Monday mornings always make me excited, I don’t know why. Or well I do. It’s not because I long to get back to school so badly I jump out of bed with a cry of joy. Nor is it because I look forward to seeing Jason in school. OK, maybe a little bit because of that. I mean not that I like him, or anything, I really don’t know him. I’m more…intrigued by him. His grandpa is a Rocky Creek native, but Jason’s dad left town, only to come back two years ago with Jason and his brother in tow.
That Jason wasn’t always here isn’t what makes him interesting. It’s more that he doesn’t bend to anyone’s rules. He isn’t part of any group in school; he talks to all of them, but only hangs out with El (whose real name is Elbert, but for natural reasons no one ever uses his real name, though for some inexplicable reason I like it). Elbert is probably the most social kid in school. Really. He’s crazy social. Jason is like his dark shadow. Present, but not really interested in hanging out with people. Apart from with Elbert.
Elbert can charm anyone, including me, but since Jason arrived I find him much more interesting. Anyway, the reason I like Monday mornings is that they feel like a new beginning. Like New Years, or Ostara (Easter) when spring gives birth to everything again. Like you can create anything. Be anything. Do anything. I get excited, OK. Call me wacko, but I got it from my aunts — they’re big on cleansing rituals and starting anew.
This particular Monday, like most other days, I was awakened by Hetty, who knocked on my door before darting in. Hetty is a curvy redhead (henna-dyed) and has the force of a gale wind.
“Morning Louise, it’s a beautiful morning, so get that bottom of yours out of bed and ready for class. It’s sunny today and exceptionally warm for October, so get up and enjoy it!”
On that note she slammed down a mug of hot lemon, apple cider vinegar, honey, turmeric and ginger water on my bed stand and dashed out of the room with speed; her blue kimono fluttering behind her. She left a trail of some sensual perfume in her wake. One of Wilda’s essential oil concoctions, no doubt.
Aunt Hetty is extremely maternal, but with an hourglass figure and femme fatale kind of air about her. My aunts, of course, see sensuality and sexuality as sacred parts of life. Something you hone. Something you treasure. Lifeforce.
Once I had my period I was initiated into their circle of sacred womanhood.
Sex, in our family, is not a taboo subject (once you are a woman or man — if you are under fifteen no one will whisper a word about it). Dishonoring your body, your sensuality, or demeaning yourself by going near anyone who doesn’t treat you as a goddess, on the other hand, causes a thunderstorm of outrage.
The only time I’ve been in room arrest (i.e. told to stay in my room and contemplate my sins, or rather the opposite of them) was when I said I didn’t like my feet. Wilda banned any airbrushed pictures from entering our home. Agatha put me to meditate on the usefulness of my feet (and hence the gratitude I should feel for them). Hetty gave me a lecture on how a woman’s power lies in the appreciation of self and the sensual impact of it; how everyone around senses one’s attitude and thoughts. And Jenna spoke of feet fetishes for a whole of fifteen (very long) minutes. Then I was placed in my room to massage my feet using one of Wilda’s lotions, while Wilda set about burning a bunch of fashion magazines she found in my room and Agatha cleansed the air of negative energy by walking around the entire house whispering blessings.
Sufficient to say, I’ve never complained about my body ever again.
This particular Monday I was tired, but energized at the thought of a brand new day, so I got out of bed by putting my wonderful feet on the floor, had my drink (it’s supposed to cleanse your intestines, or something, according to Wilda), used the bathroom and stumbled through the house to the studio still wearing my PJs.
Our house is really one main cottage with four other cottages attached to it in a rambling sort of manner. Each aunt, including my mom, had their own addition and in the main cottage there’s the kitchen, dining room and lounge, as well as Jenna’s bedroom, the studio and two guest rooms. There’s also a few wooden chalets on the property where various family members and visitors have lived over the years.
