“What took you so long? I’ve been waiting out here in the rain for you and I was starting to worry!” Rickie’s mother wrapped her right arm around Rickie’s shoulders, pulling him under the large, red umbrella she held in her grey-gloved hand above them. Her red hair was tucked under a grey wool cap, stray curls hanging out the bottom. She was wearing a matching grey wool coat. If it weren’t for the red umbrella and his mom’s red hair, Rickie would have thought she was trying to be a chameleon.
Vibrant green moss clung to the old crumbling fountain that marked their meeting place in the small park. The moss looked neon against the grey stone fountain and weather. Green was Rickie’s favorite color. He poked the green moss at the base of the fountain with the toe of his loafer.
“School got out a little early today because someone put a homemade bomb in one of the bathroom toilets… It exploded everywhere! And, WOW, Mom. There was poop all over the bathroom! They figured it was a student, but they wanted to be sure so they let us out–”
“What?! No one from the school called me! I should have been notified that the school was let out early! And a BOMB of all things? What is with the world these days! Was anyone hurt? Are you ok? What if it was a gun!” Her tone became concerned as she pulled Rickie closer so she could inspect him. He waved her worried hands off his jacket.
“Mom! I’m fine! I was nowhere near the bomb. It was nothing, it wasn’t even that powerful. It was some kid was playing a prank – and a WHOLE lot of poop. Which was totally gross… and AWESOME, by the way!” Rickie was cut off by his mother’s grossed out, disapproving look. Her brow furrowed in anger.
“The management is just absolutely atrocious at that school! I mean, ever since I moved back here – everyone has been so rude to us! Ugh, and that Blackwell woman…” his mother sighed, shaking her head. “No matter, you’re safe and you’re here. That’s all that’s important to me in this world. But why you were so late getting here?” his mother’s tone had changed from frightened and angry to once again concerned as they started walking toward the black SUV parked in the lot near the small park. The SUV was running and a man sat in the driver’s seat waiting.
Rickie stared at the man he knew as Lundy. It was quite strange having a driver and butler. His family was well off when they lived in California, but nowhere near how well they were now. His old Scottish grandfather had owned the largest shipping company in Edinburgh. His mom, Effie McQueen, grew up in Scotland but had long ago, expelled her Scottish accent. It had always been her dream to attend college on the beautiful, sunny coast of California. So she did. She would always talk about how it was the greatest thing she had ever done because that was where she met Rickie’s father, Nico Valentino.
Nico was a poor Italian boy working as a waiter at his family-owned Italian restaurant. Nico’s parents had died when he was young so he went to live with his Aunt and Uncle in California. Rickie’s father worked at the flourishing Italian restaurant to help his Aunt and Uncle. He always told Rickie that he felt he had to earn his keep. Even though Nico was family, he wanted to do good and be useful. “Always do good and be useful to the world, Rickie. If you see someone that needs help – you help them,” his father would say. Rickie asked his dad if he ever minded working in the hot, bustling restaurant. “No, I didn’t mind. Especially when your mother would come in. That first day she came in, she was a vision! And so unlike all the other college girls.”
When Effie was attending the college nearby, she decided to try out the popular restaurant while she was on a first date with one of her classmates. It was clear her companion disliked the restaurant but she instantly fell in love with the warmth, the food, and especially the romantic atmosphere. Very soon after that date, she parted ways with the young man and continued to spend her afternoons there between classes. Effie preferred solitude rather than the raucous college parties. She would find a small booth at the restaurant and cozy up with her schoolwork and an authentic bowl of Pasta Carbonara. Nico would constantly wait on her and often gave her the royal treatment.
Whenever Nico told the story about how they met he’d say, “She had such beautiful red hair and these dazzling green eyes. I knew she was special. She teased me and made jokes that always had me rolling with laughter. She was so smart too.” Nico would smile as he looked at Rickie’s mother.
“Was? What is this ‘was’? I’m still smart you big oaf!” Rickie’s mom would playfully punch his father in the shoulder, then they’d both laugh and share a kiss that would always make Rickie want to vomit.
