The Author Part 5
There's No Place Like Home
Andy opens her eyes and breathes a sigh of relief. True to her word, The Author did not send her to the South Pacific or Arabia, and for that small mercy, she is grateful.
Standing in the living room of a luxury duplex apartment, Andy realises she is finally home. Though decorated in a minimalist style, the addition of throw pillows, silk Persian rugs and houseplants add a warm, inviting ambience. Andy stands before the balcony doors and studies her reflection in the glass. Soft, blonde ringlets frame her heart-shaped face while her sapphire eyes sparkle with excitement as she admires her new dress. She twirls once, then twice, admiring how the dress flares out, then falls gracefully in all the right places. ‘Ah, Versace,’ she murmurs aloud, ‘you never let me down.’
Andy slides the door open and steps onto the balcony. Shivering as the chilly wind sweeps past her, she hugs herself for warmth. Soaring monoliths reach towards the heavens as the muted sound of traffic on gridlocked streets drifts up through the hazy smog. ‘Thank God. Not a farm or religious zealot in sight.’ She gazes upon the city for a few moments, then goes inside.
A Fond Memory
Andy tours the room, stopping now and then to study the handcrafted decorations. ‘Mom always did like making her own decorations rather than buying them,’ she mused, admiring the embroidered table runner. A collection of family photos, custom framed in ebony, hang on the wall space above the mock fireplace. She reaches for one, smiling at the memory it evokes.
‘I remember this. It was such a nice day we had a picnic lunch in the park. It’s one of the few photos Dad is actually in. Mom, somehow, always managed to cut off everyone’s head, so Dad became the family photographer. But that day Mom insisted Dad join his family. He set the timer while Mom made us presentable, positioned us just so and told us to stay that way. As soon as the camera beeped, Mom’s instructions went right out the window. Annie and me posed like we were runway models, and Mark crossed his eyes and stuck his tongue out.’ Andy giggles. ‘Dad thought it was hilarious, but poor Mom just shrugged her shoulders and said, ‘Why do I even bother?’
Andy replaces the photo and turns her attention to a formal family portrait. Set against an autumnal background, Marjorie sits regally on a bench, her slender legs crossed at the ankles while holding five-year-old Mark on her lap. Richard stands behind her, one hand on her shoulder, with ten-year-old Andy and Annie on either side. Dressed in their best clothes and sporting broad smiles, it is the perfect image of a perfect family.
‘That was the longest afternoon of our lives. Mom kept making suggestions to the photographer until Dad took her to one side and reminded her the photographer was one of the best, ‘so let the man do his job.’
Annie and me were so bored with all the waiting around, and Mark was really fidgety. Mom kept telling him to settle down, and Dad bribed him with candy. Hmm…now that I think about it, maybe giving him sugar wasn’t the best idea.
‘I suppose It was worth it, though. It is a lovely picture. Still, I really like the picnic photo best.’
Pondering Her Future
Andy climbs the stairs and enters the second room on the right. ‘Oh, yes,’ Andy whispers, nodding in approval. ‘This is my room. Absolutely. It’s so…me.’
The carpet, deep and soft, is a light shade of aquamarine. She kicks off her shoes and wriggles her toes in the thick pile. Lush. The walls are cream coloured apart from one which is a darker echo of the carpet. Covering it are posters of rake-thin models sporting the latest haute couture fashions. Alongside these are Andy’s own pencil sketches of dresses, shoes and accessories.
Cluttering her bed is an array of lavish clothing with equally expensive shoes surrounding it. On the dressing table is a neat display of her high-end cosmetics.
‘Obviously, fashion is my life. I mean, look at all these clothes, those sketches. Why didn’t I ever do anything with it?’
As Andy ponders this, she spies on her nightstand a picture of her parents with their arms around Annie at her graduation. ‘Annie knew she wanted to be a lawyer and did everything she could to make it happen. She studied like crazy, aced all her exams, took on extra courses and graduated high school early. Then straight into college. Mom and Dad are so proud of her. We all are.’
Another photo showed Mark clutching his acceptance letter from MIT and jumping for joy. Dad catches him in a bear hug while Mom and Annie clap and smile. ‘Mark was such a little geek. He always had a knack for computers. Once, his teacher complained about one of the school computers not cooperating. He got it working again, no problem. He was eight years old. A career in computers was in the cards for him.’
Andy has a revelation. ‘I wanted Mom and Dad to be proud of me the way they’re proud of Annie and Mark. Compared to their achievements, being a fashion designer seemed kinda lame. I understand now what Mom and Dad meant about finding my own path. I’m not Annie or Mark, and I shouldn’t have tried to be. Fashion and designing, that’s what I’m about. That’s my path to happiness.’
Andy stares intently at her sketches, a plan formulating in her head. ‘That’s it then. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna travel to all the fashion capitals of the world, really immerse myself in the culture, and when I come back, I’m going to FIT, study my butt off and become a famous fashion designer. Mom and Dad are gonna be so proud---’ Andy shakes the thought away. ‘No. This isn’t about them. This is about doing something that makes me proud.’
Pleased with her decision, Andy nods once and goes to her computer. She opens her Facebook page and scrolls through the posts and photos, stopping occasionally to ‘Like’ and comment. ‘My friends are so cool. Aww, there’s my bestie, Chloe. And she’s wearing the earrings I designed for her. She said they were the best birthday present ever and she’d wear them for always.’ Andy smiles fondly, then giggles as she recalls their antics. ‘We had some crazy times.’
Picking up her phone, Andy unlocks it and reads her texts. Several are from friends asking when Mark was due home. She grins. ‘There’s nothing like having a good-looking, unattached brother to make a girl popular.’
A knock on her door pulls Andy away from her thoughts. ‘Hey, Andy,’ a voice so like her own asks, ‘what’s keeping you?’
