YA Fiction - Serial Novels - The Sunshine Time
The Sunshine Time Season 1 Episode 15
As we drove away from the Kent Caraindon hospital, I wished with all my heart that Tavi had refused the lift, or, at least, that I had spoken up to refuse it and had insisted on going home by taxi. It was excruciating for me, I discovered, to be in the Verwoerd with Guy and his family, since the embarrassment over the recent events, in particular over my own behavior, now crashed the bearable limit and began to smother me like a heavy shroud, reducing me to a painfully self-conscious condition. I was also, truth be told, overawed by all the evidence of immense wealth.
First, there was the Verwoerd, worth 14 million kronie, as I knew from both visiting the Caraindon Automobiles website and reading in The AutoWeek News, and then there was Guy’s famous ‘Cybil’, a gleaming midnight black Armanti supercar, with a long blood-red streak down its side, that glided behind us, looking like it was going to unfurl its wings any moment and fly; it had been custom-built for him by the competition, Armanti Automobiles, to the tune of 7.5 million kronie, according to The AutoWeek News and reports by Martina Vannevar and several other reporters, as an 18th birthday present from his doting mother. I had never been particularly interested in cars, but the dizzying prices of these had certainly caught my attention. It was kind of obscene, I had thought, to spend this kind of money on cars, and Granna had agreed and said, “Well, on the positive side, at least these elite, rich bastards won’t be crowding us on public transport anytime soon.”
No, no chance of that. I didn’t think any of these people had ever even been on public transport. Just like I had never even been near cars like these, let alone been offered the chance of being driven in either of them.
“You want to ride with me?” Guy had asked.
“No, I don’t,” I had said.
“We could stop by at the Loft and pick up your sketchbook.”
Tempting as that was, I hadn’t quite liked the gleam in his eyes and had shaken my head.
“Then, it appears, I’ll have to ride with you,” he had said, and, with a grin, he had tossed his keys to one of the bodyguards and asked him to drive behind, an opportunity the man appeared to relish.
“Don’t you have to be somewhere?” his father had said.
“Not especially, Pa,” he had replied. “We can continue our family time.”
“Get in,” Pa had said, not amused.
We had got into the Verwoerd and I had been overwhelmed immediately by the spacious interior. It was cream and plush and gleaming, with divinely comfortable seats, four pairs facing another four in the main cabin, which was closed off with dark privacy screens from both the driver’s cabin in front – Mr. Caraindon asked Tavi to inform the driver of our address via intercom – and the long seat at the back; one of the bodyguards sat in front with the driver, two behind, and the fourth followed us in Cybil. There was ambient and accent lighting, touchscreen panels, and side tables that slid out from niches. There was a refrigerator, a beverage bar, and a food storage compartment; as soon as we had settled in, Mr. Caraindon offered us a choice of water, tea, coffee, and an assortment of sandwiches, and told Guy that, no, he couldn’t have a glass of champagne.
“I’ll settle for a brandy then, Grandfar.”
“No,” said Mr. Caraindon, and poured him a glass of water.
“Ah, well, perhaps this is the proper toast for you,” said Guy to me and raised his glass to me. “Salud!”
Ignoring him, I nibbled at a thin wedge of delicious peanut sandwich, drank excellent tea from a porcelain, gold-trimmed cup, and, far from feeling better after I had eaten, found my sense of awkwardness heightening even further. The Caraindons – and one Ambershan – fitted superbly in this lap of luxury, with their clean-cut looks and expensive clothes, and that dinned into my mind who they were, some of the wealthiest people on the planet, and how, while Tavi at least upheld our family honor in the well-dressed category in his khaki chinos, green and white check shirt, and dark-brown chukkas, mitigating the very ordinary, provincial effect of my far from new red and pink flowered skirt, yellow blouse, maroon button-up sweater, blue and green patterned scarf, and old brown sandals, we were nowhere in their league, we didn’t even register on the rich radar and I personally was even on the poverty-stricken list, and all this unnecessary and completely idiotic overthinking on my part made them appear very intimidating at close quarters. I couldn’t even think of a thing to say anymore beyond “Yes”, “No”, and “Thank you”, and, fortunately, nobody forced me to say these too much, except Guy who appeared to be enjoying my personal disquietude.
“Yum?” he inquired, finishing his sandwich and flicking some crumbs from his lap straight into mine. “As good as anything from your famous tiffin? We’ve been hearing a lot about those, eh, Jas?”
Jason snickered. I swept the crumbs right back at Guy and thought, yes, very funny. These two would, of course, think it was the joke of the century that thanks to the The Three Witches (as we now thought of Isolde, Arriana, and Jennifer) Jopie and I were now having to depend on home-packed lunches at break. Not that there was anything wrong with home-packed lunches; they were money-savers that Jopie and I full meant to continue with even after we didn’t need to. There was nothing ‘grown-up’ about wasting your money in eating out all the time, Mum had pointed out. We had taken tiffins to school, we could take them to college. Lots of people did. Everyone didn’t patronize the campus restaurants and cafes all the time like these lot. Still, it was a joke for these people. The girls themselves had found sufficient amusing comments to make about the matter over the past week when they had come to pick Sanne up at break. Tiffin Day Again! Ah, home-cooked food! Let me have a bite! This last, naturally, from Arriana. A bite in her parlance meant half of whatever was in there. We had taken to not opening our tiffins until after she had departed. Sanne was rather puzzled by all this. She had heard that Jopie had been tricked into paying for the lunch that time at the Union Oyster, but it hadn’t occurred to her that that might have precipitated any financial crisis for us. She thought we were being a bit unfriendly, not wanting to hang out together.
And, with my stupid pride, I couldn’t very well bring myself to tell her that we couldn’t afford to eat out with them, that it wasn’t just the trickery or the matter of the past squabble with Guy Caraindon, although there was that as well, more that than the trickery really, if the lack of money could be discounted. Anyway, I was very glad that Jopie and I were on the same page about not giving in to Sanne’s regular invitations.
“My mother doesn’t like me to eat out in restaurants so much,” she had told Sanne.
“Yeah?” Sanne had said. “Well then, just bring your tiffins along. Yes, yes, I know most places disallow outside food, but the Union Oyster management isn’t going to actually implement that rule with us.”
It was in times like these that we realized what a vast social chasm lay between us and these lot. Their sense of entitlement was truly remarkable and incredible, and it remained well and thriving since most people didn’t challenge it too often. The Union Oyster management wouldn’t make any noise about our tiffins, I was sure, because this celebrity crowd was good business for them. People thronged there just to look at them and to get a mindless boost from eating in the same place as them. The last thing we wanted was to sit there on display with them and be stared at too ourselves and, no doubt, get a few extra stares on account of the tiffins.
It was becoming awkward though to keep refusing Sanne’s invitations and I felt rather mean about it too, because Sanne, despite her flashes of arrogance, was really a very nice girl, warm and generous and kindhearted, and she wasn’t getting annoyed about the continual refusals.
“Oh, c’mon,” she had said. “You’re not going to hold it against Guy forever, are you? He’s willing to let bygones be bygones. Yes, he said so. Well, actually, he said, tell Cousin Lea to giddy-up along on her high-horse. If she’s nice to me, I may even return her sketchbook one of these days.” She had grinned at me. “Oh, c’mon, he might, and you will really like him if you got to know him.”