There were only a couple of hours left until closing so, she was once again checking on her four groups of room-dwelling revelers while Courtlan, her managing partner that night, checked on the other four. Having just left an intimate 5th wedding-celebration party of six where everyone assured her they ‘could not be happier’, she was now at a somewhat larger 34th birthday-celebration party of 12. Staying only a moment, there was singing, there was champagne flowing and having been greeted with raised glasses and delighted smiles, she moved on. This was obviously a party having way too much fun to give her concern.
Not so with the next room though, which was a little too sedate, a bit too calm and so, since she sometimes did want a little interaction, she entered, delighted with the grins of acknowledgement she received as she did. She went to and stood in front of the man, a singer with an astonishing voice, she knew to be focus of this particular gathering and bowed, not as to a friend nor as to a stranger, but as to someone recognized, not that any of them would’ve known the difference.
“While we have seen each other around, we haven’t actually been introduced, I guess because we aren’t really in LA all that much. I’m Caillen Aldyn.”
“Aaron Keating. I’ve been hoping we’d have a chance to meet.”
“Have you? Interesting.”
“I’d introduce everyone, but--”
“No worries. I know some, most, and anyway, I won’t be staying long; I just wanted to find out if every--”
“Everything’s just perfect. Really. I can’t think of a thing we need except...maybe…?”
‘Maybe you could stay? Just for a few minutes?”
‘Well, aren’t you sweet? Sure, should be fine,” Caillen said, glancing at his others who were clustered around him, lounging in overstuffed chairs and sofas of velvet or tapestry. “I’m sure I can be spared a few minutes.”
“If you’d like…” Aaron directed his hand toward the one unoccupied chair.
“Thanks, but as the evening wears on, as I grow more and more tired, I also grow more fidgety, unable, apparently, to remain still, something I have trouble doing even under the best of circumstances.”
“I’m very familiar with that feeling,” Johnny Hanlon, Aaron’s lead guitarist said, and raising his beer to her, he continued, “I find this very helpful.
“It’s good, isn’t it, to realize you’re not alone, not the only one,” she said, mirroring his grin.
“Would you come a little closer?” Aaron asked. “I have to tell you, that is one beautiful vest, very unusual. The style, the colors, the fabric. Just gorgeous.” Unfolding his long legs, shifting forward, he said, “If you don’t mind my asking, where did you get it?”
”Ahhh, well, thing is, I could just tell you in 5 to 10 words, but there’s a kind of a history that surrounds it.” She looked down, her hands drifting possessively over the vest’s embroidered front. “Could be told very short-ish or could be told just a little bit longer, but still, there is a history so, what’s your poison?” Having removed her vest while talking, she handed it to him. “And so you know, you can always choose, ‘How about some other time?’ because that’s valid too.”
“Well now,” Aaron said, turning the vest gently over in his hands, absently, admiringly. “Let…me…think.”
“Really?” Caillen said, winking to the man, name unknown, obviously his partner, sitting next to Aaron. She stood spread-legged, shifting back and forth, her knee-length longish black silk dress swaying, shimmering gently. “You need to think?” What little talk going on when she’d entered had quieted; everyone was attentive. “About what if you don’t mind my asking? The answer’s obvious, is it not?”
“I’m supposed to say…now what was it?” Aaron chuckled, slouching back in the sofa, his partner leaning into his side,” the story that’s ‘just a little bit longer,’ right?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is what you are supposed to say.”
“But, I’ve heard about you, you know?” he said, scrunching down even further, that slight chuckle still playing across his lips. “About you and your…stories.”
“Hmmm?” Stilling, focusing on him, she said, “Good? Bad? Indifferent?”
“No, never indifferent. Never. And never bad either, actually so, why not? We have a little time before closing, don’t we?”
“We have an hour or so, Aaron so, I really think that some other--”
“Good,” Aaron said, the vest nestled protectively in his hands. “Now that that’s settled, how about we all just snuggle down into these great big cushy sofas of yours; drinks in hand, hey, maybe someone could even turn down the lights. You are where you are--”
“I see now my role, the part I am to play. You’re bored, it’s getting late so, to distract you for the next little while, I’ll stand before you, court jester-esque imparting unto--”
“Or…maybe just storyteller-esque, Caillen. And could you maybe start with what this freakin’ thing’s made of,” Aaron said, gently thumb-stroking the lining. “I have never touched anything so soft in my life.”
