Arriving at the airport in Medicine Hat, the city closest to Milmont, I was both surprised and not surprised to see my aunt, Primrose Shipman flouncing through the baggage claim with her usual entourage in tow. She spotted me immediately with her eagle eyes, which were currently hidden behind oversize Chanel sunglasses. With half her face concealed, I was struck with a sharp pang. She could have passed for my mother.
"Oh my goodness, what a sight for sore eyes," she exclaimed in her voice that always made me think of Melanie Griffith. She threw her arms around me in a way that seemed carefree and spontaneous, but I knew she had practiced this armour of chic nonchalance for years.
"Look at you, absolutely gorgeous. And what a lovely tan you have!" She stood with her hands on my shoulders, and I was nearly blinded by the sunlight glinting off several bracelets and chunky oversize rings. "I must admit, these aren't the best circumstances for you to be home now, is it, but regardless, I am so glad to see you."
It was now that she noticed Adrian standing at my side, staring at her. Primrose did have that commanding posture that made everyone in the room look at her. Her presence was unmistakeable, and being an actress and a socialite only added to her mystique.
Primrose was very beautiful, in a wilted rose sort of way. She was graced with pouty heart-shaped lips, lustrous black hair that flowed down to her waist and a complexion so pale that I knew her comment about my tan was part envy, part derision. She was known for being a shameless flirt, as her four failed marriages attested to. And when she turned her wide, heavy lashed eyes towards Adrian I felt slightly uneasy.
"And who is this handsome man, missy! Why look at you two - the sexual tension between you two is nearly palpable. Long plane ride, was it?" She winked and threw her head back with musical laughter.
"It was excruciating. I'm sure yours was much better, auntie. First class? I read about your holiday in Cabo San Lucas in a newspaper in Botswana. They love you over there." I said, desperately wishing to spot my luggage.
"Oh, Botswana, imagine that." More tinkling laughter. She touched Adrian's arm with long, manicured fingers. "I look forward to hearing all about this one," she said to me, with her eyes still on Adrian. "I'll see you at the reading I presume, but after we absolutely must go out for dinner or a coffee or something, darling. Five years is much too long." With that she flashed a blinding smile at the two of us and her faithful bodyguard, Ivan stepped forward to escort her out. He smiled and gave me a little wave. As much as I liked Ivan I didn't understand his saintly ability to put up with my aunt 24/7.
"She seems absolutely devastated," I said sarcastically to Adrian as she sashayed across the terminal, Ivan deflecting frenzied fans.
"I had no idea that Primrose Shipman is your aunt." Adrian turned to me, his brow furrowed. "Why didn't you tell me?"
I suppressed the urge to throw my hands up in the air in exasperation and trudge to the other side of the baggage claim. Seeing my aunt again after so long had made me feel positively childish. I had my reasons for not mentioning it, and now that the cat was out of the bag I certainly didn't want to discuss them.
"I don't know who your aunts are, or if you have any," I said, trying to keep my tone light and dismissive. "Oh, is that your bag there?" It wasn't.
"You do too know who my aunts are. You know all my family! You‘ve met them in person!" I had, of course. His pitch was growing high and accusatory.
"Listen, Adrian - let's just get our bags okay? We can talk in private in the car to Milmont. Okay?"
His silence was the only answer I got. He was chewing on his thumb nail, brow still wrinkled. He was clearly angry, as the gnawing of his thumb suggested. It was always a tip off to his emotions, which he mostly kept to himself, like me.
I grabbed my bag and began walking for the exit, Adrian trailing behind me in his abstraction. The sunshine hit me full in the face and I wished for a pair of oversize sunglasses like my aunt's. I lowered my gaze and saw her standing on the curb, Ivan hauling all her luggage into the back of a sleek black town car.
"Darlings!" she called over. "I've accidentally ordered both my cars to come pick me up," and indeed there were two identical black cars bumper to bumper. "I'm so forgetful sometimes. Here, you take the other, save some of that hard earned Botswana money! Go on, get in!"
I hesitated but Adrian had already veered towards the waiting car, petulantly pulling his luggage behind him. I took a deep breath and followed.
After twenty minutes of stony silence, I couldn't take it anymore. I drew up the divider between the driver and us and turned to Adrian. I slid my hand on to his knee.
"Adrian." He let his gaze wander on to my face.
"I'm sorry for not telling you that my aunt is Primrose Shipman. I did not for the simple reason that it's kind of...embarrassing. I didn't want to seem like I was, you know, bragging or anything. And to be truthful, we're not very close. My mother and her...well. They were sisters but they certainly weren't best friends. They rarely saw each other. And quite frankly, this whole thing has me a little bit confused and...and well, scared I guess. This is something that I didn't think I'd have to face for quite some time." I looked down, feeling tears pricking at the back of my eyes. "It just hasn't sunk in yet."
He cleared his throat and tilted my head up by placing a finger on my chin. "I know. I know this is hard and frightening and I don't want you to feel alone. But I feel like...you've been shutting me out of your life, and I hadn't even realized it. What else don't I know about you, my pet? I know you're a secretive person, but please...let me in. Okay?"
I swore I would and settled back into my seat. But it was an empty promise. There was so much Adrian didn't know about me. With him arriving in Milmont, some of my past would present itself and become clear, of that I had no doubt. But there was a part of me that I wasn't sure I could share with him, even if I had wanted to.