Tuesday 25 February 2014

Mama Banayan

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being,  the more joy you can contain.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Autumn Leaves (by Eredel deviantart.com)

Mother Of Everyone 

It was 9:35 a.m when the plane finally landed at Heathrow Airport.

The sky was grey and listless and a fine mist of fog had descended bestowing the scene with an ethereal quality.

Marie Bineau.

It was almost twenty years since she had been in England.

She was petite and attractive with vivid green eyes and abundant black hair which she had twisted into a chignon beneath a Harris Tweed cap.

Marie Bineau had a penchant for designer outfits and was always immaculately turned out.

And today was no exception as she anticipated cool English weather and buttoned up her cashmere Donna Karan coat.

It was with a mixture of emotions that she peered out of the small air plane window to see that a smoky veil of mist had descended everywhere.

A taxi cab drive would shortly be taking her to her Surrey destination.

Autumn in England was very evocative for Marie Bineau.

But this year the season was tinged with sorrow.

And as the plane finally touched down - Marie Bineau was experiencing a myriad of conflicting emotions.

Born in Quebec to a French-Canadian father and a Spanish mother - they had moved to England when she was eight years old.

And now she was returning home to the country where she had spent her girlhood.

A country she no longer recognised as her own.

Marie Bineau was an editor for the US branch of the successful fashion magazine Lumière and she had made New York her home.

For over a decade,  she had carved out a life for herself among the avant garde New York set.

Marie Bineau was no longer the gamine and winsome teenager who had been living in Britain.

Now she was a sophisticated and much sought after New Yorker young woman with an exotic panache.

Marie Bineau had class and style with a swirl of Gallic charm.

But deep down she was still the little lost French-Canadian girl.

The timid little teen may have been replaced by a confidant young woman who appeared sure of herself.

But deep down she was frightened and insecure like the best of them.

And now she was returning to England for a brief spell.

To face her demons.

And to bury her mother.

A mother who had been emotionally unavailable to her for much of her life.

By the time the cab finally arrived at The Magnus Hotel,  Marie Bineau was struggling with such an overwhelming feeling of dejection that she ached.

Suddenly she was an orphan.



And she was a stranger in the country of her girlhood.

Everything seemed surreal.

The independent New Yorker had become a little girl again.

Alone in her hotel room, Marie Bineau hesitated by the phone.

She was suddenly torn by indecision.

Bineau felt desperately lonely and she yearned for someone to hold her.

And tell her everything was going to be alright.

That everything was just a bad dream.

And that she would wake up soon.

Suddenly Marie Bineau yearned to see him.


The man she had pushed away.

The man with the Paul Newman eyes.

Suddenly he was standing in the doorway of her hotel room.

He smiled at her.

Bineau's heart skipped a beat.

And then he disappeared.

And Marie Bineau was left with a gaping hole in her heart.

She carefully unpacked her bags.

When she had folded all her clothes neatly and put her cosmetics in the bathroom, Bineau  took out a small framed photo of her father.

Then she sat on the edge of the bed clutching in tightly in her hand.

Emile Bineau

Her French-Canadian father.

He smiled back at her from the photograph with his round open face.

And suddenly she could smell his big Cuban cigars.

And hear his bellowing laugh as it rumbled like a volcano.


Marie Bineau rocked herself gently on the bed as silent tears rolled down her cheeks.

Then tiredness overtook her.

And she curled up on the bed and fell asleep with the photograph of her father still clutched tightly to her broken heart.

The following morning, the cab pulled up outside the grand family home.

Marie Bineau paused before alighting.

She was going back in time.

And the years suddenly melted away.

And she was experiencing a myriad of emotions.

She was happy and sad to be back.

Marie Bineau paid the driver and for several long moments she stood staring at the elegant and imposing mansion with its classic water fountain and fine portico replete with Grecian columns.

It looked like the White House.

A gilded haven.


Her pretty sister ran out to meet her and the two women embraced.

Alicia Jacob.

Blonde and pretty with a mathematical mind.

She was followed closely by their strapping brother.

Daniel Bineau.

Tall and handsome with his fathers face and his curly black hair.

He put a protective arm around the two women.

The three siblings were too overcome with emotion to speak at first.

Several crows squawked loudly as they flew overhead.

The harbingers of doom proclaiming the hour of despair.

"She died peacefully in hospital" Alicia Jacob informed her sister finally.

"The end came pretty fast" Daniel Bineau added.

"I'm glad she didn't suffer in the end" Marie replied.

They were now orphans.

Bound by circumstance.

Rosa Bineau had been diagnosed with bone cancer just two years previously.

She had undergone her treatment with stoicism and fortitude.

A vibrant and attractive raven haired Spanish woman with bright green eyes and nerves of steel.

Her daughter Alicia spent every day beside her bed.

She read to her and sneaked in some of her favourite snacks.

Alicia Jacob sat beside her mother's hospital bed and held her hand throughout the final days of her life.

Rosa was resigned to her fate.

The end came swiftly and gently in the early hours of an autumn morning.

Rosa Bineau passed away peacefully in her sleep.

The Bineau's were an upwardly mobile family.

They were a well-to-do family who were counted among the elite rich in London.

Emile Bineau had been a highly respected and successful biologist.

And he was able to live comfortably with his family in an apartment in Chelsea and a large mansion in Surrey.

Alicia Jacob was small and pretty with black hair and bright blue eyes.

In her mothers eyes - Jacob was a success.

For she was a happily married pathologist.

David Jacob had met his future wife at a medical conference in Boston,  Massachusetts.

They fell instantly in love and married soon after - promptly presenting Rosa Bineau with a little grandson.

Little Joshua Jacob swiftly become the apple of Rosa's eye.

And the focus of all her maternal affection.

Daniel Bineau was the incarnation of his father.

From his dashing dark looks to his resonant voice and unmistakable presence.

Tall and strapping with curly black hair and his mother's green eyes - Bineau had become the rock of the family.

Danial Bineau was the manager of the Central Bank in London.

A highly lucrative job and many of his clients were wealthy businessmen,  entrepreneurs and rich Arabs.

Daniel Bineu spoke with his father's voice.

And when he spoke in that rich voice - everybody sat up and listened.

Daniel had been happily married to Noa Briski for three years now.

And now they were expecting their first child in several months time.

Marie Bineau was the rebel of the family.

Remaining resolutely unmarried and childless.

She refused to accept the conventional route laid out for her and went to art school in Paris before landing a job as a beauty editor for a Essentials magazine.

The matriarch of the Bineau family had finally passed and all three siblings were drawn together by their fierce bond.

They may have nurtured an understanding with their vital and domineering mother.

But all three of them implicitly idolised their father.

None more so than Marie Bineau.

She worshipped him.

Emile Bineau had been her hero.

The shadow of his presence loomed large in her life.

The day Emile Bineau passed - Marie's world as she knew it had ended.

Nobody would ever compare to her father.

She looked for her father in every man she met.

And Marie Bineau always found men wanting.

Emile Bineau had only been in his sixties when he died of a heart attack.

His death was shocking and unexpected.

Every day that Marie Bineau had ever spent with her father was indelibly stamped on her soul.

Seeking to create a physical memorial to her father,  Bineau was granted permission to plant a tree in the beautiful local park.

Then she fled to America to build herself a new life.

But she had taken her past with her.

And she pushed away every man who tried to love her.

Just like him.

The man with the Paul Newman eyes.

Marie Bineau's mind was wandering now.

She was thinking about her old life in New York - it suddenly felt a million miles away from her now.

And Marie Bineau felt stranded.

She followed her brother and sister into the house.

The big hall with its gleaming checked floor was as in memory.

As was the scent of freshly cut roses from large ornate Chinese vases upon every window sill - her mother's insistence.

Red and white roses for Rosa.

The grand and imposing stairwell straight out of a black and white movie was exactly as it was.

As were the expensive oil paintings which still lined the walls.

A maid nodded to the three siblings as they entered and she quickly relieved them of their coats.

Marie Bineau stood looking around the extravagant surroundings.

The plush and immaculate residence that her mother had so delighted in and fastidiously kept.

She felt like a stranger in a strange place.

The partially open heavy doors emitted the sound of muffled sobs and people speaking in hushed tones.

Family and friends had converged from all corners of the globe to share their condolences.

But Marie Bineau felt numb inside.

She took a deep breath.

The big dining room beckoned her.

It was exactly as in memory.

The large oval dining table with its Chantilly lace table cloth remained the focal point.

The Gothic gleaming silver Georgian candelabra was still placed in the centre of the table as it always was.

The green leather backed chairs were as she remembered them.

The antique oak dresser with its fetching display of exclusive Royal Doulton fine bone china plates remained.

And Marie Bineau could feel the presence of her mother every where she turned.

Suddenly the dining room seemed full of people again.

Marie Bineau could see familiar faces surrounding her.

Ghosts from the past.

Her aged grandmother Jovena - kissing her forehead one last time before going home and passing away in her sleep.

Her sister Alicia in a blue velvet Betsey Johnson evening dress and blue eye shadow by Clinique - nervously clinging onto the hand of a good-looking boy named David Jacob whom she was introducing to the family.

Brother Daniel in his smart Moss Bross tuxedo - feeling over dressed and awkward as he adjusts his bow-tie.

Uncle Bob and auntie Leila fighting again.

"My mother was right all along" Leila pronounces - her eyes narrowing dangerously.

"Even when she's wrong - she's right!" Bob shrugs nonchalantly.

"I should have married your brother!" Leila retorts sharply.

There is a ripple of laughter among the other diners.

You like "to-may-to" and I like "to-mah-to"; 

Po-tay-to, po-tah-to, to-may-to, to-mah-to! 
Let's call the whole thing off!

Marie Bineau smiled to herself at the recollection.

Adelita Hepner.

Tanned a golden brown and dressed in a big pink Valentino dress.

Hepner was Rosa Bineau's oldest friend - now on her fourth husband.

They are giggling and whispering to each other like a couple of teenage newlyweds.

"The black widow!" Uncle Hester informs Marie conspiratorially  "Adelita Hepner - the black widow!"

Marie Bineau stifles a little laugh behind her hand.


As she traced the outline of her father's chair with her finger - Marie Bineau's mind was cast back to a New York party not so long ago.

The hip-set were partying at an invitation only celebration at the exclusive apartment of her best friend.

New York Fashion Week was over and the artistic and avant garde were enjoying the hiatus.

Mai Wong - a bi-racial supermodel and the toast of the New York fashion world.

The prepossessing fashionista knew all the right people and moved in all the right circles.

Beauty editors, actors and models were mingling and dancing to the heady tunes that a DJ was spinning from his decks.

Marie Bineau had been feeling singularly out of place for most of the evening.

Her heart wasn't in it.

Dressed in a pastel blue Versace shift dress with thick black hair tumbling about her tanned shoulders - Marie Bineau was a vision of beauty.

But as she watched the other party goers losing themselves in each other and the hypnotic sound of the music - all Bineau yearned to do was go back to her apartment and retire to her big bed.

She watched Mai Wong holding court - surrounded by admirers.

Wong had the common touch.

