As Love Grows – Chapters 20 -25

(1999) May & Urs

Chapter Twenty – May and Urs Reunited

“May!”

May turned around at the familiar voice and there he was, looking like the Adonis in his black long-sleeved shirt and worn-out jeans, his curly dark hair combed back and tucked behind his ears.

“Urs!” she screamed in surprise and ran into his open arms. He hugged and carried her off the ground before planting a kiss on both her cheeks, both of them laughing in delight at being reunited again.

“What are you doing here?” she asked when he finally put her down.

“I’m on a little vacation so I thought I’d drop by to see how you’re doing.”

“You flew in from Amsterdam for a little vacation?” she looked at him in disbelieve.

“Is there anything wrong with that?” he raised his eyebrows at her.

Smiling, she shook her head and asked, “Where are you staying?”

He scratched his head, “I don’t know. Spent all my money on the flight ticket and now I can’t afford a hotel room.”

She laughed, “Ok, I think I know just the place where you can have free lodging. All you need to do is wash a few dishes.”

“Hey, May, are you coming with us?” one of the girls standing not far away shouted. They were May’s friends and they were all trying to decide how to celebrate May’s twenty-first birthday when Urs arrived. Now they were just ogling at the handsome hunk as he hugged, kissed and talked to May.

May turned to reply her friends, “I’m sorry, but Big Brother takes priority over everything else.”

“Big Brother?” the same girl asked.

May raised her eyes to look at Urs, “Yes, Big Brother. See you girls tomorrow.” Then she hooked her arm over his elbow and led him across the road.

“How long are you staying?” she asked, loving the familiar scent of him. He seemed more gorgeous than before and May noticed how the women who passed them by would do a double take on him. Yep, that’s how good-looking Big Brother is.

She remembered how the female judge at her interview for a spot in Oberlin five years ago was almost blown away by his looks that not only did she invite him to witness the interview, she had actually offered to play tour guide to him. But Big Brother wasn’t that easily sidetracked, he was on a mission and he stayed on course. On his own, he showed May around town before they flew back to Switzerland on the fifth day of reaching Oberlin. It was a holiday she would never forget.

“A few days.”

“You didn’t make it home for Christmas,” she said it in a disapproving tone. “Mami was disappointed.”

“No, she was not. She knew I had some important performances. Something tells me you were the one who was disappointed,” he teased.

“Why would I be, after all the years of getting screamed at by you?” she pursed her small pinkish lips.

Urs looked at her and thought how endearing and enchanting she looked. In the past five years they had only seen each other for a week or so each year since she left for Ohio to study at the Oberlin Music Conservatory. He had also spent considerably less time at home after moving to Amsterdam where he furthered his studies in classical singing, though he kept an eye on Juliet through Mami and constantly kept up to date about May through emails.

Each year they would meet at home during Christmas and each year he found something had changed in her, not just physically, but character-wise as well. They would always perform together in front of their family members and even friends, and he would either sing to May’s accompaniment on the violin or piano, or he would accompany her on the piano.

Performing with the local church choir had also become a part of their Christmas celebration and Urs found himself looking forward to the month of December every year. Hence he was gutted when he was unable to celebrate Christmas at home last year. It was a tough decision he had to make but as he was making headway in the opera circuit, he didn’t want to give up on a wonderful opportunity to be a part of an important festival event in Amsterdam. Even though Mami was understanding about it, it didn’t make him feel any better.

Looking at May chatting excitedly beside him, he marvelled at how well she had filled up, from the scrawny little teenager of seven years ago to this beautiful, shapely young woman. The long dark hair framing her oval-shaped face and big cat eyes gave her an exotic look, her soft and gentle voice like the whisper of a summer breeze blowing softly across the meadow. As if all that wasn’t good enough, she had to have the sweetest temperament and exceptional talent. And she was no longer the shy and timid little girl he had once bullied into submission, he grinned at the thought. Then suddenly the grin turned into a frown as he realised that his baby sister was ready to leave the nest and he wasn’t sure he liked the thought of it.

“Can we slow down a little?” May asked as she paused to catch her breath. She had been struggling to match his strides and being petite and having shorter legs, she had to walk doubly fast to keep pace with him.

He laughed, the sound coming from deep within his chest, “Right, shorty.”

He ruffled her hair and she swiped his hand off, annoyed, “Who you calling, shorty?”

“You!”

May laughed, “Shorty’s calling me?”

Urs looked at her blankly before the realisation that he had been outwitted dawned on him.  “Very funny!” He pinched her nose.

May tried to ruffle his hair but couldn’t reach his head as he was holding her away from himself with his hand still on her nose. “I can’t breathe,” she said in a nasal voice.

