When they got home, Daniella had slept off which was very unusual. Michael simply carried her out of the car and stormed into the house. He responded to greetings while headed for the stairs where he met Maria. Maria felt sorry for her poor baby. She could make out the tears in her eyes and knew she had been at her father’s graveside. She simply pecked her daughter’s forehead and cleared the way for Michael but followed him to Daniella’s room. He carefully dropped her on the bed, making sure she was comfortable, and all Maria did was watch. He removed her heels and went ahead to gently peel off her jacket from her body without her waking up. He checked the air conditioners to see that they were on and covered her. He made to the door when he realised Maria was there. She simply smiled and led the way out. When they were out, Michael gently closed the door. She looked at him and said, “Michael, thank you very much. What would we do without you?” Brushing it aside he said, “It is nothing ma’am. I know if it were the other way round, she would be there 24/7 for me”. That was true and Maria knew it. She had been in the study before they returned and decided she should sleep too. She instructed Michael to rest which as well he obeyed without complaining. He went to his room and after taking off the unnecessary items, got into his bed. It was late afternoon, but no one cared. They slept the rest of the day till around 9 pm when the three of them met for dinner. Daniella felt a lot better and even tried teasing Michael which he reciprocated without mercy and Maria enjoyed the chit-chat.
Later that night, the three of them sat in the sitting area downstairs. While Daniella and Michael each read a novel, Maria knitted. She was knitting sweaters in everyone’s favourite colour. She opted to knit a black one for Martin. It was kind of a motherly welcome gift. She suddenly remembered the trip she had talked about. “Daniella, I was thinking you need a trip. You know away from all that has happened. I see how weak you are. I understand but we have to move on from this. Sadly, we have a lot of people to be strong for even though we bear the loss. We need to get ourselves back. I know you are not even ready to move on, but we need to sweetheart. I spoke to Michael earlier on about it and he is willing to go along”, she said giving her motherly smile. Daniella looked up from her novel. She had channelled all her energy into the novel to help her block out her pain, so it took her a bit of time to reboot. The statement had got Michael’s attention too as he was now looking at Daniella. Having finally assimilated what was said she replied, “Mum you know best but give me a week more before you put anything down”, she said looking at her mum. Maria could not help but be a bit curious about what she wanted to do over the week and same thing went through Michael’s mind. “Darling what for?” she asked looking intensely at her daughter. “Oh, nothing serious. I just want to make sure Martin knows what is up before I leave”, she answered sincerely. Maria could understand that. She was not going to ask her to leave next week, she was just curious. She was tired now and dropped her knitting. She got up, hugged, and kissed them both goodnight. However, before leaving she asked them to decide where they would like to go. Immediately she left, they went back to their individual novels.
Around 1 am, Daniella closed her novel. Michael was still engrossed in his massive novel and did not feel Daniella’s eyes on him. She was studying him closely. At about 1:30 am, her evaluation came to an end and she got up. She sat on the arm of his chair which definitely got his attention. She looked at him and asked, “why did you not tell me about my father’s death at first?” He closed his novel and dropped it on the stool. He turned and recognised the pain that was always in her eyes these days. “When I saw you, I realised you knew nothing, and I did not want to ruin your peaceful moment. Sincerely, I did not even know if I was in the right place to tell you”, he replied holding her hands. “I concluded you must have had a reason. I just wanted to confirm what it was”, she stated with a forced smile. “So where are we going?” she asked in relation to the impending trip. She did not even think she was in the mood for one, but she would do it to please her mother. “I thought we could just go back to our exposed hide out and be normal”, he replied. “We can go back to being Mr. & Mrs. Dickinson”, she said causing them to laugh.
