Chapter One: Aurelie
Aurelie. Yep, that’s my name. If you say R-L-E fast you’re actually pretty close to the correct pronunciation. On paper, people always think it’s a weird spelling of Ariel, actually it is a French name and means golden. My mother chose it. That’s not the worst part though. When said it sounds like “oh really”. But I don’t go by that. Everyone just calls me Ari. To be fair, I wasn’t the only one who got an odd name. We are originally from France so our parents gave us names that were common in France. But they didn’t exactly stay normal when we moved to the States. We’ll often accuse them of intentionally trying to ruin our social lives. And they’ll shoot back showing us the top 200 list of baby names in France the years we were born. So I have a computer nerd for an older brother Benoît (Ben), and a diva for a younger sister, Capucine (Cat).
I don’t like the names. My sister thinks they give her a sophisticated edge. Or at least until someone told her Capucine reminded her of Cappuccino. So we all suffer together. Initially, my mom thought it would be cute to call me Raylee or Ellie, or any of the other stupid names she found online and I put up with them until 4th grade. But by that point, Raylee just didn’t fit me anymore.
I stuff a box into the back of our SUV and slam the trunk shut before it can fall back out. We leave in two days for Prendergast and I don’t want to be in a big rush tomorrow.
“Need some help, Ari?” Ben asks, shutting our heavy wooden front door.
“You never were good at packing a car,” he comments reaching across me to open the trunk.
“Ben please don’t-” but it’s too late, my box explodes from the back of the trunk and the collection of a mattress protector, quilt, and mattress cushions inside fall out. Ben crosses his arms and judges the pile at his feet. His eyes move from the ground to the back of the car where boxes are on a teetering stack waiting to follow the first box out.
“Case in point,” he mutters, shoving the rest of the things back into the box.
“Ben, you fix the trunk and I’ll figure out this box. It can’t be that hard to repack something,” Ben heads over to deal with the travesty of the trunk. Unfortunately, my assumption was wrong about the box and by the time I’ve squeezed my last cushion in, Ben is already done with the back of the car.
“I got that,” he says, lifting the box into the car and slamming the trunk shut. “You have a lot more room. Now come with me, Cadette,” I groan and follow him into our garage. When I was born my dad introduced me to him as sœur cadette—little sister in French. Ben shortened it to Cadette and it stuck, I hate it when he calls me that. My brother hops into the driver’s seat of our green Jeep Wrangler, “Come on, Cadette, let’s go say goodbye to Chicago.” My brother is leaving for Berkley the day after me for his sophmore year at Berkley.
I smile and get in the car, “Okay, just don’t call me Cadette.” He laughs and we drive off. We drove past the high school I went to last year. That was disastrous. I didn’t like the academics at all. There were too many kids and I got lost in the noise. We drive by the bagel place we go to for breakfast before church on Sundays. Then Ben turns out onto a main road that leads right to Lake Michigan. The buildings give way to lines of trees laden down with their summer foliage. They blur by us as we zip down the road and a little while later swing into a parking space by the lake. We hop out and walk down the docks. Many of the boats are out in the late August afternoon, soaking up the last of summer so the docks are fairly empty. Ben sits down on a bench near the end of the dock, a man is a few feet away fishing and he moves his tackle box so I can take a seat.
“I remember hating it here,” Ben says playing with the cuff on his blue flannel, one of the only ones I haven’t been able to steal.
“You were four,” I say back.
“So. You were four.” I sigh and look out at the waves rolling up to the docks. “Where are you going with this?”
“Just that, I hated it then and now I’m gonna miss it when I leave,” he shrugs his shoulders.
A motorboat passes by us, laughter and muffled music floating by in its wake.
I laugh, “You’re being way too sentimental,” I accuse and he laughs. I look over at him. “I don’t know. I will miss the lakes and Mom and Dad, but I’m excited for an adventure, for my life to change,”
Ben sighs but doesn’t say anything. We sit in the silence for a little longer. I watch the sun getting lower in the sky, the shadows grow and boats begin heading back in for the night. Ben stands and looks over at me. “We should head back for dinner.” We hop back in the Jeep and chase the light home. I walk in the front door and am instantly attacked by a flurry of a pair of glasses, brown hair, and paint. Eloise always smells of paint.
“Hey Ari,” she says pushing a stray baby hair back up into her afro, “my stepmom and dad are out of town tonight so your parents invited me for dinner.” I give her a concerned glance. Things have been rocky between her and her parents over the last few months. She’s counting down the days till we leave for school.
We head up to my room and I take a seat on my bed after moving my guitar off of it. I need to remember to put that in the car. Better yet I should ask Ben to do it for me.
“So how’s the packing going for you?” she asks. Eloise isn’t the most organized person in the world.
“Eloise, it’s going fine over here. Except for packing the car,” she gives me a quizzical look, “oh never mind.” I may not be good at putting things into a trunk, but I do love packing and preparing and all that comes with it. Something about the structure I just find really calming. Eloise groans and flops back onto the pile of cushions that cover my bed. I sigh, “how is the packing over at your house?”
A muffled humph comes from the cushions and Eloise reappears, “Terrible! Well, actually great! And terrible! I started packing the day my parents said I could go and I still have yet to fill my first suitcase,” she confesses. I laugh.
I stand and head back over to my desk and find the small black journal. I grab my phone and snap pictures of the pages, and then head back over to my bed, “here,” I say, passing Eloise the journal, “that’s my in-depth, forget nothing, packing list. It’s organized by category: bed, bath, that sort of thing.” Eloise flips through the pages and snaps the book shut, smiling.
“Thank you.” I grab my guitar case out of my walk-in closet. It’s so weird seeing it so empty. I place my guitar in and my two songbooks I’m currently using. The phone rings in the distance. It rings again and soon I hear my father’s French accent, “Hello, the Tremblay’s!” there’s a pause and he starts up again, this time his voice is closer, “yes, she is here.” he says.
I glance over at Eloise, “It’s your parents,” I say.
“No, remember they’re gone tonight! It’s probably one of Cat’s wannabe’s parents,” Eloise argues.
“Oh, yeah, probably.” My younger sister might just be 11 and in sixth grade but she’s already holding a court of friends at school. Sometimes I’m surprised that we come from the same parents we’re so different. She loves having as many friends as possible. Me? I’d be lucky to make half as many friends as she already has. She’s all into fashion and what’s the newest cool colored lip balm since our mom has said no to makeup (she’s convinced all of her wannabe friends that makeup is overrated). I don’t like being in all those itchy tight clothes. I’d much prefer leggings, comfy jeans, sweaters, and my brother’s flannels. Not that we could share clothes even if we did have the same taste. She just passed me height-wise last year, making me officially the shortest person in the family.
A knock comes at my door just as it opens Ben’s head peaks in, “Hi, girls.”
Eloise blushes and smiles back at him.
“Hey Ben,” she says in a sickeningly sweet tone. I roll my eyes.
“What do you want, Tertius?” Ben glowers at me, he hates his middle name. “You do know you’re supposed to knock before entering—that’s the whole point of knocking.”
“Please,” he groans, “Ari, I just came up here to say that it is dinner time and that the food is now getting cold.” He shuts the door and leaves. I check the hallway to make sure that it’s empty and then turn to Eloise.
“You really need to let go of your crush, he has a girlfriend,” I say eyebrows raised, Eloise sighs and fixes her glace on our not too interesting carpet. I sigh and head down the stairs, “I’ve never understood your liking for older boys.”