Today she was up early. Well the truth was that she had not really slept. It was early enough to see the sun rising over the mountains. But she paid no attention to this; her mind was elsewhere. Shawn’s phone call last night had left her uneasy. Him calling on a Sunday night wasn’t unusual. He would call and speak to the girls and Hollis and then fill her in on his week. Lately the calls had been even more anticipated because he was getting ready to come back home, for good. The six years he had lived in America had felt like decades to Marilyn. She had appeared joyous and proud when he left, but inside she felt like the blood was being squeezed out of her heart. She both enjoyed and hated his visits home, because no matter how long he stayed he would have to leave again.
Shawn was her baby. Despite his twenty-five years, and six-foot frame, Marilyn still saw the beautiful baby boy he used to be. He was the only one of her children she still saw that way. Her two girls, Gemma and Hazel, never made her reminisce that way. To her their births were different. With the girls she had had to share the experience with Hollis but with Shawn he was all hers. She had given birth to him in the front bedroom of Ma Rosa’s house in Bamboo Trace. She had done it all by herself, no doctors, no medication. Then she had lain there for an hour afterwards, waiting for Rosa to come home, and talking to her baby boy. Telling him all the things they were going to do together. Marilyn smiled to herself as she remembered that moment, that first hour of Shawn’s life that they had bonded. He became her catalyst, and remained so.
Hollis Richards came out to the veranda to see his wife’s smile. It startled him a little. His wife wasn’t a smiler, in public or in private. As she became aware of his presence her face reverted to its normal stance.
“You have a meeting this morning?” she enquired
“Not until eleven o’clock.” He told her as he leaned over and kissed her forehead
“So why you up so early?”
Hollis sat next to her and looked out to the trees below the terrace.
“I could ask you the same thing.”
Marilyn sighed. Hollis had a way of never really answering a question. He was a politician through and through.
“I just wanted some peace and quiet before the morning rush.” She told him. He knew that that was not the real reason.
“You still worried about what Shawn ask you?”
“That’s nothing to worry about Hollis. Shawn never wanted to know before so I don’t see why he would want to now.”
She had said it in that final manner of hers and Hollis knew that a discussion would be pointless. Shawn had spoken to him long before he talked to Marilyn. He wanted to know who his father was. Hollis had been unable t to help him. Marilyn had never told him anything. It was a topic she both avoided and ignored, like she did so many things. Marilyn only let you know what she wanted you to know. Like Hollis, Shawn knew this about his mother but he was beginning to rebel against the norm. The boy had questions and he wanted answers. Hollis knew that this homecoming would not be an easy one. Shawn’s questions were just one part of it…
“Hollis are you listening to me?”
He turned to his wife and pretended that he had been.
“We need to get the house ready. I have to talk to Sita about cleaning up Shawn’s room, then I have to call the Persads to fix up the food for the party….”
“We having a party?”
Marilyn looked at her husband like he had lost his mind.
“Why we wouldn’t have a party for Shawn? Every night some house in Cayenna throwing a party and for foolishness too. Wendy Bartley had one last week to welcome the first day of summer! We can’t welcome our son home?
“I wasn’t saying no Marilyn, I just did not realise we was planning one.”
“Well we are. I enjoyed the Persads food at Joy’s function so I’m going to hire them…”
Before Hollis left that morning he had a list of people from the Ministry that he had to invite and other duties he needed to carry out before the next week. Marilyn was in her element, planning and executing was her forte. Her baby was coming back home and that was reason alone to rejoice. She knew that once he was home again all of these questions of his would be forgotten and they would begin to work on this new chapter of his life.
2 Shawn turned off the main road onto a side street. He didn’t know South Trinidad that well but he had managed to follow Calvin Moses’ directions. He was home three days early by choice. He had misled his family about his arrival because he had things to do before he came home. From the moment the plane had landed on the tarmac in Piarco he felt light. He felt as though all the stresses had immediately evaporated. He was home. The heat, the accent, the smells, all made him want to break out in song. He was home to stay and he was happy. All he could think about was getting down to San Fernando. The rental car people couldn’t move fast enough, the traffic couldn’t be slower; he just wanted to get to where he was going.
He knew the grey and white brick house the moment he saw it, though he had never been there before. Ayana had described it so many times that he felt like he had lived there himself. A middle-aged man was sitting on the veranda when he pulled up in front. He was down the stairs before Shawn had a chance to turn off the ignition.
“Shawn?” he asked
“ Mr Moses? Yes it’s me.” Shawn said as he opened the car door.
The two men shook hands
“Son is good to finally meet you. She go pass out when she see yuh!”
Shawn smiled at the thought. He had spent the last few months telling her that he would be arriving on the 25th. The 22nd had been nowhere on their plans.
“She home yet sir?”
“Sir? Boy, call me Calvin! What wrong with you? Sir! No she eh come yet. Should be anytime now, so we better go inside.”
