Foto bij Chapter 13

Een super lang hoofdstukje, speciaal voor jullie!


It’s been a few days since the school incident. Uncle Chris asks me over to Crux Café, so I pay him a visit. He welcomes me with a smile. Other than Uncle Chris, the only other person here is the manager, asleep in a chair.
“How are thing, Elisabeth?” Uncle Chris says as he starts making a coffee.
“Good! I’ve gotten used to having a roommate, too.”
“Are you getting along with Harry?”
“I guess... He’s as rude as ever, though. I talk back too, but neither of us lets anything get to us.”
“Sounds like you’ve figured out how to deal with him.” Uncle Chris smiles as he gives me the coffee.
“Is that why you wanted to see me?”
“I was concerned for my little Elisabeth.” He laughs as he ruffles my hair. Then, the door opens wide. Uncle Chris turns around to welcome the costumer, but stops dead in his tracks as he sees who opened the door. A tall woman with pinkish hair and a garish floral top stands in the doorway.
“Chris is here today!” She yells. “It must be my lucky day.”
I’ve seen this woman before. She sits down at the bar with a bouquet in her hand, looking at Chris intensely. “You’re never here when I come. I was worried that you were sick or something!”
“Really? I’ve been in a lot recently.” Uncle Chris tries to smile.
“Then I guess you’ve been avoiding me! Cold-hearted as ever, I see… But I even like that side of you, too!”
“I… I just got the shivers suddenly.”
“I brought you flowers today! A present just for you! I know the place is dreary but at least put flowers out from time to time! After all, I’ll give you a nice lecture on flower arrangement.”
“Excuse me?”
“Yes?” The woman has an obvious frown plastered on her face. She looks my up and down, clearly sizing me up. It’s a total reversal from how she was treating Uncle Chris. “What could a little girl like you be doing here?”
“I’m sorry, but… Are you the famous flower arranger, Lilly?” Lilly is a master of the art of flower arranging and is one of their brightest stars. She got to be a bit of a personality due to her eccentric appearance and overtly feminine speech. “I’ve seen you on TV before. I love your flower arrangements!”
“Oh, how sweet!” Lilly breaks out in a smile. “Are you a regular?”
“This is Elisabeth,” Uncle Chris introduces me. “My niece.”
“What a cute name! Nice to meet you, Elisabeth.” Lilly flashes an angelic smile and shakes my hand. Then her phone rings.
“Hello… Oh, that interview’s today… I’ll be right over!” She looks disappointed as she puts her phone in her bag. “They’re making me go back to the office. And on a day you’re actually here, Chris!”
“Must be important. You’d better get going.”
“I’ll stop by again soon! See you around, Elisabeth." Lilly rushes out of the shop. Uncle Chris lets out a sigh of relief.
“No matter where you see her, she’s got… presence.”
“I can’t believe I met the real Lilly! I’m so glad I came.”
“You like her that much?”
“We’re florists. Lilly’s a star in our business.”
“You’re kind of in the same industry, huh. Then, can you arrange these flowers for me?”
“Of course. Do you have a vase?” I arrange the flowers in the vase. Uncle Chris beams with pride.
“You’re pretty good at this.”
“I used to do this back home. Customers would ask me to arrange their flowers for them sometimes.”
“Flowers really do brighten up the place. For some reason, all our customers are rough guys.”
“What about me?” I pull my eyebrows up in a sarcastic way.
“Oh, sorry. But you know, it kind of felt like a boys’ school before.”
“So I guess that means I’m the only female transfer student, then.”
“That’s a good one. There was a TV show like that.” His response makes me think of Harry’s high school. I had been overwhelmed by what a real girls’ school actually felt like.
“By the way, why is Harry fixated on that girls’ school so much? There are tons of high school, and there have to be a handful that hire single men. Is it worth having a fake marriage to work in that high school?”
“Who knows…?”
“Harry isn’t into young girls, is he?”
“Definitely not! He’s never had any trouble getting girls, and I’m sure he couldn’t get away with anything like that at work.”
“Then why?”
“Ask him yourself.” The manager wakes up with a start, even though he had been sleeping like the dead until now. “If there’s something you don’t know about your husband, you should ask him. A good marriage is based on communication.”
“Well, there’s no harm in getting to know each other better, is there? More importantly, Elisabeth, you’re pretty amazing.”
I look at Uncle Chris with a frown. What’s he talking about?
“I’m talking about these flowers!” Uncle Chris looks pointedly at my flower arrangement. “It looks real professional! You said you helped your folks out back at home?”
“I did some self-study for a while. I… wanted to be a professional flower arranger once.”
“You’ve got some skills. Maybe I’ll ask you when I want to put flowers in around here.”
“Anytime!” I say with a huge smile.
“Could you help us out here too? You know, work here part time when you can?”
“That’d really help me out. I wanted to get a job anyway.” I got to meet Lilly, I was praised for my flower arranging skills, and I got a job. Everything’s coming up roses. I can’t wait to tell Harry all about it when I get home.