An elegant and refined Chinese-American beauty with a heart of gold.

Marie Bineau smiled to herself - Mai was the best friend any girl could have.

Just as she was about to slip quietly out - she noticed him leaning nonchalantly by a wall.

Bineau's heart skipped a beat.

The young man was good-looking and tanned with crystal clear blue eyes and wavy blond hair.

And he was tall - over 6ft.

He smiled at her.

The young man had captivating eyes.

Paul Newman eyes.

He smiled broadly at her.

Time had stopped.

It was only her in the room and the man with the Paul Newman eyes.

Marie Bineau was blushing brightly.

Suddenly she felt the urge to flee.

Marie Bineau rushed into the kitchen to collect herself.

It was quiet there.

Something was coming on - she could feel it.

Marie Bineau practised several deep yogic breaths to calm herself.

"I'm not ready for this"

"Here you are!" Mai Wong announced.

She was standing in the kitchen doorway and shaking her head

"Why are you hiding in here?" Wong cried.

"I'm sorry Mai" Marie replied "I think I should be getting home"

"Oh no you don't!" Wong informed her firmly "I have someone I think you should meet!"

Marie Bineau groaned.

For all her New York savvy - she was still shy at heart.

Still just a little French-Canadian girl lost in the big wide world.

Her best friend grabbed her by the hand and tugged her back into the noisy party room again.

Mai Wong was leading her through the lively throng.

The man's back was turned to them.

The man with the Paul Newman eyes.

"Marie Bineau!" Mai Wong announced "Meet Levi Caplan!"

The man turned round.

It was him.

The man with the Paul Newman eyes.

Marie Bineau's eyes had widened and she was too stunned to speak.

And he was even more handsome close-up.

Mai Wong flashed them both a knowing smile before gliding away.

And the couple were left alone to gaze into each others eyes for several long heart-stopping moments.

Everybody else in the room had melted away.

It was just Marie Bineau and the man with the Paul Newman eyes.

Several weeks of tentative flirtation and elaborate dinners at expensive New York restaurants ensued.

Levi Caplan was charming and clever and very cultivated.

He owned a string of book shops and lived in a swanky apartment in Manhattan.

But Marie Bineau was keeping men at arms length.

She rarely ever allowed anyone in.

Particularly men.

So she pushed him away.


Now Marie had cause for regret as she found herself back in the big dining room of her family home.

And she was fighting with her emotions.

She was weeping loudly.

But she wasn't crying for her mother.

Marie Bineau was crying for herself now.

And the large room suddenly felt very cold.

Three days later and the imposingly beautiful Corpus Christi Catholic Church was filled with mourners.

Many of those present had travelled far and wide to be at the funeral of Rosa Bineau.

Relatives and friends from Canada, Europe and South Africa had made the journey to pay their respects to the indomitable woman.

Still more lamenters were standing outside in the driving rain.

Marie Bineau was standing beside her brother and sister.

They were all huddled together in a forlorn solidarity.

As haunted as the grey sky outside.

Rain lashed hard against the ornate stained glass windows.

Centuries of history surrounded them in the old Gothic church.

The coffin that contained the body of Rosa Bineau was like a golden boat ready to carry her to the Underworld.

Alicia Jacob was weeping loudly while Daniel Bineau struggled with his emotions as he held onto his wife.

Only Marie Bineau remained as unmoved as a stock.

Her mother had been dead to her long before this day.

And Marie Bineau was numb inside.

She shed no tears.

And the entire service passed in a daze.

The priest spoke but Marie Bineau could not remember what he said.

Her brother gave the eulogy but she could remember what he read.

Countless mourners expressed their sympathies to the grieving family.

But everything seemed like it was a dream.

And time had become obsolete.

Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion.

People came and went.

They spoke but Marie Bineau could not make out what they were saying.

Everything felt like it was being conducted under water.

By the time they drove to the cemetery - it had already stopped raining.

But the sky was gloomy and overcast.

Later as the pall bearers carried the coffin out and the sad procession wound its way to the large family vault  -  Marie Bineau suddenly noticed a little sparrow flying over head.

The bird appeared to be following the sorrowful cortège on its short journey through the cemetery.

And Marie Bineau was momentarily mesmerised by the sprightly creature as it chirped and eyed her.

Finally the procession was over and the tragic cortège followed the pall bearers into the vault.

They did not notice that Marie Bineau had fallen behind.

The bird looked down upon her for several long moments as if it were acknowledging her.

Marie Bineau smiled for the first time in days.

Then suddenly the bird flew away.

And Bineau felt a great emotional tug as she watched the creature disappear into the grey sky.

A part of her yearned to fly away too.

To a place where there was no tears or pain.

And the little sparrow had been a kindred spirit.

Just like Marie Bineau - the bird had been an insider looking in.

Observing the car wreck that was her life.

The young woman watched the grey gloomy sky as she strove to collect herself.

She wasn't aware of the sound of footsteps on the gravel behind her.

"They are about to inter mother" Daniel Bineau informed her.

Marie Bineau turned to face the man who had always come to her rescue.

And today was no different.

Today he was saving her from herself.

"Thank you Dan" Marie Bineau replied "I think I am ready now"

Brother and sister walked arm-in-arm into the vault.

And within minutes it was all over.

The following day,  Marie Bineau awoke to find a darkening sky and another torrential down pour.

As the relentless rain rattled against the window pane,  the stormy weather merely served to compound her sense of wretchedness.

For several brief moments Marie Bineau pondered her father as she peered out of the window at the grey world.

"If you listen closely to the rain" Emile Bineau informed the young Marie "you can hear the sky talking"

The little girl's eyes were wide open.

Marie Bineau felt a rush of yearning at the memory of her father and his woody voice.

And she sat quietly on the bed and listened to the rain.

After breakfast,  the rain had stopped sufficiently enough for Marie Bineau to decide to take a walk.

She suddenly felt the need to escape the hotel.

And she suddenly felt an overwhelming desire to visit the park and to see the tree she had planted in her fathers name.

Emile Bineau - the best daddy a girl could ever have.

Marie Bineau threw on a small black Givenchy cap and pulled on her cashmere Jaeger coat and headed out.

The exhilaration she felt as she stepped out into the street was overwhelming.

Everything seemed familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

And Marie Bineau felt like a stranger in a new town.

The town she had grown up and knew so well - had changed and yet it somehow remained the same.

Marie Bineau smiled to herself as she paused to gaze at shop windows.

There were so many familiar shops from her girlhood and a new shopping mall too.

But Marie Bineau did not have time to stop for long - she was on a mission.

The winds were rising as she rushed down the street and the sky was heavily overcast again.

If memory served her right - the beautiful old park was on the edge of town.

Her heart was beating faster and faster as she hurried along.

People were coming towards her but they were blurring into moving shapes and sounds - Bineau's heart and mind was so bent on finding the park of memory.

Suddenly she was six years old again and running to her father with his outstretched arms.


Then the memory vanished and Marie Bineau was lost again.

She was standing in the middle of the street and spinning round.

Gusty winds were blowing around her now and leaves swirled in circular motions around her.

Red and gold leaves were dancing around her.

There was a chill in the air and little droplets of rain had begun to fall upon her.

People were rushing past her with umbrella's.

Everything was spinning around her.

Somehow Marie Bineau found the strength to forge on.

She was doing it for daddy.

Bineau passed the old town museum.

And Benedict's Sweets.

Just as she turned the corner - there it was.

The park of memory.

Elegant and ancient with a rickety gate which was hanging off its hinges and an impressive old water fountain of reclining cherubs.

these autumn leaves (by bailey--elizabeth deviantar.com)
The Westmeads Park was a piece of heaven in the town of her girlhood.

And Marie Bineau's heart was glad to see the old park again.

Time had evaporated and it seemed like yesterday that she and a small group of family and friends including the park warden had stood before the newly planted tree with its shining golden plaque beneath.

And Bineau hardly noticed that the rain had stopped.

A fine mist had descended upon the ground shrouding the park in a smoky haze.

It was like a scene straight out of a black and white movie.

For several long moments the young woman stood at the gate and stared transfixed at the park.

As she entered it, the sun suddenly streamed in through the tall trees and illuminated everything.

There was a magical aspect to the beautiful old park as everything was transformed into gold.

The sun - the great alchemist. 

A wide gravel path seemed to stretch on forever before like the yellow brick road.

And it was surmounted on either side by delicate rose bushes and endless sheltering trees that seemed to stretch high up into the sky.

The beautiful park was was replete with a wonderful water feature and a little Japanese bridge across a large lake.

Marie Bineau took a deep breath.

She walked across the bridge and gazed at the peaceful lake.

The park was virtually empty.

And all was still.

Marie Bineau remembered that her fathers tree was close to the central feature of the park.

An old water feature.

The imposing and beautifully mounted old fountain with stone cherubim reclining on large intricately carved leaves.

There was virtually nobody there except the birds.

And an aged gardener.

Sam Abney.

He'd been working the park for over forty years.

Everyone knew who he was and he was a familiar sight on his bike as he rode through town.

As tall and thin as one of his rakes - Abney had long and wizened face and clear blue eyes.

He was as permanent a fixture as the large fountain itself.

The lanky Yorkshire man had buried two wives and lived in a cottage with a Yorkshire terrier named Yorky. 

Abney doffed his cap as Marie Bineau passed.

"Good day, Miss!" He declared.

Marie Bineau smiled.

Sam Abney - still a charmer.

"Good day!" She replied.

Sam Abney - stalwart keeper of the park.

He had hardly changed.

Marie Bineau's eyes darted around the park.

She couldn't rest until she had found her father's memorial

Finally her green eyes alighted upon a sturdy tree some feet away.

Her heart jumped within her.

There it was.

"Daddy's tree"

The tree she had planted in honour of her father.

It was rugged and strong.

Just like her father had been.

Emile Bineau.

Time had stopped.

Red and gold leaves were whirling around Marie Bineau as the high winds whistled through the tall trees.

But she was lost in her reverie.

Bineau was gazing upon her father's tree with wonder.

Somehow a living piece of her father.

Beneath it was a little gold plaque.

In memory of Emile Daniel Bineau

Tu nous manques chaque jour
We miss you every day

Marie Bineau knelt and touched the plaque with her hand.


Tears were falling silently down her cheeks.

Her little mission was over. 

Then she closed her eyes.

She wanted to hold onto this moment and never let it go.

The silence was suddenly broken by the sound of a heavily accented female voice.

"Come,  come my darlings!"

Marie Bineau jumped slightly and slowly rose to her feet.

She turned to see a curvaceous older woman some yards away.

The woman was beckoning to a flock of wood pigeons waddling around her.

And her presence seemed to fill the large park.

"They call her Mama Banayan!" Sam Abney informed Bineau "She is here every day"

The woman appeared to be scattering pieces of bread from a small brown paper bag as a small flock of wood pigeons descended to join the others.

Marie Bineau stared at the woman with wonder.

Her selfless acts of kindness had gripped the young woman's soul.

Bineau was transfixed by the docility of the birds. 

They did not appear to be afraid or perturbed by the presence of the older woman as she summoned them to eat.

