YA Fiction - Serial Novels - The Sunshine Time
The Sunshine Time Season 1 Episode 15
It was a long and excruciating ride for me, since the embarrassment over the recent events, in particular over my own behavior, had now crashed my tenuously erected mental barrier and had begun to smother me like a heavy shroud, reducing me to a painfully self-conscious silence. I was also, truth be told, overawed by all the evidences of immense wealth.
First, there was the Merceras, worth several million kronie, as I knew from visiting the Caraindon Automobiles website, and then there was Guy’s famous ‘Cybil’, a gleaming midnight black Armanti supercar with a long blood-red streak down its side that looked like it was going to unfurl its wings and fly; it had been custom-built for him by the competition, Armanti Automobiles, to the tune of 7.5 million kronie, according to 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 Merceras 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 panels from both the driver’s cabin in front 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 we drove away from the hospital, Mr. Caraindon offered us a choice of water, tea, coffee, and cucumber sandwiches, and told Guy that, no, he couldn’t have a glass of champagne.
I nibbled at a thin wedge of sandwich, drank 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 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 that 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. I kept myself from reacting to him and Tavi, assured that I wasn’t going to try anything anew, relaxed into his usual inimitable style and chatted away on an easy footing with Mr. Caraindon about college and life and everything else in general. I really admired the way he could do that, and Mr. Caraindon appeared to appreciate him too. It was very likely that if someone had offered him the chance then to exchange Tavi for Guy, he would have grabbed it with both hands. He was avoiding interacting with him, and hadn’t paid him much mind beyond refusing him the champagne and inquiring what had happened to his footwear. To this last, Guy had replied that he had kicked off his loafers in Cybil because they had been preventing his feet from breathing, and Mr. Caraindon, apparently deciding that it would be better to jettison further inquiries in that quarter and showing sensitivity too towards my awkwardness, had turned his attention to Tavi.
From their conversation, I gleaned that the Caraindons, including Gerro Caraindon, whom we had missed by a whisker, and Jason Ambershan, who had been at the hospital not just to tend to his nightclub fight injuries but to represent his mother Rian Caraindon-Ambershan, had been attending a board meeting at the hospital – the same meeting that Uncle Sarir had mentioned to Maia over the phone – about a new wing that the Caraindons were building for the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. It was to be in the memory of Mr. Caraindon’s late wife, Kate, who, I remembered, had been killed in the KLF bombing of an Alsalem Airways commercial flight from Alsalem to Jeienrrey in Mahamonir sixteen years ago. Until now, it had been just another tragedy that you heard about in the news and I had never thought to wonder about the personal toll on the Caraindons. Now, despite his formal, calm demeanor, it occurred to me in a flash of insight that Mr. Caraindon was probably just as scarred from his wife’s death as Granna was from his, and, when you considered that, it made his backing of the Mitrione just about as understandable as Granna’s backing of the Kirzheik Nationalist Party (KNP). Not right, understandable. Unlike Granna, he hadn’t remarried, although he was in a committed relationship with his longtime friend, the classical singer, Valentina Xenos, who had lost her husband on the same flight. He received a call from her now and passed the phone to Tavi to say hello and I heard the pleased exclamations on the other end. Tavi had mentioned meeting her at the Caraindon Mansion and at the Caraindon family estate, Weltan Isang, in Mahmonir, but he hadn’t told me that he and ‘darling Vanousheh’, who had also been on that trip to Weltan Isang, were her ‘two favorite people in the entire universe’. She tore strips from him for ‘being a stranger for so long’ and, smiling and actually blushing, Tavi promised to come around to visit her soon.
Pa didn’t participate in the conversation. He had brought a tablet and a laptop out as soon as the car took off, placed these on a side table, and had immersed himself into his work. He wasn’t completely out of the loop though. Twice, his hand had descended to sharply smack Guy’s knee, and Guy, grinning, had withdrawn his foot from pressing down on mine. I experienced an intense gratitude towards Pa for saving me from making a new scene by kicking his son. I really had been on the verge of it. Guy, not deterred, attempted then to force me to talk to him again by asking me what I thought of ‘old Ger’ of all things, since he had just been mentioned by Tavi and ‘Grandfar’, in the context of his having to rush off to attend another board meeting, this one concerning ‘Temperate’, the popular online marketplace that he had bought a 50% stake in for 775 million kronie, and when Tavi replied for me that I hadn’t met Gerro yet, Guy raised amused eyebrows at me and said, “Oh no?”