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Chapter 1- Not At All What I Expected
I lay on my bed, hands behind my head resting on my pillow, kicking one knee back and forth, frowning all the while. I didn’t see how this was fair. Give up my room? To someone I’d never met and knew pretty much nothing about? This sucked. Over the years, my parents had told me so damned little about my aunt that I wasn’t even sure of her name.
I mulled over what I did know about her- she was my mother’s younger sister. They’d never really talked about her because apparently my grandmother moved with my aunt to Europe after she’d been abused by my grandfather. Mom was already married to my dad, so it wasn’t directly affecting her and to be honest, I’d assumed she didn’t really care, since I was eighteen now and the matter had come up maybe once in my entire life before all this.
What was all this? Well, apparently my grandmother had died. That being said, my aunt was looking to return to ‘the colonies’ and make a new life here, with whatever inheritance she’d received. In a totally unexpected show of familial devotion, probably at the behest of my dad, mom had insisted that he sister come and live with us until she got herself established and found her own place.
Now this might have not bothered me so much, since I’m rather chill about being around people I don’t know, but it was somehow decided, without my consent, that my aunt Allie would be commandeering my room. Me? Well, I was young and adaptable so I could make do in the rec room in our basement.
Saying I was pissed was a minor understatement and I made sure both my parents knew it. Hence, I was brooding in my room, even though we were scheduled to go pick her up from the airport less than an hour from now.
“Alex?” my dad called cheerfully from downstairs. “Time to go, get the head out!”
I said nothing, continuing to lay on my bed, scowling at the ceiling.
“ALEXANDER ORION DAYRAVEN!” my mother thundered from downstairs, clearly fed up with me being obstreperous about this issue. “Get your sorry behind down here or I’ll drag you down by your uvula!”
I froze. Even for her she sounded pissed.
“Don’t make me come up there!”
I got my generally chill nature from my dad, whereas I got my stubborn streak from mom. Problem was, most people assumed I blended those two traits into passive-aggressiveness. I could see at moments like this why people would think that, but I like to believe they’re wrong.
Either way, pissing mom off was a bad idea. Guess I was stuck and just had to live with it.
I sighed and trudged downstairs, doing my best to look beshat upon, if no longer cantankerous. My dad chuckled and ruffled my hair, something he could do in spite of my imposing physique, because he was even bigger than me.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said as we headed out to the van. “For all you know, Allie’ll only be here a week or so before you can reclaim your man cave. Is being that nice to a long-lost family member really all that horrific?”
“Maybe it wouldn’t be if I’d been consulted and my opinion asked for,” I groused as we pulled out of the driveway. “But, as you may have noticed, no one did. I got back from swimming practice and bam, you two tell me that I’m giving up my room to a relative you know nothing about.”
“She’s your aunt, what’s there to know?” dad said as he drove.
“That’s all I know about her,” I replied in as restrained a voice as I could manage. “Her name is Allie. She’s mom’s younger sister. She’s moving back here after living in Europe. That’s what I know. You have to admit, it’s pretty scant information.”
“So what?” dad quipped. “What else do you need to know at this stage? A relative needs out help and we’re helping. Not like she won’t appreciate your sacrifice.”
“Yeah, I notice you two weren’t volunteering to give up your room and sleep in the Mines.” I grumbled.
“That’s because your father and I are adults and have paid our dues in society and have acquired dialectical wealth,” my mother added, her tone matter-of-fact in her inescapable logic. “You, you’ve barely been alive long enough to learn how to use your opposable thumbs, knuckle-dragger. Your dad and I are noted scholars and rather wealthy. You, on the other hand, have nothing.”
The problem here is that both my parents are indeed renowned scholars, with very high Intelligence Quotients. I did indeed inherit this trait from them but as yet lacked their unreal skill in wielding it as a lethal weapon. The logic train has no brakes once they get going. Both in their forties, they each held at least two doctorates in their field and were senior members of the local prestigious university. I’d graduated summa cum laude from high school a year early and began attending the same university on a full scholarship this past semester, majoring in my personal interests of poly-sci, history, and languages.
I knew my parents were proud of me, but they were still in charge. While I was under güvenilir bahis their roof, we did things their way. This was not a democracy, it was a dictatorship. I could deal with it or laughingly find my own way.
