Can't You Be Normal?
The fire pit lit, the grill set to heat up, marshmallows and an assortment of fruit stuck onto skewers, steaks marinating, salads prepared and drinks chilling. Everything is set for a pleasant barbecue on the beach. Everything other than the guests of honour. After storming out earlier in the day, they have still not returned. Any texts sent have been read but ignored, calls have gone unanswered. Perhaps she has a guilty conscience because she does know about mummy in law to be’s shenanigans. Or maybe she thought we were judging Todd. Considering we’ve only seen him for a few minutes, it’s been rather difficult to form an opinion on him. It’s almost impossible to know what goes on in Alice’s head sometimes; I’ve pretty much given up even trying. Pouring some gin into a tumbler, I type out another text message, index finger hovering over the send button. Taking a swig of gin I press send. “Still, no reply?” Pearse asks as he sits down opposite me.
“Not a peep.”
“Have you tried calling?” Showing him my phone's screen he says, “Oh, maybe we should go look for them.”
“I was considering that too, maybe they’ve been kidnapped or mugged and it’s not her checking the phone.” A swig of gin.
“Oli calm down, I don’t think anything untoward has happened them.”
“You don’t know that.” Another swig of gin.
“Olivia.” Pearse says reaching out for the glass, “The gin isn’t helping, it’s just making you cook up the worse case scenarios.” Pushing his hand away, I empty the glass in one go, he sighs. Both he and Joey have been doing that a lot lately, maybe I should listen to them more. I consider the notion for a brief moment, nah as much as I love them both, I don't think either are the right ones to take advice from. Would be like taking advice from me.
“Is this food ever going to be cooked, I’m bloody starving?”August asks a surly expression on his face; his guts are his god; they always have been ever since he was little.
“We’re waiting for her ladyship to return,” Pearse replies, August tuts.
“Sorry, Oli but I’m not waiting any longer for her, she knew what time we’d be eating, and it is way past that now.”
“Fine cook the steaks just leave hers and his uncooked.”
“Can we cook them?” Joey asks, poking his head around the door, August nods. “Excellent. I can’t wait to get my teeth into one of them.” Savages, a steak is the last thing on my mind right now.
“There are some prawns in the fridge, throw a few of them on the grill for me would you.”
“Yes, your highness.” August says bobbing a curtsy.
Waving my hand, I say, “Dismissed.” We giggle, I refill my tumbler and take a sip, Pearse gets up retrieves a glass from the cabinet and proceeds to fill it.
“Hey, that’s my gin.”
“Sharing is caring Oli. I’m gonna sit by the fire pit you want to join me?”
“Sounds good to me.”
“Don’t worry about it she’ll show up.”
As we are eating, drinking and being merry Alice and Todd casually walk up the beach looking like they haven’t a care in the world. By now, everyone has had a few too many drinks, and any self restraint has long since vanished.
“Where the hell have you been?” Surprisingly it’s Simon who snaps at her; August would have been my bet, though he and Joey are too busy seeing who can balance a can of beer on their head the longest.
“I beg your pardon.” She replies with a little too much indignation for one who buggered off for hours, leaving everyone in the lurch.
“We’ve been waiting here for you for hours to get back.” Simon is usually the quiet one he rarely comments on these kinds of situations.
“Doesn’t seem like you’re waiting any longer.”
“Why should we, you didn’t even have the decency to reply to any of Oli’s texts?” She snorts, at least she didn’t try to deny ignoring them, I’ll give her credit for that.
“I’ve been anywhere but here Simon, that’s where I’ve been.” Finally, the penny drops, she’s embarrassed by us, her less than squeaky clean family no doubt can’t live up to the expectations of the puritanical Pendleton-Brookes'.
“Why did you agree to come then Alice if being with us is the last thing you want?”
“I thought for once it might be different, who the hell was I kidding none of you can be normal.”
“I see, so we should fake it and pretend to be something we aren’t, to satisfy what exactly Alice? A list of what is and what isn’t appropriate behaviour.”
“Yes, what normal people do at such gatherings, not the usual mayhem that ensues when this family is involved.” That sounded more like Esther talking than Alice, that said I don’t know her at all. Maybe she has always felt this way about us and kept it hidden, or maybe the Pendleton-Brookes are influencing her in some way. Perhaps I’m just delusional hoping against all reason that it’s not how she truly feels.
“Since when did you care about normal?”
“Since I’ve seen what normal is, and this,” She says gesturing at all of us, “is not normal.” How so, what is so abnormal about us, sure we can get rather loud and drink more than the average person at family gatherings, but that is who we are.
“And why is that then Alice?” August asks throwing the beer can he had been balancing on his head onto the sand.
“She’s not talking about you August, are you Alice?”
“If the shoe fits.” She all but spits the words at me.
“I thought we’d got past this Alice, that we were trying to move on and have a relationship with each other.”
“So did I but you go and make it all about you again, even this weekend, you bring your two whatever they are, and your dogs, and your cat.” So Joey and Pearse are now some problem, she's known them both her entire life.
“Fine Alice I’m sorry I brought the dogs, they can’t stay at home on their own especially when August is here too, you know no-one else is comfortable with them.”
“Why couldn’t you just be like everyone else for one weekend?”
“Are we so bad, so unbearable that you don’t want the man you’re going to marry to see us as we are? I’m sorry Mr Pendleton-Brookes if we aren’t paragons of virtue and if we in some way offend your delicate sensibilities, but that is who were are, take us or leave us.” Holding my hand out towards him, he takes it and nods his head.
“I think I’ll take it.”
“Todd,” Alice exclaims in an outraged tone.
“What Alice I rather like your family, well the ones I have met.” Well, colour me surprised, maybe old Todd isn’t so bad after all.
“You can remove the stick from your arse now Alice.” August comments as he throws two steaks on the barbecue. “Beer?” August asks offering Todd a beer.
“I’m more of a brandy man myself, but why not?” Alice looks outraged; it would seem in her quest for normality; she found the opposite.