Carry on my wayward son,
there'll be peace when you are done.
Lay your weary head to rest,
don't you cry no more
Kansas "Carry on My Wayward"
The library was dark except for the light from the fire and an old lamp next to the chair that my mother sat in. Cordelia Van Alen, she was one of the city's finest aristocrats. Anybody who was anybody wanted to know and be close to Cordelia Van Alen.
Despite her being fifty she looked remarkably good for her age. She had sharp bird-like features that fit her personality perfectly. Most people were intimidated by her appearance, but a select few-my self included-knew that she was truly kind and caring at heart...when she wanted to show it.
This, however, was not one of those times. When I'd walked into the room Mother had, without lifting her head, raised her hand and motioned me toward her. She waited for me to take the seat across from her before she spoke.
"Allegra, Hattie told me about the dog. Your brother has already pleaded your case, but I want to hear it from you. What happened, and why would you feel compelled to bring it home?" She sat folded her hands in her lap and waited for my response.
I took a deep breath. "Well Mother. When Charles and I walked out of school, Du-er the dog was sitting on the sidewalk absolutely freezing. I don't know, I just, I had to help her. I almost felt like she was a part of me, no matter how crazy that sounds. I can‘t explain it." That was basically it, I couldn't explain it. It was crazy, but that was just what I felt.
"What kind of dog is it?" was all she asked.
I was taken aback, "A...A bloodhound....Why?"
Mother's expression was hard to read. Something flashed in her eye, but just as soon as I saw it, it was gone and I couldn't identify it. "Well," she cleared her throat. "I suppose I can allow you to keep it. It's only fair as I permitted your brother to keep Duke. Now off with you, I have a meeting to go to. I hope to be back before dinner, but I can't make any promises." With that she abruptly stood out and motioned toward the door.
"I think I'll stay in here, I need to find a topic for my project in Mythology." I looked around the library, there was bound to be something mythological in here.
Mother gave me a level look. "Do you have something particular in mind?"
"I was thinking about the fall of the Archangel, Lucifer, and his followers actually."
That particular story had always fascinated me.
Mother's eyes sparkled once again with that emotion I couldn't quite identify. She cleared her throat in finality. "Well, I hope you find what you're looking for. I will forewarn you that that is a...controversial topic. Good luck dear." And with that she walked out the door.
I went to the bookshelf to look for something that might grab my attention. At first I didn't see anything that really grabbed my attention, there were quite a few books written by a Lawrencw Winslow Van Alen. He must've been some great-great grand father, it kind of pained me to see that name, it was my father's name also. The father who'd died before Charles and I were born and whom we'd never met, or so we'd been told.
I eventually found a book titled The Fall by some Greek philosopher whose name I couldn't even begin to pronounce. It looked interesting enough, so I snuggled up in the big arm chair my mother had left vacant by the fire, turned on the lamp next to it and started reading.
Unfortunately, I didn't get very far.
My thoughts kept traveling back to my mother, and her strange reactions of late.
I wasn't too surprised that she had left so abruptly, it was going on 4:30, and at 5:00 she had her Senior Committee Meeting (That was back in the days when there were two separate committees, as opposed to one). It was strange; of all the groups my mother was in, she always, always made time for The Committee. My brother and I were used to it so we never really put much thought into it.
Lately, however I'd seen Charles talking to some of his lacrosse teammates that were Junior Committee members. It was kind of strange, seeing as how Charles had never shown interest in The Committee until Mother had mentioned our upcoming fifteenth birthday this December...
It started out as a normal dinner, well, as normal as dinners in our household could get. Mother always had people over for dinner, this was no different. She had invited the Senior Warden on The Committee, Joseph Cutler-who was a father of a senior girl named Nan Cutler-over for dinner to discuss some plans.
Personally I thought that what she really wanted was for him to see my brother and me, and to consider us for The Committee. Mother always seemed to have an ulterior motive behind her actions.
But out of respect for her, I chose not to give any acknowledgment that I knew what she was up to; so I just went through dinner listening intently, smiling at the right times, not speaking unless spoken to, the works.
Personally that life wasn't for me, I'd always hated being formal, and obeying all the rules-of etiquette I mean, it just wasn't my forte.
Charles on the other hand was an expert, I swear that boy could sit through the most boring topics, and smile politely like he was actually enjoying it. He would always find ways of putting in his two-sense-worth, even when he was supposed to be silent. And even then, people would still listen to him, that boy was a natural leader.
Anyway, back to dinner; to say that it was boring would be an understatement. But for my Mother‘s sake, I took it. That seemed like all I ever did these days, "take it" "grin and bear it" it was terrible, it seemed that my life revolved around making other people happy, and not worrying about myself. It may've sounded selfish, but I wanted just one moment in my life to think about me.
Oh, there I go again, I'm sorry. Back to dinner.
It wasn't until after dinner that mother brought up our birthday; it was over tea, actually.
Mother put her tea down and turned to the Chief Warden, "Joseph?" she asked.
Mother motioned to Charles and I sitting on the love seat across from the chairs they resided in. "My children will be fifteen on December 16th."
Joseph's eyes lit up with anticipation as they flickered to us. "Is that so?"
Mother nodded. "I was hoping that there would still be an opening for them on the Junior Committee."
"Of course my friend. We would be absolutely honored to have The Uncor-er The Van Alen heirs on the Committee."
I felt Charles stiffen beside me. I chanced a look at him out of the corner of my eye. His face was a mask of perfection, no one but I would have been able to see the minute lines of stress around his eyes, or the to-tight set of his jaw. His hand was balled into a fist next to his leg. I placed mine over his in reassurance, which seemed to relax him.
"Thanks" he whispered.
"It's fine," I whispered back, "just chill out. What's worng anyway?"
"Er...nothing. I'll ah...tell yah later..." Then he added under his breath "Maybe." I had a distinct feeling I wasn't supposed to hear that, so I remained silent.
Thinking back, he never did tell me what it was. But know I suppose I can figure it out, at the time he was probably already remembering everything. I think he was only trying to protect me, even then.
But, I'm sidetracking again....
Mother and Joseph soon switched topics and got down to business. Since I had no interest in those particular area I found myself gazing out the window. It was sunset, and our parlor had an excellent view of the Hudson River, I let my mind drift.
Looking out over the river my mind morphed the images into something else...thinking back on it, it almost looked like the sun was setting over the pyramids at...Giza? Egypt? But what-
"Allegra! Wake up!"
Someone was shaking me. I slowly opened my eyes to gaze up into Charles emerald green eyes that mirrored my own.
"W...what's wrong?" As my eyes came into focus I saw that the fire I sat by had long sense gone out and only embers were left. I also saw Duchess sitting at my feet, with that same protective look in her eyes she'd had earlier.
"It's half past midnight," Charles said, "you must've fallen asleep doing your research. I was going downstairs to get a glass of water and I saw the light on, so I came in and found you. You must've still been awake when Mother came home at around ten."
It was strange, I didn't even remember that. That mixed together with that crazy dream I'd just had made for a strange night.
But that was all that was, a dream.
I closed the book on my lap that I must've been reading and set it on the table. I stood up and turned to Charles, "I've had enough mythology for one night, let's go to bed."
He nodded and walked to the door, he motioned for me to follow him out. I did, it had been a wacky day and I was ready for some rest. Things would be better in the morning, hopefully.