Alea iacta est.
It took an hour and change to reach the airport, so instead of squabbling with my parents, I simply retreated inside my head and went over historical events in my head, looking for threads about how they influenced even modern times.
“We’re here, wake up.”
“I’m awake,” I muttered, aware that they knew full-well I’d been awake the whole time, just lost in my own thoughts. I came by it honestly enough. We went through the busy terminals and finally identified the gate at which my Aunt Allie would be arriving. We stood near the gate and waited, hearing the announcement that her flight had landed and the passengers would be off-loading.
We must have waited at least twenty minutes and my mind began to wander again. I was definitely lost in the Paris Uprisings of 1848 when my mother’s voice intruded upon my ruminations.
“Allie! Oh my God, it’s wonderful to see you!”
I blinked and came out of my reverie to turn and see who my mom was talking to. I couldn’t see them, since my mother and father were both hugging the person I could only assume was my aunt. But then the huggie chain broke and my mom turned her head to beam at me before pulling away and introducing her sister.
“Alex? This is your aunt, Alexandra. You’re named after her, you know…”
I didn’t know what to say.
The woman looking at me was stunningly beautiful. Her hair was blonde, thick and lustrous gold. Her eyes were that unreal sapphire colour that men wrote poems about. Through her form-fitting shirt and hip-hugging European jeans I could tell she had a stunning body.
And she couldn’t have been older than nineteen.
“I guess I have a lot of explaining to do, hm?” my mom said from the front passenger’s seat as we drove home. My aunt, who was apparently named ‘Alexandra’ and for whom I was named, sat quietly in the passenger seat beside me, a slight smile on her face as she listened to us.
“Probably a good idea,” I replied, causing my aunt to smirk. I could already tell that trying to think of her as my aunt might take the better part of the rest of my natural life, since she wasn’t more than a year older than me. “Just… start at the beginning.”
“Fair enough,” mom agreed. “Well, your grandmother had me and I was an only child for a long time.”
“I figured out that much, if you two are genetically related.” I said flatly.
“I’d already married your father by the time my little sister was born,” mom continued, ignoring my petulant tone. “It was certainly unexpected, since mom was at the outer edge of being viable to have children again when Alexandra came along.”
“Well, you married dad when you were twenty-five, so if that happened first, then there’s twenty-six years between you. That’s quite a span, you have to admit.”
“No argument there. Anyways, your grandfather, as you know, was developing very tragic and dangerous mental issues at the time. When your grandmother had another kid against all odds, it triggered something in him and he became violent and abusive. Rather than stay and try to work it out, since he was in a terrifying spiral, mom took everything she could and fled to Europe with my little sister, where he could never reach her.”
I was silent for a few moments.
“It was very hard on me, I admit, because mom didn’t even tell me until after she’d gone,” mom said, somewhat morosely. “She didn’t tell me where they went, for fear that my dad might somehow find out from me, even inadvertently. I was crushed at the time, but I understood, once I knew how bad your grandfather had gotten.”
“So, you didn’t even know where grandma went.” I murmured, the whole scenario beginning to make perhaps a little sense to me.
“It was for her protection, Allie’s and my own,” she said sadly. “It was devastating to be robbed of my mother and the little sister I’d just met, but I understood in my heart. Your grandfather raged and called and threatened, but your father stood squarely in the way and wouldn’t let him come over ever. It’s why you’ve never met him, even though he was alive until last year.”
“Wow, that’s really rough.” I sighed. “I had no idea.”
“And I hate to say it, but we kept the information from you on purpose, especially when you were young,” my fathered added. “Just in case he ever found you. We felt like we couldn’t be too careful.”
“Yeah, that makes sense now,” I agreed. “So… grandma and Al- Aunt Alexandra high-tailed it to Europe and I was born just under a year later.”
“Yes,” my mom confirmed. “I missed my little sister so much that your father and I agreed to name you after her.”
“I hope she has better middle names than I do.” I muttered, causing my so-called ‘aunt’ sitting next to me to smirk.
“I türkçe bahis will have you know that ‘Orion’ and ‘Dayraven’ are both perfectly acceptable literary names,” my mother announced. “We picked them very carefully.”
