“The sound of shattering glass woke Giselle up in terror. Disoriented, she sat up and looked around, blinking hard to focus her sleepy eyes at her surroundings. Where was she?
Again, she jumped as a crash of thunder echoed in the eeriness of the night. With a trembling hand she reached for her bedside lamp but her hand touched emptiness.
A flash of lightning lit the room, jolting her sleepy brain to think. Oh, it was grandma’s house. And why was she wet?
A cool splatter of raindrops slapped her arms and legs. Oh yeah. She remembered leaving the window wide open to drown the stifling heat of the summer months. Now, rain forced its way into the cosy room. Trembling a little, she scrambled out of bed and darted to close the window.
Ouch! She yelped as something sharp stabbed her little toe. Blindly she banged it shut and limped across the room to turn the light on. A sudden explosion of thunder reverberated through the house, and terror stricken, Giselle crouched over, covering her ears, unable to move or reach for the light switch. God please make it stop! She thought.
Another outburst boomed through the house. Get a grip! Heart pounding and tears threatening to spill, she crawled to the door, fumbling with the door knob until she managed to swing it open. The faint glow of the nightlight in the corridor greeted her thumping heart, her quivering legs miraculously holding her up as she ran to Sophie’s room for safety.
“Soph, Soph!”Giselle cried as she burst into her cousin’s room and switched the light on.
“What! What?” Sophie sat up and rubbed the sleep of her eyes as another clap of thunder resonated through the house, causing Giselle to cover her ears and shut her eyes.
“The storm!” She squeaked wanting the nightmare to end! Sophie jumped out of bed, her long blond hair ridiculously tousled as she rushed to Giselle’s side. “Gi, its ok,” she said reassuringly as she ushered her to the bed. “You’re safe inside with me and grandma. You’ll be fine.”
Why was she a wimp!
Still shaking Giselle flopped on her cousin’s bed. “I’m such a baby! I mean, who is afraid of storms? I hate feeling like this. I hate it!” Covering her she cried.
“Really Gi, everyone is scared of something,” Sophie whispered giving her a squeeze.
“Yeah, maybe. But a storm? I’m not two Soph!” Giselle burst out frustrated at herself.
Lightning and thunder rumbled as if it was in the very room. Giselle buried her head on her cousin’s shoulder. Sophie hugged her and Giselle waited till the sound rolled away.
“Hey, that one wasn’t that loud.” Sophie smiled.
Giselle looked up and cocked her head to one side listening with intent. The roll of thunder and the brightness of lightning were becoming more distant and softer. Heavy rain pelted on the roof and window panes. Rain was ok, though. Giselle loved rain.
Slowly she exhaled, not even realising that she’d been holding her breath. Thank goodness Sophie had been around. What would she have done on her own?”
Giselle shook her head a few times and tried to focus back on her cousins. She didn’t want the weekend to be a total bust because of her mood. There was no way that witchy Zeital would ruin things for her. No way! Besides, couldn’t God fix this stuff for her? Nonno always said that God was in control of everything, even the tiny things. She had to snap out of it and love the weekend.
When she was able to come back to earth from her outer body shock experience, she exhaled and made an announcement.
“Ok,” she said, “I know that, that Zeital might be coming to our school. But I’m not gonna let that ruin our weekend.” She twirled her chocolate brown boho-braid and continued. “I want this year to be awesome. I promised myself that nothing would ruin it!”
Giselle looked around at her cousin’s stunned faces. Even Emily had stopped eating, her pretzel frozen mid-air half way to her mouth. “Really Gi?”
Kiki leaned over and gave her a hug, “Phew! I was dying here Gi!”
Giselle stretched out her tingling legs and shook her head, “Nah, it’s all good.”
“I told Em not to tell you, but she didn’t listen to me.” Kiki’s sterling grey eyes narrowed at her sister as she threw her floral pillow at her.
“Hey! Watch the pretzels.” Emily clutched the bag of crunchy yumminess to her chest. Food for Emily was precious gold. Never mess with Em and her food.
“Breakfast is ready.” Grandma’s voice floated from the kitchen to the rumpus room. At that same time Emily’s stomach grumbled as if saying ‘finally!’ It sounded like a volcano’s roar.
Everyone erupted into laughter. Even Sophie’s silvery laugh echoed through the sunny room. Kiki giggled and hit her twin’s leg, “Only you Em, only you.”
“FINALLY food! Ok peoples move aside.” Emily’s athletic legs catapulted her up from the mattress and pretzels flew everywhere. “I’ll clean that later,” she called running out the door.
