Chapter 6: Until We Meet Again
Journeying on a longer route back to the cabin by the lake. The Scandinavian styled Volvo V60 coasts down the mildly busy road. Litha’s eyes evaluates the cross-country compact shape of the car and the lush, contemporary design of the interior.
Seated at the passenger sea, Cece gazes out of the window, eyes wondering past the family-styled homes and then to the obsidian mountains far into the distance. Much further out than where gramps and gran live. And their home alone is already isolated with neighbours far and few in-between.
“I must apologise for my friends’ behaviour, they’re not normally like that. I promise,” Meeko says, stealing glances at every opportunity.
“Nah, they were just happy to see you. I can relate to that.”
His eyes reach for her and their gaze meet. The sunlight streaming in from his side, brightening his irises to glisten like pools of liquid cinnamon.
“Besides,” she adds, severing eye contact. “I like that they were real, transparent and weren’t fake like most people are when they meet new people.”
“A little too transparent,” Litha remarks from the backseat.
Meeko nods his head, respecting his opinion. His window open, warm air ruffling through his ebony strands. “I value all kinds of honesty; it is the crux of maintaining a healthy relationship. Through communication.”
“Yeah okay, Dr Phil.”
In due course, the Volvo pulls up into their street and stops right next to the cobblestone pathway. Meeko snaps the door open and quickly rounds the car to open the passenger door for Cece.
Litha eagerly exits the SUV.
She hops out of the car and Meeko closes the door behind her.
“I would like to say that I enjoyed myself…” he dawdles off and shrugs helplessly. “But I can’t. It was simply way too short.”
A bashful giggle escapes her, and she scuffles the tarmac with her shoe. “A—whole—two—hours,” she draws out exaggeratedly. “Here I thought you would’ve had enough of me.”
Meeko flaunts his trademark grin. “Even an eternity would be too short.”
Litha gags in the background. “I literally—” wincing, tasting non-existent bile, “—threw up in my mouth.” He turns and makes his way to the start of the pathway.
A few steps in. Meeko calls to his back. “Hey.”
Litha halts as if forcibly reeled back. Glacially, he turns back around.
“I’m not done with you either,” he says and glances at Cece. “Aria hosts an annual summer party; I don’t know where or when it will be this summer. Over the years I only attended twice and both times were unforgettable.”
He winks at Litha. “Consider yourselves invited.”
"You say it like I just won a praise." He revolves and saunters down the slope. “Depends, I got things to do.”
Meeko cocks his head to the side. “Oh, like what?”
Without looking back. “Anything else,” he yells back.
Meeko laughs good-naturedly and Cece glares after him, cheeks flushed a pink tint.
“I’m sorry about my brother’s behaviour,” Cece excuses. “And I can promise that he's always like that.”
His laugh fades into a comfortable silence and for a moment they observe each other.
“I should head down,” Cece says, pointing back to the cabin.
Meeko’s mouth opens as if to object, but his back pocket buzzes, keeping him silent.
“And you should finally answer your phone.”
He clenches his jaw, holding it taut for a long while before he speaks up again. “Yes, it seems I’m needed again,” he says cryptically.
He looks down at her, seizing her gaze. His qualms within dissipating. “Until we meet again,” he whispers.
“Yeah, maybe.” Her voice surprisingly steady. She spins around and steps up, allowing the pathway to guide her down.
Meeko watches her intently. Only when she’s at the front door, he races back into the car, taking off without delay.
The front door ajar, Cece enters and closes it behind her. Gaze on the ground, she waltzes inside, thoughtlessly swaying from side to side.
“And then?” Gran stands behind the island counter like it’s her office space. “Why she wearing such a big grin?”
Nipped back to reality, she looks up. Only now feeling the muscles in her cheeks stretched, she slowly draws her mouth to a close.
Litha snickers at her, his body leaning against the back frame of the long couch. “She’s been hit, gran-gran.”
She folds her arms. “By what, a bullet?” Tone riddled with scorn.
“Nah.” Litha shakes his head exaggeratedly. “Worse, something way more lethal.”
A burst of embarrassment spreads through her from point until tip. “Where’s grandpa?”
“Nap,” gran says brusquely. She locks her eyes on Cece like a homing missile. “That room of yours looks like a bomb went off in your suitcase. Fold. Pack. Now.”
Cece stands at attention and executes a mock salute. “Yes, ma’am.”
She clicks her heels and marches to the passageway. On the way, Litha hauls himself straight and follows.