“I felt sure you’d take notice.”
“Me? In particular?”
“You in particular because I can’t help but’ve noticed how you have a kind of a thing for clothes and fashion and whatnot. Could be because of all the tour photos of you in those amazing outfits” Or all of the 5 to 8-page photo shoots of pure elegance for the crème de la crème fashion magazines. Either? Both? Just something I picked up on, a continuing theme.”
“Thank you for clearing that up--”
“So, whenever you’re ready.”
“Well, aren’t you sweet? Just any ole time I’m ready. Still, as this encounter isn’t somehow coming down the way I would’ve intended it, I’m a little confused or concerned as I haven’t a story devised per se. At least not one’s that’s fit for the telling anyway, just facts all scattered willy-nilly in my mind so, maybe we should just begin at the beginning. With the basics?”
“I love the basics.”
“Yay!! Okay, so the vest’s back and its lining are made of a silk-velvet the likes of which you’ll likely not encounter again, the velvet having been made in Spain using Chinese silk. And did you know that silk-velvets have been made in that part of the world since like the 800’s?” she asked, noting everyone’s startled looked. “I know, right? For nearly 1200 years. I was pretty amazed, we all were, when we came upon that little bit of vaguely ancient history because, seriously, that’s when the land was still at the behest of the Moors.
“Plus, the embroidery on the front was done from the very same Chinese silk in 40 different thread colors.” Noting his studious examination of the embroidery, Callien said, “You can’t really count the different colors, the blending is just that good.”
“Well, I can try.”
“Yes, you can, but you’ll only end up getting annoyed. I know I certainly did, but do as you will. Naturally there’s more, like why the vest was made at all and where, how it is I know that there are 40 thread colors and so on. A Bunch of stuff, all spelled out in our historical records, but I really would like to at least answer your initial question first, which is…I found this vest very near the back of a closet, but it’s what that means, which does, on the face of it, appear nonsense that is at the crux, the very heart of my story,” Caillen said, her hands all small gentle yet nervous gestures, even if she was, in the main, comfortable. “So, allow me to elaborate.”
Even though encouraged by them, still, she briefly cast her eyes down, calming herself before she said, “One day we, meaning me and my five others, meaning us six Gwynedd-Aldyns, will inherit an isolated house located in the wild and desolate backcountry of the tiny, if significant, nation of Wales, Cymru in Welsh, in and of itself a realm pretty wild and desolate, yeah?
Receiving vaguely confused ‘Absolutelys’ and ‘You bet yas’, Caillen nerves calmed, her audience was with her, participating. Nothing was worse than telling a story to an audience that remained quiet. “So now get this, this is actually pretty cool because understand, the cornerstone of the original stone-quarried house, now a sort of back porch sitting-room off the main house, was laid down in…are you ready?? In 986 or so the cornerstone’s inscription reads.”
“Pardon?” Aaron said, leaning forward, looking down at the vest with sudden concern. “I’m not sure I--”
“You did hear me correctly. Over one thousand years, that’s how far back we can trace our family. In stunning Technicolor and High Fidelity…no wait…in 5.1 Surround Sound. Our ancient peoples were maniacs on so so many levels really, but still, about our history’s record-keeping, they were sticklers for detail. Stick…lers!! So, we know much, perhaps too much, about those who passed through our house before us. But once read a thing cannot be unread, I can assure you. Good, bad, or indifferent.
“And now, back to the main point before I get lost in the winding side roads of digression,” Caillen said, pacing a little, a couple of steps one away then back, another way then back because, being confined within the small circle of sofas and chairs occupied by attentive listeners, all their eyes on her, she was beginning to feel claustrophobic.
“The house was added on to in fits and starts with little, if any, regard for symmetry or of anything even vaguely resembling an overarching scheme. Funny, I tell you they were mad about record-keeping only to then tell you they built their house utterly willy-nilly, but the building of the house was really all about ‘go ahead, just tack a room on here’ and ‘hey, why don’t we put a tower up there?’ It was really all about…whatever they felt like.” Sensing one of her others coming from behind her, Caillen paused.
“Thought you might be getting a little parched,” Jayden said, handing her a beer. Taking it from him, kissing his cheek, she watched as he drifted back to Courtlan waiting in the doorway. “We’ve checked on your fourth room and all’s well so, stay here as long as you like.”
