My perfect world was coming to an end. My parents were divorcing; and now I was losing my cousin. In the sixteen years of life I had lived though the goodness and the ugliness of growing up. With the joy and pain of growing up, I had learned many lessons on what a teenage girl has to go through on the rollercoaster of adolescent life.
When morning came, I awakened to a painful headache and puffy eyes. I had cried so much in my sleep after the fight I had with Cousin Ray. I thought about Mindy and how I blamed her for taking my cousin away from me. My Cousin Ray belong to me, and no one could take him away from me. As I rose up, I heard a gentle tap on the door. The opened and Daddy stepped inside.
“Hi, baby,” he greeted with a light smile.
“Hi, Daddy,” I answered with sadness.
Daddy came over to my bed and sat next to me. “Ray has the day off and he’s taking us to the beach. I would like for you to get ready. It’ll take your mind off the fight from last night.”
“I’m not going.”
Daddy sighed. “I don’t want to argue with you, Butterfly. I know that you’re old enough to make your decisions, but I want you to make peace with your cousin and get over what conflict you have against him. Your cousin’s getting married next summer and he wants to tell you that he’s sorry for hurting you. I want you to apologize to him for your part in the conflict. Ray loves you and deep down in your heart you love him, too. Just apologize to Ray and make peace with him. . When you’re ready to apologize to cousin, I’ll be downstairs waiting on you.”
Daddy gave me a side hug and left me alone. After Daddy left, I started to reflect on what I had done. I knew down in my heart that I had to apologize to Ray. I got out of bed and got ready for the beach. I took a shower and put on my mermaid-pink swimsuit and sunscreen. For the last touch, I tied my brown hair back into a ponytail. I went downstairs and found Ray in the kitchen, having coffee and reading the newspaper. I looked at my cousin as he glanced my way. I took a moment on what to say to him. I found the words in my heart.
I came over to my cousin and faced him. “I’m sorry,” I said.
Cousin Ray stood up and embraced me. “I forgive you too, honey,” he said.
Later on, I joined my family downstairs in the den. Cousin Ray stepped in the front doorway. “I’m sorry, everyone,” he announced to us, “my car is too small and it can’t fit everyone inside. I have to go to the car rental dealership to rent a van. It’ll take an hour to get the van ready; please bear with me.” Jordan groaned at the news.
‘I’ll go with you, Ray.” Daddy volunteered, “I know a lot about cars and vans.”
Cousin Ray ended up taking Daddy with him to the car rental dealership while we kids stayed with Miss Carla back at the house. To ease the time, Miss Carla entertained us with stories and songs. Miss Carla gave us lemonade to drink. An hour later, Cousin Ray and Daddy came back with the van. “I’ve got the van,” Cousin Ray called, “let’s rock!” We cheered as we raced out the door and hopped into the van. We waved goodbye to Miss Carla as we drove away.
Along the way, Cousin Ray made a u-turn up the road that lead to an apartment building. Cousin Ray drove up to the building and parked the van in the parking lot. Turning his head to me, he said, “Butterfly, I want you to go to the intercom box and press the button to apartment 315. Just ask for Mindy.”
I was in disbelief. “Mindy’s—“
“Yes, she’s coming with us. Now move along.”
I unfastened my seatbelt and slid open the van door. I stepped outside and walked over to the front door. When I approached the door, I saw the intercom box. The box had buttons and the apartment numbers of the people who lived in the building. I scanned for apartment number 315. I found the number and Mindy’s name and pressed the button. The button made an electric buzzing sound
“Yes?” a female voice answered over the intercom.
“Is Mindy here?” I replied. “My Cousin Ray’s come to take her to the beach.”
“Hang on a minute. I’ll tell her that you’re here.”
As I waited, I studied my time tables in my head. I almost made it to 8×14 when I saw Mindy through the glass frame of the door. Mindy opened the door and appeared in front of me. Mindy wore a blue swimsuit with a scarf wrapped around her waist. She wore opened-toe sandals and carried a big picnic basket. Sticking out her arm to me, she spoke in a British accent, “Your grace, take me to your carriage.” I locked my arm with hers and walked her over to the van. As we stepped inside the van, Ray examined Mindy from head to toe and couldn’t help but blush at her beauty.
“Hi, Mindy,” Ray spoke. “You look as lovely as a rose in a garden.
Mindy scoffed. “Honey, I’m twenty-eight years old. I’m more beautiful than any flower in a garden of weeds.” We buckled our seatbelts as Cousin Ray started the car.
During the ride to the beach, Mindy held a conversation with us. Mindy was getting along with my family. T.R. and Jordan asked Mindy how our cousin proposed to her. Mindy told them that she and Cousin Ray were at a mini-golf course with some co-workers. After the game was over, Cousin Ray ordered some nachos to split with her. Eating the nachos, Mindy bit something hard. Mindy spat into her napkin and saw that it was a sapphire ring. And the rest was history. We laughed in unison at the story. I began to like Mindy for her spirit. Mindy was the right choice for my cousin to have as a wife. I got a chance to talk to Mindy and found out that she wasn’t the mean person I thought she was. My jealousy was fading away from my heart.