Secure in their shared room. Cece swivels around to stare at Litha dead in the eyes.
“What is your problem with him?”
Litha shoulders past her and slumps down on his bed. “What you mean?” He bends over, untying his shoes.
Cece chuckles dryly. “Your sarcastic, alpha-male macho-ness goes from zero to one hundred real quick when he around. And it’s only been twice. The first time doesn’t even count.”
He slips off his kicks and falls on his back, then lifts his rear to yank out his phone. “Cause of your usually killer instincts, I honestly thought you would be smarter than this." She shakes his head with disappointment. "Catching feelings is really a disease...one that dulls the senses.”
In denial, she says, “I don’t even know him.”
Eyes on the phone, he throws one hand at her. “Precisely, sis. You know nothing about him.”
“And what, you do?”
“More than you,” he retorts, his tone leathered with animosity. “I ain’t blinded like you, I see behind rich boy’s prince charming façade.”
Even-tone, she says, “If I’m so blind, then what am I not seeing?”
“No-one can help you to see, sis.” His eyes move off the screen, darting to her face and then it settles on her bed. “For now. You should be a good lil grandkid and focus on that dog-pile behind you.”
Dining on a scrumptious meal, everyone munching away at their portion of Italian baked meatballs, flavour-packed with Ragu all Bolognese, fettucine pasta, layered with melted mozzarella. Served with a side of crispy garlic baguette.
“I’m glad you’re making new friends.” Gran pauses to chew on a spice-infused meatball. “Maybe it will give you incentive to visit us more in the future, instead of a ten-year gap.”
Cece stays quite.
“Believe me,” Litha says, “I ain’t here for friends.”
“Mm.” A thought planted in her mind. Gran points her fork at gramps and swallows. “We need to stop by the florist tomorrow on our way. I want to get Katherine those spotted orchids that she likes.”
Gramps frowns. “Well then, we should get Brian something, too, since he’s the one in hospital.”
Cece perks up.
Gran nods, wagging her fork at him before she continues.
“Hospital?” She asks carefully. “What happened?”
Gramps lets out a sullen sigh, chest deflating. “Unfortunate, really. A good friend of mine, my former golf partner, Brian Jameson. Every summer he takes his twin boys out fishing on the lake. Practically only once a year they get quality bonding time with him. He’s a workaholic and perfectionist. A time-consuming combo.”
Gran adds her voice. “Which is why I find it unbelievable that a man as cautious as him. Sailing for most of his life gets into a boating accident like he's one of those spoiled rich kids.”
Litha freezes mid-movement. A meatball a few inches from his mouth. He lowers it back to his plate. “The boating accident in Oakhill?”
Gran blinks at him, surprise creeping into her voice. “Yes…how do you know about that?”
Litha squirms slightly in his seat, discomfort crawling up his spine like a hairy, thick-legged spider.
“Meeko’s friend,” Cece says dazedly, her gaze far-flung. “Um… what happened exactly?”
Gramps shrugs. “We’re going to find out when we visit him tomorrow. When Katherine called, she sounded disorientated. So I didn’t want to press too hard.”
Litha and Cece trade looks; telepathic staring.
“But I thank the good Lord that everyone came out in one piece. Its only Brian that’s a bit banged up and his twin boys are okay. Only a few abrasions.”
After dinner, Gran and Gramps retire to their bedroom. The siblings are hard at work, Cece washes the dishes and Litha is on drying and packing duty. Although they are right beside each other, they might as well be worlds apart. Tangible silence wedged between them, each one submerged in their own sea of thoughts. Their hands on autopilot while their minds are adrift.
Scrubbing a plate, too many times and for too long. Cece cannot help the uncanny feeling that torments her mind unabatingly. The most damming part is that she can’t explain way. She knows that she has no reason to feel this way, but she does. Litha stands beside her and has been wiping the same glass for a full minute.
He finally places it aside. “Have you called mom?”
Cece dunks the plate into the neighbouring sink filled with soapy water. “No. Texted though.” Her hands disappear into the foam, fiddling for the utensils in the deep.
She peers over at him then focuses her eyes back down. “It’s weird… what happened to Mr Jameson, huh?” Poking for a reaction.
Litha casually dries off the plate and shrugs. “Apparently accidents happen a lot around here.”
“A strange thing on its own, but apparently, never to Mr Jameson,” she retorts.
“First time for everything,” Litha shuts down. “Misfortune doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor, sis.”
Cece accepts and harmonizes with him. “Accidents happen.”
She accepts, but she does not believe.
And deep down, neither does he.