Chapter 2: Stew and Cookies
Her parents both stop, mid cookie bite, and look painfully at Ilona.
“A book?” her mother repeats while cookie crumbs tumble from her mouth onto the table.
“Yes, a book,” Ilona states again.
“Honey, dear… Ilona, why do you want a book? The public library has plenty available for loan. And I am sure your school library has quite a few as well,” her dad reassures her, while gently touching her arm.
Ilona notices this. And she notices how her mom looks away as her dad talks. She never means to cause pain with this simple request, something other families would never think twice about, but she has to do this.
“But dad, I want a book to call my own, that is all mine, with no deadline attached,” Ilona explains. Tears suddenly hit her resolve, but she manages to check them back in time. She wants this based on logic, not a show of emotion. She does not want to manipulate them.
But her mother has felt the tears from across the table and it is too much. Quickly wiping the crumbs up with her hand, she crosses the few steps into the kitchen and deposits them into the sink. Ilona turns her head and witnesses her mother’s back. She knows from the shoulder slouch that the request has drained the joy of the last few minutes away. Her dad is feeling this as well.
“Ilona, we… we can understand your need here, really we can, believe me, but… this might not be the best time, maybe… next month?” her dad tries to mix reassurances with warmth in his response. It is a delicate balance and Ilona could fully appreciate the attempt, but she needs this. She really does. And she hopes someday they will understand.
She notices her dad is purposely not turning to look at her mom, because he knows it would hurt too much. This pain stinks up the air between them. Failure of everything that has come before is present. Things even Ilona has no concept of, now travels between two backs.
“Dad, Mom, this means a lot to me, and I never ask for anything…” Ilona’s voice drowns away at this point. She is right. She has never asked for anything before because she knew not to. All the extra work to help her parents does not disturb her, it feels simply like a natural part of what family is. A set of chores to alleviate her parent’s worries and suffering. This is her contribution to their love. But this request is different. Outside of her parent’s sphere, she is nothing. And the pain of not existing has proven too difficult. So, she is finally making a request to her beleaguered parents. She is asking for a life.
Silence lasts for a few moments with all the players unmoving, like a snapshot of this turning point being made ready for history. Father looks at daughter. Daughter stares at mother. Mother seeing straight ahead, at the blank wall above the sink, slightly stained with something they could never quite get out.
“Yes, we will get you a book,” says Ilona’s mom flatly. “Write down the exact one you want, and we will get it for you,” she continues in the same monotone.
Ilona’s dad’s head snaps around to finally look at her mom. Sensing this from the stains on the wall, she turns right around to face her husband. “We will get the book,” she says again as their eyes lock.
Without blinking, her dad exhales so deeply it makes his moustache bristle, and he repeats “Yes, we will get you a book.”
Joy at winning a life hits Ilona like a spark. She has done it. The new her starts now. Celebrations inside are short as she remembers where she is. Her actions for rebirth is the cause of this heartbreak, and a small part of her wants to take back all the evil she has unleashed with her selfishness. Ilona rakes her mind to try and fix this. As quickly as this starts, the answer, the obvious answer, pops fully realized into her soul.
“Thank you father!” she shouts, while jumping out of her seat and wrapping him in a hug. The force of her is so powerful, even with the smaller frame, that she almost knocks him out of his chair. This produces the desired effect, causing laughter to erupt from the thick moustache. “I have always said you are getting bigger all the time! And almost knocking me on my keister just proves it!” roars her father.
Turning with whirlwind speed, Ilona bounds over the few feet to her mother and slams into her with another bear hug. Her mother is already smiling even before they collide, with tears trying to escape the corners of her eyes. “Thank you mother!” Ilona shouts again. “It is alright Ilona,” her mother says as she gently kisses Ilona’s hair. “But you must write down exactly the name of the book you want, understand? We want to get you the one you want,” her mother states as she now starts playing with Ilona’s hair.
“Oh, I will! I will!” Ilona squeals as she jumps up and down with so much excitement. She could not recall the last time she squealed. And to her parent’s shame, they could not either. The look they now share, almost completely missed by Ilona and her gleeful exuberance, made them realize how much they have missed of who their daughter really was. A stranger is jumping in their kitchen. They knew this has to be fixed.
Ilona ran from the kitchen and enters her bedroom. Grabbing a piece of paper and her favourite pencil, she very carefully printed the exact name, both title and author, of what she had seen the girls at the wall reading. It is book one of she believed a five part series. Details of plot and characters is unknown to her. All that she would discover when it becomes hers. Ilona runs back to the kitchen, and hands the paper to her mom. She has only been gone for barely a minute, but already her parents are almost done clearing the table. A pang of guilt hits Ilona, since this is her duty. Sensing the discomfort, her mother takes the paper from Ilona and smiles. “It is alright kiddo, we can take care of this,” her mother says happily. She has not called Ilona kiddo in years. This felt good and old fashioned, like a forgotten memory now shining through. All smiles fill the kitchen.
The little bit of time left before bed fills with buzzing energy from Ilona. Something is happening. The secrets of the universe are popping open in front of her for the first time ever. The book is hers. Soon. This thought dances in her head when she finally drifts off, and continues dancing in her dreams all through the night.
A dancing book is a beautiful sight.
Song For This Chapter: Goodbye, Goodbye by Tegan and Sara.
The Passport To The Wall is Copyright 2013 to Paul Riches
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First serialization started on Friday, June 7th, 2013.