A WEEK EARLIER…
IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Cicadas were chirping merrily in the long grass, which lay weary from growing, turning brown under the sun’s heated gaze. Laughter, light on the wind, like rustling tinsel decorated the country air with the sound of youth. Splashing is heard as teenagers wrestle in a small creek, surrounded by the subtle buzz of insects flourishing in the hot weather.
At the time if you had walked along the muddy bay, then further up the meadow, pushed through the long grass, and searched for shelter from the elements. You would have met a grand estate. A mansion so splendid only a glance told you the owners were a part of that elite, rich, and upper-class circle.
There were several tall, white, turrets extending from the building, stained glass panes between the triple glazed ones, and expansive land around the estate- acres of greenery, horse stables, and leisure courts. Gates made of steel and iron separated the area, and perched on each gate a camera was swivelling on its pivot, probably bored as no one dared approach it. But if you had dared, stretched your neck and peeked through one of the spiked, tall, iron fences into the front garden. You would have noticed a jade-like beauty and a frail youth sunbathing on parallel striped Beach chairs.
The Youth was naturally rather skinny and had a pale disposition that made him look quite frail. Combined with his long curly black hair and cat-like green eyes he was often teased that he would have been better off as a girl. His name was Andromeda Star, nickname ‘Ann’.
It was sometime in September, summer was still lingering. There was a lush hue in the rare flowers living in the garden – collected from all around the world- they seemed livelier or more alluring than usual. Maids in the garden chattered and could be heard praising the garden and the Missus of the estate for her talented ‘green fingers’ able to bring any plant she cared for to life.
Like a nursery rhyme the youth chanted all the names of each flower in order of how they were arranged. “Strongylodon macrobotrys, ‘Corpse flower’ Rattlesia arnoldic, Gilbraltar Campion, Franklin tree, Parrot’s Beak, Chocolate Cosmos, Koki’o, Ghost Orchid, and Middle mist Red”. All very fancy and ironically ‘flowery’ names, gave the youth a headache.
Annoyed he tried not to look at them, as he sat with his Mother, the jade-like beauty. She was sipping ice-tea, himself a chilled orange juice. Relaxed, together, on a rather large striped beach chair. A parasol above them protecting from blinding rays, whilst they revelled in the heated breeze. His Mother wore an old straw hat, which apparently belonged to his grandfather, on her eyes were orange tinted sunglasses, which matched the orange colour of her hair that slightly drifted in the summer wind.
They listened in almost soothing silence to the sounds of nature thriving around them. His Mother was mindlessly stroking his black curly locks, looking off into the distance like she often did when deep in thought. Perhaps she was thinking of his Father, the man he had never seen.
Ann couldn’t help but be worried about his Mother. Everyday her mental health deteriorated and she suffered from frequent hallucinations and panic attacks. During these hallucinations she’d see Andromeda’s father, she’d dance with him and talk with him, as if he was really there but he wasn’t.
Perhaps even at that moment as they sat relaxing under the sun, she was actually experiencing some wild fantasy.
This particular summer afternoon was during the peak of Ann’s seventeenth year. The time when normal teenagers were soon to become adults, where others would be stressed with exams and making life-changing decisions, but he was stuck in the same cage as always.
The cage his mother made for him.
“Tea is ready” gently entered his ears as a figure emerged from the patio doors in a uniquely flower patterned dress, her black silk hair in a bob perfectly framing her pale white wrinkled face and blue-sinister eyes like a work of art. She almost skipped to them and politely bowed with a delightful smile on her face.
“Shall we go?” asked his Mother and like a trained actor he forced on a perfect grin and instantly jumped up, “Yesss, I’ve been waiting all day.” he turned to the woman, “Lisa, you definitely had the staff order those special cakes, right?”
He acted excited, as if tea was the most precious time of the day. He wondered if they could tell how fake his smile was or hear the bitterness in his voice.
Lisa laughed, it was a subtle yet ugly sound like a moth’s wings flapping. “Of course I did, what do you take me for young master Ann?”
He smiled wryly “I take you for a capable individual”
Ann’s mother gasped, “Goodness me, Andromeda is using such big words for a 5 year old, oh my!!”, her eyes wide like owls. Such a baffled expression made the corner of his eyelids twitch.
To add fuel to the fire Lisa also smirked and added, “Since when were you such a big boy using such big words?”
Andromeda wanted to retort rudely, it hadn’t been a big word and he was 17 not 5, but feeling his Mother’s hot gaze he felt that if he acted adult-like she would break down into another one of her episodes. Feeling Lisa’s cold calculative eyes he laughed, childishly, and put on a whiny cutesy voice that would give even a ghost goosebumps.
“I saw them in your book, and I thought it would sound cool, but I guess it doesn’t suit me. ” he pouted and let out an exaggerated sigh. A second late a loud snort was heard from his Mother, her face now relaxed, a smile blossoming on it.
“I’m glad you’re reading more Ann,” she giggled.
Lisa smiled at him as if to say well-done-for-not-screwing-up and nodded her head slowly in approval, Ann sighed quietly in relief and then nodded back at her, and then swiftly turned to walk indoors in an attempt to escape this scenario before he really triggered a panic attack from his Mother.
Andromeda strolled past the patio and into the long marble laid hallway. As he walked he could hear both his Mother and Lisa chuckling saying things like ‘they grow so fast’ and ‘he’s as cheeky as you were m’lady.’
It was laughable. Ann was seventeen and she was asking when did he start using big words? He already surpassed them at 6 ft 2, his voice long since deepening from puberty yet in her eyes he would always be a child.
In this house he would always remain a child.
As he came to the middle of the well-lit marble hall-way and reached the first set of white oak double doors, the gold plated handles twisted before he could touch them. Beyond the door stood the housekeeper. He was a middle-aged man with hair so blonde it looked like yellow gold on his head, his eyes were a deep orange brown colour, as if you were staring into a hot desert, his skin was tanned like a golden brown beach.
Jamie was his name. He was dressed brightly like most of the staff. Adorning a striped orange and yellow suit with a matching hat on his head.
Standing close to him Ann could smell a heavy medicinal scent.
He stared at Ann in momentary surprise and then smiled, a pitying smile.
Ann could understand why he pitied him. His Mother was ill. Mentally ill.
She had extreme paranoia, hallucinations, and violent mood swings. This made her overprotective of Andromeda to the point that she never wanted him to leave her side and didn’t allow him to leave her sight. To the point that the very idea of him growing up frightened her so much that she denied it. As a result he’d been home tutored his entire life, he’d never been allowed to leave the household, and he’d never made any friends. Everyday was suffocating.
All the workers here were hired by his Grandfather to look after her in this tropical paradise. All of them had to do everything his Mother wanted, well within limits, and that included monitoring Ann and never letting him leave the house.
Andromeda was just a tool for her happiness. A prop for her delusions.
Yes. What a pitiful existence.