Chapter 40: Cynthia Is Down To Earth ACT I of IV of FAMILIES
“Lets do this,” Ilona states with conviction.
Looking out at the piles and rows and clumps of fresh snow, Ilona steadies her backpack squarely between her shoulder blades, making sure her helmet is secure, and finally heads out on her bike.
While the ride is a bit wobbly, with some snow and ice and occasional mush littering the sidewalk, she is determined to take her journey in a calm careful way, all to complete her multiple tasks. Weighed down by a full cargo of books, books, and more books, with the added bonus of her beloved laptop, Ilona navigates at a very moderate speed towards the end of her street.
It took a considerable amount of begging and pleading and swearing oaths for her parents to agree to let Ilona take her Christmas gift bike out for it’s inaugural ride so soon after another dumping of snow across all of Toronto. The used bike had been sitting to the side in the apartment all this time, gathering dust and waiting for better weather to grace it. With the first official day of March Break coming up, her mother and father relented and let Ilona out on her bike to visit her friends on this rather bland Monday.
They knew they had to, Ilona thought, since every book her friends had loaned her on the previous Friday had all now been consumed by her hungry eyes. And returning them all promptly is only polite after all.
Turning at the end of her street, Ilona heads along to her first destination on this sure to be packed day. At least, as she told her parents yesterday, she didn’t have to stop by Clara’s because she was about to go off to Disneyland and Susan is off the list because she is already in New York with her mother. A minute later, she turns again and keeps on course to Cynthia’s house.
Pulling up to the house, she sees two of Cynthia’s brothers wrestling in the snow on the front lawn. They both stop, frozen in time when they spot her, and then quickly wave, shouting “hello Ilona!” before going back to their antics. Ilona giggles and waves back as she goes up and rings the doorbell.
Seconds later Cynthia greets her and the two are in the foyer helping Ilona get her backpack off.
“Can’t go to my room today,” Cynthia says with an excited grin, “Mama decided March Break would be the perfect time to spring a surprise room makeover on me! We already started taking everything apart and moving things around, but had to stop when we had an unexpected visitor.”
Ilona settles her backpack on the floor and unzips it. “Unexpected visitor? One of your father’s clients?”
“Nope,” Cynthia shakes her head, “a man who quickly went into the study with my parents and I did not get the client vibe from him.”
Ilona hands back to Cynthia The Fault In Our Stars and Watership Down just as her friend leans in close.
“And I was right! Now I would never listen in if it was related to one of father’s law cases. Even my naughty brothers would not do that. But I quickly overheard what this mysterious stranger is all about.”
Cynthia’s face, now almost completely in front of Ilona’s, is filled with joy. “He is returning Mama’s lost smartphone!” Cynthia pulls Ilona into a huge hug, all while bouncing on the spot.
“Umm, Cynthia. Not to burst your bubble or anything, but didn’t your mother get a new smartphone awhile ago?” Ilona asks while returning the hug.
Cynthia jumps back, still keeping up her happy demeanor. “Yes, but losing that smartphone was plaguing her consciousness. She tries, oh she so tries all the time to be perfect and run things and keep my scampy older brothers somewhat in line. I do my best to help her, but alas I can not be with her all the time. Maybe now she can relax and realize she is human.” Cynthia finishes with a massive smile.
Ilona stares at Cynthia. “Right. Your mother is only human. She has to figure this out. And you, of all people, are hoping she will do this.” Ilona is trying to not be sarcastic, but the strangeness of this mother daughter dynamic strikes her as so obvious. But Cynthia has never ever seen it.
“I know! Fixing that part of my Mama has been an ongoing project for some time.” Cynthia rolls her eyes. “But back to the man in the study. I managed to tune out the ruckus they were causing outside with all their snow wrestling and heard a fascinating story.” Cynthia plops down on the foyer floor, sliding her back up against the wall with Ilona quickly joining her.
“This fellow is named Nicholas and he has spent most of his life in and out of alcoholism,” Cynthia whispers in concern. “He used to have some semblance of a life, even a girlfriend and a child, but everything just kept unraveling and the last few years are mostly a blur.”
Ilona sputters in shock. “That is horrible! All because of a terrible addiction he loses so much of his life!”
Cynthia nods. “I know. Much as I am happy for the recovered phone, I am sad over this man’s life. At least he is here now and my parents can help.”
Ilona whispers in surprise. “Your parents can help? I don’t understand. And how did this man, this Nicholas, find your mother?”
“From what I overheard,” Cynthia whispers back, darting her eyes down the hall to make sure they are alone, “Nicholas found the smartphone on the subway and took it to wherever he lives. He even gave the phone a nickname which I didn’t hear. Eventually he ran the power down and something about that gave him pause. Maybe it was like a wake up call I have heard my parents go on about.” Cynthia shrugs, “anyways, he stopped drinking and soon found a power cord or something and got it going enough to find out it was my Mama’s and where she was.”