The birds were waddling around her and pecking at the pieces of bread in her hand and on the ground without any fear.

They knew her and they were not frightened.

This is a very special human being.

Marie Bineau suddenly smiled broadly.

The sun had risen in her heart.

Bineau sat on a bench to observe the benevolent bird-woman.

From the short distance she could tell that there was an exotic patina about the older woman.

Her voluptuous body was swathed beneath a black Chanel coat and her hair was all but hidden beneath a purple and gold paisley turban.

There were glittering rings on many of her fingers and numerous golden bangles about her wrists which jangled when she moved. 

She had dark olive skin and bright onyx black eyes and she had the warmest and most inviting smile that Marie Bineau had ever seen.

The mysterious woman had a comforting presence.

And a wonderful aura that only truly spiritual people exuded.

Reality snapped Marie Bineau out of her gentle musings.

It would be time to go back to the hotel soon.

And she suddenly felt alone again.

Marie Bineau continued to observe the intriguing woman as she fed the birds.

Her selflessness had touched Bineau in a deep place.

The young woman closed her eyes.

She was sitting in the shining bottle green 1949 Chevrolet Fleetline Deluxe Fastback.

He was driving.

The wind flowed through Marie Bineau's tumbling raven hair as the car sped smoothly down the motorway.

She was dressed in pale pink Chloe summer dress and she was laughing.

He was dressed in a lightweight Ralph Lauren suit and he was laughing too.

The sun seemed to be laughing with them as it illuminated everything with its golden rays.

Levi Caplan.

The man with the Paul Newman eyes.

It was midnight.

The couple were lying on the ground and looking up at the bright moon in the starlit sky.

Marie Bineau turned to the man of her dreams.

"I'm sorry" she said.

"I'm sorry"

Marie Bineau opened her eyes.

The exotic bird-woman standing above her.

"I'm sorry" the older woman repeated.

Marie Bineau looked up into her sparkling black eyes.

"But the wind blew off your hat" the mysterious stranger continued "I just caught it and bought it back for you"

She handed the hat back to Marie Bineau.

It was as if the older woman were handing the younger woman her life back.

"Oh thank you ... thank you so much" Bineau answered.

There were glittering lights in the older woman's black eyes.

Like diamonds in the palm of a hand.

The Wise Woman.

She had been here before.

"It's such a lovely hat my dear!" The older woman informed with a bright smile.

Suddenly it felt as if Marie Bineau had been living in the dark and somebody had switched on the light.

The older woman was smiling knowingly at her and her whole face was lit up.

Her spirit was shining in her face.

Marie Bineau yearned to bask in the glow of it.

The older woman sat beside her on the bench and Bineau's heart was glad.

For several quiet moments the two women watched the wood pigeons pecking away at the pieces of bread on the ground.

"They call me Mama Banayan" she informed Marie Bineau in her accented voice "sometimes they just call me Mama"

Suddenly Bineau felt as if she had come home.

The warmth of the older woman had driven the coldness of her life away.

And she for no explicable reason she suddenly felt as if she had known Mama Banayan all her life.

And that they had been here before.

"My name is Marie" Bineau replied "Marie Bineau. I was born in Quebec but I was raised here and now I live in New York. I came back home to bury my mother"

A look of concern flashed across the older woman's face.

"I'm sorry" she said earnestly "I am sure her soul has found peace now. And you need to find some peace too"

The woman had spoken directly Marie Bineau's soul.

"Thanks" Bineau replied "I and my mother were never close"

"Tell me all about it, dear" Mama Banayan requested.

Perhaps it was something about the older woman's disarming smile - but Marie Bineau's guard had come down.

Her defenses had melted in the glowing face of a kindly stranger.

It was as if Mama Banayan were holding the key to her heart.

And she had just unlocked it.

Suddenly it seemed as if the older woman had always been a part of her life.

Time had stopped.

Several wood pigeons were observing the two women from a tree.

Marie Bineau yearned to bask in the warmth of the mysterious older woman.

She suddenly yearned to unburden herself to Mama Banayan - to tell her everything and to impart all her secrets.

Bineau felt completely safe and secure in the older woman's presence.

And under the watchful and sympathetic gaze of Mama Banayan - the young woman began to share her story.

She told the older woman about her early memories of life in Quebec.

She spoke about the death of her father and how distraught she still was.

And about how distant she felt towards her mother.

She shared about her high-flying life in New York.

And about how good she was at putting on a smile and pretending everything was fine - when all the while she was feeling desperately lonely and lost in a world that did not understand her.

Finally she declared that she had not been able to shed one tear for her mother since her passing.

Marie Bineau had fallen silent.

She wiped away her tears with her hand.

A great weight had been lifted from her.

Marie Bineau looked up into the glowing face of Mama Banayan.

The older woman smiled.

"Now you have told me" Mama Banayan said knowingly "Surrender it all to God"

"Oh,  I am sorry" Marie Bineau replied quickly "I am not religious or anything ...I was bought up Catholic but  ...  I mean I do believe in God ..."

The older woman was smiling that curious smiling.

And looking right into her.

She reached out and grasped Marie Bineau's cold hand.

The sun had illuminated her sweet face.

And suddenly Marie Bineau felt as if she were in the presence of a great soul.

The Wise Woman.

Suddenly Marie Bineau believed emphatically that she and the sympathetic older woman were always destined to meet.

It was written somewhere.

And there was no need for debate.

A deep sense of peace had fallen upon them.

"But now I have told you my story" Marie Bineau said after a few minutes "please tell me yours"

"There you are!" A familiar voice suddenly declared.

Marie Bineau was suddenly shaken out of the healing connection with Mama Banayan. l

She looked up to see Alicia Jacob and little Joshua standing before her.

Suddenly she remembered - Adelita Hepner was expecting her and her sister over for lunch.

And she must have lost track of time.

"We've been looking for you!" Jacob declared slightly out of breath "Somehow I just knew you'd be here"

Little Joshua peered from behind his mother's overcoat.

The winds were rising again and droplets of rain were starting to fall.

Even Sam Abney had disappeared.

"C'mon then!" Alicia Jacob urged " Adelita is expecting us all for one her special lunches! Remember them? Enough feed to feed Australia!"

Marie Bineau sighed to herself.

Adelita Hepner - the Fanny Craddock of Surrey.

"The black widow!"

Mama Banayan was looking deeply into Marie Bineau's green eyes now.

She was smiling knowingly again.

Marie Bineau felt an emotional wrench as she slowly rose from the bench.

She felt like a child being torn from it's mother.

"I will come again tomorrow at this time" Bineau informed the older woman.

Before she followed Alicia and her boy - Simon turned to the mysterious woman.

"I will be here" Mama Banayan replied "And I will take you to my house"

Marie Bineau's heart jumped.

The home of Mama Banayan beckoned her.

She suddenly felt energised.

Hope had entered the frame.

When she had finally joined her sister and her son at the park gate,  Marie Bineau suddenly turned and looked back expectantly into the park.

But Mama Banayan had gone.

Bineau's heart sank.

"Who was that?" Alicia Jacob asked her sister as she helped little Joshua into the car.

"A friend" Marie Bineau replied.

The remainder of the day passed in a haze as Bineau's life began to seem beautiful again.

A gentle hush had descended upon them.

And she was at peace for the first time in many months.

That night, Marie Bineau stood at her hotel room window and watched as the sun began to set.

She felt a sense of freedom which she had not experienced

For a few fleeting moments Marie Bineau swore she could hear angels singing.

And all was well in her world.

Then it all faded away and she was alone again.

Marie Bineau glanced at the phone and yearned to call him.

The man with the Paul Newman eyes.

"I think we need some time apart" Marie Bineau informed Levi Caplan thoughtfully one evening.

They were sitting in Má Pêche in uptown Manhattan, New York.

Marie seemed preoccupied and she had been picking at her food all evening.

"It's that time again" Levi Caplan replied sensitively.

October 18 - the date Marie Bineau's father died.

She always retreated into herself like a tortoise retreating into it's shell around that time of her.

"Please don't shut me out" Caplan urged.

He reached across the table and gently took her hand in his.

"Things are getting serious pretty fast and I just need some time out" Marie Bineau answered him with large sad eyes.

"I'll be here when you're ready" Levi Caplan assured her earnestly.

She had never met a man like him before.

He was faultless.

But he wasn't her father.

Marie Bineau smiled but her heart felt heavy with sorrow.

She just hadn't been able to deal with the death of her father.

The following morning,  Marie Bineau stood nervously beside Mama Banayan outside modest cottage.

It was old and elegant and resided in a the middle of a forest.

A beautiful stream with a bridge above it rippled beside the cottage.

Not quite as grand as the mansion she had grown up in but is was homely and inviting enough.

Marie Bineau was momentarily awestruck by the picture perfect abode

What other secrets did The Wise Woman keep?

Her humble cottage might have seen better days but it was full of charm and character.

An old stone water feature of a classical maiden pouring water from a pitcher was bone dry.

There were cracks in the walls and ivy seemed to be sprouting everywhere

"Please, come in" Mama Banayan beckoned Marie Bineau as she opened the large heavy wooden door.

The hall they entered was warm and tidy.

Bineau copied Banayan - and removed her shoes at the door.

There were elegant oil paintings on the wall and a large ticking grandfather clock.

And there was a little staircase before them.

As Marie Bineau surveyed Mama Banayans delightful cottage - a woman suddenly appeared from one of the rooms and greeted them.

"Hello - I'm pleased to meet you!" She informed Marie Bineau "Welcome!"

 Then she graciously took their coats.

"This is my friend" Mama Banayan informed Bineau.

The woman standing before them was younger than Banayan.

Unlike Mama Banayan, the woman looked like she might be English and had blonde hair flecked with grey, very fair skin and clear blue eyes.

She led them into a decidedly Middle Eastern looking living room.

The room was large and quiet and decorated with Persian rugs and several exquisite Ming vases.

Numerous fine silk cushions were scattered across the big white leather sofa,

There was a large marble incense burner in the centre of a round glass table and the evocative aroma of frankincense permeated the air.

An Eastern icon of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus hung in the corner of a wall.

And there was a small shrine beneath it with a lit candle.

There was a strong oriental influence to the lovely room and it was everywhere.

"Welcome" Mama Banayan said as she assured Marie Bineau onto the large white sofa.

Several framed black and white photos on an ornate table suddenly drew Marie Bineau's attention.

In one photo a dark skinned family stared solemnly at the camera.

In another photo, two young girls in modest summer dresses smiled shyly at the camera.

And in a much larger photo, a bride and groom looked adoringly into each others eyes.

Marie Bineau noticed that the bride was the same young girl from the previous photo.

"Photos of my life" Mama Banayan informed Marie Bineau "happy and sad memories"

Bineau surveyed the fragrant room.

Suddenly she felt at home in the beautiful surroundings.

She had come home.

A profound sense of peace seemed to pervade everything.

"First we will have some tea" Banayan added as she ushered Bineau onto the sofa.

Fifteen minutes later and the younger woman bought in a large golden tray.

It was laden with china cups and a large china teapot, milk,  biscuits and sugared almonds.

