Dear Diary, we finally made it to Monte Vista! I say “finally” because turning over a farm to your brother and then getting seven other people out the door is quite the adventure!
Leo Jr. took the ferry with us to the mainland because we thought we’d need his help carrying everything. It was then that we found out Bootsie gets motion sickness. We’d intended to bring him along as even though he is a dog, he’s a genuine member of the family. Since we weren’t staying in a hotel or resort, we thought it would be a perfect arrangement but the motion sickness quickly changed our minds. Leo Jr. ended up taking him back home, so it’s a good thing he went with us that far.
It was late afternoon when the cabs pulled up outside the villa gates. I decided to take the family in through the side entrance since that is the one we always used when Daddy brought me here as a child.
“Do we really have this whole place to ourselves?” Charles asked, his eyes growing huge as he stared at the house.
“Yes, we will be the only ones here. When I was a little girl, there were always a ton of people here with Daddy and me. Uh, I mean, Grandpa.”
“What kind of people?” Laurent asked as I unlocked the gates and opened them.
“All sorts of people. There were always guests… other musicians, actors, people who were invited to stay for interviews… that kind of thing.
“Did you grow up here, Momma?” Susan asked.
Peering up at the main building, my breath caught in my throat. I’d forgotten the wonderful times I’d had here and the lengths my father went to in order to make sure I was happy.
“Oh!” I smiled when I realized I’d missed Susan’s question. After she repeated it, I said, “No, I lived in Storybrook for a short time, then Bridgeport with Grandpa. When I was still a child, we moved to Hidden Springs to a large house on a lake.”
“As large as this house?” Carrie called over her shoulder. As I suspected, she was already warming up to our vacation.
“It was bigger, actually.”
“And you were the only two that lived there? That seems silly!” Susan said.
“Doesn’t it?” I agreed. “Grandpa used to say it was easier having security in a bigger house than a smaller one. I’m not sure why, but he believed it to be true.”
By now, Matthieu and Marty were miles ahead of me, already stepping up onto the veranda. From behind, I could see Marty furtively glancing at Matthieu as if she wanted to be sure he was adjusting.
Catching up, I scooted past Matthieu and Marty and led them past the front door to the entrance off the kitchen. “Let’s go in this way.”
Quickly, I gave them a tour of the house. In the living room, I paused in front of Dad’s piano, running my hand along its smooth surface. If I listened hard enough, I could imagine him playing something brilliant he’d composed.
Going upstairs, the memories continued to flood my mind as I showed the girls the room they would be staying in… my old room. It wasn’t nearly as sentimental as it would have been had I shown them my room in Hidden Springs, but it still tugged at my heart.
When I opened the door to the room that used to be almost empty and used as a study of sorts, I realized it had been redone for Leo Jr. There were two beds and luckily, I had only two boys.
We were all starving and I knew the refrigerator would be stocked for us, so I began to make some spaghetti. It felt so good to use modern appliances and I have to say, Matt seemed pretty amazed, watching everything I did with a close eye.
“These appliances are pretty cool, right?”
Grimacing, he said, “They’re terrifying.”
“You won’t give them another thought once you learn how to use them.” Pausing to look at him, I added, “Why are you staring so intently?”
“I’m making sure you don’t get hurt.”
Laughing, I said, “I may not have used a food processor in years, but I know what I’m doing.”
Dinner was amazing. We sat in comfortable chairs and leisured our way through the meal, chatting about life and discussing what we would do the next day. We didn’t exactly rush through meals at home in Winchester, still, I enjoyed this time with my family. I had a feeling with Charles’ birthday so close, this family might not all be together like this very often.
The dishes were a breeze. I showed the kids how to rinse them off and put them in the dishwasher and they showed the proper enthusiasm although they claimed that Leela had shown this to them previously. The cleaning up dishes rule became that everyone rinsed and put their own place setting in the dishwasher then washed one pot or pan. With that in place, the dishes were done in no time.
Everyone was dead on their feet, so I told the kids to get into their pajamas and relax in their rooms while I took the garbage out. I had just put the lid back on the trashcan and stopped to yawn when I realized I wasn’t alone. On the other side of the gate stood a teen with heavy lidded eyes and a curious half-smile. A local.
“Yes?” I asked, coming closer. To my embarrassment, I couldn’t stop another yawn from escaping me.
“Do you speak Italian?” he asked.
Shaking my head, I said, “I’m really rusty.”
“Uh, yes, okay. I saw you arrive with your family and thought perhaps your children would like to hang out,” he said in perfect English.
