I pull up to her house, Eura’s house, and upon parking I realize I may be in way over my head. My family is by no means poor, but comparatively, we must be bankrupt. I’ve only seen her house twice before in passing, and never knew it was her place. I could swear that the façade was worth more than our entire home. Beautiful pillars supporting flat roofs, jetting out from perfect arches. I thought of royalty, of exuberant wealth, and here I sit inside this rattling truck. I’m in over my head, clearly. A girl like her anyways! Am I this stupid?
I should drive home. Forget about this all, say I couldn’t come, apologize, and stop trying. No, no that’s not a solution. I take a deep breath, stand up, and walk up to the front door. The little rattle knocker is cold in my hand, and I could hear the echo inside. I can hear “Eura!” from inside. I wait a few seconds, and I look reluctantly at the truck. I just want to go home now. Run, run now. Creak and the door opens in front of me. An older woman, about forty, with long blonde hair stands there with an all-too-perfect smile on her face. “Berlin?” she ponders.
“Hello, are you Eura’s mother?” I ask.
"Her aunt, actually. Emily’s the name. Her mother, Eleanor, is in the kitchen. Eleanor! The boy’s here!” I can feel my heart about to pop from my chest. I’ve never been so nervous all for some girl, which truthfully she is. She’s nothing special, just the best looking girl in school, coming from wealth, with nothing but a promising future in front of her and I’m trying to take her from that. No pressure.
“Invite the boy into the kitchen, then!” I hear from the kitchen, at the far end of the hallway. The smell of some exotic spices lifts in the air, so pleasant it’s almost overwhelming. Emily begins directing me slowly forward, and I nervously enter, taking off my shoes, and I walk through this hallway with my chest puffed out to imitate bravery. Artwork hangs from the wall. I take special notice of one bit.
Emily turns around and looks at me for a second. “Are you interested in art?”
“A little, I suppose,” which is a lie, because I used to be obsessed with artwork.
“Can you guess at the maker of this?” She asked. I took a look at the beautiful sketch, charcoal obviously, a rough draft for some painting. It was a surreal take on Jesus upon the cross, lifted off the ground and bent over slightly. I could actually imagine the real painting which came to mind.
“This is Dali’s take on the Crucifixion,” I say brazenly.
"How could you tell?”
“Not sure. The surreal imagery, lack of detail with emphasis on confusion, and the signature on the bottom hint at it,” I chuckle, as does she. “Plus, I used to be a big Dali fan. Galatea of the Spheres is the greatest image I’ve ever seen.”
I hear a deep voice say “We have a copy of that hung in the living room, actually.” A man stood in the doorway of the kitchen, with light red hair and the build of a lumberjack with the groom of a billionaire.
“You must be Eura’s father, then?”
“Vance. Nice to meet you…?”
“None of this ‘sir’ garbage. I’m not that old yet, boy. Just Vance, or Vinny, if you prefer.”
“Vinny’s fine.” I could tell he wanted to be relaxed, but couldn’t help but be super imposing at any given moment.
“Dad, don’t be scaring him now.” She is above, on the stairway against the wall, walking down. I look quickly, and realize I’m done for. Her hair is pulled into a braid and tossed in front of her right shoulder, with slight bangs crossing her forehead to conceal just enough to be tantalizing. Dark jeans, converse, and a simple crew-neck sweatshirt made the look complete. I can’t help but not breathe for one, two, three seconds. It is too much to take in at one time, so I try taking little bites out to realize how great she looks. “Hey, Berlin. Didn’t have trouble finding us, did you?”
“Uh, no, no I didn’t. Hey, Eura.”
“Cat’s got the boy’s tongue,” Emily mutters from behind.
Vance says to us, “Well, why don’t you two stay long enough for dinner before heading out? You’re going to go see a movie anyways, right? Fill up first.”
“What are we having?” Eura asks, finally reaching beside me.
“Mom wanted to make something different, so she’s trying this baked salmon recipe with some good vegies along with. Do you like salmon, Berlin?”
“Love it.” Never had it before.
“I love it too,” Eura says. “Do you want to stay to eat? We can catch the light showing.”
“Yeah, I’m cool with that.” Cool with that? That’s the best I can say right now? We all walk into the kitchen and begin sitting ourselves up for food, and following Grace (a tradition I must admit I’m not familiar with), we begin eating. Eura’s mother Eleanor looks just like Eura’s aunt and just like Eura, with long, blonde hair and deep blue eyes. My first bite of the salmon is of such great pleasure I can barely hold it in. The perfect blend of spices deliver such an amazing taste to be nearly impossible to describe. My tension, my anxiety, melts away into joy and contentment.
“So, Berlin, quite a unique name. What’s that from?” Eleanor asks.
“Oh, yeah. My great-grandfather was a soldier, and was all over the globe, but he never really fought. He kinda did towards the end of World War II, but not too much. He was in one of the last groups of soldiers to arrive in Germany, basically helping to clean up the mess. When he was in Potsdam, he was visiting a bar when he saw a very beautiful woman. He remembers talking with her and with his poor German and her poor English, the two kind of had a conversation. However, he had to leave, though he felt like he was now permanently in love. Eventually, when he returned to the States, he worked round the clock, and when he gathered the money, he moved to Berlin. For three years, two or three times a week he would go to Potsdam and go to the bar, asking about the woman he fell in love with. Every time, nobody knew who he was talking about. He was nearing the end of his stay in Germany, and was desperate to find her. He was in Berlin, and went to go into a restaurant but hit the door against a woman’s head, and it turned out to be the woman’s mother. That same day, he got to meet that woman, from back in the War. Two months later, they were engaged, and two months later, were married in Berlin. So, my parents decided to name me in honor of them.” I had said this story a thousand times in my life, and I can almost expect the reaction.
“Wow. That’s an incredible story! I’ve never heard such a thing!” Vance said.
“What do you think about that, Eura? A romantic blood-line, it appears, huh?” Eleanor said.
“… What’s that?” Eura said, phone opened up looking at something.
“Berlin’s grandparents meeting up years apart! Isn’t that beautiful?”
“Yeah, it is,” she said simply.
The table went quiet for a few seconds.
“So, I see your family has a thing for the letter E, huh?” I ask.
Eleanor giggles. “Yeah, we seem to. We never planned it out, but it’s the way it goes, right, Eura?”
“Eura, what did you want to name your daughter, were you to have one?”
“I guess Brittany, or Crystal.”
Vance gives a passing look to Eura. “Yeah, she’s kind of the tradition breaker ‘round here.”
“So I see,” I say to him.
Quiet again, but for a few minutes as we continue to eat. Eura maybe looks over at me once during the meal, which I can’t blame her, I mean, it’s not like we are married for God’s sake. Oh well, the food is too good and the family too pleasant to worry over silly things.
Once we finish up, I say a thank you to the family, and Eura and I exit the house to the delight of snow falling softly. White flakes of the heavens drift downward, both the ominous reminder of death and the pleasant refreshment of rebirth in spring. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” I say impulsively.
“Yeah, I guess. Is that your truck?” she says almost in disbelief.
“Uh, yeah, she’s my truck. Well, not exactly mine. I’ve worked on it a lot growing up. It used to be my dad’s but now it’s kind of mine.”
“Does it actually drive?”
“I mean, usually. She sometimes gets dead batteries in really cold weather, but it’s way too warm for that to be an issue.”
“Alright, let’s hop in and get goin. I’ve wanted to see this one film so much. It’s like, one of those kinda romance ones but it’s like deeper because it’s about politics and stuff too. It’s what everybody’s like talking about, at school and stuff.”
“Alright,” I say opening her door, “let’s get going, then.”