“All right! Let’s get on with it,” Sonia mumbled to herself as she unknowingly put her right foot out of the plane. Flying to Ireland from India was all it took for her new beginning. The habit being ingrained in her subconscious mind, she stepped out right foot first, smiling as she noticed her actions, convinced that all was going to turn out just fine and dandy. Above all, it was the Indian blood in her from her mother that urged her to put forward the right foot first. You can take a person out of India but not India out of a person, Sonia mused.
She kept to herself, smiling politely as she went through the gates, to the baggage counter and retrieved her bags.
"Now only if I can get a cab fast,” she muttered under her breath and got out of the main gate where people were either seeing off their relatives or friends or were there to pick-up someone. She saw a middle-aged couple wave off to their daughter and smiled at the girl who was perhaps older than her but probably shared the same feelings- excitement and a ball of nerves in her stomach.
What would they have been like together? She thought, an image of her mother being together with some faceless man popped in her mind before she shook it off. She hailed a cab and rattled off the address she had memorised to the driver.
After settling in the cab, Sonia retrieved her phone from her jeanpocket and swiped at her screen. She smiled, admiring the photo of her mother, “Only if you were here with me. We could have done it together. Only if you hadn't –" she stopped herself midsentence and quickly put her phone away.
No...No ifs and buts now, Sonia. You are about to start your new life. You will do what you have come here for. You will live a life here away from all the demons of your past; she mentally prepped herself with a smile and looked out of the window at the world rolling by her side.
Ian was late. Again. But it wasn't his fault, was it? Oh hell yes! It was. He should have listened to his Mother and set off early for the airport. He was supposed to pick up a girl named Sonia McKinnon. The daughter of his Mother’s friend from India. She was going to stay with them. And now, he was in trouble. Deep trouble. Forgetting to pick someone up who is new to the country and letting them find their way home was definitely not something his Mother would appreciate.
Thinking he could still search the airport in hopes of finding Sonia would be delusional. Nobody would wait that long at an airport without even knowing if someone was going to show up. He was sure that she might have hired a cab and would be about to reach home any minute.
He kicked the tyre of his father's car in annoyance. Going home seemed like the best idea to him and that's what he did. Ian got into the car, started the ignition and steered onto the road.
Suddenly a bulb went off in his head and he realised that he should have informed his Mother that he was unableto find the girl at the airport. Keeping an eye on the road before him, he pulled out his phone from his pocket and swore under his breath. The phone's battery was dead.
Great, Ian mentally kicked himself for forgetting to charge the damn phone.
He was really going to get a good dose of his Mother's scoldingsand he could totally imagine his Father's reaction. It would be something along the lines of ‘When will this boy grow up?’ along with a shake of his head. Sulking at the phone, Ian put it away and continued his way back home.
The cab stopped in front of a beautiful one storey house. Sonia paid the fair, retrieved her bags and waved at the cab driver as he politely smiled at her. Adjusting the strap of her knapsack, she took a deep breath and studied the house.
Simply gorgeous, were the first words to enter her mind. The blue and white trimmings, along with the nice little flower pots on the lower windows gave off a homey feeling to her. Sonia started towards the house and was taken aback by what she saw.
How could I not notice it? She wondered.
There were flowers planted alongside the edge of the lawn, a stone path going through the neat well trimmed grass. Being too mesmerised with the house, she had failed to notice the garden at first. Sonia took a step towards the garden to admire the blooming flowers before she stopped herself, recalling her manners.
"Later", she promised herself and with one last look at the beauties, she turned towards the main door. Climbing up the three steps, she took a deep breathe. The air smelled sweet of flowers, freshly cut grass and … pure. Yes, the air was definitely pure here. Sighing softly, she raised her hand and knocked on the door twice before stepping back.
The door was pulled open and a middle aged man stepped onto the porch. For his age, he had some striking features. His skin was a bit tanned and his eyes were a light shade of blue. Clear blue with no hints of green or gold specs in them. His lips curved into a smile and his skin wrinkled around his eyes. Offering his hand, he spoke in a deep yet soft tone, “You must be the one we were expecting. Sania, isn't it?"
“It's Sonia,” she corrected with a small smile and shook his hand. It felt big and calloused in comparison to her soft and small hand.
He chuckled - a melodic sound, "Yeah. I keep forgetting that. So what are you waiting for, young lady? Come on in.” He stepped aside, motioning Sonia to enter the house, “Caroline, Sonia has arrived," he called out as Sonia stepped inside.
Instantly, the sweet smell of baked goods engulfed her. She glanced around but had no time to take in anything as a beautiful woman came hurrying out of the kitchen.
The lady stopped midway, her stunning eyes going wide, “Oh my!" She exclaimed and took small steps towards her, "Are you the same little baby I saw once?" She asked and before Sonia could reply, she was pulled in a tight hug. Instantly Sonia's arms went around her waist and she returned the hug with as much affection. She had a beautiful face resembling Irish fairy tales and big almond shaped eyes - the colour of night sky.
"Isn't she a picture, James?" The lady turned to her husband.
