Chapter Fifty Nine: Wish You Were Here
Waiting for her luggage, Mia was amused at how little Pearson Airport had changed. The same conveyor belt carried pieces of luggage just as it had when she had left for England to study. Each suitcase dropping from a chute in the ceiling and landing on the metallic belt. Unlike Gatwick, the luggage didn't come up from a slot in the center of the conveyor belt and slide down, something which always made Mia very cautious of what she packed, fearing that if it was anything to delicate it would break once she landed home. Finally seeing her suitcase land, Mia pulled it off the belt, before checking to see if she had her carry on duffle bag with her.
Walking down the arrivals entrance, Mia searched the crowd for a familiar face.
“Over here, Mia!”
Looking up, Mia saw a few hands motioning her over.
“Hi guys! Wow...you've all changed?” Mia greeted her cousins.
The three girls were all around her own age, each sporting a glittering ring on their left hand. Elena with deep red hair and blue eyes was a year older than Mia, while Mikayla and Juliana were both two years younger than her, and had long jet black hair with honey brown eyes. Part of the change Mia was referring to was that Juliana had dyed her hair blonde, while Mikayla had cut her long hair in a pixie cut, drastically changing her looks. Another change was the man holding on to Juliana's hand.
“Who's this?” She asked, surprised.
“I think Uncle Chris forgot to tell you that I got married this summer...” Juliana told her sheepishly.
“Yes he did...” Mia muttered darkly, she hated being caught unaware.
“Mia, this is Henry.” The girl introduced them. “Henry, this is my second oldest cousin Mia. She's younger than Elena by like a year.”
Mia shook Henry's hand. The guy seemed intimidated by her. I wonder why? She thought. What have they told him?
“So why didn't any of you call me to tell me you're all engaged, and that she's married?” Mia asked, a little annoyed. Some family they are! She thought a little bit hurt.
“It was an accident. We forgot to tell Mom's Aunt Eunice too. She's all the way in Switzerland and you're living across the pond, Mia.” Mikayla shrugged.
“I love how you guys think that's an excuse.” Mia gritted her teeth, as they started to walk out of the terminal with her bag.
Outside, Mia was surprised to see who was standing by the van.
“Hello sweetheart!” He said, coming over and giving her a tight hug.
“How was your flight?” He asked.
“It was fine. You never told me they all got engaged and Jules is married?!”
Her father winced.
Typical, she thought, keeping a hold on her cheerful facade. Nothing was going to ruin this trip for her, Mia told herself adamantly.
Putting her things in the trunk Mia sat in the back with her cousins, while Henry got stuck sitting with her father in front.
“That's so pretty, Mia!” Mikayla motioned towards her neck. “Where did you get it?”
Feeling her neck, she found what the girl was pointing too. The glittering bronze heart Matthew had given to her last Christmas. She always wore it, with the exceptions of showers and some charity events, she couldn't bear to part with it. Thinking about it made her miss Matthew. I wonder what he's up to? She found herself thinking.
“Thanks. My friend gave it to me last Christmas.” She told the girls. Before we became friends, she silently added.
As her cousins asked her about how her life was going these days, she couldn't believe she missed him already, along with his cousins, Nathaniel, Oliver and Ariana. It was so weird to be apart from them. Everyday, she would see them and now for the next two weeks she would be out of the loop. Make sure you enjoy your trip! Lina had told her as she hugged Mia goodbye.
“So Mia what are you doing for Christmas?” Juliana's question snapped her out of her thoughts.
“I'm spending it with the team.”
“What does that mean?” Mikayla questioned.
“Well since our team, London FC, has a soccer match on Boxing Day; me and the other doctors and personnel will be watching the guys during their training on Christmas Day.” She explained to them.
“You work with so many guys, why haven't you found one?” Elena whispered low enough for only her to hear.
Mia stepped on her foot.
“Oww...what was that for?” Elena grimaced.
“For asking that.” Mia glared at her, nodding her head at the others around them.
“Fine...you're going to have to tell me everything when we get to the apartment.” Elena told her pointedly.
“Fine then you’re going to help me catch up on all that I missed.”
Once at the apartment, Mia and Elena brought her stuff up. Having bid farewell to her father and the others, Mia was a little glad that she had some time in relative peace.
“You travel light.” Elena commented, as she dragged the bag in to the second room of her apartment.
“Yea...I learned bringing you guys stuff from England for Christmas was a stupid move after the year before last.” Mia said snidely.
