“Giubilante Con Calore”
T H E I N F I N I T Y S E R I E S
* II *
Author: D. Sanders
The Rest of this un-proofread monstrosity can be Found here:
Romi climbed in grateful not having to walk in the cold. “Thanks! You came along just in time. My toes are frozen.”
“I hear ya, I haven’t felt my toes since I got here.” Phineas chuckled as he closed the door and continued to fly home.
“We do get cold here. What’s your name by the way?”
“Oh sorry, Phineas.”
“Hiya Phineas, thanks for the ride.”
“No problem.” Phineas smiled as the house came into view and he landed the hopper in the bay beside the house and escorted Romi inside.
Cris and Beau’s shuttle landed just a few minutes later and in no time they had Romi whisked away on-board the “Infinity” to record.
Phineas, Val and Farin accompanied by Erin and Tovi, who opted to ride on the large sled Val was dragging by a rope headed toward the line of fresh pines that covered the foothills across the field. Farin had an old fashioned axe over his shoulder and Phineas had his hands shoved in his pockets, a length of rope coiled over his shoulder.
“Papa, why are we cutting down a tree?”
“Cause, we decorate it for Winterfest. It’s so pretty.” Erin answered and Val chuckled.
“She’s right Princess. When I was a little boy your age my favorite part of Winterfest was decorating the tree with my mama.” Val said as they hunted for the perfect tree for the living room. There were thousands to choose from, it wasn’t going to be difficult.
“Mommy is making popcorn that we get to put on strings to hang on it too.” Erin clapped, it was the first year she wasn’t too little to help and she was excited.
“And I have paper to make chains out of later girls. That was my favorite thing to make as a boy.” Val stated, he’d bought already cut strips of colored paper and glue, he was probably looking forward to making them with Tovi more than Tovi was looking forward to making them. He loved being a father more than he ever thought he would have. Tovi and Cris were the best things in his life and this Winterfest was going to be one to remember for him indeed.
Once they were in the clearing Val sent the girls off with baskets to gather ivy and pinecones in while Farin began chopping down a nice full and tall pine.
“That’s not gonna clear the ceiling.” Val mused and Farin snorted.
“I doubt it, I bet you fifty credits were gonna have to trim off the bottom of this tree to make it fit.”
“You’re on Lad. It’ll be perfect.”
Phineas just laughed as the tree fell and he helped fasted it to the sled with the rope he carried.
The girls toted their baskets and held Phineas’ hands as they walked back, both Val and Farin tugging the sled back home behind them.
“I told you it was too tall.” Val chuckled as they lugged the tree back out of the living room to shave off a good eight inches from the bottom.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Smart ass.” Farin grumbled as he sawed off the bottom of the tree.
Phineas just laughed as he sat with the girls at the kitchen table setting out craft items. There was paint and glue and glitter, ribbons and silk flowers and cotton all sorts of festive trappings covered the table.
Phineas having seen enough shop windows to have a fair idea of what Winterfest decorations should look like, picked out some pine branches, a few pine cones, and some wire and began putting together something that looked festive. He painted fake snow on the pinecones, tied on festive red ribbons, painted a few pinecones in gold and by the time he was finished it looked beautiful. He had no idea what to do with it, but it was pretty. Mandy gasped as she turned from the oven where she was baking cookies. “Phineas! That’s GORGEOUS!”
“You think so?”
“Oh honey that’s wonderful! That will look wonderful as a centerpiece for the table. You really do have an artist’s eye I couldn’t have bought something that beautiful.”
“Really? I mean I just stuck bits together.”
“The art is in the sticking.” Mandy grinned taking a closer look. Then retrieving from a kitchen drawer some tall taper candles in gold and red and stuck them into the centerpiece, it was perfect for holding table candles. “Wow. Make something for the hearth? Please?” Mandy asked laying out more candles for Phineas.
“Sure.” Phineas smiled, he really had enjoyed making the simple craft it was nice to know he was good at something other than stealing. He set to work making something to place atop the hearth mantle.
He was digging through supplies, while Val and Farin got the tree secured in the base and set it up in the living room. Eran wandered out of the back sniffing the air. “It smells heavenly in here.”
The front door opened and Cris, Beau and Romi walked in. “GOD, it smells great in here.” Beau caroled and Erin smirked.
“There’s an echo in here.” He chuckled raiding the popcorn bowl the girls were working out of and stealing a handful.
“HEY! Mama! Unca Eran is eating the popcorn!” Erin tattled on him and Mandy chuckled.