“Won’t you stay too?” Caillen asked. Both nodded, but Jayden also tapped his watch, reminding her of the time.
“I’m sorry,” Johnny said. “We should’ve thought to get you something to--”
“Is okay, I’m fine, really. I am,” she said, smiling, pleased that he’d eventually thought of her comfort. “Anyway, this haphazard sort of building technique went on for approximately 300 years, until the late 1200s, when at last someone, we actually do know who, but that’s the record-keeping part of the story, well, he stood back, this not-really-an-architect, he looked at /the overall structure, he put his hands on his hips, he shook his head and he said, ‘Whatthehell?’ Or so we imagine.” She mimicked this not-really-an-architect’s imagined stance, laughing when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jayden & Courtlan making a show of mimicking her.
“He then tidies up the place,” she said, shifting back toward Aaron and his others, “removing a bulge here, building a corresponding tower there. He threw on a second story just because and then, after he’d wrapped the whole building in a sturdy sort of medieval façade, he moved on with his life having left ours just a little better for his having been there. And what more, really, can one ask from an ancestor?”
“Not all that much,” Johnny said.
“Not all that much, indeed” Caillen said, and now, tired of standing while all around her sat, she did also, immediately distracting herself by randomly moving around whatever she could find on the large low coffee table that centered the sofas and chairs
“Caillie?” Jayden asked.
“I’m fine, sweeties, honestly. You’d be the first to know otherwise and so, time moves on yet again. You may be questioning that very concept right about now, but actually, time really does move on. Consequently, we next find ourselves in the late 1600s and who would have thought it, but the house has suffered the same fate as before, once again finding itself out of alignment, just a bit off kilter. Or…maybe a lot.
“Fortunately, another someone does just as the first someone had, or so we once again imagine, and like the magician who came before him, he transforms our house from an ugly duckling into a pretty decent looking swan. I’m not saying it was beautiful by any means, but I will say it was…pretty decent. He also pulls down this and puts up that, always striving for that ever illusive perfection of symmetry that pretty much defines a really well designed house, don’t you think?” she said, directing her question mostly toward Aaron.
“Well, sure,” he said, “I guess--”
“Rhetorical, really as symmetry is all. So now this guy, he also threw up another floor, the third and, believe it or not, our eventual and final destination, wrapping the entire house up in some style I can’t really define, but that, as I said, looks pretty decent in the several etchings we have of it. So, good work second guy, we salute you.” She raised her now empty bottle. Jayden and Courtlan followed her lead. Everyone else followed theirs.
“Wait, wait, I see too many empty bottles,” Johnny said. “Let me get some more from the bar. Who needs one?” Nodding to the four people who yelped ‘I do I do,’ he returned quickly with six, one for himself, four for those who had expressed need and, handing the last to Caillen, he said, “Thought you might need another.”
“Sweet! Thank you; this is just what I needed to brace myself for our third, and final, time-jump. We now find ourselves happily located in the very late 1800s where this time an actual architect actually pulls nothing down nor puts anything up, but another façade change is made, who among us is surprised, this time to the then current design rage all over Great Britain, the ever and still desirable…Mission Style!
“Still, some minor interior modifications were made such as on the second and third floors, which originally had six bedrooms and one sitting room each, one bedroom each was converted into…wait for it!. That’s right, a bedroom-sized closet!” Once everyone had stopped Whooting!! she continued. “Well, aren’t you all just so cute? Aren’t they adorable, sweeties?”
“Precious, Caillie,” Courtlan said. “Utterly.”
“It’s wonderful how very little Courty and I disagree on. Still, it is in the third floor’s bedroom-sized closet that I found the vest. And here you thought I wasn’t really going anywhere with any of this, oh ye of little faith.”
“A bedroom-sized closet? Really?” Aaron sighed.
“Don’t get any ideas, Aaron,” his partner said, sitting up and away from his side. “We are not converting an entire bedroom into a closet.”
“No, sorry. It wouldn’t be practical.” he said, reaching for and finishing the last of Aaron’s beer.
“I supposed you’re right,” Aaron said.
“And know what?” Caillen said, “not to rub it in, of course, but we have TWO of them. Full. We have two bedroom-sized closets full to the rafters with clothes.”
“Well, alright, now see? That right there is just completely unfair,” Aaron said.
