It had to happen eventually. I couldn’t say no forever and be shunned or something. I had to man up, though I suppose woman up might be better in my case, and face my fears. I had to take a chance and try to get these people better so I could mock-judge their personality, so I could know what I was finally up against.
I’m starting to realize it’s not so much that I’m up against anything. My brothers trust these four men easily and while Mira is trusting, since that incident when he was younger, he has approached others but he’s never been as open as he is now. I want to believe that this is a good thing but his judgment could be clouded by something or other. It’s just one of those things.
So when Eoghan, the tall blonde with the strangely dyed bits of hair and the startling blue eyes (I admit I do so appreciate beautiful people and he is), said it was time for their weekly shared meal and I was invited, I said I would go. Those blue eyes went wide and I felt a bit of pleasure at having startled him. Just moments later he grinned, that pleased, overly happy with one’s self sort of grin and he went on his way.
That had been some hours ago. Now, bundled up with my two brothers at my side who can’t seem to stand still, I’m standing in front of the door they nearly dragged me to and I’m waiting. It clicks open and strange gold eyes briefly look at me, then at my brother and the door slides open a little wide.
I smile a little, uncertain and he returns the smile in much the same manner. Just a few steps away from him, just a little taller is the other one I hadn’t met before. Unlike his—what are they, lovers? They might be, I don’t know, I guess I have no labels yet—companion, he smiles brightly at me. He seems a little more outgoing.
“Don’t just stare, Quentin, close the door, it’s still chilly out.” He turns his gaze to me again and that smile once again, it warms something in me, I haven’t been smiled at this way by a stranger in some times, it’s nice. “Don’t mind him, he didn’t believe Eoghan when he said you’d finally agreed to come and have dinner with us, we’re all so pleased! I’m Yael and that of course is Quentin. It’s nice to finally be able to meet you, Zora.”
He’s very friendly. The twins have already wandered off, their coats are in the wardrobe in the foyer and I didn’t even notice them getting that done. I smile a little uncertainly and brush some hair behind my ear. He offers to take my coat so I take it off and he hangs it up carefully.
“Come on, I’ll show you around our little kitchen. If you see two balls of energy running around, don’t be surprised, that’ll be Areli and Lavi, we have two Bengals in the house.” He sounds pleasant, open and friendly. It’s hard to not want to open up to him. I feel myself smiling a little easier.
I open my mouth but I close it moments later. He cants his head at me, asking a question without voicing it and I shrug lightly. I don’t feel like I have to apologize for not having come until now. It was and still is my right to refuse invitations in the end and I don’t have to tell him or anyone else why I didn’t come before.
The door opens and closes again and I hear a voice I hadn’t before, welcoming their guest. I have to assume this is Quentin since I have heard both Alexis and Eoghan speak before and neither sound like this. Yael leads me to the kitchen. They have a large table set out, seven actually matching chairs set out and about it.
I briefly look around, perhaps to try and spot my brothers but I don’t see them. I suppose they can’t be far.
“This is a lovely place you’ve got.” I almost groan at my own words. That was pathetic and I know it too well, still, they’re spoken, can’t take them back.
He chuckles softly and shrugs, just one shoulder lifts and drop. “It’s home, we try to keep it open and comfortable, it’s how we like it.”
He pauses and looks around briefly, perhaps he’s looking for something. I’m not sure. Without warning however he takes my hand in his and starts to lead me away. I stiffen, he blinks, looks back at me and offers me a sheepish sort of smile though he doesn’t drop his hand. “Old habits. Would you like to see the garden?”
The garden? Well, that is a somewhat unexpected one though I find myself nodding. I haven’t seen a garden since we left India, at least the kind of garden I liked to look at, with flowers and some fruit trees and the such. I’ve seen what these folks call a garden, just a small rectangle of dirt in which roses or other common flowers grow. It’s nothing to go gaga over.
His smile grows and he does release my hand, he turns and heads down to the side of the room and towards a hallway. Instead of continuing down, he turns towards the stairs and he heads up. Now I have to admit I’m a little bemused, I’ve never heard of gardens on second floors though I’ve seen some on rooftops. I can’t imagine if it’s up there that it’s growing at this time of the year, I didn’t see any kind of structure on the roof.
He looks back, I imagine it is to make sure I’m following and he opens first a two-part wooden door, then he opens a screen door and he motions for me to follow. I do but I stop in the doorway, blinking at the sight that greets me. I had expected a lot of things but not this. I just stare though before long I feel his hand on the small of my back, just moving me a little further inside so he can close the screen door.
“Need to keep the cats out. They’d make a mess of this place if we let them in. That’s why the screen door is there.” I guess that makes sense. I’m not sure all these words are going to stick long in my memory but it hardly matters. The sight, this is just, it’s absolutely beautiful. There are more flowers than I can count and so many different kinds. There are some bushes and some small trees, several little pathways that I can see from where I stand.
“We have fruits and vegetables, I don’t know if your brothers told you that I drop some off for Alexis and Eoghan on a weekly basis. Flowers, herbs, fruits, vegetables. A little bit of everything, a lot edible, some not. It’s my little bit of paradise.”
“This is beautiful.” It’s all I can think to say and it seems to be enough for him.
“Come on, let’s head back down, I bet they’re getting ready to serve the food. I hope you’re not too picky though since we were told you were coming, we switched back from doing a Poland themed meal to Indian. We thought that maybe you’d like a little taste of home.”
This is thoughtful, I guess, this is kind of sweet really. I have nothing to say on the subject, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around these people, it’s not easy.
We wander back down to the dining room and there are my brothers, sitting side by side at the table and Agni stands to pull out a chair. I blink at him, roll my eyes but I have to chuckle as I settle.
The dinner is simple but filling, nothing overly extravagant though there are little bits and bites that remind me of home. It almost is enough to make me long for the simpler times, when my whole family hadn’t been slaughtered but I try not to think about that too much. I just focus on the food and on the conversation. No one asks personal questions, they just discuss of this and that, the weather, the recent projects. I feel like I could almost get used to this.
My brothers stuff their face and I have to laugh a little. I suppose this is one of those things, they have easier access to food here than they have had before in their lives and I can tell they do appreciate it. It’s nice, really.
When they talk and quip in with answers to some of the questions, I realize that they’re getting along a lot better than I had expected in both English and French. It’s a startling realization.
Once the meal is done, down to dessert, the dishes are cleaned up and while I’m not asked to help, I find it just a show of good faith that I help. If it had really been a meal with my old family, everyone would have helped with the clean up and this doesn’t feel much different. I ate, I help, it really is that simple.
When everything is cleaned and put away, there are offers for teas and coffees, hot cocoas. I can tell my brothers are honestly worn at this point so I politely decline, we put our coats back on, bid everyone a good evening, thank our host I tell them that I did appreciate the meal and we head back outside to go back across and up to our apartment so these two little mock-devils can have some sleep. They’ll rest well, I know.
All in all, it was a good evening.