Generation Three: Alaina: Part One
“Come on, Carmen,” Alaina Standish said as the two teenage girls exited the bus together at Alaina’s house after school. “Let’s go on up to my room.”
“Sounds great,” Carmen replied, her green eyes sparkling as she followed her cousin into the house. Just inside the front door, she passed Alaina’s father; her uncle Kevin.
Carmen waved, but her uncle seemed to look right through her as though she wasn’t there, his sky-blue eyes totally blank. Shaking her head, Carmen ran to catch up with her cousin in the kitchen.
“Alaina, what’s wrong with Uncle Kevin?” Carmen asked breathlessly. “He always seems so… odd… when I see him.”
“I really don’t know,” Alaina shrugged sadly. “He has some kind of mental problem I think. He tries to hide it, but he’s getting worse. He’s just not very healthy up here.” Alaina pointed to her temple. “Gran told me he hasn’t been right since my mother died, and I believe that, but I think there’s more.”
“Like what?” Carmen asked.
Alaina lowered her voice to a whisper. “I think it has something to do with the attic. He has a horrible fear of attics in general and the one in this house especially. I’ve never been allowed to go up there. In fact, there aren’t any stairs or anything. I don’t know what happened to them.” Alaina trailed off pensively, then seemed to come back to earth. “I’m starving! You?”
“Yes!” Carmen enthused. “Let’s grab something to eat before we go up to your room.”
“Sounds good,” Alaina agreed. “Let me put my homework away first, though.”
Alaina headed toward the home office, and as she placed her books on the desk, she had a fleeting memory of her grandfather helping her with her homework when she was just a child.
She smiled a fond, sad, smile, as tears welled up in her eyes.
Her beloved grandfather George had died shortly after Alaina became a teenager, and she still missed him very much. At least she still had her grandmother, although since Gramps’ death, Gran had been fading fast, and everyone knew she didn’t have much time left.
Morgana and George had remained extremely close throughout their devoted marriage, and when George died, he took a large part of Morgana with him. Morgana seemed to realize her end was near, and several times, she had drawn Alaina into a room alone, acting as though she wanted to tell her something very important.
Alaina wondered if it had to do with the secret… the secret she knew everyone in her household knew, except her. The terrible event that had happened within her family when she was still only a baby, but no one ever talked about except in hushed whispers and euphuisms. Enough for a child to understand something had taken place, but not enough to understand what it was.
However, Alaina thought it might have something to do with her mother.
Alaina had been told her mother had died very shortly after her birth, and that was all. She learned early on to not ask any questions, for if she ever brought up the subject of her mother, her grandparents clammed up, and her father broke down.
Sometimes, Alaina would hear him sobbing late at night, and she was sure she heard her mother’s name; Margaret... Margaret... Margaret...
“You know it upsets him to think of her,” Alaina’s grandmother said gently once, referring to Alaina’s mother. “I know you have questions, Alaina, but it’s best to let it be. Your father loves you. We all love you, so much... ” Yet there had been something behind her grandmother’s eyes that told Alaina more than words could possibly say.
You’re just too young, child... too young to know the truth...
Alaina knew there was something her family was hiding, but until someone told her, she could only guess at the cause of the closed-away attic, her grandmother’s silence, and her father’s slow, downward spiral into madness.
Carmen grabbed a bag of chocolate-chip cookies from a cabinet and carried it up to Alaina’s room with her, opening it as she flopped onto one of the twin beds. This room had belonged to Carmen’s mother, once, and also the girls’ aunt Kate. Thinking this, Alaina realized it had been quite some time since she had heard anything about Carmen’s mother’s twin sister.
“Hey, Carmen,” Alaina asked, sitting down on the other bed. “Do you know what’s going on with Aunt Kate? I haven’t heard from her in ages.”
“Oh, Alaina! I can’t believe you haven't heard! I thought for sure Mom would have told Gran! Well, maybe she did and Gran just forgot. Anyway, I guess there was a scientist who came from Strangetown to be a guest speaker at a lecture for one of her graduate classes, and she fell head over heels for him! Can you believe it?”
“No, I didn’t know that!” Alaina said, surprised. “What’s his name?”
”His name... oh, let me think...” Carmen dug into the bag of cookies. “It’s a wierd name. Vincent? No. Vid… Vido? No… Vidcund! That’s it. Vidcund Curious.” Carmen shrugged. “She really seems to love him. He asked her to move to Strangetown to live with him and his two brothers and she dropped out of graduate school without a word and went! They’re probably married by now.”
“Really?” Alaina asked. “So she lives in Strangetown now? Well, I guess that’s not too far away... just on the other side of the mountain,” Alaina pouted, “...but I still can’t believe she’d just pack up and run off to another town with someone she only met at a lecture, though!”
Carmen sighed happily. “That’s so romantic… to be swept away by a chance meeting like that.”
“Oh, stop it...” Alaina said with mock exasperation. “So, did Aunt Kate say what this guy’s brothers are like? I can’t imagine sharing a house with three men!”
“No, she didn’t say,” Carmen giggled slyly. “...but I wonder if she’d ask me to visit once I get into college... you know, so I can see what they’re like for myself.”
“Carmen! They have to be at least twice your age!”
“Since when has that mattered if everyone's legal?” Carmen said, swinging her wavy chestnut ponytail as she winked at Alaina. “Especially if the guy’s cute enough?” Both girls dissolved into giggles.
“Of course, you know who I have my eye on,” Alaina said, winking at her cousin. “...and before you say anything, yes. He is older than we are, but not by much.”
Carmen dropped the bag of cookies. “Who?” she demanded.
Alaina blushed. “You have to promise not to tell a soul, Carmen! I mean it.”
“Cross my heart, Alaina, you know that... now, who is it?”
“Alaina!” Carmen was exasperated.
“Okay, okay. Well, it’s um… ” Alaina looked away. “It’s Leo,” she muttered.
“Leo? As in your new gardener?” Carmen squealed. “You’re kidding!”
Alaina flushed. “No, I’m not kidding. He's really cute... and I think he'd be a great father... ”
“He’s only been coming around to work here since...” Carmen tried to think how long it had been, but she couldn’t pinpoint it. It hadn’t been very long, though. Certainly not long enough for Alaina to be thinking of him in that way.
“Well, he’s been staying after he gets done with the gardening to hang out with me if I’m home," Alaina explained, "...and he’s been coming over to visit me sometimes in the evenings too.”
“Alaina!” Carmen was scandalized. “You’re too young for that!”
“He’s going to get his wish any time now, isn’t he?” Carmen grinned. “I’m enrolled at Sim State starting next term. What about you?”
“Me, too. What dorm are you heading for?”
“Me too!” Alaina squealed, and the two girls hugged, Alaina’s mind racing forward to the day she would head off to University. Truly, Alaina couldn’t wait to leave the disarray of her life at home, even for just a short time. She felt a small pang of guilt, but she told herself she had the right to be free.
For too long she had lived under the veil of her father’s desolation and the mysteries hidden in her grandmother’s eyes. Now, she was headed off to a new life of young adulthood.
A life full of possibilities and lit with the promise of young love, yet so shrouded in secrets.
To Be Continued…