“What! What are you talking about?” Elena looked surprised.
“Mikayla and Jules complained about how they had collected all the souvenirs they could from my presents. So last year when I was with my friend in Australia, I sent them gifts from there.”
Her older cousin laughed as she heard this.
“You let them run you.” Elena told her.
“Okay, so tell me. I'm gone for about a year and you're all engaged?” She asked the older girl.
“A year is a pretty long time, Mia.”
“Not long enough to get engaged and married.” Mia retorted. “So who are the lucky guys?”
“Well, you've already met Henry. He and Jules met last summer at some summer camp where they were both counsellors for teens. He's a guidance councillor at North Park Secondary, and he proposed on New Year's. She said yes, and they got married in July, at Bellagio. It was small, pretty much just family and some of their friends.” Elena started, giving her a run down on Juliana's nuptials.
“So what's he like? And why does he look scared of me?” Mia asked, as she started to hang her clothes.
“He's sweet. I think he's just a little bit star struck. Your dad told him how you worked with these great soccer players. That's all.”
“Interesting. So what's the story with Mikayla?” Mia asked, as she stuck the clothes in the empty closet.
“She was going out with Troy since high school remember?”
“Yea...you're not serious are you?” She asked, snidely. Elena laughed upon seeing the look on her face.
“It was sweet, Mia. They've been together so long. It was natural for them to get engaged.”
“But...you all know how high school sweethearts don't generally work out, right?”
“I'd forgotten what a kill joy you could be.” Elena snickered. “Lighten up, Mia. Life is too short to be all alone.”
“Who said I was all alone?” Mia asked, a little stung.
“Uncle Chris never mentioned that you were seeing anyone.” Elena gloated.
“That doesn't mean I'm alone.” Mia retorted. “I have friends.”
“Uh huh...” Elena said, from her place on the bed.
“Okay so last but not least what about you?”
“Ben proposed on Valentine's Day.”
“You mean boring Ben, the banker!” Mia exclaimed, a little surprised at her cousin.
“He's not boring. He's just different.”
“Last I heard you two were taking a break.”
“Well, things changed after Christmas last year. We both needed to grow up a little. Things are really good now.”
“I'll take your word for it.” Mia remarked, her cheek earning her a well aimed pillow.
“Alright Mia. Enough about us. What about you? Where have you been? It's like you live on another planet. I hardly ever hear from you. What have you been doing? Are you seeing anyone?” Elena bombarded her with questions.
Sitting down on the bed beside her cousin, Mia carefully worded her answers.
“Well, I'm still in London, but over the summer I taught at the university and I got to go on tour with the team. We travelled Central America for some exhibition matches. When we got back two of the players on my roster had an international game in Italy so I went along with them. So yea, life has been interesting.” She told her, a little vaguely.
“That still doesn't answer if you've been seeing anyone!” Elena said smartly.
“I went out a few times, but that was it.” Mia didn't want anyone prying in to those dates that had gone wrong.
“You said you made friends...” Her cousin snickered.
“Well yea. It wasn't like I was going to be friendless while I work, but I didn't keep my dates as friends.” Mia retorted, not like they were going to be after what happened, she thought silently.
“Any friends on the team?” Elena sounded like she was interrogating her.
“A few guys. My entire roster is really nice.” She said, thinking about her roster made her miss them. Calvin and Kyle would be dealing with them while she was away.
“So why haven't things gotten friendlier between you and one of them?” Elena asked, suggestively waggling her eyebrows.
“Grow up. I'm there to work not to be hunting for a husband.” Mia snapped, a little irritated with the direction the conversation was going in.
“Did you bring any pictures?” Elena asked, tactfully changing the subject.
Remembering the pictures from the other day, Mia pulled out her laptop from her duffle bag. Lina had sent them all the pictures, and Mia had made sure to save a copy on her computer.
“Yea.” She answered, booting up the computer.
It wasn't long before Elena was pointing and asking who was who.
“Haven't you even considered going out with anyone on the team?” Mia sighed as Elena had returned to her previous line of questioning. She shook her head.
“Not even with the guys that are your friends?”
“No! See this one, he is married, the other one, here, is my age and loves going clubbing, while he is her brother and is engaged, while this last one is taking a break from dating.” She said pointing them out, her voice squeaking.
“I love watching you squirm, Mia.” Elena laughed. That makes one of us, Mia thought with annoyance, as she threw the pillow at the other girl.
