I've decided to post the prologue of the novel that will be published of the end of September. I hope I will get your feed-back.
“Come on, man, this is so not right!” Josh exploded throwing his fork back on the plate, which made his aunt, Marjorie, frown.
“You’re complaining, huh?” Maggie mocked him waving her fork at him, and rolled her eyes. “You’re still fairly young and you have enough time ahead of you, so you shouldn’t be the one complaining!” she retorted angrily.
“He has the right to complain, Maggie, as well as any one of you!” Becka replied in support of her cousin. “So what if we are younger? We’re all in the same boat!” she continued punching the table with her little fist. “Auntie, can’t we do something about this?”
“I know you want to do, pumpkin, but you can’t,” Aunt Marjorie replied gently stroking her arm. “What has to be done, has to be done!”
“So, we have to pay for something that happened a hundred years before? How does that make any sense at all?” Alex snapped and joined the others in voicing his outrage, and then forked another piece of pie.
“It’s been less than a hundred, nitwit!” Lily replied with disdain and punched his arm.
“Who the hell cares?” Alex retorted with his mouth full. He’d never learned not to talk with his mouth full, try as his parents might, and, anyway, he wouldn’t give a rat’s ass on such things, especially at home. “One hundred, two hundred, same shit, pardon my French. You know what? I don’t feel like paying for some jackass’s mistakes!” he ended his heated speech by pointing his finger at Lily.
“So, what do you propose to do, then?” Matt, who’d kept his mouth shut until then, asked with nonchalance. He had been sipping from his whiskey glass quietly, with a detached expression on his face suggesting that nothing they discussed would affect him.
“Don’t tell me you’re okay with this!” Alex answered back showing him his disbelief. “Come on, Matt! You’re the oldest, man and you’ve only got one year left. You’ve got to be as angry as I am, if not more! Don’t pretend it doesn’t bother you because that’s not possible!”
Matt took a few moments, sipped more from his glass and then looked at Alex and shook his head.
“Angry? Maybe. Can I do something about it? I don’t think so,” he replied to his cousin with his usual coolness, his eyes gazing steadily at Alex. “So why should I bother?”
No one had anything to say to that. All of them were aware that there was one stipulation that they had to fulfill and only then they could get their trust funds and also reach their full potential. The worst part was that they had to do that before turning thirty-five because once one of them turned thirty-five without fulfilling that condition, their fund was divided among the remaining younger ones who still had time ahead of them.
“You know what? … I don’t really care about unlocking my powers,” Ariel said pensively, without addressing anyone in particular, “although, it would be nice to see what you can do if you use your full potential…” she continued, lost in her thoughts as always and her cousins gave her the time to get to the point. They knew she had the bad habit of rambling, getting lost in her own thoughts and leaving everyone hanging, but sometimes, if not most of the time, she could come up with very interesting solutions if they had the patience to listen to her. “But I do care about making something for myself. I’d like to open a little business…” Ariel finally said longingly.
“Keep dreaming, girl,” Maggie snapped already bored with the way Ariel always liked to drag things out. She wasn’t one for patience and, unfortunately, that trait had some unpleasant results in her daily life. “Till you take care of your part of business, Ariel, girl, you won’t be able to open a shed.”
“Why are you always so mean to her?” Alex snapped at Maggie. “If she wants to dream, let her dream away. What else can she do? What else is there for any of us, huh?” he asked looking at each of them pointedly, as he wanted to see each one’s reactions.
“Beat the curse?” Marjorie said softly trying to defuse a potentially explosive situation.
“Not so easy, auntie,” Ariel said sorrowfully. “I tried, you know… Do you remember? I thought that guy, Eric, the one I met two years ago, would be the one. It wasn’t meant to be, you know… It’s not so easy, and you know it very well. You see how things are. There’s no real romance left in this world, I’m afraid, and if there’s no romance left, where can one find love?”
Marjorie nodded. She did know it. Finding true love wasn’t easy-peasy. She’d been in the same situation when it was her turn and she’d almost lost everything because of stubbornness and the family’s meddling.
“It’s never easy, dear, I know,” she answered Ariel and stroked her arm with love again. “But, Ariel, sweetheart, you have to keep trying. You can’t simply give up. Think about it! You will be able to use your powers and get your money, only once you find your true love and commit to it. You’ll be happy then!”
Ariel turned her eyes to her plate on the table. She knew that her eyes would show everyone that she’d already resigned herself to never doing that and she was sick of hearing platitudes and encouragements.
Everyone kept silent for a few moments. Jay helped himself to some more of his mother’s amazing. Marjorie was the best cook in their family and that’s why they’d always choose to meet at her house. Everything was easier to swallow if there was a good pie or cake on the table. At least, that’s what Jay thought.