As the younger woman poured the tea - Marie Bineau relaxed.

Then time seemed to evaporate.

They began to talk as if they had known each other for many years.

Marie Bineau lost track of time as she relaxed and talked with the two women as if she had known them all her life.

Time had become obsolete.

"My name is Talita" Mama Banayan informed Bineau. "Talita Banayan"

Marie Bineau's eyes had widened.

"I am a Cypriot-Armenian" she added proudly.

"Please ... tell me your story" Marie Bineau urged.

Talita Banayan smiled.

Slowly she began.

"I was born in Famagusta, Cyprus" Talita declared "and I came to England with my sister and aunt when I was eighteen. My parents sent us here to find work and perhaps find a husband. We never intended to stay, and things just happened ... "

The island of Cyprus.

Jewel of the orient.

Once upon a time Famagusta was the richest town in the world.

Now it had the most celebrated port on the island and a beautiful sandy beach that stretched forever.

It was the beginning the of the sixties and work was scarce.

Two little girls were clinging tightly onto each other as they entered the big boat.

Two pretty dark skinned girls with almond shaped black eyes and pretty head scarf's tied under their chins.

Both modestly attired in simple floor length dresses and woollen coats bought the day before in Famagusta Old Town.

They both carried a suitcase which was filled with their clothes and modest possessions.

Talita had just turned eighteen.

She was petite and very graceful.

Havat was nineteen.

She was taller and more resolute.

They hurriedly pursued their aunt.

Narek Abajian was a large and motherly woman in dark blue headscarf and black Army and Navy coat.

She strode purposefully ahead of them.

Her husband was waiting for them in England at their designer shoe shop.

"We will be back soon" Havat assured her younger sister.

But nothing could assuage the sense of desolation that had descended upon Talita Banayan.

They were all going to live together in a flat above Narek Abajian's shoe shop.

Life was going to be good - even though they couldn't speak a word of English.

They would return with stories to tell and pockets filled with money.

They might even meet their husbands in England bring them home too.

Narek Abajian was said to be a great match maker.

A small group of family members had gathered at the quay side.

Among them stood the father and mother of the two doleful girls.

Chinar and Habet Banayan watched the scene intently with the others.

Everyone on the boat seemed to be waving.

All but the two teenage daughters and their solemn charge.

Both parents felt a huge emotional wrench as they watched the large boat slowly pulling away.

Their only children were leaving their homeland for a strange land.

So far - they hadn't liked what they had seen about the English.

They seemed cold.

And had no manners.

They neither understood the English nor cared.

All their celebrated Cypriot hospitality was laced with poison.

The English were the latest colonial marauders.

For the island of Cyprus had a history of invading forces.

And a history of unwanted guests.

But at least the two girls would given a chance to experience life in a sophisticated country.

Even if it was thousands of miles away.

And the weather was bad.

And the food worse.

Chinar Banayan sighed sadly.

As soon as they were on the boat the two teenagers ignored their aunt and ran on to the deck to look down at their parents.

Talita Banayan was crying uncontrollably but the din of the departing boat all but drowned out her sobs.

But Havat Banayan was staring resolutely ahead - refusing to weep.

She was keeping her promise.

Havat would make a life for herself and her sister and then she would return and make her parents proud.

There was no need to cry.

They would all see each other again.

Wouldn't they?

"We love you!" Chinar Banayan cried.

But the boat was so noisy nobody heard her.

Chinar and Habet Banayan were fighting their tears as the boat slowly sailed away.

Both girls remained on deck for hours as the beguiling island of Cyprus was left behind.

They were alone now.

"Will we ever see them again?" Talita Banayan finally asked.

But there was no reply.

The living room was very quiet now.

The adult Talita Banayan sighed.

"Those first few months were hard for all of us" she recalled "We were living on top of each other at our uncle's small flat above the shoe shop. Apel was such a dear man but within six months he was dead of a stroke and auntie Narek was desperate to return home. She gave us all enough money to buy a small house and we were alone for the first time in a strange country. Havat and I hated England. The people seemed to be as cold as their weather and we had a very hard time"

Talita Banayan was walking quickly along the street with her head bowed.

She was wearing a dark purple headscarf which was tied beneath her chin and a long dark woollen coat.

As she hurried along, Talita passed a woman standing in the doorway of her house with her arms folded defensively across her bony chest.

The hostility in the glaring woman was unmistakable.

Talita Banayan kept her eyes modestly averted as she rushed past.

Save for a small black family at the end of the road - Talita and Havat were the only foreigners in the entire working class street.

Many of their neighbours had been curious by the arrival of the dark skinned teenagers.

And they had greeted them with a quiet acceptance.

Including a good looking nineteen year old boy named Michael Olsen who worked in the local bakery with his father.

His face lit up the moment Talita Banayan first entered the shop.

She was so exotic and lovely.

Michael Olsen was in love from the first moment he had ever seen the young girl.

She had been unable to say what she wanted and so she pointed to the bread and he helped her with the money.

Talita was not like the other girls.

She was special.

And pretty Michael Olsen with his strawberry blond hair and twinkling blue eyes was in love for the first time in his life.

But not everyone was happy to see the teenagers.

Some had shown racially motivated animosity from the start and they felt is was their personal business to make the girls feel as unwelcome as possible.

The skinny woman standing in the door of her house glared at the Armenian girl as she hurried quickly down the street to her house.

"Bloody foreigners!" The woman snarled loudly

Talita Banayan was fumbling in her handbag for the front door key with her shaking hands.

The cruel words had stung her but she was too proud to show it.

She was a Cypriot woman after all.

Her charming good will and innate humility hid a tough and tenacious nature.

"Why don't you go back to your own country?" The tardy woman added nastily.

Talita Banayan could have crushed the skeletal woman like a new born scorpion.

But she preferred to let her dig her own grave.

Another woman came out of her house from across the street and threw a bucket of water into the drain.

"They should all go back to where they bloody came from!" She exclaimed angrily before going inside her house and slamming the door.

Talita Banayan was trying not to cry as she retrieved the key and opened the front door with her trembling hand.

"Wogs!" The first woman sneered before retreating into her house with a slam of the front door.

But Talita Banayan had already vanished into her home.

Her heart was beating fast as she fell against the door.

She had never felt so alone.

"How could they be so cruel?" Marie Bineau demanded.

"They had never seen anyone like us before" Mama Banayan explained "I wonder what they thought about the black family at the end of the road!"

"Ignorant racists!" Bineau explained with passion as she finished her tea.

"It was a different era - not so long ago" Banayan informed her "And besides, they were not the only ones"

Talita Banayan was standing in the big kitchen of the grand mansion.

She felt very awkward because she had just undertaken a very stilted conversation with the master and mistress of the house.

Talita had been very respectful and smiled a lot but she could tell that the blonde woman at the door was not so well disposed towards her.

Her sister Havat was waiting outside the palatial abode by the gates.

She was almost willing her daughter to get the job.

Havat Banayan had heard a rumour at the dress making factory where she worked that the Endicott's were looking for a domestic help.

And she'd also heard that they lived in a palatial residence in an exclusive part of the district.

And Talita with her fastidious nature and maternal instincts seemed ideal.

Now Havat said a little prayer to the Virgin and waited anxiously for her younger sister to emerge.

Talita had never seen anything like the big kitchen before - it was a world away from the modest kitchen that she and Havat shared in their little semi.

It had white tiled walls and a polished parquet floor.

There was a large agar stove and a great heavy wooden table and chairs.

Everything was expensive and tasteful.

Everything shining and white except for the neat kitchen curtains which were a bright lemon yellow.

The beautiful teenager had scraped her black hair tightly back and she was dressed in her black woollen coat.

Now she observed the well dressed woman talking to her husband through the partially open kitchen door.

"Can she cook as well as clean?" The blonde haired woman demanded as she gestured to the teenager with her hand.

Delilah Endicott.

She was tall and blonde with clear blue eyes and pale ivory skin.

Endicott was like a china doll with blood red lips.

Today she was dressed in a black and white Chanel jacket and pencil skirt.

"I suspect she can!" The dark haired man replied "But I haven't asked her"

The man smiled wryly at his domineering wife.

Maximilian Endicott.

Tall and dashing with black curly hair and twinkling hazel eyes.

Endicott still maintained a little curling moustache from his army days and he spoke with a Midlands accent from his childhood days in Nottingham where he grew up.

He shot Talita Banayan with a reassuring smile.

Endicott had been courteous and accommodating to the frightened young Cypriot girl from the moment she stepped into his home.

"She can barely speak a word of English!" Delilah Endicott retorted with disdain "But I suppose we can't be too choosy"

"I am sure she will be just fine" Maximilian Endicott reassured his shrewish wife.

"Indeed!" Delilah answered icily "So long as she knows her place! And keeps her distance!"

And with that blonde woman gave a snort of derision and stomped off.

Maximilian Endicott smiled warmly at Talita Banayan through the partially open kitchen door.

But the teenagers heart was heavy.

She hadn't been able to understand most of the words

But she guessed that they were about her.

And she also guessed by the tone of the posh woman's voice that she was not well disposed to her.

Talita had been given the job but she was to be treated like nothing more than a slave by Delilah Endicott.

"Mrs Endicott hated me!" Banayan recalled "And she made sure I knew it. She used to check after me all the time - just to make sure I had done my job properly. If she thought I had not done my job well she would make a big scene and force Mr Endicott to cut my wages that week!"

"She sounds like a monster" Marie Bineau retorted.

"Delilah Endicott was a very unhappy rich woman" Mama Banayan explained "I think she hated herself more than anyone else. And she resented her husband too. But so long as I stayed away from her - all was well"

"It sounds like a prison to me!" Bineau exclaimed angrily.

"I had few options open to me" Banayan continued "I either worked or I did not eat"

The young woman was on her knees before the agar.

She was dressed in a simple navy dress which she had made herself and her long black hair was scraped back into a bun.

Her back was aching as she scrubbed away at the inside of the stove and periodically she had to pause to catch her breath.

Small beads of sweat had formed across her dark brow.

The smell of Brillo and carbolic soap permeated the air.

Six-year old Jemma Endicott and her seven-year old brother Leonard had quietly crept into the kitchen through the partially open back door.

Jemma was a pretty blonde child with a bright blue eyes and rosy cheeks.

Leonard was a chubby youth with dark brown hair, green eyes and a ruddy complexion.

They were giggling mischievously between them.

Talita Banayan sat back on her heels again and wiped her brow.

Soon she would be going home and she could forget the day.

The two angelic looking children tip-toed up to the crouching woman.

As soon as they were close enough to her they launched into a tickling frenzy amid peals of wild giggles.

"Stop ... stop it ... stop ... ! " Talita Banayan protested through gales of laughter in heavily accented English.

The two adorable children had become a ray of light in Banayan's life of domestic drudgery.

They were one of the main reasons Talita was able to stomach the obstreperous Delilah Endicott.

And she gave Jemma and Leonard her undivided attention whenever she could.

But nothing escaped Delilah Endicott's febrile attention for long and the young Cypriot-Armenian girl had to keep her growing affection for Jemma and Leonard strictly to herself.

