chapter forty two
“Oh my God Ell! If you don’t stop pacing back and forth peaking at the oven I’m calling 911 asking help to sedate you,” Jemi rolled her eyes at me sitting with both her legs up on the chair arms hugging it with knees reaching her chin behind the dining table.
Giving a last wary glance at the oven where it was baking the Apple pie that I made for Dominic’s parents which also happens to be his mother’s favorite as informed by him.
I rubbed my sweaty hands on the apron and walked towards Jemi and took a seat opposite her.
“Relax Miss Perfectionist. It is going to come out good and besides you made it with so much love. She is going to love it, anything cooked with love always taste good.“Genuine words edged in her calm voice as caring blue eyes regard me with a smile on her face.
Very assuring words, quite pleasing to my ears but somehow it doesn’t calm my nervous agitation.
It better come out good. I mentally pleaded, stress slowly coiling like an ivy wrapping me around making me come close to unravel.
Heaving a deep sigh I grabbed her glass of wine and down it all.
“Hey that’s mine,” She swats my hand as I placed the glass on the table.
“Sorry. I’ll fix another one for you.” I got up and grabbed the bottle from the kitchen island and filled the glass with the red wine and handed the drink to her.
“Thanks,” She mutters concerned eyes fixed on me as she takes a sip of the wine.
I sat down rubbing my hand on the back of my neck, nerves kicking in.
With great struggle, I find my voice as I meet her eyes,“I want to take all this calmly and in a more demure way but I can’t seem to kill my nerves. I just hope its a not a repetition like it was with Richard’s parents especially his mom. I’m exhausted dealing with people like them,” Voicing out my concern I rest my elbows on the table and buried my face on my palms.
Since the time Dominic had informed me about the dinner plan with his parents, I have been on the edge. Fighting back and forth between positive and negative thoughts.
I simply don’t find any relaxation at the prospect of meeting his parents.
Jemi chuckled making me face her taking my palms away from my face.
“No one can be as worse as Claire. That Witch is totally in another level. Ell, please just stop it okay, you are unnecessarily assuming all the worse things and stressing yourself more than it’s necessary.” Jemi admonished kneading her brows in annoyance.
She was right but my brain is just refusing to let me think positive.
“I know, I know. But..”
“No buts. Tonight would go amazingly well and his parents will love you. And besides Dominic is going to be there with you, I highly doubt he would sit there quietly if anyone tries to belittle you. Also given how his personality is I’m sure his parents are nothing but good folks. So, my friend, you need to calm the fuck down. Here drink some wine it will help settle the unnecessary nerves.” She handed me her glass which I took willingly but this time instead of gulping it all down I took a small sip savoring the taste of the wine.
I nodded,“You are right. I can be my worst stress producer sometimes,” I chuckled feeling lighter as I relaxed and lean back in the chair.
“That’s what. But it wouldn’t be you if you don’t stress about each and everything or everyone.” Jemi stated giving me a helpless look which earned a laugh from me.
She didn’t join me on the laugh but instead, I was met with her serious thoughtful look.
“What is it. Why are you looking at me all serious all of a sudden,” I asked.
“You have a big heart Ell,” She replies making me raise a brow at where she was getting at.
She ignores my expression and continues,“you always go out of your way to make people feel special and loved and tend to ignore yourself by placing other people first. I wish I was that selfless.” She paused adjusting her hands around her legs hugging it firmly,” But you should also know when it’s time to put your foot down. Learn to draw a line between who deserves it and who doesn’t.”
I nodded at her words. I know whatever she speaks is the truth. I have a sickness for being overly compassion to the point of default.
“The nearest example was Richard. I told you he was not worth your kindness but you didn’t listen to me. I knew he was going to create problems, anyway what’s done is done. Just promise me you won’t let him in your life in any shape or form.” Her voice unrelenting as serious gaze fixed on me waiting for me to agree.
“I’m done with him Jemi. That stunt he pulled at the party was the last straw.” My voice held determination as I assured her of my surety.
The other night further, into the conversation with Dominic, it was brought to my attention that Richard was trying to create a misunderstanding between us and it sickens me to the core.
It’s amazing how you think you know the person so well and nothing about them would surprise you just because they have been part of your life for a long time.
But in million ways you are wrong. People do manage to surprise you in a good way as well as in a bad way. And unfortunately for Richard, it has always been in the negative which forces me to be cautious of people’s intentions and not to be so naively trusting.
Of course, one must not be too cynical and be trusting too but not as naive as I was. It is stupid to give the knife to the same person who hurt you just because they needed it. Only to be harmed at your moment of trusting.