He immediately released her, “Sorry!”

May looked up, rubbing her nose with both hands. He looked concern as she seemed to be breathless.

“Are you alright, May?” He stepped closer to inspect her, prying her hands away from her nose. Big mistake.  May, reaching up immediately and with both hands, began tousling his hair, giggling as she went about messing up his already messy curls.

All the while he was attacked, Urs just stood there with his arms folded across his chest, “Having fun, aren’t you?”

May stopped and giggled harder at his new look, “Yes. Please stay still.”

She took out the camera that she always carried with her and snapped a picture of him with his new hairdo. They both had a good laugh at that picture before continuing on home.

It took them less than twenty minutes to reach the townhouse where she lived. When they walked up the stairs, she heard faint voices coming from the inside of her unit.

That’s strange, she thought, did I forget to turn off the stereo?

 

Chapter Twenty-One – Happy Birthday!

May inserted the key into the keyhole and pushed open the door, only to be frightened out of her skin by shouts of ‘Happy Birthday!’ coming from inside the house. Her hands on her chest, she looked at the faces in front of her before turning to see Urs smiling at her. Overwhelmed with emotions, she cupped a hand to her mouth and hugged him.

“Thank you,” she whispered amid tiny sobs.

“Happy Birthday, May,” Urs held her back and kissed her forehead.

She turned around and sought out Mami. There she was, standing in the middle of the small congregation, a gentle smile on her face. May rushed forward and was immediately engulfed in Mami’s embrace.

“Happy Birthday, sweetie,” Mami whispered in her ears.

It was a teary reunion as May went around hugging everyone else: Joshua and Rose, his girlfriend; Lynette and Arthur, her fiancé; and of course Juliet, who was the one who let them in the house with the spare key that May had given her on her last visit. Then May turned and saw another girl quietly standing next to Urs, her hand in his.

“May, this is Vanessa Pietersen,” he introduced.

Vanessa held out her perfectly manicured hand and said, “Happy Birthday, May. It’s nice to finally meet you. Urs talked about you a lot.”

May smiled shyly, “Thank you. I’m so happy to meet you but I’m afraid I’m going to be a lousy host as my fridge is almost empty and I don’t think I have any drinks appropriate to offer you. I hardly have any guests.” She turned to the rest of the family and smile apologetically.

“Do you honestly think we’d all turn up empty handed?” Juliet asked, “This is your birthday after all so you’re going to sit back and relax. We will take care of everything. Right, brothers and sisters?

“Right,” all the other siblings replied at once. And true enough, they did prepare for the party for there were pizzas and Chinese takeaways on the table, bottles of wine and champagne in the chillers and a big decadent chocolate cake sitting in the kitchen, just waiting for the appropriate time to make an appearance.

May spent some time getting acquainted with Arthur, whom she had only met twice and whom she found to be very easy-going. She talked and laughed easily with him as if they had been friends for a long time.

As for Rose Schmid, because she was Joshua’s girlfriend for years now, they had become almost like sisters. The beautiful blonde with a wicked sense of humour was born with a silver spoon in her mouth but she never let her status and privilege get in the way of her relationship with Joshua and was fully supportive of his decision to move abroad to work as an event manager.

May asked Joshua, “So when are you going to pop the question?” to which he replied, “When she’s old and wrinkled and nobody else wants her. That way she’ll think of me as a knight in shining armour.”

Rose scoffed, “You should’ve told me you like wrinkles. I could’ve introduced my aunt Gertrude to you. She has the whole railway track of Switzerland etched onto her face I’m sure you’ll feel quite at home with her.”

That caused everyone to howl in laughter, even Mami. Joshua could only look sheepishly at his girlfriend, shaking his head at losing out to her again in yet another one of their verbal duels. Who could blame him? She was an aspiring lawyer after all!

The only person May was unable to fully engage in a conversation was the beautiful Vanessa who, although was polite and pleasant, didn’t seem too keen to get acquainted with her. The woman seemed more reticent when talking to May even though she would chat comfortably with the other Buhler members. Perhaps it was because they had only just met, May reasoned with herself and shrugged off her initial feeling that Vanessa was being haughty when she had completely ignored some of the questions she asked, prompting Urs to reply on her behalf.

Finally, Mami brought out the cake and as they were lighting up the candle, there was a knock on the door. May went to answer it only to be surprised to see Andy at the door.

“Want to go for a movie?” Andy asked before bending to kiss her, his blonde hair shimmering in the afternoon sun.

She pushed him lightly on the chest after the shock was over, “I’m sorry, Andy, but I have guests.”

