|strrynighte (strrynighte) wrote,|
@ 2010-03-17 17:00:00
Title: A Woman's Place
"Are you absolutely certain that you insist on coming with me back home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?" Lirael looked at Andrew worriedly as she asked him her question.
"Yes I'm sure, and yes I do insist on coming with you, moral support and all you know," Andrew replied brightly, lightening Lirael's downtrodden spirit. Ever since she decided to go home for Christmas after all, she's been so tense and second guessing herself every moment of every day. I wish I understood why her family is pressuring her this way, criticizing her like they do, undermining her intelligence basically by refusing to acknowledge the scholarship she's been awarded to come and study here at college. That's such a prestigious award; I sincerely doubt that her family truly comprehends what that means for Lirael.
Andrew helped Lirael load up all of the luggage bags in the back seat of her car, leaving the smaller sized trunk space for the bags of wrapped presents for him and her family. I suppose it's a good thing that Mom is keeping Jamie for me for these next two days. Jamie's not quite old enough to understand that Christmas is actually tomorrow, and not when we celebrated it yesterday, but somehow I don't think that taking him with us to Lirael's hometown would exactly be the best of plans in my opinion. With the bags finally loaded in the car, Andrew settled himself into the front passenger seat, as this time around for the road trip, they were taking Lirael's car, not his car, thus Lirael was driving, not him.
Soon they were on the road, in the first stretch of the four hour-long journey to Lirael's hometown, Kallis. When they were on the highway, Lirael looked slyly at Andrew next to her, and switched the stereo from the radio station that was currently playing, to the CD she had put in earlier while Andrew was preoccupied with the bags of luggage and presents. The CD loaded, and strains of The Little Drummer Boy came over the speakers. Andrew groaned, "I suppose you'd like an encore, eh?" he questioned Lirael. She just nodded, grinning a mile a minute at her—something, I guess. I'm not sure if he's what I'd call my boyfriend, in the high school sense of the word, but I don't really know what else to call him besides that. Much as I know what I'd like to call him, that time has yet to come.
"Well," Andrew said chuckling, "you're just going to have to wait until later for an encore!" He laughed outright at the look of shock on Lirael's face, followed closely by her patented glare-o-death once she realized that he was only teasing her. "All right, all right!" Andrew exclaimed, fending off the swipes Lirael was making at his head and shoulders, trying to hit him without swerving too badly on the road as she drove at high speeds on the interstate. Andrew pushed the back button on the stereo faceplate, starting the song over again, and began to sing for Lirael.
Almost too soon, for Lirael at least, they were pulling up slowly in front of a nondescript house at the end of a dirt road in what looked like the middle of nowhere.
As the car rolled to a stop, Lirael turned off the engine and she and Andrew exited the car, they heard what must surely be a her of elephants, and they all came tumbling out of the front door, thundering down the front porch, shouting and screaming "LIRAEL! Lirael! Lirael! She's here, she's here!"
Lirael visibly braced herself, and to Andrew's astonishment, with good reason as he soon discovered. Four bodies of various sizes attacked Lirael with hugs, kisses, shouts, and scream, and they all came tumbling down to the ground in front of her car. Andrew crumbled to his knees with laughter as he watched Lirael struggle to remain upright, and stumbled as she failed and went to the ground. Evidently, she means to take as many as the hooligans as she can with her if she's going down, Andrew noticed detachedly as he continued to laugh, tears streaming down his face as he watched as Lirael managed to take all four bodies with her to the dirt and grass. There, she finally managed to extract herself from the melee, and stood up, hands on her knees, hunched over gasping for breath.
"I see none of you have learned any manners while I've been gone, Zach, Jacob, Jennifer, Melody," Lirael said, trying to be stern. Due to her wheezy breathy, the sternness didn't really come across that well, fortunately, it was all in play.
"Us?" a boy and girl that looked remarkably similar for being of different sexes replied together.
"Never!" chimed in the last two, a younger girl and an older boy.
"Right," Lirael drawled. "All right you lot, you know the drill, line up!" The four teens lined up to the right of Lirael, according to age it seemed, as well as height. The tallest boy, standing next to Lirael, had dark blonde hair that curled just a little at the tips; he brushed impatiently out of his brown eyes with a tanned hand. The next in line, another boy, had dark brown hair, and hazel colored eyes. Next to him was a girl who looked to be his twin, with the same color of hair, shoulder length it looked like, pulled back in a practical ponytail, and hazel eyes, though they had a hint more of green in them than her brother's eyes. The youngest, another girl, looked as though she could pass for a much younger Lirael, Andrew noticed with mild shock. It's like I'm in a time warp, seeing Lirael as she must have looked when she was just ten or eleven. The girl had the same, smooth black hair as Lirael, though hers was cut in a cute stylish bob at her chin, and green eyes, though they had not quite the same intensity just yet as Lirael's piercing emerald gaze.