It’s already dark outside. I ended up spending a long time at Crux. It’s already way late. I keep a quick pace walking down the quiet streets, to get home as soon as possible. No one really comes through here at night, either. It’s kind of lonely. Actually, it’s kind of scary. I’d better get home. I walk briskly in the darkness. Then, I hear footsteps behind me. The sound of the footsteps is keeping pace with mine, but they don’t seem to be coming any closer. I start to get freaked out. Is someone following me? I try stopping and whoever it is also stops. I start jogging and so does the person behind me. The footsteps had been keeping its distance, but now it’s rushing toward me. I’m too scared to turn around. I just keep running. I’m almost home. If I can just make it there somehow. But he’s catching up! The footsteps are right behind me now. I try to get away, but I panic and trip and can’t run straight. I look up to the sky without thinking and squeeze my eyes shut.
“You’re late! Do you have any idea what time it is? You’re a horrible wife.”
“Harry!” I open my eyes to see Harry in an apron with a ladle in his hand, standing in front of the apartment building. He leans against the wall, arms folded, looking angry.
“I waited for you forever, and you didn’t even try to come home!”
“A strange person was chasing after me just now.” The colour drains from Harry’s face. He glances around, suspicion in his eyes.
“I don’t see anyone.” I look timidly behind me, but Harry’s right, there’s nobody there. “Maybe you were daydreaming.”
“I’m sure I heard footsteps.”
“It was probably just the echo of your own footsteps. They’ll follow you around everywhere.” I realize he’s right, much to my relief. Harry looks down at me, exasperated. “Come on, let’s go.”
Harry grabs me by the hand. He yanks me over into the lobby of the building. His hand’s cold. He really was waiting out there for a long time. Wearing that apron, holding that ladle… He was so worried about me, he didn’t care what he looked like? I gently squeeze his hand back and let him walk me to the elevator.

“I was make a spaghetti. Hurry up and wash your hands.” I wash my hands in the sink and think of how it felt when he held my hand. It felt so… comforting. I hear Harry in the kitchen. Comforted by those familiar sounds, I wash my hands and leave the bathroom.
“Shall we eat?” Harry fills my bowl and hands it to me. I notice that my bowl is different from the one I’ve used until yesterday.
“Did you change my bowl? Did you… get me one that matches yours?” I also notice that my cup matches his too. Harry blushes slightly and looks away.
“I bought them for you. Having you use the guest cutlery forever would be too weird. Don’t read too much into it. I just don’t want the Vice Principal to get suspicious if he ever came over.” Matching bowls and matching cups… Harry’s so old fashioned. It makes me happy. “It’s important to get the details right. I kind of like buying things like this too…”
“I can get you another one if you don’t like the design. I have a few extras.”
“Thank you.” I mean it. “Let’s eat!” We start to eat. The food tastes extra good eaten out of matching bowls. “Did you always like cooking?”
“My mother worked, so I had to do all the housework. And later, when I was in junior high, my grandmother kind of kept that going. She thought me a lot.”
“Harry, I’m sorry if I seem to be imposing, but if it’s alright, may I ask…”
“Stop that.”
“We’re the same age, we’re married. There’s no need to be so overly polite.”
“Yes, of course you’re right, but I don’t want to be rude or…”
“Instead of ‘of course you’re right’, just get to the point, alright? Just loosen up a little. I won’t bite even if you aren’t polite enough or something, you know.”
“I’m not too sure about that… Plus, you did seem pretty intimidating in the beginning.”
“Too bad. Don’t be so stiff and tense around your husband. I’ll add it to our marriage contract.”
“I can’t lose the tension around you all the sudden. It’ll take some time and practice.”
“Then practice right now. Say my name, with a relaxed smile.”
“Wow, that was tense. Even stiffer than the day we first met. Try again.”
“Sounds better. From now on, I won’t answer unless you say my name like that.”
“You’re strict.”
“It’s called tough love.” Although I’m much more comfortable around him than we first started living together, it still might take me a while to get used to it. I’ll just have to practice.
“Oh! I almost forgot. Uncle Chris asked me to work for him part time. Can I?”
“Why not. You’re free on weekday afternoons.”
“I arranged some flowers for him. Lilly brought some in and she said she wanted to see you again.”
“Ugh… Don’t bring her op during dinner.” Harry grimaces. His expression makes me chuckle. I feel the strain I didn’t know I had going away gradually. The manager at Crux was right. Marriage is based on communication after all. Eating dinner from matching bowls and drink from matching cups. I feel the distance between us growing smaller.

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