Travel is said to be the best education there is.
|Olivia said it was a prima ballerina. Edward said it was a corkscrew. Olivia rolled her eyes and said, “I know it’s a corkscrew, Edward. I’m pretending it’s a ballerina! Is that okay with you, your Highness?”|
Edward raised his hands in mock surrender and said, “Hey, don’t take your menopausal anger out on me!”
Olivia’s eyes narrowed into slits. “You disgust me!"
Andrew leaned forward across the table and spoke with slow, perfectly enunciated precision. “It’s a mother, fucking, no good, son-of-a-bitch, corkscrew!”
High-pitched giggling erupted. They knew from vast experience they were being too loud and tried to shush each other but couldn’t get the shush out and the first child batted repeatedly at the second child, who half-heartedly batted back, missing on all attempts.
People often said these two were wise beyond their years and, as true as that may have been, both children were soon to discover they knew a great deal more about prima ballerinas than they knew about corkscrews. Their mother actually was a prima ballerina. A world famous one.
Consequently, along with their stepfather, whom Edward called “Papa” like the Spanish do, and Olivia called “Papa” like the French, and their au pair, “Silvia” and their private teacher, “Herr Guutenstien”, they traveled the world following the woman they called “Mother” from one standing ovation to another. Red carpets and flashbulbs and limousines were as common as caviar in their lives, as were people asking what it was like to have such a famous mother. “It’s pretty great,” Andrew would usually answer. “It’s simply marvelous” was Olivia’s go-to standard. She liked to flounce her hand in the air when she said it.
So here they were in the Athens Grand Hyatt at the end of a ten-day stay. Before this, they had been in Sydney at the Opera house, which Andrew claimed was way, way, way more chill than The Palais Garnier in Paris. Olivia strongly disagreed with him on this and attributed her little brother’s lack of appreciation for the grandeur and romance of the Palais to the fact that he was young still, and also a sanctimonious boor.
At this moment, they were sitting on their knees on Victorian needle-point chairs in front of the grand oak table they were not allowed to color on. Neither child would have minded Silvia being there with them, for she did all the things they did, and she talked to them. But all in all, it was nice being left alone.
Mother had gone ahead to Prague. Their current stepfather was off showing something of great importance to Silvia and was not to be disturbed. Herr “Guutenpoo” had the day off and was probably eating fish somewhere, for he loved fish and he smelled like it always, always, always!
Both children appreciated how quiet it was at the moment with nobody yelling and nobody saying, “Nien, nein, und abermals nein!” with fish breath.
Not being allowed to color in her coloring book on the fancy table, Olivia fiddled aimlessly with the “ballerina" Papa had left lying there. “Look at this, do you see? A Relive, a Saute, a Plie…”
Edward watched his sister moving the arms of the corkscrew up, then down, then out to the sides. She made it leap, and twirl like a dancer on point, then glide across the table/stage like it was floating on air, which, as things turned out, it was most definitely not doing.
“Son-of-a-bitch!" Papa screamed. Then he spoke with slow, perfectly enunciated precision. "Which, one of you, put these scratches, here?”
By this time, the children were quietly reading on the Louis XIV claw-footed sofa. Their hair was combed, their hands were clean, and only after tearing their rapt attention away from Greek anthology did they look over at their stepfather. Both had vague expressions of puzzlement on their freshly scrubbed faces.
“Excuse me?” one said.
“I’m so sorry, were you speaking to us?” asked the other.
“These fucking holes!” their stepfather bellowed. “Who did this?”
Both children stared at him blankly. He stood by the table looking like he was close to stomping his foot. “Do you have, any idea, how much goddamn money, this is going to cost, for us to repair?”
What could they say? They simply did not know who made the marks on the fancy table or how much it would cost to repair. They had been studying right here on this sofa “the whole time you were in the bedroom with Silvia.”
The subject was dropped.
They say there’s no better education than travel and these two could get by in five languages, two fluently and could discuss the artistry of the Tiffany glass windows of the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City as well as the political motivations regarding its mural by Diego Rivera. They’d seen the Grand Foyer and the Grand Staircase, and Chagall’s domed ceiling in Paris, but they’d seen much more than that! Much, much, much more. And with all that so-called wisdom-beyond-their-years thing going for them, they knew to stick to their story and to keep it handy. You never know, it might be good to have such a story if one day they ever really, really, really needed it.