Kiki rolled her eyes as she followed her sister. “Leave some for us.”
Giselle shrugged, linked arms with Sophie and walked towards the kitchen. No use running after Em; that would be as impossible as catching up to a cheetah.
“I hate that Zeital is going to your school.” Sophie said with a very un-lady like snort.
“Yeah, me too! At first I totally died, but…” Giselle stopped to fix her Apache style sandal. “Ugh these shoes are giving me blisters!”
“Where did you get them? They are pretty ugly.” “Gee thanks, Soph.” Giselle pretended to pout as she unclasped her shoes. “Actually, I found them at a Salvos store.” She took her long feet out of the shoes and wriggled them in relief. “They were only $2 bucks! How could I not buy it?”
“They are also too small.” Sophie wrinkled her delicate upturned nose, “I have a pair of gold sandals to die for. You can have them if you want.”
“Soph, I don’t need new shoes!”
Sophie’s baby blue eyes twinkled, “Oh but you’ll love these! They are Tory Burch ones. Daddy got them for me last Christmas but they are too big. I think they’ll fit you though.”
Giselle didn’t have a clue who Tory whoever was. Maybe it was one of those ninety-dollar sandals that were expensive but boring. Not style. No feathers, shells or colour to them. Yeah, maybe not! Then again, her feet were killing her.
“I can buy them off you.” Giselle picked up her shoes and walked barefoot on the already warm tiles.
“Nah, They’re my gift to you.” Sophie flicked her long blond tresses. “Anyways, back to Zeital.”
“Well, I was freaking out when Em said she was coming to my school. But I remembered that Nonno use to say that God takes care of everything. I’m gonna pray about it and just chill.”
“Nonno was so wise.” Sophie’s voice cracked with emotion.
Giselle nodded. “I have decided to have the best year ever!”
“Me too!” Sophie laughed. “Great minds think alike.”
The girls walked into the kitchen giggling. The smell of scrambled eggs, sautéed mushrooms and grilled tomatoes greeted their stomachs. The twins were setting the table, their backs turned. If it wasn’t for Emily’s pyjamas, Giselle wouldn’t have known who was who. Kiki’s ash-dark brown hair usually cascaded to her waist, while Emily’s was always up in a loose bun or ponytail. But today they both had it up.
“It smells so good grandma.” Giselle walked over to the kitchen and got into auto-help mode. She took her favourite yellow Mediterranean plates from the bottom drawer and placed them on the counter. It was the set Nonno loved best. He always wanted his food on ‘real plates’ not on stingy tiny ones that would only fit two or three raviolis. Giselle smiled at the memory.
“Giselle!” The shout of her name made her jump.
“What?” She clutched her chest. “You freaked me out Soph!”
“Sorry, but you were in la-la land!” Sophie pointed to the plates, “I just wanted those.”
Giselle grabbed the five plates and handed them to Sophie as she poked her tongue at her.
Sophie gasped in mock horror. “Baby!” she said and poked her tongue right back at Giselle.
The sound of a car driving down grandma’s gravel driveway interrupted the happy teasing between them. Pop music blasted from the speakers getting louder as the car got closer. Even the windows vibrated with the sound.
“Ezi’s here!” Emily ran to the window, her high bun wobblingd with the movement. It looked like it would topple right of her head any second.
Sophie and Kiki joined her. The twins tiptoed a little to get a better look. Sophie didn’t have to.
“Silver’s with her,” Sophie said as she motioned with her hand for Giselle to join them.
“They do live in the same house,” Giselle said. She stood next to Sophie and looked out. There they were. Two cousins as different as night and day. One brunette with impossible curls and curves to match. The other, tall, skinny and with hair as red as the dust in the outback. How could they even be related anyways? It was so weird.
“Oh, my girls are here!” Grandma rubbed her hands together like a little girl waiting to open a present. Giselle totally loved how grandma went ballistic each time they visited. Grandma put the orange juice jar on the counter and rushed out of the door. A trail of her rose petal perfume hang around in the air. Actually, she smelled just like her favourite rose bush outside.
“Gosh, check out Ezi’s clothes!” Sophie said.
Kiki gasped. “Whoa she better not bend over in that!”
“Grandma’s gonna kill her!” Emily covered her mouth. “Let’s go check out her reaction.”
Giselle punched Emily on the arm. “You’re evil, Em.”
“I know!” Emily wriggled her brows and bolted out of the room.
Giselle looked at her two cousins. “Let’s go! I don’t wanna miss the action!”
“You guys!” Kiki shook her head but followed close behind; Giselle could smell the faint scent of her coconut moisturiser.