He looked disappointed, “But I’m here to celebrate your birthday with you.”

“So are we,” Juliet appeared behind May. She assessed him from head to toe then turned to May with a cheeky look, “So this is Andy Morrison?”

May smiled and nodded. Holding Andy’s hand, she led him into the living room. All the chatter quietened and all eyes turned to the newcomer.

“Mami, brothers, sisters and friends,” May acknowledged everyone, “I want you to meet Andy Morrison, my schoolmate and fellow violin player in the orchestra.”

Andy looked overwhelmed by the people now scrutinising him, much like Juliet did earlier on at the door. He stood there not knowing what to do or say. May nudged him and whispered, “Go say hi to Mami over there.”

“Mami?” he repeated.

“That’s Mrs Buhler for you,” Urs spoke up, his eyes never leaving the younger man’s. They were the same steely looks he gave May on her first day of being introduced to the Buhler household.

After the awkward handshakes with all the VIPs, Andy settled down on a sofa while everyone else crowded around May and the birthday cake and sang her the birthday song. Out of the corner of his eye, Urs noticed that the Andy didn’t look too happy.

“Why are you just sitting there, Andy? Come and join us,” he urged the young man.

After making a wish and blowing out the candles, May was swarmed with hugs and kisses. Urs thought Andy looked disgusted when Joshua picked her up and swung her around, then let her down before kissing her on both cheeks, “You’re twenty-one now, What’s your wish?”

“For you guys to stop treating me like a baby,” May giggled.

“That’s a tough wish to fulfil, May, ‘cause you’ll always be Big Brother’s baby sister,” Joshua gave Urs a knowing look. Urs feigned annoyance and grunted, drawing laughter from the others except Andy who seemed to be jealous of the attention that the Buhler men were showering on May.

Everyone settled down to feast on the food and drinks, light banter flowing back and forth. May looked at Andy who was quietly sitting and eating beside her. She touched his hand, “Hey, I’ll make it up to you next week, ok?”

“Next week? You only have one birthday a year,” he pouted and May tried not to laugh. At times she thought he was a big baby but she didn’t tell him that of course. He was a sensitive guy but sweet nonetheless.

Joshua shifted his gaze from the young couple seated in a corner of the room to Urs, who stood at the other corner. He smiled.  Big Brother was watching over May like a hawk watching over its fledgling.

Urs’s gaze only shifted when Vanessa walked over to him, “What to make a move? I’m tired.”

He smiled and replied softly, “Sure.” Then in a louder tone, he said, “May, we’re leaving.”

“What? Why so soon?” May looked and sounded disappointed.

“It’s a long flight and Vanessa is tired. I’ll leave Mami and Juliet with you since you obviously need Mami’s nourishing food to fill you up a bit. You look skinny as a monkey,” Urs teased.

May’s face scrunched up in annoyance at hearing that word used on her again. “Stop saying I look like a monkey, you big pink-arsed baboon!” The Buhler clan guffawed as she threw a small cushion at Urs which he caught effortlessly.

Laughingly, Urs walked over to May and pulled her up for a bear hug. “I’ll come and pick up Mami and Juliet on Friday morning for the flight back,” he said.

May looked into his almond-shaped eyes, so peculiar for a Caucasian she had always thought, and asked in a forlorn voice, “Does that mean I won’t be seeing you again until then?”

Urs gave her a tender smile, still holding her, “We can have dinner together. Besides, don’t you think you should invite us all to your performance?”

May was selected to perform solo with the school orchestra which was a big break for her as it could open doors for more challenging opportunities. She had started doing solo performances almost every month and was even invited to perform with the New York Philharmonic in the summer. Despite being a late starter (she only started playing the violin when she was nine), she had proven herself to be a really good violinist, earning herself a chance to perform with one of the Big Five symphony orchestras even before she graduated from the conservatory. If everything went well with her performance, she might get a chance to train with the Philharmonic.

“Oh I forgot, I have tickets to my next performance on Wednesday,” May said and went to fumble in her handbag to pick out some concert tickets. Holding them out to him, she smiled shyly, “Want come?”

Urs looked pleased as he took two tickets from her before kissing her on her cheek once more. He then left with Vanessa, promising to see her at the concert.

Chapter Twenty-Two – Getting rid of a piece of trash

The moment Urs and Vanessa left, May felt a sense of emptiness but she soon replaced the downcast look with a smile as she turned back to the others still in her living room. “I have four tickets left. Any takers?” she asked. Mami and Juliet, Joshua, Lynette and their partners all put up their hands.

“Guess Andy and I will have to give up our seats for you guys, huh?” she joked. Then she turned to Andy who was idly flipping away at a magazine, oblivious to what was going on in the room.

