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   Chapter 4 No.4

A Girl Named Sandy By Paul Kater Characters: 10621

Updated: 2018-02-11 12:04


Dinner at the Royce's

As soon as he stepped into the hall, an avalanche of music jumped at Paul. Obviously his face betrayed his amazement, because Timothy grinned. The hall was simple, decorated with a few small paintings, and in a corner stood a table impersonating a barstool on which stood a red, porcelain vase with two red roses in it.

"Don't worry about the noise, " Paul's host said as he took Paul's jacket and put it on a hook. "We're here!" he then called out, in an attempt to outvoice the music. Miraculously, he succeeded. Only seconds later there was peace in the house. From an open door, which probably led into a living room, came a woman, slightly shorter than Timothy. She had a pleasant smile, black eyes, and black hair flowing over her shoulders. It struck Paul that she wore exactly the same type of shirt and jeans as her husband.

"Mister Carmichael, " she said, taking his hand with both of hers. "Welcome. I am Adele Royce, please call me Adele."

Paul chuckled at the particular way she pronounced his name. "A pleasure to meet you... Adele." He had to get used to the quick familiarity in this family. "If you would please call me Paul..."

Before Adele could respond, a young boy of perhaps fourteen years old came down the stairs and sat on a step halfway down. "Who's he?" He took Paul in through his black eyes from under a wild mop of black hair. He clearly had inherited eyes and hair from his mother.

Timothy sighed. "Travis. Where are your manners?"

"Flushed them down the crapper, like always, " the boy shrugged. He then persisted in staring until his father explained who Paul was.

"I tried to tell you after Timothy had called, " Adele said, "but you didn't hear that."

"Of course, " a female voice from somewhere said. "He was trying to destroy the house again with the sound waves from his boombox."

Travis did not twitch at that. "Shut up, Angela."

Adele took Paul by the arm. "Sorry about that, Paul. Please come in and don't mind the children. Travis is the youngest and too protective. The invisible one you heard is Angela, our oldest daughter."

"Big fail, Travis, " Angela's voice chimed down the stairs. That made Travis jump to his feet and bolt up the stairs.

"No fighting!" Timothy called after him, "and we're having dinner together!"

As they entered the living room, Paul heard a door slam on the upper floor.

"I am so sorry about this, Paul, " said Adele as she pointed to a large settee near the window. "Please, have a seat. Can I get you a drink?"

Paul asked for a glass of white wine, hoping they had that, and glanced at the large painting that hung over the fireplace. The wooden floor creaked softly under his shoes and for some reason it made him feel good. The sound was in a way welcoming him. It reminded him of the wooden floors in the old house in Wales of which he still had some faint memories.

"Adele made that, " said Timothy, who opened a cabinet that was on the right side of the fireplace. Inside the cabinet was a small refrigerator from where he pulled a bottle. White wine. "It's a picture she made not very far from here, near the water. The water is real, the trees and the mountain in the back only exist in her imagination."

Paul grinned. "I admire her imagination. It is far better than mine, I dare say."

Timothy handed him a chilly glass. "Do you paint? Or anything like that?"

Paul shook his head. "No. Everything in my life seems to revolve around the stars, astronomy and the physics that keep it all together and moving about."

"That sounds boring, " Adele commented. "Sandy would be a good match for you in that respect, she is always going on about these things as well."

Timothy nodded. "I said so much already, on the way here."

Paul looked around and saw a cat lying on the window sill. "You mentioned dogs, but I don't see any."

"They're outside, in their pen. I am going to see to dinner, so if you'll excuse me..." Adele walked into the hall and yelled to no one in particular that she could use a hand or two in the kitchen. Clearly it was aimed at the daughters, although the son wasn't exempt from this task.

"So you have two daughters and a son?" Paul asked, doing his best to be sociable.

"Yes. Travis is the young one, thirteen, you saw him. Sandy is the study-head, always in the books. She's sixteen. And Angela is twenty-two. They'll be down for dinner soon, then you will meet all of them. Until then, relax and prepare for that."

The two men sat down and talked a bit about general things. Paul tried to explain a few more things about his work and the conference, and Timothy talked about the 'farming' he did, which was mainly landscaping, but also large farm-redesign projects to make optimal use of land and resources. The conference he was visiting was about new landscaping techniques.

A young woman came in. She was slender, had blond curls and wore a long, red skirt and a white blouse. "Dinner's - Oh, you must be Mister Carmichael." The young woman smiled and walked up to Paul to greet him.

"Paul, this is Angela, Angela, Doctor Paul Eric Carmichael, from Bristol University." Timothy rose.

