|The Haringvliet (photo © Wibe Koopman)|
Bobby and Suzan arrived together through the back door, breathless with laughter, their lovely eyes sparkling and their hair wind-blown. They tossed their overnight bags down in front of the stairs and ran into the kitchen, where their mother was doing some tossing of her own.
Isa felt herself hugged from both sides at once, and spilled the salad dressing in the sink.
But she hugged her daughters back, clung on and breathed in their scent.
“How wonderful to see you! You’re here, at last!”
Her youngest, Roberta, named after her father and almost as tall as he, tousled Isa’s hair affectionately.
“Mumsy... How’s life in Nieuwenhoorn? Gosh, that bus took forever! I keep forgetting what a drag it is to get here from Rotterdam, and then today of all days. We should have come down the day before yesterday, when there was a normal service.”
“Yeah, but then we wouldn’t have seen André Rieu’s Christmas Concert on the Vrijthof, now would we? It was absolutely wonderful, Mum, you should have been there. Remind me again why you didn’t want to come to Maastricht?” asked Suzan, whilst mopping up the dressing with a kitchen towel.
“I..eh...Uhm, I had to see a client,” mumbled Isa as vaguely as she could.
She didn’t want to admit to her daughters that she simply couldn’t face the 2 1⁄2 hours drive to Maastricht in her old Twingo and having to sleep on the sofa of Bobby’s draughty student pad, whilst the students Bobby shared the flat with were living out their dramas in the kitchen.
“Oh well, we’re here now. What’s for dinner? What have you cooked us?”
Roberta, wise to her mother’s ways, dug out the bottle of Chardonnay from the overloaded fridge. (Copyright Renée Koopman – If you steal this, you are a very bad person!)
“I’ve got some new fancy glasses, hang on,” said Isa.
They splashed the wine into the crystal glasses and toasted each other. Just when they took their first sip, Dirk wandered in from the living room. He saw the girls and froze.Bobby and Suzan froze as well. Isa noticed with a certain detachment that Suzan’s mouth did actually drop open, making her dribble her wine a bit. She suddenly giggled. This could turn out to be fun after all.
“Suzan, Roberta, meet Dirk. Dirk, this is Suzan, my oldest daughter, and Bobby, my youngest but tallest girl.”
She fluffed up her hair with gusto.
“Dirk will be joining us for dinner.”
Bobby’s eyebrows rose up to her hairline, but she kept her peace. Suzan, always the more outspoken of the two, took her mother’s arm and dragged her unceremoniously to the hallway.
“Mum! What do you mean, who is that guy?” she hissed.
Instantly needled by her daughter’s tone of voice, Isa faced Suzan.
“Oh, honestly, Suzan, don’t be such a prig! I’m only joking. He’s someone I know. A...friend.”
“A friend? He’s a kid!”
“He’s seventeen. How old are you again, exactly?”
‘That’s not the point. Mum! How long have you known him? Where does he live? What does he do?”
“Christ, Suzan, what are you, my mother? Enough now! It’s Christmas, he was on his own, I invited him, he’s interesting, and that’s final. Now, behave! He’s shy.”
And with those words Isa turned on her heel and marched back into the kitchen, where Bobby and Dirk were sitting by the stove, leafing through Isa’s Jamie Oliver together. Dirk looked completely at ease.
“Bobby is showing me a recipe for Asian duck salad”
“I had taken you for a vegetarian, but you aren’t, then?”
“He’s a flexitarian, like me,” grinned Bobby. And when we do eat meat, or poultry in this case, we prefer good quality, right Dirk?”
Dirk grinned in return.
Whilst Isa and her daughters, one having fun, one hardly able to supress her annoyance, entertained their somewhat strange young guest, a lone dog walker along the Haringvliet didn’t pay attention to his Retriever. He talked into his cell phone and Prins, left to his own devices, ran into the shallows, where something intriguing was caught on some branches of the willow clinging onto the basalt breakwater. Prins got very excited when he smelled the large plastic bag. He barked once, his sharp little bark, meaning “look what I’ve got”. But his master was more interested in his conversation. So Prins barked again, more insistent. His master looked up, and ordered his dog back to his side. He tied the leash back on, and dragged his dog back to the car with long determined strides, Prins turning his shaggy head to look at his find. But to no avail.
© Renée Koopman