Doolin, County Clare, West Ireland.
December 22nd, 2014.
Soren burst through the door as soon as it was opened, louder and more boisterous than the continuous winter storms that had been castigating the Irish coast for weeks. This was one of those times Evelyn thanked heavens her husband was a wizard. Without magic spending the holidays with her family would have been impossible in such foul weather. Still no magic could make last minute Christmas shopping with their overactive 9-year-old any easier.
"GRAAAN!!! WE´RE HOME!!!!!" He howled, running through the house and discarting all the layers of sweaters and coats she had put on him before leaving the house all over the floor.
"SOREN PRINCE SNAPE! YOU PICK YOUR THINGS UP RIGHT THIS INSTANT YOU HEAR ME?!" Severus´voice thundered through the house. After an entire afternoon putting up with both Soren´s shenanigans and muggle crowded stores, not to mention the three hour car ride in bad weather to and back from Ennis, Evelyn was sure her husband´s patience was running thin. It didn´t bother Soren in the least, however. Nothing could bother him when Christmas was just around the corner and they got to spend it in her mother´s house where he reigned absolute monarch.
"Where´s grandma?" The boy asked non-chalantly, picking up after himself as his father had ordered him to.
"She must be resting, dear..." Evelyn told him, putting the bags on the sofa.
"And you will NOT bother your grandmother, you hear me, young man?" Severus added, stern.
"But I wanna show her the new baby Jesus I got her!" ...to replace the one he had broken, that was. Back when Evelyn and her siblings were Soren´s age, the little porcelain baby Jesus was completely off-limits. They couldn´t as much as breathe around it without their mother telling them to 'leave the baby Jesus alone'. Fastfoward four decades and Soren had gotten away scott-free with hitting it with a football he wasn´t supposed to be playing indoors and breaking it´s little foot clean off. But Sophia didn´t as much as bat an eye, of course. She would bend over backwards to accomodate her youngest grandchild (and only grandson, it should be noted), even at the cost of her precious baby Jesus.
Evelyn and Severus hadn´t been as lenient, however.
Soren had been made to apologize and the money Evelyn´s cousin Gabriel had given him in his last birthday, which the boy was saving up to get a new bicycle, went into the purchase of a brand new porcelain baby jesus. An expensive one, prettier and more refined than the lost one, that was mostly paid for by Severus, because Soren´s money couldn´t afford half of it. Still, it was the lesson that mattered, Soren had to get his grandmother a replacent, even if on principle alone. Soren had been crossed at first, but he was as quick to brooding as he was to rejoicing: as soon as they found the perfect replacement, his grumbling gave way to an incontrolable desire to present it to his gran and tell her he had paid for it himself (with dad´s help).
"Later, Soren. Now we need to put everything away." Severus tone had mellowed. Evelyn knew her husband. As agravated as he might have been with Sophia´s leniency and the tyranical grip she allowed him to have over the house, in blatant defiance of his own strict rules, it could not be denied that Severus was deeply endeared by how much his son adored his grandmother. Which was the sole reason he gave Sophia more leeway than he´d care to admit.
Evelyn´s mind drifted away as her husband and son debated wether it was appropriated or not to go bother her mother. Soren was too young to pay mind to it, but she knew Severus would remember...and that was why he was putting so much effort in keeping Soren away from Sophia...
Evelyn´s older brother had been born a mere three days before Christmas, but ,unlike many birthdays that fall so close to the date, his had never beenovershadowed by the holidays. Paul had been her parents first child and their only son. Evelyn may have been a daddy´s girl, but Paul...Paul was Sophia´s golden Prince. When their sister Caitlin was born she had stolen some of Sophia´s preference, just by virtue of being the baby, but deep down Evelyn knew Paul was her favorite.
When he passed away Caitlin bypassed Evelyn in Sophia´s preference in many ways, but that never truly bothered her. Caitlin was just five years old when Paul had died...she barely remembered her big brother...It was easier for Sophia to forget when she was with Caitlin than it was when she was with Evelyn. Evelyn had been there when the fire broke out...she was there when Paul was engulfed by the flames. In some ways, Evelyn knew, when Sophia looked at her, she was seeing everything through her eyes. It wasn´t that her mother loved her less than she loved Caitlin...
