Oona crisply stated, “Come children. You must get dressed now and brush your teeth. Your mother is trying to come home a little bit early this evening. And we shall have dinner soon. Let us not fail on the day of your mother’s return to work. We need to get ready for tonight.”
“For a séance?” asked Louis.
“I am speaking of dinner, and your mother, Louis. And besides, my things have not yet arrived from Georgetown.” Uncharacteristically, Oona was a little bit nervous and was eager to show off the kids to KC.
“We’re supposed to brush our teeth after dinner, not before it,” Thankful protested. Just because it’s getting dark outside doesn’t mean we have to brush our teeth!” The young girl then bolted out of the kitchen and stomped her feet for good measure. “When is Mom getting home?” she demanded to know.
“I told you,” said Oona calmly. “Soon. Your mother will be getting home soon. It will be soon.” The nanny calmly and carefully paced her words. “And please give your mother peace when she arrives.”
“Oona?” she called.
“What’s a nanny supposed to do?” I know she brought a special surprise.
“Help your mother by helping her children.” Oona’s mind easily descended onto KC. “I am here to help your Mother.” Oona drew in her breath for a moment. Oh, how she had asked her if she would really move in. How her eyes sparkled when she answered, “Of course.” And she thought of KC returning from work: Strong and always beautiful; vivacious, hurt, and now vulnerable. Tired and needy. Still Oona knew she would never be the pathetic slave her own mother was, even though KC was deeply wounded by recent events.
“This was the longest day,” KC thought as she pulled into the long driveway of her home. She was exhausted – utterly, physically, and emotionally, exhausted. Six days had passed and, on a Friday no less, she was back to work. Gone was her husband for not even a week. And already back at work. KC desperately needed normalcy and, with that, it would lead her to new goals. Yes, she had plenty of assistance, huge and continuing outpourings of love and caring. KC was fully adorned with tons of support and affection from all her friends and family. She had all their things but she still had lost her ‘other half,’ her husband of over 20 years. They celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary only last June. For now she was steady with one eye on the present and the other on her career. And it was good having Oona wholeheartedly supporting her on both counts. Aged 44, KC knew she needed to commit herself to things other than sulking or pining, or exchanging scripted niceties with people, more than a few from her husband’s past; his friends and associates who she didn’t even know.
And it was the first full day with Oona at the house. How would that all work out? A steady breeze swept past her ears as KC approached the breezeway entrance. It was only a short distance from her parked car. As she drew near the kitchen window she could see, clearly enough, her good dog and faithful companion. “Praises for Stinkly’s unbounded happiness!” KC wailed, and a small smile appeared on her face. Stinkly would rarely let pain or disappointment get in the way of her day. It was as if every morning her beloved furry friend said, “Enjoy this great new day which God has given us.” Amen, KC wished she could be more like Stinkly. Her dog would almost always go for her walks and eat her food and sniff around and poke around with no complaints; she merely did the things which good dogs do. Stinkly’s was a wonderful and simple life. Even with her husband’s passing there was no real baggage for Stinkly to carry. And so soon following his death. Sure, he was her master, and barely a week on it was pretty much just another day for that sweet dog. How bizarre?
No doubt KC’s world was on the edge of a paradigm shift. She hesitated on the breezeway before she went inside, and thought for a moment about her new nanny. KC didn’t know if she’d ever think of Oona as a nanny, as her nanny no less! And she wondered if her things had arrived yet. Oona hadn’t called her all day, and that, she supposed, was a good sign. She’d expected any number of misfortunes to have befallen her friend and nanny. And with three needy children in her charge and practically no orientation; Oona certainly had no training for the job. Well, now she’d see for herself how Oona fared with the kids.
There was soft and sustained thunder out in the distance when KC entered the brightly lit kitchen of her Westbridge home. The kids immediately crowded around their mother, and from them there were mostly no complaints. Nothing serious. Oona was in the upstairs bath and Stinkly was not far away. The dog seemed quite fine too. I think that very shortly I’ll be back outside, taking a brisk long walk with Stinkly. Always better to take time and decompress, she thought, before she got too deeply into a completely different world. KC squeezed her children and let them hug her back. She felt their warmth and cherished their caressing hands and touches. During those few seconds, she thought of others too; of good people like Ed Spader and his wife. They were always so kind. And she recalled more immediate friends who were still nearby; they too had all been so wonderful: so kind and thoughtful over the past few days.
