perfectelle

Any painkiller has side effects. Use with cautions.

Chasing the Lion

The room was painted in cream. I sat on the leather-covered chair, supported by its wooden feet. Expensive furniture stood proudly every here and there, but all I could feel was the cold in my back. On the long table, sat a long case made from a crafted black teak. It glimpsed some kind of vicious silence like a coffin.

“Please sign here, Addie.”

The man in Armani suit shifted the paper close to me. I didn’t even pay attention to the long speech he gave before. My face went flat and I took the Parker pen. I could feel Mom’s hand on my right shoulder.

I signed the paper. The man grabbed the teak case and opened up the lid. A long, slim metal gleamed in glory, lying in the protection of red velvet sheet. A golden lion, standing on its back feet, carved beautifully on its hilt. I glanced to it, feeling small and scared. Has the sword ever killed anyone? Because right now, I feel like it is taking my life, the only life I’ve ever known.

My head was spinning as the elevator took us down the 46 floors. The warm sunray in May struck our faces as we stepped out of the triumphant tower building. The impatient sounds of horns screamed from the busy street.

The big teak case was heavy in my left arm. I stopped at the second cobbled stair. Hot streams flooded down my face. I couldn’t hold it.

“Mom, why did you never tell me?”

***

It was one week earlier when I rushed my bicycle down the quiet block at the outskirt of the town. It was a gloomy afternoon. I didn’t want to be soaking wet by the time I reach our cosy house.

There he was in our living room with my mom, in his pretentious suit. The lawyer grabbed my hand and expressed his condolences. Mom handed the papers to me. My eyes scanned them quickly and found a familiar name that I didn’t recognize.

I knew Katherine Burton. She was the grandmother I’ve never met, who lived in England. But Lady Katherine Burton?

When the lawyer left, I stared at my mom, confused. She released a heavy breath, and led me to the attic. I had never entered that tight room for years, since my dad died I guess. We stepped over the old stuffs, my broken doll, piles of books eaten by termites. Mom reached a dusty wooden box. She rubbed the upper lid with her naked hand and opened it.

The first thing she gave me was an old black and white photograph of a man in tweed suit, a woman in midi-length dress, and two little boys in shorts and long socks. Then she handed me a pile of old letters and a postcard.

I flipped the photo. Neat cursive handwriting was spotted at the bottom. Lord John Burton, 9th Earl of Rachdale, Lady Katherine Burton, Colin Burton, 10th Earl of Rachdale, Arthur Burton.

Colin Burton was my dad.

***

“You? A Lady?”

Ben and Dany fell in laughter. I frowned on my seat in my bed.

“I don’t want it. You can take it if you want. But I don’t f*cking want it!”

The words slid out of my mouth before I realized it, and so did the tears from my eyes. It didn’t sound any close to a Lady, I knew it. In the past three days, I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I was an ordinary girl living in a small town. I never got a spectacular grade in class, I wasn’t a hot chic who’d been chased by all the guys. I complained about my life every now and then, but now I thought about the easy life I had and it all felt so far away. I couldn’t sleep at night. I couldn’t see what was coming, and it horrified me.

My two besties stopped laughing. Dany crawled up my bed and pulled me into her arms.

“Everything’s gonna be alright, Addie.”

Ben sat on the tip of the bed, “Okay, let’s try to work this out. So what’s in the letter your grandma left you?”

I reached the drawer next to bed and pulled an envelope from inside it. There was a pile of other dusty papers under that letter, including the photograph and postcard Mom gave to me at the attic.

I opened the envelope and pulled the letter before handed it to Ben.

“Dear Adriana,

Use the words to burn it. Find the lion.

Love,

Katherine”

Ben read the cursive handwriting out lout. It was short enough to make us confused. I was confused.

“What did exactly she want from you? What is it to burn anyway?”

“How about the sword?”

“My mom is thinking about placing it in the bank. It’s still here, though.”

I pulled the black teak case from under the bed and opened it. Ben and Dany’s jaws dropped to the floor. Dany waved her hand in the air, to the sparkling metal. Ben pushed her hand away.

“Don’t touch it!”

He turned to me.

“So what do you know about your family?”

I shook my head in silence.

“You know my dad died 5 years ago when I was 15. All I know was that he was an English man who worked as an architect here, where he met my mom. For some reason, he never talked with his family in England. I never met my grandma.”

“What do you know about your grandmother?”

