YA Fiction - Serial Novels - The Sunshine Time
The Sunshine Time Season 1 Episode 10
“Listen, you’re not in any rush to get back home, are you? Great! Come over to our place for a bit then? C’mon, we’ll have a nice cuppa tea.”
Sanne was sharing an apartment with Jennifer Bellamy and Arriana Wellesley on the outskirts of the ASU campus in North Monzaemon. It had been their lifetime dream to live together during their college years, she said, and now they were finally doing it. They had only moved in on the weekend and it was marvelous fun already. I suppressed a tinge of envy and sought solace in the fact that at least Isolde was not getting to experience ‘an independent life as a young adult’ either. That was the line she had fed to Uncle Sarir when he had spoiled her part of the dream by refusing to allow her to go in with them – unlike them, she didn’t have a long, three hour commute from Bella Vista, and, if she minded the 25 minutes commute from her house in Upper Bishop’s Gate, she had a grandmother with an apartment in Monzaemon, who was more than willing to accommodate her. Isolde had resented being thwarted and had caused a lot of conflict in their household, but Uncle Sarir, for once, had remained firm.
“You have plenty of time to experience an independent life as a young adult,” he had said. “Wait until you get a well-paying job. I won’t say a word then.”
Sanne, Arriana, and Jennifer didn’t need well-paying jobs, of course, not now and probably not ever. People like them, Billy had once said scathingly, only went to college as a rite of passage thing, so that when they were old and gray and still living off their massive trust funds, they could reminisce about all the excitement and mayhem of the hardcore socializing they had packed in during the four years to graduation. Six, if they decided to continue with the farce and do a post graduation as well. It wasn’t like they were ever going to need these degrees.
I didn’t even hint at this to Sanne, of course. It would have been very rude, and, besides, she seemed genuinely enthusiastic about art and really serious about becoming a professional artist. It had been her mother’s dream for her, and one of the last things her mother had said to her had been, “You’re getting to be so good, darling. You’re going to art college, no question.”
“And so here I am! I can’t half believe it. Here, give me a pinch.”
I pinched her arm and received a beaming smile. Her parents had died in a yachting accident four years ago; it had been a much-publicized incident, given that the de Waals had been popular and leading members of Alsalem High Society, and Sanne, as I remembered reading in the news and also hearing from Isolde, had been devastated. At the moment, though, she spoke with a calm cheer and without going into any specifics of that tragedy.
We waited on the wide steps outside in the bright sunshine for Jopie, who was coming fetch me from her college, and for Jennifer, Arriana, and Isolde, who were coming to fetch her. It was quite a beautiful afternoon. The green foliage of the surrounding trees made purple shadows on the cobblestones and bird cries sounded over the snatches of conversations that reached us from the milling people. I felt very lighthearted. I had a new friend and the college and its denizens no longer seemed alarming. I did not even turn a hair when Rune Angarkh and company went gingerly past a short while later, none of them giving us so much as a sideways glance.
Getting tough with them was the only way to deal with the type, Sanne said, her brothers always told her to pull out all the stuffing.
Her brothers – she had four, all older than her – sounded a lot more helpful than mine.
“Not really,” she said, wryly. “But they’re alright, I guess.”
They weren’t at the ASU, they had finished the educational shebang, all with MBAs. The eldest two, Jaime and Kriesen, now managed the day-to-day operations of the de Waal Wineries, and the younger two, Alan and Raul, took care of the business abroad. Only Jaime was married, much married, actually. This was his fourth time around the block, and, Gawd, had he hunted under a rock to find this version of a wife.
Sanne couldn’t stand her stupid sister-in-law, and she was very glad that she wasn’t going to have to see her every day now that she was living with the girls. But, of course, she was going to make a point of returning home every weekend, otherwise Patricia might start imagining that she had managed to oust her or something. She had been attempting to get in the control seat ever since Sanne’s parents died.
