23. Evensong of Life [VII]

Aidelle embraced her husband joyfully, kissing him fully on the lips. Over the years their love had burned stronger than ice or fire; they were far too much in love to care, far too happy to let anything tear them apart now.

Even in her older age, and her status as a Matriarch to a large, and very lovely, family, Aidelle had every sense of the beauty she possessed as a vain twenty-something awaiting her ‘elegant future’.

She had forgotten that life was a roller-coaster; no matter how happy you would feel, there would always be something to shake your faith in the great, everlasting joy of living.

Her lips still stood out when a person glanced at her features, and her mature choice of dark red lipstick indicated the opulence that grew with age and experience. A thin layer of mascara let her naturally-long lashes breathe, and red-nailed hands sat comfortably on display in her lap, despite the fact that a lack of very much money had made regular manicures the thing of dreams. On the other hand, Dr. Costello had relented during his grief at his ‘most faithful’ son’s death, and presented Phillip and Aidelle with a bit more than their original share as a reward for being there for the family. It was soon revealed that Ryan had been paid to pass on ammunition techniques- and the cause of his death was an ironic backfire of the illegal testing he was doing- and, although Dr. Costello never got over the shock, and the bruise on his pride, overall the incident united the family with some true strength that they had never had before; Dr. Costello lived a long and full life, died a happy man, and shared the remainder of his fortune evenly, as requested by his wife in her content deathbed speech.

However, Aidelle loved the lot that had been tossed to her by life. Beauty, power, riches, nothing like that mattered to the wise old woman anymore.

Especially when her eyes lit up as they did when she saw the people she had adored since childhood.

“Well?” she demanded softly to both men who had just arrived.

Phillip gestured to silence her, and first turned to Zara.

With a flourish, Phillip produced a bunch of hand-picked day-lilies that he had taken from their garden earlier that day, and Peter summoned his present to Zara from the thin air. He levitated a large (book-sized) velvet box wrapped in rough, brown-bag-paper into Zara’s outstretched hands, which shook slightly from the fit of giggles that had crept up on the girl.

“Parlour tricks,” Zara laughed, “But thank you.”

Her final present did indeed turn out to be a book, a new novel in fact, which, in reading the blurb, Zara saw that it was about a couple who, inadvertently, time-travelled. Zara laughed even more when she received it, for she knew its plot was of pure science-fiction, but she could not wait to revel in its taffeta-tree pages and the lines and lines of silky story-script. In fact, part of Zara yearned to take herself into its pages and time-travel too.

When one was a victim of the imagination, one would always be a victim to its long flights of fantasy too.

“We thought you’d like it,” said Phillip, “You’re always going on about philosophical mysteries, including the creation of time.”

“Well,” Zara blushed, “That’s just a little hobby.”

“Just call it intuition,” winked Peter.

Zara shook her head, bemused, and turned on her mother.

“Don’t try to play that game with me, Sirs! You told them, mum! I know it!” she pouted playfully.

“Yes, in the childishness that stays with her throughout her life” Aidelle laughed too, whilst helping herself to another slice of the lavish, creamy cake, and pulling up two chairs for her husband and brother-in-law to sit in.

“So…” Aidelle asked, “What’s going on with that grassland?”

Phillip shrugged, as he and Peter reached for slices of the fast-disappearing celebratory cake themselves.

Aidelle slapped his hand in a flirtatious manner, the old woman widening her eyes to get his attention too.

“Phillip? And..?” Aidelle prompted.

“Well, okay. It turns out that the long stretch of grassland has been sold! How odd…” Phillip replied.

“Indeed…” Aidelle remarked.

Zara listened to the other adults without interest. Why would she have any? The situation had no more to do with her than the rotation of the sky. It never had, it never would, and it never will have.

Once again, the hectic family life spurred up and a positive clamour spread through the neat kitchen. Zara slipped out the necklace from within her loose top, and slipped on the hour-glass and chain as she sat back, sipping on the champagne held in her fragile flute in that lucky left hand of hers. Once again, all was good; she had all that she’d ever want at her fingertips.

“Happy birthday, dear granddaughter,” Aidelle pecked Zara’s forehead tenderly and stroked the curls that tumbled from her head, “Do enjoy yourself, dear. You only get one life.”

The young girl nodded, and then looked around at the friendly faces of family.

Zara leaned across the table, taking a piece of birthday sponge, and leaving only the empty, finished plate.


The End

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