“I thought you died” Victoria said sarcastically as I slid into the taxi. I ignored her snarly remark.
“I better get a good tip for this” the Indian taxi driver scolded at us.
“Yes, Ms. Elizabeth here will give you a nice tip, won’t you?” Victoria replied looking straight at me. I opened my mouth to say something vile but I was too happy to start an argument. Sliding back into the seat, I turned to face the window and remained silent throughout our short trip to Uncle Leo’s.
Victoria being Victoria, knew something was up and pestered me until I finally gave in and told her everything that had happened with Henry.
“Wait, Henry Betzel, talked to you?” she exclaimed in disbelief.
“Yes, you know him?” I asked.
“Everyone knows who Henry Betzel is, his father owns half the city” Victoria went on to say. I sensed a hint of jealousy.
“I can’t believe he talked to you” Victoria repeated and again I didn’t say anything to counter her insult. I just stared at her, appalled, feeling ashamed for not having the courage to stand up for myself.
“What did you two talk about, anyway?” Victoria asked, suddenly.
“Nothing, really” I responded in a low voice.
“Hmm” she snorted.
“Here it is” the Indian taxi driver said.
“$12.50” he continued to say. I pulled out a twenty-dollar bill from my back jean pocket and handed it to him. I told him to keep the change as I exited the cab. I could smell Uncle Leo’s meatloaf from the street; the aromas from his third floor apartment electrified my nose. I took a moment to let them marinate and smiled.
“What are you waiting for? Let’s go, Princess!” Victoria yelled out at me from the front doors of Uncle Leo’s apartment building. I quickly rushed into the building just before the tall glass doors closed.
“You’re so weird” Victoria sneers at me.
“What exactly is your problem?” I shriek, finally exploding.
“I meant it as a compliment, stop being so sensitive” she replied with a smile. I didn’t know it then but she was using psychological warfare on me, and I didn’t stand a chance. I foolishly gave her the benefit of the doubt and disregarded the past two hours of abuse.
Uncle Leo’s building was a four story walk-up, no elevators. We walked up to the third floor in silence. When we got to his apartment, Victoria beat me to the punch and knocked on the door. It was like I didn’t even exist. Uncle Leo opened the door, revealing a fabulously decorated white and black apartment. He was a bit heavier since the last time I saw him. His dark brown hair was still full and luxurious as ever. He was wearing his classic blue cashmere sweater, dark wash blue jeans and black loafers.
“Well, hello there, Miss Victoria” Uncle Leo gushed as he hugged her.
“Darling, it’s been too long” Victoria tells him as she kisses him on the right cheek. For a moment, I thought I would go unnoticed and they would just go off without even considering my presence.
“Elizabeth, my dear” I hear Uncle Leo say as he pulls me into a tight hug. Victoria disappears into the apartment, leaving Uncle Leo and me in the third floor hallway. After a few more minutes of catching up and exchanging pleasantries, he invites me into his apartment.
Again, my nose is over-powered by the strong aromas of Uncle Leo’s feast that awaited us in the dining room. You would think a woman had decorated his apartment, but it was actually all done by Uncle Leo and his partner, James. It was mostly black and white in color with hints of pink, here and there. The walls were covered with professional black and white portraits of Uncle Leo, James and their precious Persian cat, named Luna.
When you entered the apartment, you couldn’t help but notice the full Italian white leather sofa that faced a large plasma TV hanging on the opposite wall. It was so clean and beautiful that I was scared to even go near it. Across the room by the terrace, there was a tall wooden bookshelf that nearly touched the ceiling, filled with numerous books of all sizes and colors. I smiled at this. I almost didn’t see Luna, sitting on the couch, as her coat blended in with it. She looked at me curiously, and then went back to licking her left paw.
“Let’s eat,” Uncle Leo said to me as he led me to the right, into the dining room area. There stood a long dark brown table covered with the most savory foods I’ve ever seen. I mean, Uncle Leo really out-did himself. There was his famous meatloaf, mashed potatoes, dumplings, wild yellow rice, chicken pot pie, two different salads, a fruit bowl, roasted pork, cherry and apple pie and so much more.
“Uncle, I don’t think it’s Thanksgiving yet” I joked with eyes wide and mouth watering.
“I forgot to mention, I would be inviting a few more friends to join us” he said as he led me to a chair.
“They should be here soon” he went on as he disappeared into another room. I sat there looking at all the food, wondering if I could eat it all. Victoria and a few other people walked in laughing as I was reaching for meatball. I quickly pulled my hand back, hoping nobody had seen me. I was so hungry. Victoria sat right next to me which I found to be strange for some reason.
“You must be Elizabeth” a tall blonde curly haired woman said to me as she shook my hand.
“Yes, and you are?” I smiled.
“Madora. Madora Wiles” she said to me in a James Bond kind of way.
“I am a drama teacher. I hear you want to be an actress.” She went on to say.
“Lovely to meet you” I told her while keeping a smile on my face.
“How do you…” I began to say but stopped myself, knowing the answer to my question. We talked for a while, and then Uncle announced it was time to eat and she patted my right shoulder and went on to find a seat. James was now standing next to Uncle Leo holding a glass of red wine. He also looked the same since I last saw him. He was significantly taller than my Uncle, had a nice build and was also bald. He smiled at me when he saw me. I smiled back.
“In honor of my lovely Elizabeth, I have prepared this fabulous meal welcoming her to New York!” Uncle cheered. Everyone else at the table gave me their welcome. I was greeted by so many people that I couldn’t possibly recount all of their names to you.
While we ate, Uncle Leo had set-up an old disc-player to play Elvis Presley. All around the table, the conversations were lively and friendly. Everyone was having a good time, even Luna who sat on a high chair by Uncle Leo, was nibbling at her own dinner.
It was a great night. We danced to old swing music, told jokes and acted out scenes from Les Miserables (my favorite novel). It was way past two in the morning when the festivities had ended and everyone but Victoria and I had left. Uncle Leo had insisted we stay overnight because he did not want us walking out at night. He had us sleep in his guest bedroom which was also color schemed in black and white. In it was a king sized bed, one dresser and an attached bathroom. He let us borrow some old t-shirts to sleep in, gave us both newly bought toothbrushes and wished us goodnight.
Victoria didn’t even bother to change, throwing herself onto the left side of the bed, falling immediately to sleep. I on the other hand, changed into an old extra large rolling stones t-shirt, pulled my hair into a top bun and jumped into the right side of the bed. I wasn’t aware of how tired I was, lying there, my eyes soon grew rather heavy and I quickly drifted away.