« Grégoire, will you stop frowning?” My mother snapped at me from the front seat as we drove up the snowy mountain road.
I huffed and frowned back at her in defiance, crossing my arms over my chest. Mother dear glared ahead, holding her handbag close to her.
We were headed towards Megève to visit the family for Christmas. We had left London this morning and arrived at the St Exupéry airport of Lyon this afternoon. We hopped in the car we rented and drove towards the French Alps.
After entering the region of Savoie, I looked out the window on the other side of the car. My twin sister, Marie-Ange, was reading one of her poetry books for the thousandth time. I glanced over at what was written. Was it Rimbaud again? Yes it was.
She looked so peaceful there, reading like that. I didn’t want to disturb her.
I heaved a sigh and looked back out my own window up at the mountain as I took my earphones and listened to some music while my mother talked to Brandon who was at the wheel, replying to her softly, grinning at her, laughing with her.
It was unnerving.
Brandon –who until now was known to my sister and I as ‘Mr. Rutherford’– was my mother’s boss. He was her boss, she was his personal assistant, and they took it to the bedroom more than once. He had dumped his wife for her. Who could blame him, though? Our mother was a young-looking, attractive woman, after all. They had been lovers since we had arrived in England two years ago and he had been supporting her (though I should be saying ‘us’) financially. I guess my sister and I should be grateful. Maman found us someone to act as a father figure. I didn’t like him, though. Neither did my sister, actually, but she was too polite to be vocal about it.
I, on the other hand, had no qualms with being a brat towards him.
“Grégoire, your mother is talking to you.” I heard Brandon talk to me. In French. How dare he use my language. How dare he speak it with his snobby English accent, softening the words and butchering my name.
“What do you want?” I grumbled in english, still not looking away from the window as I pulled an earphone out of my ear to listen to what he had to say.
“You can talk to me in French, you know? I speak it perfectly.”
“No you don’t.”
“Grégoire!” interrupted my mother, turning back to face me “Will you stop being so cynical all the time? It’s Christmas Eve, for God’s sake!”
I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms again, slumping into the seat as I sighed theatrically. I then uncrossed my arms and reached to put my earphones back in my ears.
My sister looked up from her book and smiled at me meekly as she reached to hold my hand.
Her smile wasn’t condescending or anything like that. It was more like something to reassure me. ’This Christmas won’t be that bad, don’t worry.’ is what she meant by that smile. I grinned back weakly and sighed.
I wished we were back in England right now. At least in England I could text my friends without having to pay an overly-exaggerated fee to do so. If I could, I’d text my friend David first to vent about how Brandon and Maman’s twittering was getting on my nerves. I guessed that I could always take my anger out on a pillow when we would get to our room in the chalet.
Because yes. Mister Brandon Rutherford had rented a large chalet for our family to spend Christmas Eve and the week that came after. The entire family was invited. Our small portion, of course—my mother, sister and I, but also Maman’s parents, and sisters, plus the cousins from Bretagne. Brandon wanted to enter our family with a bang.
I was going to ruin that for him.