Up So Floating

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 5

The rental car pulled into the driveway of a small Tudor-style house forty minutes later. Several neighbors worked yards of homes that were small to moderate size, brick or wooden, all tightly held to their lot by a stamp of lawn. A magnolia tree with purple blooms used a gentle breeze to wave a greeting. If not for nerves, she would have paid more attention to the lavender lining the path; perfect hosts, a hundred small heads pushing each other, bidding to make a greeting. The car door seemed leaden when she pushed it open, her body feeling like it needed to be plied from the car seat. The wrinkles of the yellow cotton skirt over denim capris smoothed easily once she was standing. She flexed her toes in her red sandals.

“Come on Aria.”

Her strides lengthened, but feet weren’t convinced.

They reached the driveway where it intersected the sidewalk as three tall men tumbled out the front door of the house toward them. Snatched from her side, her father was thrown to the grass. Her father’s face was obscured by one of the men’s torsos. She remembered the cell phone, still in the car. Am I supposed to call somebody? Running wasn’t an option. She inhaled, a wave of adrenaline surged through her chest, and she prepared to scream for help.

Long white pearls seemed to erupt from the pink of their lips. The dark cavities of their mouths blew heavy winds of laughter. The neighbors stopped to look. Her father sat up and lightly slapped each of the men on their arms. Okay, this was strange behavior even by her standards. She raised the video camera to her eye, searching for a calmer place.

Turning away from the commotion, towards the quiet of the magnolia, her eyes fell on the top of the tree, What I wouldn’t give to fly away. In the corner of the screen, a figure moved in and out of the camera frame. A slight angle change captured him completely. Rocking, he regarded the magnolia tree. He looked like a cormorant drying its wings in the sun. She lowered the camera from her face until the rumble of voices redirected itself towards her.

“Goofballs, this is your niece, Aria Anastacia.” Her father rubbed his hands together, grinning at her.

I’m dead meat. Blood rushed from her cheeks. Her clothes didn’t fit right. They just hung from her too-long frame. They’ll notice for sure. And why did he announce my middle name, too?

A man in Chino pants and a blue button-down shirt, with her father’s smile, walked towards her. Unlike her father, this man walked upright, shoulders back, like a soldier. He reminded her of many of her father’s military friends on the base in Germany. He reached out, looking like he’d try to lift her up. Reflexively, her talisman rose between them. She pressed the record button and zoomed out to gain some distance from the image appearing on the screen. Does he think I’m five years old? He doesn’t know me.

“Well, Bird it’s good to meet you. I’m your Uncle Rudy,” he announced in an overly loud voice that reminded her of a campaigning politician.

She curtsied and wondered how he knew her nickname. No use smiling; screen’s blocking my mouth, reasoning away the guilt of the cold greeting she returned to him.

Rudy’s most prominent feature was his wide mouth and protruding firm lips. About two inches taller than her father, he stood just over six feet. He was the color of a walnut shell, his skin covered by a thin film of perspiration, his forehead decorated with thin subtle horizontal lines. His eyebrows were expressive, taking on a new shape with each sentence he finished. No telling just yet who he was from the descriptions she had gathered.

“Aria, this is Sasha.” Her father continued with the introductions.

An arc of men formed around her. Wasn’t it enough her clothes weren’t particularly put together, now her sweaty underarms smelled strong and musty. The fingers of her left hand twisted and popped.

“Pleased to meet you.” He kept his hands pulled behind his back and gave a slight bow at the waist. “Nice camera. It is practically a classic antique. If I’m not mistaken it still uses film?” Sasha asked.

He didn’t want an answer, probably just wanted to hear himself talk, so she didn’t bother to respond, plus she hadn’t quite found her voice. Sasha seemed tired, his voice monotone, flat. He was tall, deflated, with a crooked smile, but lacking the bubble-head of the two dimensional cartoon character, Flat Stanley, he reminded her of. About the same size as Rudy, a shade darker, he was almost the color of an acorn, but not quite. His hair had a looser curl than either her father’s or Rudy’s. One of his eyes drifted off slightly to the left, reminding her of Opa.

“And this is your Uncle Elias,” her father said.

Elias’ smile was buoyant yet concerned. So similar in quality to her mother’s, apparently marvelous for hiding secrets behind. There was something refined, almost elegant about him. She gauged he was the youngest by a couple of years and bore the least resemblance to the other brothers. His cheekbones were higher and his facial hair, or at least his mustache, was a lot more sparse than her father or Rudy’s. His eyelashes were long and thick. But more noticeable, his face seemed so smooth, so even in color, like he was wearing make up.

He cocked his head slightly to the left. She dipped her head from behind the screen for a better look at him too. His eyes widened, brows raised and lips pulled tight across his exposed teeth.

“She looks like Mama right around the brow line and eyes. You look just like her,” Elias beamed. “Same intense eyes,” he seemed to let slip.

A flash of color momentarily appeared behind his back. “Seeing in metaphors,” as her mother had often explained.

Idelina warned, “What you ‘see’ isn’t always what everyone else does.” She’d added, “But that doesn’t mean it isn’t real or doesn’t have meaning. This is one of the blessings Saint Anastacia has bestowed on you.”