"Andrew, this is my brother Zach, he's sixteen," Lirael said motioning toward the first boy. "Next to him are the twins, Jacob and Jennifer, age fourteen," Lirael said, confirming Andrew's suspicions that the two were fraternal twins. "And last, but certainly not least, is my little mini-me, Melody. She's eleven," Lirael finished, moving down behind the line of her siblings to wrap her arms around her in a hug from behind.
"It's very nice to meet all of you," Andrew replied congenially to the collective siblings as a whole. "Especially after such an auspicious first meeting!" He concluded wittily.
"Shall we head inside everyone?" Lirael called out. She was answered with resounding agreement. "All right then, could I enlist your help to unload the luggage bags please?" she asked sweetly, her eyes daring one and all to just try objecting. Apparently, her four siblings were quite familiar with this, and all jumped to be the first to the back seat of the car to haul out the bags. Mischievously, Jacob tried to open the trunk, but Lirael caught him without evening turning around, "Jacob, don't you dare open that trunk, you know there's Christmas presents in there—no one's allowed to look until they're under the tree."
The angry, raised voices drew Andrew to the small living room attached to the kitchen by an open stretch of wall.
"You need to stop this ridiculous college business of yours and come home. A girl's place is not in school, or working! You had plenty of schooling, we even let you go on to senior high school instead of having you learn the family business when you turned sixteen." Lirael's father was seriously chewing her out, Andrew determined.
He decided, in a rush of courage and probably quite a bit of foolishness, to come to Lirael's rescue. Unfortunately, he chose exactly the wrong moment to step into the argument currently rocking the house.
"And what about this man you've brought to our home with you? Has he asked you to marry him yet? Or are you playing around, like you did with that nice young man, Will?" Lirael's mother got in on the action too.
Andrew froze in mid step, catching Lirael's eye; she was standing facing the doorway Andrew was blocking, her parent's backs to Andrew.
Lirael took a deep breath, Andrew saw the rage rising on her face and held his breath, waiting for the ax to fall. This is not going to be pretty. I'm glad her siblings are all upstairs, thoroughly entertaining themselves with their new presents and goodies, Andrew thought dispassionately as he watched Lirael getting ready to completely blow her gasket.
"I cannot believe you; after everything that I have told you about college, and my scholarship, and all of the wonderful opportunities available to me with a college education, you would still have me quit?! And when I'm doing so well, and far ahead of so many other college freshmen, even some sophomores! Don't you understand what this is to me? My dream! Not just a little girl's daydream, but a lifetime of wishing, planning, and working so hard to achieve it. And you're both standing here, telling me that I'm not only not good enough for something that I've dreamed of ever since I could understand what college was, but that I am only good enough to be tied to some man I hardly know, popping out children every few years, never realizing my full potential! How dare you!" Lirael screeched the last, shoving her way roughly past her parents, tears streaming down her face as she ran into Andrew still in the doorway, and pushed on right past him, slamming through the front door.
Andrew stepped fully into the living room, aware of the suspicious and distrustful glares aimed at him by Lirael's mother and father both.
In a deadly quiet and serious tone of voice Andrew laid into her parents, "I want you two to not just know exactly what you have done, but actually understand it in the way you seem to be unable to understand your daughter," he bit back a snarl at the end of his proclamation.
"You've just thrown away everything she has been trying to tell you for the past two days out of a twenty story window, and made her watch as it hit the ground and splattered, completely demolished. Are you proud of yourselves?" the snarl broke free, though Andrew's voice never rose above normal speaking volume. "You have dashed the only thing she has been holding onto these past few months, her pride and joy in her artistic abilities. Have you ever truly looked at what she does? Her works are amazing, stunning! She's already been offered numerous commissions for the moment she graduates from college. Not many art majors can claim that, in fact it is so rare, it's almost as rare as an eclipse! I'm going after her, and you can't stop me. In fact, I hope you seriously contemplate just what you've done, and what I've told you. Now excuse me while I go find your daughter and convince her that she is truly intelligent and talented." And with that, Andrew stomped upstairs for his jacket and to consult with Melody, Lirael's shadow. If anyone knew where she might have fled, it was the little eleven-year-old girl that looked up to Lirael and admired her so greatly.
