Arthur and I have gotten so close as a couple, we told each other everything. I told him about my sisters and he told me about his family. When he was telling his story, I expected to hear 'I was an only child' or 'My family is pretty wealthy'. The second phrase was true.
I've seen pictures of his brother and sisters, their spouses, his parents, his nephews and niece, and his Grandpa Lemon. They all looked like such wonderful people to talk to.
That Christmas, I got to meet them.
As Arthur drove toward his parents house, I was goggling out the window. He probably supposed I was counting the sparkles in the snow. French snow isn't Canadian snow for a fact but my mind was on the family.
Him and his siblings were all named after heroes in medieval stories. Lance and Gwen were the oldest of the quad. He took over his fathers position as the head of a boarding school chain. She was a Child Protective Services agent. Based on the way Arthur spoke about them, I knew he was thankful to have them.
That wasn't the case for Morgana. Every family had a bad egg. Morgana sounded like a hot egg. In a way, she reminded me of Mirra but I doubt that she could do what Mirra does.
When it comes to parents, in my opinion, there's the nice parent and the strict parent. Mr. Bishop was the enjoyable parent. He was said the have the sense of humor and the ability to take a joke. He was tranquil and forgiving while Mrs. Bishop was merciless and neurotic. If there were a crumb on the floor, she would have the kids gather around and demand who was responsible. Usually no one would talk, so they would all get in trouble.
Mr. Bishops father, Grandpa Lemon, was the provocative member of the family. He didn't care who was around when he used foul language. He'd talk about sex to children if he wanted to. Arthur explained that he's called Grandpa Lemon because he can eat lemons as if they were oranges. He was ninety-three years old!
Then there was the niece and the nephews. Lance and his wife had a teen daughter named Evelyn who Arthur described as 'shy' and 'quiet'. Gwens three boys, Robin, Ralph, and Randy, liked to run around any house they were in and pretend they were soldiers. That was understandable since none of them have reached age ten.
I was envisioning myself first meeting the members. Would we engage with kisses on the cheeks or hugs or just a simple handshake? I was afraid if I couldn't identify the right approach for each person, I'd give them a bad impression.
Arthur certainly didn't want that to happen. My workaholic gentlemen boyfriend wanted his family to love me. Coming to a Christmas party at their house in a knee length dress wasn't enough for them. So this guy, during his Christmas shopping, went to Elie Saab to buy me a gown. He could have gone to a department store, but no.
Regardless, the gown was gorgeous. I felt like an ice princess in it. It reached the floor like Cinderellas with matching fur strips on the bodice. What I couldn't stop doing was feeling the velvet belt and fingering the brooch attached to it. Mirra would have been greener than the Grinch with envy.
As Arthur stopped the car, I looked to see the front of the neighborhood. Just by looking at the name of Swan Lake and the ivory gates, I could tell this place would inspire me. The whole entrance of the neighborhood was adorned with Christmas lights. Because of the early nights, the lights looping the trees looked like flying stars.
"Welcome back sir." The gatekeeper opened the gate, sending me into the utopian cul-de-sac.
"Imagine living in houses like these." He marveled.
Without a doubt, the exteriors of the homes were incredible; they had walls that looked like stone bricks from a distance, Hercules- inspired columns, and sculptures of mighty animals sitting by the door.
"I wonder what they look like on the inside."
"Once you see my parents house you probably won't care what those other people have."
Well, I had to see. We reached the end of the neighborhood and pulled into the circle of the last house. Instead of going right, Arthur turned the car left so I had a direct view of his childhood home.
"Here we are." The car engine died. "It's something, isn't it?"
Arthurs first home was like the others but bigger. Instead of white, the walls were grey like the inside of a medieval kitchen. It did have bits of Greek to go with the medieval adornments. On their front porch were snowy columns standing next to two lion sculptures. As for more medieval, the windows on the first floor were rectangular with triangles within them and the upstairs windows were circular.
It made me excited to meet the house as well as the people inside.
Arthur was already at my door, opening it for me and taking my hand as I stepped out. I already missed the glorious heat of the car.
Because of my shoes and the ice on the ground, I was at a high risk for snapping my ankle again. Arthur kept me up securely by snaking his arm around my waist. "Watch your step." He guided me up the little stone steps. Through the glass, I could see an older man in white with his hands behind his back, immobile as a palace guard in England. Instantly when he spotted us, a little smile crept on his lips.