For the lady of the house did not want any "undue familiarity" between the "hired help" and her children.

Maximilian Endicott kept a safe distance from his wife and her domestic arrangements.

Ticket to heaven (by werol deviantart.com)
Apparently he had suffered her unreasonable behaviour many times before.

Surely and painfully she had been learning English words phonetically.

Mr Endicott had been teaching her a few words when they were alone in the kitchen.

She was always grateful for his visits.

Maximilian Endicott was urbane and charming and did not make her feel like an outsider.

He knew the Middle East well and had visited Cyprus on numerous occasions.

It was a balm to Talita's soul.

Every night,  she and her sister would spend a couple of hours looking at children's library books and memorizing words as best they could.

"Every Wednesday at three o'clock you will go to the English school above the hairdressers" Maximilian Endicott informed her firmly one day in the kitchen.

"But Mrs Endicott?" Talita protested.

"Don't worry about her" Endicott informed her with a smile.

And so the young Cypriot-Armenian girl began to attend Douglas White English School above Purdys Hair Salon.

She always wondered what Purdys customers thought of a small motley group of foreigners tramping past them to the steps at the end of the shop.

It made Talita Banayan giggle to see women in curlers staring agog at them as they all passed in single file.

Within a month Banayan could speak more than a handful of words and she was teaching her sister what she was learning in the process.

It was hard - English didn't make any sense to her but eventually she triumphed

Talita Banayan would frequently share the new words she had learned with Havat and they would repeat them until they had both memorized them.

Suddenly the young Cypriot girl was meeting people just like her.

Douglas White was an astute teacher.

He was always smartly dressed in expensive suits and a beige trench coat.

White took his work very seriously.

A refined older man with white hair and sharp grey eyes and a clippy English voice when he spoke.

The majority of his students had left their country to make a better life for themselves in England.

Italians, Greeks and Afro-Caribbeans.

And she was delighted to meet a few Cypriots who were struggling just like her.

They all repeated loudly and in unison everything that Douglas White wrote on a small blackboard.

"The cat on the mat is black"

Within a few short months the Talita and Havat were able to hold a conversation in heavily accented English.

Within a few short months they were able to cook English meals and buy things without having to point to them.

"Your English is so much better" Michael Olsen informed Talita Banayan one day in the bakery.

She looked particularly beautiful today in the spring light with her bright eyes and sensual full mouth.

Talita had real class and an extra special quality that nobody else had.

He wanted to fight dragons for her and sweep her away to his castle.

But Michael Olsen was just a poor boy with only his father's bakery to offer her.

"Thank you" Talita Banayan answered him.

She was wearing a floral patterned headscarf and a pretty green dress which she had bought from Marks and Spencer's with her sister.

Its now or never!

"I would love to take you out one night" Michael Olsen continued nervously "We could go to the dance hall together"

He'd been practicing what he was going to say all day.

"One day" Talita Banayan answered him - lowering her eyes.

He smiled back broadly.

"I can wait!" Olsen replied.

Talita was blushing brightly and fighting a big smile from spreading across her face.

Michael Olsen was such as sweet boy.

"But he isn't Cypriot or Armenian Talita!" Havat reminded her that night.

"He is kind to me!" Banayan replied.

"But just imagine the scandal if word gets out that you being seen alone with a boy?" Havat informed her "It will travel back to Cyprus and your reputation will be ruined. How will you ever make a good match then sister?"

"But this is England" Talita Banayan implored.

"We are Cypriots" Havat reminded her "And we are Armenian. We have our honour to think about!"

The two girls fell silent.

"If Michael is the right man for you" Havat Banayan finally concluded "then nobody but God will ever be able to separate you"

Talita smiled.

Havat kissed her sister tenderly on the forehead.

As the weeks turned into months and Talita Banayan began to feel more sure of herself.

She was no longer a little girl but a young woman with her whole life ahead.

And suddenly Talita Banayan began to notice how men behaved towards her.

They way they looked at her.

A strange look in their eyes.

At first she was afraid.

Then she began to feel intrigued.

One morning Talita Banayan caught Maximilian Endicott standing at the door of the kitchen and looking at her in a way she had observed numerous times before.

The young girl blushed brightly - he was always unflaggingly kind to her.

And it was very clear to her that the Endicott's were not well matched or happily married couple.

And they had probably been this way for a long time now.

They appeared to be living separate lives and Alita Banayan could not understand how a cultivated man such as Maxilian Endicott could be married to such a horrible and demanding woman such as Delilah Endicott.

They were like a couple of caged animals.

But she wouldn't allow her mind to go any further.

Talita Banayan satisfied her maternal instincts by rewarding Endicott's two small children in her charge with stolen hugs and little acts of kindness.

She always had an extra cookie for them and sometimes she even told them little stories from her own childhood.

As far as she was concerned - Jemma and Leonard Endicott had been starved of affection.

Delilah Endicott cared more about her trinkets and baubles then she did about her two infants.

Talita Endicott felt it was part of her duty to care for the needs needs of the children in her charge.

Although they had a rather officious English nanny named Ivy Blacklow - Jemma and Leonard Endicott seemed very unhappy.

Banayan hated Blacklow.

She was a cold hearted sadist like their mother.

One day Ivy Blacklow discovered Talita dressing a wound on Leonard's knee.

"I am the nanny!" Blacklow informed her crisply "And I look after the children - not you!"

Talita Banayan slowly rose up and considered stamping the woman on the head.

"Come here child" Ivy Blacklow demanded sternly.

The little boy vigorously shook his head.

"I won't tell you again!" Blacklow hissed.

"Go, Leonard" Talita urged the boy.

The boy morosely stomped to Ivy Blacklow.

"I wonder what Mrs Endicott will say about this?" The nanny hissed as she turned on her heels and walked out of the kitchen with the forlorn child in tow.

"Mrs Hitler!" Talita Banayan snarled under her breath.

The woman was short and stout with red hair, little black eyes and a round freckled face.

"Please play with us Talita" Jemma Endicott pleaded with her on afternoon "You never play with us any more"

The little girl was looking at young woman imploringly with a pout on her pretty little face.

Talita Banayan sighed as she put her rolling down and wiped her hands on her apron.

She was making an apple pie for desert.

Banayan had been learning new recipes from the big cookery books that she and Havat borrowed from the library.

"I would like to  ..." Talita Banayan explained carefully "But ... I have work"

"Please Talita" Leonard urged her "We love it when you play with us"

"I'm sorry" Banayan replied "But I must work"

The two children shrugged and pouted miserably.

Talita wiped her hands on her apron.

She couldn't bear to see the children this way.

They always seemed so lonely.

Delilah Endicott refused to allow them to play outside in case they mixed with the other children.

And she demanded that young woman take public transport into town to do the shopping because she did not want her to be driven in the family Bentley.

Talita Banayan placed her hands delicately upon Jemma and Leonard's little heads.

They looked up adoringly at her.

"I know children" Talita sighed "I know"

"How dare you!" A female voice exploded furiously at the door to the kitchen.

It was Delilah Endicott.

She had been drinking neat Scotch again and she was slightly unsteady on her feet.

Delilah Eldicott was dressed in a stylish pastel blue Christian Dior shift dress and white knee length boots.

She was an attractive woman who was always well turned out in the latest fashions.

Endicott was a society lady born into a rich political family who had lacked for nothing.

Her father had been a Conservative MP and her had been his secretary.

But Delilah Endicott's high seeking sensibilities would not allow her to dwell on her mother's humble origins.

Appearances were everything for her.

And Delilah Endicott never left the house without a slick of red Estee Lauder lipstick or having copiously powdered her face with Max Factor Crème Puff first.

She would rather be dead then be seen on public transport.

"What do you think you are doing?" Delilah Endicott demanded.

"I am sorry" Talita Banayan replied quickly apologetically.

 "Get your dirty hands off my children!" Endicott snapped.

The Cypriot girl backed away.

But it was already too late.

Delilah Endicott strode purposefully into the kitchen and roughly grabbed her two children from her.

"I'm ... sorry" Talita Banyan repeated "I'm sorry ... sorry"

The slap came hard and fast across the young woman's face and she fell back against the kitchen table.

The two children were staring in horror and presently they pelted out of the kitchen.

Delilah Endicott was standing over the young Cypriot girl and her face was contorted with rage.

Talita's hand instinctively flew up to her bruised cheek and she was shaking with shock.

"You are nothing but a bloody maid" Delilah Endicott pronounced through gritted teeth "You are nothing.  Do you hear me - nothing! The sooner your kind understand that the better "

"Please Mrs Endicott!" Talita Endicott protested in heavily accented English.

It took all her willpower not to trounce the vindictive woman on the head with the rolling pin.

"If you ever go anywhere near my children again I will throw you out without pay!" Delilah Endicott warned her nastily "And I will make sure that nobody ever employs you again!"

Marie Bineau shook her head in disbelief.

"Who did she think she was?" She exclaimed.

"It was the early sixties" Mama Banayan explained "And besides I needed her more than she needed me"

It was late afternoon and the sky was darkening outside.

Talita carefully untied her apron and took one last look at the kitchen before she opened the cupboard beneath the stairs to get her woolen coat.

When she was ready she considered her steps.

She would have to creep quietly out of the house in case Delilah Endicott were present and squaring up for a confrontation.

The drunker the woman became - the worse she seemed to behave.

Talita Banayan took a deep breath.

A swirl of cigar smoke wafted out of the door to the big drawing room announcing the urbane presence of Maximilian Endicott.

Talita Banayan breathed a big sigh of relief and she visibly relaxed.

She quickly buttoned her coat and walked passed the door with her eyes averted.

"Are you leaving us for the day?" A rich male voice with an East Midlands accent enquired.

It was him.

Maximilian Endicott.

Handsome and dashing.

Cultivated and refined like one of his expensive wines in the wine cellar.

Maximilian Endicott was former army officer and was now a member of her majesty's Parliament.

Clever,  cultivated and charming.

Endicott was everything that his wife was not.

Talita Banayan paused.

The mustachioed and grinning man's face appeared from around the door.

"Come inside!" Endicott beckoned her "Don't be shy now,  I won't bite"

Talita smiled.

She never ventured into the rest of the house unless she was cleaning and even then her activities were only resigned to designated places.

Delilah Endicott was always hovering around her like a bat and although Talita Banayan could tell she was there - she chose to ignore.

On one occasion the woman dropped a gold pen onto the floor.

As Talita Banayan bent down to pick it up - Delilah Endicott deliberately trod on her hand.

Endicott grinned down at her with her sharp white teeth.

"Silly me!" She hissed.

She was a vampire.

Delilah Endicott made sure that Talita Banayan never forgot that she was the underclass.

And the underdog.

She projected her resentment and bitterness onto the young girl because she was jealous of the favourable impression she had made on her husband.

Beneath Talita Banayan's placid and courteous exterior lay a tough little teenager who knew how to survive.

A glass of whiskey glittered in Maximilian Endicott's big hand.

He was dressed in tweeds and looked like a sophisticated country gentleman.

