“Is this you?” Emelia asks the woman in front of her. She sees similarity of the button nose and the bangs. “Do you know my dad, Max Guinn?” Emelia’s voice shakes a little, the question was almost rhetorical but she still wanted the woman to answer, just to feel assured. Dad left a lot of questions unanswered, Emelia thought. He wouldn’t like the probing but he wouldn’t have let me see anything unexplained involving him. “No, I wasn’t born yet when this was taken. I was born 8 months after.” She points at the little girl. “This is You. Emelia Guinn”. Then shifts to highlight the woman next to her. “And this is your mother, our mother, Antari Kross”. Emelia feels a rush of blood coming to her forehead, flushing her face and almost knocks her into a shock. All these years she wasn’t able to find a trace of her mother, not in the house, not with the staff, not with the Seisers or any close relatives. In fact, the Seisers were the only close relatives that she ever hung out with. Max was always quiet, promptly diverting the topic or the inquiries from Emelia to the next most urgent issue in the house or the business. Or sometimes just sheer silence, and stating that he is tired and needs some time alone. It is the least timing that Emelia would have expected to find out anything, about her mysterious mother, after she lost the dear ones close to her, one after another, post the plane crash. Emelia’s left hand holds the left wrist of the woman, asking word by word: “Our…Mother? You are my…sister?” The woman nods and her right hand covers Emelia’s left hand: “Raizel Kross. I am about 2 years younger than you.” Raizel follows to point at the photograph again, noting Antari’s waist. “She was carrying me when she was told to leave you and Max behind.” Her voice shaken, Raizel breathes heavily through her mouth for a second or two. Emelia gazes into the picture, as some vague memories float to her mind.
22 years ago Emelia followed her father Max into a giant house in the country side, in a big silver car that came to pick her up. There she was met with an elderly couple, looking at her from tip to toe and summoned her father behind heavy closed doors. And there came Madame Seiser, who was covered in black velvet dress with red hair combed up into a bun at the top of her head, bans swept aside to the right. She was very tall, with the poise of a fox trotting across the room. Emelia was sat down by the house secretary in the corner chair of the downstairs dining room, in her favorite dress during childhood. She loved the green plaid dress with peter pan collars, matching with her round toe navy shoes. “Well today is the day my friend, what is your name?” Madame Seiser lifts up Emelia’s left sleeve, instead of names she saw an embroidery of a little cross shaped like the flick of a star. Slightly frowning, she murmurs to herself: “Antari really changed how the McGuinn family raises kids, I see.” Emelia didn’t quite understand what she was referring to, plainly answered in a joyful voice: “I am Emelia McGuinn.” Emelia was always told to have an upbeat voice as a child, it was the fiery red hair has kept Emelia staring, unapologetically. “Emelia…“ Madame Seiser stoke through Emelia’s bangs and pinned the ends behind Emelia’s ears, “You are going to become a part of this family, finally. I want to introduce you to someone. This is your cousin; his name is Brent. Say hi, Brent, show your cousin around.” Emelia didn’t notice but now that there was a little boy hiding behind Madame Seiser’s black dress. He seemed quite shy but his eyes struggled to hide the hint of cleverness. Madame Seiser swiftly moves to the right side, bringing Brent by his shoulders to face Emelia right in the front. She taps his back twice, as if she injected a sudden stream of discipline and energy into the little boy. Brent stood up straight, walked forward three steps and held Emelia’s hand: ”Come, your room is upstairs.”
Raizel touched Emelia’s right upper arm and brought Emelia back to reality, as she sees Emelia’s sight buried in deep, yet intriguing silence in the room. She was sitting like a statue that was woken by the sound of summon. “Do you remember anything about Antari…our mother still?” Raizel asked gently, unsure if the question would trigger more embedded sadness from Emelia. Hurriedly glancing left and right, Emelia found no traces of further memory of that day at the family house. The assimilation took place as if everything was always planned. She fit right in and followed the rules of the house, shelving away any hint of liberty that Antari has taught her. Of course, at the end of the 22 years, Emelia remembers more about her last name, Guinn, more than anything. It is a proud name to wear, like a badge of honor. Madame Seiser did not get the name for no reason, for the family’s heritage was too entangled with all the extra rules and expectation from both inside and outside of the house. Emelia was not originally part of the plan, although no one was formally allowed to talk about the fact in the house, she has heard drops of the gossip elsewhere when she went to school. She knew her strawberry blond here didn’t come from nowhere, every morning when she wipes her face clean with that towel sprayed with rose water, she cannot help but to notice that difference with the rest of the family. Yet Max said nothing, he became a lot quieter once he came back to the family house. He was on the phone a lot, asking questions and giving explanations and assigning protocols to the other end of the line. Emelia knew it was best not to interrupt him during business hours at the time. Once she crawled into the study trying to surprise him, only to be dragged by feet back out of the room by Brent and he put an index finger to her lips, signaling her to be quiet: “You really should go, this is not the place you should be in. Only men in this house can be there. “Emelia took his finger in her hand and brought to the floor: “Are you going to be in there one day? You are a man.” Brent shook his head and answered plainly :”I am not a man in this house. I am a Seiser, there is another room Seisers go into. It’s a lot bigger and it has turquoise panels. It has a big fish tank lining the walls.” Emelia opened her eyes wide:” That sounds like a much better room. Where is it? Can you show me?” Brent grabbed Emelia’s hand from the floor back to his chest:” Yes, I will show you once I am in that room. Now we must go, we should really leave before they see us here.”