Mindy watched me from the corner of her eye and knew what was happening to me. “Thank you for being kind to me, Butterfly,” she said. “I’m happy that you have finally accepted me into your family.” I was happy to get to know Mindy. For the rest of the trip, I felt happy.
Out of my window, I saw the beach. With the ocean and the waves crashing along the shoreline, it was like seeing a 3-D picture coming to life. Cousin Ray drove into the parking lot to park the van. When Cousin Ray finally found a parking space, Mindy and my family were glad with relief. After my cousin parked the van, I leaped out of the van and raced with T.R. and Jordan to the ocean. We took our time walking to the ocean since the sandbank was too hot for us to run. I raced my brother and sister to the ocean, shouting, “Last one’s in a skunk in a bunk!” . I drove into the water head first into the water as T.R. and Jordan jumped in after me. In the water, I saw Mindy, Daddy and Cousin Ray setting up a spot on the shore.
As Mindy placed her picnic basket down on the blanket, Cousin Ray picked her up in his arms and started carrying her toward the ocean. Mindy fought my cousin, struggling. “Let me go, you dim-dim!” she demanded. Cousin Ray got into the water, with Mindy still in his arms.
Mindy cried, “Ray, Don’t!”
Cousin Ray smiled. “Goodbye, Mindy.”
In a split second, my cousin threw his fiancée into the water. Mindy leaped up out of the water like a daffodil in the springtime. Before she could chew my cousin out, a juggernaut ocean wave hit her from behind and knocked her back into the water. Mindy got up again to see Cousin Ray laughing at her.
“You jerk,” Mindy shouted, “I’ll get you for that!”
Mindy tried to push Cousin Ray in the water. With a quick mind, Cousin Ray grabbed Mindy’s arm and fell into the water with him. Cousin Ray and Mindy jumped out of the water and laughed together. T.R. and Jordan laughed at the scene. I laughed with them. I took a glance at Cousin Ray and Mindy. I saw Mindy kiss my cousin on his left ear and whispering sweet overtures into it. I remember whispering into Cousin Ray’s left ear and kissing it. It was the same ear that my cousin was deaf in.
When he was a boy, Ray was with some friends on a school field trip on the beach. In the middle of a conversation with his friends, he saw a girl drowning in the ocean. Ray dove in and rescued the girl. Ray saved the girl; two days later, he caught a cold and suffered an ear infection that caused him to lose his hearing in his left ear. Instead of feeling sorry for being half-deaf, Ray developed a ‘trick’ that he often uses to this day.
When someone whispers into his left ear, Cousin Ray feels the vibration that is felt within the tone. With a pen and paper, he writes down what was said to him and answers the reply right back. Cousin Ray was thirteen when he started the trick. He has done it for 16 years. Cousin Ray only told a few close people about his secret. Before the announcement, I whispered into my cousin’s left ear, “Ray Quidame, I’ll love you ‘til the day I die. Now and forever.”
And my cousin would think of what to say to me. He took his time to give his reply. Cousin Ray found it. He leaned forward to my ear and gave me an ear kiss that made my heart melt.
“Now we’re even,” was his reply.
The ‘forever’ that I hoped for would never come true.
Later on in the day, it was time to eat. Mindy’s basket was stuffed with food that she made herself. Mindy was an Iron Chef. There were sandwiches, rice balls, pickles; devilled eggs, donuts, peach cobbler, lemonade and iced tea. It was a smorgasbord of cold food for a hot summer day.
“I took up cooking lessons at the community college,” Mindy confessed. “I remember having to make lunch for my class. The best part of getting married is that I get to try my cooking skills on my man and my family on the holidays. Well, don’t just stare at my food, let’s eat!”
We did what Mindy told us and ate to our heart’s content. At first I wouldn’t like the food Mindy made. After a few bites, I was eating like a queen. After the cold lunch, we went for a walk along the shore. On our walk, we saw seashells that were pretty as jewels. Daddy told us that we could pick up a few to take home with us. I noticed a hermit crab crawling out of its shell. The shell was white with purple spots on it. I bent down to the hermit crab and told it, “I know you don’t mind me taking your old home away from you. I hope that your new home will be nicer than this one was. Thank you.”
I have a habit of talking to animals. When I was a kid, I met a Buddhist monk at a Buddhist temple. I was with a tour group, doing a report on Buddhism. The monk told me that every living animal has a living spirit within them. I was haunted by the monk’s words. Over the years, I became a vegetarian. After the summer ended, I became a full-fledged vegetarian. I can eat whatever I want as long as it doesn’t have a soul. In my opinion, killing animals for food or sport is wrong. I still miss meat, but my family has gotten used to me not eating meat with them.