Annie, dressed in dark trousers and a royal blue silk blouse, her blonde hair pulled back in a French bun, stands in the doorway. Andy’s face turns joyful as she rushes towards her twin, catching her in a tight squeeze. ‘Annie,’ she exclaims, ‘it’s really you! I can’t believe it!’
‘I remember when we were kids we’d pranked the teachers by switching classes. Mom found out and quit dressing us in identical clothes.’
‘Of course, it’s really me,’ Annie replies, squirming free. ‘Who else looks like you? What is up with you?’
‘Me? Nothing, I’m fine. It’s just…um…I…haven’t seen you for a while?’
‘I was only out of town a week, don’t overreact.’ Smoothing her clothes and hair, Annie continues, ‘Anyway, Mom says to hurry up and pick an outfit,’ she glances at the bed, ’and join us. Mark will be home soon.’
Meeting the Family
The sisters enter the family room where their parents are sitting on a large, corner sofa. Andy studies their faces. ‘Well, it’s obvious where Annie and me get our looks from.’ The creamy complexion, bright blue eyes, and blonde hair are all courtesy of Marjorie. She is a petite, delicate lady with only a few fine lines around her eyes and a light smattering of grey hair to suggest middle age. She is elegant in a Chanel blouse and trouser ensemble.
‘I remember Mom taking me to my first fashion show. I was amazed at the all the beautiful clothes and gorgeous models. She’s the one who sparked my interested in fashion.’
Richard, curly, brunet hair speckled with grey, dark piercing eyes, and sun-bronzed skin is Marjorie’s complete opposite. The years have been kind to him as well, and his solid, rugged build speaks of a man fond of the great outdoors. He wears a grey, zippered pullover and army green cargo trousers.
‘There you are, Andy,’ says Marjorie as she rises. ‘What took you so long, dear?’
‘Mom, you look wonderful,’ Andy says, wrapping her arms around her.
‘Why, thank you, darling. So do you.’
As Marjorie returns the embrace, the scent of her perfume, soft and floral, envelops Andy. She closes her eyes and inhales, losing herself in a childhood memory.
‘This scent, White Linen, is her signature scent. I was just a little girl when I first noticed it. I was sitting on her lap while she read to me. Now, every time I smell it, it reminds me of her, and I feel loved.’
‘Hey, what about me,’ Richard asks. I’ve been working out, you know. See? Feel these.’
Andy opens her eyes and watches Richard flex his arms.
‘Oh, Daddy,’ she says walking towards him, ‘of course you look wonderful too. Ooof.’ Richard surprises Andy with a bear hug, lifting her off her feet.
‘I remember Dad teaching me to ride a bike. He took off the training wheels saying it was time I soloed. He held my seat and told me to pedal. ‘Don’t let go,’ I begged him. ‘I won’t,’ he said. But he did. I panicked and started wobbling. But he said, ‘Keep pedalling, Andy. You’re doing great.’ So, I kept pedalling. It was awesome riding that bike on my own like a big kid. I just wished he’d taught me how to stop before I crashed into that bush.’
‘Andy, how you been?’
Mark, home from college, enters the room. He is a younger version of Richard apart from the swarthy complexion. He prefers intellectual pursuits although he’s not opposed to an occasional pick-up game of hoops.
‘Mark,’ shouts Andy, wriggling free from Richard. ‘Oh, come here, little brother. I’ve missed you so much.’ Mark, though reserved by nature, readily returns her embrace, but wonders at her enthusiasm.
‘I remember Mark playing ball in the house even though Mom told him not to. The ball knocked over a vase, and it broke. He was so worried Mom would be mad. Annie offered to plead his case, but he was still upset. I felt so sorry for him I took the blame. I lost my phone privileges for a week. But, hey, that’s what big sisters are for. To look after little brothers. It wasn’t so bad. Mark let me go on his computer, so I could at least Facebook with my friends.’
The Author's Parting Words
Annie, who had been observing her sister, remarks, ‘Andy, maybe it’s me, but you seem really deliriously happy to see us.’
‘And why not,’ Andy counters. ‘You’re my family, and you guys mean the world to me.’
‘Oh, Mark, I’m so glad you’ve finally arrived,’ says Marjorie. ‘I’ve dug out the old baby books.’ She gestures to some large, leather-bound albums on the coffee table. ‘Shall we all take a stroll down Memory Lane?’
‘I don’t know, Mom,’ Annie hedged, ‘I’m still kinda jet-lagged…’
‘I only just walked through the door, Mom. Maybe later, okay,’ Mark replies.
‘Oh, c’mon, guys,’ says Andy, grabbing them by the arms and steering them to the sofa, ‘it’ll be fun.’
As they pore over the albums, the missing pieces of Andy’s backstory fall into place. Discovering her past, her family and her plans for the future fill her with such joy she thinks she'll burst. Andy looks fondly at each family member. ‘A real home, a real family, and real memories. I’m finally a real person.’
‘Is it everything you wanted, Andy,’ asks the Author.
‘Yes,’ she whispers back gratefully, ‘it’s perfect.’
‘I’m glad. Take all the time you need Andy, and when you’re ready, tell me your story. In the meantime, I need to sort out Abel and Thomas. They’re nagging me something chronic.’
‘I will. And thank you so much. For everything. Hey, you never told me your name.’
‘Andy,’ says Annie, her voice tinged with concern, ‘are you sure you’re all right? Who are you talking to?’
‘What? Oh, nobody. Just thinking out loud. Hey, Annie, do you remember when you, me and Chloe…’
That's so nice. After that drama, Andy finally has her backstory and her family. I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy. How about you?
I want to thank everyone who followed Andy on her odyssey and left comments. They are very appreciated.
© 2018 Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon