I have dreamed of this moment for years, and now that it’s finally here, I feel like puking.
The entire drive from the foster home to the Willow Estate, no one spoke a word. Jonathan did a lot of talking to me with his eyes, though. I knew his icy stares all too well. I’d heard it all before. I was unwanted. A pest. An intruder that didn’t deserve to even breathe the same air as him. Jerk. If I had known I’d have to spend two weeks with him (The Willow’s were keeping me until New Years), that stupid wish would have never even entered my mind.
Lizzie looked at me with interest the entire time, but she said nothing. I saw the words on her lips, but she swallowed them out of fear of something. Perhaps her brother’s wrath.
“Welcome to your home for the next two weeks,” Mrs. Willow breathes when her husband pulled into the garage. I smile at her before getting out of the car. The garage is huge and filled from several cars. I avoid looking at the car’s makers so I don’t feel even more out of place.
It doesn’t fully hit me that I’ve just entered the world of the ‘honest’ rich (The Stewart’s are considered the ‘dishonest’ rich’, at least that’s what I’ve heard people say) until I get my first glimpse inside the Willow Estate. It’s only the laundry room, but its even more covered in Christmas decorations than the outside of the house. The Elf on the Shelf sits on top of the washing room. His creepy smile sends involuntarily shivers down my spin. My grandmother had an Elf on the Shelf one year–every year until I threw it away when I woke up to find it sitting at the foot of my bed.
“As you will soon discover, Mom’s a little bit of a holiday decorating Nazi,” Jonathan smirks. His eyes tack more onto his criticism of his mother’s hobby. “Not that you’ll around long enough to see the house covered in red for Valentine’s Day or green for Saint Patrick’s Day.”
“I think it’s lovely,” I say just to be contrary.
“Wait until you see the Family Room,” Jonathan mumbles.
I follow Mrs. Willow through the house. I take a glimpse in the several rooms I pass. Even the kitchen is covered in Christmas decorations. I think I might have even saw some mistletoe in there.
“You might want to take note of where all the mistletoe is hung,” Mrs. Willow says as we climb the tinsel covered stairs. “It might be…awkward to be caught under it.”
I wonder if I should take offense in this, but it’s the truth. I’ve never been kissed (well on the cheek, but like twice), and that was defiantly not a gift I wanted to receive that gift from a Willow.
“I hope your room suites you,” Mrs. Willow says. “We’re expecting some company closer to Christmas, and this room was already prepared for my sister’s daughter. She’s half your age. We couldn’t completely get ride of the childish theme in so little time, but that can and will be fixed.”
You know how in every movie, TV show, and book when a character is suddenly thrust into a world much more wealthier than theirs and every time someone says their room is terrible, it turns out to be spectacular?
This time was no exception.
The room was covered in purple and pink, little girl colors that this little girl still loves. A white bookcase filled with everything from Nancy Drew to Jane Austen sat in the corner of the room. A 45” (I’m guessing) flat screen TV was mounted on the wall. A footstool to reach the side of the TV unintentionally poked fun at my small size. A shelf with several familiar movies was right underneath the television. There was one lonely stuffed animal, a Santa teddy bear, sitting on the King sized bed. The comforter had flowers on it, but that was ok. The room was huge and all mine.
Mrs. Willow shuffles to the bed and snatches the bear off it. She tries to hide it behind her back and puts an embarrassed grin on her face.
“He can stay,” I smile. Mrs. Willow looks shocked. She quickly recovers and holds him out to me. I take him and smile. I’ve never had a teddy bear before or even a real stuffed animal. I hug him to my chest.
“Dinner is at six o’clock sharp. You are free to explore the house, but if you encounter a closed door–knock.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I nod.
“Manners,” Mrs. Willow smiles. “I like that.”‘
And with that Mrs. Willow left me to squeal.
I decide to go exploring after not finding anything I wanted to watch on TV. Quite a few movies on the shelf had caught my eye, but so did several ares of the house we rushed past.
I start downstairs in the Family Room. It’s abandoned. A TV that’s got to be larger than me is the room’s centerpiece. Modern furniture is covered in red and green stripes. A small Christmas tree with few decorations hides in the corner. The sight pulls at my heart-strings. Even the family room at the foster home is full of life.
I poke my head in the kitchen yet. A lady, who’s shouting in French at a young man that’s shouting French back at her, is furiously whisking away. My eyes float to where the young man is standing. His body is just shy of being under the mistletoe.
“NON!” The lady screams. She speaks rapidly in French. I have no idea what she said, but it sure rills the boy. He screams at her in French–calling her name in English I don’t feel comfortable repeating. The lady gasps after the word leaves his lips. He takes a step forward–putting his body right under the mistletoe.
“You despicable boy!” The woman screams in English. She walks to the young boy. “Vous êtes viré!”