Sophie was slightly in front of her. Her impossibly long legs always beat her.
At the front door, Silver was disentangling herself from Em’s hug. Giselle opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by grandma’s raised voice.
“Esmeralda! What are you wearing?”
Giselle cringed, uh-oh. Not good to get Ezi and grandma angry at each other already.
“Silv,” Sophie said as she gave her cousin a hug.
“Shh.” Giselle placed her index finger on her chapped lips. “I wanna hear what she says.” She motioned for the cousins to go behind the door.
Kiki let out a nervous cackle. Giselle and Sophie turned around and told her to shush. They didn’t want to be discovered as they hid behind the big wooden door.
“Sorry.” Kiki pressed her lips together.
Giselle touched Silver on the shoulder and gave her a quick hug. She had her hair up in a ponytail – it smelled as beautiful as it looked. Fresh berries.
“Did your mother see you dressed….”Grandma’s last words drowned under the slam of the boot being shut.
Ezi’s husky bored voice drifted to Giselle and her cousins. “Yes grandma, she did. Anyways what’s wrong with what I’m wearing? It’s clothes isn’t it? It’s not as if I’m naked!”
“Don’t get smart with me, young lady!
“It’s also really hot! I can’t be all wrapped up!”
“But you can look decent like the Christian girl you are!”
“My clothes don’t define my Christianity.” Esmeralda’s voice bubbled with drops of anger. “I still love God.”
Another car door slammed. Giselle looked at her cousins and mouthed, “I hate this!”
She didn’t want Friday to be ruined. This was supposed to be an awesome weekend. Yeah, maybe she was pretty spineless when it came to confrontations but she had to do something.
“Gi, where are you going?” Sophie grabbed her arm.
“I’m gonna stop them.”
Little ripples of gasps popped amongst her cousins. Silver’s already big grey eyes doubled in size. It looked like they would pop right out of the eye sockets. Kind of freaky really. Kiki bit her lower full lip and stared blankly at Giselle. Giselle looked at Sophie’s face, her smooth brow wrinkled with concern. Her manicured French nails tapped the front of her braces. Emily as usual was biting her nails. Everyone was nervous for her. They knew that she didn’t have the guts to do it but she was going to prove them wrong. Family always won over fear.
Inhaling some courage she pushed the heavy door and squiggled out.
Emily grabbed her shoulder. “Good luck, soldier.” She put her hand to her forehead and saluted.
Giselle rolled her eyes and headed outside. She turned and looked at her cousins; all four heads peeked from behind the door.
“Chickens, “Giselle mumbled under her breath as she walked out. A wack of heat slapped her face, the hot air was intense. Honestly, there was nothing pretty about summer. Sweat. Heat. Smell. Sticky legs and yuck. Give her spring anytime.
The argument outside was as hot as the weather.
“Everyone is always judging me!” Ezi was yelling. “You, mum and even my friends!”
“Don’t you dare raise your voice at me, Esmeralda Lopez.” Grandma’s voice sounded as hard as the steel pipes in Nonno’s shed.
Ezi lifted her chin in defiance and Giselle saw the opportunity to butt in.
“Ezi, you’re here!” Giselle winced as her bare feet stepped on the tiny but deadly pebbles. Drats! She’d forgotten she had no shoes on. She tiptoed to Ezi’s side. Oh well, it was more painful hearing them argue anyways.
Ezi’s face melted with relief. “Gi!” she said as they sandwiched into a big hug. “Love the pants.”
Giselle looked at her grandma, her face almost translucent, her grey eyes stormy and thin lips pursed. Not good. She looked like a porcelain statue. Was she even alive?
“Grandma, ummm…” She took a few extra breaths. “Can we have breakfast? Emily’s almost fainting ‘cause she’s dying of hunger.” Giselle squeezed Ezi’s hand and waited for her almost dead grandma to say something.
Grandma blinked a few times, stared at Ezi and said, “Change!” With that she swung around and disappeared indoors. Her little heels echoed angrily on the marble tiles.
“Phew! Thanks Gi.” Ezi gave her another quick hug, her wild dark curls flying everywhere — even in Giselle’s eyes and mouth.
Giselle gagged, “Your curls are deadly! Yuck, they went in my mouth.”
“At least they’re washed.” Ezi grabbed a handful and smelled them. “Citrus Delight.” She laughed.
Giselle didn’t laugh, though. “Ezi, I hate it when you guys fight.”
“Yeah, believe it or not, me too.”Ezi grabbed her black monogram duffel bag and hurled it on her shoulder.
