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Chapter 2 : No Antipasto
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Charlotte wrapped her old house robe over her nightgown. She passed a towel through her damp hair, dried her hands and placed her ancient silver cross in the jewellery case. Charlotte studied her reflection for a while and ran a hand through her slightly greying hair. She followed this pattern each night, not for the fear of misplacing anything, but she enjoyed the routine of a comfortable lifestyle. The silver framed photograph on the mahogany dresser stood as a reminder of her past. Firenze represented a lifetime ago, but a greyscale scene played through her thoughts as if it happened yesterday. Jonathan held her close by an ancient fountain and dropped his copy of Palomino in the icy waters. She traced her jaw with her fingers and stared at her reflection. A deep voice flashed through her memories.
“Sí?” Charlotte spun around and faced her son.
“Well, I…I just put Leo to bed. He’s sleeping.” Remus stared at her. “Reese?”
Charlotte shook her head and attempted a smile. “Are you hungry? I made preparations for risotto and chicken last night. It sounds good, doesn’t it?”
“Oh, no, that’s for you and Dad. He’s waiting for you.” Remus smiled at her. “He’s swearing over term papers again, by the way. Cambridge accepts anyone who tries to string shit together these days, apparently. His words, not mine.”
“Right,” Charlotte took his hand and led him into the small kitchen. “Join us.”
“That brings back memories.” Remus turned on the tap and glanced at his father in the sitting room. He watched as the man tossed documents onto the floor. The Healer passed a hand over his face, drained a glass of wine, and refilled the glass. “Well, not the grappa, but still. Long day?”
“You’ve no idea.” Charlotte lowered her voice and focused on the rice dish. “He denied three Trainees today.”
Jonathan was coming up of his twenty-ninth year at St. Mungo's Hosipital. Although he originally planned on an artistic lifestyle, he changed his mind due to demanding circumstances. He never finished the educational degree, although he leaned on the experience. In exchange for a struggling lifestyle, he trained his hands in the art of saving lives. In the lack summers, he took up a teaching position.
Although she hardly accepted a role these days, a part of Charlotte still lived onstage. As she gained confidence within the university, she slowly slipped into the theatre department and picked up a paintbrush backstage. The majority of the upperclassmen thespians shared her classes, so they enjoyed her joking personality and helpful hints. She had a hand in most major productions and crafted the background sceneries. Over the last term, she had focused any spare moment on A Cold Winter Draft . When the President handed over a grant, she laid the foundation for an independent universal arts studio called Aurora Laura’s Colourful Palette. The Arts Department raved about their new addition and nominated him without a second thought.
“Again? I thought the students loved him.”
“They do. It’s more of a who, honestly.” Charlotte glanced over her shoulder. “Check for Chardonnay, dear.”
“Chardonnay.” Remus conjured a bottle from midair and slid it across the countertop. He placed a paper bag on the counter. He unpacked a bottle of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Chianti. “What do you mean by that?”
Charlotte stared at the wine display. “I-I don’t know, dear.”
“David’s idea,” said Remus quietly. He looked at her. “We figured you were running low. It’s all a selection from Milano. You meant something. Why else would you say it like that?”
“You can’t afford this.”
“Am I to understand you don’t want it?” Remus flipped a bottle into the light and read the inscription in a monotone voice. “Milano Primavera, 1965. An answer...”
“Remus,” sighed Charlotte. The bottle slipped through her fingers. She tried to catch it, but the glass sliced through her skin and shattered to pieces. “Damn it.”
“What the hell was that?” called Lupin in a slightly bored voice. This happened all the time. Before either of the said a word, he leaned against the doorway. He took of his glasses and rubbed his eyes.” Again, Charley?”
“No, no, get away from that. You just cut yourself. Come here, sit down.” Remus guided her over to the table and pulled a plastic bowl from the cabinet. He pulled up a chair beside her and examined the wound. “It’s not that deep. At least you didn’t lacerate an artery or burn yourself this time.”
“I can’t turn my back on you for a minute,” said Jonathan as he threw the papers onto the table and took a seat. “She fell down the stairs carrying a typewriter last night.”
“How?” Remus noticed his father shrug. He held her arm over the bowl and waved his wad over the injury: bloody glass shards spilled into the container. “That’s it, Reese, you’re living in a padded cell. Ferula . Don’t you have enough bruises yet?”
“Padded cell? Lovely.” She looked at him reproachfully as he got to his feet and walked over to the stovetop. Bandages climbed from her forearm to her elbow. “I need this arm, you know.”
“Let it heal. I know you. Rip that off and you’re in trouble. Reparo. ” Remus pointed the ladle at her threateningly. “I’m glad to see that at least Dad’s wearing his glasses these days.”
