For the rest of the morning Anna hung around. The reason for this was Anna’s brother was at work and wouldn’t be home until late in the evening. The divorce was heavy on my mind and the minds of my brother and sister. Jordan couldn’t watch cartoons, and T.R. played with Potato and Smokie to ease her mind. We were in our own world of childhood.
Saturday to me was one of the most boring days that the weekend offered. The four of us sat on the porch until noon. We heard the front door open and close. We stopped what we were doing and saw Cousin Ray.
Cousin Ray told us, “I know a secret place we can go to.”
We studied Cousin Ray, believing that he was pulling our leg. Cousin Ray read our minds by the looks on our faces.
“It isn’t anything weird or inappropriate,” he continued, “It’s just a place that I always come to when I’m down. I shared this place with no one; now I’m sharing it with you kids. What do you say?” We wanted to see the secret place Cousin Ray was talking about. Without a second thought, we decided to go with Cousin Ray to his secret place.
It took us three blocks to get to the secret place. Before we left, Cousin Ray made T.R. leave her pocket phone behind. We were sad that Potato and Smokie couldn’t come along with us, but they understood.
When we got to the secret place, it was like a Southern castle. The castle was really a mansion that was abandoned many years ago. The mansion had a white picket fence all around the yard. Opening the gate, Cousin Ray showed us the front porch. The front porch had a porch swing. In the backyard was a magnolia tree with a swing on its branch. To the left of the yard was a peach tree with real peaches that were the size of snow globes.
Inside the mansion was a love seat, a couch and a working harpsichord that still worked, in spite of the fact that it was old. Above our heads was a crystal chandelier. The five of us explored the mansion from the staircase, to the bedroom; everywhere we wanted to see. Cousin Ray looked at us and asked, “So, what do you think about my secret place?”
Anna looked at Cousin Ray and smiled. She answered,” It’s remarkable!”
All afternoon, we had a party. We took turns on the tree swing, reaching for the magnolia flower that was on the branch. On the porch swing, as the swing swayed, it gave way and broke. We laughed at what happened. Next, Cousin Ray showed us how to make flower wreaths to go upon our heads. Cousin Ray told T.R., Anna and me that if we placed the wreaths under our pillow at night and sleep on the pillow, would have dreams of our future husbands.
“I want to have a doctor for a husband, just like my daddy.” T.R. announced, placing the wreath on her head.
“Yeah. A gynecologist who’s a skirt chaser.” Anna joked lightheartedly.
We laughed at Anna’s joke. I scoffed.
“Well, my husband (or wife) will be whatever they want to be, as long as they can cook and clean when I come home from work.”
Cousin Ray was stunned. “Wife, Butterfly?”
Jordan placed his wreath on the ground. “When I grow up, I’m never getting married and having kids.” Jordan turned to Anna and asked her, “What will your husband be, Anna?” With the wreath on her head, Anna replied,” Whatever he will be.” Outside, the five of us did a Maypole dance under the magnolia tree(either though it was July.) As the day winded down, we went over to the peach tree and took ten peaches off the branch to snack on.
Inside the mansion, Cousin Ray played his guitar and I played the harpsichord. As the music played, I sang ‘Such Sweet Sorrow.’ As I sang, fresh tears came into my eyes. I thought about being seven years old and Cousin Ray singing me that song. After the song ended, we heard Anna crying. I saw her hiding her face in her hands, sobbing. I noticed a digital tape recorder next to her. I went over to Anna, just as T.R. and Jordan comforted her. I scooted down and placed my hand on Anna’s shoulder.
“Anna,” I began, “I know it’s a sad song. You have a right to cry, Sweetie.”
Anna dried her eyes and gazed up at me. “It’s not that the song is sad,” she explained. “It’s just that I’m happy. It was such a beautiful song. Could I trouble you with a request?” Anna was looking at Cousin Ray when she asked.
“Whatever you want, sweetheart.” was Cousin Ray’s reply.
“Could you play ‘Never my love’ and this time may I sing and T.R. play the harpsichord? Just this once?”
I saw the digital recorder beside Anna and thought about the ‘request’. Back then, I didn’t understand Anna’s request. After she left, I finally knew the truth of her request.
Cousin Ray studied Anna’s face and came to a decision.
“Request granted”, Cousin Ray smiled.
I let T.R. take my place on the chair in front of the harpsichord. T.R. was a wiz on the piano at our family’s apartment. Although I play both the guitar and the piano combined, it was nothing compared to my little sister’s key work. Anna stood up to join my sister and Cousin Ray. Anna stood next to T.R. and held the device in her hand like a microphone. T.R. and Cousin Ray began the music, as Anna stared to sing:
You ask me if there’ll come a time,
when I’ll grow tried of you.
Never my love
Never my love
What would you think,
When I ask you to spend your whole life with me?
Anna’s sweet voice blended in with the music. Anna never told me that she could sing like an angel. At the closing of the song, Anna gave one of the sweetest notes in her voice. After the song ended, we applaud. “That was a great song, Anna.” Cousin Ray complemented. “Thank you, Mr. Ray,” Anna whispered.
Before we went home, we took the rest of the peaches from the peach tree for the road. As we walked home, T.R. spoked to Anna. “I think you have a nice voice, Miss Anna. I think you should be a movie star.”
“A movie star?” Anna began.
“Or better yet, you could be on YouTube. I love your voice.”
“And I love your playing. I wish I could learn how to play by ear like you do.”
Anna and T.R. kept chatting until we went our separate ways. T.R. looked at me and told me that Anna was the nicest girls that she ever met. “I love Anna Knight,” my sister said, “I’m so glad that she’s our friend. Inside Cousin Ray’s house, I thought about Anna. Anna was indeed a sweet person that ever came into our lives. I couldn’t imagine my life without Anna. “I love Anna, too,” I told my sister. Miss Carla and Daddy saw the peaches we had. Miss Carla took them and made peach cobbler out of them.
To Be continued/Stay Tuned