“Andy, do you have any tickets with you?”

Andy looked up, “Sure.” He produced two more tickets and went back to flipping the magazine.

Joshua, Rose, Lynette and Arthur soon left for their hotel after promising to turn up for the concert, leaving Mami, Juliet and Andy with May. May started clearing plates and cups from the table when Mami insisted that she spend some time with Andy who seemed almost bored to tears just sitting on the sofa.

May, embarrassed by Andy’s antisocial attitude, tried to apologise on his behalf, “He’s an only child, Mami. He’s not used to such a big family.”

“He’s probably rich too, judging by his designer outfit and watch,” Juliet observed as she and Mami began tackling the dishes.

“His parents are both successful lawyers,” May divulged.

Juliet gave a small whistle and joked, “Isn’t it kind of scary to date people like him? What if you said something wrong and he asked his parents to sue you? You could be bankrupt in no time!”

“Stop talking nonsense, Julie,” Mami admonished. “Go spend time with him, May.”

May gave Mami a quick hug before disappearing into the living room.

“Are we just going to sit here and wait for Mami to come and preach, or can we go and have a drink?” Andy stood up and stretched the moment he saw her, not bothering to hide his boredom.

May was surprised by his callous attitude. She knew him to be a little spoilt but never expected him to be rude or uncaring. May was a soft-spoken and patient girl but there were some things which she wouldn’t tolerate, and one of them was people being disrespectful to her family.

“Andy, I’m sorry if you’re bored but please respect my family. And let’s set the record straight, Mami doesn’t preach,” she stared hard at him.

Andy was surprised at May’s tone of voice. She hardly ever showed any temper during the six months that they had dated and this was a new side to her that he was seeing for the first time. Well, maybe it wasn’t the first time she lost her temper, he corrected. She was very firm when she rejected his repeated suggestion that she slept with him a week ago. She calmly explained to him that she wasn’t ready for that kind of relationship and if he couldn’t accept that, she was fine if he wanted to breakup with her. He normally would’ve given up on a girl who told him that but May was different from all the other girls he had dated and he really liked her. Besides, he wanted to see how long it would take before she succumbed to his charm. They always did.

“Ok, so what are we going to do now?” he asked. Though he really liked her, he’d be damned if he apologise. They would date, but only on his terms. He walked towards her and tried to take her into his arms.

“We could call it a day and say goodnight,” May was in no mood to play the sweet and loving girlfriend that he expected of her. She shrugged off his hands on her waist. Until he apologised, she would not go out with him again. Anyone who couldn’t see how important her family was to her would have no place in her heart. And it wasn’t as if she had never mentioned her family to him before.

“Well, fine. I’m getting sleepy anyway. See you at the rehearsal then,” he turned and walked slowly towards the door, counting each step he took and expecting her to call him back by the fifth stride. It had always worked before. Girls found him irresistible and many would do just about anything to keep him by their side. He was already planning what to do or say if she called him back. That was why when May moved passed him and opened the door before he even got near, he was momentarily taken aback.

“Goodnight, Andy. See you at the rehearsal,” she said without a hint of her trademark dimpled smile.

Face flushed with anger and humiliation, Andy left without a backward glance, the door slamming shut behind him.

“What was that all about?” Juliet stood at the kitchen doorway with her arms folded across her chest. Mami joined her, having heard part of the conversation.

“Nothing, just clearing out a piece of trash,” May replied without looking at them, her voice barely audible.

Mami walked forward and wrapped her arms around her, “Don’t worry, precious, you’ll find a much better man than that.”

“He’s such a jerk,” Juliet went and put her arms around May, letting the younger girl sob her heart out. “Too bad Urs isn’t here or he’ll give him a good thumping.”

May looked at Juliet with worries in her eyes, “No, please don’t tell Urs about this. I don’t want any trouble.”

Juliet observed her best friend for a while before changing the subject, “Well, at least you know what he’s like sooner rather than later.”

To keep May’s mind away from her heartbreak, Juliet brought up David Miller in their chat later on that night when Mami had retired to bed. May immediately launched into an account of everything that she knew of David and things she did with him, including the few times that she had been out with him for lunch and sometimes movies.

“Don’t worry, Julie, I’m not interested in him. I just like him as a friend. You’re still free to date him if you like,” May looked at her friend slyly.

“Thanks but no thanks. I seem to have bad luck with guys,” Juliet said in a miserable tone. She had never once had a relationship that lasted more than twelve months, and the latest was the hardest for her as she and Louis were about to celebrate their first anniversary together when he decided to go work in Dubai. She still had a couple of years left of university studies and they decided it was best for them to go their separate ways. Both girls shared a hug for emotional support before calling it a night.