On our way, we stopped at a photo booth. We decided to take pictures in the booth. At first Cousin Ray declined to have his picture taken.
“Ray-Gun, please don’t do this to us,” Mindy pleaded, “just do this for me. And please smile.”
Cousin Ray gave in and went through with it.
The pictures cost a dollar for four takes. I took a picture with T.R. and Jordan first. The grown-ups were second. Then we split up in groups. I took a photo with Daddy, T.R. and Jordan, and Cousin Ray taking a picture with Mindy; it went on like this until everyone had their picture taken. On the last picture, we had to cram into the photo booth. We smiled as our pictures were being taken. After the photos, we went to the Seven-Eleven and brought some sodas and two beers for Mindy and Daddy. Cousin Ray rarely drinks alcoholic beverages, except on special occasions. The last time my cousin drank was at a tavern in Charleston. My cousin remembered the time his was drunk and got into a fight with another man for bullying him and his friends. Cousin Ray got sick and threw up in the tavern.
My cousin has drunk in moderation ever since.
The sun was setting and we were all feeling sleepy. Cousin Ray decided that it was time for us to go home. We got into the van and drove back home. During the trip home, I looked at the pictures of my family and myself. One of the pictures that made me look over was that of Cousin Ray and Mindy. Mindy and Cousin Ray were just being like any ordinary couple in love. On the last photo, Cousin Ray was giving Mindy a kiss on her cheek.
I remembered back on what my cousin said about being free to kiss any woman in the world and not having to marry her like people had back in 14th century Italy. But this wasn’t 14th century Italy, this was 21st century America. My cousin was kissing a woman he was going to marry and there was nothing I could do to stop it from happening or change his mind.
Cousin Ray drove Mindy back to her apartment. Cousin Ray got out of the van and opened the door for Mindy. Mindy got out as Cousin Ray walked her to the front door. Out the window, I saw them talking and laughing.
‘I had a great time, Ray-Gun,” Mindy said kindly.
Cousin Ray was reddening when he talked.
“Anytime, my dear,” was my cousin’s reply.
“I can’t believe that we’re getting married next summer and moving to Atlanta in the autumn. A new life together; we’re so young.”
Cousin Ray sighed deeply. “I know. I’ve known you for years, Mindy. You were my best friend, and now you’re going to be my wife. I never planned to fall in love with you. What do you think our marriage with come out of?”
Mindy took a brief moment to speak.
“I’m not sure if they’ll be time for a family where we’re going. We’ll be so busy with our new jobs and all; I’m not sure having a baby would be possible. We’re young and the long hours at work. I’m just not ready to be a mother just yet.”
“We’ll just put off having a family for a year and just focus on our careers. You don’t have to worry, my honey.”
“Bullcrap! I’ve heard that same phrase from many guys thousands of time.”
Cousin Ray swept Mindy off her feet and into his arms. Cousin Ray placed Mindy’s back against the door, dipped her just a midway and kissed her. Mindy embraced Cousin Ray and gave in to the rapture. After the kiss, Mindy told Cousin Ray goodnight. She gave him one last kiss before going inside. Cousin Ray said goodnight as Mindy went inside for the night.
Cousin Ray smiled as he walked back to the van. I saw the glow upon his face. It was the glow of love. As Cousin Ray got inside, he glanced at me.
“I can’t help that I love her more than you,” he told me. “Butterfly, I’ll always love you as my dear sweet cousin. You’ll always be my cousin. I’ll wait the day when I’ll see you and your family at the wedding.”
“Yes,” I answered. “Next summer—-“
“Your birthday, why?”
“No reason. Just a day I love so much ever since I came to America. Next year I’ll become a US citizen. I’ve just began to experience life, now I’ve going to live it to the fullest. I’ve been studying to get my citizenship for so many years now. Now it’s going to happen. I’m a man of two worlds; Canada and America.”
I fell asleep after Cousin Ray spoke to me. It was that Daddy woke me up that we were back at the house. Still sleepy, I struggled to walk inside. Inside, I went upstairs to bed. I opened the door to my bedroom and stepped inside. I focused my eyes on an envelope on my bed. Miss Carla somehow had somehow went into my room and placed the envelope on my bed. There was a sticky note on the envelope from Miss Carla:
Your friend Anna came by today. I told her that you were at the beach with your family. She seemed very sad when she gave me the note. Her eyes were red and she sounded very tried. I asked her what was the matter was; she just told me to give you this note. It isn’t like Anna to be sad like this since she met you. I don’t know what’s happened to her. Please read this letter in the morning.
I peeled the sticky note off the envelope. Written on the front of the envelope was: To Butterfly Taylor, From Anna Knight.
A dark cloud was creeping around me as I held Anna’s letter. I turned on the light as I ripped opened the envelope and pulled out the letter. I begin reading Anna’s letter.
To be continued/Stay Tuned!