It was just that her relationship with Caitlin was uncomplicated. Caitlin had started out as the baby and had remained such, Caitlin had not been directly affected by Paul´s death as the rest of them were...Evelyn on the other hand, had been promoted to oldest child, suddenly, but she would never be a proper replacement for her brother. She knew her mother didn´t expect her to be but she had tried anyway...and had succeeded in many levels, but the void would always be there...Evelyn, her mother and her father shared a burden that Caitlin had been mercifully spared. Her father was gone, however, had been gone for 18 years, and now Evelyn and Sophia carried that burden alone. It made them close in ways other people couldn´t comprehend. Caitlin might have been the favorite daughter, but Evelyn was the one who shared her pain, the one who knew the only thing that could crack Sophia´s strong and stubborn exterior. Evelyn wasn´t her daughter as much as she was her equal, a companion in a shared pain.
"Sev..." she called out weakly"...I should go check on her."
"Go" he nodded, knowingly "I´ll get Soren something to eat then we´ll sort out this mess...Take your time."
“Thank you, love...”
Evelyn climbed up the stairs as her boy continued to debate his father over everything and nothing.
She took a deep breath before knocking on her mother´s bedroom door. Sophia never let the door closed during the day, unless she was changing, and Soren would often barge in uninvited as if the room belonged to him. The fact that it was closed only confirmed Evelyn´s suspiscions.
“Mam...? You´re in there?...May I come in?”
“Just a minute...” Her voice was worringly tiny...Sophia had a resounding voice, far too resounding and deep for her petite frame. Evelyn had been told many times that her own husky contralto sounded eerily similar to her mother´s voice, if maybe quite a bit raspier and a couple octaves lower. In her young years, her mother had looked like a doll: pale, blonde, slender, delicate, even frail looking, but she knew how to make her voice fill the house in a way that it seemed like she was present in every room, particularly when her children were up to some mischief. Small and dainty as she was, Sophia knew how to make herself heard, seen and most importantly, obeyed. It wasn´t for nothing both Severus and Paulo, Caitlin´s husband, jokingly called her “Her Lordship”.
“Come in...” The woman inside didn´t sound like her mother at all.
“Mam?” Evelyn turned the door knob and walked in slowly, tentatively.
Sophia was sitting on her pale pink damask armchair, next to the small altar she kept by the corner, adorned with intrincate lace and slim white candles framing images of St. Brigid, St. Teresa and the Blessed Virgin, a metal cross hanging on the wall above all of them. She had her mother-of-pearl rosary in her hands. Evelyn wasn´t sure wether she had been praying or if she just wanted her to think she had. Judging by how red her eyes were, it was probably the second option.
“Soren can´t wait to show you the new baby Jesus. We got you a tin of Cadbury roses and marron glacê too.”
“Thank you, dear, you shouldn´t have. I´ll be down in a minute.”
“You should have come with us. I don´t like it when you´re home alone like that.”
“You know I have no problem being home alone. I´m enough of a big girl.”
“You know what I mean...” She walked over and knelt before her mother, taking her hands between hers. “You shouldn´t be up here all by yourself today.”
“I´m perfectly fine, a leanbh*” She freed her right hand from Evelyn´s hold to run her fingers through her daughter´s long dark hair. When she was a child it was a source of never-ending woe that she hadn´t inherited her mother´s golden tresses. Only after she had done some growing up did Evelyn notice how much her mother made it a point to caress and compliment her hair whenever she had the chance. She then started to like the thick brown locks her father had passed on to her.
“Are you sure?” She asked, looking down.
Sophia probably didn´t have the time to hide it properly before letting her in, as Evelyn could see the pale blue box of photographs peeking from under the armchair. Her mother let out a soft sigh and picked up the box, putting it on her lap. Evelyn sat down on the floor, her hands still resting at her mother´s knees, waiting for something...she didn´t quite know what. She simply waited as Sophia opened the box...much to her surprise the broken baby Jesus was inside it. Sophia handed it to her and then got a photograph out.