“Yeah,” I snorted. “Pretty sure one is Greek and the other is Old English for ‘Please Beat Me Up’…”
My aunt almost choked on her laughter and turned her head to smile at me, her unreal blue eyes dancing with mirth. I found it strangely compelling and knew that I’d kill to see that look in her eyes constantly.
“Oh, you complain endlessly,” my mother sighed wearily. “But that’s the gist of it, Walter Winchell. Allie, how about you fill in any gaps for us from a more recently perspective?”
My aunt took a breath, gathering her thoughts.
“I hardly know where to begin…” she said and I was instantly enthralled by the sound of her voice- it was lyrical and she spoke perfect English, and yet I could not readily identify the source of her accent. It wasn’t anything I associated with the British Islands, nor was it any sort of North American accent, no Oceanic. I just waited for her to continue.
“As I told you over the phone, we moved to England first, living just outside of London, where mother taught International Relations. By the time I was six, though, she was tiring of that scene and moved us to Paris, where she taught Gallic Studies in English. When she was tired of Paris, we moved to Bologna, where we lived in an atalier and she worked on her art. After that she whisked us off to Copenhagen for about three years and then Berlin. She was teaching Germanic languages when we heard our father had died. Not long after that, she became ill and we retired to a little village outside Cardiff and she died peacefully just a week ago.”
My mother shook her head as she listened. “She never stopped loving daddy, did she?”
“No,” my aunt said in a sad tone. “She knew she couldn’t be with him but she was still dedicated to him and did everything she could to check on him. I think she just had been waiting for him to go and then she joined him.”
“It kept our family apart for so long but maybe there’s time to make up for that now,” my mother said. “I think we all need that.”
My aunt nodded. “I’m sure it was awful not knowing and basically having to pretend you had no mother or sister. Having to keep it from everyone, even your own son. You’re so strong, Karen, just like mom always told me.”
Mom smiled and subtly dabbed at the corner of her eye. “Well, maybe, but I had a great support network with these two lugs. They’ve kept me going and busy, for sure.”
“Alex, are you tired or hungry?” my father asked. “I just want to make sure you’re properly looked after.”
“I-” my aunt and I both responded simultaneously before pausing and laughing.
“Not you, dopey,” my father snorted. “I know you’re always hungry. I meant your aunt.”
She smiled prettily. “Thank you, Michael, but I’m actually rather tired from the plane trip, not to mention all the events of the past week, so maybe back to your house so I can nap?”
My dad nodded and kept driving. My mother and her sister continued talking and I did my best not to stare at her- she and my mother could not look much less alike. They were both tall, but the similarities ended there. My mom was rather tan of skin where my aunt was fair. My mother’s hair and eyes were decidedly brown, although not dull. It might have been the age difference, but my mother’s build was also a little more solid. Mom had always said she took after her father in that regard, which I guess meant that my aunt looked like their mother.
I still had no chance to really observe her without staring, so I did my best to keep my eyes resolutely forward or looking out my own window. Finally though, not far from my house, my aunt asked me a question directly.
“Alex,” she chimed, smiling at me. “Anything you want to know?”
“Well sure, plenty,” I admitted. “But my first question is… where is your accent from? I’ve been trying the whole trip to place it and I can’t, it’s driving me crazy.”
She giggled and smiled at me. “You like it? I’ve sort of developed it over the years, it’s a reflection of all the places I’ve lived. I like to think it’s completely unique and no one else in the world sounds quite like me.”
“No argument there,” I muttered. “You had me stumped. I guess we’ll just have to call it ‘Alexandrian’, right?”
Her eyes lit up. “I love it! Why did I never think of that?”
“Ol’ Alex here is quite the linguist himself,” my dad said, grinning in the rear-view mirror. “He’s actually majoring in poly-sci and language studies at the university.”
I’m not sure I’d ever seen anyone look more delight than my aunt did right at that moment and I’m pretty sure I nearly fainted dead away at the sight of her. Somehow I stayed vertical and she clapped her hands together in approval.
“Wonderful!” she exclaimed. It’ll be great to have someone güvenilir bahis siteleri to practice languages with! I was so nervous to be coming home, but now I feel much better!”