Daniella drifted off a bit with thoughts linked to her dad. “Where has Empress drifted to this time?” He asked. Empress was a name he used to call her when they were in secondary school. He had had a lot of respect for her and how she portrayed herself. It had nothing to do with the Estiamo name. She was what she was, an Empress. She smiled at him and said, “I was lost thinking about dad. I missed his burial and would never see him again”. Michael simply allowed her into his arms and rocked her back and forth. Her loss was his as well. After some time, she felt better and broke free from him. “If you continue treating me like this, I will return to being a baby”, she teased. He laughed and said, “it would be good to see you as a baby again”. She eventually got up, picked up their novels and returned it to the shelf. She was not going to allow him to take a novel to his room as she was convinced, he would not rest till he saw the last page. For this huge book, it was a long way off. Whatever attracted him to extremely big books baffled her. She went back to him and said, “race me up the stairs”. At first he just stared at her, then he laughed and resorted to smiling mischievously. She folded her hands waiting for him to get up. He got up and mockingly stretched his body. Then they got ready and raced up the stairs laughing.
Maria heard them and simply smiled in the study. They did not know she had withdrawn there. At the top of the stairs, Michael teased Daniella about being a thug and trying to turn him into one. She simply called his bluff. She hugged him and pecked him goodnight. They retired to their individual rooms in a good mood. Daniella slept without dreaming of the fight with her dad.
Later that morning, they all gathered at the dining room for breakfast with a surprise visitor, Martin Estiamo. He had requested that his presence not be announced. They were glad to see him. He gave Maria a hug and she kissed his forehead. He hugged Daniella and pecked her cheeks. Finally, he shook Michael’s hand. They settled down and began to chit-chat while Maria watched them with content. She noticed they avoided everything George related and tried to talk about normal things. They spoke about business and made feasible plans on how to carry Martin along. He also realised that Michael had a place at the company and did not mind. They finished breakfast and the table was cleared but they still continued talking. They decided to watch a movie since they were all together. Daniella only wanted this because her mood was dulling out again. She missed her father too much. She wondered how Martin was holding up. How her mother was still laughing and smiling. She knew it was hard on all of them, but they were trying to fast-track the recovery process. They did not want to dwell on it. Even though it was just the second week, they were determined to get back to life.
While that went on, Maria made a mental note to find more novels and albums known to just her and her husband. She got up without the trio noticing. She silently walked to her window and gazed down at the garden letting their voices fill her mind. She really wished George were there, but he was resting in peace now. Taking a deep breath, she drifted off reliving the trip she had had before the sad news hit her. Daniella suddenly turned to where her mum should be but was not any longer. “Where did mum go?” She asked making the others aware of Maria’s absence. Daniella got up and went into the sitting area where she found mum looking out the window at garden, lost. She walked up to her mother and held her. Maria immediately recognised her daughter’s hands and rubbed them. The men had followed Daniella. They found them together and did not bother mother and daughter. They were doing fine, and Daniella did not want the mood to go foul, at least not now. “Mum would you like to continue knitting or what would you like?” Daniella asked her mum. Maria was lost in thoughts and remembered how George used to love to take her out for drives and walks. Well, that was before they got engrossed in the Estiamo family trend. She realised that she missed their simple life.
Drifting back, she remembered what she was knitting for Martin and turned spontaneously determined to brighten her mood for her kids. Everyone was happy her mood was better. She left them and went to where she kept her knitting items last night and picked Martin’s uncompleted sweater. She went back to them and showed Martin. “This is what I have been knitting for you as a motherly gesture. I hope you would like it when I am done.”, she said smiling at him. He felt moved. His mother had never done anything special as such talk of knitting. He felt loved. He smiled at her and gave her a big hug and said, “thank you”. “Oh, it is nothing. Follow me and tell me what design you would want”, she said intending for them to go to the other sitting area and he followed her. She was beginning to acknowledge her lost husband in Martin. It might get weird if she got attached to him but what the heck? He was family. Daniella and Michael were simply witnessing the event. As if drown out of a trance, they turn to each other and smiled. They went about their business looking for what to watch. After that they settled down and continued reading their novels while everything in the Estiamo palace went on normally.
to be continued …