Laurette had been a little reluctant to go over to Art’s for an early supper, but she was glad she made the effort. It was good to get away from Pond House every now and then. Light seemed cleaner here, and she felt more like herself.
Maybe it was hearing about someone else’s troubles. Kitty was plainly still upset about Inez. “I just don’t know what’s happening to this world,” she said to Laurette.
Art just wouldn’t take it seriously. “It’s the same thing that’s always happened, Aunt Kit,” he said, smiling, as he walked past with the burgers. “Marriages end. Life goes on.”
“I understand, Cherie,” Laurette said. “It’s hard to watch someone you love do wrong.” Hadn’t Laurette spent years shaking her head over Greg’s nonsense with women? Some of them were even married! At least all that was before his own marriage and after poor Felda passed away. She couldn’t imagine how awful it would be to watch one’s own child break her marriage vows.
“Now, Kitty, people are still getting married, you know,” said Mimi. “In fact, we’ll have a wedding of our own to think about soon. When Ella gets back tomorrow, she’ll be able to give us a date and we can start planning.”
But of course, Art had to put his oar in. “Presuming she’s passed the typing paper test,” he said.
“Typing paper test?” Lucas looked at his mother. “I’ve heard of the brown bag test, but this is a new one.”
Mimi sighed. “Your father is determined to think the absolute worst of David’s family.”
“All I know is, Ella’s letters are happy and excited and her visit has gone well,”
Artie opened his mouth as if to say something, then pressed his lips together as he slapped the meat on the hot grill, making it hiss.
A wedding! How wonderful! Surely that would cheer Kitty up! Laurette smiled at her friend. “Have you met this young man? What is he like?”
Kitty stood up. “He is very handsome and polite,” she said. “Excuse me. I need to check on the beans in the oven. I’ll be back in just a minute.”
Only after she heard the screen door close behind Kitty did Laurette remember. Of course Kitty had met the boy — He was a Baghill, and Kitty had told Laurette about it a couple of times. Oh, how could she be such a ninny? What must Kitty think of her? She’d gone and upset her friend, made her think heaven knows what!
Laurette was afraid to look up. Was she going to see Mimi staring at her the way she did sometimes these days?
But when she did raise her head she saw Mimi was arguing with Lucas. “You are going to need to make an effort with your sister and David, you know,” Mimi was saying. “There is going to be a wedding and you are going to have to be part of it.”
“I know, Mom,” he said.
“Are you going to even try?”
“Yes, Mom. I promise.”
She needed to show Kitty she was all right, she wasn’t some completely feeble, senile old woman. When Kitty came back, Laurette was standing, waiting for her. “Cherie,” she said, “I am so sorry for being so forgetful. Of course, I know his name. It’s David Baghill. And you told me all about meeting him. Now, is there something I can do to help in the kitchen instead of sitting around…”
Kitty smiled. “Honey, such talk! All I did was peek in the oven and give the beans a stir, and I think I can do that by myself. Let’s sit down and gab about something other than my troubles.”
By the time Artie announced, “Dinner is served,” Laurette was hungry, even for hamburger sandwiches.
Mimi and Art started one of their arguments, this time about whether or not he should have carmelized the onions he put in the meat patties. “You kids cut it out,” said Lucas as he passed them with his plate, and they laughed, but continued to argue.
“See, that’s how a marriage is supposed to work,” said Kitty.
“Abel and I fought, but it almost never got ugly. Weren’t you and Artiste the same?”
“Well, he did have that husbandly habit of telling me what I would do instead of asking me about it first. But that’s what men do, isn’t it?”
“Not all our advice is bad, you know,” said Lucas, who’d taken a seat at the table. He took a bite of his burger, swallowed. Something was plainly bothering him. “Sometimes, we have things worth saying.”
The two ladies eyes met and they smiled.
“So sensitive!”exclaimed Kitty.
Artiste and Mimi settled down on one of the benches, their plates in their laps. Lucas told them about his ideas for the Rose. The upstairs rooms were wasted as office space, now that the big office building had gone up downtown, and the smaller lobby that was being used as an entrance would be a good place to set up a tour desk.
