Christmas of that year was strangely inspiring. It was my second Christmas in America, and the first Christmas that I have shared with friends in so many years that I no longer care to count them.
I cooked Christmas dinner that year. Of course, Clara’s kind heart did not permit her to disdain from offering, but their house was due to undergo a renovation of the long-faulty plumbing system for the greater part of December, and so I thought I’d take on the task of cooking the turkey.
My dad is not the most adept in the kitchen, despite his diligent efforts since Mum ran away, but I’d been learning throughout the year, and so it was not as daunting a prospect as it would once have seemed, although the first time I voiced my claim, my voice was uncertain enough to suggest to Clara that she was permitted to laugh at me and take it as a joke.
“It takes years to perfect a Christmas dinner,” she said. “I would never have attempted it if there had been anyone else.”
From these words I gleaned three things. Firstly, I understood that Shani’s dad had always been the cuisinier when her parents had been together, and it was only necessity and loneliness for good food that had prompted Clara to take on the fresh hobby of cooking.
But I also realised that Shani’s regard for me might increase if I tried to imitate her dad – yes, the greedy soul that I am still longed for further acceptance and flirtation.
Her parents’ divorce had strengthened the father-daughter bond that exists so strongly in a family which has only ever contained one child. The father is the lover, the pamperer, the worshipper, who in the gentle eyes of his daughter finds the satisfaction of a man whose relationships with women have not always been successful. - Dad loved Vere's hair.
Her father may live far away from her, and he may, albeit unconsciously, inspire feelings of unworthiness in her heart, but he is devoted to Shani. I’ve often been with her during their phone conversations, and though she sounds awkward, I can hear the love in his voice through the crackling speakers. – If only Shani were more perceptive to the sounds of love and its differing forms.
I know it was Clara who divorced him because the old mutual fairytale had disintegrated between them. The fairytale still exists for Shani’s dad through Shani herself, for she is his creation in God with that old lover who no longer wants him.
He may be getting married in the summer, I believe to a woman with whom he knows he can live forever – he has writhed through the relationship that failed; now he knows how to make a relationship that will work – but there is nothing compared to a first love. I know that, if I know nothing else.
Finally, the third thing I saw in Clara’s words consisted of a challenge. Mine had only been an offer before; now my eagerness and determination in the performance of this feat was imminent and undisputed. I would cook the Christmas dinner for the five of us and no man could prevent me.