“I’m afraid they’ve already gone to bed. We are very tired from our travels. Perhaps another time.”
Nodding, he smiled politely and said, “Have a good evening.”
“You, too,” I murmured as he strode away into the night.
Climbing the stairs, all I could think about was how I was ready to fall in bed. Except that my husband was standing there, looking all handsome.
“That was the best!” he grinned.
Seeing his hair was wet, I chuckled. “You took a shower. I have to admit, I’ve been really looking forward to that.”
Pulling me into his strong arms, his damp skin pressed against me, he smiled as he looked into my eyes. “I know you were afraid I wouldn’t have an open mind. I want you to know, though, that I love you and am so glad you chose to bring us here.”
No matter how many times he told me he loved me, it somehow always felt like the first time when we were on the beach under the stars. Nuzzling my cheek next to his, I whispered into his ear, “I think we’re going to have a good night.”
And we definitely did.
The sun was barely up the next morning when I heard the kids as they got up, teased one another, had a bite to eat and ran for the pool. They’d never been in a swimming pool before and couldn’t wait to see if they liked it.
The morning was warm and sunny, yet not humid like Winchester always became.
After my shower, I realized I was alone in the house. Roaming outside, I knew it wouldn’t take a genius to find Matthieu. He was exactly where I thought he’d be.
Our first order of the day was to take the children to the village. We’d no sooner given them money and instructions when they were off by themselves to explore. There wasn’t much going on here as it hadn’t changed all that much from my memory of what it used to be like. So, I was pretty sure they would stay out of trouble.
Matthieu and I enjoyed cappuccinos on the balcony of a coffee shop. From there, we had a perfect view of the village. Once in a while, we caught sight of the kids as they went from one place to another.
Later on, we roamed Monte Vista, too, visiting the museum first and holding hands.
It was early evening before we knew it and time to meet up with the children. Surprisingly, they looked worn out. Lissie was sneezing like crazy and the others looked like zombies.
“Are you guys tired?” I asked, amazed.
“I’m beat!” Charles said. “It’s not easy keeping this group together and everyone was arguing about what we should do.”
“So we just did it all!” Marty said brightly.
“Wait. Where’s Carrie?” I asked.
They all looked around with confusion in their eyes.
“Over here,” Laurent mumbled, his attention completely taken by whatever he was staring at.
Once Matthieu and I rounded the corner, we saw that Carrie was standing particularly close to the boy I had met the night before at the gate.
Before I could stop him, Matthieu made a beeline for the young pair, his stride firm.
“Daddy,” Carrie said, “this is Luca Rossi. He’s from Monte Vista.”
“Hello,” Matt said, stiffly shaking the boy’s hand. “I’m Mr. Larochette and this is Mrs. Larochette.”
Luca slightly nodded as if that was a proper greeting and all at once, I could see this conversation was going to go downhill fast.
“We’re going to a movie together tonight.”
I raised an eyebrow but it was Matt who responded. “No, no. We have plans.”
Apparently, it’s Caroline now.
“Look, uh, Mr. Larochette, I get that you don’t know me and all, but I think your daughter is cute and she already told me she could go to the movie. It’s really up to her anyway.”
Where is your mother, young man? I asked myself.
“Perhaps, you could come to the house sometime for dinner and we’ll discuss arrangements from there,” I suggested. However, Matthieu was already put off.
“Or,” he said, “you can turn around and walk away from my daughter and never look back!”
Luca’s jaw dropped and he stared dumbly at my husband. “B-but – ”
“I’d start walking now.”
“How could you embarrass me like that?” Carrie screamed after Luca was out of earshot.
“Lower your voice at once,” I said, glaring at her.
“I will not lower my voice! I will never ever do another thing either of you tells me again!” I’d like to add here that as she said this, she stamped her foot then winced because she accidentally hit her bare toe on the pavement.
“Let’s get back to the house where we can talk about this in private,” I said.
Carrie gaped at us as her eyes filled with tears. Suddenly she began to sob into her arm. “I don’t want to go back to the house. I want to run away and never come back!”
Matthieu threw up his hands and began grouping the kids up for the walk home. I took Carrie’s arm and steered her in the direction of the others.
“Let go of me! You’re treating me like a child!” she wailed.
“You are a child,” I said as I propelled her in the right direction.
By the time we got home, she was walking of her own accord, although dragging her feet. We sent her upstairs to her room to think things over.
And that is how she missed Charles’ birthday. With the celebrating this family puts on, I soon forgot the unpleasantness from earlier and watched as my oldest child became a young adult…
… and my youngest child refused cake again.