“And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
I wasn’t very discreet when looking at someone. Most of the times, it seemed like I wanted to gossip about them. So when Aaron reached his hand to me, I stood speechless. I hadn’t realized that I was staring at him, nor that I had reached the ground floor. We shook hands, and our family, feeling complacent, went to the living room, leaving both of us alone in the hall. That was the moment when Aaron threw his mask of kindness away.
“It’s going to be a very difficult summer, kiddo,” he said, looking at me, from head to toe.
“Not if I manage to stay away from difficult people,” I replied in the same tone; almost blankly. I said nothing else. I started walking into the living room but I managed to see him smiling sneakily. And at that moment I realized that our summer was, indeed, going to be difficult.
The hours were passing slowly, almost torturously. I had got used to the house’s silence those past few days, and this crowded place upset me.
Aside from Anthony and Zoe who had gone to their place and would return in the evening, the rest of us were trying to get organized. Not only for the family dinner, but also for the newest living conditions.
Since our house had two floors, it had plenty of rooms. But not enough bedrooms. My father and Anna had the master bedroom at the east side of the house, while my bedroom and Eugene’s were at the north side. There was the guest room, as well; a small bedroom which barely fit a bed, a small bedside table and a wardrobe. The problem was that Aaron was not a guest.
“There is no problem mother. I can stay in the guest room,” Aaron said, while Anna was setting the table. His luggage was still in the hall.
“But this is impossible, son. You’re no stranger. We need to organize things better,” Anna replied, trying to figure out something; a solution that would be beneficial for everybody.
“Fine. I leave it up to you. Besides I won’t stay for long. I will try to find a place of my own, as soon as possible,” he answered, since he didn’t want to fight with his mother.
“Perhaps you could stay in the attic for a few days. Leda has rearranged it perfectly. It’s practically an extra room,” Anna said, like she had had an epiphany.
I had just entered the dining room. It was truly a miracle that the plates didn’t fall off my hands. What will he say now?, I thought.
“Why not? As long as Leda is ok with that,” he simply said.
“Leda? Do you agree? We will all be more comfortable this way,” Anna said, with obvious hope in her blue eyes.
“Yes, of course. I’ll just take a few extra books I need from the attic’s bookcase and then, it’s all yours Aaron,” I replied. If I wanted to make our coexistence easier, I had to minimize our meetings. It was more than enough that I would see him every morning; the stairs that led to the attic were next to my bedroom.
“Oh please, it’s not like I will forbid you to enter. Thank you, though,” he said. Suddenly, he got up out of the armchair and moved towards me. I was still holding some plates. “Let me help you with those,” he said. Excuse me?, I wondered.
“Sure, why not?” I answered. At that moment, I saw Anna leaving the dining room completely thrilled. The door bell got her though, before she could move away.
“Welcome again!” I heard her say and a few seconds later Zoe and Anthony came to join us.
While Anna, Aaron and I were setting the table, Eugene and Cleo had unpacked. My dad was the observer, as he always was, yet ready to help if someone asked him to.
I was taken completely by surprise that Aaron had offered to help me. But that didn’t last long. He made no move to help serving the dinner. Is the kitchen the scariest room in the house and I’m not aware of that?, I wondered once more.
In a few minutes, dinner was served and we all gathered around the table to enjoy it. Anna had thrived once again. It seemed strange to me, being in the same room with seven people. On the previous days, two was the top number we could get. Especially now, that Aaron was looking fiercely at me, the tension was intolerable. I knew that the only reason he had offered to help was because Anna was present. He didn’t nag about staying in the attic because, once again, it was Anna’s proposal. But I was sure that this kindness wouldn’t last. Our parents and our siblings wouldn’t be around us all the time.
Eugene’s voice brought me back to reality.
“So Aaron, why did you decide to leave England?” Eugene asked with pure interest.
“I think there are more cases here. You are the masters of stress,” he replied ironically.
“That’s for sure. But I don’t think that many people spend money for therapy here,” my brother told him.
“I have done my research. People tend to take antidepressant pills and every kind of drug you can imagine. Besides, I have a network here. I don’t start from zero point,” Aaron insisted.
“But you start during a period of global, economic crisis. You provide services. Psychotherapy isn’t a necessity. It’s a luxury,” I said before my brother could give an answer.
“Well, if I bankrupt, I will turn to you for financial support,” he replied drily.
“Let’s make a toast. To Aaron’s new beginning at work and his new life here,” my father intervened, before I could say a thing, and raised his glass. The rest of us did the same; even I did reluctantly and saw Aaron smiling sneakily.
The family dinner ended without any further barbs or ironic comments. I could see my dad and Anna holding their breath every time Aaron and I were about to say something. I didn’t want to make them sad, so I didn’t speak much after my father’s toast.
At midnight, Zoe and Anthony left for their place. Eugene and Cleo went upstairs in order to finally get some rest.
“Anna, you should go and get some rest, too,” I said, looking at her and my dad.
“Are you sure dear?” she asked me.
“Yes. Besides I don’t need to get up early tomorrow,” I replied.
“Fine. Let’s go Aaron to get you settled, too,” Anna said and she took her son’s luggage.
“Yes mother. Goodnight Leda,” he said.
“Goodnight,” I replied. What’s the matter with him today?, I thought.
After a few minutes of conversations and footsteps on the second floor, silence covered the house. That calmed me a lot. Everything had gone fine. No fight. No scuffle. No bloodshed.
I got the living room and the dining room back in order, and went straight into the kitchen. I had been wearing my shoes all day long and my feet had started to ache. So I took them off and went closer to the sink. I started washing all the forks, knives, plates and glasses we had used.
Suddenly, I heard a noise, like a screech. I turned abruptly to see who was standing behind me. At that instant, the glass I was holding slipped off my hand and fell on the floor, breaking in a hundred tiny pieces.
Aaron was standing next to the kitchen door. I could see that he didn’t want to get in. But when he saw the broken glass, he rushed towards me.
“Careful! You’ll cut yourself!” he said intensely, while he was coming closer.
“I don’t need any help. I can handle a broken glass,” I replied, taking a step back.
I felt a sting under my foot. Leaning against the kitchen counter, I lifted my leg and I could see my fingers covered in blood. A sharp piece of glass had stuck under my toes.
“Well done, Leda! You did it again,” Aaron said, looking irritated.
“I’m sorry I got cut because of you!” I replied and I started limping to the small bathroom, which was next to the kitchen.
“Because of me? I didn’t know I am the one responsible for your clumsiness,” he said. “What are you doing? You’ll cover the whole floor with blood. Wait here,” he went on.
“I don’t need any help,” I whispered angrily.
“Yes, you do! You forget that I’m a doctor. A psychiatrist, yes, but I know basics,” he whispered too and he went to the bathroom. A few seconds later he came back, holding iodine and plenty of gauzes. He sat me on a chair and started cleaning the wound.
“The cut is not deep. You won’t need any stitches,” he said.
I was looking at him, totally speechless.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked him. I was feeling completely lost.
“Because, like I said earlier, nothing has changed,” he replied, looking at me sharply. As sharp as a broken glass could be.
© Victoria Moschou. All Rights Reserved 2016-2017.