“I think we should see if there’s any legal way to get out of this, guys! We need the money now, don’t we? It’s not like we can wait around forever!” Alex interrupted the silence, as the idea came to him suddenly, looking at each one of them and they nodded their assent. “Look here!” he continued. “I’m already thirty-two. I don’t have time for stupid things and games and all sorts of idiotic tries! I want to do something for myself as Ariel said. Now, when I still can.”
Almost everybody nodded in agreement with him and then looked to Matt. He was known to be the smartest guy in the family and they knew that any kind of solution should have come from him. Matt looked around as well feeling their expecting gazes on him and shook his head.
“There’s no way out of that, buddy,” Matt finally replied, at the same time putting his glass on the wooden table and standing up from the bench. “If you called this meeting only for this, then I’m out of here. I’ve got real things to do, places to see…”
“You don’t even want to try,” Becka cried out jumping out her seat. “You’ve just given up because you have a little over a year left and you don’t care anymore.”
“I tried, sweetie,” Matt replied to her with a sad smile.
Becka was his favorite cousin. Maybe because she was the youngest or maybe because she was unspoilt and funny and had a very big heart. He stroked the side of her face with the tips of his fingers and then kissed her forehead.
“Becka, I tried hard to find any kind of loophole in the wording of the trust funds papers. Believe me, there’s none. If I couldn’t find one, sweetie, then no one can, and you know it. There’s a reason I’m one of the best attorneys in the country, and all of you know that this isn’t just my vanity talking. Anyway, honey, these days, I content myself with making my money the hard way and enjoying as much as possible of the little spare time I have left. I’ve stopped chasing such dreams. It’s not in the cards for me and that’s it.”
All of his cousins looked at him in shock. Only his sister, Maggie, understood him very well. She didn’t have any patience, especially with fools, but Matt was something special. She’d always looked up to him and she knew he wasn’t the kind of guy to give up on anything. Hearing him saying that he’d resigned himself made her understand the depth of his anger, even though he wouldn’t let his anger be seen. She felt like she wanted to take him in her arms and never let go. Nonetheless, she knew that he wouldn’t like that – not very big on affection displays, her brother - so she just petted his hand and left it at that.
“Matt, you should try to use that spare time you have to find a girl,” his mother said reproachfully and all eyes turned to Marjorie, who continued: “You still have a chance, son, and I’m not talking about the money here, you know it. I know that sad affair with Velma’s left you afraid to commit again and I don’t like that in the least. That’s not Matty I know. That wasn’t love, son, and you know it very well. Had it been true love, you’d have had your full powers by now even if you hadn’t gotten the money.”
“Mother, Velma’s been out of the picture for a decade already. She’s in the past. What’s the point in bringing her back into the conversation?” Matt retorted curtly, shaking his head as if he couldn’t understand his mother’s reasons.
“Because she was the reason you stopped looking at women with hope,” Marjorie pointed out waving her finger to her first born. “You’re thinking that all women are like her and that’s why you just take everything you can take from them and then you move on. Another woman on the list! It’s like you’re keeping a score: how many women can Matt score?” she said acidly, which wasn’t something that they’d witnessed before. Everyone’s eyes were riveted on her. “It’s not good for you, Matt! Even if you’ve already given up on the trust money, which is stupid, by the way, you’re still alive and you still need a reliable woman in your life, as I’ve already said. You’ll grow old and alone and bitter!” Marjorie ended her unusual tirade by hitting her son in his chest with her finger.
“Thanks for the heads up, mom. It’s always good to know how your future will look like!” Matt replied sarcastically and removed himself from the path of her pointy finger.
Marjorie shook her head bitterly but chose not to continue that line of discussion. She knew her son quite well and she knew that when he was like that, there was no way to make him change his mind. It was like talking to a stone.
The silence stretched for a few minutes. Everyone was busy eating their pie or with their drinks. But mostly they were busy avoiding each other’s eyes for fear that someone might say something hurtful.
In the end, Alex, the most outspoken of all, couldn’t stand the awkward silence anymore and looked around, shrugged his shoulders and decided to try a new thread of conversation.
“You know, you are the old lady’s favorite great-grandson, Matt. Can’t you persuade her to finish with this foolishness? She can change the papers if she wants to. It’s not like the words are carved in stone!” Alex asked Matt, anxiously waiting for his answer.
“Tried that too, Alex!” Matt replied shaking his head. “She said she did it for our own good, whatever she means by that. So… I can say I’ve tried everything and it’s time to limit my losses.”
Again no one said anything for a few moments and again they couldn’t bring themselves to look each other in the eye and the silence stretched. Encouraged by the unusual silence, as such meetings were normally a very chatty and loud affair, Matt took his leave with a simple wave of his hand and started down the path to the kitchen door, whistling softly to himself.
Ariel, pensive as always, looked after him until he got inside the house to take his car keys and leave, and then she said dolefully:
“It’s sad… It’s really sad. He’s the oldest and he’s already given up.”