“I’m reading,” said Jonathan as he pointed at the papers.
“So you don’t wear them all the time, then?” Remus pointed out. “After Abbey told you over and over again that you’re ruining your eyes. Far be it for me to remind you of warnings from a Healer...”
“Yeah, you’re not my nurse,” threatened Jonathan. “Mind your own business.”
“ You are my business,” clarified Remus in an undertone. “With Reese tripping down the stairs and dropping everything and you going blind...”
“Not blind, boy.”
“Read this.” Remus held up a cookbook. He waited as the man struggled through squinting eyes. “Case in point, thank you. Wear the glasses.”
“I don’t need...” Jonathan put on the spectacles and muttered under his breath.
“Pretty soon you will need someone,” said Remus. He hated admitting this truth. “And no sane nurse will consent to taking care of you full-time.”
“I can’t believe you just said that,” said Charlotte with a small smile.
“He’s stubborn.” Remus caught the repaired bottle in his hand and sent the cork flying. “Just curious. Can you do that without magic anymore?”
“It throws off the timing.” She wiped her hands on a towel. “You sound like Tenente.”
“Sorry.” Remus looked at his hands.
“No.” Charlotte instantly regretted bringing memories to the surface. She thought she suffered with the announcement of her father’s passing, but her pain compared nothing to her son’s loss. She couldn’t believe just five days had passed. She made to touch his hand, but she thought better of it. “I miss him. He’s not suffering anymore.”
He sniffed the wine before he tipped it into the pot. “David knows his vineries. I’ve got to hand it to him.”
“He’s wonderful. You’re leaning on that wine.”
“He’s Italian, fool.” Jonathan laughed at Remus. “What? You think he’s incompetent?”
“On some things,” Remus admitted with a shrug.
“Remus.” Charlotte glared at his back.
“You and I had this conversation last night,” Remus overrode her. He poured the wine into the pot. A spoon stirred the contents of its own accord. “I’m just saying. He’s not just the Major.”
Charlotte inhaled her intended reply and looked up at her daughter. Dressed in a plain black blouse and comfortable dress pants, Lorelei walked through the kitchen door with her shoes in hand. Her long dark locks fell down her back and light makeup covered her features. A sapphire pendant and matching chandelier earrings complemented her look. Exhaustion showed on her face.
“I’m late, aren’t I?”
“What else is new?” Remus smiled at her. He lifted spoon. “Taste this. Tell me everything.”
“Buono risotto.” She took a seat at the table. “Well, Madam Bones asked me to take a seat as a counsellor in April.”
“That’s my little girl,” said Remus. “See? What did I tell you?”
Lorelei accepted a glass of water from her brother and took her medication without the usual objection. She laughed nervously, thinking back on the day, and not believing her luck. “I had no idea. I thought she wanted to throw me out of her office when she started screaming. And then, if you believe it, she hugged me. “
“She frightened you?” Remus wished he had stood as witness. “I’d have paid to see look on your face.”
“Nice.” Lorelei rolled her eyes. “I’m glad you’re back to acting normally, Remus. You’re such a pain…”
“Signora, none of that,” Remus spoke just loud enough for his sister’s ears. “She retires at nine –thirty if you’d prefer to continue this discussion in private later.”
His sister reached for her glass, but Remus edged it along the wooden surface like a guided invisible magnet. “Can you reach it? Vertically challenged, my mouse?”
Lorelei sighed,” Did anything come in the post?”
None of them said a word. Though she did not clarify her meaning, all of her family members understood her meaning. The last letter arrived in October with a post script with a promise of additional correspondence to follow. He left six months ago on an immediate request; he never denied a call to arms. Lorelei asked the question out of habit nowadays. Charlotte could not fathom thee worry gripping her mind. The dark circles under her eyes hinted at sleep deprivation.
“He’ll write. Something might have slipped in the post.” Charlotte forced a smile and poured four glasses of wine. “This calls for celebration, doesn’t it?”
“Mamma, it’s me.” Lorelei looked shocked when she was handed a glass. “I can’t drink, remember?”
“Oh, well, you can’t. Yes, the heart condition…you’re…sorry.” Charlotte ignored Remus’s laughter. She refilled the water glass. “Imagine liquor.”
“You’re promoting drinking, Reese?” Remus asked.
“I’m Italian, aren’t I? Liquor’s our water.”
“Okay,” Lorelei decided not to press the subject. She winked at her brother. “Remind me of wine.”
He swirled his glass and placed it underneath her nose. “Breathe.”
“Phantom wine tasting?” Jonathan pulled himself from his papers. “That’s not a bad idea.”
“How long have you done that for her?” Charlotte dished the risotto and first course on the small table. Jonathan lit the candles with his lighter and took a seat.
