Home Sweet Home

“Niko! Look!” Theo exclaimed, grabbing her cousin’s arm again causing him to pull the steering wheel sharply to the right. Niko swerved dangerously and got a chorus of horns for his blunder. It was a topless Jeep Wrangler stuffed to the max with boxes and Theo’s eyes were wide as she kept standing up on her seat with her body sticking up above the windshield. She was taking in all the sights she could as they crossed the suspension bridge (GWB for anyone concerned) into New York. Niko wasn’t a fan of driving, he hadn’t even been driving as long as his cousin had, because his way of traveling was always faster. He especially wasn’t a fan of driving in this stop and go bullshit called gridlock, but the skill was coming in handy, what with Theo playing tourist and them needing a way to bring all of their stuff. Mostly her stuff, but Niko wanted her to feel comfortable in their new ‘home.’ If it meant he’d have to make the 374 mile trip between New Hampshire and Manhattan a dozen times, he’d do so, gladly.

“What building is that,” she asked? Niko shrugged. They were all tall. They all looked the same.

“What bridge is that,” she asked? Niko shrugged. They were all suspension. They all looked the same.

“Are we almost there?” Theo was trying to pinpoint their location on the screen’s map app without taking her eyes off the passing cityscape any longer than necessary.

“Almost, Miskja Brat. Just a few more miles.” He patted her arm and tried to control the blinding rage he felt swelling inside his chest as another driver leaned on his horn, because heaven forbid Niko get one car length ahead of him in the merge.

“I want to see everything! Can't you drive any slower?" Theo appreciated that it was impossible to reconcile both requests. “Sorry, Niko. I’m just so excited. It’s New York!” She punched him in the arm to make her point. Because no point is made until someone gets punched. That’s how Niko had taught her growing up and there weren’t any others to contradict such a valuable life lesson, so it was set in stone.

“We park the car. Then I’ll take you to see everything,” he promised. “On foot.” The GPS told him to take a right; they were near the destination according to the robotic man with the Australian accent Theo used on her phone. “What is the name of the hotel I am looking for?”

“The Geneva. It’s supposed to be right outside the… Niko! Stop the car!” Theo spoke with such urgency that Niko slammed on the brakes. The driver behind him leaned on the horn. “Jackass!” The man with the silver hair and mustache said while driving around. (No more Stan Lee Cameos. :( RIP Excelsior!)

“What?” He asked, expecting to see a dead squirrel or something ridiculous in the road, but Theo was already out of the jeep and near getting herself killed by running across the street and up to one of the buildings. Niko wasn’t familiar with the concept of double parking, or the legality (lack thereof) of it, but in a snap he had joined her by the step, looking around. “What is it?”

Theo removed a sepia photo from her purse; it had foxing on the edges and showed signs of aging. In it was an older version of herself and a man in a cloak, but looking closer in the background were the numbers in black. “177A” she read aloud. The building was exactly the same as it had been in the photo, as if not a moment’s time went by. It was so nondescript, Niko wondered how Theo had seen it at all.

“Miskja Brat…” He said softly.

“No, Niko, this… this is where we’re supposed to be. I know it.”

“You know it? I know we’ll end up in jail for breaking and entering.” He rapped on the door with his knuckles, and leaned his ear to the door to see if someone was inside.

“It’s open.” She whispered, running a hand along the door frame. Niko made a face, but to prove her wrong he’d turn the knob and show her it was locked. Niko went to turn the doorknob, but as he reached for it it moved just out of his grasp. He turned his head like a dog listening to a high pitched noise and tried again. Once again the door knob moved, this time downward to avoid his hand. Niko gritted his teeth. What followed was barely able to be seen by the naked eye as Niko in rapid fire succession tried to unsuccessfully grab hold of the door knob as it moved just out of reach. Around and around the door he chased after the knob until giving up. “What fresh hell is this?” He asked Theo. His younger cousin, looking confident reached for the door and the knob glided over to her hand. On the first try she gave it a small turn and pushed open the door.

“Too slow, Nikolai.” She said, teasingly.

“I don’t like this.” He said, moving protectively in front of Theo.

“You don’t like anything, grumpy bear.” She said, punching his chest and walking right in as if she owned the place. “This place… told me it was here. And look!” She pointed to a portrait on the wall, a picture of three people. A woman wearing a scarlet corset, a man in an oversized cloak and a little three year old with blue eyes and auburn hair, standing in front of their home in Berlin. The picture was taken in wintertime, it must have been shortly after the move from Sokovia. Even more curious was the fact that snow had seemed to have fallen from the portrait onto the table beneath it. A cold wind emanated from the photo itself.

“This is where we’re supposed to be.” As if it agreed, the front door closed, the street stretched enough that the Jeep slid into a parking spot and two leather chairs pulled up to be sat in. Theo was already holding a cup of steaming hot tea, beaming her best smile and giggling as she sank down into the soft leather. “It wants us to stay. This, Niko...” she said with determination. “Is where we’re supposed to be."

< Prev : Painting the City Scarlet Next > : Sightseeing isn't a Race