31. 20 - Extract from the Notebook of Bex Shadownight
Aunt Midnight spoke a lot of her time in Normandy and her lieutenant, Khadir, often. She always described him as eight feet in length and very broad from one shoulder to the other - with a face that was scary even when he was smiling. I always used to think to myself that she must be exaggerating for effect or to make Dad feel deficient in some way since, after Aunt Midnight had left home, Khadir had acted - and still did - as her older brother.
Aunt Midnight and Dad weren't always at blows like Thomas and William or like me and Queenie - but there was a passive-aggression they held towards each other that was unnerving. It was almost as if they held back just for the sake of not having anymore feuds in the house.
Well, today, I was proven wrong.
Today, Khadir had arrived and it didn't matter how many stories Aunt Midnight had told me - I was in awe of him. If Ted has thought younger Uncle Thomas was tall, he'd have a complete seizure just glancing at Khadir - and Khadir was lost somewhere in his late-60s. Just a look from the large man would make your skin crawl - even if it was clear he was gaining in age, threads of white gleaming in his exceedingly black hair and beard. All the same, Aunt Midnight smiled and embraced him.
“I haven't seen you in... How long has it been?” she asked him.
He gave her a funny look, “Time has been far too kind to you. You don't look a day older than when you left Normandy,” he spoke with an Arabic accent, his voice a deep baritone.
He looked around at us, as if we would start introducing ourselves. I was thinking about a T-Rex - don't move and he might not see me.
“Glad to see you still have this power,” Aunt Midnight laughed, gesturing around, “Come in, I'll get some tea or coffee going.”
“You're not going to introduce me to your family?”
“Trust me, Khadir, they know exactly who you are.”
“Then aren't you going to introduce them to me?”
“That will take too long,” Aunt Midnight waved a hand dismissively, “There's so many of us. You'll catch on soon enough,” she gestured to Uncle Thomas, “But this is my husband, who you already know about.”
I couldn't be sure, but I think Khadir glared at Uncle Thomas. I would have expected the blonde man to just run, but he just glared back.
“Khadir,” he said, nodding his head ever so slightly and putting out his hand.
“Sailor,” Khadir replied, taking Uncle Thomas's hand and shaking firmly.
Aunt Midnight rolled her eyes and said, “Aaaaand I'm glad to know nothing has changed on that front,” she sighed and led Khadir to the kitchen where he sat at the table as Aunt Midnight brewed some coffee for him.
“Where's your brother?” Khadir asked.
Aunt Midnight passed him a steaming mug, “He's probably dozing off in a rocking chair,” she said.
“Aren't you going to drink something?”
“No, I'm cutting out caffeine...”
A look of realisation grasped Khadir and he said, “Oh... Aren't you in your fifties now? What have you been doing, my sister?” gruff, hearty laughter emerged from his throat.
“I know it sounds ridiculous, Khadir, but after the Fountain of Youth... Things have turned back. Everything has turned back.”
“Well, congratulations. I would be more excited if you weren't birthing the child of a life-size, walking, talking man-doll.”
“Right, sorry. But you know how I feel about him.”
“I'm surprised you're capable of feeling anything at all.”
“Oh, it's too early for your loose barbs, Midnight,” he said, laughing again, “But I'm assuming you didn't bring me here to have me make peace with Thomas,” he pronouced the name with a soft 'th' rather than a hard 't'.
“That would a be nice bonus, but no. But we have time and I'm in no mood at all for politics.”
“Go make peace with my husband.”
“I'll put him in pieces, would that do?”
“Khadir, you put Thomas in pieces and I'll put you in pieces.”
“You'll do no such thing.”
“'Uncle', mana's boy. 'Uncle'.”
“That was so many years ago. And we agreed never to speak of it again.”
“I didn't agree to any such thing and I am never letting you forget about it. So do as I say.”
“You're mean when you're pregnant.”
“Well, thank you for the flattery. But I was never pregnant in Normandy.”
“Well, then, you're just plain mean.”
Aunt Midnight shrugged, “I am what I am.”
“What's 'Uncle'?” I asked.
Khadir looked at me. I froze.
Don't move and he might not see me.
“It's a reference to a story that I've never told you,” Aunt Midnight said, “For the sake of keeping Khadir's image and reputation the way it is.”
“So... How did you guys meet?” I asked, taking a few steps at a time before sitting the farthest from Khadir.
“I haven't told you about that?” Aunt Midnight said, “That's a short story. Got off a ship in Syria and wandered about the big desert for months, eating scorpions and lizards-”
“No,” Aunt Midnight said, without pausing, “until I found a delightful little nomadic tent filled with eleven giants and a little girl.”
“Aunt Midnight, I am not a little kid.”
“I'm aware, and then-”
“Why are you telling the story like this then?”
“To patronise you. Anyway-”
“They took you in and raised you as one of their own?”
“No. Khadir's father actually kicked me out. But then I counted all his sheep and then they took me in and raised me as one of their own.”
“That was the lamest story ever.”
“Psht, you're the lamest story ever.”
Khadir rolled his eyes, “And you must be?”
“Rebecca, but they call me Bex around here,” I replied.
“Ah... Midnight doesn't write much about you. She writes about the other one, Queen something.”
I looked over at Aunt Midnight, “You write more about Queenie that you do about me!”
“Be glad I write more about Queenie than I do about you,” Midnight muttered. She put a hand on Khadir's shoulder, “Big brother's are only good for complaining to. And for beating up all your exes, but I prefer doing that on my own.”
“I've missed this,” Khadir scoffed.
“Like you need to be told.”
“My God, you've finally been blessed with a sense of humour!”
“Bex, did you see where your uncle went?” Midnight asked me.
“Yeah. He took John and Aldrin out. I think they've gone hunting,” I replied.