To read what happened earlier, click here.
When I came downstairs, the first thing my eyes fell on was the doorway, which was full of people – more so than I ever had seen in this house. I knew that the tall figure standing there, being hugged and kissed by everyone, was David. The family's voices rose in a happy commotion. Catherine was holding on to his sleeve, Uncle Ben was clapping him on the shoulder, and Aunt Anne kept happily repeating how much he has grown and how thin he looks. Sam, Nathan and Rachel were jumping around, squealing with delight and attempting to touch every part of him they could reach.
I put on what I hoped would pass for a gracious smile, and approached. He looked somehow very different from the photographs I had seen – I mean, obviously I could recognize him, and he still looked the same, with his way brown hair and brown eyes – but for some reason, he does not smile when he is photographed, and now he was positively beaming at everyone around him and his face lit up. He was waving his hands, clearly in the middle of telling something exciting, and though I could not make out the words, his voice sounded more pleasant and mature than I had imagined. I fruitlessly tried to smooth out my skirt, uncomfortably aware of the fact that I spent a couple of hours lolling in bed wearing it. It suddenly struck me that below the knee, my legs were bruised and scratched from working in the garden earlier that week.
- Oh, here you are, Becky! – said Catherine, who was the first to notice me, and looked even more excited than last week, when she completed her first ever king-sized quilt. – Come here and meet David!
- So this is Becky? – He said, smiling and looking at me. – It's great to meet you at last. Alright, Mom, now that we're all here – I'm starving! What's for dinner?
Once the table was set, David loaded his plate with roast chicken, a mound of mashed potato, and three kinds of salads, and let out a satisfied sigh as he contemplated his plate for a second. It took him about ten more seconds to empty his plate and reach out for more food.
- That's right, son, - Aunt Anne looked at him approvingly as he devoured more chicken, - it looks as though you haven't had a proper dinner since you left home.
- It's great, - he said in a slightly muffled voice, having just swallowed a mouthful of potato, - I could never be quite reconciled with the students' diner or take-out meals, I missed your cooking too much!
- Becky and Catherine took over cooking today, David, - said Aunt Anne, looking fondly at Catherine and me. I feigned intense interest in my napkin, which Catherine artfully folded in the shape of a wreath. – I haven't been feeling well lately.
He looked impressed.
- Wow – I could never have guessed it was not you – excellent, girls! Well, Becky, - he suddenly looked right at me, and I promptly put my napkin back on the table, - how do you like it around here?
I felt a flush creeping up my face, and hoped it would go unnoticed in the soft light of the dining room. Well, you know, it's boring, and I don't have any friends, and I don't go out anywhere, and I feel miserable holed up here 24/7, and I'm constantly being nagged to go on with my knitting when I'm done with my school projects – but otherwise, it's really great!
- Well, it's, um… - I stammered, - it's really beautiful around here.
- Aren't you bored here? – He asked. – After all, you used to live in the city, don't you miss that?
Aunt Anne, Uncle Ben and Catherine were now all looking at me intently. I remembered my open complaints during the first weeks – about having no TV and no proper entertainment. Back then I felt entirely within my right to grumble about it, but now I could not bring myself to say it again, and I sincerely hoped that the others would not remind me that I had done that before.
- You know, - I began, carefully weighing every word, - there are other things to do here – things I never had back home. For example, one can take long walks – see all kinds of birds and animals – and the views are simply fabulous -
- Becky paints, David, - said Catherine, shining with pride. – She never misses an opportunity to pick up her brushes and go out. She had done some outstanding landscapes already, and now we are trying to convince her to move on to portraits!
I blushed again. Well of course, it's my only valid excuse to get to spend some time alone, outside the house, without Aunt Anne breathing down my neck about schoolwork or chores.
- Really? – David looked genuinely interested. – Well, I can't wait to see that!