Scene 2 – Reconnection
“Tommy? Tommy Campbell?”
Thomas spun around in surprise. No one had called him Tommy since he was a kid and that seemed to be a long time ago. Tom mostly, or even Thomas when he was in trouble with his parents maybe, but even those lapses were long ago. He had a wonderful relationship with his Mom and Dad. While he now lived away from home working he phoned them every evening.
The woman standing looking at him clutching an upmarket handbag and dressed in modern style looked vaguely familiar. Thomas allowed his mind to race as he did a quick inventory of all those he’d know over the years. It only took seconds. The change of hairstyle perhaps to cover up the beginnings of grey hair roots and remaking of her wardrobe had him for a moment but within seconds that voice and the olive skin with vibrant smashing Latino looks homed in on happy memories.
“Aunt Naomi Renaldo?” Thomas smiled triumphantly and nodded his head as happy memories flooded in.
His reward was a quick embrace and multiple kisses on each cheek. In return Thomas planted kisses on her cheeks. He’d hated that about visiting with the Renaldo’s years ago but now it seemed to be OK.
Namoi held him at arms-length now the official greetings had been completed as Latino’s do.
“Tommy, you’ve developed into a real man, and a handsome one at that. Wait until I tell Katie I’ve seen you. She’ll be glad and would love to see you. Are you busy or can we sit and talk for a while? I need to know about your parents and what you’ve been up to all the years we’ve lost touch.”
Thomas nodded. “I’m just chilling out this afternoon Aunt Naomi it is Sunday, or have you forgotten? I work hard enough during the week, so Sunday is my day to watch a ball game or check out the mall.”
“Good, good!” Naomi grabbed him by the arm and marched him through the different lanes of the mall until they reached her chosen destination. It was a Mexican restaurant. They swept inside, and Naomi guided him into one of the private booths. Then stood and in rapid Spanish with much hand waving summonsed a waiter who rushed to the booth where an order was given then changed and then changed again. All this in Spanish with regular interjections to Thomas in English explaining what she was ordering.
Thomas smiled the warmth of being with family, as that was what the Renaldo’s had been in his growing up years. Scenes of his Mom and Naomi going everywhere together being in and out of each other’s homes, their camping vacations together rushed into memory. He had a limited knowledge of Spanish from those years and some school units of study but was a bit rusty having not used it for years.
With the waiter out of the way Naomi resumed her questioning.
“Where are your parents now? We kind of lost touch when Ricky was reassigned to Brazil for a while and our shipment somehow disappeared. When the container was finally located it had been well looted and we lost all our contact addresses and much of our furniture. Fortunately, our photo albums survived, and we eventually got insurance after a long wait. You’d moved to a new location or I’d have remembered your address from the good old days.”
Naomi began to tear up. “I missed our vacations together!”
Thomas shifted uncomfortably in his seat and was relieved when the waiter arrived with several plates of food and Naomi was reenergized as she inspected the food minutely scolding the waiter if she were not happy with a dish accompanied by much hand waving. When the waiter retired gratefully she turned to him again nodding appreciatively at the food.
“It’s good, I just have to keep them on their toes and they know me here.”
Thomas grateful for the change of mood responded.
“Mom was devastated when her letters to the old address she had for you were returned. She’d no idea what had happened to you, the possibility of Brazil would have been far from her mind. We moved a few times since we last saw you too. I’ll inform them I’ve seen you again and if you give me your current address and phone number I’ll pass that along. I work in this city now, do you by chance live around here? Where does Uncle Ricky work now?”
Naomi’s mood changed again, and she stared at the table for a moment fork in hand then put it down slowly and reached into her purse to take out a box of tissues. Her lips quivered as she dabbed her eyes. Thomas resumed his seat shifting discomfort. What was he saying to produce these emotional outbursts? Eventually Naomi looked up and gave a sad smile.
“Ricky died a year ago. He’d been out in the Brazilian jungles doing mineral research for the government and got sick. He never fully recovered. We returned from Brazil and he was diagnosed with cancer. Ricky says it was from being exposed to some chemical which I can’t remember the name of. The memories are painful. The multinational he worked for gave a huge payout to avoid me going to court, but that is not the same as having Ricky.”
Thomas murmured his sorrow. He didn’t know what to say.
Naomi wiped her eyes and recovered quickly.
“Let’s not spoil this happy occasion! Your Uncle Ricky loved you Tommy. You were the son he didn’t have so he made the most of those vacations hiking with you and your Dad. I guess you don’t like to be called Tommy any more, what shall I call you?”
Thomas shrugged. “I really don’t mind after all we’re family, but everyone calls me Tom, so they may not know who you’re talking about if you call me Tommy.”
Naomi laughed, “OK Tom. Now catch me up on what your family has been up to all these years, and specially you.”
Thomas shrugged again. “Did my schooling in a couple of cities and got my MA recently. I’m working here now with a company specializing in robotics. A long way from the old Lego set isn’t it? Dad’s still working, he’s quit working as an engineer and works in auto industry administration now. They’re a hundred miles from here, but I go home weekends as much as possible.”
Naomi nodded. “I just did a calculation and if I’m not mistaken you’re twenty-five now. I suppose you’ll be getting married soon. I don’t know who your young lady would be do I?”
Thomas blushed. “No wonder you and Mom get on so well, she’s always fishing for that kind of information too. I have no permanent interest yet.”