Walking down the hall to his room, he saw the door to her room open. Unable to stop himself, he stopped to look in, as though just the thought of her drew him in.
A light fragrance could be smelled in the room, he sniffed trying to recapture her scent. She always smelled ocean-like, and sometimes she would switch to use a lily scent. Her room looked just like it always did, folders stacked neatly on her desk, her dresser held pictures of her brother and her, and though it was gone, sometimes Matthew had walked in to find make up set up on the dresser.
The night tables beside her bed had books piled on them, but the spot on the bed for her pink elephant was empty. She must have taken it with her, he mused. Going over to the night table he picked up a book. Faster Than The Speed of Light, it was titled. He put it back where it was. Sitting on the bed, he pulled out his phone.
She had sent them all a text message telling them that she had arrived safely. Other than that there had been no phone call. Not like Lina would allow her to call, Matthew thought morosely. His cousin had told Mia to enjoy her vacation and not worry about anything back here. She doesn't need your constant meddling in her life, Lina had told him, when she expressly forbade him from bothering Mia. All the what ifs still lingered in his head. What if her mother makes her cry? He thought, once more. He sincerely hoped it wouldn't happen.
Getting up, Matthew took one last look at the room, before leaving. He closed the door behind him.
The memorial ceremony was over; Mia breathed a sigh of relief. Each year, had been the same. The same speeches about her brother, the same discussion about how to help drug addicts get clean, and the same donation to another charity. This year the annual donation had gone to Insight. Mia had been a little surprised that her suggestion to her father last year had been considered, though she was sure had her mother known it was her suggestion it would have been shot down.
Having seen her mother's unimpressed look as the older woman passed her to go and sit at the front of the hall, Mia was sure nothing about her appearance had changed her mother's mind about her intention for being present. Her mother had hardly spoken a few words to her.
“Good morning, Mellenia.” She had said, as Mia's father hugged her before they left for their seats.
Gritting her teeth, Mia stuck strongly to her resolve. She will not get to me, I will not let her get to me; she chanted silently.
They were all standing outside in the cemetery, having gone to visit her brother's grave to conclude the ceremony. After seeing the tombstone and paying her respects, Mia moved towards the exit. Hanging back, Mia waited for Elena. Several of her family members passed her, welcoming her home and wishing her well, Mia smiled in return.
“Let's go, Mia.” Elena said, walking over to her.
“Where to next?” Mia asked.
“Dinner, at my mom's house. Once she heard you were coming home she couldn't help but throw a dinner for you. Don't worry, she told your mom it was for our grandparents coming over.”
“Ahh...I love your mom. She's so sneaky.” Mia said, reminiscing about their childhood. Elena's mom Elizabeth had married Mia's dad's older brother. Having noticed the skewed dynamics between Mia and her mother, Elizabeth had been around to lighten things up.
“We get to change right?” Mia asked, her black dress was starting to itch.
“Who else is going to come for dinner?” Mia asked as they sat in Elena's car.
“The squirts, with their parents.” Elena mentioned their little cousins. “Jules and Henry, and her parents. Mikayla, Vince, and their parents. Our grandparents, obviously. Your mom and dad. Me, you, and Carter, Ian, and Ricky.” She told her, mentioning her three younger brothers.
“It's surprising how tall those three have gotten.” Mia said, in awe. She still thought of them as little, when in reality they had gotten taller than her.
“They're obsessed with basket ball. It's gotten to a point where I have to remember I'm the oldest and not them.” Lina told her flatly, making Mia giggle.
Having changed in to her favourite green frock and black tights, Mia and Elena arrived at Elizabeth's house at the same time as their other cousins. Walking in to the house, Mia greeted the rest of her family. Her grandparents hugged her, along with the rest of her aunts and uncles, while her younger cousins asked her to play with them.
“Mia, you never play hide and seek with us! Come on play!” Demanded Francois, one of the little ones, tugging on her hand.
“Alright, alright.” Mia said, succumbing to their wishes.
Walking around looking for her giggling younger cousins who hid in the most obvious spots, Mia started to notice that there were people she had never seen before.
Her cousin Vince was standing in the hall talking to two guys, as she passed him on her way to the living room. She was sure they were not related to her.
Seeing two curtains shaking with laughter Mia sighed.
“I see you Nicholas, and Amanda!” She walked over to the siblings and grabbed them by their middle, tickling them.