That night, in the confines of her own room, May lay in bed with her eyes wide open. She knew she did the right thing but she couldn’t shake off the fact that perhaps she should’ve been a little more patient with Andy. But Mami’s words rang in her mind,  “You’ll find a much better man than that”. Would she? Where could she find him? She fell asleep dreaming of a familiar face, a familiar scent and a familiar voice.

Chapter Twenty-Three – Ripe for the Picking

May was nervous. She stood in a corner backstage trying to compose herself. She had never felt so nervous before. She picked up her violin and pulled a few strings to try and calm her nerves. She couldn’t understand why she was feeling this way; the stage never frightened her since her first performance at the age of fifteen back in London.

Soon, she found out the reason for her nervousness. Urs. He turned up backstage with Vanessa, Mami and the whole Buhler gang in tow, including Rose and Arthur.

The moment Urs saw her, he felt a tug in his heart. She had grown up so much in the past five years, he swore he would never have recognised her if she were to walk past him on the street one day dressed like she was right now. She wore a maxi black dress of soft material which clung to her every curve, and though she was still petite, she had filled up in all the right places.

May could hardly tear her eyes away from him when she saw him turning the corner, his hand holding on to Vanessa’s while Mami and gang followed closely behind. He was dressed in a black suit with a crisp white shirt, a black scarf casually draped over his shoulder. She recognised the scarf, it was the one she bought him two Christmases ago. She smiled at the memory. The smile widened when they finally stood in front of her.

“Nervous?” Urs said by way of greeting, giving her a hug.

“A little,” she replied shyly.

“Since when have you been nervous about a performance,” Juliet said as she pushed Big Brother away to hug her best friend.

“Well, knowing that you all will be watching me kind of freaks me out,” May admitted.

“Don’t let us worry you, my dear,” Mami said reassuringly, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “You look all grown-up and so beautiful,” she added as she stood back to observe her not-so-little girl.

“Yes, she’s ripe for the picking, isn’t she?” Joshua chimed in tongue-in-cheek, earning a glare from Urs.

“Where’s Andy?” Urs asked, looking around.

May looked down when he turned back to face her, “Somewhere around.”

Then changing the subject, she looked up and asked, “Are we going for a drink afterwards?” Her eyes were bright like a little girl asking for an ice-cream treat.

“Sure,” Urs chuckled, “anything you want, you’ll get.”

Juliet snorted, “Not fair!” and stuck out a tongue at him which earned her a pinch on the nose as he continued to laugh.

As the small group made their way out of the backstage to their seats, Urs asked Juliet if she knew anything about May and Andy. He had sense May’s discomfort when he mentioned Andy’s name and he was determined to find out what had happened between them.

“She threw him out of the house last night,” Juliet confided in him in a whisper, not wanting Mami to know she was telling on May.

“Why?”

“Because he was rude to us.”

“Really?” he seemed impressed.

Mami and the rest had already moved ahead of him and Vanessa when they turned a corner and saw a man and a woman standing to one side, talking intimately. It was Andy, Urs recognised him instantly, his soft blonde locks looking shiny and impeccable under the dim light. Urs wanted to go shake him up a little but with Vanessa tugging at his arm, he reluctantly left the young man alone.

As the performers gathered beside the stage preparing to take their seats onstage, May saw Andy for the first time since last night. He stood next to her and instead of turning to talk to her, he turned the other way and whispered something in another girl’s ear, making the girl giggle. May mentally shrugged.  She wasn’t going to let him affect her performance. There were more important people out there waiting to watch her perform her solo pieces and she would be damned if she was going to let him dictate how she was going to perform.

The moment she walked out onto the stage to huge applause, her nerves calmed. She searched out the faces of the people she loved and smiled at them. Picking up her violin, she waited for the cue from the conductor.

For the next hour the audience were treated to familiar classical pieces performed to near perfection by the young solo violinist. She blended perfectly with the orchestra and as she played her favourite Beethoven’s Violin Sonata, she was brought back to the day she first performed it with Urs when she was just a fourteen-year-old girl. She let her mind replay that evening, the evening that somehow changed his attitude towards her overnight. He no longer raised his voice at her like he so often did, wasn’t as easily irritated by her as he used to be, and no longer became the formidable Big Brother that he seemed to be when she first entered the Buhler household.

As Urs watched her perform, he, too, reminisced about that evening he accompanied her on the piano. That was the first time he realised what a real talent she was, that she had a lot of potential and that he wanted to do everything he could to help her realise that potential. It was the reason why he encouraged her to continue her studies at the Oberlin Music Conservatory and even helped her with the application process. He was glad to see how far she had come and hoped that she would continue on the path to greater success.