“Well that is nice of him. Returning the phone and everything,” Ilona replies.
“Yes, and they are helping him find an AA chapter nearby him. And when he is well enough, Mama will help him find his ex girlfriend and child.” Cynthia states proudly.
“Your mother? But wouldn’t your dad do this, being a lawyer and all?” Ilona asks.
Cynthia punches her friend on the shoulder. “Silly! Remember my Mama used to do Family Law when she was practicing years ago! Because of Nicholas’s hazy memory it might take a little bit longer, but reuniting a family is always a worthy cause.”
“Almost.” Ilona states flatly.
“Almost?” Cynthia is surprised.
Ilona stares into her friend’s eyes. “Not to burst your bubble, and I dearly hope everything goes well for Nicholas and everyone, but his ex and child might not be happy to see him. He did choose alcohol and the chaos it brings, over them.”
Cynthia looks away and stares at the floor.
“I know. But I just want everyone to have a happy ending. They might reject him. I hope not, but they might,” she looks back up at Ilona, “I hope and pray it all works out in the end.”
Ilona and Cynthia hug, holding onto each other for several seconds, hoping to somehow lend support to these unknown future strangers reuniting.
Finishing the embrace, Cynthia suddenly remembers.
“Yes! You wanted to read Divergent! I will be right back, just have to run and find them all in my room,” she rolls her eyes, “somewhere.”
Cynthia scampers away and Ilona pulls her laptop out. Plugging it into a wall outlet, she quickly logs into Cynthia’s family wi-fi and a few clicks later is checking her email and updating her Goodreads account. A sound makes her head snap up and she sees a man walking into the foyer. She knows it is not Cynthia’s father or brothers. Ilona knows this must be Nicholas.
“Sorry, did not mean to startle you. I was just leaving. You must be Cynthia,” Nicholas states.
“It’s alright. I was just engrossed with what I was doing online,” she answers, “But I am not Cynthia. I am Ilona.” She stretches her hand up in greeting. Nicholas gives her a very light handshake, Ilona notices, realizing he is afraid of hurting her.
As their hands separate, Nicholas glances at Ilona’s face. “I had a daughter, sorry, I have a daughter somewhere and I think she might be a little bit older than you. But it’s hard to remember. I left her a long time ago.” Nicholas looks away, slight shame hitting his face Ilona sees. “Sorry to ramble on like that.”
“That’s all right,” Ilona says soothingly, “I hope you find your daughter.” She thinks desperately for something, anything to say that will help Nicholas. Something Cynthia would say. “What was your last memory of your daughter?”
Nicholas looks up at the ceiling, eyes deep in thought.
“Me throwing a stapler at a window and breaking it. The window that is.” Nicholas looks back down at Ilona, giving her a strained smile. “Not my best moment.”
Pushing her laptop to the side and standing up, Ilona gives Nicholas a hug. He gently pats her head and quietly says “thank you.”
“I hope you find your daughter,” Ilona says as she leaves the hug.
“Thank you Ilona. Thank you. But I must get going now. I have a… meeting to get to,” Nicholas makes this way to the door, turns and waves a goodbye to Ilona, and leaves.
She sits back down and continues her online journey when seconds later Cynthia comes bounding back into the foyer.
“Here is book one, and book two, and book three!” Cynthia smiles as she hands the trilogy over to Ilona. “I hope you have room in your backpack for them all.”
“Don’t worry, I put an Undetectable Extension Charm on it before I left home this morning.” Ilona jokes, than looks at Cynthia. “Thank you. And I hope… I really hope that Nicholas does find his family.”
“So do I, Ilona, so do I,” Cynthia says.
The door swings open with a slam as Cynthia’s oldest brother barges in, carrying Cecily up on his shoulders.
“We’re Heeeeere!” he shouts.
Cecily ducks her head back up from coming in the door, joins in with “WHEEEEEEE!”
“How was school this morning?” Cynthia asks.
“It was great! Mrs. Travis was there and she let us into the school and get the books I left in class and it was completely and totally empty and it was cool!” Cecily babbles everything out in on long breath.
“I was about to ask where she was this morning,” Ilona laughs, “and now I know!”
Cecily giggles, “saw your bike out front, where ya going today Ilona? Someplace cool and fun I hope?”
Cynthia nudges Ilona. “Sounds like someone wants to go with you.”
Ilona smiles at Cecily. “Wanna be cool and go biking with me?”
“YES!” Cecily shouts. ” LEMME DOWN! LEMME DOWN!”
Cynthia’s brother kneels down, letting the young girl loose in the foyer.
” I just gotta get Cynthia’s old bike and we can go to infinity and beyond!” Cecily pumps her arms in excitement and takes off out the door.
“Good luck,” Cynthia says with a laugh, “I think you will need it!”
Song For This Chapter: Dancing On My Own Ground by Lawrence Gowan
First serialization started on Friday, June 7th, 2013.