23. Evensong of Life [IV]


Zara Costello-Masters grinned excitedly at her maternal grandmother as the old lady passed across a large icing-covered cake. It was a mound of ivory satin, smooth and styled perfectly. And it was up to Zara to cut this masterpiece.

Ten sticks of wax, with their flamed heads, bowed to her.

“Just so a lady doesn’t have to reveal her age,” Aidelle winked, placing the cake down in front of Zara, “Now for the final touch. Blow out the candles then!”

Zara threw back her head and laughed a mature laugh, “Thanks Grandma!”

Zara titled her head forward once again, and gracefully expelled a gush of cold air. Instantly, all the safety hazards were extinguished. Those gathered around the table clapped Zara as though she had completed such a feat as to save the world.

Mrs. Costello-Masters, a woman of decorum and sensible glamour, one all for women’s rights and the keeping of one’s maiden-name, floated over to Zara in her long lavender dress, and gave her a great big hug.

“Mum…” Zara blushed but hugged the middle-aged woman back. She didn’t know why, but Zara felt that her family was more important to her on this day than ever before.

Zara’s father theatrically lifted a large box onto the table with one hand (his left, and writing, hand), wrapped creatively in cream and sky-coloured paper with a bright red ribbon holding it. Zara’s father handed his daughter a large pair of left-handed scissors.

“Go on, open it!” he beamed.

Zara restrained her excitement, something she still found difficult to do, even on such a day when she was meant to be more of an adult, as she cut the ribbon, and tore off the packaging, laughing gleefully all the while, like a young child. The paper fell away to reveal a compound-present: a thick leather-bound book on mechanics, a neat pair of violet mechanic’s, or pilot’s, goggles, and a silver wrist-watch with dainty, white, embroidered straps and thin, glittering hour, minute and second hands that fluttered around a crystal centre. It reminded Zara of moths to a flame.

Now, it was at the last object that Zara stared. With quick accuracy, she flipped the watch over and fastened the small silver clasp under her right wrist. She marvelled as she studied the varied coloured digits that displayed the time, and also the date: it was the 29th August.

“Oh, it’s so beautiful!” she gasped when she eventually found her voice.

“Your grandmother picked it out for you. She said that it could be an important little gift.”

“Oh, thank you!” Zara jumped up and embraced Aidelle warmly.

“It was nothing…” Aidelle blushed. She indicated the goggles and explained, “I saw these too and thought of you, what with your love of machines, and your big imagination always wanting to create a metal bird that flies humans across continents. You should try the goggles on; I would like to see how you’ll look.”

Zara obliged her and blinked out through the conical layers of semi-refracted glass. She looked incredibly bemused, but delighted nonetheless.

Mrs. Costello-Masters poked her head around the kitchen door and gestured for the three figures hiding behind it to come forward.

Little Lynnette tugged her brothers with her left hand, in her right tightly clutching a small tissue-paper present and a piece of paper, which looked, from Zara’s side perspective, oddly like sheet music.

“This is for you,” Lynnie squeaked, pushing the present into Zara’s hands, but not the musical paper, which she waved into the air “And then we have this…”

She gestured through to the living room to their twin brothers as the door was opened wider. One was sitting at the family’s old grand piano; the other was poised over his right, ready to turn pages (with his left hand).

“You’re going to sing to me?” Zara grinned.

One of the twins shrugged, his hands poised over the instrument.

“It’s the best we can give you, kid. Something meaningful, something from all our hearts…”

The End

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