He turned to look at Mami who seemed to know what he was thinking as she turned and gave him a blink, their signal to each other that they were pleased. He smiled and blinked back at her.  Mami’s little girl and his little sister had finally grown up to be not just a talented woman, but a woman who knew what she wanted. He was particularly impressed to learn that she had dumped Andy just because he was rude about them. It took a lot of maturity to be able to see beyond the shallow character of the man.  Most young ladies would’ve fallen for the looks but not his May.

As the strains of the familiar sonata came to an end, May searched out his face and their eyes connected. He blinked at her with a hint of a smile on his face, sending a warmth coursing through her body and making her cheeks flush.

“My goodness, you were fantastic!” Joshua exclaimed when they finally met again backstage. His girlfriend, Rose, nodded in agreement.

“Thank you. I had fun tonight, and you guys made it extra special for me,” May replied, her eyes shining with happy tears.

Joshua hugged her, “Keep working hard. You’ll make it to the big stage soon.”

They walked the short distance to a café that opened till late and practically had the whole place to themselves as they joined two square tables and sat around it, drinking hot chocolate and eating some pastries and cakes.

“It was a stellar performance, May. Congratulations,” Vanessa said.

May smiled her thanks, “I hear you’re a musician too. What instrument do you play?”

Vanessa looked at Urs with a puzzled expression, “I play the piano.” She wondered if Urs ever mentioned her to May, or if the girl had heard anything about her at all from the other family members. She was annoyed but couldn’t say anything else as she didn’t want to spoil the cosy atmosphere.

“Now we can have our own little ensemble, a violinist, a pianist and a tenor. I bet Mami could sing the soprano part, right, Mami?” Juliet joked.

Mami gave a hearty laugh and so did the others.

“Next Christmas we will have our little concert at home. Big Brother can double up as a rock singer while you play the guitar and I play the drum,” Joshua suggested amid more laughter.

“I can play the violin to accompany you guys, too,” May chipped in happily.

“You can play rock songs with your violin?” Juliet sounded surprise.

“Of course! Don’t you know that behind some of the best rock songs there is a full orchestra backing?”

The rest of the conversation for the night centered on how they would be celebrating their coming Christmas back in Switzerland. May promised Mami she would definitely be back for the celebration and even volunteered her services in the kitchen, to which Urs snorted, “We need to get an extra turkey just in case you burn the first one.”

May stuck out her tongue amid chuckles from the others except Vanessa. She had been quietly observing the interaction between Urs and May.

Chapter Twenty-Four – Vanessa’s unease

“Why haven’t you mentioned about me to May?” Vanessa asked once she and Urs were back in their hotel room.

Urs raised his eyebrows, not comprehending why that was so important.

“It’s obvious she doesn’t know much about me, but I know almost everything about her,” she continued when she didn’t get any reply, sounding a little angry, a little hurt.

“I thought Juliet would’ve told her about you. Anyway, we hardly get to chat on the phone and you know I don’t like to use the computer,” he explained, shrugging out of his jacket and then unbuttoning his shirt. Is she jealous of May? he wondered.

Moving across to her, he held her and whispered against her lips, “Don’t tell me you’re angry just because she didn’t know you’re a concert pianist?” Ever so tenderly, he nipped at her lower lip, tasting it with his tongue first then probing deeper when her lips parted in invitation, drawing a soft moan from her.

As they continued to kiss, Urs managed to undo the zipper at the back of her stunning green dress, a colour that matched her eyes perfectly. Stepping out of the dress that pooled around her feet, she undid the remainder of his shirt buttons and slipped it off his shoulders, revealing taut muscles that rippled with every move. She moved her hands in circles on his chest, loving the feel of his chest hair tickling her fingers.

He lowered his eyes as he felt his passion rise. Soon she found herself being picked up and placed gently on the bed, the remainder of her clothes already discarded on the floor. He stood and rid himself of the rest of his own clothes before claiming her lips once more.

The love-making started off slow and gentle but quickly grew in pace and strength until they both came crashing down from the height of ecstasy to reality, a reality that somehow left Vanessa feeling a sense of unease, something which had never happened to her before when she was with him.

Urs woke in the middle of the night, his hand automatically reaching over to the other side of the bed for the familiar feel of his girlfriend but found it empty. He sat up with a start but soon heaved a sigh of relief when his eyes adjusted to the darkness and he saw her sitting by the window, her chin resting on her knees as she hugged her legs to her chest. She seemed to be deep in thoughts because she didn’t even notice him when he approached her until he knelt down beside her.

