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The welcoming
by Katerina Charisi
2016-02-08 09:45:03
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li02_400_01Michael parked the car and got out of it. I followed him and stood for a while looking around. The place was even bigger than I thought. “Come on”, he said and took my hand. Michael’s mother was the first one to welcome us. She spread her arms and I stepped back to give Michael space for her embrace. But she had spread those arms for me; I felt so weird at first, relieved next and happy right after. She was a short, thin woman, smiling and chirping like a starling. I couldn’t help it but I let all my worries slip away. “You are right on time for the dinner”, Frances said and led us inside. The rest of the family had already taken their seats around the large table. As I entered the dining room, I felt for a moment like all eyes were staring at me and felt horribly ashamed - but only for a moment. Frances was so pleasantly talkative that I bet no one could resist her contagious optimism and positivity.

For the next hour or so, I was lost in food, drinks and laughter. Michael’s father was a man exactly the opposite from his wife; all serious, with his thick brows always frowned, not talking almost at all. “You will get used to them”, Marianne told me later. “He doesn’t talk, but he is an angel. As for her”, said pointing with her eyes at Frances, “just make sure you don’t listen a single thing that comes out of her mouth and you’ll be fine”. I had no clue what she meant by that and I didn’t want to ask. I would have found out soon, anyway. But I had to admit, her cooking was amazing.

Bradford was also more like his father, serious and non-talkative, but seemed much more accessible. Sure thing is that I really enjoyed being with them all. Even when the dinner was over and they all started talking the same time all together, with their roguish accents that definitely left me out of the conversation, I simply kept listening understanding nothing. Many times I struggled not to laugh, especially with Michael, who as it seems, he tried so hard to talk “normal” to me when we first met, but turned back to his own normal speaking when he was with his family. Oh, I felt happy.

I couldn’t wait for this new life to start. They all made me feel like part of them and I realized that I needed this far more than I had ever realized. On the other hand, why couldn’t be great? The house was so big, no one would bother anyone; plus Bradford and Marianne would move out soon. The land seemed endless, the view was stunning, the lake downhill with its water reflecting the sunlight and the woods behind the manor; a little paradise. Like God had created this place to remind us how beautiful paradise is. Not that I was much of the religious kind.

li01_400After dinner we sat around the small table on the porch. Jacob (am I supposed to call him father now?) gave me his hand for a shake that almost broke my fingers and awkwardly excused himself and went inside. Frances followed her husband - another sign of firmly close relations that seemed so distant and unknown for me. My parents never were so close, they never were close at all. And so we were left alone outside, Michael and me, Bradford and Marianne. Men talking about cars and hunting (Bradford hated everything related to the land, planting, cropping, animal feeding etc.), Marianne chirping just like Frances did earlier. She was telling me all sorts of things about the people of Jacksonville, people I never met, places in the town I’ve never been and how great it will be now that we were going to be all together and she won’t feel so lonely again. I must admit that I listened to only half of the things she was saying. I couldn’t take my eyes away from the setting, the deep orange sun. Of course, she didn’t forget to mention with some pride, about the house they prepared in the town for themselves and how it will be the most beautiful house in the area once it’s ready.

That was the house that Jacob had born and lived until he came here, almost- “how many years ago, darling? 43, yes, or 45?” Cornelia had lost her husband and was left alone with her daughter, a bunch of workers and a huge land to take care of. Jacob was an excellent caretaker and managed everything perfectly. Later he and Frances got married. “Where is Cornelia now?” I asked and Marianne threw a quick glance to Bradford and then Michael before she leans forward and whisper to my ear. “She is weird. If you ask me, I think she is nuts. But God…”- she said and rolled her eyes, “Michael adores her. She almost never leaves this place and maybe days can go without seeing her at all. Her room is at the back of the house, last room, ground floor. You know what’s funny? No one even goes there. Half of this house was once burned. The back half ground floor, the back half first floor, the back half second floor.  That old witch wanders there, casting old Cajun spells and exorcising nonexistent spirits. She gives me the creeps.” And just to make herself more convincing, she finished her confiding that had sweated my ear, by putting her arms around her and make a shivering sound. “Brrrrrrrr”.

I surely wanted to laugh but I behaved myself, just smiled with some conspiratorial mood, not to show I was making fun of her. Honestly; I liked Marianne. But I started to believe she was just the typical small-town-girl, who loves gossiping and exaggerates in almost everything. I mean, “Cajun spells and exorcising spirits?” What century do we live in?


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