Damn this rain! Andrew thundered silently. As if it wasn't going to be hard enough to find her hiding away on her home turf, it had to be raining. What is it with rain and the two of us anyway? he asked rhetorically.
Suddenly, he spotted the twisted and gnarled tree that Melody had described to him; the landmark that marked Lirael's favorite hiding spot from her childhood, the one that she had passed down to each of her siblings when the appropriate time had come. It's a good thing too, he thought. I'm already soaked and I've only been out here for about ten minutes at most. Lirael's been out here for at least twice as long. She's going to get really sick if I don't get her inside quickly.
Andrew made his way past the tree to the large rock just beyond it, and peered underneath it into the good-sized cubbyhole cut into the rock. There, shivering in her wet clothes once more, was Lirael, sobbing heartbrokenly into her arms crossed over her folded legs in front of her.
"Oh Lirael," Andrew whispered, his heart reaching out to hers in an attempt to begin the healing she so desperately needed after the confrontation with her parents. He crawled under the rock to sit next to her and hauled her into his lap, cradling her soaked body close to his, heedless of the water now soaking the both of them. He murmured soft reassuring words of comfort and praise to her as her sobs intensified. Within moments, she had cried herself to sleep in the safety of Andrew's warm embrace, wet though they both were.
When he was sure that she would not awaken for the journey back to the house, Andrew shifted her weight more comfortably in his arms, and crawled out carefully from beneath the hidey-hole rock, and carried Lirael back to the house. Inside, he made his way up the stairs to where he knew Lirael's room was at the top of the house. He passed her parents in the front foyer, paying them no mind, furious beyond description at their actions and words. Her siblings, all lined up at their bedroom doors, nodded to him as he traversed the hallway to the second flight of stairs, passing the duty of their love and care for Lirael to Andrew.
Andrew reached Lirael's bedroom door and quietly opened it, mindful of Lirael sleeping fitfully in his arms. Inside her room, Andrew went through to the bathroom attached to Lirael's room, turning on the shower to let it warm up the room while heating the water for a quick warm up rinse before going to bed. Andrew nudged Lirael awake just enough to sit her on the closed toilet seat. Then he helped her strip of her sodden sweater—she had no jacket, having rushed out of the house like she had—her blue jeans, socks, and tennis shoes. He left her in her skivvies; he'd take those off when they were out of the shower and getting into dry clothes, for now they were fine. With Lirael propped up on the seat, Andrew stripped off his sodden clothes too, his jacket, sweater, tee shirt, jeans, socks, and tennis shoes joining the puddle of Lirael's dripping clothes on the bathroom floor.
Clad only in his boxers, and Lirael in her panties and brassiere, Andrew guided Lirael to step into the bathtub, pulling the shower curtain closed as he adjusted the heat by turning the water knob. He pulled Lirael's half awake body close to him, leaning her against him under the spray of the water, letting her tears wash away in the streams of warm water from the shower nozzle. When they had sufficiently warmed up, Andrew shut off the water, and helped Lirael out of the bathtub again, wrapping a huge, fluffy towel around her and picked her up, one arm under her knees and the other around her back to carry her into the bedroom. He laid her down on the top of the bedspread covering her bed, still wrapped in her towel. He rubbed her briskly to dry the moisture and rivulets of water trailing over her skin still from the shower. That done, Andrew moved to her dresser, a girly white and pink one along one wall, and fished out a large tee shirt that must have once been her father's; used for painting from the look of it, Andrew decided. He carefully pulled it over Lirael's head, and before he helped her push her arms through the sleeves, he unhooked her bra in the back and pulled it off, keeping his eyes locked on hers. That done, he got her arms through the sleeves and pulled the shirt down to cover her thighs. Then he slipped his hands under the shirt to remove her soaked panties, not wanting her to be in wet clothes the entire night, though he felt mildly uncomfortable taking this slight liberty with Lirael, not to mention slightly guilty at the thought that he wouldn't mind looking at some other time.
With Lirael clothed, he pulled the covers out from under her, tucking her in as he would little Jamie. He left her there to head to his room to quickly grab some dry clothes for himself. But when he opened the door to Lirael's room to head downstairs to the guest room he was staying, he found that one of Lirael's siblings, Jacob most likely as he was slightly more perspective that Zach, had left a shirt, clean boxers, and sleep pants for him just outside Lirael's room. He picked them up, sending a silent prayer of thanks to that wonderful, enterprising soul. He closed the door again and quickly dressed himself, then joined Lirael in her bed, pulling her into his arms to sleep fitfully through the long, dark hours of the night.