The Thanksgiving holiday seemed to pass in a heightened blur. The only parts I remember was getting to my mother’s house and all hell breaking loose. My mother having only her three children to keep her company, decided we would do the cooking. We, meaning my older brother Leon and my older sister Shar. Neither of them had shown up. It was early yet, but I thought that my mother should be the first to know about me working for Mr. Romani. As I was pouring the filling for sweet potato pie into the frozen pie crust, I looked over at my mother rocking back in forth in her chair. I swear sometimes she looked older than her 50 years when she rocked like that with her eyes closed. Not wanting to hurt her feelings, and I know she relied on me a lot, but I needed, and wanted, this opportunity to work with Mr. Romani.
“Momma, what would you think if I became the personal journalist for Augostino Romani?”
One of her eyes cracked open and she looked at me. I was thankful for the distraction of trying not to spill the warm, orange, spicy filling all over the counter. When she gives that look, it means you are about to enter a war.
“I guess I don’t really know what that means Von. What is a personal journalist? And why are you asking me? You usually don’t ask me about your decisions.” Only my mother could make me feel guilty about not including her in my life decisions while asking a question. It was her talent, like she went to guilt trip school. .
“It means I get to follow him around and see what he does.” I explained. I knew the tough part was coming. It would be explaining that it was for a few months, not a day job.
“Ok, but that should only be one of your ‘day’ gigs right? I still don’t see why you are asking me what I think.” She crossed her arms and looked towards the door. Maybe she was worried about where my siblings were, but I wasn’t. I knew they would only show up after all the work is done. She looked back at me, eyeing me up and down. “Did you pick up my dry cleaning yet Von? I sent it with you earlier this week?”
“Momma, it is a holiday, so no, I didn’t pick it up. And I am asking you because it is more than a day job. It will be for a couple of months. He might decide to go home to Italy, or a press conference in New York. I just might not be able to pick up your dry cleaning, or take you to get your hair done at the salon, or anything like that. I am sure Shar would be happy to take you but I just won’t be able to.” I held my breath. I knew it was coming. I heard her sharp intake of breath as if I just slapped her.
“I don’t see why you need to go gallivanting across the country with this man for some interview. When will you come to visit? Do you really think that Shar or Leon is going to take me to the grocery store?”
“Mom, please. It is not like I am moving away for good. Heck, I won’t be gone longer than a few months. Leon and Shar will be around like they always are. I will ask them to pick up your dry cleaning and I am sure that Lena will be more than happy to take you to the grocery store. You won’t go without. I think I would be foolish to pass up this opportunity.” Just as I had finished, I felt the back door open behind me. A rush of cold wind flew up my back. From the blend of cologne and suffocating perfume in the air, I knew it was my brother Leon with whichever arm candy was the flavor of the month. I turned and smiled the best I could and gave my brother a hug through his fur lined leather jacket.
“Leon, happy Thanksgiving!” I looked at his companion, because they were never really his girlfriend, he never got that personal and gave her a smile. “Welcome.” I said as I held out my hand. She recoiled further into Leon’s coat as if the coat could hide her from me. I quirked an eyebrow at Leon, wondering why he would bring such a timid deer around our clan. Her blue eye shadow and blonde hair against her caramel skin tone made her look like an overly tanned Barbie doll. Her eyes seem to bug out of her head as I looked down at her. She might have been an average woman’s height, but that would still make me tower over her, I was five feet eleven inches.
“Hey lil Sis, good to see you. This is Shelly. Shells, say hi to Von.”
“Hi Yvonne.” She said quickly and her gaze went beyond me to my mother sitting in the kitchen. Here she let out a high pitched squeal and ran to my mother. My mother shrank back in her chair as if a dog was trying to hop into her lap. “Oh, Ms. Mason, it is so nice meet you! Oh what can I do to help?” She looked around the room and I looked at her hands. You can always tell someone by their nails, and this squealing banshee had 3 inch talons painted in red. She wasn’t really here to help. Neither was Leon, I knew he always showed up after everything was finished, even getting down the chairs. For the last ten years I had taken care of everything. I knew Shar would even be later than Leon. I put the pie in the oven and proceeded to put everything on the table.
The night went slow, and as I made my mother some Earl Grey tea and sliced her a piece of the pie, I asked Leon and Shar if they could take over getting Mom to the grocery store and getting her dry cleaning.
Shar rolled her eyes at me.
“No, I can’t Vonnie, you know I got my new car and I can’t be driving it all over the place. Speaking of which, can I borrow some money for gas? I think a hundred oughta do it for the week.” Shar said in her husky voice. Her voice was scratchy from years of cigarettes and lots of drinking. At 32 she apparently had not gotten tired of the night club scene yet. I shook my head at her.
“Shar, I don’t have that kind of money, and it isn’t out of your way. You are here once a week anyway. What would an extra errand hurt?”
“I don’t see why things have to change Vonnie, you took up all these chores when Dad left, why rock the boat now?” Leon chimed in. I couldn’t believe that I couldn’t count on my family to pick up an extra chore or two. Was I going to have to tell Mr. Romani no because of my mother’s dry cleaning? I felt tears well up in my eyes, and for the first time in the ten years since Dad left I let the tears fall.
“Rock the boat Leon?” I turned to him with the knife in my hand and he backed away from me with his two hands in the air. I sighed, but kept the knife pointed to the floor and watched as my tears hit the yellow linoleum.
“She has a good reason ya’ll.” I heard my mother chime in. “She is going to interview what’s his name, something about Romano…”
“It is Augostino Romani, and I am going to be his personal journalist. That is why I need your help, I won’t be around as much. Can you please do this for me? It is an opportunity of a lifetime for me.” I pleaded with them and then I heard the ‘banshee’ Shelly speak.
“Oooo I heard of him. He is like, super, duper, rich. Why can’t you send a like ummmm, what do they call them, a lackey, to do it? He can afford it. Besides, Leon doesn’t spend enough time with me as it is.” Shelly pouted as she said this. Give me a break! She probably doesn’t know she is probably the third choice on my brother’s ‘list’ to come to his mother’s on Thanksgiving.
“If he is that rich, why can’t you borrow me a hundred bucks?” Shar said from her stool in the corner.
“Oh my goodness! Are you really serious? Forget I asked anything of you.” . putting my mom’s tea in front of her, I bent and gave her a kiss on her cheek. “ sorry Momma, I got to go. I can’t be around all of this selfishness. Lena will call and come over to check on you. love you.” Grabbing my coat, tI walked out into the light rain. They could stay behind and clean up the mess. Talking to Mom about it was honestly an excuse, an excuse on why I wouldn’t answer my phone. It was purely selfish, sure, I probably could answer their calls, not anticipating that Mr. Romani would be a slave driver. Simply stated, I didn’t want to. I wanted to be free, I wanted to be caught up in the allure of how the other half lived. A smile spread across my face as I started my car. My fingers gripped tight on the steering wheel as it dawned on me the course of my own thoughts. I’d already made up my mind. I was going to be Mr. Romani’s’s personal journalist.
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