“Sorry,” Caillen chuckled at his wounded look and noting his questioning eyes, she said, “No really, I am. Really. And so to finish. Now, what the architect had done was to remove the original two hallway bedroom doors, replacing each with a door from its adjacent bedroom. He also removed the windows that had faced out over the property, replacing them with what are virtually ribbon-windows high up under the eaves so as to--”
“So as to protect the clothing from light.” Aaron mused.
“Well, apparently you are more than just another pretty face--”
“I really am. Just ask anyone.”
”So as to protect the clothing from light,” Caillen said, resettling herself as Jayden & Courtlan joined her, one to each side, at the large low table. Both annoyingly played with whatever she was. Both drank form her beer. Both made her feel loved. Good times. “Moving right along.”
“Really, are you so sure?” Jayden said, glancing again at his watch.
“Moving. Right. Along. He, the closet-building architect, then installed floor to ceiling poles, substantial poles, 30 in all, in two rows of 15 separated by a narrow centrally located corridor that runs from the doorway to the what? The closet’s back wall. Lastly, a rod was anchored, a substantial rod, from each pole to its adjacent sidewall – pole to the left & pole to the left 15 times– pole to the right & pole to the right 15 times, thereby installing 30 rods which created tons of storage space for tons of clothes. And coats and nightwear and on and on. Also, there’s this really cool thing about--”
“Like this really needs to get any cooler,” Johnny said, smiling at Aaron.
“But it does because as you walk from the doorway down that narrow and centrally located corridor toward the back wall, you walk back in time, understand? The front rods hold items from like the 1970s and 80s.” Pausing briefly, acknowledge the gentle if dramatic moans from Jayden and Courtlan, Caillen continued, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but as you go further back, well, I can tell you from personal experience, the mind boggles. So now, when I say that I found this vest very near the back of a bedroom-sized closet, you have a somewhat clearer, if not totally precise, idea of just what that means, yeah?”
“That this,” Aaron said, holding the vest out toward her, laid gently in his hand, “is old, but how old? Do you have a more precise idea of just how old,” he glanced down toward the vest again, “this is?”
“Inquisitive, aren’t you? Are you always so inquisitive but yes, yes I do. I do have a more precise idea, but as that involves the record-keeping part of my story, my history, I fear boring, if not you, then those with you. I have actually seen a couple of people yawn.”
“You lie,” Johnny said.
“While I may exaggerate, but I never lie. Or at least not so obviously.”
“So, tell us about the record-keeping,” a sweet-faced man said.
“And the house,” Aaron’s partner said
“Why, aren’t you all just so charming? First, in answer to Aaron’s question, the vest was made in 1386. Now, allow me to--”
“Wait. What?” Aaron said. “Back up a minute, sweetie.”
“It’s old, Aaron, very very old and we wear it as we please because a thing, even a cherished thing, must be used as it was meant to be used. Otherwise, there’s no point.”
“Jamey wears a belt, a belt even older than Callie’s vest,” Courtlan said, “that tells a history of war with battles both won and lost and of men who died. It’s worked in a kind of fake Celtic runic alphabet. A little Game of Thrones-ish now that I think on it.”
“Awesome freakin’ belt, long as he is tall, and Jamey wears it like he picked it up at Macys just last week,” Jayden said, shaking his head. “You should ask him about it some time.”
“I’ll be sure to, Aaron said.”
“But look, it’s getting late; we’ve taken up enough of your time,” Courtlan said, standing, stretching with Jayden and Caillen joining him. “Perhaps we--”
“But,” Johnny said, “what about--?”
“Aren’t you here often? We’ll continue this another time, yes? Jameson and Toby flying in, maybe in a day or two, and then we’ll all be in LA for a couple of more weeks so, I propose we reconvene when next you’re here, assuming you’ll still be interested,” Jayden said.
“I would love that, I’m sure everyone else would too,” Aaron said, also standing. “We have reservations for next Tuesday if that would--”
“Would be perfect,” Courtlan said. “I’m sorry to rush but we must prepare for closing. There’s much still to do. Until next time.”
The three moved a little distance into the room, toward the wide doorway before turning back toward Aaron and his others. Bowing slightly, as if to friends, turning one last time, they were gone.
“That went well,” Aaron said. “Drink up, people. Let’s get out of here so they can do what they need to.” And that’s just what his people did.