“Don’t use big words, they mean so little.”
After finishing our lunch preparations with Anna, I had put in the back of my mind the biggest part of our conversation. I would worry again about Aaron’s return at home in three days. Thankfully, Eugene and Zoe would’ve returned home from their vacation by then, so I wouldn’t have to deal alone with the prodigal son. Not that I didn’t know how to deal with his hostile behavior towards me. Nonetheless, not knowing what exactly you had done to make someone hate you so much was kind of a problem. And a big one actually.
The rest of the afternoon was so quiet and boring. I decided it would be much more interesting to read the “Divine Comedy”, than to listen to dad and Anna’s conversation about Aaron. They were quite worried about how “Mr. Arrogant” and I would coexist in the same room for more than one minute. Zoe and Anthony were now living in their own house, but Eugene was still living with the rest of us and Cleo was a regular visitor. I wouldn’t make my brother stay apart from his girlfriend. However, I didn’t want either to be the one who would have to tolerate Aaron twenty-four-seven. I would gladly cede him my bedroom, like any good hostess would do, and I’d sleep on the couch as long as I wasn’t forced to stay in the same room with him for more than it was necessary. I simply wanted to make our parents happy.
I was completely absorbed in reading the seventh circle of Dante’s Inferno, thinking only scrappily the verbal bullying I would have to endure in a few days, that I didn’t pay attention to the notification of a new e-mail on my laptop. It was only after I had finished the eighth circle that my cell phone started buzzing on my desk, so I put my book aside. I realized it was Effie so I hurried to pick up the phone. I was in desperate need of fresh air, caffeine to run in my veins and my sweet friend to help me forget even for a little while the big amount of returns I had faced the past few days.
“Effie! I was about to call you to have some coffee!” I said happily when I picked up the phone.
“I guess we coordinated Brownie! That’s exactly why I am calling you. Is it ok to pick you up in about an hour?” Effie asked, in her regular sweet tone.
“Absolutely! I’ll just take a quick shower and I’ll be ready,” I replied.
“Please, don’t get dressed like we’re about to attend the Oscar Awards,” I heard her laugh while we were hanging up.
Thinking of Effie’s fake scolding, I ran in the bathroom. I was rarely ready when she was coming to pick me up and I didn’t want to make her wait today. So I didn’t even bother to check that e-mail since I was sure that it was from her. In half an hour I had managed to wash my hair and dry it, while I was starting to panic because my wardrobe was a complete mess. What should I wear? Effie didn’t really like all those girly clothes, such as dresses and high heels. I decided to wear white shorts and a blue blouse, thinking that my outfit would be casual enough for my friend’s taste. We would go for a plain coffee after all.
When I got downstairs to wait for Effie, my dad and Anna were still deeply engaged in their serious discussion. Aaron’s return was indeed an urgent matter for our family. I did not want to disturb them, so I just notioned to my father, making him understand that I would go out for coffee. After all those years we were just the two of us, we had, in some ways, developed our own system of communication. He knew I had very few friends so he had stopped worrying about who I would go out with. After all, I had never made him doubt my choices. Except perhaps one.
I hadn’t even closed the front door when I saw Effie in her grey Ford, waiting for me outside the houseyard. I hurried to get in the car. We had so many things to talk about and going only for coffee wouldn’t be enough to cover every matter. But I was hoping that the city’s bars would help us analyze our problems, along with a few cocktails in between. A few minutes later we had parked right in the centre of the city and we were heading towards our favorite café. That was when Effie started her “questioning”. I had been taken by surprise that she hadn’t started asking me questions while we were in the car and she had let me enjoy the music.
“So Leda… What were you doing all those months while I was eating spaghetti and drinking espressos?” she asked with fake indifference. That sparkle though in her green eyes betrayed her. She was dying to know what had happened during the eight months she stayed in Italy. She may had come for Christmas vacation, but apart from that brief time period, our communication had been limited, only with few e-mails about university, Effie’s new, Italian “friends” and Jim’s and Mandy’s achievements. None of us was eager to talk about our relationships, basically because Effie’s boyfriend, Paul, wanted so badly to take their relationship to the next level, whatever this might have meant, and because I was afraid of her I told you so reaction when I would tell her that my relationship with Michael was on the edge once more. That was the main reason why we were talking only about harmless issues, but the time had come to talk even about those that terrified us.
So I took a deep breath and started telling her what had happened from Christmas vacation up till last Tuesday. During this short, yet not quite brief for a relationship, period, Michael and I had fought much more times than Catherine and Heathcliff, had broken up and had not been talking to each other for almost a month. Quite recently though, Michael had asked for us to be together again because, as he had told me, he had realized his mistake and couldn’t do without me. The problem of course was that I couldn’t believe what he was telling me because my patience and my mental strength for that, stormy as some may say, relationship was long gone. The situation was becoming more complicated and problematic since, even if I knew that I couldn’t endure his mood swings any longer, still it seemed quite impossible to delete him completely from my life. He was like my own, personal drug from which I could not rehabilitate. Or maybe I did not want to.