“Is your father in agreement with you about this?” asked Kitty, and Lucas shrugged. “He will be. I’m working on it.”
“Now hon, you go lightly on that,” said Kitty.”Some of the worst family fights I’ve ever seen have been about property and how to use it.”
“That is so,” said Laurette. “Artiste and I once had a terrible fight when he wanted to add a room right where my herb garden was planted. We fought over that for more than a month. It was awful. I was afraid nothing would ever the same after.”
Kitty said something about her father and his fights with Mimi’s father over replacing the dance floor in the upstairs ballroom, but suddenly, Laurette found it hard to listen. Something was wrong about what she had said about the herb garden. She had to stop and think.
No. It hadn’t been Artiste she’d fought with over the new room.
It had been Cassie.
Beautiful, beautiful Cassie.
It still amazed Laurette that someone so elegant, so clever and strong, could have loved her back.
Where was Cassie? The light had gone dirty again. It made Laurette feel she had to grope for things that once were always in plain sight. It made her feel as though she didn’t belong, not as she had once, when everything was so bright and green and clear. Back then, in that other place, there’d been no shadows. None at all. Why had she ever left it?
She felt a hand touch her gently.
“is everything all right?” Lucas asked.
Once the dishes were cleared away, Art said “It’s time for some music,” and Kitty brought out her guitar.
Art and Mimi saw close together on the bench. Their arms were around each other.
And Kitty’s fingers strummed out the opening strains of that old Island favorite, “Elaro.”
No, Laurette thought, please. Not that song. It was like fingers reaching into her chest drawing out pictures, sounds, scents that made her heart hurt.
Kitty wasn’t singing, but Laurette could hear the words behind every note.”
“Dark eyes that look across the years
Strong hands I long to reach for me…”
Shadows were growing. The music was making them, longer, and Laurette felt tears stinging her eyes, her lips trembling.
Cassie always said she would take care of her.
She needed to go back. She needed to go back right now.
Once again, someone was calling her.
“Laurette, where are you going?” asked Mimi. “Is something wrong? Have we done something to make you angry?”
Why were they constantly pestering her, interfering? Mimi resembled her father. Ugly, mean, greedy, just like Jack Reckoner.
“Leave me alone!”
“Stop pretending you care about me!”
“You don’t like me. None of you do. You just want my house. You want to take it away from me!”
“No, no, Tante, please, don’t say such things…”
Kitty was beside them now. “Laurette, where did you get such an idea? Everyone here loves you. You know that. It’s not like you at all to be so angry. You’re just tired. Really, it’s my fault for playing that sad song.”
“That’s right. Kitty’s going to apologize, right now,” said Art. “We all are.”
“Please,” Kitty said. “Please forgive me, sweetheart. Please tell me we’re still friends.”
Laurette looked from face to face. Had she been mean to Kitty without realizing it? What was she doing? What had she said? This wasn’t what she’d meant at all. And how could she speak so curelly to poor Mimi, who couldn’t help her father being a Reckoner?
“Come on, let’s not quarrel,” said Lucas. “We’re all a little tired and cranky today. How about we all sit down and have some tea and anisette? Then maybe go inside and watch some television?
Laurette sat down at the table again with Kitty, who said, “I’d love some tea, Lucas. Thank you.” Behind her, Laurette could hear Art and Mimi talking about something very quietly and seriously.
They watched Huntley Brinkley, then they watched something else, a show about cowboys. It was so nice to sit in a bright little room with people around her, talking and laughing.
After Gunsmoke, Kitty kissed everyone goodbye and went home. Laurette was going to go home too, but they convinced her to stay for the night so they could all go out together and have breakfast at the Rose. “I’m staying, too,” said Lucas. “Just can’t face the drive to Theodosia this late.”
So she went to bed in Ella’s room, wearing one of Mimi’s night dresses, and she slept very well.
Until she didn’t.
She sat for a moment, her feet resting against a rug that didn’t feel right. She wasn’t where she belonged.
This was a young girl’s room. Not her’s. What was she doing here? She looked out the window and saw the Eastern Highway. Her house was over there, across the road and just a little down aways.
She had no business staying here so late. She needed to get dressed, pin her hair up and go home.