It wasn’t long after they met that Nico and Effie were married. They loved each other and wanted to be together forever – so why wait? They had a small wedding on the beach where they could be barefoot in the sand. It took a little while for Grandpa Blair to warm up to Nico. Rickie’s Grandpa was a very stern and driven man. But with Grandma Edin’s insistence, Grandpa Blair opened up to his new son-in-law and learned that Rickie’s father was just as motivated and driven as he was. He introduced him to the family business and learned that Nico was a natural. It also wasn’t hard for Grandpa Blair to see how much Rickie’s Dad loved his daughter, Effie, and how much he made her happy. After a few months of Effie being Mrs. Valentino, Grandpa Blair had signed Nico on as his business partner. McQueen Shipping turned into McQueen and Valentino Shipping, with Nico managing the American headquarters.
Nico and Effie ended up buying a house not far from where they were married. Rickie once learned that their wedding spot on the beach was where his parents shared their first kiss. Ugh, gross.
Nico often traveled to other ports around the US for the family business. When Rickie was eight, his Grandma Edin had passed away. That was when Nico started going to Scotland more often. But it wasn’t until the past year that Grandpa Blair had gotten sick.
Cancer is what they called it. Rickie remembered visiting his Grandpa as he was lying in his big four poster bed, cursing at the cancer.
“Pop, you can’t yell at it to go away. You can’t control things this time,” Rickie’s mother had said to her father. She took Grandpa Blair’s hand in hers. He looked at her and smiled, then he looked at Rickie.
“Be a good lad and take care of your Mum, Rick. Your Father too. You’re a very special boy, Rick. Very special. Edinburgh will be needing you soon. I just wish I could be around to see it…”
“Pop, stop talking like that! Don’t you start that again! You’ll be fine!” His mother’s accent had shown then. She started to cry.
Rickie remembered that day clearly. He hated that day. A week later, Grandpa Blair had passed away. Nico, Effie, and Rickie uprooted and moved to Scotland so Rickie’s father could take over the business.
“Rickie, answer me. Why were you so late?” Rickie’s mother jolted him back from the sad memory of his Grandfather’s passing. He was still standing outside the SUV. Rickie shook his head and climbed into the back of the car. Lundy smiled at him through the rearview mirror. Rickie liked Lundy. He was old and had been employed by his Grandpa for as long as Rickie had been alive. Whenever Rickie visited, Lundy would sneak him extra treats after dinner and taught him how to play chess. Rickie liked chess. It was a thinking game.
“Well, I was looking for someplace to get out of the rain and I came upon this shop back near Spear Alley. I went in and-“
“Wait… Spear Alley, you said? Hmm… they must have opened a new shop. There’s nothing but old, foreclosed shops in Spear Alley. Well, there’s the pub, but that’s it. You be careful in Spear Alley, Rickie. Sometimes those drunks like to cause trouble,” his Mother climbed into the front passenger seat to sit next to Lundy. She never liked the idea of sitting in the backseat.
Right before Rickie could close the door to the SUV, a girl with shoulder-length dark hair ran up to Rickie outside the car. She was in his class at school.
“Hey, Rickie! You dropped this in Spear Alley. I tried catching up with you, but couldn’t find you until I saw you meeting your Mum at the park. Good day, Mrs. McQueen- err, I mean Mrs. Valentino! Sorry! I knew you were Mr. McQueen’s daughter… so sorry for your loss, ma’am,” she bowed her head to Rickie’s mom then looked back at Rickie with her large, dark eyes. She held out a partially wet paper. It was his homework assignment.
“Why thank you…” Rickie’s mother looked at the girl.
“Valentina! But you can call me Val,” the girl offered.
“Valentina.” She repeated the girl’s full name. “Thank you for your condolences. And thank you very much for Rickie’s schoolwork. Unfortunately, Rickie’s head is often in the clouds and forgets the important things.” Effie gave her son an accusatory look.
“Yes, thanks, Val. I’ll see you tomorrow at-“
“Cool box! Does that say, ‘Dragon’s Egg’ on it? That’s so neat! Well, see you tomorrow!” Val smiled at Rickie one last time, her dark eyes flashing. She then spun around on her heel and ran back out into the rain. Rickie watched as she pulled the hood of her purple jacket, tight around her.
“Pretty girl.” His mother said. “And she doesn’t sound like she’s from Scotland.”
“Yeah, I think her parents are American or something.” Rickie pulled the door of the SUV shut as he stared off into the direction of where she had run off too. She was pretty. He often found himself staring at her in class when she wasn’t looking.