Maximilian Endicott had thick curly black hair, witty hazel eyes and an easy smile.

"Join me" Endicott requested simply.

He jumped up and quickly pouring some whiskey into a glittering crystal glass.

Anoush Banayan shook her head and lowered her eyes.

"Oh don't be a spoil sport!" Maximilian Endicott exclaimed jovially, handing her the glass "My wife is a bitch but she is quite harmless you know"

Talita Banyan knew otherwise.

She suspected that Delilah Endicott was a perpetual liar as well as a sadist.

Talita Endicott was alone with a man in a big house.

Her first instinct was run.

Maximilian Endicott motioned the glass to her.

But she relaxed because she knew she was safe.

The girl grabbed the sparkling glass with a shaking hand and cautiously took a little sip.

Then she grimaced.

"Urrgh!" Talita exclaimed

She had never really tasted alcohol before - save for the sweet communion wine - and it was horrible.

Maximilian Endicott guffawed with laughter.

Talita Banayan started to laugh too.

And soon they were both laughing together.

The ghost of Delilah Endicott was extinguished

"Besides the two children only Mr Endicott would be my friend in that big house" Mama Banayan recalled "My ally. One time,  his brother came to stay for a few days. Anthony Endicott was the complete opposite to his brother. I disliked him from the first time I ever set eyes on him "

"I like Oz!" Anthony Endicott proclaimed "But there are far too many wogs hanging around. Aboriginals they call them"

They were all seated at the big dining table and Talita Banayan was quietly collecting the dinner plates with her eyes averted.

She noted that Anthony Endicott's breath stank of alcohol.

"Dirty vagabonds!" Delilah Endicott snorted as she took a sip of wine.

"No offence" Anthony Endicott addressed Talita Banayan with a wink.

The young woman ignored him and continued to silently clear up the dinner table.

"Not bad" Endicott added with a smirk as he eyed Talita up and down.

Maximilain Endicott glared at him from the other side of the table.

Anthony Endicott made Talita's flesh crawl and she refused to make eye contact with him.

He'd been staying in the house for three days now and it was obvious that there was no love lost between he and his brother.

Although he appeared to get along famously with Delilah Endicott.

Talita Banayan had silently observed them whispering to each in the drawing room.

Maximilian Endicott sat glaring at his brother from the other side of the table.

"If I thought that was bad enough" Mama Banayan shuddered "Worse was to come. I hated the way that man stared at me and I tried to avoid him whenever I could but he always seemed to be following me around. I couldn't wait to go home at the end of the day"

The desert had been served - tart lemon cake which Talita Banayan had memorized from a library book.

The kitchen was spic and span and soon she would be going home.

Talita breathed a big sigh of relief.

If it wasn't for the two adorable children and the charming Mr Endicott - she would have much preferred to beg on the streets then work in that suffocating house with Delilah Endicott and her smarmy brother-in-law.

Not forgetting the evil nanny who constantly spied on her.


Talita sat down and watched the clock ticking by.

She didn't notice a man standing in the doorway.

Talita Banayan was just too tired to care.

Anthony Endicott.

Tall and blond with a classically good looking face.

He was standing over her and she jumped up.

"It's okay!" Anthony Endicott proclaimed "Sit down, it's not Victorian times.  You are making me feel like I am back in the army!"

He looked like a wolf.

And suddenly Talita Banayan felt like his prey.

He had been an officer but had been discharged due to an injury and now he was what Delilah Endicott had termed a"man-about-town"

That was it.

Honourable discharge.

As a result of his injury - Anthony Endicott now walked with a slight limp.

But it had not curbed his arrogance.

Talita Banayan fidgeted uneasily in her chair under the unflinching gaze of the ogling man.

His eyes were burning into her like hot coals.

He stank like an old Cypriot coyote

Anthony Endicott put his big hand on her shoulder - preventing her from getting up.

She hated him.

She hated his fanciful stories and his wild boasts about life in Australia.

"You're an attractive young lady" Anthony Endicott remarked with a sly smile "You should let your hair down every once in a while"

Talita Banayan turned away and looked down.

She could smell the alcohol coming off him and it was making her feel queasy.

"Maybe you should loosen up a little" Endicott urged her as she studied her breasts.

The spit landed squarely in his eye.

Talita Banayan was snarling venomously.

"You little wog bitch! Anthony Endicott exploded as he raised his hand to her "I think you need to be taught a little lesson!"

"Don't you dare lay a finger her!" Another male voice suddenly demanded sternly.

It was Maximilian Endicott.

He standing in the door to the kitchen with a furious expression on his face.

Maximilian Endicott - Talita Banayan's hero.

Anthony Endicott knew when he was beaten and he slunk shame faced away.

Talita Banayan was sobbing quietly where she sat.

"Did he hurt you?" Maximilian Endicott asked her gently "Just tell me and I'll kill him with my own bare hands! I swear it"

"No" Talita replied - she was too shaken to say anymore.

Suddenly Maximilan Endicott fought the urge to embrace her.

"The following day, Anthony Endicott was sent packing" Mama Banayan remembered "Although I loved the children and being around Mr Endicott - I knew I would have to find another job or I would lose my sanity. One day I accidentally broke a small china ornament while cleaning and I panicked and put in my pocket"

"Do you know what she did?" Delilah Endicott informed her husband coldly "That wog bitch stole something from the mantelpiece. That little slut that you bought into my house has stolen my things!"

The mistress of the house was smoking Benson and Hedges cigarettes in the drawing room and she had already gotten through two packets that day.

Maxiimilian Endicott groaned as he snapped his newspaper shut.

He hated the way his wife referred to Talita Banayan.

And he hated his wife.

They were two enemies locked in battle.

"Be reasonable Delilah" Maximilian Endicott rebounded lighting up a cigar beside the hearth.

"Reasonable?" His wife erupted "You bring that foreigner into our house and you make her pregnant under my nose and you say I am being unreasonable? How dare you!"

"Now you're being hysterical!" Endicott scowled.

 But he knew that he was defeated.

Delilah Endicott represented a long line of Conservative MP's and it would be career suicide to offload her.

He would have to defer to her - for the time being.

"Send that bitch back to her own country and get me a decent person to keep this house" Delilah Endicott snarled venomously "Or I swear I will divorce you and destroy you!"

If only his wife knew how much he hated her.

"Frigid bitch"

"I'll deal with it" Maximilian Endicott shot.

For a moment he wondered what life without Delilah Endicott.

It would be heaven.

The following day Maximilian Endicott stood in the kitchen with Talita Endicott.

"We have to let you go" he informed her carefully.

"I know" Talita replied sadly.

Then Endicott put a large and bulky envelope into her hand.

"This will help you until you find another job" Maximilian Endicott declared.

But there was a melancholy look in Maximilan Endicott's hazel eyes.

"It was such a sad for me" Mama Banayan continued "I knew I would miss the children but I also knew that I had been given a guardian angel in Maximilian Endicott. He was in love with me and if I had allowed myself - I would have fallen in love with him too"

"That is so sad" Marie Bineau commented.

Talita Banayan was standing near her sister in the office of the large clothes factory.

Havat had been working there almost since their arrival in England.

It was a clean and friendly environment and mercifully most of the workers were from Cyprus.

The owner was a Greek man named Dimitri Zabat who was a native of Corinth.

He was short and rotund with curly black hair and twinkling black eyes.

When he laughed - it was so loud that everyone in the factory could hear him.

Zabat's face was never replete without some stubble and he had a ready smile.

The factory made clothes for all the top retailers including Harrods and British Home Stores.

"What can she do?" Dimitri Zabat asked Havat Banayan.

"Five thread!" Havat answered quickly "She's the best!"

She nudged her sister.

"Yes!" Talita Banayan exclaimed enthusiastically "I am good at the ... five threads!"

Dimitri Zabat burst out laughing.

Everyone on the factory shop floor momentarily paused from their work and giggled among themselves.

"Of course you are!" Zabat bellowed "She can start tomorrow! Take her to the floor and show her where all the machine's are"

The sisters broke out into broad smiles and hurried out before he could change his mind.

"Those were the happiest years of my life" Mama Banayan recalled "I worked with my sister in a happy environment and time past quickly. Within a couple of years Havat had met an Armenian man named Azad. He used to do the deliveries for the factory and very soon they were engaged. Everyone seemed to be finding a husband except - I was virtually the only woman in the factory who was wed"

Talita Banayan was walking along the street with her head bowed.

It was raining lightly but she hadn't noticed.

She was wearing a blue paisley headscarf tied under her chin and her dark woolen coat.

Her mind was occupied with faraway thoughts about her sister's impending marriage in several months time.

It was very exciting and most of all she might be seeing her mother and father again after five years.

The thought of seeing her parents was a balm to Talita's fractured soul.

She had been walking for two hours now - trying to collect her thoughts.

And she was nearly home.

Suddenly Talita Banayan heard the purring sound of a large car pulling up behind her.

It was the Maximilian Endicott's shiny blue Bentley.

Talita'e eyes widened with surprise.

She had resigned herself to never seeing Endicott or his two adorable children again.

And now he was back in her life again with his unmistakable grin.

The sky had darkened and rain had intensified.

Suddenly Maximilian Endicott's Bentley was like Noah's Ark.

Talita Banayan was blushing brightly.

"Are you going to get in?" Endicott asked her.

Several curtains were twitching from neighbours.

Talita hesitated but quickly relented.

She was safe with Mr Endicott.

The skinny racist woman was staring in disbelief from her living room window as the young woman climbed into the Bentley.

Maximilian Endicott was smiling broadly as he looked at Talita Banayan.

Even wet and bedraggled she was beautiful.

"Delilah has left me" Maximilian informed her.

Talita's heart had stopped.

"Delilah has left me"

"Would you believe that she eloped to Australia with my good-for-nothing brother?" Endicott continued.

Talita Banayan could believe it.

She guessed that Delilah Endicott must have been messing about behind her husband's back for some time.

Only his selfish brother was able to break the ice with the frigid woman.

Suddenly Talita felt sorry for Maximilian Endicott.

"The divorce is nearly through" Endicott added.

They were driving down a country lane as the rain lashed relentlessly down.

"Will you marry me?" Maximilian Endicott asked the young woman.

Talita Banayan was momentarily shaken.

Never in her wildest dreams had she ...

"Will you marry me?"

Talita's heart was beating very fast now.

"There will be plenty of time to consider your answer" Maximilian Endicott informed her.

Suddenly he pulled over to secluded lane.

The young Cypriot girl was struggling to process what Endicott had requested of her.

"I love you Talita" Maximilian told her as he looked deeply into her onyx black eyes "And I hope you will agree to be my wife"

They remained in the Bentley as the rain continued to fall.

"If you marry him you will be a rich woman of means!" Havat informed her sister that night after she had told her the full story "But that will mean nothing if you are not in love with Mr Endicott"

Talita Banayan was looking pensively at her sister.

"Do you love him?" Havat asked her.

"I think I could love him" Talita replied carefully.

Havat kissed her sister gently on the forehead.

