously at him, laughing and blushing everytime he talked to her.

“Why are we not in your room, Amon?”

“Because my stupid brother refused to leave. So unless you want to look at his ugly face whole day, we’ll have to stay out of there.”

“I see. Poor you, to have a brother like that.”

“But you know what? My parents are at work. And they’re not coming home for quite some time. Maybe we’d have more privacy in their room.”

“Sounds like a plan, handsome. Let’s go.”

Etta would probably find it disturbingly amusing, but she was too busy  to pay attention to such nonsense. She was much more interested in a dinner party  her mom organized to celebrate dad’s birthday.

And she couldn’t wait for mom to come from work so she could assist her in the kitchen.

“So, Etta, how are the potatoes?”

“Fine, I guess?”

“Yeah, they look great. You knwo what’s  next: simmer until tender and then remove them from water. Then…”

Etta: “…add milk, mash the mixture and cook until heated, constantly stirring. Then add cheese and cook until it melts. And then stir in heavy cream, bacon and seasoning. I know, mom!”

M: “That’s my girl. Keep going!”

While Etta was busy with salads and side dishes, Melia prepared the rest of the feast.

Who needs apron when you have talent?

And what a feast it was! Even those teenage grumps Amon and Seth left their rooms to join the family and the guests. All those dainty dishes just couldn’t be resisted. They’ve got everything – fabulous soufflé to kick off the meal in style,  sensational, melt-in-the-mouth lamb cotlets or festive herbed salmon as mains and plethora of side dishes and fresh salads.

“Mmmm, smells like heaven!”

Etta even used her newly acquired mixology skills and prepared some simple cocktails. Needless to say, everyone was impressed.

“I wonder if  there’s a difference between lemon juice and citrus juice…”

With their bellies full and tastebuds satisfied, people warmed up. They smiled and laughed and joked.

T: “And then he said: ‘Bring my brown pants!’ Hahaha.”

The conversations were flowing and everyone was being  incredibly nice. Even Seth. It was such a change. Such a marvelous change.

Etta noticed the difference and she couldn’t believe it. The food brought them together. It was like people were happier, like the physical food made them ready to nourish their souls, too. And what’s a better way to do that than being attentive and kind to one another?

E: “This is so amazing.”

That wonderful, sincere ambience lingered around the place long after the food was gone. The young danced and surprised everyone with their moves, the adults talked. Etta couldn’t remember the last time they spend so many hours together as a family, but  she wished for evenings like this to happen more often.

Who knew Seth could dance like this?

The fun continued long into the night. The sun was already rising from behind the horizon when Melia brought the  birthday cake. Guests were already gone, but Chris didn’t mind. The important people were there.

“It’s good to have you here with me, kids. So good. Everything is as it should be.”

And with that on his mind and cheering of his children all around, he spinned into elderhood.

C: “So, darling? How do you like the new me?”

M: “You mean the old you, right?”

Chris frowned at her, acting all upset and offended, but before he could say something, Melia’s mischievous face went away and she smiled at him in that gentle, loving way that made his heart melt every time.

“Honestly, I love it just as much as the previous version.”