"How nice to see you again Arthur." He greeted warmly. "Very pleased you came to join."
"Thank you Lawrence." Arthur nodded. "Ariadne, this is Lawrence. He's the family butler."
"Delighted you came tonight Mam." He spoke more like a godfather than a butler. "Allow me to take your coats."
I slipped off my furry jacket to feel the coldness from outside on my shoulders. "Oh, the presents." I remembered.
"Not to worry. Lawrence would be happy to get them." Arthur assured. "Now lets get you into a warmer room."
I was only in the foyer of the house but I was immediately astonished by the interior design and architecture, especially since it was pepped up for the holiday.
The Bishops must have loved horses because there was a giant horse painting, a horse sculpture, and a framed picture of a little boy on a white stallion. Looking closely at the picture, I realized that kid was Arthur.
"This is you?" I asked him as I held up the picture.
"I was the favorite." He said.
Our eyes looked over as we heard footsteps approaching. "Well, well, well look who decided to show up!" His older brother Lance had heard us. Based on the photo I saw, nothing seemed to be different. Lance had eyes almost as narrow as his brothers but mysteriously grey. He showed me what Arthurs hair would look like if it wasn't gelled all the time; Arthur told me Lance was the fun one of them and I could tell by the tieless suit and the eggnog hanging from his fist.
His arms were open wide, silently saying, 'C'mon Artie give your big bro a hug!' Lances built body was already around him. "Good to have you home!"
"Glad I could make it." If any other man hugged him like that, they would have their bodies thrown off them instantly.
"Gwen and Grandpa Lemon are already here." Lance told him after their embrace broke. Arthur nodded as if he didn't care quite yet.
"Ariadne, this is my brother Lance." Arthur introduced us, correctly of course. "Lance, this is my girlfriend Ariadne."
Lance enthusiastically squeezed my hand and shook it roughly. "It is very nice to finally see you in person."
"Gwen!" An old voice roared angrily into our heads. "Tell your god damn children to turn that shit off on the computer!" Lance shook his head.
"I see Grandpa hasn't changed."
"Oh no." Lance chortled. "Same old Grandpa… lets make sure he doesn't destroy the kitchen again."
Again? I was expecting an interesting encounter as the three of us paced into the kitchen.
It was huge. The room where they prepared their meals was four times the normal size with multiple ovens and refrigerators. Instead of their mother or father preparing the Christmas dinner, there were two women who I assumed were Lances wife and their daughter. For two women preparing an extravagant meal, the only thing protecting their dresses from stains were aprons.
Suddenly three young boys zoomed past me like three little roadrunners, each one smaller than the other. I felt the back of my skirt fly a bit as their laughter faded. Whatever prank they pulled on Grandpa set him off well.
The old man himself stepped in like Santas evil twin, hungry to kill. "Vince, control your damn boys!"
"What did they do?" Lance questioned.
"Oh God damn that was the shittiest thing I've seen in my life!" he hollered. "Those damn boys showed me some annoying ass fucking Friday video!" That video. Yeah, I think I'm going to like this guy. I couldn't help but to snicker. "What the fuck are you laughing at?" he snapped at me. That made Arthur glare over at him.
"I feel your pain." I told him. "I'm sorry, but everyone hates that video. But nobody's overreacted the way you have."
"Grandpa, this is Arties girlfriend Ariadne." Lance growled. "So be nice to her."
"How much is he paying you?" was his immediate reaction. That was exactly what Eames asked me after he found out we started dating. "How do you spell your name?"
Lance patted Grandpa Lemons shoulder. "Why don't you relax in the library for a couple moments?" He suggested calmly. "I'll make sure Vince talks to the boys. Try not to throw too many books."
"I'll run over their presents if he doesn't."
Lance nodded, pretending to understand. The two women behind the kitchen counter weren't preparing the food but starring at them. "Before I leave, Ariadne that's my lovely wife Katie and our daughter Evelyn." I approached them to have a conversation as Lance escorted their grandfather out of the kitchen.
There was something about Katie that simply captivated me; she was unusually beautiful. Her eyes were blue like a cats and her hair was hazelnut like hot cocoa. Katie didn't need to bare her teeth to give me a pretty smile; she had a pretty smirk.
Evelyn was more of an image of her father while portraying Violet Parr from The Incredibles, only with realistic body proportions. She even had strait black hair pushed back with a headband the way Violet did.