"I was in an agony of indecision" Mama Banayan explained to Marie Bineau "Mr Endicott was charming and handsome. And I loved his children. But I wasn't sure whether it was love or admiration that I felt for him. It was just weeks to go before my sisters wedding and I was lighting a candle in the Gregorian Church ..."

The beautiful Gothic church was illuminated by hundreds of candles and countless golden icons.

Talita Banayan looked up at an icon of the Virgin Mary clutching the baby Jesus tenderly to her.

The young woman entreated the mother of Jesus to assist her.

"She suffered" Talita Banayan whispered.

Then she crossed herself and rose slowly from the pew.

The sweet aroma of frankincense permeated the air.

It was very peaceful.

"The answer will come" Father Cazian assured Talita at the big church door.

The young woman nodded silently.

It was already getting dark when she finally stepped out into the street.

Small droplets of water splashed onto her shoulder announcing rain fall and the young woman tied her headscarf tighter.

Just as she was about to cross the road - the shadowy figure suddenly bounded towards her.

"Talita! Talita!" The young man cried in a resonant familiar voice.

Banayan squinted into the darkness.


The young man was standing before her and breathing heavily.

It was Michael Olsen.

"I've been looking for you everywhere!" Olsen cried "Your sister told me you might be here. I know it's a busy time for your family but I have something I need to ask you"

Talita Banayan was overwhelmed at the sight of the handsome young man.

His presence made her heart beat faster but she was confused by his words.

The young man went down on one knee.

"But would you do me the kindest honour of agreeing to be my wife?"

Talita Banayan's eyes were wide open.

She was struggling to comprehend what was happening.

"But would you do me the kindest honour of agreeing to be my wife?"

Michael Olsen was looking up at her with his pretty blue eyes.

Talita's heart was pounding in her chest.

Time had stopped.

"Yes!" Talita Banayan replied earnestly "I will!"

Michael Olsen gave a yell as he rose and covered the young woman's right hand with kisses.

Talita was blushing brightly.

He might not be Cypriot but he was a good and decent man.

"You've made me the happiest man alive!" Olsen pronounced proudly.

There was one thing that remained.

Talita Banayan ran back into the Gregorian Church.

She walked up to the icon of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus.

Father Cazian smiled from the shadows.

Talita Banayan looked up at the benevolent gaze of the mother of Jesus.

The most beautiful face the young woman had ever seen.

"Thank you" she whispered.

Then she crossed herself and quietly departed the church.

"It had always been Michael" Mama Banayan smiled "It was as simple as that. On the day my sister married I had three reasons to be thankful for. My sister was marrying her intended and I was hoping to marry Michael. The third reason was that I was being reunited with my parents after more than five years. It felt like a lifetime"

Habat Banayan held his head high with pride as he led his daughter Havat down the aisle.

The Gregorian Church was full of family, friends and well-wishers who had come to see witness the marriage of the modest young Cypriot couple.

All heads turned to observe the near-oriental beauty in her white wedding dress as she appeared at the large church door.

She was wearing a golden coronet and her fine ivory tulle veil fell upon her shoulders like a fountain.

Havat was closely followed by Talita Banayan in a pastel blue dress.

Autumn light (by WiciaQ deviantart.com)
There were white flowers in her raven hair and a fine silk shawl about her shoulders.

Azad Sarafian was waiting nervously at the altar beside his best man - Dimitri Zabat.

Both men were dressed in crisp black Moss Bross suits.

Standing a few feet away from the men was Chinar Banayan.

The mother of Havat and Talita was glowing with pride.

She was dressed in a modest pastel violet dress and white jacket.

Chinar was weeping with joy as her daughter and husband approached the altar.

"It was one of the happiest days of my life" Mama Banayan declared "And I spent a wonderful month with my parents as we caught up with all the goings on of five years. I cannot explain how I felt to be with my parents again"

"I am so happy you saw them again!" Marie Bineau replied "It must be great to have a mother who cares for you. After everything you had been through ... it must have been heaven"

"It was wonderful!" Banayan recalled "But in all the excitement I had forgotten one person ..."

"Maximilian Endicott!" Bineau cried.

"I am ashamed to admit that I had forgotten all about him" Mama Banayan answered her  "so I went to see him at his big house"

Talita Banayan was sitting nervously in the big drawing room she had known so well.

But everything felt different now.

She was no longer a domestic so she could see the large residence in a completely different light.

There was a lighter atmosphere in the air.

Even the cold blooded English nanny had been replaced by a lovely young Nigerian girl named Lulla and there was a cook named James and a new domestic help named Maggie.

But best of all - Delilah Endicott had vacated the premise.

Maximilian Endicott was in high spirits.

His divorce to Delilah had finally come through and he was a free man.

Talita listened to him as he told her about all his plans.

He was going to sell the mansion and buy another property by the sea.

He was going to go travelling and show his children the world.

He was going to set up winery in France and produce first class wine.

She felt such a sense of sadness at her impending rejection of his proposal of marriage.

They sat in silence for several moments.

"I know" Maximilian Endicott finally informed her.

Talita Banayan's eyes widened.

A sense of shame washed over her and she lowered her eyes.

"I know you won't agree to marry me because it would probably be a disaster" Maximilian Endicott elaborated.

Talita smiled sadly.

Mr Endicott had been so good to her.

And she felt sad for him.

He had saved her again.

"Promise me one thing" Maximilian Endicott continued "that whoever you marry is a good'un. You deserve to be happy"

Tears were falling down Talita's cheeks.

"Stop your crying girl!" Maximilian Endicott chided her playfully.

"I am crying because I am happy" Talita Banayan informed him.

Endicott smiled knowingly at her.

"You could've fooled me!" He teased.

"I and Mr Endicott were never meant to be together" Mama Banayan remembered "another marriage would have held him back. He was like a man who had just been released from prison and he just wanted to get out into the world and explore"

"I guess it was all meant to be" Marie Bineau mused.

"Yes" Banayan replied "Everything is as it should be"

"I'm going to live in France" Maximilian Endicott informed Talita Banayan one afternoon.

 They were walking through the beautiful grounds of the large Endicott residence.

"It's a lovely place in the South called the Cote d’Azur" Endicott continued "I'm buying a big villa out there to start of with and you are welcome to stay whenever you want"

"What about the children?" Banayan asked him anxiously.

"I am hoping that my children will always be a part of your life!" Maximilian Endicott replied knowingly "You have an open invitation!"

Talita Banayan was so excited that she forgot her self control and planted a kiss squarely on Endicott's cheek.

"I'm sorry!" Banayan cried as she pulled quickly away.

"Don't be silly girl!" Maximilian Endicott exclaimed with a grin "I've been waiting for you to do that for nearly five years!"

"Shortly after moving to the Cote d’Azur we learned that Mr Endicott had married a local girl named Francine" Mama Banayan shared "and he was as good as his word with the children"

The older woman was smiling knowingly.

Marie Bineau turned to the other woman sitting beside her on the white leather sofa.

"Jemma?" Bineau enquired.

"That's right!" The blonde woman replied "I am Jemma Endicott. I and my brother remained close to Talita and we frequently stayed with her and her husband here. I married the barrister Andrew Garrick when I was twenty-five and we live in the town. My brother lives in France with his wife Patrice and their son Luke"

"Everything just fell into place" Marie Bineau pondered.

"Yes" Mama Banayan said "Maximilian set up a very successful wine making business and his large vineyard became a very popular tourist spot. Conversely, Delilah and his brother soon went their separate ways and she ended up in a Mayfair flat as a raging alcoholic. He ended up dead at just fifty-six from cirrhosis of the liver"

"I never really spoke to my mother much after she and my father divorced" Jemma recalled "she never came to see us and we never went to see her. Apparently she had ballooned in weight towards the end. Hopelessly drunk and deluded. Few people attended her funeral in London ten years ago"

"That's sad" Marie Bineau responded.

"My mother made her choices" Jemma Garrick answered simply.

"I was married to Michael Olsen on a bright spring day" Mama Banayan reminisced "The Gregorian Church was full of people that day. My mother and father were there too. They were living with my sister now and they had bought a beautiful wedding dress with them from Cyprus. It was the happiest day of my life and as I walked down the aisle with my hand on my father's arm I noticed Maximilian Endicott sitting beside his two children. Everything was perfect"

"I am so happy for you" Marie Bineau declared as she wiped away a tear.

"I had come out of hell into heaven " Banayan shared "On the day of the wedding,  Maximilian Endicott kindly presented us with a cheque to help us get started. When we finally looked at the cheque in the hotel that night - I nearly fainted! There was enough money to buy this cottage and set up Michael's car hire business. The day we sold the old house was another happy day for me - it meant the past was gone for ever"

The skinny woman observed from her doorway as the removal men packed away the final items from the house.

Talita Olsen stood outside the old house beside her new husband.

She breathed a sigh relief  as she took one last look at the abode that she had shared with her sister - she was in a very different place now.

"Going back to your country now?" The skeletal woman exclaimed provocatively.

Talita Olsen sighed and turned slowly.

"No - I am just moving!" Olsen replied firmly "But you can crawl back into the hole where you came from!"

The red faced woman retreated back into her house and slammed the door shut.

Michael Olsen began to laugh and very soon Talita Olsen was laughing with him.

"I was to enjoy many happy years with my husband" Mama Banayan recollected "Although we never had children as far as I was concerned,  Jemma and Leonard were my children and so too my nephew Gamar when he arrived"

"Is your husband here?" Marie Bineau enquired.

"My husband passed seven years ago" Banayan replied "But I feel him everywhere"

"So do I" Jemma agreed.

"I never feel alone" Mama Banayan continued "I am sure that he and Mr Endicott are at peace. That dear man passed away in his sleep some years before my husband"

Marie Bineau smiled sadly.

"Call him" Banayan said simply.

Bineau was momentarily startled by the older woman's intense gaze.

She was smiling her mysterious sweet smile again.

Then she reached out and grasped the young woman's hands in hers.

Mama Banayan was staring deeply into her eyes.

"Don't be afraid of love" Banayan said "Call him"

Mama Banayan was imparting her strength to Marie Bineau in the beautiful still room.

The only sound was the sound of the ticking grand father clock now.

"I have three more days in England" Marie Bineau finally explained "and then I fly back to New York. But I promise I will come back to visit you as soon as possible"

"You will see me again" Mama Banayan replied knowingly.

"I can't thank you enough for your kindness to me" Bineau informed her as fresh tears filled her eyes.

"If true love has found you - do not turn it away" Mama Banayan responded earnestly.

It was with a huge emotional wrench that Hannah Simon departed Mama Banayan's house that evening.

That night the world felt like a different place to Marie Bineau.

She had been restored.

She was no longer the walking wounded.

She had lived and learned and was a better person for it.

Everywhere she turned she heard the warm voice of Mama Banayan.

"If true love has found you - do not turn it away"

Tentatively she took the phone in her hand.

"Hello ... hello ... Levi ... Levi,  is that you?"

Three days later Bineau was sitting on the plane back to New York.

She was a very different person to the one that had flown to England not so long ago.

Marie Bineau had found some peace and refuge from the unhappiness of her life.

"If true love has found you - do not turn it away"

She looked down at her hand.