Paul rose as well. "I recognised the voice, " he smiled. "It is nice to meet you. Paul will be fine, I think I

left the 'doctor' at the conference."

"You talk funny, " Angela said, suppressing a grin. "Anyways, dinner's ready, mom asked me to call you to the kitchen while I gather Sandy and the rocker." She turned and walked out of the living room. As she went up the stairs, she already started calling her siblings.

Timothy showed the guest to the kitchen, where they were welcomed by the smell of good home-made food. Paul stared at the large kitchen counter, the array of cupboards and the large bar-like table in the middle of the kitchen where plates and cutlery were all laid out. Adele directed Paul to a chair, Timothy ran back to the living room and returned with more wine, and then Angela and Travis came in. Travis still looked distrusting towards Paul, but kept silent as he sat down.

"Where's Sandy?" Adele asked.

"She's- oh... she was right behind me, " Angela sighed. "She probably got lost again on the stairs."

As the young woman left, Paul wondered "Lost on the stairs?"

Adele laughed. "When Sandy has a book in her hands, she'll forget to walk at times." A few loud voices rang in from the hall. "As Angela said... she got lost again."

Angela came back into the kitchen, with her sister. Sandy was half a head shorter than Angela, and what struck Paul first was her bleach-blond hair with a blue rim dyed into it. The girl carried a book under her arm, which she laid on the table as she sat down opposite him. Then she calmly looked at him. Her father did the introductions again.

"Nice to meet you, " said Sandy without even considering to shake hands. A nod sufficed for her.

"Nice to meet you too, " Paul replied. He looked at the book. "An introduction to observational astronomy?"

"Yes. Interesting, but I wonder about some things of the they wrote, " Sandy nodded, picking up the book and paging through it. "For example - hey, dad!"

Timothy had picked the book from her hands and put it on the kitchen counter. "No star-stuff while we eat, young lady. Your mind will be gone again in no time."

"And then she gets lost in her food, " Travis commented. "Her cold food."

"Mind your own business, music monster, " Sandy snapped.

Adele and her husband created some kind of order and soon everyone was eating, while the couple tried to keep conversation light and going. Paul did his utmost to keep from bringing up his work, as that was banned at the table, so he mostly let the others do the talking and only answered the questions he was asked. Angela had fun as she asked him to translate words into Welsh, which she then tried to pronounce. Even Travis relaxed a bit and joined in with that game. It was quite entertaining, also to Paul, as the children proved to be totally untalented for anything pronounced in Welsh. Sandy was quite silent, until she asked: "What is the Welsh word for 'star'?"

Timothy frowned for a moment, but clearly decided to let this go by, as it was the first thing Sandy had actually asked their guest.

"Star is seren, " said Paul. That was an easy word; all the children managed it.

"That is a nice word, " Sandy said. "Thank you."

Paul noticed how her eyes drifted off to the book on the counter, unattainable for now. When she saw that he had seen her, she blushed. He just winked and enjoyed her muffled grin as she paid attention to her food again.

After some ice-cream, the finishing touch to the meal, Paul commented that he had never eaten like that before. "I shan't need a taxi back to my hotel, I can simply roll there."

Again the children laughed at his use of English, but Adele shook her head. "Why would you go back? If you want you can sleep here, we have plenty of room and Tim is going to the conference again tomorrow as well, so you could ride along with him then."

Paul objected that he was entirely unprepared for staying a night over, even though the offer was appealing. Timothy and Adele waved all his words away and said they could provide him with everything he'd need. He'd even have a private bathroom. Considering the fact that Don would probably not show up at the hotel (if his plans came true), Paul did not need much convincing that staying would be the most logical option. During all this, Travis had left the kitchen, which was common for him, so Timothy assured Paul. "He's a bit on his own at times."

Sandy slipped off her chair and went for her book. She held it against her as if it were a treasure, and Paul, who had seen her walk off, saw how her eyes were fixed on him.

"Perhaps, if you don't mind, " he said, "it would be good for me to talk to Sandy for a while? It really looks as if she has a few questions about the book."

Adele smiled. "Of course, but she has to be in bed by 9:30, she has to go to school tomorrow."

"I see no problem in that." Paul got up and looked at the girl. "Where would you like us to talk?"

"My room. Everything's there." Without further words she walked out of the kitchen, not even looking back to see if Paul followed her.

He quickly looked at Adele, who simply said "It's okay, don't worry. We trust you. And she can scream."

Paul grinned. "That makes sense." Then he quickly went into the hall and up the stairs, just in time to see Sandy walk into a room where she switched on the lights.

***

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