"Resembles her mother. Don't you, girl?" The man smiled warmly at her.
Sonia’s lips curved up, “I do think so, Mr. Richards."
"Oh, call me James." With a wave of his hand, he dismissed the formalities.
"And you can call me Caroline or anything you like, apart from Mrs. Richards, “Caroline said, smiling at her.
"As you wish,” Sonia smiled at the both of them, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, “I forgot!” she smacked her forehead, “I have to get my bags from out there,” with that said, she made a move to walk out.
"What!” The couple exclaimed in unison.
"Didn't he come to get you?" Caroline asked in disbelief, “Oh my God, James. He was late again."
"Who are you talking about?" Sonia asked, pausing mid step to glance at the couple. Clearly, there was no one to pick her up at the airport.
"Ian, our son, was supposed to pick you up. Caroline told him to leave early but only if he listened,” James said shaking his head, “God knows when will that boy grow up,” he walked away, muttering under his breath.
"I should go help him." Sonia said and rushed after him. He had already picked up two bags when she reached him.
"What are you doing here?" James questioned her.
“I am just helping you with the bags, Uncle Jamey." Sonia chuckled lightly at his happy expression and picked up the last bag, "I can call you that, right?"
A deep laugh penetrated Sonia's ears as they climbed the steps to the house, "You can certainly call me that. I like it." James carried the bags inside and placed them in the living room. Sonia followed his lead.
The room was well furnished with touches of flowers in beautiful vases adorning tables here and there. There was a huge T.V on the wall in front of the couch. The couch itself was a soft brown colour with colourful cushions placed on it. There were leather cushioned chairs on the left of the couch, while a comfy loveseat on the other, matching the colour of the couch. The coffee table in front of the couch looked elegant. There was an empty mug, a few magazines and the T.V remote on it. Beside the love seat, there was a small table with a lamp on it. The kind by which you can sit or curl up, with a book and a steaming cup of coffee on a long winter night.
"Come on. I'll show you your room, kid." James waved her towards the stairs.
"Huh? Oh! Sure." Sonia placed the bag along with the others before following him up the stairs.
They had only climbed a few steps, when she stopped, “Captain, we forgot our ammunitions.”
James turned around. Her eyes held a mischievous glint to them. He let out a hoot of laughter. Sweet, certainly sweet and full of entertainment. He was already taking a liking towards the girl and he was sure that he would come to love her like she was his own daughter.
"Well well, sweetie. Ian will bring it up to your room. He didn't pick you up. That's the least he can do." When she opened her mouth to protest, he continued, "At least a little help to his old man," he said winking at her before turning around to resume their journey.
"I don't see any old man here”, she followed him like a little girl.
"You will. Caroline tells me I am old and every time I look in the mirror I have more grey hair than the last time."
"It makes you look more handsome."
He chuckled at that, “You already make me happy, girl."
He reached the top of the stairs and turned left. Pointing at a door, he said "This is the bathroom. You can use the one downstairs if you are not comfortable with sharing this with Ian or he can use the downstairs one. It's your choice."
"Ah. No problem. I'm fine with this." Sonia assured him.
He just shrugged and pointed to a room on the left of the foyer, "That one is Ian's room" and jerking his head towards the door to his right across from Ian's room, he said, "And that one's going to be your den." Walking over, he turned the knob. Pushing the door open, he gestured for her to enter.
"Get in. It's yours. You should check it out."
Obliging him, she stepped into the room and looked around. As her eyes took in the surroundings, they widened on their own accord.
The room was everything she had wished all her life. The bed was a big one. Not four poster but not a twin bed size, either. Somewhere in between, like the one she had back home.
There were two windows facing the front of the house, allowing enough light into the room. A dresser was beside the bed and a study table with a cozy chair sat by one of the windows. Next to the door, was a closet, all cream and pink in colour. The walls of the room were coloured cream and nanny pink along with colourful roses printed on it. Between the dresser and the closet, there was a door on the wall.
Must be a cupboard, she wondered and walked over to pull open the door. Her jaw dropped down to her feet and her breath hitched in her throat.
The view from the little terrace was anything beyond her words.
Eccentric! No, fabulous. Impossible, it was just a scene from a pretty painting, she thought. The terrace gave her a view of the backyard. There were more flowers planted there. Beyond the garden fence and a wooden gate, a few yards of clear space paved way for the line to the woods. As far as her eyes could see, there were woods and the clear sky in view.
Green against striking blue with a few clouds scattered around the border- that was her peek into Ireland's beauty.
"So, I do hope you like it here. Why don't you freshen up and meet us downstairs. I'm sure you must be hungry after the journey.”
She turned towards him and couldn't help but grin. James stood there in anticipation, his hands struck in his jeans pockets, his eyes darting here and there as if searching for a dent in the wall or a broken thing among the furniture.
"Oh Uncle Jamey, the room is perfect." Sonia tried to assure him with a grin.