“Are you gonna go change?” Giselle bent over and grabbed Silver’s large equestrian tapestry bag — a gift from Nonno a few years back.
“I have to.” Ezi rolled her dark eyes and motioned to the door with her head. “Or she will never leave me alone.”
Giselle breathed a little better knowing that at least the clothes stuff would end. She stole a glance at Esmeralda and tried not to laugh. Seriously, why would she even wear that anywhere? Her Aztec Lycra mini skirt and white off shoulder crop top looked like they had been painted on. Her tan belly, arms and legs completely naked, and she should never bend over. That would be R rated. No wonder Grandma was fuming.
Esmeralda started walking in front of her. Her Latin hips looked so amplified in that tiny tight skirt. No wonder guys turned to look at her. And, no wonder she had a dreamy boyfriend. Giselle liked him heaps. He was sweet, kind and g.o.r.g.e.o.u.s and he was a Christian. He ticked all the right boxes in Grandma’s eyes and she adored him.
Giselle shook her head and looked down at her baggy pants and lose singlet top. She had no curves whatsoever. Her legs were long and skinny, no hips or curves. Flat as a surf board. Would a guy ever look at her? Guys liked curvy sexy girls like Ezi or beautiful blonde babes like Sophie. They liked cutie pies like the twins and even Silver was stunning with her massive red hair and big grey eyes; plus she had a bonus American twang.
Giselle sighed. Her mum always told her, “You look just like your dad, honee, tall and slim.” And plain, she added in her mind. Why was she even thinking about looks anyways? She never worried before, so why start now? Maybe it was all the wedding talk making her think about guys and what they liked in a girl. Snap out of it, she commanded herself.
“Come on, Gi.” Ezi had stopped halfway and waited for Giselle to hurry.
“Just go ahead, I have no shoes and these rocks are killing my feet!”
As soon as she finished speaking all her cousins came outside. Squeals, hugs and laughter echoed through the stillness of the morning. Sophie showed Ezi her new braces colour.
“Pastel pink, of course.” Ezi laughed.
“Of course, what else?” Sophie said as she headed over to grab another of Ezi’s bags.
Emily babbled about a hundred words a second as she told Ezi of their family cruise. Her eyes shined as she mentioned the cool sports on board.
Kiki joined her twin in the details adding that there were also lots of cute guys.
“She kept telling me to check them out because she always forgot her glasses in the cabin.”
“Yeah, well…I’m still not use to them.”
Giselle laughed as she watched her cousins tripping over each other’s words and joking around.
Silver headed her way and grabbed another one of her horse design bags. “I can’t wait for my family to get here.”
“I know, me too! I am dying to see Ruby’s ring.” Giselle tiptoed slowly next to her as they headed towards the house. In front her cousins were cracking up and checking out Ezi’s clothes.
“It looks painted on!” Em’s said as she wriggled her freckled sprinkled nose.
“It looks too sexy.” Sophie lifted her long hair from the nape of her neck and exhaled. “It’s too hot guys, let go in and get some air-con.”
“And let’s eat! I am almost dead, I’m starving.”
“Em, I don’t get it.” Ezi stopped to look at her cousin. “You eat like a pig and never put on weight.”
“Hey, I’m not a pig and I do heaps of training. I burn it all.”
Ezi groaned. “I only have to look at food and I put on like twenty kilos.” She slapped her hips. “Look at this! That’s what’s happens when your half Italian mother marries a Latin man! What a curse.”
Everyone laughed and disappeared inside.
Giselle and Silver looked at each other and burst out with laughter. Trust Ezi to curse her heritage.
“Anyways, “Silver said, “Ruby’s ring is soooo pretty.” Her eyes sparkled. “She sent me heaps of pictures on WhatsApp. She’s lucky.”
“Yeah she is.” Giselle couldn’t agree more. Ruby was perfect in every way. She had the perfect job, the perfect life and the perfect guy.
“I skyped with Mum this morning before they left. She’s pretty psyched.”
“How long are they staying for?”
“Not long, just a week,” she said with a forlorn look.” Sometimes I wish they would move back home.”
“Why don’t you go back with them? I mean travelling is awesome. I would go in a second if I had the chance.”
“No way! I love it here. I don’t wanna go back.”
“Hurry up you slowpokes!” Emily said as she stuck her head out the door and interrupted their conversation, “I will not be responsible if you have no food left.”
“Yeah, yeah, we’re coming.” Giselle said as she and Silver hurried into the cool house.