“What’s the matter, Liebling?” He stroked her cheek and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. He was so gentle that her heart did a somersault at the touch which set off a series of reactions through her body and caused the uneasiness she had been feeling to evaporate.

“Nothing,” she lied, a smile replaced the frown that was there earlier.

“Then come to bed with me,” he coaxed.

She let him lead her back to bed, allowed him to tuck her in under the covers and kissed her goodnight. She snuggled into the crook of his arms and took in his manly scent, always so calming and effective whenever her heart was in turmoil. Soon, she fell asleep.

But not Urs, who wondered why she was behaving as if she wasn’t sure of their relationship. Their conversation earlier played on his mind. Why was she angry that he didn’t mention her to May? He had explained the reason, hadn’t he? Then why was she still unhappy? He drifted off to sleep with these questions swirling in his mind, but when sleep claimed him completely, all he could see or hear were the smiles and laughter of little May. However, whatever dream he had was banished to the back of his mind the minute he woke up the next morning.

Urs kept up his promise to May and had dinner with her the next two nights, together with Juliet, Mami and Vanessa. It was enjoyable and felt just like being at home in Willisau, even though Lynette, Joseph and their partners had already returned to the cities they had come from. He was very animated at the table, telling the girls some interesting things he had encountered while studying and working in Amsterdam.

Mami cooked some of May’s favourite dishes. She even baked some of May’s favourite cookies and biscuits, enough to last for a couple of months at least.

The day after she had questioned Urs about not mentioning her to May, Vanessa seemed more relaxed and even managed to enjoy the dinners with the two younger girls and Mami. Apparently Urs’s reassurance had worked and she was able to sit back and observe the interactions between the siblings with an open mind. She finally learnt to appreciate May for her talent and quick wit. She saw why everyone in the Buhler household was so enchanted by her and understood the protectiveness Urs felt towards her.

However, she wondered if things would change a few years down the road as the younger girl seemed to show Urs a lot more interest than necessary. Would Urs change his mind about May? She prayed that it would never happen and that time and distance would keep them away from each other for good. She couldn’t take it if she lost him but right now there was no reason for resenting the girl. Who knew if it wasn’t just a passing phase in the young girl’s life and that it was just a crush?

Chapter Twenty-Five – Home Sweet Home

The week leading up to May’s home-coming for the Christmas, Mami prepared all her favourite cookies and made sure the room she shared with Juliet was spic and span. She had Juliet change the bed linen on May’s bed and tidy up her wardrobe.

“Mami, you get into a cleaning frenzy every time May or Urs comes back,” Juliet complained, “That’s bad for your health.”

“They only come back once a year, sometimes not at all, so it’s important for them to feel comfortable when they’re back. Stop complaining and just help me if you’re worried about my health.

May looked excitedly around the arrival hall for the familiar face of Joshua who said he would pick her up at the airport. She was finally back in Switzerland, a country she had come to love very much. Though she hardly had the chance to come back here due to her studies and performances, she could never forgot the beautiful scenery, the lakes, the mountains, the fresh air and the beautiful houses. Most important of all, she could never forget the familiar scent of Mami which was infused with the fragrant smell of her cooking, the warmth of her embrace and the gentleness in her voice. Mami had been her rock to lean on all these years that she had been with the Buhlers and May felt that she couldn’t have asked for a better guardian than Mami. She looked eagerly around again as the more she thought of Mami, the more excited and anxious she was to see to her again.

Though it was snowing outside, it was still unusual for Joshua to be late as the Buhlers had a habit of being punctual. May waited with her luggage near the entrance of the airport, all the while trying not to panic. Did he have an accident along the way? Don’t be silly, she chided herself. Urs had always stressed on riding and driving safely so Joshua should be fine. Still it did nothing to quell her rising concern when thirty minutes passed and she still did not see him.

As she was deliberating whether to call Mami to find out what happened to Joshua, May suddenly felt a pair of arms snaked around her waist from behind and before she could reach for her phone, she was swept off the ground. Hearing the familiar laughter, she knew she was in good hands and laughed along.

“What took you so long?” she managed to say after being planted firmly on the ground again.

“Bad weather and a broken down car, not mine though. Had to stop and help out,” Joshua replied with a big grin. He was so like Urs, but a less intense version of him, she mused. He picked up her bag and they made their way out of the building and into his car.

The moment the car stopped in the driveway, May got out of the front passenger seat and ran up the steps of the house and into Mami’s waiting arms. Mami laughed and kissed her little girl’s cheeks, welcoming her home in her native Swiss-German tongue, something May had grown accustomed to hearing although she still had a long way to go to be able to hold a proper conversation in that language. Big Brother would have a lot to say about that, she had no doubt about it.