"So you're Arthurs girlfriend that he's been talking about." Katie started as she returned to finalizing the meal. "First time meeting the whole family?"
"Yeah." I almost sighed. "I haven't met every one yet." Evelyn was quiet, tending to her business as if I was invisible.
"Well you have nothing to be afraid of." She said. "The mom is a little nuts and the grandpa as you can see has anger issues, but other than that this family is pretty normal."
Arthur informed me about his mother being a little off. I scoped the kitchen to make sure no older women were in range when I asked, "How nuts is she?"
"Well…" Katie had a long list in her mind. "She has some issues with giving her children away to their spouses, she smokes a lot, and she freaks out over the smallest tattoo. She'll freak out if there's a stain on her clothes." I was reminded of the little tattoo behind my right shoulder. It was just a tiny little word in solid back remembrance to my mother who passed away. My tattoo was showing. "Oh… and if you and Arthur had already slept together, don't tell her."
"It's not as if she could stop us." Said Arthur strongly.
"Well I have to go meet them. Wish me luck."
Arthur and I stepped into the family room, arms linked. The entire area was illuminated by the white lights on their tree. It was the tallest tree I have ever seen, accessorized with gold and red ornaments. Boxes of silver and gold went all the way from the trunk to the fireplace.
Arthurs parents were having cocktails with Gwen and a broad-shouldered man who was her husband. When I saw Mrs. Bishop, she was smoking a cigarette and leaning by the counter. Her hair was tied up but her skin was hanging down. I'm so glad I had quit smoking.
"Arthur!" Gwens arms flexed around him. "Merry Christmas little brother!"
"So you decided to come join us?" Mrs. Bishop smirked. "How nice."
Arthur cleared his throat. "Ariadne, this is my father, my mother, and my sister Gwen. And this is her husband Vince."
Gwen greeted me with a gentle hug. "I'm so happy to finally meet you!"
"You too." I smiled warmly. After interacting with Gwen, I was met up by Mr. Bishop. He was very happy for someone with no hair.
"Ariadne, so glad you could come." He kissed me on the cheek. "Call me Phil."
"That's quite a gown dear." Mrs. Bishop commented. "Is that fur?"
I looked down at the bust of my gown. "Oh no, it's fake. But Arthur bought it for me to wear tonight." Now was the time to try and be a kiss up to the head mistress. "I've been looking forward to meeting you guys for a while now. Thank you for inviting me over tonight."
"It's a pleasure!" Mr. Bishop exclaimed. "Please, feel free to proceed to the living room for drink and orderbs."
"Thank you." I turned away to do as he said when I heard,
"Is that a tattoo!"
Oh no. Not the impression I wanted to make.
"Honey, it's tiny." Mr. Bishop insisted. "You need to take it easy."
"I'm sorry if it offends you." Now I was on defense mode. "It says 'Bliss' which is the name of my mother. She died in a car crash where I nearly lost my ability to walk. I miss her and I wanted to honor her. It wouldn't be there if she was alive."
Mrs. Bishops hand was on her heart. She didn't even see that her cigarette was burning out.
"I am very sorry." She gasped. "I didn't know."
"Well maybe you should think before you act."
I stepped into the living room to see another Christmas tree, only a portion smaller with more juvenile decorations. The goodies underneath were covered with Santas, reindeers and snowflakes. Also unlike the other three, the lights stringing around the fir were colored. Gwen was in the corner having a sip of her cocktail as my boyfriend and her husband struck up a conversation.
"You have two trees?" I asked her a bit confused.
"These are presents for the kids." Gwen explained, half approving and half disapproving. "My dad says it's his duty to spoil his grandchildren."
"Well it is." I agreed with that rule. After I started living with my grandparents, they spoiled me rotten to the point where I thought I was Veruca Salt. "I've never seen so many presents in one place actually."
"Are you serious?" Gwen seemed a bit surprised.
"I used to get about three presents a year." I shrugged. My family wasn't poor, just frugal. Our family of five lived in a two-bedroom, one and a half bathroom house with a crammed kitchen and TV room. I couldn't remember the last time I've ever been in such an enormous and beautiful household. "Not any more though, since I went to live with my grandparents. And besides, look what Arthur got me."
I lifted up the skirt of my gown.
"My brother bought that?"
I nodded excitingly. "He's such a sweetheart."
"You lucky girl."