“Regardez!” The boy shouts. He points to the mistletoe above the two of them. The lady, quickly blushes while the boy smirks. The woman starts to give the boy a quick peck on the lips, but they end up kissing. I duck my head out–disgusted.
I walk into the foyer and crane my neck to look at the Christmas tree that’s about four–no seven–times my sizes.Every limb is covered with an ornament and my head hurts just looking at it. I feel an urge to take several of the ornaments and put them on the lonely tree in the family room. I shuffle into the next room before I can grab a handful of them.
I nearly faint when I enter a hallway that is not completely covered in Christmas decorations. You can’t even tell what season it is. Only a little sunlight lights the dark, dingy walkway.
“Can I help you?”
I scream. Mr. Willow stares at me strangely.
“Sorry,” I stutter.
“Nothing to be sorry about,” Mr. Willow says. He looks at me with squinted eyes.
“Did Mrs. Willow overlook this hallway?” I stutter.
“This is what the kids and I call a holiday free zone,” Mr. Willow says with a laugh in his throat. “It’s taken three years to get this place of safety, but a man’s got to have some time away from green, red, and decorations.”
I nod. Mr. Willow nods back and walks towards the end of the hallway. I stand in the hallway like a dork for several minutes before I move on.
I walk out of the holiday free zone and back into the Christmas madness. I explore all the rooms on the first floor to discover a spa, an indoor pool, and another family room like room.
I was just about to explore the top floor when the clock rung six o’clock. I ran towards the dinning room and fall flat on my face. I slam onto the floor and watch stars.
“Are you all right?” Mr. Willow asks as he helps me up.
“I’m all right now.The stars have stopped,” I say.
“Should we take her to the hospital?” Mrs. Willow asks.
“The food is getting cold,” Jonathan mutters,
“Jonny!” Mrs. Willow shouts. “Go to your room!”
“What! Why?” Jonathan–Jonny–yells.
“I will not tolerate that tone, young man,” Mr. Willow loudly says sternly. “Apologize to your mother.”
“But–” Jonathan protests.
“Jonathan Robert Willow the Second, apologize to your mother and do as she says,” Mr. Willow says raising voice even louder.
Jonathan looks at me. His eyes have turn from icy to deadly. He looks like he would like to make me see stars again–or worse.
“Sorry,” Jonathan sneers.
“Go upstairs,” Mr. Willow says. “We’ll talk later.”
Jonathan stomps up the stairs and slams the door.
Even though Lizzie and Mr. and Mrs. Willow were still standing by me, I broke down crying.
I groan as I wake up to someone knocking on my door.
“Mademoiselle?” The door opens and the French cooking lady peeks her head in.
“Mademoiselle,” The lady says walking closer to my bed. “I’ve brought you your dinner.”
I stare at the lady as she places the tray on my quilt covered lap.
“I can eat up here?” I ask.
“Bien sûr!” The lady shouts. She walks towards the door.
“Excuse me,” I say. The lady stops.
“May I ask you a question?”
“Je suppose,” The lady says with reluctance.
“What’s your name?” I ask.
“Mon nom? Juliette Lefebvre.”
“I saw you in the kitchen this afternoon arguing with a young man. Is he your assistant?”
“That’s deux questions.”
“Mais je vais répondre à la question,” Juliette says. “Jacques is my husband.”
“Do you fight like that all the time?”
“Vous posez trop de questions,” Juliette says shaking her head. “You ask too many questions.”
“I guess. I do have another one.”
“Qu’est-ce que c’est?”
“Could you maybe speak a little bit more in English? I can’t really understand you.”
By the time Juliette left me with many questions unsaid, my food was cold. I tried not to choke at the taste of stone cold meatloaf.
I look up and half expect to see Juliette standing there, but the voice is male and the speaker is Jonathan.
“What do you want?”
“I heard you put on quite a show this evening,” Jonathan says.
“And you had quite a performance also,” I snaps.
“At least I didn’t cry,” Jonathan says.
“At least I didn’t snap at my mother,” I say with a sad voice. “I’d take that over crying any day.”
“You think that you can just shed some tears and that you can fool everyone into think you’re some kind of broken angel, don’t ya?”
“Get out of my room,” I sneer.
“This isn’t your room. This is my house therefore my room,” Jonathan says. I snicker at the thought of this room being Jonathan’s room.
“It’s my room for two weeks so get out,” I say in a low voice.
“This isn’t over, Vera,” Jonathan says in a low, dangerous voice. “You will be out of here by Christmas.”
“How much do you want to bet?” I spit.
“I’m no Stewart,” Jonathan sneers.
“You fooled me.”
Jonathan let out a frustrated breath and stormed out of my room.
Score-Vera: 1, Jonny: -1