YA Fiction - Serial Novels - The Sunshine Time
Season 1 Episode 4
Back in the welcoming bosom of her family, Lea Chantry is horrified to discover that her clown suitor forgot to return her precious sketchbook, and finds herself engaging in the usual fuzzy familial conflict with her grandmother, Maia, and her cousins, Billy and Isolde.
It was a fairly large house, larger than all our previous dwellings. There were two pinkwashed, picture-windowed, orange gable-roofed storeys, encompassing eight rooms, and an adjoining, presently shuttered garage. A friendly, unsymmetrical house, with pink bougainvillea hanging over the iron-lace decorated, semi-circular front porch and ivy climbing from the walls to the uneven gables. Totally undeserving of the name it had formerly been given, ‘Little Hut’, a most inexplicable eccentricity on part of the previous, house-proud owners and one that we definitely didn’t share. So, first thing first, we decided, while planning the redecoration, that name shingle comes down.
“How about the House of Orange instead?” Tavi had suggested. “I’ll be the Prince of Orange and you lot the lemons in it.”
“How about the Weekend Palace?” Mum had suggested instead to the visiting royalty.
She was taking it rather personally, his not scuttling back under her wing. Exactly like Maia, who, for the past five years, had never stopped complaining about his never visiting ‘unless it’s on a blue moon’. She had accused Mum of ‘keeping my own grandson from me’, when, after spending the first month of his first year with her in her big Monzaemon Apartment, he had escaped to live on campus, first at the hostel and then with Declan and Jaap in their rented apartment. There had been a fine dust-up between Maia and Mum about that.
“Women,” Tavi had explained, grandiloquently, “can’t help fighting over me.”
He really was insufferable.
“I don’t know how on earth you can tolerate him,” I had said to Vanousheh the first time we had met, when he was being especially idiotic for the occasion.
“I don’t tolerate him, Lea,” she had answered, piously, “I love him.”
Since then I had never stopped wondering how come he tolerated her.
Anyway, about the house, after much arguing, we had decided in the end to simply dispense with the renaming altogether. Henceforth, it was to be merely 7, Thrushcross Drive, and there was just that number on the gate as I went through, underneath the Golden Laburnum overhanging from the gate-arch. Globular lamps, topping the gateposts, and the porch lantern lit up the driveway, highlighting the slanting rain.
The driveway was broad and rosebush-lined, with grass-tufted, crazy-paving that seemed to be over-run with the frog family right now. Well, one or two small, goggle-eyed, brown-spotted members anyway. They hopped away to the sidelines and glowered at Mack and me from there. The driveway branched into two before the porch, with the side branches narrowing around out of sight to the back, which boasted a kitchen garden, several fruit trees, a tiny lily pond, and a wall-flowered high wall separating us from a street and the neighboring Penrose Drive. The bisectioned front lawn stretched expansively on either side, culled finally by five feet tall dense hedges that divided us from the Carzais on the right, the Kesslers on the left, and the pavement upfront. A dripping white lawn-swing – inherited with the house – was set up in the middle of the right-hand section under a huge, spreading rain tree. On the higher branches of this, partially hidden away, was our old tree-house, its rope ladder hanging down to the ground, swaying lightly in the rain – this was Hansin’s inheritance from his brother and sister, which, owing to the outright lack of trees since leaving Serockiland, had had an ignominious play-room existence so far. Now it was a Club already for, as Hansin had informed me over the phone, The Marauders, which was the name he and his four neighborhood chums, Davey, Bart, Ginger, and Mick, had given to themselves; they had rejected Tavi’s suggestions of ‘The UnPopulars’, ‘The Detestables’, and ‘The Ignobles’. On the opposite section were two tall coconut trees, with a giant money plant creeper fanning halfway up the taller one. This, I was glad to notice, hadn’t been subjected to any recent trimming like the rest of the garden, and still retained in full its ‘man-eating, jungle properties’, making ominous rustles at me as I passed, glistening quite eerily in the light. There used to be six Gaskells, I remembered, with a grin, until that plant there swallowed up one and so there are now just five of you rascals. Mrs. Gaskell, when her kids ran to her with this information, had been distinctly unamused.
“Mrs. Carzai,” she had begun, frostily, “I don’t wish to be rude about your niece, but...”
“Please,” Aunt Zarrin had interrupted, warmly. “When you catch her, don’t restrict yourself to mere rudeness...”
“Kitten,” she had told me, on the other hand, “either stop entertaining those simpering little girls, or make sure you don’t get caught.”
And so it had required Major Gaskell, when he sold us the place three months ago, to dole out the poetic justice.
“Feed that plant now, Chantry, but nothing, you understand, from the pantry.”
An amusing chap, the Major, now resettled with his unamusing family in the amusing land of Mark Twain. As a high-up, highly-paid executive with his American wife’s family’s electronics firm. So Ex-Major really – pretty sacrilegious, Billy had said, leaving army and country to be totally wife-dominated, and, for once, we were in agreement. But, anyway, long, I hoped, would they prosper there. Thanks to them, we had a chance of it ourselves over here, if not far from our own madding family – the Carzais being right next door – then, at least, not in the thick of it either, four posh floors up from Aunt Sarvani on the Marianas Strip, twenty minutes away, as had been considered earlier, or ‘like in the old days’ with Maia, an hour’s drive away in Monzaemon. Truly, I was grateful.
The three porch steps, with potted ferns and violets on the sides, were flooding over with rainwater and, just inside the entrance arch, a big, splashy puddle had formed, sending out rivulets to form smaller puddles about the rubber-tipped legs of the old bamboo bench, placed against the wall to the right of the front door. Otherwise, thanks to the bougainvillea, it was relatively dry. Hordes of rain insects buzzed about the overhead light, with two house lizards waiting unblinkingly on the ceiling alongside. A blue plastic bucket, to the left of the front door, was stowed with a bunch of wet umbrellas. The brass trimmed front door was green and white like the porch railing and the gate, and flanked on either side by a wide, curtained window. The unlit one on the left had been ‘the Guest Bedroom’ in Mrs. Gaskell’s time, and ‘the Studio’ now in mine. The bright one on the right was the sitting room, left unchanged, through which faint sounds from the television and of a group of people talking and laughing were audible over the loud drumming of the rain on the slates. The distinctly familiar voices of the recently remembered relatives were amongst them. It sure seemed like my day for warm welcomes. I rang the doorbell and, instantaneously, a loud volley of barking erupted from within, increasing in volume as Mack joined in from without and I kept my finger pressed down on the switch.
This latter action, although I was an inveterate bell pusher, wasn’t deliberately done on my part this time. The sitting room curtain had been twitched aside on the very first ring and a curly-haired individual in a blue and white checked shirt, with the sleeves rolled halfway up finely muscled arms, had glanced out casually, taken in my bedraggled appearance, and then done a double take, his whole expression altering fast into a widening smile.