“Not much. Well, she sent me a book on my birthday 3 years ago. It was weird, actually. “The Mystery of The Secret Room” from the “Five Find-Outers” series by Enid Blyton. Well, it was a good book, but did it fit a 17 year-old? She also wrote some kind of poem in the card, I remember. “One day, the words will be the key.”

“Maybe she got dementia already at that time and thought you were 7 instead.”

“What did your mom said?”

“She gave me these stuffs that my dad left her. She just said that Dad didn’t want to recall the facts he left in England, so they never really talked about it.”

I pulled the pile of the old items from the drawer. They were all spread on the bed sheet. We checked them one by one.

“Look at this postcard. It’s from Yorkshire.”

We read the postcard together.

“Dear Colin,

Live well.

Love,

A”

I started to wonder if these English people were such a fond of short, confusing sentences.

***

“Addie, hurry up! Ben is here,” Dany yelled at me while my hands were busy flipping burger in the kitchen.

Some hot oil spilled to my hand, leaving red, painful spots. Does a Lady work at a lame diner after class like I do?

I rushed to the door with hands full with two big black trash bags. I almost bumped a middle-aged man who was smoking outside.

“So, what did you find?” I sat beside Ben after I stripped my apron off. Dany had changed her working uniform with the outfit she wore to class earlier.

“You might like this,” Ben shifted his laptop facing me.

I read the page viewed on the monitor.

Clan Burton is one of the most ancient clans in England. Historically one of the larger of the Highland clans, their lands were Rachdale and the chief of the clan became the Earl and later the Duke of Rachdale. The family of went on to become firm supporters of King Richard I and benefited from his successes with grants of lands, titles and good marriages.  They fought for England at the Poitou Rebellion in 1183. During the 14th century the Clan Burton rapidly expanded its lands and power.

The family was closely associated with Richard Cœur de Lion, or mainly Richard the Lionheartand his son Sir Neil Burton was a staunch ally of King Richard I.  Sir Neil was rewarded with extensive lands that had been taken from the forfeited Lords and other enemies of the King in Rachdale, and also the sword belonged to the King named the Lionheart.

In the next 5 minutes, we were all frozen. The sword, that terrifying sword lying under my bed in my tight house in the downtown belonged to Richard the Lionheart? And I slept over it every night?

“Look,” Ben pointed at a picture on the page. It was shield-shaped colored in red, with golden small crosses and a lion standing on its back feet. Under the picture was written, “Symbol of Clan Burton.”

“Do you bring your grandma’s letter with you?”

I pulled the letter out of my pants pocket and handed it to Ben.

He pulled the letter from its envelope and turned to me, “Find the lion.”

My mouth was shut for another 10 seconds before I finally made it to say, “But I still don’t get it. Which lion? What did she want me to do?”

Ben drowned into his laptop again. I watched him typing keywords on the search engine. My heart trembled when I saw the pictures of my dad when he was a boy, playing crickets, laughing cheerfully with his father, Lord John. And the beautiful, young Lady Katherine, my grandmother.

Lord John Burton had secretly disentailed Colin, the heir of Clan Burton, seven years before his death in 1987. John had left the family’s Rachdale Castle and much of the 58,000-acre estate, to Angelika, his tall, marble-skinned, auburn-haired second wife, whose attractions the two Burton children had long found hard to understand. As Lady Katherine, John’s first wife and Colin’s mother, revealed her former husband had broken the code that had bound the head of their family to their castle, that fist of stone that had been theirs since the 14th century: “John had neither earned nor bought Rachdale. It had taken no talent to receive all this extraordinary privilege other than being born the correct sex. These possessions were entrusted to his care, but Rachdale was not his. Not only had he shafted his own son in the will rewrite, he had shafted the previous twenty-four generations. This stony treasure had survived six hundred years of wild England history, including a crucial battle fought on its doorstep, yet it took only one drunken rake to piss it away.”

Colin and Arthur Burton rejected the life of privilege that was open to them as the children of a wealthy aristocrat and married proletariat women. They are now living in the shade of tree.

I took my hand to shut my dropped mouth. What on earth was this? Was that the father I knew for 15 years they were talking about? My dad with his warm, wide-open arms that always hugged me when he got back home at nights? My dad who made the best fish and chips in the world on Sunday, the meal that I’d never got tired of? My dad, who was the first person who taught me to ride a bicycle? I felt Dany’s arms around my shrugging shoulder.

“Do you want to continue? We can go home if you want to.”

“Go on, Ben,” I heard my sore voice talking.