The oven timer went off indicating that the apple pie was finally done. To my great relief, it came out perfectly like the way I wanted. Visually it looked stunning thank God for that, I just hope it tastes as good as it looks.
Finally dressed I packed the apple pie in a paper box left it on top of the island and walked towards Jemi’s room.
“Hey, I’m moving out now. Dominic’s waiting outside for me.” I walked into her room.
“You look pretty. Perfectly dressed for the occasion, the only accessory you need now is confidence. Wear it with pride and have a good time.” She walked towards me and gave me a tight comforting hug.
“Thank you.” I smiled with relief. The tea length flared white skirt with black rose prints and a sleeveless high neck black blouse which I wore it by tugging inside the skirt and lastly, strappy grey heels finished the whole comfy chic look.
I didn’t want to dress too over the top nor too casual. And most importantly I wanted to feel comfortable at what I was wearing especially tonight, don’t want any side disturbances even in the form of a wardrobe malfunction.
With Jemi’s hand trapped around my shoulder casually, I walked towards the kitchen island to retrieve the Apple pie.
Putting the cell phone in my black box sling bag I grabbed the box that had the apple pie. Giving one last hug to Jemi I walked outside of our apartment and headed towards the elevator.
As I walked outside I saw Dominic leaning against the car with his arms folded wearing a charcoal three-piece suit.
“Hey,” I smiled walking towards him.
“You look beautiful,” He smiled as he takes me in his arms and giving a peck on my lips.
“Thank you.” I returned against his lips.
Once settled inside the car Arthur drove us towards our destination.
“Tense,” his light chuckle fills the silence in the car as he wraps his arms around me pulling me into his chest.
“Tense is too light of a word to accurately describe my emotions right now,” I laughed despite my unsettling nerves.
He places a feather-light kiss on top of my head,” Don’t worry I’ll be with you the whole time and besides my parents don’t bite,” He casually teases making me relax.
“By the way, I have been meaning to inform you this since last night. I have a property available for you guys to settle in, just let me know when you’d like to shift the office and I’ll let Janis arrange everything,” he informs as I turned to face him.
“That’s great! We just have a week left before this month ends so I won’t mind shifting the first week of next month. I’m sure Jemi would have no problem with it.” I informed feeling pleased. Jemi will be pleased too that we are finally moving out of the cramped place thereby helping us in securing more savings and succeed in purchasing our own office.
“Anytime is fine Sweetheart. Just let me know when and it will be taken care of,” He smiles.
“Thank you so much babe,” I gave a peck on his lips.
The greener the outside view displayed from the car window the more agitated I became. The change in scenery meant only one thing we were getting close to his place.
Seb had already filled me in about Dominic’s parents, his father was the friendlier one whereas his mother was a woman of few words, hard to impress, very stern looking on the outside but was actually a very kind and compassionate woman.
The news didn’t comfort me. Seeing my nervous look he admonished me by saying that I have nothing to worry about and that I should be myself and not get intimidated by them.
“We’ve arrived,” Dominic informs and I look out the window as the larger than life silver gate opens and shuts behind us as Arthur maneuvers the car uphill on a cobbled path with thick forested tall pine trees perched on either side of the road.
I noticed that it was a long stretched road because all I see was the cobbled road ahead and nothing else. I didn’t have to rack my brain in coming to the conclusion that it was a massive property.
Pointing his finger towards my window,” See that small pathway,” He tells me as I nodded looking out towards a small cobbled path separating the lush thick pine forest.
“Almost two kilometers down the path there is an old oak tree near the edge of a small lake it was there since the time my great-grandfather bought this land. That’s where Sebastian and I build our tree house together with my father’s help, of course, it’s still there intact.” He pauses and continues as I turn to face him.
“Our kids can use it when the time comes,” he says tenderly fingers brushing my cheek. I smile at the prospect of that happening. It leaves a warm happy feeling in my agitated heart.
I lean in to give a peck on his lips,” I love the idea of that.” He smiles at my words as I pull away.
“Is Seb’s place nearby too,” I asked.
“Its half an hour from here.”
“That’s not far then. Which was your regular hang out yours or his?” Carefully adjusting the wrapped apple pie on my lap as he takes my hand interlacing with his.
“Mine. In fact, he has his own room here, he had a difficult childhood so mother took it upon herself to make sure he isn’t affected by the troubles at his place. So he practically spent most of the time at my place.” His voice turned low as he spoke about it which made me feel sad for Seb.
“He shared a little bit about it but I didn’t know it was that bad,” I admitted. I thought I had bad for never having my parents but Seb’s was worse. Having both his parents only to be in constant bitterness between them that he admitted it was better he was without.
“He did,” surprise was his tone as he raised a brow.