By the time she returned from her dog walk, Oona was in the kitchen, and KC’s mind returned to the present – this night and this time. Only a few feet away, Oona’s eyes smiled brightly. Her long black tresses shown blue in the light. Resplendent in all her beauty, Oona was as radiant as KC always knew her to be.
“So the kids didn’t rough you up too badly?” KC playfully asked her friend.
With some swagger Oona drew closer to KC. She approached her slowly and deliberately.
KC seemed a little stiff, a little awkward so close to her friend. “Stinkly seems warm and comfortable with Oona,” she thought. “And that’s a good thing. And I’ll bet Stinkly will also be okay with her séances.” She finally took a deep breath and smiled broadly for Oona. Before all this had happened, the dinner ritual began when everyone – Dad or Mom or whomever –gathered in the kitchen or the dining room, whatever the evening or the occasion. Sadly, with her husband no longer coming home for dinner, it meant that everyone was already here and, presumably, ready to eat and talk about their day.
“Can we exchange some pleasantries and talk about dinner later?” Oona smiled. And the two women embraced.
“I didn’t say anything about dinner, replied KC.”
“I heard you loud and clear,” Oona said with her flavorful and sultry, and perfectly slight, French affectation. She smiled through her lavender lipstick.
“You’re funny,” KC gleamed. “Oona, with all that’s been going on, maybe we should just eat out again,” she shyly suggested, as if directed to no one in particular.
“Again? Mon Dieu!” replied Oona.
“No, really,” KC pleaded. “It would be so hard sitting at that table tonight.” Or sitting at any table here in this house. “I don’t know what it is.” The one thing they had always cherished was to eat together as a family. And now those days would never be the same.
“Let’s eat out!” the kids screamed in unison as they rushed in around the two adults.
“You know what it is, my dear friend,” offered Oona. “We all know what it is. This is your first day back to work. And we had planned to do the same…anyway,” she smiled. Oona and KC shared a longer hug.
KC wept softly into her friend’s shoulder. Her attractiveness was completely undisguised and undiminished, and KC felt the love and strength – great strength – in their squeeze. How at her age, KC’s natural attributes admirably withstood the impact of a grieving widow with the tragedy and intensity of her loss, and the many uncertainties which surrounded everyone’s newly emerging roles and duties.
Oona would not release KC who was so much unlike her own mother. She nestled her adoring face against KC’s cheek. Impressive, sensuous strength even in the most difficult of times. Oona thought back four years to their time in Virginia, when KC stood solidly at her son Louis’ side when he claimed to have seen a ghost in their attic. Oona could see and feel that strength so plainly now, and not since the time they had first met. Oona’s own mother was a completely different story. Oona loved her mother, yes, though not in the way Louis loved KC. Oona’s mother Julette was different; Julette did things not for love so much as for fear. Julette was a French-Haitian beauty who had done everything for her husband; and everything she could do with him to keep their family together. Her daughter learned years later that Julette dutifully relocated to Jamaica for her husband Paul Neeci, a French diplomat posted to that island nation shortly before the birth of their only child, “the adorable baby” Oona, who entered the world on New Year’s Day in 1982. Now Oona recounted how it must have hurt KC so deeply when she picked up her life, and the lives of her children, to follow her own husband to Virginia. But it was love and not fear that led KC to follow her husband there.
Oona recalled how KC and Julette were close in age, and their similarities ended right there. She remembered that without her father, Julette was nothing. Her mother was helpless then, helpless when her father died, and helpless still today. Oona felt the pain her mother expressed when she so suddenly left her life in Haiti, and with it the pain she so freely accepted for her husband and his career. The pain to mitigate her fear. Julette, with jet black hair and eyes like her daughter, would have done anything for her husband, no matter what the disruption; no matter how happy or content her life might have been.