The studio is where we all gather to awaken our bodies and minds in the morning. That’s to say: we stretch, do some strength and breathing exercises and meditate for five minutes. We finish it off by a short (silent) meditation on what we’d all like to create during the day. You sort of imagine in your mind’s eye what it is you desire to do and what state of mind you’d like to have doing it.
It’s an excellent way to start the day, really. Looking upon it from an aesthetic point of view, seeing a whole family dressed in their PJs doing weird breathing exercises while sticking their tongues out, might not be as excellent though. The only outsider I’ve ever allowed to see this is Johanna.
This particular morning aunt Agatha’s husband, Harry, looked a bit tired. He was also the only person there when I arrived.
“Morning Harry, you look like you had a rough night?” I asked him.
“A sick foal. Emergency call. Lots of appointments this morning. Can’t sleep in.”
Harry is a vet and whenever he is really tired he clips his sentences. His mood isn’t great either when he’s tired, so I slipped away from him to light some incense to cleanse the air and a candle to set the mood.
Then, one by one, my aunts arrived. Aunt Agatha wearing white and looking zen, as usual, aunt Hetty as happy as always with her husband, Jon, in her wake and aunt Wilda and her husband Ben looking well rested. Lastly, Jenna entered the room with Jenny, theatrically throwing the door open.
“Good morning youngsters. I see you all made it out of bed this morning. Not surprisingly so given the sunshine. Makes me want to run naked round the garden it does.”
And that’s the other reason I don’t often invite people home. I love my aunts and given we live in California most people are open-minded (I think all people should be, really — free thinking and all that), but when first getting acquainted with my aunts, several people still have a shock. Not least because we all live together, so it’s like meeting not one, but four strong personalities in one go. I would say five to include myself, but apart from my wit I’m not really sure who I am or what I want, so I tend to keep a backseat.
“Right, everyone here,” aunt Agatha announced, “let’s start!” And so started a typical day in the Westwind household.
After a breakfast consisting of one shot of herbs, one shot of green juice and some sort of raw superfood muesli with coconut yogurt, I biked to school.
My aunts hadn’t been exaggerating — it was a beautiful day. My long brown hair sailed behind me in the wind and I could feel my cheeks getting rosy in the morning sunshine. I loved biking to school on days like these.
As I breathed in the fresh morning air and looked at the sun dancing with multi-colored leaves on the trees, I was certain this was going to be a good day. My intention for the day had simply been to be present, learn and enjoy. And maybe, finally, finding a way of speaking to Jason, more than asking what page to turn to in a book, or something like that. I wasn’t too worried about finding out what college to apply to, or why I never found my personal style. I was happy.
Arriving at school in time to sit down next to Johanna for a chat before English class started, I felt on top of the world.
“Hey,” Johanna greeted me. She was wearing a very cool outfit this morning, as always. “You look happy. Good day, yesterday?”
We’d hung out on Saturday and hadn’t spoken, or texted, since. Not least because you have to step outside our house to get cellphone reception — my aunts believe in a home free of wifi. They’ve converted one of the chalets to an office and there you get wifi.
“Yeah. Aunt Jenna ran away to town, so it was interesting.”
At this Johanna’s perfectly threaded eyebrows rose up into her forehead and her dark blue eyes got a bemused twinkle in them.
“Really? Did she do anything fun? Like, create a divorce, or something?”
Johanna clearly wanted something juicy to have happened. I would too had I been her and not related to anyone causing the juicy story.
“Nope. She was going to give some clothes away to charity, forgetting it was Sunday and most shops that aren’t around the market are closed. She did do some matchmaking though.”
Johanna’s face, which had fallen at the prospect of something as boring as a visit to the charity shop, now perked up again.
“Who did she match up?”
“Two people who have arthritis as their thing in common.” I laughed and Johanna joined me, almost snorting.
“Don’t tell me it was someone in the old people’s home?” Johanna asked.
“No, it was Mr Jones who has the apple orchard and Mrs Ashby, the widow. They aren’t a couple yet — she intends for them to meet at the Sanctum Sanctorum for a massage. Agatha is to talk to them about Wilda’s anti-inflammatory pills that are great for arthritis. Jenna thinks they’ll carry on the conversation from there.”