“Bad Unca Eran.” She winked setting out another bowl. “Don’t worry girls, there’s plenty.”
Beau was already hovering over the cookies cooling on a rack on the counter. “Beau do not raid the cookies yet, they’re too hot.”
“Too late.” He said around a hot bite juggling a hot cookie in his fingers.
Romi laughed as Cris handed her a drink. They were taking a break and Romi sat next to Phineas at the table. Her long black hair was tied back at the sides in a unique circular braided loop. She was dressed haphazardly in a warm sweater, denim pants and large fluffy boots. She wore no make up like girls her age liked to paint on their faces like Mary. She didn’t need it in Phineas’ opinion. She was rosy cheeked from the cold and her skin was too perfect to paint. She was all natural beauty, how this creature could creep out Jack was beyond Phineas’ comprehension. He thought she was beautiful.
“Wow, did you make that?” Romi asked looking at the centerpiece Phineas nodded almost shyly and he was never shy.
“That’s really pretty.”
“Thanks. I never made any of this before, this is my first Winterfest.”
“You’ve never made this stuff before? You could have fooled me.” Romi grinned leaning over Phineas’ current project to examine.
“I like pretty things I suppose. I used to sneak into the casinos all the time to look at the paintings and stuff inside.”
“You like art?”
“We have a gallery in Rael, I go there a lot I like to look at art too. I can’t draw or anything I’m hopeless. I’d glue my own fingers together.” Romi laughed and Phineas smiled at her.
“I’ve already glued my own fingers together here a few times, I think it comes with the territory when working with glue.”
“So messy, but so pretty when it’s done. Do you paint too?”
“I dunno, I never tried. Never had paint or anything, I can do okay with a pencil I suppose. I just doodle.”
“Doodle he says, don’t let him fool you Romi. He’s good.” Beau winked sitting down to take a look at the crafts himself. “Wow, these are fabulous. You gotta make a wreath for the door too.”
“I’ll need more pine then, I’ve used up all the girls picked up.”
“There’s a pile of it outside from where Val and Farin trimmed the tree.” Cris said sitting next to Romi. “Hey, you’re a lefty aren’t you?”
“You’re using your left hand as the dominant. That’s rare.” Cris said noticing as Phineas painted a cone, the small brush was in his left hand.
“Really? I can use either. I just have glue on my right hand.”
“Ambidextrous? That’s really rare.”
“Ambidextrous, it means you can use both hands equally. Maybe one percent of the population can do that. I’m right handed, I can’t do fuck-all with my left.” Cris grinned and Beau nodded.
“He’s correct. I’m right handed too, so is Val. Eran is a lefty though. He’s just the opposite.”
“I’m left handed too.” Romi grinned, “It is rare, the desks in school suck for left hand users. You’ve gotta twist all funny to use them to write. Be glad you can use both Phineas.”
“I never knew it was so rare, I never noticed.” Phineas said setting down his pinecone to dry before he twisted it into his mess of pine branches and ribbons.
“Daddy, which hand do I use?” Tovi asked as she threaded popcorn on a blunt needle and thread.
“You’re right-handed like Daddy.” Cris grinned pointing to Tovi’s hand. “That one is your right, that one is your left.”
“They’re so cute. Winterfest really is the best time when you’re little.” Romi sighed remembering her youth.
“And for grown ups when you live through their eyes.” Beau smiled fondly.
“Well, we should get back to work. We’ve only just laid down the music tracks, we’ve the vocals yet to work on, we’re losing day here. It’s early afternoon already, I’m sure your parents want you home at a decent hour.” Cris said finishing his drink.
“There’s no rush, my parents aren’t here.” Romi said almost sadly and Beau, ever observant quirked an eyebrow to the subtle tone in her voice.
“They in the Capitol?” He asked trying to wheedle out information.
“No, my Grandma is ill. Mom and Dad are on Earth, we couldn’t afford for me to go too, so I’m on my own for Winterfest this year. It’s okay though, I’d rather them be with Grandma this will be her last Christmas, she wanted Dad there, I can understand.”
“You’re all by yourself? Honey how long have they been gone?” Beau asked, not liking the thought of a girl her age being all alone for such a long time, he knew just getting to Earth one way took three months and that was going full tilt on the “Infinity”. A passenger transport would take almost five.
“About six months now. They aren’t scheduled to be back until late summer.”
“Dear heaven’s me, you mean they left you to fend for yourself for over a year?” Mandy was livid with shock.