It was one of her father´s favorite photos. A photo he had taken of all three of them, Paul, Evelyn and Caitlin, decorating the Christmas tree. It had been framed and put on prominent display the mantle...Until Paul passed away and it had to be taken down and stashed away into this box. Evelyn had never known why that one photo had been taken away while all other pictures of Paul had remained exactly where they were.
“Do you remember this day, Evelyn?”
“I´m afraid not...”
“It was taken on your brother´s 11th birthday. We´d always finish the decorations on his birthday, before his cake and gifts. He loved it...He said he had Christmas twice.”
“Oh, THAT I do remember.” Evelyn laughed softly.
“On the day this picture was taken, your father gave your brother that football he´d been bugging us to get...”
“The 1970 World Cup Official ball...”
“Then he kicked it into the house and almost knocked the baby Jesus over.”
“And I grounded him for it...It was his last birthday and he spent half of it grounded.”
“Oh, mam...” Evelyn felt a knot strangling her throat so tight she struggled to get any words out. Which was just as well...she didn´t know what to say anyway.
“It´s just porcelain doll, after all...You shouldn´t have made Soren get a new one. It´s just a silly figurine.”
Evelyn wanted to be strong. She wanted to be strong and console her mother like she had done when her father passed away all those years back. But she couldn´t...Not when it came to Paul. She had been a woman grown when her father died, but whenever it came to Paul, she was a 9 year old all over again. And she couldn´t be strong. She had to cry.
But that was ok. She could cry in her mothers arms...as much as her mother could cry in hers. They could share that...nobody else could understand, but they did.
“Mama, why are you crying?” Soren´s big dark eyes were so wide and shocked he looked like he had seen a ghost. Evelyn was so taken aback by her child´s question she simply stood at the kitchen door staring at him, as he stared back, his mouth wide open, filled with a half eaten sandwich.
“Soren, don´t talk with your mouth full.” Severus chastised before walking up to her and resting a soothing hand on her back “Is everything ok, Evelyn?”
“Yes, of course.” was it that glaringly obvious that she had been crying?
“Is it because the baby Jesus I broke?” Soren asked, dismayed, forcefully swallowing his food without even chewing it properly “I got another one!”
Only then did Evelyn notice she was still holding the broken baby Jesus.
“No, mam isn´t crying, a stór**” she sat next to Soren, planting a long kiss on the top of his dark head.
“Is gran mad at me?” he sounded frantic now. Evelyn knew her son. Soren could be moody, difficult and brash, but the mere thought of hurting another person´s feelings caused him great distress. He had a kind soul, her boy...
Exactly like her brother had.
Most people who knew Soren deemed him the picture of his father in both looks and character. And that was most certainly true. He had Severus´ deep black eyes, his paleness, his jet-colored hair...most surely he had Severus´ fierceness and tenacity. Like his father was deep thinker as well as prone to moods. But there was a lot in him that he didn´t inherit from Severus: the wide and easy smile, the ebulient laughter, his lust for the outdoors...that crippling need to put a smile on the faces of everyone around him. Severus had always credited these traits to her... “He´s his mother´s son” he´d say. Evelyn wasn´t so sure. As Soren grew into becoming his own person, she saw more and more of Paul in him...
Small wonder her mother couldn´t bring herself to punish Soren for the broken baby Jesus. It would have hurt her too much to do so.
“Nobody is mad at anybody. Actually, gran wants to see that brand new baby Jesus you got her.”
“Can I?” He looked up at her, then at Severus silently asking if it was ok to “bother gran” now.
“Go on, son.” Severus breathed out, relieved. “But no running.”
Evelyn looked on as Soren walked to the pile of packages in the livingroom, got the box containing the porcelain figurine, and walked away with it, holding it with such care one would think it contained the Holy Grail.
Only then did she walk into her husband´s arms and let him hold her tight to his chest.
*A leanbh- “My child”, an affectionate term of endearment.
**A stór- “My treasure” Can be used in an affectionate friendship or as a term of endearment to a child.