Elias looked harmless, but he had a secret. Aria’s “seeings” were really sensings which always translated into some image. In Elias’ case it was an alligator tail.

And there was another strange thing, she had a grandmother other than Oma. My grandmother—I look like my grandmother. The notion there was another woman related to her softened things a bit. She looked at her father who moved toward the car.

He blinked hard and without looking at her said, “You do favor her, Bird.”

“Hey let’s get your things out of the trunk and into the house. How was the trip from Germany, Miles?” asked the elegant Elias, directing the other brothers with his long finger to get the luggage. “Idelina couldn’t make it this time, huh?” Her father pursed his lips and gave his head a slight shake.

They didn’t know, she thought: good, it was none of their business anyway. She could always count on her father for keeping silent on a variety of things.

“Okay, I see. How’s the military treating you?” Elias asked.

“Retired about a year ago. I do civilian contracting for the government now.” Her father pulled Aria’s bulky suitcase from the trunk.

“Aria, your Uncle Kiev is on the porch there,” her father said in passing, hoisting the luggage onto the curb.

The film rolled as she walked toward the house. Why her father hadn’t introduced her to Kiev when they were face to face seemed strange. She got it; he was the one in his own world, who didn’t talk to anyone. Fascinating. Her mouth dropped opened wider and wider the closer she got. Purple blooms of the magnolia tree appeared on the screen instead of Kiev. This was the polite thing to do. Who wants their private world filmed? Her father greeted Kiev with a nod, looking past him as if he had seen him only hours before. He, Rudy, Elias, and Sasha entered the house, shuffling and dealing memories from their childhood. They seemed to forget her presence. She lingered.

Leaving them to themselves on the porch, she recorded the depth of the purple blooms. She lowered the camera and exposed her entire face to him. He turned and with his gaze askew seemed to look towards her jaw line. Sunbeams glowed from the coils of his hair. She closed her eyes and listened. In that moment, the sounds of bees buzzing, birds singing, beetles crawling, and pods cracking grew to an orchestrated concerto. Colors vibrated and light fed empty spaces. Kiev offered his breath and she inhaled.

“Wee pop,” was the only sound Kiev made, soft but audible. His eyebrows lifted on “pop.”

Inside the house, her father teased his brother, “I can’t believe you kept my letterman jacket, Elias. Do you actually wear it? I thought you were some big shot at a bank.”

“I am. I am also an actor.” Elias put an accent on actor and wobbled his head slightly from side to side. “I used it as part of a costume when I was in West Side Story.”

Their conversation cracked the chrysalis that had formed on the porch. Her hazel eyes opened. Time had stopped. Kiev did not leave his place as she pulled away.

“Come on in Aria,” her father called, “Kiev will be in soon.”

“Okay,” she said, slightly disoriented, and stumbled into the house. Aria felt he was magnificent.

Well inside the living room, she asked her father what Kiev felt like. Feeling was where she lived most of the time; he understood this.

“I don’t know what he feels like, I know he is my brother and I love him. I guess really what he feels like is a velvet bag that doesn’t have an opening, a mystery.” He searched for a better answer. “Kiev was born special. He is autistic. We didn’t know that something was different until he was about three. He’s in there, but I don’t know what else I can say about him. Rudy said he sees him reading this one story over and over again about a little girl who finds a robin as a baby and raises it.”

“You mean he was born with his abilities?” asked Aria.

“You mean disabilities, don’t you?” he fingered one of Elias’ crystal figurines.

“Well no,” she mumbled, confused. To herself, he was born with abilities to keep the world out, to stay safe. “Vater, I know that story about the girl and the robin, I think,” she begged with her eyes to continue the subject of Kiev.

“Anyway, Lil’ Bit let’s go change your clothes and wash your face. I’ll show you where you’ll be sleeping.”

He led her through Elias’ Queen’s house, the wooden furniture smelling of lemon oil. Windows in the living room sparkled and the floors shined. She wondered how many birds fell for the illusion the clean windows created. Rich deep reds and golds made up the base colors of the living room. Elias had mixed African pieces of art with Asian in a harmonious balance. Resinous potpourri scented the room. A large globe stood next to an upright piano like a night club singer. Next to a window was a dated telescope with two external lenses, resembling spectacles.

“Uncle Elias is very neat,” she observed.

“He always has been, since we were kids.”

A quick inventory of the pictures she passed through the living room revealed Uncle Elias with a man, Uncle Elias with a very beautiful woman, some pictures of a dog, an old picture of two people who might be her grandparents, an old family picture of her uncles and her dad and an old lady, maybe her grandmother. An inkling of curiosity to know these people better began to creep into her objective of wanting to leave New York and disappear.

Climbing the carpeted stairs they reached a room where her father placed her bag. A single bed with a thick down comforter invited her to rest. She closed the door, locked it, and then twisted the handle to make sure it was locked. Finally alone, she dived onto it and crawled underneath the pillows. She excelled at finding air in diminished spaces.

“So far, so good, no scary monsters yet.”

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.