“It’s okay, I’ve got a little set aside for food and rent until next month. I’m looking for a job for after school but no one is hiring. Don’t worry about me, I’m okay, really.”
“You will do no such thing young lady. School is far too important to divide your learning into trying to survive. You do not need that sort of stress at your age. What in heaven’s name were your parent’s thinking?” Mandy was fuming and so was Beau.
“I knew when they left it’d be hard, I’m looking for a smaller place. The apartment the three of us had is too expensive. They knew I’d probably have to move out of it. They took all their stuff with them so I’d not have to move it.”
“I don’t like the sound of that at all.” Mandy leveled a look at Beau.
“Me either. Too – convenient, taking all their belongings?” Beau frowned.
“I know how it looks, they didn’t abandon me, they’ll be back.” Romi’s voice was desperate; she was trying to believe her own words. She had always been close to her father; surely he’d never leave her, even if they had fallen on hard times in recent years.
“Well dear, until they do I won’t take no for an answer. You’re staying here, I have plenty of room, no child should be left alone, especially this time of year. School is far too important, your future is too important to waste it on just trying to survive. Believe me honey I know.” Mandy said her arms akimbo.
“So do I Romi. Living alone is hard; take it from me I’ve lived alone my whole life. I never had time to learn anything I was too busy trying to find food and some place dry and warm to sleep. I can’t read, I can’t write, I can’t do much other than pick people's pockets and steal things. You don’t want that, I was angry at the whole galaxy, I never even had time to smile really life was too depressing, they saved me from that kind of life with their kindness. This place is full of love and hope you’ll be fine if you listen to my mom.” Phineas stated and ended with a wink up at Mandy.
“You great big soft lout.” Mandy ruffled his hair.
“But he’s right. I came from Mirastor too, I lived a life just like him, Romi sweetheart, don’t walk our road, even if just for a year, it sucks. Stay here, the “Homestead” is our home, and we built it big for a reason. We love family and the more the merrier.” Cris winked and Beau nodded also smiling at Romi.
“I can’t stay here for free, that’s crazy.”
“We are all a bit crazy.” Eran said leaning over the table to steal more of the girl’s popcorn. “We like it like that, it’s much more fun.”
“Besides, Eran’s loaded aren’t you my love?” Beau grinned and Eran winked.
“That too, never fear Romi, you’re not breaking our bank. Mandy’s right, join the party.”
“You’re all serious?”
“We are dear.” Mandy said turning to the men seated at the table. “Will you take her home to help her get her things? I’m getting ready to make dinner.”
“Absolutely.” Beau said shoving up from the table, Cris and Phineas right behind him. The three escorted a bewildered Romi to the shuttle. “Just think, all that extra time to play like the music geeks we are.” He added Cris piloted them into Rael.
Romi smiled in a daze and Phineas leaned over. “Don’t worry, I’m still in a daze myself, it’s best to let them have their fun, it’s worth the ride.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” Romi said still wondering just what had happened, her fears suddenly dropping off her shoulders like a massive boulder. She felt lighter than air and drunk on goodwill. Her hand was trembling and Phineas took it to hold while where they sat in the back of the shuttle.
“Hang in there, the shock does wear off little by little.”
“If the shock is wearing off, we’re not doing our job!” Beau laughed in the front as Cris set them down next to a row of run down apartments. Romi led them to a small, but clean little apartment, only her personal items in her room remained, there wasn’t even furniture in the main living area. Just a rickety table, one chair, one plate, one glass just one each of the necessities and nothing more, Cris and Beau exchanged looks, they knew even if she was in denial, her parents had no intention of coming back. If they did, they’d be surprised.
They loaded Romi’s meager possessions into the shuttle and drove back to the “Homestead”; Farin led them up the stairs. “Put her here next to Phineas. This one has a private bath; I doubt she’d ever get into the other if she were to share with Mary. That girl tends to rule a bathroom.” Farin chuckled. This room was like a mirror of the first Room Phineas had slept in, slightly bigger, this was identical to Erin and Mary’s rooms save that it didn’t share a Jack and Jill bathroom, it had it’s own. It was a small bathroom, but certainly private.
Everyone set down her belongings around the room. “Take your time getting settled dear. We’re on no schedule to record now. Hot damn.” Beau grinned excited.
“I can’t thank everyone enough.” Romi burst into tears and Farin pulled her into a fatherly embrace.