He decided to divert the conversation. “What’s Katie doing now, is she married?”
Naomi brightened immediately.
“Kate is in Europe, a business trip. She has a studio apartment and works from home. She’s been working for a fashion house since leaving school and is doing quite well. She supervises my outfits as you will have noted by what I’m wearing. Took some getting used to but she can be persuasive. At least that much of her Latino background has survived gringo society. Brazil didn’t seem to do much for her. She’s taken her Dad’s death hard as I have. I stay in her apartment to look after things when she’s travelling. We are careful after losing so much of our treasures at the docks in Rio. She phones in every evening to see how I’m doing. Can I give you her cell phone number?” Without waiting for a response, she scribbled a number on a table napkin and handed it over the table.
“Does she have anyone special steering her into marriage?” It was a question asked by Thomas out of family interest rather than an expression of personal interest.
Naomi eyed him carefully. “She’s had a series of interests but when they get too close she pushes them away. The current guy is, how you say it in English, a dork? I don’t like him at all and I tell her so and that’s probably why she still sees him to show me she’s grown up now and shouldn’t be managed.”
Memories of Katie’s leadership qualities in childhood came back and Thomas laughed and nodded. “Sounds like Katie I knew.”
Both laughed, and Naomi stood and called loudly for service. The Waiter came running and she indicated the table should be cleared and the bill bought to the table. There was a flurry of activity and the bill surfaced. The waiter knew Naomi was a generous tipper. She reached for the plate and Thomas gently put her hand down and took it instead.
“I need to check the bill and see we’re not cheated!” Naomi murmured uncertainly.
Thomas put his credit card on the plate after writing in a generous tip. The waiter had looked crestfallen when Thomas took the bill but having seen the customary tip he nodded and bowed in appreciation. Naomi who’d half risen to observe the transaction nodded and smiled too. It seemed their Latino influence on him growing up had not been in vain. She studied him thoughtfully.
“Will you help me find a good husband for my Kate?” Naomi stood looking at him expectantly.
Thomas smiled, he understood what his adopted Aunt was thinking but played along. “Of course!” The best defence was to agree and end the conversation.
“Good, you will now come with me to see Kate’s apartment and projects she’s working on.”
Thomas had planned on going home after shopping to watch a ball game, but his curiosity aroused he nodded, and they moved toward the entrance of the mall.
“It’s only a few blocks from the Mall, you look like you need the exercise.”
They moved briskly dodging shoppers until the crowd thinned as they moved in the direction of the business district which was five miles away. Being Sunday, it was much less crowded away from the Mall and with much of the business district closed.
When they reached what looked like an old unused factory which had moved business out into the country near a rail outlet Naomi paused. She punched in a code by a doorway and entered heading to an elevator where she punched in another number.
Naomi spoke. “Doesn’t look much on the outside, but the inside of the factory has been converted into a hundred studio apartments. They reached the third level and the door to the wire cage elevator opened to let them out. The corridor was decorated with the artistic work of countless artists that were either still in residence or had been in residence in the past. It was eye catching and Thomas compared it with the sterile modern building that up to now he’d cherished. It would be fun to be here he thought as they moved silently down a long corridor to their eventual destination. Naomi punched in some more numbers and the door unlocked.
“You’d be trapped in here if the power went down.” Thomas gave his apartment a better grade thinking of that.
“There are keys to deal with that and over-ride if the power ever did go down and of course the fire escape stair ways.” Naomi smiled at the thought as she indicated he should enter.
“Wow!” It just slipped out and Naomi looked pleased. Thomas took in the unanticipated spaciousness of the apartment and the clever way Kate had partitioned it to give access to wall to ceiling glass looking out over the city from this slightly elevated part of town. He took in each compartment quickly pausing to examine the area with the most space where behind low partitions lay Kate’s work areas with sophisticated computer and video equipment. He peered at the huge flat touch screen where Kate did her design conceptionalizing. Naomi went to the screen and resurrected a series of her current designs.
“I set Kate up out of the big settlement we received after Rick’s death, do you like it?” Each studio apartment is owned with a body corporate to look after the maintenance of the building. Everyone pays a monthly fee to cover employment and maintenance and it works out just fine. The Body Corporate holds a substantial deposit for each person. If you fall behind they take out anything you owe, and you get the buy in money net back and are asked to leave. It’s all written out by the law firm they retain, and the legal firm has the clout to see you go when asked to.”
Naomi went to a desk and retrieved one of Kate’s calling cards handing it to him.
“If you want to catch that ball game you better get going. If you want to visit again you press the number of the studio apartment on the console by the door and if Katie or I are home, we’ll unlock the door electronically and you know the way up from there. Please don’t lose track of us now our families are reunited again. I’ll be phoning your Mother to tell her the good news and plan for us to get together soon after Kate returns from Europe. I’ll see we don’t lose the contact address you gave us this time.
Of course, you should phone me so I won’t be so lonely at least once a week while Kate is away. You’d do that for your Aunt wouldn’t you? Here’s my number. And you promised to help me find my Kate a good husband. I’ll hold you to that!”
Naomi hugged him and planted kisses on both cheeks again. “Can you find your way back down?”
Thomas nodded and headed for the door. Forget the ball game, he could hardly wait to get back to his apartment and phone his parents to give them the good news.
To be continued.
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