"You like it? We- that is me and Caroline designed it thinking it would belong to our daughter one day but since we only have a son, an irresponsible one nonetheless, we thought to give it to you. You can tell me if you don't find it comfortable..." he trailed off and raked a hair through his hair, tousling them. It made him look like a nervous teenage boy. "Sorry, I'm babbling." Crimson coloured his cheeks and he ducked his head in embarrassment.
"It's okay. Uncle Jamey, you are very sweet." Acting on impulse, she stepped forward and kissed him on his cheek. "I even like you."
That made him laugh, “Honey, really you are a sweetheart. We will definitely be a strong team- you and I."
"Aye, Captain," she giggled before saluting him, playfully.
"Come on, now. You have to eat before Caroline's cookies are devoured by the cookie monster."
Chuckling, she dumped her bag and her jacket on the bed and hurried after him.
Can’t do anything now, Ian thought sitting in the car. He had parked the car in the garage but didn't have the nerve to get out of the vehicle and go inside the house.
He was not afraid of the scolding he was to get from his mother. No, that was never the case. He was just nervous that she might scold him in front of that girl and it was going to hinder his first impression towards a new member of their house.
You should've thought of that when you failed to listen to your Mom this morning, a voice in his head spoke, making him grimace. Mustering up some courage, he stepped out of the car holding the box of pastries he had bought on his way back. Wiping his palms on his jeans, he walked into the house and towards the kitchen.
He would slip inside, place the box on the kitchen counter and would go up to his room or better yet, go out and stay with one of his cousins for a while.
Coward, he winced at the voice in his head. He should apologize to his parents and that girl. Yes, that would be better; he agreed and stepped inside only to stop in his track.
The three of them- his mother, father and that girl - were already sitting at the table. The girl's back was facing him while his parents sat across her. They were so engrossed in what the girl was saying that they didn't notice his presence in the room. He took a deep breath and stepped further inside the house.
So Mom has baked cookies, he mused before shaking his head. He couldn't think of cookies right now. As his thoughts steered away from the delicious aroma of cookies, he heard the girl's voice.
"-and then she screamed so loudly that everyone came rushing in. They took one look at her and everyone started laughing." The trio cracked up as soon as the last word was out of her mouth.
Her voice was like honey, sweet and soothing; her laughter was the most melodic one he'd ever heard. His eyes trained on her as she threw her head back and laughed at the incident she just narrated. Before he could catch a glimpse of her face, his Mother's voice broke him out of his reverie.
"Well well well. Look who we have in here. Mr. I-am-always-late. Come, join us. Sonia's sharing some of her college pranks,” Caroline motioned for him to take a seat at the table, accustomed to him being late for almost everything. Scolding him at the moment seemed a little inappropriate to her so she postponed it for later.
“Yeah sure," he replied, relaxing his tense muscles and turned around to close the door before hanginghis jacket by the newel post. So all Sonia saw when she turned around was his back.
“What were you like when you were in school?” James enquired, making her turn her attention back to him.
“James. Let the girl eat first,” Caroline scolded him and smiled at Sonia, "Eat now and no talking."
"Yes ma'am," Sonia picked her coffee and gingerly sipped it. Ian came around and occupied the seat beside his Mother and glanced at the Indian beauty in front of him.
Her eyes were downcast. Her lashes long enough to make them look dramatic but made her face look delicate at the same time.
Her skin was a shade of faded cream. A light shade of pink coated her cheeks. Probably from all the laughing, he guessed. Her nose was straight and small, perfect size to fit her heart shaped face.
When she brought her cup down, his eyes glanced at her lips. They looked soft. Not too thin, not too plump. Just the right proportion. There was no makeup on her face and he liked that. She was a natural beauty.
"So, this is our son. Ian Richards." James thumped Ian on his back, making him wince a bit.
"Hi", was all she said, but the smile she gave him was full of warmth.
"Hi. Sorry, I didn't reach the airport in time to pick you up," Ian rubbed the back of his head and ducked his head in embarrassment.
Like Father, Like Son, Sonia thought, recalling a similar reaction from James when he showed her the room.
"Nah, no need to apologize. I enjoyed my ride here in the cab", she assured him with a wave of her hand and then once again, returned her attention at something his father was saying.
Her eyes, he thought, they were the colour of honey, or was there a hint of gold in them when she smiled? Ian wondered.
His mother placed a mug of steaming coffee in front of him and broke his line of thoughts again. He scowled at the mug and concentrated on choosing a cookie out of the plate, rather than ogling the girl sitting across him.
Looks just like his father, Sonia thought as she got up to fetch some jam from the pantry for James. He had the same blue eyes, the same features but his chin was a bit pointed like Aunt Carol, making him look a little more serious than he probably was. His hair was black but when exposed to sunlight, brown colour shone through them. He had a nice built, but she was certain that he would look like a boy against Uncle Jamey's muscular frame.
That brought a smile to her face. Uncle Jamey and Aunt Carol. She loved them already. It seemed that after all something in her life was going on the right track.
With those thoughts in her mind, she sat down at the table and resumed listening Aunt Carol narrating one of Ian's childhood stories.