“That’s good. He needs to open up sometimes he keeps too many things inside him.” He says with a hint of wariness.
“I know.” I sighed.
We finally arrived at a clear open space with an immaculately kept garden surrounded by clusters of hydrangeas of various colors adorning on each side of the path adding color to the greenery. The car drives forward into a round driveway in front of a humongous European style fountain all carved with white marble.
It was breathtaking.
The car halts right beside the fountain and my heart starts to hammer rapidly at an insane rate. I swallowed hard as Arthur gets out of the car and opens my door.
I sat with a concrete fixation on my seat as Dominic and Arthur patiently wait for me to get out of the car.
“Sweetheart its natural to get nervous but we have to get out of the car if we want to meet my folks,” His fingers tenderly brushes the hair out of my face as he kisses my cheek.
“Is it too late to back out,” Giving him a pleading look as I let out a nervous low laugh.
He chuckled,” Relax sweetheart. Will have a good time trust me.” Caring eyes meet my panic-stricken gaze.
I nervously nodded and dragged my wobbly legs out of the car.
The house. No, the palatial estate blew my mind. I was in awe, who the hell builds something like this. Is this what they call home? I continued staring at the magnificent architectural estate before me.
It was a grand chateauesque style, a French Renaissance chateau-style to be precise with steeply pitched roofs, turrets, and sculptural ornamentation. It had an architectural heritage feel to it.
“Wow,” I gasped.
“This estate was built by my great-grandfather. It’s more than a hundred years old.” He filled me in as I continued to stare at it in astonishment.
“It has a deep character to it a palace I must say. Simply beautiful,” I complimented turning to face him.
“Thank you. It takes a village to take care of this estate.” He chuckles wrapping his arm around my shoulder as he leads me towards the stairs.
“I’m sure it does,” I muttered.
The door was opened by a middle-aged man which I assumed was the butler.
“Good evening master Dominic. Miss,” he smiles dipping his head down slightly as he acknowledges our presence.
“Good evening Mathew. Where are my parents?” Dominic asks as we stepped inside.
“They are waiting in the parlour of the east wing.” Informed the butler.
Dominic gave a slight nod as we walked further towards the middle of the entrance.
It was jaw-droppingly woven in nothing but luxury. The interior of the house is focused around a Grand double staircase foyer, a beautiful massive crystal chandelier adorned above right in the middle of the room where we were standing. Smooth shiny white marble laid the floor underneath my feet. Walls adorned in massive expensive paintings and huge vast with equally tall stems of flowers perched on top of a round black table placed in between the space separating the double stairs.
I couldn’t contain my eyes from wondering around each and every corner of the space we were in.
“This is simply beautiful Dominic,” I gushed.
“Thanks, sweetheart. It’s all my mother’s doing she renovated most of the estate giving it a modern touch.” He returns as he leads me towards a long hallway.
After what seem to be never ending long hallway we took a right turn and stopped in front of an enormous heavy glass door with gold detailings.
Dominic pushed the door open and the moment we stepped inside the room a warm husky voice spoke.
“Ah! Son finally. I was beginning to think you guys won’t make it.” His father walked towards us standing up from one of the vintage tufted sofas along with a woman with snow-white pixie cut hair much shorter and older than him.
“Grammy what a pleasant surprise. I didn’t know you were back from Dublin,” Dominic’s voice filled with excitement as he walked towards the woman and enveloped her in a tight hug almost lifting her up from the floor.
She let out a soft laugh as Dominic put her down.
“I heard from your mother that you were bringing home a girl so I flew the moment she told me. I didnt want to be left out,” She smiles giving a quick glance towards me before Dominic put an arm around her.
“So you must be Arabella then. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” Dominic’s father turned towards me extending his hand for a handshake. A warm welcoming smile graces his face which had the same feature as Dominic but the color of his eyes was a deep brown and he was quite lean and tall but not as tall as his son.
I gave mine shaking his hand as I uncomfortably adjusted the apple pie box on the other hand,” Pleasure to meet you too Sir.”
“Please call me William,” he smiled.
Before I could react Dominic’s Grandmother called out.
“William stop crowding the poor girl and let her come and relax in one of the sofas,” She sternly called out resting her hands on her hips which earned a laugh from all three of us lightening the atmosphere. She looked so tiny standing next to Dominic.
Walking towards them, I scorched down a little bending my knees slightly as she enveloped me in a tight hug kissing on both my cheeks.
“My aren’t you just lovely.” Wise Grey-blue with warmth gazes at me and lips stretched into a welcoming smile.
“Sweetheart this is my darling grandmother. Mother of my father, I called her Grammy and Grammy this is Arabella.” Dominic makes the formal introduction.
“Its really nice to meet you, ma’am,” I smiled.