“She has these fantasies of becoming the Lady of the Manor, but it’s not happening in my lifetime. That Manor is my mother’s house and therefore mine and everybody knows it. The staff people don’t do one thing without consulting me. It really upsets her. She gives orders left and right and I veto them. Last week, she wanted to uproot the rose garden and put in a lawn for croquet parties – who the hell does that? – well, Jason’s Mum did – that is, she didn’t uproot any healthy, blooming rose trees, she just found an uncultivated section to put in the lawn – and that’s why our Patty wants to as well, and never mind if it’s not in an empty area – but, anyway, the gardener came to me and we both agreed, nothing doing, and that was that. She went wailing to Jaime as usual, which she only does for the drama; it’s pointless otherwise. Naturally, he’s not going to start a war with me over his wife. Oh, why don’t you just get a new dress or something, he said, and so she stormed off to Geraldine Katselas. Letting her have the lawn would have been cheaper. Jaime blew his top when he saw the bill. We didn’t have a good harvest last year, you know, we’re supposed to economize. He didn’t really mean to send her off shopping for a dozen designer clothes, not even one actually. It was just an off-the-cuff remark to get her off his back while he was so busy balancing the accounts. He thought she would have the sense to realize it, but, of course, having sense has never been Patty’s strong point. He said, what do you think we need more, a new harvester, or these overpriced new togs, and he made her return everything. She said he had humiliated her, she wouldn’t be able to face any of her friends ever again, and therefore she was leaving him, which is hardly logical, but logic is not her strong point either. So she went off to Angela’s – her sister, Angela Carmichael – yes, yes, that very fine, upcoming actress, the very one – anyway, and we had such a wonderful week without Patty, but, drat, she had to come back on the weekend. Of course, she has no serious intention of leaving him. Why, she would have to get a job and actually work for the first time in her life in that case. Jaime mightn’t have wised up about women from his marital adventures, but he certainly got smart about prenuptial contracts. Yes, so she’s back. Her brother, Amichay, drove her back and, of course, stayed to have a word with me. He likes to offer unsolicited advice on improving my relationship with his sister, and, while he’s at it, have another crack at solidifying his own with me. His heart does crazy flip-flaps when I’m near him, and his brain runs a slide-show featuring me when I’m not. Yes, he actually told me that once. He’s a ruddy poet.”
I had read about Amichay Carmichael in Martina Vannevar’s columns. He was another well-photographed member of the ‘Luckies’, as a recent Times’ Magazine article had labeled the Young, Beautiful, and Rich brigade of Alsalem, and was usually described as ‘a rising, young investment banker with Caraindon Investment Banking and Securities’.
“He’s very good-looking.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” said Sanne. “He’s a total reptile, just like his two sisters. I told Patricia to get a brain transplant the first time she came slithering to spark our romance, but she’s terribly keen to get the whole bloody, gold-digging clan through our door if she can manage it. She even tried to foist Angela on Kriesen one time, do you know? Yes, she tried, and, GAWD, it almost worked too. My brothers, one and all, have absolutely no sense where women are concerned. I still have nightmares about it. Thank GAWD, Guy blew into town! The minute she saw him, she rushed to grab him from his cradle, nappies and all, and poor Kriesen was out of the race like that, with not even a rattle for consolation. It was a real blow to his self-esteem, getting dislodged so summarily by a 17 year old playboy. I told him to take it philosophically. I mean, this might have happened after you married her, I said, and then think what the divorce would have cost us, Jaime’s gambles have already been heading us towards bankruptcy. He didn’t speak to me for two days, then he got back to normal. Kriesen doesn’t believe in the romantic notion of suffering long-term. He’s not romantic at all really. Overly practical, I would say. He surfed through the latest fashion catalog for another model and emailed her agent to arrange a date.”
That distracted my attention from Guy’s part in this story. “Seriously? Just like that?”
“Uh-huh. That’s his usual method. To be sure, he never gets serious about those girls. It’s a purely symbiotic thing. Philandering for him and publicity for them. They always get noticed and written about when he takes them out, you know.”
I opened my mouth and shut it. She grimaced and patted my arm.
“I know,” she said. “I can see you don’t think much of such mutual give and take.”
“No,” I said. “No, actually, I don’t. Do you?”
She shrugged. “The way the world works, my dear Lea.”
“Not the world I want to live in. I think it’s perfectly horrible. Going with someone for publicity? Don’t these people have any self-respect? If you want publicity, let it be for something constructive and meaningful that you actually did. And as for your brother...”
“Yes? Oh, go on, tell me. It’s fine. I won’t get mad.”
“Well, with all the advantages he has, I’m sure he could do better. Why does he need to lower himself to such associations? I wouldn’t let my brother hear the end of it if he tried anything of this sort.”
“Yeah? And would he listen to you?”
I made a face and said, “Probably not.”
“So there you are. Of course, I give him a tough time about it. You can’t think I like seeing Kriesen swimming about in the goldfish bowl like this? It’s so tasteless. But he doesn’t take life advice from me, none of them do. They are adults, they do as they please. It’s so infuriating. It really worries me too about our future. I know what’s going to happen. They’re going to haul in more nonpareils – yes, ones that will eclipse even Patty – and my life will get the supercharge it lacks. Grusha – our housekeeper – says that if we are to avoid that fate, we must arrange suitable marriages for them ourselves. Surreptitiously, of course. It wouldn’t do to let them guess. That’s a project that’s been on my mind a lot lately. If we can just launch Kriesen off, it will be a major relief.” She paused suddenly and regarded me with a new interest. “Are you single?” she asked.
I gawked back in astonishment and said, “NO!”