We could hear the door swing and slam in the foyer and a build up of tapping shoes. The last guest had arrived.
"That has to be Morgana." Gwen assumed. "A word of advice about her; she hates everyone she doesn't know well. So if she acts like a bitch, ignore it."
"Will do… Arthur told me already about her."
"Morgana you are late as always." We listened to her mother lecturing. "You do know that if you show up late, the celebration of the Lord will be stalled."
"Nice to see you too mother." Morgana grumbled.
"And what did you do to your hair?"
"I cut it."
"It looks like a carwreck."
"My hair, not yours."
Gwen sighed. "Every family has a rebel."
"Two in mine." I mentioned, slowly sinking into the quick sand of sleep. "Do you have any chocolate? I'm a little tired."
Gwen rotated her neck around the room. "I think they're hiding it so the kids won't find them. Couldn't sleep?"
"We had to get up early today to go to the homeless shelter." Every Christmas, I volunteer at a homeless shelter. The fact that not all the children got to experience the joy of Christmas broke my heart. I would walk down the streets this time of year and see people with signs, their children shivering behind them. While families like Arthurs got to rip open expensive gifts, others were lucky if they had just a warm coat.
"That is so generous of you." Gwen praised. "I gotta get my boys to do that because they could use a lesson or two about poverty. They think, 'It's not gonna happen to us'." I shook my head.
"We always think, 'It will never be me,' and then it is."
"So you dragged Arthur there, did you manage to convince him to dress down?"
I chuckled. "My best friend calls him Sinatra… but he had fun. He got to play piano."
"Ah." Gwen nodded. "Do you play?"
"Oh no." I laughed. "I can't sing, dance or play an instrument. But I've mastered most forms of art."
Gwens eyebrows popped. "So you're an artist."
"Well… I'm an architect. But art is super-important factor for that."
"Sounds stressful." Gwen took a sip of her cocktail, easily impressed.
"Well what's it like working as a child services agent?" I asked curiously. Maybe she could give me early mothering advice.
"It's a pain in the ass." Gwen sighed. "It's just swearing parents, children crying and there's so much drama it's like Greys Anatomy. This one mother wouldn't stop interrupting me when I had to tell her something important and I nearly lost my temper. It's a good thing I'm on vacation."
Drama; I simply hated drama. A pet peeve of mine was when people had to make bad situations worse by being so dramatic about them. What I hate worse is when they try to pull me into them.
"Well we're here to drink, eat some good food and have a few laughs." I told her happily.
"That was the plan."
When the meal was finished, we were all called to the dining room to feast. That night, we had stake and lobster with several sides to choose from. Once I smelled the steak, I was dying to try some.
Mr. Bishop invited me to sit beside him at the head of the table. The adults were on one end of the table while the kids were on the other. Seeing the boys together reminded me of the days where I used to use my fork to catapult small food items.
Next to me was obviously Arthur. The other woman beside him must have been Morgana. Her hair did look like she had just chopped it herself, but it looked good short. She stood out from the family. I swear to God I have seen her before, I just couldn't remember.
The family and I had said grace and before I know it, I'm attached to the steak on my dish. Probably the tastiest (and most expensive) steak I've ever swallowed. Then Mr. Bishop stood up to grab everyone's attention.
"So as you know, we have a guest with us this year and I want her to feel welcome. Arthur brought his girlfriend Ariadne here tonight to celebrate, which is why there are more presents than before." Wait a minute, I got to get presents? "Ariadne, welcome to our family."
I was touched. Arthurs father was being so welcoming as was everyone else. Mrs. Bishop though was starring me down like a hawk.
"So Arthur tells me you're an architect." Mr. Bishop had an interested smile on him. Mrs. Bishop looked up and me, blinking a few times. I smiled back and nodded with pride.
"What I loved to do as a kid was create building models with Legos." Those were good times; a little impact on the last piece would tear the whole structure down, pieces would become missing, and I only found them if I stepped on them. "That's what I've always put on my list."
"So where did you go to school?"
"I studied pre-architecture at the University of Los Angeles and got the chance to study architecture here in Paris so I've been away from home for a long time."
"It must be expensive though." Gwen mentioned.
"It was." I told her. "But because my work at Los Angeles was outstanding, they offered to pay half my tuition."
Katies mouth dropped. "The school in Paris?"
