When I was young, we went to the local church. We always dressed in our Sunday best and came with ribbon, hat and tie as appropriate. It was a gentle and easy-going church, which spoke of good deeds and charity for those less off being important. Our parents never talked of sin, it was never touched upon in our church or by our friendly and not terribly old minister. There were other churches in town, plenty of them-it was a different time after all. All the families went to these churches in our neighborhood, to not was a terrible scandal in that simpler world. A world the four Dresden Dolls that lined up upon the shelf so very neatly would never again be a part of.
We found our road ended that night at a local hotel with suites-Mr. Pan had been well-off, unlike my father. We were working upper middle class, they were as well but more comfortable than we were. The rooms seemed so at once too opulent yet somehow at second look, more humble than it appeared. The sumptuous gold was only a pigment painted on the wallpaper and the lovely wood was merely a local strain, well-stained and carved just enough to give better than plain posts. It was still nice, but presumed to be more than that. Our suite had two connected rooms and a shared bathroom, each having beds and a sink was running behind the bathroom's closed door when we stepped in. "Ah, Margie should be out soon. She has been so anxious to meet you-she wasn't sure if this would come through." Mr. Pan spoke very gently.
It was always Chris who had the curious intellect. "Mr. Pan-" He was briefly interrupted.
"Please, feel free to call me Richard if you'd like, young Chris." The big man loosened his tie and sat down, an arm with loose hand resting on the desk between the beds in the room closer to the door. "When you're ready to, rather. I won't force things on you unwanted, except what's necessary. I sweat I'll be a good guardian to you children and I keep my promises when I can."
"Are you from England… Richard?" Chris asked the man, taking a seat at a desk as the twins clung to each other nervously.
"Yes, some years ago." He admitted. "I came here, met my wife and began work. I put down ties here. It's difficult to be away from work, but goodness knows when I'll have the chance for a rest and to do something that's right. I've lived here some six years, now. It was at work that I met your father."
Father had kept work strictly at work, aside from the odd bit of paperwork he had to do on occasion-and he told none of his children of what he actually did, only that he worked hard and wore a suit as most fathers in our neighborhood did. Some wore blue-collared suits, others strictly white. A few had white coats, if that was the pharmacist who could make the brown cows that Corey and Cathy liked so much or the kindly nurse who watched over the scraped knees, loose or teeth fallen out in bread and other such small foibles of the students at school. It was a quiet neighborhood, with quiet and mannerly people to the eyes of a child.
Yet, there were always those children at school that many avoided, wasn't there? None said exactly why. Just as old friends never said why they drifted away; I had one day simply become invisible to them, one of those pariahs. The moment of reverie didn't feel awkward-the large, jovial man seemed content to allow us our time to adjust to having been essentially sold.
The woman who came out was as mousy as he was bearlike and her smile even crinkled up her nose. "Ah, here are the children! Such darlings." She exclaimed.
She dressed in a black, dainty blouse and a proper pencil skirt, hoisery, heels, pearls with thick black hair in an updo. She had skin like a deep bronze, eyes like the deepest of rich mahogony and nails and lips of a ruby coral. She wore makeup and a fascinating necklace comprising only of some uncut crystal-perhaps rose quartz with a silver wire wound around it, keeping it connected to the chain that supported it. It looked almost like a spider's web.
I hadn't seen a lot of people who looked like her outside of movies and the rare service worker who kept to themselves.
"You're colored!" Corey was always the more daring one of the two, so while my face grew hot with embarrassment, Margie instead laughed.
"Well, God has a lot of crayons in his drawer. He drew you four with peach, he drew my Rich with a dusty pale red and me, he drew me in umber and earth. What a creative artist, don't you think?" She didn't seem offended at all.
I didn't realize that I'd been tense until I relaxed. Richard and Margie Pan were good people at first sight, instead of the cold pair that meant business we had come to meet warm people. She knelt before Carrie. "And who is the shy maiden here? I am Margie, how do you do?"
"How do you do." She said sullenly. "I'm Carrie."
"A lovely name, Carrie. That's a world-class name. You take your time. Does your friend in your arms have a name, too?"
"Tiffany." Carrie could be a stubborn girl, sometimes and Margie contended with a hard case.
"Well, I have a cousin with that name. She lives in Orleans, France. She sends letters and words in French, helping me learn that language. They call it the country of love. Would you like to learn with me?"
Carrie looked up, curious instead of being folded into herself. "Maybe." She pronounced.
"Well, that does sound promising, oui? That means yes." Margie smiled brightly. She turned her head to Richard. "Well, we can work on this can't we?"
Margie smiles. "Well, let's get you children situated-like and copacetic. Richard will drive you children to school while we're here. I will be working quite early myself. We all have a lot to learn about one another, I would imagine!"
More than I could, little did I know.