Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Four Stars Chapter Ten

Previous chapter: More Voodoo and Hoodoo.

Chapter Ten: A Little Solitude, Please!
To Francesca, Japanese is a second language. One she speaks badly. ~The Watcher.
It was a fine morning as Attie padded downstairs. She found her twin washing up her breakfast plate in the sink. "Morning, sis," the younger Lion said as she got some vanilla cream from the fridge. As she scooped it into a bowl and topped it with raspberries, she asked, "How's the day?"

"I'm alright," said Isabel. "I screwed up a painting at work yesterday but nobody else out of this house knows about it."

"Why?" Attie wondered, sitting down with the cream pudding.

"I named it something else because I thought I'd screw up even worse if I tried to fix it."

"What'cha call it?" Attie asked, now curious. Isabel sat in the chair opposite her twin and grinned.

"Candy Gramps," Isabel said with a giggle. "Nobody noticed that it was supposed to be of Nefertiti before I painted it wrong." Attie snorted with laughter as well when Hera came out of her room for breakfast.

Attie ate some pudding.
Hera ate pudding for breakfast too.
Hera plopped into a chair after grabbing some quick pudding from the fridge. She chirped, "I didn't know you had the heart to be a prankster, Isabel."

"My pranks are harmless unlike certain imbeciles," Isabel said, "I don't mean you, Attie," she added when her twin scowled.

"That's good to hear, cause someone in this house is too gloomy for pranks," said Hera. "It's your cousin."

"She's usually uptight about practical jokes," said Attie. "She's a sad snob."

Francesca slunk by.
"Speaking of sad," Hera said, "Your cousin looks like she'll burst into tears at any minute. I think she's still homesick or has unfinished business in New York."

At that moment, Francesca slunk by the half-wall separating the kitchen from the hobby corner. She looked down at the floor and avoided the others' gaze. Her phone went off with a shrill voice screeching about mirrors. She picked up the phone and held it to her ear as Hera and Attie ate their puddings.
Francesca answered the phone.
"Obaa, watashi wa happy ja nai," Francesca said to the phone after listening to it.

"Kanashii? Terue-chan, yoku tabemasu dess-ka?"

"But Obaasan, watashi eating well, taberu problem ja nai," Francesca struggled to speak Japanese to her grandmother. "Greta-oba wa kara heya dess-ka?"

"Hai," said the voice on the line. "She here now," the voice continued.

"What the heck is Fran babbling about?" Attie whispered to Hera.

"Homesick, I guess," Hera whispered back. "Her mom's side is fully Japanese. Her oba looked after her when she was a baby."

Francesca then chatted to her aunt in English, which was easier for her. She went on about feeling lonely, just as Hera guessed. She walked away from the dinner table to get a better reception.

"She can't have two obas if they both mean grandma. Her father's mother is part-Chinese," Attie whispered as Francesca walked off.

Isabel explained, "Greta's her aunt and Francesca was struggling to talk to her gran."

"Who's Terue?" asked Attie.

"Fran's Japanese name. I thought our uncle Daisuke explained it to you just before mom helped look after her three years ago. He was sick with cancer, Fran was barely sixteen then," Isabel went on.
Hera and Attie nodded at Isabel's explanation.

"That was when she stayed with you Lions for a year, wasn't it?" Hera added. "Saw your cousin's alternative interests first hand."

Francesca was still talking to her aunt over the phone when the others finished their breakfast. As Hera strolled to her room, Francesca hung up, thinking over what her aunt had just said. "You need time to yourself, she says," Francesca mused. "Then I'll scurry off to where people won't disturb me."

At the tree again.
After the Lions had gone to work and while Hera took a nap, Francesca sneaked out of the house and ran to the colorful tree at the end of the road.

"Hi, tree," she said when she arrived. "I want a place where I can relax in peace."

Squeezing in.
The tree responded by letting its trunk slide open. "Is this the Faraway Tree or the Tree of Requirement?" thought Francesca as she squeezed into the familiar wooden hollow. "It probably boils down to the same thing."

She trod in the stream, waded over to the fog, and hopped through it. "Damn, I should have worn boots," she muttered when she noticed her soaked sneakers. "Why did I forget what I told Isabel the last time?"

 She changed her tune when she got into the hidden land, and took out her guitar to play. After getting tired of strumming Korobeiniki, she approached the waterfall and tried to fish in the pool.

Instead of paying attention to the line, she got lost in her own thoughts, including the time when her old high school got wind of her Goth tendencies but nobody cared to disturb her about it.

"Funny," she said to herself, "Hera's got a point about Goth being the new mainstream, but what about the old salts in that group? They won't want to be watered down into theme-park metalheads and dark punks, even if I tend towards the punk side of it."

A wriggle interrupted her thoughts, and she struggled to get the fishing reel in. The fish fell back into the lake with a plop and released itself. Francesca sighed with mock disappointment and put the fishing kit away.

Music by the lake.
She took out her violin and played it by the lake. As nobody was there to criticize her playing, she tried to cover a heavy metal song she heard once. The violin made it sound soft at parts. She continued playing until her phone alarm went off as a reminder to go home.

Francesca looked wistfully at the secret garden before leaving it behind. She felt much better after having some time to herself. She didn't sulk for the rest of the day, and even laughed heartily at one of Attie's jokes.

"You look so much better," Isabel said. "What did you do with yourself?"

"I spent some time alone, you know me, not much of a people person," Francesca replied. Isabel smiled as she understood what her cousin meant.

Next chapter: One More Outing.

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