"I know. I was just as shocked when I heard." But if I said no to Paris, there would be no Arthur. "I'm glad I went." My hand crawled onto Arthurs arm.
"Are you from LA originally?" Gwen asked. I shook my head.
"No, I've lived in Canada for eighteen years." I was proud of my Canadian roots. What's funny is when people ask, 'Wait, you're Canadian?'
"What made you decide to go to LA for school?" Vince questioned.
There's a lot to the story, but I had to lie again. "I just couldn't find good enough opportunities where I lived and thought it was time for a change." Truth be told, I had no choice but to leave Canada. After my mom died, my dad went insane and tried to kill me. As of now, he's still in that mental hospital. My grandparents took me in.
"So how have you and Arthur met?" Mrs. Bishop asked me the question we've been looking forward to hearing.
Arthur and I must have spent over two hours trying to think about a good story. We joked that the story was we were starring at each other across the cafeteria and became lab partners in biology only to have him stop a van from squishing me like a bug. But Arthur didn't stalk me at night or sparkle in the sunlight. So we thought of ideas from different movies and tried to mix them up.
"I was assigned a job to design the Coco Chanel museum." That part was actually true. I was given the opportunity after graduation to create a museum to show Paris what I was made of. "The night it opened, it was crowded and everyone was dressed up. I think I had a conversation with every single person that night."
"I was there with her professor." Arthur added. "We've met each other through his son-in-law and he asked me if I wanted to go because he had tickets. So I agreed to go. When we got there, we wanted to tour the whole building but it was too crowded. So Miles, her professor, decided to introduce us."
"We wouldn't call it love at first sight but he was such a gentlemen." I gushed. "And a few days later when I was walking to Miles' office, I saw Arthur there again."
Arthur chuckled. "He said, 'I'll leave you two alone.'"
"After I talked to Miles, I assumed I wouldn't see Arthur again… but he came to my work with a band one day. I just got off the phone and like Romeo, he was telling me he wanted to go on a date. I was surrounded by co-workers screaming, 'Say yes!'."
"Wow, Artie has guts." Said Morgana emotionlessly.
"How long have you two been together?" Mr. Bishop questioned.
"Over a year." I said proudly, cutting my steak.
"That's a record." Morgana snorted.
I was just going to assume that she was teasing her little brother playfully. Her voice was snobby and a little insulting.
"And how is the divorce going?" Arthur fired back tranquilly. "What is this, your third one?" When I wasn't paying attention, my mouth dropped.
Morganas reaction wasn't as huge as I was taking cover for. "For your information Artie, he couldn't give me what I wanted. None of them could."
"Drop that subject before a fight breaks out." Mr. Bishop snarled. "It's Christmas you two and since you don't see each other as often, so be nice."
Watching families argue isn't something I'm strong at listening to. Normally, when I witness my sisters bickering, I take the mother-role. With other families, it's sort of awkward. Breaking the ice was mandatory.
"So what do you do for a living?" I asked her. When her face shifted to the 'why do you want to know' mold I added, "Arthur didn't know so…"
"Oh…" Morgana slouched back in her chair. "I'm a nude model."
I knew she looked familiar!
"Oh my god, I think I sketched you once." I was getting a little too excited. "I took lots of art classes and when I saw you, all I was thinking was that you looked like one of the models."
"Which student were you?" Arthur was impressed that I threw her mood backwards.
"I was the one in the scarf."
She processed the image through her mind, like a computer loading an information webpage. "Oh yeah… that was a few years ago though. Small world."
The conversations carried on until everyone was finished eating. I wanted to help with the dishes but Evelyn wouldn't let me because of my gown. So I had to wait a while and then the kids got to open their presents. Arthur and I watched as the boys screamed over the toys we bought them. Seeing the kids run around reminded me of something important.
I was dying to ask Arthur for a baby. Absolutely desperate. I was just so afraid he'd say no because he'd be a great father. We knew we were meant for each other but Arthur can be so stubborn sometimes.
When all the wrapping paper was cleaned up, the family transferred to the family room to the adult tree. Boxes wrapped in gold and silver had been thrown at each person. I had about twenty gifts waiting to be opened.
By the end of the night, any troubles I had before were gone. The Bishops have been so loving and caring and I didn't need to receive gifts to realize that. I knew that they were the family I wanted to join. And whatever awkward moments have happened would get better with time. Besides, I got Morgana to be nice and made her mothers mouth drop.
I think I have this family in my control.