“Oh come on now stop with the formality called me Grammy and have a seat dear. My shoes are killing me,” She dramatically acknowledges looking down her heels which weren’t that long may half an inch?
We all laughed as we settled down on the sofa.
I placed the apple pie on the seat to my left as Dominic sat next to me on the right and his father and Grammy sat opposite us.
I wonder where his mother was. As if hearing my thoughts Dominic voice out about it.
“Where is mother?”
“She is attaining an important call. She should be done soon.” Was his father’s reply. So far his father and grammy seem very warm and friendly, I hope his mother is the same.
“So Arabella I heard you are a lawyer. How’s work?” His father asks as grammy grumply kicks off her shoes.
“Come on now William of all the conversations you would start with you had to straight away ask her about work. Can’t you be more gallantly boring,” Grammy shot her son a dismissive look which made him chuckle and shake his head.
Shifting her attention towards me,” I hope my grandson is treating you well,” She shot a warning look at Dominic.
I let out a soft laugh,” Yes he does Grammy.” I smiled turning to briefly meet his gaze.
“Oh come on Grammy. Do you really think that bad of me?” Dominic gave a wounded look placing his palm on his heart.
“Careful son. Your grandmother has already picked her side,” his father mock warned letting out a laugh.
“Shut it, William. Do you want me to fill Nicole’s ears on how you taunt me?” She glares at him but there was no anger in it but pure mischief.
“Not at all, mother. You are the best.”
“Of course I am. Old but better. Speaking of old this year I’m thinking of settling a disco-themed for my 85th birthday.” She gushes excitedly like a little girl which made me smile.
“Anything you want grammy. Where do you want it here or back in Dublin,” Dominic asks as he casually traps his arm around me from behind and resting it on my shoulder fingers slowly caressing my bare arm.
“Here of course. And Arabella I hope to see you at the party,” She smiles but her tone had an underlying meaning in it as she shots a meaningful glance at Dominic.
Dominic chuckles beside me,” Of course grammy she will be, there is no doubt about it.” Totally unphased by the presence of grammy and his father Dominic gives a peck on my cheek which make me go hot all over my body with embarrassment. Does he have to do the PDA now? I jabbed an elbow to his rib discreetly or so I thought but the keen attentive gaze of grammy didn’t miss it.
“Ah! Young love,” She exclaims and adorably giggles making me blush a deep red and nearly dying with mortification.
A blessing in disguise Dominic’s father started conversing again about my work despite the displeasure of grammy. I relaxed talking about familiar topic, a topic I’m confident of and his father seemed genuinely interested about what I had to say as he kept engaging me questions after questions.
I was in a conversation with Grammy about my parents and grandpa and my life in Ohio when we were interrupted by the opening and closing of the door behind us.
As I shifted my gaze towards it a very chic and sophisticated lady with brown bob cut hair and fringes adorning her slim face walked towards us wearing a nicely fitted blue and white floral dress. It’s length ending at the calves and a nude peep toe pump accentuated her nicely manicured feet. I also noticed she was wearing a beautiful round statement necklace.
“Mother,” Dominic stood up and walked towards her giving her a hug as she kisses his cheek.
“I’m sorry the call couldn’t be avoided,” She says apologetically as they walked towards us.
“It’s alright,” Dominic replies as he shifts his gaze on me smiling.
“Mother I want you to meet my girlfriend Arabella. And Arabella this is my mother Nicole.”
I stood up heart hammering against my chest.
Her gaze shifts to me. Lips set in straight line as she regards me standing the same height as me.
“It’s nice to meet you, Ma’am.” I managed a shaky smile extending my hand towards her for a handshake.
“Nice to meet you too,” A ghost of a smile appeared on her lips which quickly disappeared. The handshake was not a firm hello so glad to meet you energetic grip but was a brief one. She just grasped my fingers lightly and released it.
She sat down beside her husband with her gaze on us. There was an air of authority about her, which strongly suggests a confident woman. She sat with her chin up shoulders back, keeping her knees and ankles tightly together and slanting her legs to the side. It was a perfectly proper sitting posture, I suddenly felt heavily nervous.
I clasped my palms tightly on my lap as nerves started to kick in under her scrutinizing gaze. The only solace I found was when Dominic put his palm on top of mine slowly drawing circles with his thumb.
Dominic’s mother was the most intimidating person I have ever met in my entire life. Lips pressed tightly together, her gaze on us but it mostly found its way to me. Judging, observing and scrutinizing as if she’s trying to figure out me.
Heart tumps against my chest so rapidly I feel at this rate it would pop out of my rib cage. The only light in this situation was at least there was no trace of contempt on her face towards me, yet.