“We’d be horrible people indeed if we let you suffer when we had the means to help. Just take your time love, come downstairs whenever you’re ready. Phineas is right next door to you and Mary Alice is two doors to your right, and hell there’s a million more people in this house at the moment if you need anything.” Farin laughed patting her back.
“You’re all wonderful.”
“We try.” Cris winked heading out, trailed by the others. Phineas was the last one out.
“You’ll be fine, you can come to me anytime you want something. See you downstairs.” With that he shut the door leaving Romi to drop to her knees and say a prayer of thanks. She’d desperately needed help and was too proud to ask for it, these people had come when she needed them most. She couldn’t ask for anything more for this Winterfest, she’d already been given the best of gifts. Hope.
“She’s going to figure it out staying here, we might as well tell her and get it over with. Christ, we’re all a bunch of bleeding hearts aren’t we?” Eran said as they waited for Romi to come downstairs.
“One shock at a time I think. I think we traumatized her enough for one afternoon.” Mandy replied as Mary Alice and a trio of teenagers burst through the door. The house was obscenely full of people, Eran made a mad dash to his room for peace and quiet until dinner.
Val was helping Tovi and Erin make paper chains on the living room floor, Phineas had placed his decorations on the hearth and Leigh and Simon were helping him clear off the mess from the table. Mary Alice and Maevis were lending a hand in the kitchen; Beau and Cris were entertaining the babies, Beau’s guitar in hand as Romi came down the stairs.
Mary rushed over to her “I know we don’t get a chance to talk much in school, but you’re gonna love it here. Mandy and Farin are the best. Welcome to the “Homestead” I hope we get to be better friends.”
“Thanks.” Romi said shifting foot to foot. Mary Alice was the most popular girl in school, Romi was a semi-outcast and she felt intimated until Phineas walked over smiling.
“It’s weird huh?” He asked and Romi nodded.
“Slightly. I don’t have a any friends.” Romi said and Phineas winked at her.
“I didn’t either before, I know how you feel. All the kids my age we’re either my enemies or my competition. It’s nice not having to fight.”
“I never seem to fit in anywhere. I’m not popular like Mary.”
“People are mean Romi. You’re unique, that’s not a bad thing. And you got talent. People get jealous over that.” Mary said emphatically.
“I suppose.” Romi was still nervous but beginning to calm, Beau’s guitar helped, music always made her feel at ease.
“Romi, come sing with me!” Beau called and Romi thankful for an escape joined him on the floor and sang along.
Phineas leaned against a support pillar that separated the dining room from the living room and closed his eyes to listen. Romi had a beautiful voice; it sent chills down his spine, and with Beau, Cris and Val singing along with her, he was lost.
Until a giggle and a kiss on his cheek snapped his eyes open. It was Mary, then Maevis, then Mandy, then Leigh. “HEY! Why is everyone kissing me? Leigh!”
They all broke into hysterical laughter. Beau and Cris were laughing so hard they were wiping tears from their eyes. Even Romi was laughing.
“What?” Phineas had no clue what was so funny and why all of a sudden he was the object of a kissing frenzy.
Val walked over and had him look up. “You’re standing under mistletoe. If you stand under it, you get kissed during this time of year.” He was amused himself as he clued Phineas into the Winterfest tradition.
Phineas leaped out from under it like he’d been burned. “And you guys were gonna tell me this when?”
“After you got smooched of course, what fun is letting you in on it before hand? Free kisses love, get ‘em while they last.” Mandy laughed highly amused at his shocked almost indignant expression before heading back into the kitchen.
Phineas made a point of avoiding that plant the rest of the evening. Maevis and the others went home before dinner, leaving the family to set the table. Eran finally wandered out of the back, pausing out of the way, Phineas noticing he was standing under the evil plant.
He didn’t seem to mind when Beau planted a rather lengthy kiss on him. “I love mistletoe.” Eran said once Beau deigned to let him up for air again.
“I know you do.” Beau winked as the food was set on the table.
Phineas mused that perhaps it wasn’t such a bad plant, if you had a partner. He could do without kisses from strangers.
After dinner, everyone pitched in decorating the tree, Romi was laughing as she helped Bo place tinsel on the tree. The Three-year-old was piling it on a single branch while Romi was discreetly moving it elsewhere so it all wasn’t in one little clump, Mary helped put hooks on ornaments while Tovi and Erin with the help of their fathers lifting them up to the higher branches placed them on the tree. Everyone else pretty much just watched, too many people around the tree was difficult and it really was meant for the little ones most.