Bineau was clutching the little icon that Mama Banayan had given her tightly in her palm.

It was an icon of Mary the mother of Jesus.

Marie Bineau smiled.

"If true love has found you - do not turn it away"

Three months passed quickly for Marie Bineau as she was launched back into her world.

But she was a new woman now.

And she sat in her apartment and watched Levi Caplan preparing dinner - she mused upon the whirlwind of events that had swept her up.


Blonde and athletic as Adonis.

And the kindest man that she had ever known.

Just like Maximilian Endicott had been to Talita Banayan.

Marie Bineau smiled as she watched him drizzle vinaigrette over the salad.

"If true love has found you - do not turn it away"

Levi Caplan smiled back at her.

The reconciliation.

It had taken one call.

Marie Bineau had remembered what Mama Banayan had told her.

"You can never lose what is meant for you"

Every word that she had ever spoken to Bineau was written on her heart.

She had sought solace in the older woman's home.

And in so doing - she had found her spiritual home.

"I want to visit England again" Marie Bineau suddenly informed Levi Caplan "there is someone really special that I think you should meet"

"Do you think you should be flying in your condition?" Levi Caplan asked her with concern.

Bineau smiled - how could she have forgotten?

She was expecting her first child.

"I will be just fine" Marie Bineau assured him.

"Okay - I will agree to it on one condition!" Levi Caplan declared "That you agree to become my wife!"

Bineau's eyes were wide open.

The proposal was very unexpected.

The old free-spirit would have politely spurned the request.

But the new Marie Bineau yearned to give the child in her womb the kind of maternal love that she had never experienced.

And she yearned to give that child a daddy that was as wonderful as her own.

"I will!" Marie Bineau proclaimed as Levi embraced her.

The couple held hands on the plane flight back to England.

Bineau cupped her belly with the other hand.

Mama Banayan's words flowed through her mind.

"If true love has found you - do not turn it away"

And now she was returning to her spiritual home with a baby in her womb and a husband to be.

She was returning to bask in the light of  the woman who had transformed her life forever.

"I only met her a few times" Marie Bineau informed Levi Caplan on the plane "but those few days have changed everything"

"She sounds pretty awesome" Caplan replied.

"I just wish she had been my mother" Bineau responded sadly.

"In a way - she kind of is" Levi Caplan answered her.

Finally the couple were standing outside the charming cottage of Mama Banayn.

Marie Bineau's heart sang at the sight of the stream and its bridge and the immense peace that surrounded the abode.

But something was wrong and deep down Bineau knew it.

The driveway was filled with cars.

A man answered the door.

He was tall and distinguished looked with a mop of greying - red hair and blue eyes.

The man was dressed in black.

Marie Bineau guessed instantly that it must Leonard Endicott.

He must have recognized her too because he seemed pleased to see her.

"You must be Marie" the man said "I am Len - Talita's surrogate son. We knew you might come and we tried to call you ... everything happened very quickly"

Marie Bineau heart was beating very fast now and she clung to Levi Caplan.

"Come inside" Leonard Endicott said warmly as he ushered the couple inside.

The beautiful cottage was just as Marie Bineau had fondly remembered it but now it appeared to be full of strangers.

Many of the mourners appeared to be Middle Eastern.

The men were dressed in black suits and most of the women were wearing black headscarves tied tightly beneath their chins.

The sweat aroma of burning olive leaves permeated the air.

Someone had clearly passed away and Marie Bineau was already fighting with her emotions.

As she and Levi Caplan passed the open living room door they observed that it was crowded and that an Armenian priest appeared to be chanting as those around him prayed.

Suddenly Jemma Garrick appeared at the kitchen door and she rushed to Marie Bineau and embraced her.

"I am so sorry!" Garrick cried with emotion "Talita passed away five days ago. It was so unexpected but so very peaceful. I am so sorry my dear"

Marie Bineau was shaking her head in disbelief.

Levi Caplan took her hand and grasped it tightly.

"I just can't believe it ... she can't be gone" Bineau protested.

"She isn't gone" a woman replied "she's in a beautiful place now"

Marie Bineau turned to see an older woman dressed in black behind her.

She had Talita's onyx black eyes and her wise smile.

A black silk headscarf was tied beneath her chin.

"I am Havat Saatjian - Talita's sister" the woman shared "I would like you to stay here with us and be with us at the cemetery tomorrow"

Marie Bineau was struggling to comprehend what was happening around her as Levi Caplan attempted to put his arm protectively around him.

Her whole body seemed to be vibrating as a guttural cry of grief suddenly flooded out of her.

The young woman who had been unable to mourn the passing of her own mother was mourning the passing of a woman she had barely met but who had completely transformed her life forever.

Marie Bineau was shaking and weeping as a group of female mourners gathered around to comfort her.

Time had stopped.

Amid a vast ocean of female solidarity - Marie Bineau could feel the embrace of Talita Banayan reaching out to her.

The black clad women embraced and kissed the young woman on both cheeks as they initiated her in the sincere Middle Eastern art of mourning.

Here in the beautiful cottage that had become Marie Bineau's spiritual home - she had found peace once again.

She looked up at the icon of Mary and the baby Jesus on the wall.

There was such compassion in the Virgin's eyes.

"Mother of everyone" Havat Saatjian said.

It was early afternoon on the following day.

Autumn again.

And red and gold leaves covered the ground.

A large crowd of mourners were gathered around a small circle of family members in the elegant cemetery that cold afternoon.

Marie Bineau clung to Levi Caplan as she watched them lower the coffin into the ground.

Talita Olsen was to be buried beside her beloved husband as she had requested.

Marie Bineau was weeping uncontrollably as she threw a white rose onto the coffin.

Mama Banayan's words were ringing in her ears - as if she were speaking to her herself.

"You can never lose what is meant for you"

Leonard Endicott was beside his attractive wife Patrice and their son Luke who looked exactly like his father.

Jemma Garrick was holding onto her frail step-mother Francine and standing beside her distinguished husband Andrew.

Havat Saatjian was standing beside her husband Azad and strapping son Gamar.

She smiled knowingly as she observed the inconsolable young woman.

Father Cazian finished his prayer.


Suddenly an unearthly peace had descended upon the throng.

The entire cemetery was quiet.

It seemed that all the birds had flown away.

And the sun had hidden his face.

Marie Bineau and Levi Caplan remained a further three days with Havat Saatjian and her family in the beautiful old cottage.

It was the final day of their stay.

Marie Bineau insisted that they take a trip to the park where she and Mama Banayan had first met.

The park where she had also planted a tree in honour of her father.

It was a cool day but the sun was shining through the tall trees and as Marie Bineau entered the park again - everything suddenly seemed to be illuminated with a golden light.

Sam Abney was sweeping leaves away and he doffed his cap at the young woman as of old.

The enchanted park.

Marie Bineau knelt at the foot of the tree she had planted for her beloved father.

She gently touched the plaque with her hand.

"I love you daddy"

Then she walked to the spot where Mama Banayan had always stood.

Marie Bineau was carrying a brown paper bag full of pieces of bread.

Then she began scattering the bread pieces all around her.

"Come here my darlings!" Marie Bineau exclaimed loudly "Come here now!"

A large cluster of wood pigeons had begun to descend.

Very soon a large swarm of them were waddling around Marie Bineau and furiously pecking away at the bread on the ground.

"Well I'll be ..." Sam Abney cried in amazement.

Marie Bineau was laughing and crying at the same time.

The birds showed no sign of fear.

It was as if Mama Banayan were feeding them herself.

Levi Caplan, Havat Saatjian  and Jemma Garrick watched in awe from a slight distance.

"It's as if I am looking at Mama herself!" Jemma commented.

"I can just see my sister standing beside her" Havat Saatjian smiled.

Marie Bineau was still laughing and crying as the birds descended to eat at her hand.

"I think I am about to marry a pretty awesome woman myself!" Levi Caplan declared.

Three weeks later and Marie Bineau held her lover's hand tightly as the sonographer conducted the scan.

There was a sense of high excitement in the air.

"You know that you can never be 100% certain about the baby's sex!" The sonographer informed her "But we can be pretty sure"

The couple were waiting impatiently for his pronouncement.

"Please - tell us" Marie Bineau urged him.

"Well, it looks like you are both going to be the proud parents of a healthy little girl!" The sonographer informed them both with a smile.

The couple let out a big sigh of relief.

Anxiety had been replaced by euphoria.

Levi Caplan kissed his lover tenderly on the mouth.

They were going to have a child together.

It was a brave new world.

"Our daughter shall be called Talita" Marie Bineau declared.


Summer in England.

Marie Caplan was dressed in a white Marc Jacobs summer dress with her long raven hair flowing behind her.

She was carrying her newly born baby girl in her arms as she walked through the elegant cemetery.

Levi Caplan,  Havat Saatjian and Jemma Garrick were standing at the gates to the cemetery and quietly observing her.

Her journey was almost over.

At last Marie Caplan had found Talita Olsen's grave.

Silently she knelt before it.

Then she reached out a hand and tenderly touched the tombstone.

Talita Olsen

Menk’ sirum yenk’ dzez
Luysy mer kyank’um
Mother of everyone.

Marie Caplan smiled.

But there were tears in her eyes.

"I married him" she whispered "the man with the Paul Newman eyes. And this is my daughter Mama"

Marie Caplan held up her baby.

"We named her Talita" she added.

Marie Caplan remained at the grave for half an hour.

It was so tranquil there that Marie Caplan strongly believed that Talita Olsen had been kneeling with her beside the grave.

"You can never lose what is meant for you"

She could feel the Cypriot-Armenian woman's presence everywhere.

And the new baby was still slumbering peacefully in her arms.

As if Talita Olsen were singing the child a lullaby.

By the time Marie Caplan reached her new husband and the two women - she had been transformed again.

All the tears were gone.

And she was at peace.

"Ready?" Levi Caplan asked her gently.

"Yes - I am ready now" Marie Caplan replied.

She passed the sleeping baby to her handsome husband.

Then Marie Caplan turned to Havat Saatjian and Jemma Garrick.

"I will never forget Talita as long as I live" Caplan declared earnestly "and I will always visit the grave and come to see you if you will have me"

"Talita would want you to be a part of our life" Jemma Garrick informed her "I believe that she bought us all together. And that it was all meant to be"

"I feel it too" Marie Caplan answered sincerely.

"My sister was very special" Havat Saatjian said "During her most difficult times she never lost her courage or her faith. Talita always forgave. My sister wanted you to learn from her and to accept true love when you found it. My sister gave to others without thought of gain and she imparted her wisdom. In this way she saved many many lives. Talita always had a recurring dream in which she saw a beautiful woman dressed in white robes standing in a rose garden. Her head was covered and she had a sweet smile. One day she asked the woman who she was - and she replied, "I am she". Just before she passed away, Talita asked the beautiful woman who she was one last time and she replied, "I am the flower of Nazareth". My sister loved you and her love for you has saved you"

"Mama Banayan" Marie Caplan replied "Mother of everyone"

Virgin "Quick to Hearken" by Tamara Rigishvili (www.tamarapaint.com)