It can weigh on you like ten thousand pounds when somebody demands an answer to an unexpected question. A look between empathetic souls doesn't need words, and a heated look from an admirer needs no explanation.
People reveal their character when faced with the absence of noise. Their legs bounce unconsciously, clench their jaws, fingers run through hair, and smiles are faked as their critical eyes scan the room.
Those who can't stand being alone with their thoughts hum under their breath or fill the void with nonsensical chatter. For the past few days, as we traveled from Chicago to Cogden, I can't seem to shut up.
My dad wore a smile that lit up the sun and loved us deeply. When he died last week, he left a crater-sized divot in the family.
Ten years ago, my parents drew up their Last Will and Testament, and it dictated their children would be in the care of Lord and Lady Dashwood of Ackelson Park.
The preposterous idea of England was hard to wrap my mind around, but it wasn’t possible to care for them alone. My trust fund won't come to fruition until I'm twenty-five, and we wouldn't survive three years.
Gran and Grandpa charged two of their favorite staff to escort the four of us across the ocean. Viola and Simon are godsends. They exchanged empathetic looks with me while I tended to my siblings' needs, and I did my best to ignore the ache in my heart.
Grief has a presence that breathes and moves. It cuts in gradual sharp waves until your head breaks the surface. You are gasping for air, not realizing numbness had pulled you underwater.
Losing my mother was horrendous, but at least my father was still there. I chipped in by commuting to college, determined to help my dad raise Flora, Connor, and Reece.
The anticipation of meeting my grandparents and the millions of possibilities weighed heavily on my mind as we traveled. If I stopped exploring every facet of what could go wrong, all that would remain is sorrow. Standing at the back of the room before Dad's memorial, I resolved to be unbreakable. For them.
From what Viola and Simon divulged, Gran ran a tight ship as the lady of the house. Cordial but prim and proper. I'm unsure anybody would label me as those things.
My grandparents retain a high place in aristocratic society. If you don't know what that entails, good. Then I'm not alone here.
My heartbeat pounded in my ears when we pulled into the drive of Grandpa Jonah and Grandma Valentina's home. The great house was majestic with modern touches to the old world grace. The mid-morning sun beat on my back as I accepted Simon's hand to help me out of the car.
Yet as the dust kicked up by the car settled, and my grandparents stepped out to greet us, Gran held her hands out to me in a gesture of acceptance. "You favor Alexa," she murmured, bringing a hand to my face.
My mom Alexa was their youngest daughter. My parents bucked tradition and lifestyle in early adulthood, forging a new life in the States and cutting off communication. They hadn't even known we existed until last week.
As I blinked back tears and her face blurred before me, Gran drew me into her for a hug. "I miss her dearly."
For the past week, I have forced myself to keep my chin up, and her maternal touch broke me. I squeaked, burying my face into her shoulder, feeling ten years old. She awkwardly patted my back before releasing me to greet my sister, Flora. She is ten years old.
Grandpa's foreboding appearance seems to be a ruse. He is lanky and distinguished, wearing dark-rimmed glasses and a perpetual frown at rest. But at dinner last night, he couldn't stop cracking dad jokes.
Gran is concerned more with details and appearances than expressing herself. Her full dark hair is elegant, and her clothing immaculately pressed. Prim and proper, but pleasant—until things go awry.
We arrived yesterday morning, and I can confirm things have gone awry with my rambunctious siblings in Leto House.
Apprehension mounted in my chest as I pasted a smile on my face to greet them, praying that the dress I put on in the airport bathroom looked presentable. I had spent too much time fussing over Flora and the boys. I hurriedly zipped my dress, stuffed my leisurewear into my bag, and hightailed it back to the other five waiting.
As we pulled away from the airport, Viola helped me sweep my hair back from my face, securing it with an elastic, and Flora nodded with earnest eyes when I asked if I looked okay.
The skies were growing gloomy while darkening clouds threatened to spill their guts. We were whisked out of the impending rain while Flora prattled about the final plane ride to Grandpa. My brothers’ voices echoed off the opulent walls, and I felt my head spin while eyeing the intricate ivory ceiling medallion.
As they raved about our new home, Viola touched my arm gently, her dark eyes filled with concern. Other house staff had crept out with genial smiles, but my soul screamed for seclusion.
"Come with me," she had urged under her breath. I gratefully let Viola sweep me up the stairs to my private quarters. Her mouth curved into a gentle smile as she noiselessly pulled the door closed behind her, leaving me in solitude.
For the first time in many days, I collapsed in the silence and quietly wept my heart out.
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Xx, Sunshine ☀️