"Two steps far from you." (4)
I notice the room is spotless as always. As I sit down on the antique, beautifully preserved sofa, I can’t help but laugh at Nate’s astonishment. It is quite funny, too, since I didn’t recognize it before (I mean in my timeline, that is). Everything looks exactly the same, except for the drapes of the curtains; I suppose they change it every week?
“This is — I mean, uh…” Nate says, dumbfounded, staring at the spacious room. As he sits down next to me, I look at him, trying to stop myself from laughing. We’re not high, by the way.
“Oh, Nate, I assume your house is not like this?”
He shakes his head. “Nope, not at all!” he says, touching an embedded crystalline candleholder. “Who has, whatever this thing is, in your regular home?!”
I giggle. “Well, that thing is an antique from Gaul!”
“Ah! Here’s my beautiful grandchild!” Grandpa’s voice booms behind us.
Nate and I turn around to see my grandfather’s arms wide open to a hug. My smile is so bright, I step onto the cushions of the sofa, ruining the perfectly placed-plumped throw pillows (light pink, lacy and totally doesn’t match the room at all) and run to hug him tightly.
“Oof,” he groans and then laughs hard. “Oh, how I miss my little sweetums!”
We break free, and my cheeks flush, “grandpa! Stop calling me that, please! Don’t embarrass me,” then motioning my head towards Nate and whisper, “we have company!”
Grandpa looks at Nate carefully, “ah.”
Nate seems nervous when he stands up, but he clears his throat and holds out his hand. Grandpa moves to him to take and shake his hand. “Good day sir, I’m Nate Turner, Mariana’s partner. Er, I mean, friend.”
I walk to them, and Grandpa wraps his arm around my shoulders. Looking closely at him, he has a gentle face underneath his smile lines, but when he’s thinking, you can see how he contorts his eyebrows. Grandpa, still eyeing Nate, says to me quite loudly, and my face turns reddish-pink like the centre of a perfectly cooked fillet mignon, “is he your boyfriend?”
I am so shocked that I couldn’t stop myself from shoving him! My mistake is that I pushed him quite hard. He leans for support on the end table where an antique vase all the way from China wobbles, giving us a mini heart attack. Then, suddenly Grandma pops in, straightening the vase, and I hear Nate breathes out, phew.
“Only here for a minute, and you’re causing trouble, already?” says Grandma sternly.
Nana Charlie is walking beside her, and I become too excited. So I fling my arms around her. She smells like butterscotch, and her perfume of French Rose with Almond oil hugs my nose, and I laugh on the crook of her neck. “Aw, dearie, I have missed you so much!” she says as she embraces me, cradling me as if I was still a kid. Her familiar voice rolls with a proper distinct Londoner accent is intoxicating.
When we break free, I witness Grandma hitting Grandpa on his abdomen, so it was Grandpa she was referring to earlier. I laugh, feeling relieved. She opens her arms and hugs me. Will shows up holding a tray with tall glasses on them. He places the glasses on the coffee table and asks if there’s anything else he could get for us. When Grandma says ‘no, that’d be all,’ he bows and walks away. We all sit on the soft sofa around the circular table by the window. I introduce Nate to them, and he stands up to politely shake their hands then sits beside me. Grandma looks at him firmly.
“He is Mariana’s friend,” says Grandpa, raising his eyebrow. “But I think they’re lovers.”
“Grandpa!” I gasp as he laughs. Nana Charlie looks amused at me; I know that look, she agrees with Grandpa. I glance at Nate, and he is flushing red right now.
Grandma’s right eyebrow rises — phew — it means good, but when it’s left… Well, let’s just say, don’t make her raise her left brow. She observes Nate, who is trying not to squirm in his seat.
“So what does a fine young man doing here with his friend,” says Nana, controlling her smile.
Nate stutters; his nerve is taking over him. So, I butt in, “Oh, he just wants to be a delinquent for once! Feel the rush, that’s all,” and nudge his side. “Am I correct?”
He smiles sweetly. “Yes, it’s what I need,” and then he clears his throat before sipping his drink.
My grandparents are amused by hearing about the adrenaline rush, and so they start to talk about their youth.
“So, Nana, where are the dresses?” I ask.
Nana Charlie tears her eyes away from Nate. She clasps my hands and says to me excitedly, “Oh! Which reminds me, I am thrilled to show you my mother’s beautiful and desperate for a bodice to wear them, outdoor dresses!” she then claps her hands.
I miss her so much, and I have to control my tears from rolling down my face. I hold both of her wrinkled hands and smile, “I can’t wait to see them, Nana!”
She squeezes my hands. I see Grandpa elbows Nate, and I hear him say, “This might take a while, huh, son?”
I giggle as Grandma grabs my chin, giving away her strict-looking face, then she looks at me from head to toe, “oh dear, oh dear! Is Marlene feeding you enough?! You look so thin!”
I nod, “Yes, Grandma, I still eat a lot!” I look at Nana. “I got her appetite after all.”
They laugh, and she stands up. “Anyway, you need to get the dress now, darling, ooh! You’ll look wonderful in it!”
I smile. Nana Charlie holds my hand as my grandmothers lead me upstairs. Nate gets left behind with Grandpa, and I hear him say, “Mr Leighton, Mariana has mentioned to me you and Mrs Leighton were treasure hunters. That is tremendous.”
I look back and see the glow and curiosity in Nate’s eyes. Grandpa laughs and tells him their adventures as if memories of their time together comes rushing by. I look at Grandma, and she smiles when she hears Grandpa’s voice echoing. He releases a contented sigh. “Oh, those were the days, boy! I will tell you how her Grandma and I sailed through the Valley of Gaowe!”
Will follows us and opens the doors when we reach the guest room. Grandma, Nana and I enter. Grandma joins the maids to prepare the dresses as I wait for them. I sit on the foot of the bed, and Nana touches my arm as she waits beside me. “So, tell me, flower, what’s the progress of your fantasy story?”
I tilt my head in confusion. “What do you mean, Nana?”
She laughs softly. “Oh! Your mother was right,” she caresses my head as if searching for a bump. “Mara had told me that Marlene said you keep forgetting things because of a stool. I hope the student who had thrown it got suspended and received punishment?!”
Blinking rapidly, I gasp. “Uh, well, about that, one of my friends told me the student got disciplinary actions.”
She nods gratefully. “Well, whoever it was, they got what they deserve,” and she places my outgrown fringe behind my ear, “Oh, child, you poor thing! You told me the title of your story over the phone. What was it…? You mentioned it’s about astrological signs. I also told you the concept was ambitious and sellable.”
Pieces by pieces, the memory starts to clear, “oh! You mean The Grand Stellar!?” wow! I mean, I thought I started writing it during college! “About that, I don’t think I have updated it yet. I’m still creating the backgrounds of the main characters.” I shake my head. Nana, I know you’re distracting me from the truth. “Nana, how are you?”
She smiles and nods. “I’m alright, sweetie,” and boops my nose. “Well, I’m sure you will finish it in no time!” she adds, patting my hand. When she sees Grandma and Annette (her maid) carrying the dresses, she says, “Ah! Finally!”