Juliet stepped forward and hugged her best friend after Mami was done with her. Together the girls went up to their bedroom for May to rest at the insistence of Mami. Joshua followed shortly with her luggage and violin.

“Is Lynette coming home?” May asked.

“She’ll be back tomorrow with Arthur. Rose will be here too.”

“Big Brother? Don’t tell me he’s skipping this year as well?”

“No, he wouldn’t dare or Mami would have no end of it. He’s coming back sometime this week, though we don’t know when. All he said was that he’d be in time for the celebration,” Juliet said as she opened the bedroom door. Joshua left the luggage and violin inside the room and went back downstairs to see if Mami needed help with anything.

The next few days the Buhler household was teeming with activities as they got down to work putting up the Christmas tree and decorations, Mami preparing all the goodies for the special day and everyone anticipating the return of Big Brother, especially May and Mami.

So it was that when he finally turned up at the doorstep on the eve of Christmas, May was the first one to rush into his arms like a fourteen year-old again, totally forgetting her manners and their guest, Vanessa. Urs had no qualms returning the enthusiasm though, picking her up with one hand and twirling her around, laughing.

“I thought we only just met few months ago,” he teased her.

May was embarrassed, her face a crimson red as she tried desperately to come up with an explanation, “Well, it was only a few short months but you weren’t here last Christmas, and Christmas isn’t Christmas without Big Brother to cut the turkey.” There, she did it! She was secretly proud of her quick thinking.

The feast was scrumptious and the dining room was filled with laughter and tears, tears from laughing of course. Joshua filled them in on some interesting and hilarious stuff from his work in Spain, including his inability to adapt to the Spanish way of thinking and speaking, prompting many funny and oft times embarrassing moments. Rose chipped in whatever he had left out either due to embarrassment or selective loss of memory.

The lively chatter continued to the living room where they sat around the fireplace and traded more jokes. May and Juliet kept being teased by Joshua about their childhood antics, such as making a mess of the kitchen one morning while Mami and everyone else were still asleep. Juliet defended their actions by explaining that the two of them only wanted to bake Mami a cake which sadly didn’t turn out quite right.

“Didn’t turn out quite right? That had to be the understatement of the year. Until then I’d never tasted a cake that looked like a bread pudding but tasted like a lump of baking soda. What were you trying to do? Make the cake rise higher than a three-tier wedding cake with all that ingredients?” Urs scoffed.

“Well, if it looked and tasted that bad then why did you try it?” Juliet asked defensively.

“Just so I would be justified to criticise,” he sneered.

Even though Mami was laughing at her children’s banter, she could see that Vanessa wasn’t participating very much in the conversation. She had seen the look on the woman’s face when Urs greeted May. He might not have noticed it but Mami could see that his affection for May had caused Vanessa to feel insecure so when she got up to go into the kitchen to bring out more snacks and drinks, she asked Urs to help her out.

As they prepared the tray of food, Mami stood beside him and said very softly, “Urs, I’m not one to pry into your private life but tell me, how are you and Vanessa getting on?”

Urs weighed Mami’s words carefully before replying, “We’re good. Why?”

“She seems like a very sensitive girl.”

“What are you saying, Mami?”

“She seems insecure. If you really love her, you should do something to assure her that you love her.”

“But what have I done to make her insecure? We’ve been together for a year now and she’s never said anything about being insecure,” he frowned as he tried to search his mind for instances of when Vanessa was angry with him over some other women but couldn’t come up with one.

Thinking that perhaps she was worrying too much, Mami conceded, “Well, if you’re sure, then I guess I’m the one who’s sensitive.” She winked at her son, drawing a chuckle from him.

Urs hugged his mother and kissed her forehead, “Thank you for your concern, Mami. Now, let’s bring these out to the hungry wolves out there.”

The night was completed with the usual Christmas church service where May became the pianist while Urs led the choir. It was the first time that Vanessa actually joined the Buhlers for the celebration and seated with Mami to one side of her and Lynette on the other side, she felt out of place among them. Although the Buhlers were warm and friendly, somehow she just didn’t feel like she belonged. And with May back home and commanding everyone’s attention, she felt even more left out. Urs had asked if she wanted to be the pianist before they flew here, saying he needed to inform Father Thomas about the arrangement but she declined. Now it seemed that she had lost her chance to really establish herself as part of the family, or rather, she had lost her chance to establish herself in Urs’s heart, seeing as how he was looking at May with so much pride and appreciation.