KC staunchly supported her son, Louis, unlike Oona’s mother who never supported her daughter when she needed her most. Julette was ashamed of the old ways of magick, African Voodoo mixed with the traditional Catholic religion which she, Julette, firmly embraced. And she tried from the earliest times to extinguish her daughter’s most special skills. Yes, for Julette, Catholic beliefs and African spirits were a toxic combination, and it was only after Julette’s mother, Oona’s beloved Mamie, followed the family to America, that the young Oona unlocked her unbounded metaphysical potential. The principal truth was that Oona did not need her mother so much as she wanted her mother’s love and her support. She wanted her mother to be her cheerleader, and she never got that from her. And in spite of the void, Oona proved time and again she was better than most if not all those who stood around her. With good grades and athleticism, with societal skills and acumen from the earliest age, Oona constantly proved her abilities in learning and absorbing life. She was brilliant from the time she could crawl.
Throughout Oona’s life so far, most things came rather easy for her. Her family’s stay in Jamaica had been brief. It ended when Oona’s father landed his dream job at the French Consulate in New Orleans. Julette and Oona followed and Mamie arrived shortly thereafter. Mamie quickly rose up the Hoodoo hierarchy in that great city, and for a few years New Orleans was home for them all. That was until Oona left for a formal European education. And once her father and her Mamie passed on, Julette stayed in New Orleans where she lives – exists – to this day. Julette cowered and schemed and survived. By contrast, KC is strong and truthful, and she lives! Born and reared in eastern Massachusetts, USA, KC was the antithesis of Julette. KC spoke from her heart and always stood up whether for people or to people.
The two women stood surrounded by three cherubic faces. “Come on Mom,” the kids cried. “Let’s eat out!”
“What’s for dinner?” shouted Thankful.
Things had moved so, so fast for KC. After only one day back to work, she already had a new job interview lined up in Boston. It was a possible huge step forward in her resurrected banking career. The appointment was scheduled for next week, and it had taken only one call. It seemed that her reputation had survived her child nurturing years and her displacement down south. The job sounded like a great new position with her old employer on State Street, in the heart of the Financial District. Still, only a week had passed since his death.
The two women took leave of the kids, and took places in the study. They would leave for dinner once everyone had a few minutes to get ready.
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” KC sobbed into Oona’s ear as the two rose from their seats and walked out to the vestibule. “What a mess this has made for all of us. He was such a pain in the ass sometimes, and still I miss him so much.” She left Oona’s side and called for her scattered children. Then in a dreamlike and curious way, KC suddenly turned back to Oona and added, “I have to reach him Oona.” KC’s eyes were wet with tears. “And with you, I know I will. What the hell was he planning to do in Washington anyway? And why wouldn’t he tell me?” She glared at her friend. “What was his big secret, Oona?”
“I do not know ma chère.”
“I asked you not to call me that,” KC scolded.
“Sorry my dear friend. I am truly sorry. And he is not here. There are no ghosts or spirits here in this house…yet.” Oona gave a wink and with a small smile, she stated calmly, “Now my dear, it is time for dinner. I have grown quite hungry, my dear friend. Shall we rest our minds, and prepare to go out?” Oona reached down to KC and took her hands. They both loved to dine out as they both loved to cook (provided that someone else tidied up afterwards). For Oona there was but one other great love of her life: lovemaking. And with either, Oona was a winner.
KC was so far unable to relax. Oona offered her a glass of wine which she refused. The kids finally assembled at the stairway, and the women faced the direction of the adoring children. And everyone committed to think about dinner. KC and Oona would think later about the other, more troublesome things. There was so much to think about.
“Oona, we need to think about this year’s holiday season too,” KC said as she was escorted out the front door. “What are we going to do?”
With a broad smile Oona tugged KC along. “Nothing just yet. Have no fear my dear. For now, let us all enjoy dinner.” Oona was alive with a cheery energy. “I have no doubt and I am perfectly certain that everyone wants to eat well tonight.”
But where is Louis?
Sullen young Louis was the last one who left the house. He moved mechanically in the direction of his mom’s car parked in the driveway. “Why are middle age people in charge of the world?” the boy asked himself. “Opa, can you hear me, Opa? Dad?” he mumbled as he walked in the dim light. “Can either of you hear me?” Louis could hear nothing but the continuous commotion from the others.