Some people will proudly say that they are big picture people, others say they pay more attention to the small details.
And then there are people like Gaia Bianchi and Kip Massey
The card came in on Halloween- actually it came in two weeks before Halloween but Gaia and Kip didn’t check their mailbox very often- who does now days- and there it was.
Early in the day for Gaia but mid afternoon for the rest of the world, Gaia had toddled down the tree lined gravel driveway to the mailbox at the end of the drive in her ginormous platform shoes, puffing on a cigarette-unfiltered-because about a thousand years ago it was cool to smoke unfiltered smokes and Gaia still cared about things like being edgy and cool even in the nearly comatose lakeside town where she ended up after Kip told his wife he was leaving her.
Upon her arrival in Townsend most of their neighbors ( her new neighbors, Kip was from Lake Townsend ) had been underwhelmed by Gaia’s acerbic wit, unfiltered cigarettes, and her vague references to being a hot number back in the 60’s- the kind of number that only Italian girls ( now matronly in Gaia’s case ) like her could pull off.
Gaia offered those chestnuts, those little tasty tidbits of her life to her unwilling audience whenever she felt like the conversation needed a lot more of her in it and a little less of anyone else.
The envelope in Gaia had pulled from the weather beaten box was addressed to Gaia Bianchi and Kip Massey in fancy script and the Christmas tree stamp in the corner was crooked. It was postmarked from Lake Townsend which was where they have lived for almost 6 years.
As she puffed smoke out of one corner of her mouth and tried to not fall off of her shoes as she waddled back up to the house, Gaia fished the envelope with the Christmas tree stamp out of the center of a giant wad sales circulars where it was stuck between few bills . The bills still showed up periodically because she wasn’t ready to go paperless where those were concerned.
Besides, she couldn’t get on line most of the time to take care of her accounts. It turned out that those stories about porn sites being loaded with viruses were true so her laptop was almost always frozen up and she was pretty sure Kip’s was in the same position.
Their taste in literature was the same, that was one of the things that spoke volumes about what brought them together and Gaia knew it was what held them together. Well. It wasn’t love but truth be told, Gaia thought love was a word you mindlessly tossed into the air when you were walking away to newer and better things.
When she got back to the house she headed for the kitchen which was the smallest room in the house. Gaia bitched about it to anyone she could bitch to because she said there wasn’t enough room for her to really cook and express herself but there were no plans to change it because what Gaia said she could do and what she willing to do were always two different things.
Plus she actually hated to cook, but Gaia played her new found role as Hot Italian Mama to the hilt for the few people she knew in Lake Townsend and saying she hated a kitchen may have cost her some cred- which as we have established, is very important to Gaia who had never been outside of Kansas until Kip came back and took her away.
She threw the bills and invitation on the kitchen table and tossed the rest in garbage can under the sink. A few flyers fluttered to the floor and she let them stay. Kip would take care of that. True love, Kip would do anything for her.
Right now she wasn’t interested in Kip’s love, she was interested in the envelope with the fancy writing and in lighting up another smoke.
She picked up the envelope. It was cool to her touch and it felt like linen, not paper. Heavy and unbending, it was cream colored card trimmed in gold. She popped open the seal pulled out the card and written in flowery script on the face was:
Will be joining you for dinner.
( I will be positively starving after my long trip back )
See you on the 31st!
Gaia stood at her sink with her cigarette clenched between her teeth and she looked out of the window past the garden ( that Muriel had planted and filled with white flowers so that the yard would glow at night- like marble tombstones Kip told her ) through the trees ( that Muriel’s Great Grandfather had planted and where one nearly crushed him to death when it toppled over in a windstorm ) and to the lake where Muriel’s Father had almost drowned when he was eight years old and she wondered why Kip’s ex-wife was accepting an invitation to a dinner she hadn’t been invited to.
Among a few other details like there wasn’t a dinner party and even if there was Muriel effing Crawley would not be effing invited- that was for effing sure.
Besides, she and Kip didn’t do any entertaining, not since that first time.
Not even a week after she moved into Muriel’s house, Gaia and Kip had hosted a housewarming party that was not destined to be the hit of Townsend’s social season because throwing a party in a house that had belonged to your lover’s wife’s family home of over 100 years was not the best idea to have ever occured to anyone the entire history of humankind.
Kip waited until after dessert to share he and Gaia’s story.
Muriel, as the story Kip told the story to their guests that night had walked away from the house the night Kip told her he was leaving her.
When he paused, Gaia looked at him and with a pained expression breaking out from under a ton of makeup expensive makeup.
