Eloisa told Aria that she would graciously accept the invitation. Aria asked H-C to pick her up and take her to the Kensington house for dinner. Eloisa wore Ferragamo shoes and a white and beige Chanel pantsuit that accentuated her taut, fit figure. Aria greeted her friend at the door with a hug and held her hand as they walked into the dining room.
“Eloisa! You look stunning. You are a chameleon!” Aria said.
Trish seemed impressed. “It is so nice to meet you. Welcome to our home. Would you like a refreshment?”
Eloisa took one second to sum Trish up. Aria knew that look from the times when people on the street made disrespectful remarks to Eloisa while she was working in the garder: she thought Trish was a waste of her time.
Trish seemed to be invigorated by the snub.
“Yes, thank you. Perhaps, some water?” Eloisa exaggerated her diction.
“I’ll get it Aunt Trish”. There was a feeling Aria had that Trish might do something to the water.
Trish ignored her and they both walked into the kitchen.
She inquired as if Aria was invisible “Rudy, is that one of Aria’s teachers from film school? She looks very familiar.”
“That’s the woman from the garden next to Kiev’s studio. Remember we saw her when we went to pick up Aria last Thursday?”
“The woman in the orange maintenance suit?” Trish asked for a confirmation, jerking her head back and slamming the water on the table.
Aria jumped as the glass landed. She regretted not running to get the glass of water first.
“Yes,” Rudy looked down at the beads of spilled water.
“You’ve got to be kidding. Why does she have Chanel on?” She threw her hands in the air.
“What are you talking about, ‘Why’? She bought it. Don’t be so snooty.”
“Whatever.” Trish came back into the living room, empty handed.
Aria followed with the glass of water and delivered it to Eloisa. She prayed to Saint Anastacia that Eloisa be protected and that she be surrounded by goodness and love.
By now, Eloisa, was beloved by most of the family enjoyed attention and respect. This would help to get inbetween Trish’s meaness and Eloisa, she hoped.
Dinner, prepared by Rudy in honor of Eloisa, consisted of filé gumbo with shrimp, rice, fried okra, and cornbread. For dessert, bread pudding made with two cans of condensed milk, two pounds of butter, pecans, raisins, sugar, bread ends and a bit of rum among other ingredients. Rudy always announced the ingredients.
“This food is delicious!” Eloisa smiled broadly. Trish cringed seeing her full set of teeth.
Aria remembered the first Sunday dinner when Trish watcher her like a hawk. It would be terrible if Eloisa felt the same way she did at dinner.
“Well, thank you. I heard you were from New Orleans! Whereabouts are you from down there?” Elias asked.
“Vacherie. It’s about sixty miles or so up the old river road. You ever hear of it?” Eloisa didn’t wait to answer and began talking with food in her mouth as usual.
Trish looked away and shook her head a bit.
“How long have you been in New York City?” asked Rudy.
Eloisa burped into her fist, “Oh excuse me. Just shows how good the food is. I’ve been here almost forty years. Whew, that’s a long time.”
Trish rolled her eyes and sighed. Aria’s eyes continued to bounce from Eloisa to Trish. Mostly she was watching just in case she needed to sacrifice herself to distract from Trish injuring Eloisa.
“I got here and was employed by the theater to make costumes.” Eloisa dabbed her mouth with the cloth napkin.
“Ahh, yes another thespian.” Rudy said delightedly.
“Well, unfortunately not. Not like Elias and H-C and Sasha. You all are the true performers.” She shouted, “But I know a line or two,” and slapped her hand down lightly on the table.
Eloisa sang out loud and recalled songs from her time at the theater. Elias, H-C, and Sasha, joined her in song ’round the table, laughing out loud. Trish folded her arms over her chest, looking deliberately unimpressed.
“Rudy, go get Mama’s Miriam Williams record to play for Eloisa,” said Elias.
“Oh Miriam Williams? I love her!” Eloisa clapped her hands together.
It was a joy to see Eloisa happy because she was always doing it for others.
“We are not finished with the meal yet. We have not had dessert.” Trish said this defiantly, but was ignored, even by Rudy this time.
Becoming the center of attention and conversation filled Eloisa with joy, Aria could tell. Her uncles seemed to enjoy having a mother figure in their presence.
Aria noticed Trish had stopped frowning. She sat with her fingers tapping on the table. Her grin had no light in it.
“Eloisa, you look so nice” Trish said. “Last time I saw you, you were in your orange uniform.” Eloisa smiled and nodded.
Eloisa was too smart not to understand the incarceration inference and insult. She chose not to receive it from what Aria could tell. Aria wanted Trish to stop.
“Your hair looks very tidy as well. That French roll looks exquisite for your type of hair. The upkeep must be next to nothing,” Trish added.
Her intentions seemed to press up against Eloisa’s skin. Aria knew she had to intervene.
“Eloisa, I especially like your plaits you cross over on the top. It looks like a crown. You remind me of the Queen of England,” She said Aria beaming and shooting sunrays at Eloisa.
“Aria, maybe you should find a style to tame that wild mane you run around with. Of course,” Trish paused and raised her eyebrows, “some people I don’t blame for wanting to hide behind their hair or a camera…maybe if your mother were around she could teach you a thing or two.”
Aria lost air. Rudy looked down and gripped the bottom of his chair, embarrassed and angry. Sasha rolled his eyes and screwed up his mouth, then he threw an interruption into the conversation by scraping his chair against the floor. Elias and H-C sprung to the edge of a response, lips pursed. When harmful words were aimed at herself, Eloisa didn’t mind. But when aimed at young creatures learning to trust the world, she became a different animal, Aria knew this. Eloisa sprang.
“A lot of folks hide behind harmful words, hiding their pain behind pretentiousness and bitter rhetoric aimed at those who seem to be less capable and weaker than themselves.” Eloisa paused and leaned toward Trish. “You know, Trish, pain is harsh indeed. And I feel sorry for those in it, but I feel little for those not courageous enough to submit to love.”
The room went dead with silence.
“Dessert anyone?” Elias sang.