Beau strummed his guitar, Eran munched on the left over popcorn and Mandy was curled up on the couch with Valeria. Phineas sat off to the side on the floor, his chin on his pulled up knees watching lights twinkle, watching Cris get frustrated when he couldn’t get a strand to work right, Val was twirling a paper chain around the tree with Tovi, reliving his childhood, and Farin lifted Erin up to place a beautiful white dove of peace, with real feathers and twinkling lights at the very top of the tree. It was beautiful and with his blurry vision the lights seemed diffused at the edges, all soft and beautiful as he squinted at the tree.
“Hon, we have to get you glasses until we can get you some surgery on your eyes. Don’t squint like that.” Mandy said noticing.
“They just get really blurry when I’m tired. Besides, I’m squinting on purpose. The lights are gorgeous when I squint.” Phineas said with a smile and Romi looked at Phineas.
“I used to do that too as a kid. Screw up my eyes to look at the tree. It is really pretty like that.”
“Well I won’t worry then. I thought you were having more trouble.”
“Nah, no more than normal. I’m okay.”
“Good.” Mandy said sipping her coffee as Valeria slept on her lap.
The rest of the evening was peaceful as everyone settled around the main room Vid screen to watch old movies and eat cookies. The girls were allowed to sleep on the floor with their toys. They’d finally passed out from a glorious full day, and Mandy just piled a thick fleece blanket over them, they’d carry them up the stairs later, they were peacefully passed out cold.
Mary was fussing over Romi’s hair, braiding it while they watched the vid with the others. Phineas sat at the table, out of the main room. Romi had adapted quite well, but then again she’d grown up like this, she’d only been alone a few months. Phineas still found it difficult, too many things pulled at his attention. There was too much to look at he’d never seen, too much to experience he’d never felt. He was overwhelmed and he found calm watching it snow out the window. He silently excused himself and walked quietly up the stairs, he settled himself at his table in his room and sat with his sketchpad, capturing the nature outside his window with his pencil. His eyes were tired though and after a short time, they were watering so badly he had to stop. He turned off the lights and just let the moonlight fill his room as he sat with his elbows on the table and watched it snow.
“It’s pretty isn’t it?” Romi said from his open door.
“Yeah, I can’t get over it. I’m used to a filthy city, this is Paradise to me.”
“Is it really as bad as I’ve heard? I saw a show once on the vid about Mirastor.”
“Yeah, it sucks.” Phineas sighed turning back to look out his window. “This place will make it easier to forget though.”
“I won’t bother you, I just wanted to say Thanks.”
Phineas turned back to her his eyebrow cocked “What for?”
“For the ride earlier, for being nice to me, just for being my friend.”
“Anytime Romi. Thank you.”
“Now it’s my turn to say for what?”
“For also being my friend. It’s nice to talk to someone my age for a change. I feel out of place here too.”
Romi walked into the room and leaned over to hug his shoulders. “I can understand sort of. For me it was because I’m weird. I sing all the time, I wear clothes that none of the other girls do, I like boy’s clothes, they’re comfortable. My hair, I don’t ever do it like this, Mary insisted. I don’t wear make-up, I’d rather go walk the art gallery than go hang out with people and go shopping. Here, that’s considered weird.”
“I think you’re just doing what you like, there’s nothing wrong with that. I can’t understand a lot of that really though, so I wouldn’t know. For me you couldn’t have friends. It was a matter of survival. I had underlings. If I could beat them up, they were afraid of me and did what I told them to. If they could beat me up, I had to find ways to out-smart them. You couldn’t trust anyone. I feel like a huge weight is lifted off me. I don’t care what anyone looks like, wears, eats, smokes or drinks. I’m just thrilled to have people around me I can trust. That’s the world to me.”
“You’re quite an inspiration Phineas. You humble me.”
“There’s no need in that. We’re all who we are, that’s all.”
“Well I still think you’re one of the better ones. You have good moral character, and that doesn’t recognize social status. Thanks for making me feel better.” Romi leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Goodnight.”
As she walked out Phineas held a hand to his cheek, it almost tingled. “Goodnight.” He said back as the door shut, a stupid grin spreading across his face. Kisses weren’t so bad after all when Romi gave them, hers were different, hers were genuine and even chaste and made as a gesture of friendship, they still felt like they burned where her lips had touched his skin.
Phineas was sure he was flushed a bright red, he was glad it was dark in his room and he was alone to blush in private.