Be still, my beating heart…
Dad and I were walking in behind mom and my aunt, with us carrying the mountains of baggage she’d brought up the steps. I did my level best to not get caught staring at her incredible behind, which seemed to be poured into her jeans.
That or her jeans were painted on. Either way, I was totally mesmerized as I walked behind her and very nearly caused a collision when my mother suddenly came to a stop at the front of our little baggage train.
“Gentlemen,” she declared as she fished out her keys. “Get her suitcases up to her room while I get my sister settled in.”
Even though I was newly enthralled of my aunt, hearing my room referred to in those terms still stung a little. I chose to ignore it and followed them into the house. Mom brought her into the kitchen to open some wine while dad led the charge up the stairs.
“C’mon, Alex!” he laughed. “One trip or death!”
I struggled up after him,trying not to mutter loudly. In spite of my dad being an egghead and a professor, he was also a large and athletic man with a strong build. My mother always poked fun at him for having a sexy brain inside a Venice Beach body. She didn’t mean it, of course, since she was constantly talking to her female friends about what good ‘breeding stock’ he was.
And I’m not small either, to be honest. I’m just over six feet tall and I have a swimmer’s build, whereas my dad looked more like a surfer-bodybuilder. He always cheerfully told me there was still plenty of time for me to grow into my brain. In a weird way, that was comforting coming from him.
We put everything down on the floor and then headed back to join my mom and aunt in the kitchen. They were leaning against the island, laughing and drinking red wine. Mom smiled more brightly than I had seen her do in ages and beckoned us in. she filled two more glasses and gave us each one.
“To a family reunited!” she declared, holding her glass up. “We will miss those who cannot be with us, but we’ll honour them by being the best family ever!”
We all agreed and clinked glasses before taking a drink. Aunt Alexandra smiled and laughed. “It’ll take some getting used to, remembering that I’m only recently legal to drink here. Back ho- I mean, back in Europe, drinking wine even as a young teen was hardly taboo.”
My mom smiled and put an gentle hand on her younger sister’s shoulder. “There’ll be time for everything, I promise. And you might need that time, just to equate to life here in the colonies. Of all the amazing places you’ve lived, where you were born wasn’t one of them.”
“True,” my aunt admitted. “Not to mention there’s a lot of photo albums that need updating and amalgamating.”
“I’ve got a really immediate question.” I interjected. “How’re we gonna distinguish between who’s being spoken to? We both respond to ‘Alex’, right?”
“Hm, hadn’t really thought of that in all the hustle and kerfuffle,” my mom said, getting pensive. “What if your father and I just called you by your full name all the time?”
“Pass.” I said flatly, causing my aunt to giggle.
“But she had the name first,” my dad said, determined to give me a hard time, apparently. “Not exactly fair to let an interloper like you just come in and-”
“Dear, please,” my mother said, shooting him a look. “Why do you always choose to be a part of the problem instead of the solution?”
“Well, I’d hate to deprive my nephew of his identity,” my aunt said, smiling at me and making my knees tremble. “That sounds so weird, calling you my nephew. You’re less than a year younger than me.”
“I know,” I agreed. “I’m still trying to wrap my brain around you somehow being my aunt. It makes absolutely no sense to me.”
“Cognitive dissonance,” she said, nodding. “Well, since you and I are the ones at issue, what do you think we should do about it?”
I looked into my wine glass and swirled the ruby-red liquid around for a moment, thinking hard. “Well, what if we called you ‘Alexa’?”
She thought about the name and mouthed it silently, as if she was tasting it. She then smiled beautifully and nodded. “I love it. Okay, it’s settled. You’re Alex, I’m Alexa. And for the love of God, please do not call me ‘Aunt Alexa’, because I’m pretty sure I’ll expire on the spot.”
I laughed. “I promise, Alexa.”
We all raised our glasses and welcomed Alexa, who’d finally come home.
“Okay, so here’s the room,” I said as we walked into what used to be my bedroom and turned on the light. “I’ve already evacuated everything I need down to the basement. Uh, let me show you were the wall sockets are.”
I walked her around the room, showing her the places where she could plug in her devices and she made note of how many adapters she would need, since her devices were European. Once I was done, she sat on the bed and sighed happily, smiling at me.
“I really appreciate everything you’ve done,” she said, her voice smooth as butter in my ears. “It means a lot to me.”
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