Another picture popped up in the page after Ben typed on the search column the keyword, “Rachdale”. An old, grant, glorious stone castle appeared in the monitor.

“Rachdale Castle,” Dany’s voice shivered a bit.

My head was spinning so hard that I felt like I was going to melt down under the table after I read the following text.

In common with the majority of historic homes, Rachdale Castle has been hired out for film shoots, conferences, and weddings. Currently, the 58,000 acres of building and the surrounding land is put up for sale by its owner, Lady Angelika Campbell, for the price of £14 million (approximately $23 million).

“She’s not doing it! That was the land that King Richard gave to your noble family!”

I shut Dany’s mouth with my hand. We were lucky the diner was not that crowded that night.

“Addie,” Lady Katherine’s letter was hung in Ben’s hand in front of my face, “What do you think your grandmother was trying to tell you?”

It was difficult to think when your head was overwhelmed with unexpected stuffs. But believe me, when a shocking moment slapped your face that hard, there was no room for dramatic emotion anymore.

I tried to recall what was left in my memory about my grandmother. The book. The poetic words three years ago. The Mystery of the Secret Room… The words is the key…

I suddenly stood off my seat. I rushed to a middle-aged man who was sitting in the table in the front of us, the man that was smoking outside. I borrowed his light and returned to our table. I grabbed the letter from Ben’s hand before he could stop it.

“Addie, don’t!”

But I already fired it up. I stepped back so my friends couldn’t reach me and put the light right under the center of the paper. Seconds later, we were all tongue-tied, my friends in their seats, me standing with the paper and the light in my hands. But I smiled.

Good old British sense of humor, Grandma.

In my hand, above the fire, a few brownish big capital letters appeared slowly on the paper just from behind the neat cursive black letters. A simple trick all Enid Blyton’s readers must have generated: the secret ink.

The characters went clear.

YORKSHIRE.

***

I gazed at the dark, small houses attached one to another next to the downtown street outside the bus window. They looked like running from here. Why was Dad running away from England?

My grandmother, from her statements I read in the news, was obviously wanting her children to get their right as the official heir of Rachdale. But my dad, the legitimate 10th Earl of Rachdale seemed like throwing it all away. If he ever wanted the glamorous privilege, why did he come here and marry my mother at the first place?

Some scenes were rolling blurry in my head. They were somehow coming more and more clearly. The reason why my dad left England, the reason why he had this hard relationship with his mother, and the reason why he’d never told me anything at all. My father, with all his love to his family and to me, gave his best protection to keep me away from all the tough aristocracy world as so I could get a decent normal life. I wondered what would happen if my dad was still here. Would he let his stepmother gave up his magnificent, historical place where he was raised?

I took my wallet and pulled the old photograph I got from the box at the attic. The four people in it smiled cheerfully. I pushed my eyes to the boy in shorts and long socks with the face looked just like my picture when I was a kid. Then I looked over the other boy. Arthur Burton. My uncle who was living away from the hustle and bustle in Yorkshire. The now-legitimate heir of Rachdale. The lion that my grandmother wanted me to find.

I thought about my own life, the 20 years I have lived in this quiet downtown. Me, Adriana Burton, a girl who worked in a diner packed with middle-aged guys after class to pay my college fee. I didn’t speak that British accent that is considerably sexy. I’ve never even got a good grade in History. Now I drowned in this puzzle of my baffling English family story. Plus the appalling title that never came across my mind, yet I was born with: a Lady. I am the heir of the Lionheart sword, a fact which had inevitably made me think about the King Arthur’s one that gave him the glory for his country. That strength was what my grandmother tried, with all her heart, to send me.

I opened the door and went straight to the kitchen. Mom was there, washing the dishes just like usual. I looked at her back, her humble slender figure. She had her hair tied up on her head, like all ordinary housewives do. No one could say my mom looked like the Countess of Rachdale. But for me, she was the greatest lady ever lived, raising her child alone under the shade of the tree, making sure I had the life that my father always wanted.

I stood next to her, took a dirty dish and started to wash it. When it was spotlessly clean, I handed it to her.

“Mom,” I whispered, “I have to go to England.”

She turned her head to me, her small lips opened up a bit without any sound coming. Then she smiled.

 

Tulisan ini termasuk dalam salah satu dari 75 Finalis Blog Competition #InggrisGratis oleh Mister Potato Indonesia.

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This entry was posted on Mei 31, 2014 by in Fiction and tagged , .
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