At the pause, coupled with what have been a closeup shot on a movie screen of Gaia swaddled in cigarette smoke, some of the the neighbors did recall seeing Muriel standing in the garden looking out towards the lake and they were sure she was crying.
Then Muriel was gone Kip said as he wiped a tear from his eye ( which unlike Muriel on the last night in the garden, NOBODY actually saw ) and she left behind her daughters.
But there was a reason for her erratic behavior. Kip to a breath and cast his eyes heavenwards and before began he begged them to understand that Muriel, poor sweet Muriel- who was dear to them all, had a lot of problems, mental ones ‘ and that he was sure Gaia would help him and ‘his girls’ get over the horrors that tore apart poor Muriel’s mind and had ultimately torn the family apart.
Muriel’s crippling mental problems turned out to be news to everyone who new Muriel for her entire life and the freeze, as it were, was on.
” Kip! ” she yelled and then she screamed. ” Son of a bitch, KIP! Get in here!”
Kip slunk into the kitchen and he new better then to ask ‘what’ or make any sudden movements because Gaia was in a mood.
” What the HELL is this?” Gaia spat her cigarette into the sink and then threw the invitation to Kip.
The invitation fluttered to the ground between them.
Kip went to the invitation that was now facedown on the floor and he picked it without actually looking at Gaia but not wanting to take his eyes off her. When he was satisfied she wasn’t going to brain him with a heavy object ( she had insisted on serious kitchenware even though she never used any of it) he looked down to the invitation and read it. ” Where did you get this?”
” I pulled it out of my ass. Where do you think I got it? It came in the mail.”
Gaia’s face was flushed and was that a tinge of blue on her lips? Was she having a heart attack? She was pushing 75 so Kip was sort of hoping she was because the cluster fuck that he was holding in his hand was more then he wanted to deal with and Gaia keeling over would give him an out of this very uncomfortable situation.
” It’s a joke or something. ” Kip offered. ” Maybe one of the girls sent it.”
Kip’s daughters, June and Inez had sent a Sympathy Card covered in flowers that read; “Thinking of you in these difficult times.” and a funeral wreath with a ribbon that said, “One day we will remember you with wonder, not grief. “ addressed to Kip after he married Gaia and he hadn’t heard from them since. It had been assumed that they would never hear from them again.
” I can’t believe the nerve of that Bitch!”
Kip worked his jaw open. ” You know Gee, there is a bigger issue here.”
” Really like what? What could be a bigger issue than that bitch thinking she can just walk in here like she, like she still owns this place and you. You promised you’d get rid of her. And now here she is showing up for dinner.”
Gaia was waving her hands around and throwing her head back and stomping back and forth across the wooden kitchen floor in a tidal wave of fury- a few years ago Kip thought that it was sexy when Gaia threw one of her passionate tantrums. Now he just wondered if it was possible for her to bust an artery in her brain and have an aneurysm.
” You need to focus Gee. Muriel just invited herself over for dinner, that’s not the issue here.”
” That’s exactly what this is about!”
” Gaia! Listen to me. Muriel didn’t send this. Use some common sense. Will you?”
Kip’s phone started to ring. He pulled it from his pocket swiped the screen without looking at it and put it face down on the kitchen table.
” Who is it? Is it her?”
Kip’s jaw dropped. ” Are you being serious right now? Of course it-”
Gaia snatched up the phone, looked at it and then she slammed it back on the table.
Now the phone was vibrating angrily against the table and it sounded exactly like a bee trapped in a spider’s web.
Kip grabbed it off of the table top before Salina could get her hands on it and hit the answer icon. ” Who is this? Who the Hell is this REALLY.”
Gaia threw her cigarette into the sink and then she lit up a fresh one.
Kip turned his back on Gaia and then he answered the phone. ” I know. I see. What time? Now? Well. If you must. Yes, yes. He pushed passed Gaia and he walked down the hallway to the front door.
He pulled the door open after a couple of tries and before he walked out he called back to Gaia, ” Big picture we really should have looked at the big picture here.”
The door swung shut behind him as Kip stepped out into the gathering darkness and as it did he caught a whiff of Gee’s cigarette smoke and then it was gone.
Ahead of him, Muriel Crawley, whose family had owned this house for over 100 years and couldn’t be separated from it, not even death was walking up her driveway –
with the knife that Gaia had bought for Kip to use to prove his love to her still embedded to it’s hilt in Muriel’s chest.
Good thing Muriel made it for by dinner Kip thought to himself ( or maybe he screamed it out loud ), because she did look