For a few moments, everyone stared at her without reply. It was like she’d grown a second head during the last hour.
“Well, we’re close to that too, Ariel,” her brother Alex retorted angrily after a moment of disbelief. “It’s not like we have too much time left, is it? Just about three years, dimwit! When we turn thirty-five, everything will be gone: the money, the powers, everything. And we can’t do a single thing to stop this!”
“And we can’t even cheat,” Jay intervened bitterly for the first time and the others burst into laughter.
“Oh, yeah, I remember,” Lily said. “When you tried to pose as a fool in love and came with that simpleton. Camilla, I think her name was.”
Jay nodded smiling. He had already forgotten the ridicule he’d suffered at the time. His easy-going nature didn’t allow him to keep a grudge for long.
“Yep, but it didn’t work, did it?” Josh said very matter of fact. “Those two fossils sniffed you out.”
“Well, they can read minds, so it was a piece of cake to sniff him out,” Aunt Marjorie pointed out with an enigmatic smile on her lips. “That’s why they’ve been appointed trustees, you know. No one can fool them. You shouldn’t have tried to cheat, Jay. The old lady hasn’t forgiven you for that yet.”
Jay nodded that he knew very well where he stood with his grandma. He didn’t think that she’d ever forgive him. The old bat was a real piece of work: resentful and bitter. Just a few of them could steal a smile from her and lately he hadn’t been part of that group. After the stunt he pulled with that woman, grandma didn’t even acknowledge him at the family dinners anymore.
He looked around and noticed that all the others had gone quiet, each of them thinking about the implications of what had happened to him. He truly hoped that he wouldn’t go through a new period of veiled mean jokes or even innocent teasing. At which Becka was a master. He even flinched when she started speaking.
“So, we only have to wait for them to pass away…,” Becka tentatively began to say, her gaze passing from one to the other.
“Not so fast,” Marjorie interrupted her hastily. “The rule says that if they pass away, two others will take their place. Same type of power, pumpkin, so no way to fool them either. You have to understand that there is no way around this. You have to play by the rules.”
“Damn it!” Alex swore. “All this drama only because great-grandpa had the nerve to abandon great-grandma for another woman and then another idiot left aunt Evelyn to stand alone at the altar and she killed herself!” he shook his head as if everything was unconceivable for him. “So, now, generation after generation has to pay for those two idiots! Where the hell is the fairness in that?”
“Well, I think that it was a radical conclusion from my grandmother, as well,” Marjorie replied conciliatorily, “but there’s never been a way to change grandma’s mind, unfortunately. I know my father tried hard at the time, but she wouldn’t listen to him. He tried again when my happiness was at stake and still nothing. He didn’t have any success. She wouldn’t give in. Since the money was still hers, she had the right to decide what she wanted to do with it.”
“But why the curse about our powers? I really don’t understand that,” Becka wondered.
“The same reason. Great-grandpa was a witch himself and he used those powers to entice a very young woman and leave grandma. And the man who left Evelyn at the altar was also enticed by a witch. She didn’t want any other witch to misuse their powers.”
“I wouldn’t!” Becka cried out.
“I know that you wouldn’t pumpkin,” Marjorie patted her hand tenderly. “Not all apples are rotten, I know that much. However, grandma didn’t want to hear a thing, so… Here we are: now, everyone in my generation paid for that and yours has to pay, as well. However, if you succeed to find your true love and get your trust funds, then at least the money problem will end and the next generations will have only the curse to defeat,” Marjorie tried to lift their moods but with little success.
“Oh,” Lily sighed and put her chin in her right hand, and fixed her dreamy gaze somewhere in the distance.
“I really wanted to open that nursery,” Ariel whispered inconsolably and her brother stroked her fingers, his eyes shining with deep concern for his sister’s dreams.
“Nothing is lost, sweetheart,” Marjorie said and stroke Ariel’s hand again. “You’ll see, you’ll find your soul mate. Everything will be fine.”
“Where? Where could I find my soul mate, auntie? The people that I deal with every day are not even lover material, believe me. I wouldn’t let them touch me with a ten-foot pole so finding a soul mate is quite out of question. There’s no chance for me out there! I’ve looked around for years and nothing!” she said this time with tears in her eyes.
“Wait and see, things have a way of finding their way,” Marjorie whispered to her and then she started picking up the plates and forks to show that the conversation ended.
There wasn’t anything more to add and whining wouldn’t help. She knew that well: whining never helped. You had to roll up your sleeves and do something.
Although the others jumped out of their seats to help her, they were all still thinking of what they’d discussed and a none-too-rosy future that looked pretty hopeless for them that very moment.
Born sometime in the past century, living in the 21st century.
Sometimes I have good ideas... (what do you think?)
Sometimes fascinating guests!
(that for sure!)
Sometimes I have to share some of my frustrations,..
(not too tempting, huh!)
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