The calming sense of normality was replaced with the feeling of someone standing on your chest with your heart is racing and you are not quite sure whether you are panicking or just extremely excited. Unlike Newfoundland where the deep blue ocean greets the jagged coast line and where every resident and tourist are accepted as family, I now found myself along the murky Hudson surrounded by cold city towers and a sea full of unknown people.
My uncle parked the car on a heavily treed street in front of a brick façade, multi-million-dollar home.
“Here we are,” my aunt said as she looked back with a broad grin on her face.
“Home sweet home,” my uncle smiled in the rear-view mirror.
“You’re kidding, right?” I replied before opening the door and stepping onto the sidewalk.
“No wonder you always seem to take longer on the New York trips,” Teagan teased her mother as she ran around the car and grabbed my shoulders. “Okay, I was jealous before, but now I am just seething with envy,” she harshly whispered into my ears with a full broad grin.
I was in awe, gazing at the beautiful site before me. The building was four stories high with evenly spaced white trimmed windows flanked with black shutters. The front had a rod iron waist height gate that fenced the garden entryway. There was a large oak in the middle of the courtyard that had branches reaching the street with perennial shrubs surrounding it’s base. The smell of roses and freshly cut grass accompanied our short walk to the front entry. A dark stained wooden door adorned with a silver kick plate, door knob and matching lion’s head knocker stood before us.
My aunt, giddy with excitement, opened the door and introduced us to the home at the bottom of the four story, grand curved wooden staircase. She explained that the home was split into three apartments for multiple use of the building when required by clients or overseas employees. All three levels were built and furnished to accommodate the CEO of the company: spare no expense.
“You, my dear, shall have the loft. I’m sorry, it is about half the size of the other one-”
“Is it bigger than a dorm?”
She smiled back at me on the curve of the staircase, “Yes, bigger than a dorm.”
“Then it’s perfect.”
We climbed the three stories and my aunt arrived at a dark stained solid wood door with rod iron fittings. “Here it is,” she opened it and stepped back, allowing me to take first look.
The loft was open concept with wall-to-wall wooden flooring and exposed brick walls. There were modern dark granite countertops in the stainless-steel kitchen, a contemporary glass and tiled ensuite bathroom, along with a spiral rod-iron staircase leading to the bedroom above a living area that held a big screen TV and sectional couch.
“Wow,” I turned back towards the entrance where my family stood awaiting my thoughts. “This is just too much,” I stated as I walked forward and hugged my aunt tightly. “Thank you so much.”
“Baby girl, you got yourself here, remember that,” she replied as she pulled back. “I am so happy that I could do this for you.”
“I just do not know how I am ever going to repay you.”
My uncle pulled me into his side and placed a kiss on top of my head, “Honey, it has been our pleasure.”
I beamed at his comment and my gaze travelled back to my cousins who were vibrating with excitement.
“Okay, let’s go shopping and start making this place really feel like home,” my aunt exclaimed with a clap of her hands.
“Are you joking? This place is incredible. What on earth does it need?” I called out to my aunt and uncle who were on their way back out the door.
“Come on, you ought to know by now that she will take any reason to go shopping,” my cousin jabbed as she headed towards the door.
My family stayed for about a week. It was a great transition period and the posh apartment soon began to feel like home, my home. We scheduled one full day dedicated to navigating New York’s clothing stores. By the end of the marathon shopping, all of us, including my uncle, completed the day with an entire updated wardrobe ensuring our fashion would last through the next year.
I spent one day touring campus, and to my surprise my cousins joined me on my adventure. I embraced the one-on-one time with them before they left. After all the years growing up together, it was difficult letting them go. I was not saying goodbye to my cousins, I was leaving my sisters and even though we never said it out loud, I could see it in their eyes and the hear hitch in their voice every once in a while.
Our last day was spent in Manhattan. We marked off as many sights as we could, had supper at a high-end restaurant, attended a late-night talk show and rounded out the night with a slice of a deep-dish pizza. The wee hours of the morning were creeping up on us and we just did not want to succumb to sleep. Even though their flight was later in the afternoon the following day, it felt like this was our last day being a family, and we simply did not want it to end.
Although, running on empty the next morning, no one complained. It was a day to just lay around, pound back the coffee, eat take-out food and put off packing as long as possible. It was only after all the suitcases were lined near the door and my uncle brought the car around did it finally feel real. I felt ridiculous fighting tears and the lump in my throat. It was like I was taken back to my childhood with the same anxiety of staying overnight by myself at camp for the first time. I knew I had to be strong, the second I lost my cool, everyone would follow. I hugged my uncle and cousins a little longer than usual, so I could breathe through my tears and control my voice. “Safe travels,” I whispered to each of them. “I love you.”
My aunt was the last one to get into the vehicle. “If you need anything, you know who to call.” She stood back with a motherly grin that was nervous, proud, anxious and excited all at the same time.
“I think you have done more than enough. Thank you,” I leaned in and pulled her into a tight hug. Even though she was my height but half my size, her strength caught me off guard. A grin appeared on my lips as I realized I was not the only one having a rough time saying goodbye.
“You are a talented athlete and one of the smartest people I know,” she said quietly in my ear. She backed up and held me at arm’s length, “So you represent and kick some ass.”
I laughed and replied with a nod, “I love you.”
“I, we, love you too,” she added as she moved a strayed piece of hair behind my ear. She pulled me into another hug when I saw the tears appear around the rim of her eyes. “We are so proud to call you our daughter.”
That did it. The flood gates opened and I could barely find the strength to let her go. Once I finally did, I guided her into the car and blew kisses to all of them. “Call me when you get home,” I struggled out of my tight vocal cords. “Love you all.”
“Love you Piper!” they called as my uncle pulled away from the curb and set off on their journey home.
I waved at their vehicle as they drove off and stayed on the street’s edge until they were out of sight. I had to continue to fight the tears when I turned towards the apartment building and climbed the stairs. I felt so alone, so empty and not ready for the world. My whole life, I have been in someone’s company that I love and hold dear to me. Now for the first time I was on my own and that thought chilled me to my bone. My arms instinctively wrapped around my torso for warmth.
As I stepped into my place and the door closed behind me, I knew I was beginning a new chapter in my life; something that I must write and complete on my own. I glanced around the room and the chill of loneliness began to dissipate upon the realization that I could choose what to have for dinner and, I could decide what I was going to do today even if it meant pulling up on the couch and watching TV until three o’clock in the morning. As the tears dried upon my cheeks, a small smile crept upon my lips.
CONTINUE TO Chapter Two