While I was narrating my English literature kind of relationship, Effie did not interrupt me once and I truly appreciated that. I wasn’t quite sure whether I was able to keep talking and analyzing our wrong moves and choices, both mine and Michael’s.
Only when she started playing nervously with her bronze hair I realized she was about to explode.
“Seriously now Leda! Has he been checked lately? He might be bipolar and he doesn’t know it,” Effie said with intensity and irritation expressed in her tone.
“Trust me! I have thought about it a hundred times! Yet, this is no excuse. Why does the civilian, gorgeous and smart population of this city have to deal with it?” I replied while I was laughing. I was never talking about myself with such terms because I thought of it as egocentric and arrogant but I was trying to defuse the tension and this was my last chance to achieve that. Thankfully, Effie started laughing immediately, without having forgotten though the one question that still remained unanswered.
“So… what are you going to do?” she asked with pure concern.
“I honestly don’t know. One thing’s for sure, though. I am sick and tired of giving excuses for behaviors and people,” I replied. He could not always have me as a constant in his life.
I was completely absorbed in my thoughts that I came back to reality only when Effie started moving her hand in front of my eyes.
“What did you just say? I didn’t hear you,” I simply said, still feeling a little lost.
“I said, did your brother return from Santorini? Will you do this reunion of the families thing again?” she asked, emphasizing on the last words.
Over the past few years, my father and Anna had established some sort of family dinner in the middle of August, in order to strengthen our families’ bonds, as they claimed. I was suspecting, however, that the only reason for this, lame in my opinion, family tradition was to try to improve the terms between Aaron and me. At first, I had also found it a very nice idea, since I didn’t want to fight all the time for unimportant things, but after a few unsuccessful attempts, I gave up. So every year, the day of the family’s gathering (or the families’ gatherings, as Aaron was saying), I was remaining silent throughout the whole dinner and I was always the one who was volunteering to clean up the table or wash the dishes. For some mystery reason, Aaron was not in good terms with the kitchen, so that seemed like the safest room to kill my time.
In order to answer my friend’s question, I told her that Eugene and Cleo were returning the following day, and so were Zoe and Anthony, who had gone to Crete. I was hoping that Effie would catch my point and she did of course.
“Next year Brownie! Don’t worry at all!” she told me happily. “And what about the prodigal son? Will he do you the honor this year?” she went on, a bit hesitantly.
“Please, don’t remind me of him! I mentioned that matter to Anna this morning and she told me that he’ll be here in three days. And the best part? He’ll move permanently in the country,” I replied anxiously.
“You can’t be serious!” Effie shouted.
“I wish I couldn’t. Anyway. I’m used to him by now. At least, I’m hoping that he’ll soon find a house of his own. I don’t want to get on his nerves,” I said.
“Honestly Leda, I can’t understand why he doesn’t like you. Why is he in good terms with everyone but you?”, Effie asked with pure query.
“Oh, please! Don’t exaggerate! Of course he’s in good terms with Zoe because they are siblings. His relationship with Anna improved the last couple of years, and he simply respects Eugene and dad. I’m the only one who puts him into his place. That’s why I’m not one of his favourites,” I answered, with a touch of irony.
Since I didn’t want to continue the conversation regarding Aaron, I simply called the waiter in order to pay the bill. It wouldn’t benefit me to start worrying today about our coexistence. I was just hoping that if I would leave him alone and wouldn’t bother him, he would do the same.
Later, after we had something to eat as well, we decided to return to our homes. Effie would continue the night with her boyfriend and I would show my culinary skills to Jim. He had texted me earlier, suggesting to come home for a movie night.
In half an hour we had arrived at my place. I said goodnight to my friend and asked her to schedule a tennis match, one of the following days. We both adored tennis.
As I was entering home, I realized that nobody else was there. I instantly checked the little table that was placed near the door and I found a note from my father. He was writing that he and Anna would go out for dinner with some friends. That meant I would have the whole house alone, for at least three hours. It was almost eight o’clock and Jim would not be here before nine. So I decided to have a quick shower and check my e-mails, before entering the kitchen to become the next Master Chef.
I took my shower and went in my bedroom. I turned on my laptop and found three new e-mails waiting for me to read them. Two of them where completely harmless. The third, not so much.
I read quickly the e-mails from Eugene and my professor, the one who would hopefully supervise my master thesis, and went on to read the third one. To me, it seemed like a time bomb, ready to explode at any moment. But I took a deep breath and decided to read it, even if deep inside me I wanted to ignore it.
From: Aaron Preston
To: Leda Anagnostou
Date: 8/8/14, 17:45
Good evening Leda.
My apologies for disturbing you, but I wanted to inform you that I return tomorrow from England. I haven’t said anything to my mother yet. I want to surprise her.
I’ll come home with Zoe and Anthony. I simply thought that you should know it, too. Besides, we don’t want you to get a panic attack.
In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing you. And I hope that things will have changed.
Don’t use big words, big “bro”, I whispered in my mind.
© Victoria Moschou. All Rights Reserved 2016-2017.