Ties that bind

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“Wow” My voice is barely audible as I stare into the shiny glass chandelier, the double entry marble staircase is pushed back as it sheds light on the framed black wrought iron bannister. Ale stands in the middle as she usually does and holds out both her hands in a grand declaration of her wealth. Even the floors are extravagant, shiny marble floors wink at me from the opposing light of the chandelier. So this was the new renovation. I thought they’d just stick to the checkered black and white tiles but this was a major upgrade.

“I know it's beautiful, it costs a fortune too, so you know it's worth it” Her strong accent peaks as she gets even more excited. I try not to let the patois dominate my speaking too much. My father hates hearing me speak it. He says patois is vulgar and ghetto and if I wanted to live the uptown life it's better I drop it now, so I stick to the standard english and try my best not to twang.

“Lets get you out of those clothes before your father comes home.” She wraps her hand around my back and walks me down the room to the guest room I usually stay in. Sweet watermelon scented candles greet me as she wraps her hand around the gold lotus knob and pushes the door open. The imposing four poster bed occupies much of the room leaving space only for the fluffy fur rug and two identical bedside tables. The further I step inside the more joyous I become, the tiny four corners I sleep in can barely be called a bedroom as much as I can claim ownership with three other roommates. I flop backwards onto the bed, bag long forgotten as I stare at the cream tray ceiling, there rests another beautiful four candle chandelier hanging perfectly in the center of the room. I sit up, turning my head to the big bay windows perched on the textured panel walls covered in lines of horizontal lotus fixtures. Everything here is so big and gorgeous, so expensive.

She leaves without a word and I run off the bed in a sprint, desperate to be back inside the forbidden nirvana. The pearly white antique tub stands on handcrafted iron legs dusted in other gold embellishments to add to its beauty. I close the door and throw off my uniform, discarding everything on the marble sink as I kick off my socks and shoes and go to YouTube. My hand turns the heated tap and clogs the tub while I scroll through my recent searches. Nothing comes up but sad songs I’m not in the mood to hear so I settle on a Toni Braxton song. The pressure is instantaneous and strong, nothing like at home where on the off chance someone turns on a pipe in the house the same time as you the only thing you hear is the dry pipe heaving.

Warm heat rises from the full tub and I throw in some oils and soapy fragrances. I couldn’t do this at home, god forbid the pipe actually works and it does get so far my mother would beat me if I used that much water. Everything has to be saved in that house. Her hair can’t last a few weeks untouched but I have to go without warm water and cable so she can come home and look the same with that tired style. My legs stretch forward as I step in the tub, it’s like heaven. I feel like Julia Roberts in pretty woman when she sees the tub and finally has a warm bath. They cover the expanse of my chest, leaning back I stretch my feet and bask in the welcoming heat.

I can’t wait till I’m older and can have a life just like this. Just like Ale’s. I wish somebody like my Dad just swoops in and pampers me day and night and treats me to expensive trips all over the world. Her voice carries a killing melody that glides over my half closed lips until my eyes are shut in contentment and my life back in the country is long forgotten.

“Take me, take me, take me away. All I wanna know is-” a thud sounds behind the door causing me to stop mid verse. I lean forward and watch as shadows of feet pass under the door. Quickly, I stand and unclog the tub releasing the now lukewarm water. A thick wooly robe is perched on a rack between the tub and french styled mirror. Wrapping it around me I hesitantly step onto the carpet,draping the fabric tighter to my naked body. I catch my reflection in the mirror. The self illuminating mirror casts warm amber tones on my exposed shoulder- everything around me just feels so right- so rich and elegant. So me. No, I heard footfalls. Don’t be distracted Mel! I reach down and open the cabinet arming myself the flat iron.My hand wraps around the knob. With a quick pull I swing the door open aiming the iron high only to stop mid way when I see the perpetrator.

“Daddy” I breathe a sigh of relief. He stands tall in his freshly pressed ash grey blazer, white linen polo and slim fit black jeans. He’s getting younger, he looks happier since the separation not the broken depressed man on the verge of a break. He dropped his beer belly for a more athletic build, his balding hair for a wavy fade and even got new teeth , this man looks more like a model for Hollister than he does my dad.

“Hey Princess” His burly arms wrap around my shoulders. My nose is tucked in his neck as he lifts me in one of those grizzly bear hugs. I squeal like the little girl I am, eager for my Daddy’s affection. He lowers me back to the floor and tucks his hands in his pockets. His eyes search my face and give nothing away even as he sees the obvious marks on my face. Is he going to say something?

“Alessandra told me you just got here, I had to see you before I leave.” Leave?