Johanna smiled broadly at this.
“It’s really sweet, you know. How she couples up older people too. No reason for them to be alone. And as she always says — companionship is sometimes all that’s needed. A few candlelit dates…” At this, she burst into laughter again. “Candlelit dates at seventy! It’s hilarious. But so cool.”
“I’m not sure what this town would do without Jenna.” And, really, I wasn’t. I don’t know how many people she has lured to Hetty’s Hotcakes for tea over the years, or dragged out on hikes, invited for dinner parties and so forth, only for the purpose of setting them up. Her success rate is 100% once she knows someone properly. And Jenna knows everyone.
“Maybe,” Johanna said, “we should use her ourselves.”
At this prospect, however, I felt horrified.
“Don’t be silly. You know she never matches up the younger ones as she thinks everyone has to get through college first. Or, you know, not college per se, but find themselves and enjoy dating different people.”
“Yes, yes, everyone changes in their early years and shouldn’t get hitched too soon, I know. I’ve heard her rants. But she could set us up for right now.” Johanna’s eyes twinkled with mischief. In some ways she is a lot like Jenna — she likes breaking convention and shocking people in the process.
“Her subtlety isn’t what it used to be and it was never great. You know she measures people’s sexual compatibility before she pairs them up, don’t you? And as she doesn’t believe in sex before a certain age, she’d probably rate your kissability with Elbert. How would you like that?” At the latter part of this conversation I’d lowered my voice to a whisper, but it had the desired effect: Johanna looked startled.
This didn’t last long though — soon Johanna was laughing again.
“Kissability. Oh my god, that’s hilarious!”
Thankfully Elbert himself walked in at that moment and distracted Johanna with his looks. Gorgeous green eyes, matched with messy blond hair (think a certain glittering vampire) and a face to make anyone drool. Square jaw, cheekbones, the whole model package. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had a crush on him at some point. He just makes you feel good when you’re around him. He doesn’t look down on anyone; instead he listens to everyone and always has a good word for them. He also has a knack for magic tricks and instead of making it look geeky, he makes it look cool.
“Kissability in action,” I whispered to Johanna.
“Mhm,” she muttered in response. “I don’t know how he makes everyone like him.”
I knew. Elbert was easy to read.
“Because a) he looks like a statue of a Greek god and b) he assumes everyone will like him and c) he finds something to like in everyone. Oh, and d) he’s ridiculously intelligent and has a sense of humor to boot. He’s also the world’s largest flirt. He’s kind, but he thrives on people liking him.”
It was clear looking at Johanna that him being the world’s largest flirt would not dissuade her from liking him. I felt it best if the two of them would only be friends until…well, until Elbert had overcome teenage hormones at the very least!
I was momentarily distracted from thinking about Johanna’s love life when Jason walked in the door. He looked slightly aloof, as usual. He was reading the book that was our homework when walking in, curly hair a mess, red cheeks from biking, brown eyes shining, red and blue checkered shirt looking great with a pair of worn jeans and brown leather boots.
I think the allure with Jason is that he is always like that — out of reach. He’s nice to people in general and when he appreciates something he smiles an utterly gorgeous smile, but he doesn’t engage much. Which drives people like Samantha — who are used to getting what they want — nuts. When she tries to rope him into something, he smiles, says a sentence, or two, then walks away.
Of course, Jason wouldn’t have been so interesting if he wasn’t also super smart and outrageously good looking. Not like the perfect model face, more interesting somehow. But good looking. So good looking.
As he sat down not far from Johanna and I, I couldn’t help but stare. It was like magnetism drawing me in.
Johanna nudged me in the side. Clearly, she’d come to from her Elbert swooning attack.
“Hello, Earth calling. Did you do your homework?”
“Yes, I did.” But the homework was far less interesting than Jason.