Remus drained the glass and muttered an answer. He cleared his throat. “What were you saying earlier?”
“Nothing.” Charlotte took a bite.
“I might be getting old, but I’m not deaf.” Jonathan poured another glass of wine. “I heard you lot in there. You might want to work on these whispering skills. And Charley, you can’t lie to me. Don’t you know that by now?”
“We shouldn’t discuss it,” said Charlotte.
“Why not? Let’s clear the air so everybody knows,” suggested Jonathan as he waved his fork in his daughter’s direction. “I got denied again, if you want to know. According to my end of term evaluation, I’m lucky to have skated by on a full professorship. Clearly I don’t belong at Cambridge, for somebody made a poor judgement call. I’m...not a skilled artist and I have no boundaries.”
“That’s not true,” said Lorelei. She took a bite of the rice dish.
“That’s what he said. He said your mum was fooling herself with this Chancellor appointment. He actually asked for an investigation at the faculty meeting. I don’t care. Hopefully, he’ll kick the bucket soon anyway. Then I’ll take his spot.” Jonathan crossed his fingers. “Gets hit by a bus or something like that. Bastard deserves it.”
“Who is it?” Remus rarely heard anger in his father’s voice.
“Professor Derek Liam Kendrick,” he spat, showing his disgust with every word. He glanced at his wife’s reproachful look. “Master, indeed. What? He influences everything about me, doesn’t he?”
“My education, my mastery, my reputation, my professorship, my children...”
“What?” Lorelei asked. Remus set down his glass.
“Don’t you see it, Remus? You’re no fool,” said Jonathan as he picked up the bottle. “Look at you. You look nothing like me. Why have your mum and I only been married for thirty years? She’s a Catholic Italian. She got pregnant during school? These things didn’t happen, you know...”
“You’ve had enough to drink,” retorted Charlotte sharply.
“What are you saying?” Remus demanded. He held up a hand to silence his mother. “He’s making perfect sense, Reese. Let him finish.”
“Yeah, well.” Jonathan took a swig. “You ever wonder why you... why Tenente DeLuca despised you when you first met him? It’s not because you’re a werewolf, no. You’re a bastard. Illegitimate grandkids.”
“Damn you.” Charlotte threw down her napkin and got to her feet. “Get up, Remus.”
“Lorelei, stay with him. Remus, get up. Walk with me.” Charlotte glared at her husband. “What a special evening, Jon, thank you for such a memorable anniversary.”
Charlotte kept walking and refused to look back. She ignored her son’s questions and looked straight ahead. She knew Jonathan regretted it, the words spilled from his mouth like water, but the damage was done. She walked into a small neighbourhood park and unlocked the gate with a simple spell. Although they usually played on swing sets and large sandboxes, no children played on the playground things tonight. She enjoyed hearing the children’s laughter. After a long day of working with the department, she retreated here with a hot thermos and a tattered sketchbook.
They sat on a weathered bench that sat across a beautiful water fountain. Shiny coins reflected through the surface. Charlotte listened to the relaxing rhythmic sound of the water, and allowed the memories to surface. Remus refused to take her hand, but clenched his hands in his lap. She stared straight ahead.
“Look at me, Charlotte!” Remus demanded. “Are you unfaithful?”
“Am I...I’m sorry?” Charlotte fought a sudden urge to laugh, for his stony expression shocked her. You think I’m cheating on your father? I’m a devout Catholic. You think I’m unfaithful with him? Jonathan Lupin? Me? Why? After all these years, why would I even bother? I ask you!”
Remus dropped the accusation. “No.”
“You named me after him,” Remus prompted, holding on to a faint hope. “You said he was in the hospital when I was born. Abbey said...”
“I owe that crazy man everything. The marriage, well,” she hesitated. “It...it just happened along the way, you know. Technically, by the Vatican, we’re not legally married, but he doesn’t give a damn about religion.”
Charlotte shrugged. “Sorry.”
“Wait... just wait.” Remus held up his hands. He suddenly doubted everything. “You’re my mother, right?”
“You’d better be.” Remus sighed and covered his face with his hands. “Thank God Tenente’s dead. He’d kill us all. I’m going to hell just thinking about this.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Remus caught his breath. He noticed she was shaking, but he knew it had nothing to do with the cold weather.
“I…need to…we need to talk.”
They used to share everything. Everything…and yet he knew nothing. She squeezed his hands and kissed his palms before she took a breath.
“Forget everything I ever told you. Just clear your head. I need to tell you. You need to understand the truth. Your father, Jonathan, is inside with your sister. Please listen to me. That’s all I ask of you. Let’s start on a clean slate, all right?” Charlotte buried her face in her hands, choking back a sudden wave of tears. “God forgive me.”
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