“Mercy, mercy!” They gasped, as she let them go.
“Go find the others. There's only Amelie and Jacque left.” She told them, as they skittered off to do her bidding.
Going back to the dining room, Mia went to get herself a drink. Pouring some coke in to her glass she looked around once more. This time she was certain that there were people present she didn't know at all. More specifically, it looked like several men had been invited.
She turned around quickly, only to see a blond haired guy, who looked like he was a few years older than her.
“Hi?” She asked, not sure if they knew each other.
“Mark. Remember, you used to live down the street from me? We were in the same grade 7-8 split class.” He told her, as though expecting her to know who he was instantly.
“Sure...” She mumbled.
“I heard you came home from London. So how have you been?”
It wasn't long before Mia found herself in the middle of Mark and another guy named Scott. They were asking her questions about her research with Dr. Phillips. From the corner of her eye, she spotted her mother glaring at her. This can't be good, she thought, as her mother walked over to them.
“Gentlemen, I see you've met my daughter Mia.” Her mother said in a soft tone, disguising her displeasure.
“Yes. We were just discussing some of the research she's done.” Scott told the older woman.
“Ah, yes. It's a shame she hasn't been able to publish more papers these days. Her job as a soccer injury specialist keeps her very busy, since she has to deal with so many players.”
Mia's tight smile revealed nothing, as her mother watched her. Grinding her teeth, Mia bit back any snide remark she could think of. She was not going to cause a scene during her trip. She was going to be the perfect daughter, she reminded herself.
The two boys looked at her in awe. Please kill me now! She found herself thinking.
“Which team do you work for?” Mark asked her.
“London FC.” She muttered.
“She's such a hard working girl.” Her mother continued. “She even lives on the grounds in a dormitory with two of the players.”
Shocked, Mia's head snapped to see a tiny smirk disappear from her mother's face.
“I can't believe Dad told you that.” Mia mumbled, shaking her head. “I'm not living in the dorms any more, Mom.”
The two boys left, having sensed this was not something they wanted to be present for.
“Don't tell me you're living on your own?” Her mother asked snidely.
“No I'm sharing a place with friends.” Mia muttered, knowing it was partially true.
Seeing that her mother had achieved her goal of isolating her from the others, Mia retreated to the kitchen, heading for the sun room. It was quiet here, since everyone was gathered in the dining and living rooms.
Too bad I couldn't go somewhere else, Mia thought, staring out of the window at the snow covered back yard. I would have gone to the cottage or something; I should've just taken a real vacation.
It would have been more fun with Lina, Leon, and the guys, she found herself wishing, as she remembered the snowball fight. A smile flickered across her face. At least here I'd get back at Matthew!
He had managed to land a snowball on top of her hat during their fight, paying her back for pelting one squarely on his back.
“I thought you'd be here.” Elena's voice came from behind her, Mia pushed away the thoughts.
“Yea. I needed some air.” She mumbled, turning to see Elena standing with Juliana and Mikayla.
“Sorry about that. Mom decided to invite some guys that knew you. She's been plotting ways to get you a man since she heard you were coming.” Elena grimaced.
“It all makes sense now.” Mia sighed, unimpressed.
“She doesn't want you to be alone, since we all got engaged and Jules is now married.” The older girl shrugged.
Not saying anything, Mia followed her cousins back to the dining room.
He was looking through the pictures once more. He couldn't help but stare at the one with her holding on to him for dear life. They were riding in tea cups, and the parks cameras flashed to catch the picture. Lina had of course bought the picture after the ride was over.
Laughing, as he noticed Mia's eyes were tightly shut, he swiped to view the next picture on his phone. There she was again, clutching on to the bars of the rollercoaster as Nathaniel laughed sitting beside her. In the next one it was Matthew and Leon, riding in a topsy turvy ride. Mia and Oliver had been sitting behind them, looking as though she didn't like the ride.
With Christmas coming up, Matthew was still on the fence having not decided what he was going to get Mia. Getting up, he decided to make a trip of the malls, thinking if any thing struck him as worthy of Mia then he would buy it.
An hour later, Matthew found himself walking down the sidewalk, a strip of stores inviting him in. Each store he passed by, as there wasn't anything that stood out to him. Having spent time in Topshop, he was rather surprised that there wasn't anything that really made him think of Mia.
Walking past another store, something glinted, catching his eye. That's it! He thought, walking in to the store.