“Leave where Daddy? I thought this was Ale’s birthday weekend” He shakes his head and runs his hand over his head again. Is he about to lie to me? No, my Dad would never lie to me. My mother however, I can’t put anything past her. He’s probably just busy. Maybe he’ll get back in time for me to ask him if I can move in with them.

“I know sweetheart, you and her will still keep up with your festivities but Daddy has some work that needs to be done.” Reluctantly Inod and give him a small smile. He kisses my forehead and leaves. I walk to the window and look as he breaks into a soft sprint and his driver opens the door for him to get in. In a split second my eyes widen as he leans his head into the car to kiss a woman. I wipe my eyes and squint. She’s tan just like Ale with big curly blonde hair and painfully uncomfortable breasts sitting in those cheap fashion nova fiits. Her hands snake around his shoulders and pull him in just as the door slams shut. My hand slaps over my mouth as I hold in a gasp.

This is his business? Does Ale know about this? I spin around and get dressed. I never saw anything and if I did Dad can explain it another time. I’m probably seeing things. My dad would never cheat on Ale, she’s everything a woman should be: beautiful, well spoken -every man’s fantasy- He would never jeopardize something like this with Ale by cheating, I refuse to believe it.

I moisturize myself with some lotion I carried in my bag and force my way into the yellow butterfly print midi, these are all Ale wears. So I wear them too. I slip on the brown bridget sandals laid at the foot of my bed and spritz the perfume I found laying on the bed along with the outfit. My hair is still pasted down with gel, thank god. I don’t look as drab as I do with my regular hair, The waves the gel gives me makes me all the more exotic. I look great, not like those instagram models but cute nonetheless. A quick swipe of lipgloss has me looking flawless. No more is the childish looking Melanie, I look more mature. This is what I want not the little girl clothes mom snags from all over. I don't want to look too young, I want to be just the right pick.

Ale is nowhere near me it seems so I look around for her. Loud music draws me to the pool where a group of women are drinking and dancing. Water splashes all corners and I spot Ale sitting with one of her girlfriends on the lounge chair.

“Ale!” Her head doesn’t turn. I call again but it’s the same result.

Fine, I’ll just go to her. She pulls down the huge sunglasses and raises a perfectly drawn brow once I’m directly in front of her. Her head hair is covered by one of those ridiculous hats women wear to the beach while she has on a one piece bikini with tiny triangles that leave little to the imagination as they’re held in place by thin white latex straps. Why's she acting like that? She’s probably sad Dad had to leave. They’re always glued to the hip, smiling and so entangled in each other to notice anyone else. . Her friend leans over and places her hand dangerously close to her private, whispering something that makes her turn her head and flash a saccharine smile.Weird, I’ve never seen friends act like this before. At least not those types of friends but Ale is not like that.

“Your Dad gone?” The chirpy tone she had for me earlier is replaced with a monotonous one filled with every bit of disinterest.

“Yea, Ale but I have something to tell you” I glance at her friend waiting for her to pick up the hint. “Alone” She maintains my glare and instead of leaving she leans further into the chair. Was this woman slow?

“Whatever you have to say just hurry up ” Her voice leaves me with an icy drawback. She sounds so much like my mother here. This is not the Alessandra I know, the Ale I know would never say things like this to me. No matter what the cause.

“Alessandra why are you being rude to me? Is this because Dad has to go on a business trip? Are you angry” Her friend snickers and covers her mouth with a closed fist.

“Business trip” She laughs “Is that what he told you Melanie?”

“Yes” My voice is firm and authoritative. If he told me he had a business trip then that’s exactly what it was.

“You’re so young and naive believing everything you see. Don’t you think I was a business trip”Without a care for explanation she picks up her mojito, I stand piecing together the pieces as she sips from her straw as uncaring and cold as she was when I first got here.

“He’s cheating on you and you’re happy?” every part of my face contorts into confusion. He was cheating. I become so absorbed into their sham of a relationship it barely dawns on me that my father just lied to my face and rather than spending time with me like he promised he just ran off to have an affair.

“He can go anywhere he wants as far as I ’m concerned. I have the ring and the man. You think those little models you love idolizing don’t all live the same lie”She dismisses me with a flick of her hand. I turn away so she can’t see the tear fall from my eye. Blinking away the last remnants of my infatuation with Ale, I head inside and strip off the clothes she got me and crawl into bed.

Her words echo in my ears as I scroll through my phone beneath the covers. Just because her life was a sham doesn’t mean the rest of these girls’ are. And that doesn’t mean mine will be.

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