The boisterous chatter and laughter of her cousins lifted the flat mood. The argument between grandma and Ezi seemed to have been forgotten. Giselle looked at Silver, the sadness in her eyes gone. It seemed that even her freckles on her face danced with happiness. Yep, this was going to be an awesome weekend. Giselle couldn’t wait for everyone to arrive. Monday couldn’t come soon enough.
Breakfast was as delicious as a hotel buffet! There definitely wasn’t anyone else in the world that cooked as heavenly as grandma. Well…maybe Kim’s Deli Café came really close. Giselle leaned back on her chair and watched her cousins and grandma catching up on the latest ‘news’, as Emily liked to call it. She always seemed to know everything!
It was great to see that everyone was happy. Ezi’s ever changing temper had completely cooled. Was that part of her heritage too? She had also changed into a long flowy skirt and cute one shoulder top and sandals. Grandma had approved her choice and they had made up. Watching them was like watching one of those dumb soap operas on TV. Dramatic, ridiculous and never ending. Giselle wondered how many times they would be at each other’s throat this weekend.
“Grandma I should crown you queen of the chef’s,” Emily patted her full belly and sigh in contentment. “Your food was to die for! Actually, I would die for food, it’s so worth it!”
Grandma smiled, “Thank you darling.” Grandma looked at her gold watch and stood up. She straightened the little blue cameo that sat on her collar. She was always so regal. Kind of queenly. Giselle wondered if maybe she had royal blood pumping through her veins. After all, she was from England. The phone rang suddenly and Sophie stood up to answer it.
“I will get that Sophie,” Grandma said in a rushed almost breathless voice, “I’m expecting an important phone call.” With that her heels clicked-clacked out of the room. Giselle watched her walk away briskly. It was strange that she didn’t answer the call in the kitchen. It looked like she was going to the study to talk. Giselle looked at her cousins to see if anyone else found it strange but everyone was too busy gossiping. Maybe she just imaged things.
“Em, where do you get all the gossip from?” Ezi said as she flicked her crazy curls and pushed her empty plate away from her.
“What do you mean gossip?” Em said faking offence, “It’s news because it is informative.”
Ezi fiddled with her long red shimmering fingernails. Obviously freshly done. She could gouge someone’s eyes with those. Giselle shuddered at the thought.
“Gossip, news, info…whatever.” Ezi smoothed an invisible wrinkle from her top. “It’s creepy that you’re always up to date with everything and you even know stuff from my school!”
“Hey don’t blame me; it’s the girls on the field that gossip all the time. I just happen to be there…. Listening.” Emily nibbled at her nail, “And it’s your X school remember? You’re a uni student this year.”
Uhh’s and ahh’s echoed from all the cousins. Giselle had forgotten that Ezi was starting uni that year. Wow, how weird. Giselle didn’t want to go to uni straightway; she’d rather backpack around Europe first. Mum was ok with that and that’s all that mattered anyways.
Ezi covered her mouth, “Oh man, uni! I”m a little freaked out. But super excited.”
“Even with the subjects you’re doing?” Kiki said as she grabbed another slice of melon and took a huge bite. Sweet juiciness dripped down her arms and elbows, tiny drops fell on her aqua shirt and lace white shorts. “Grr, I’m such a dope!” She jumped of her chair and ran to the sink to finish eating the mess.
“Yeah true,” Sophie said turning to Ezi, “I thought you hated that you’re doing a business course.”
Ezi gave an exaggerated sigh and crossed her leg, “I detest business. But mum is making me do it. I have learnt not to argue with an Italian woman!”
“What does Uncle Alex think?” Giselle crossed her long legs as she tried to imitate her very funky cousin.
“Dad is completely on her side surprisingly,” She said as she played with the ends of her curls, “but he said that if I study business first I can change into something else later.”
“Does Aunty Miriam know that?” Silver leaned forward, a few red tresses escaping her long ponytail.
Ezi laughed, “Nah, not yet. But dad can fight it out with her. I am not crazy enough to get involved in that war zone!”
Emily snorted and Kiki coughed as she chocked on a piece of melon. Sophie and Silver giggled and nodded in agreement. No one had to say a word to know how true that was.
“Speaking of war zone,” Kiki said as she turned the tap on to wash her sticky hands, “We’d better clean-up for grandma, it’s looking like a war zone here.” She pointed to the dining table piled with dishes and half eaten food.
“Yep, let’s.” Em said as she popped another grape into her mouth.
“Yeah, we have tons to do.” Giselle stood up and rubbed her stomach. She had eaten way too much. She could still feel the oil from the hash-brown sliding down her throat. She shook the feeling away and got busy as she grabbed the cutlery from the table. She drowned her fullness in the chattering of her cousins and smiled. Life was kind of sweet.