After the hugs, kisses, playful slugs and tussling of the hair, Cousin Ray introduced us to Miss Carla. Miss Carla was Cousin Ray’s housekeeper. Miss Carla had brown mocha hair and sun-kissed skin. She was plump and had a mole on her left cheek. Miss Carla looked at us ans smiled warmly.
“Hello, children,” she replied. Without a second guess, we knew that Miss Carla was Hispanic. But something in her tone told us kids that although we were guest in Cousin Ray’s house, Miss Carla would not tolerate any nonsense in the house. Miss Carla set an example of a mother-figure.
As I looked around the house, I felt something rubbing against my leg. It was summer, so I was wearing a skirot* that showed off my long legs. I looked down and saw a small gray tabby kitten. I bent down and starched its ears. The kitten mewed with glee as I picked it up. Jordan and T.R. wanted to play with the kitten. I handed the kitten over to them.
T.R. was smiling with delight with the kitten in her arms. “Who are you, Cutie Pie?” she asked. “You’re so cute. I wish I could take you home with me. We have a dog with us, she’ll like you.” My sister loved animals. Cousin Ray joined us to play with the kitten.
“I’ve seen Smokie came to greet you.” Cousin Ray said. Cousin Ray petted her and went on, “I’ve got her from the animal shelter yesterday. She’s such a sweetheart, aren’t you girl?”
I’d give my soul to have a kitten just like Smokie. Her smoke-gray fur and her shinny, saphire–blue eyes; Smokie was uber-cute. Potato would kill me if I held her too long. I gave Smokie back to Ray.
“Yo, I need help with these bags!” Daddy called.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take Smokie,” Miss Carla told Cousin Ray. Cousin Ray handed Smokie over to Miss Carla. Leaving Miss Carla and Smokie, we went to help Daddy with the bags.
Cousin Ray showed me upstairs to my bedroom. The room was next to T.R. and Jordan’s room, and under the attic. The house had four bedrooms. On such a short notice, Cousin Ray had to fit four extra people who were staying the month. I was fortunate to get a bedroom of my own.
When Cousin Ray and I were inside, I went over to the bed and sat down. The bed was brass and very soft. It was so soft that I felt sleepy sitting down.
Cousin Ray asked, “Is everything alright, honey?”
“Why do you always call me ‘honey’ ?” I asked him.
Cousin Ray took a moment to answer my question. He found his answer.
“Ever since I met you, you showed me that you are a sweet and good girl. Every time I see your picture, I’ve always dreamt of having a little girl just like you. That’s why I call you ‘honey’.”
“That makes sense.”
“I’ll be downstairs. Let me know if you need anything.”
After Cousin Ray walked out, I lay back on the bed and gazed up at the ceiling. I thought about what Cousin Ray’s words about calling me ‘honey’. I decided to explore the house. I got up and went out the door. I sunk down the steps and looked around to see if anybody was watching me. When the coast was clear, I went to the kitchen. Miss Carla was making lunch. I went out of the kitchen and headed to the door of the basement.
I looked around to see if anyone was watching me. When no one wasn’t watching, I quietly opened the door and went down the steps. I liked looking around places like basements. I reached the bottom and was surprised at what I saw. Ray had an office. Just like an office, there was a desk with a laptop, a bookshelf filled with books, and two college degrees mounted on the wall.
Something on Cousin Ray’s desk caught my attention. I walked over to the desk and saw a picture of Cousin Ray and me. As I saw the picture, it took me back to the day of Cousin Ray’s visit. I picked up the picture and studied the look on Cousin Ray’s face. Besides not liking to have his picture taken, Cousin Ray doesn’t like to smile when his picture is taken. My cousin was very shy and blushed easily when he’s with women, some men, and children. I saw the reddening glow on his face in the picture. I studied the picture for a few more seconds before placing it back down.
“I’ve always loved that picture of us.” A voice spoke gently behind me.
I turned around and was faced with Cousin Ray. He wasn’t too happy of me down in the basement.
“Hi.” he said.
“Oh, Ray. I didn’t know you was behind me.” I said, acting dumb.
“What are you doing down here?”
Once again, I played innocent. “I was just looking around. Wow, you have a cool office. Is your desk cherry or oak wood. Let me guess, you got it from IKEA? IKEA has a lot of cool stuff.”
Cousin Ray saw through my act and placed his forefinger and thumb to the bridge of his nose. Cousin Ray sighed as he shook his head. Cousin Ray then folded his arms across his chest and got to the point.
“You have no business sneaking around in my office,” he said tersely. “I’ll let it go this time; just don’t do it again. You’re sixteen, you should know better. Let’s go.”
Cousin Ray took me by the hand and escorted me up the steps. Along the way, he leaned over and softly whispered in my ear, “I bet all of the angels are jealous of you, because you are the most beautiful girl on Earth.”
I chuckled as we went out the door. I could not believe that Cousin Ray had just hit on me. It was one of many uncanny things that would happen to me and my family during our stay.
That morning the perdition that I made about Potato would become friends with Smokie had come true. When I brought Potato inside, she saw Smokie and ran to her. I thought that Potato would hurt Smokie when she got to her. But I was stun when Potato got to Smokie and became friends with her. Potato was licking Smokie’s face and playing with her. The stories about cats and dogs being enemies were bull-garbage. Potato and Smokie were friends like an ant and a grasshopper.
They were playing outside in the front yard with T.R. and Jordan as I watched from the sidelines on the porch. A voice echoed in my head with a quote: ‘People come and go. But a friend will never leave your heart.’
It was when a girl with some books walked up to me.
“Welcome to our neighborhood,” she said. “I’m Anna Knight. My brother Vladimir is at work. We’re Mr. Ray’s neighbors.”
The girl was Caucasian with a tan. Her strawberry-blond hair was tried in two braids with green ribbons. She wore a Gothic Lolita-styled dress and black platforms. My friends and I were into the Lolita/Goth-fashion craze. It was the first time that a girl dressed up in the style would walk out in the open and represent herself to me without a second thought on what people thought.
“I want to give you some books as a gift,” the girl said. “Some of them I don’t need and some that I wrote.” As Anna Knight handed me the books, I wanted to know more about her.
I asked her, “How old are you?”
“Fifteen. And you?”
“I see your brother and sister with Mr. Ray’s cat and a dog. Is the dog yours?”
“Yes. Her name’s Potato; the boy and girl playing with the cat and the dog are my brother and sister. My sister’s name is T.R. and my brother’s name is Jordan. I love them, but sometimes they drives me nuts.”
Anna laughed at what I said.
“My brother and I are like that sometimes. We do it because we love each other. My brother and I are like cake and milk. I’m my brother’s only sister and my brother’s my only brother. Both our parents are in the Army in Iraq, so It’s just us now.”
T.R. and Jordan saw Anna. They waved and called ‘hello’ to her. Anna waved back and echoed the greeting. I noticed the smoke coming out the window at her house.
“There’s something on fire at your house,” I told her.
“Holy Yaba Gaba! The casserole! I forgot all about it.”
Anna dashed for her house. I remembered the books she gave me.
“Thank you!” I called.
“I’ll see you later!” Anna called once more.
Without saying goodbye, Anna disappeared into her house.
* A skirt/shorts
To Be Continued/Stayed Tuned