They sat in the front room, drinking grapefruit juice and talking like old friends. They had spoken on the phone a few times over the last year. But the conversations had been short hellos, now they had a chance to really get to know each other. Shawn liked him straight away. Calvin was an open, friendly man. He wasn’t afraid to laugh out loud and ask questions. He was the male version was Ayana. He saw where she had inherited her looks as well as her personality. They had the same bright eyes and dark chocolate complexion. His right cheek had the same dimple and their laugh was almost identical. He marvelled at how comforting it must be to resemble someone so much; to see your face in their own. Shawn had never felt that kind of comfort. His sisters looked like Hollis with the same nose and lips. The only thing he had inherited from his mother was her expressions. They frowned the same; bit their lips when they pondered something. But he looked nothing like her or anyone else in the family. His creamy caramel complexion and grey eyes had always made him stand out. He knew that features that strong and unique must belong to his father.
The two men had been talking so intently that they hadn’t noticed Ayana walking up the front stairs until she literally squealed.
“Shawn! Shawn! Shawn!” She had dropped her bags and jumped on him on the couch.
“Ayana you go break the chair!” Calvin said half-heartedly. He knew his daughter was paying him no mind
“You is a liar Shawn Richards! You said the 25th!”
“You surprised then?”
“Yes! Its so good to see you Shawnee!”
She hugged him and covered his face with kisses. For Shawn his day was complete. Coming home had been beautiful but Ayana was the bonus. She had been back in Trinidad for four months now but the time away from her had been hard for him. He never realised how much he would miss her animated stories, her stew chicken, her baby oil and lavender smell. She had only been in his life a year but he honestly could not remember the time when she wasn’t there. He had turned into the type of man he used to make fun of. Those who said they were ‘in love’ and couldn’t spend a day without a woman. This was very new to him. The only women he cared about were his mother and sisters. The rest had just been passing amusements, lust and no more but everything was different with Ayana. This went way beyond any attraction.
“Daddy you know he was coming?”
“I not saying a word. Allyuh hungry? The food should be done by now.” Calvin went to the kitchen leaving Ayana and Shawn grinning at each other.
“Baby I’m so happy. Seeing you after a day like today is a blessing.”
“Work was hard?” Shawn asked as he kissed her forehead.
“It don’t matter now.” Ayana made sure he father was still in the kitchen before she leaned in and kissed him on the lips.
“Where you staying tonight?” she asked as she let go of his face. “Your mother them know you back today?”
“Calvin and I already work out something. He said I can stay in the spare room till Wednesday then we’ll head up to Cayenna.”
Ayana squealed again. “You staying with me!”
“Yes you stuck with me. Tomorrow evening I have to go check out some apartments in Westmoorings. Ricardo sorting me out…”
Ayana wasn’t even listening to what he was saying. She felt like she hadn’t seen him in years. She just kept staring at his features and listening to the rhythm of his voice. New York seemed so far away at this moment. A big part of her had been afraid that it wouldn’t feel the same the next time they met. Their relationship had been so fast it was almost surreal. She knew within the first week that she would love him but Shawn had not been so easily convinced. He was handsome, a compulsive flirt, a charmer. The kind of guy most girls couldn’t help but like. Especially in the states, his good looks and heavy Trini accent was all it took to get a response. When they became friends, she only fantasised that he would like her. She was dark, curvaceous, and old-fashioned girl. She only wore makeup on special occasions and preferred to spend her time cooking rather than shopping. Shawn was from ‘town’, his stepfather was a minister in the government, and he grew up in the gated exclusive realms of Cayenna. She on the other hand was the daughter of labourer and spent all her life in the working class simplicity of Francis Street, San Fernando. They were two people who would never had moved together in the same circles in small island Trinidad but somehow they had connected in the bigger bowl that was America.
This both marvelled Ayana and scared her. Shawn could fit in anywhere. But she felt that her simplicity made her stand out. In the circles that the Richards belonged to Ayana feared that she wouldn’t be accepted. Meeting his family had her more nervous than she was willing to admit.
“ Shawn what I going to wear when we go to your house? I have nothing fancy…”
“Don’t worry bout that babe. We go find something together. I’m sure Mummy going to be throwing some kinda party so we both have to get something special.”
“A party? You think it will have politicians there?”
Shawn could see how apprehensive she was about the whole situation. He kissed the back of her hand.
“Ayana you not doing this by yourself. Is you and me. Everybody going to love you, So don’t worry.”
She smiled giving him the reassurance he needed but she knew the situation wasn’t that simple. Though Shawn avoided her questions she knew that he hadn’t told his mother about their relationship. She had spoken to his sisters many times and even his stepfather but never Mrs Richards. Ayana knew that this was a pretty clear sign that Shawn was wary of his mother’s opinion of her. It was enough to conclude that Marilyn Richards was the person whose opinion mattered the most in the family and Ayana would have to really impress her.