It was the quietest part of the night, when even the insects had succumbed to silence. The long black silk robe Eleanor wore brushed each step as she descended the grand curving staircase toward the front door. Robin watched her through the stained glass window, swimming toward him like a wavery mermaid.
She pulled the door open and looked up at him grinning down at her with one arm propped jauntily against the jamb.
“Thanks again for coming,” she said. “I just couldn’t sleep when I realized I was all alone in the house. I started thinking about vampires and ghosts, you know? Boo Radley and Huck’s dad and ghosts in white nighties. I shouldn’t read before I go to sleep but then I swear I heard noises in the attic. It was probably just a mouse or a squirrel or something, right? But I kept thinking, what if someone’s up there? What if that’s where the owners keep uncle Phil, who was never quite right in the head if you know what I mean?” Saying the words out loud took the fear out of them. She ran her fingers through her hair self-consciously. Rosemary’s kimono was embroidered with delicate pastel butterflies and several sizes too large; it kept slipping off one shoulder. “I swear to god I almost called 911.”
“You’re welcome, Miss Elle. Glad to be of service.” Robin was carefully combed and neatly pressed in skinny pants and a faded blue gingham shirt with pearl snaps and brown leather boots.
She took his knapsack and put it on the little table next to the door. “You look fancy and you smell like beer. You must have been awake when I called?”
“Yeah. I was out with a friend.”
He sighed. “A set-up. She wasn’t my type. I guess I was glad for an excuse to leave.” He looked past Elle into the parlor where the little lamp with the red satin shade shed its scarlet light across the ornate drapery, the watercolor flowers in gilt frames, the curvy sofa and the fat little chairs. “Nice house.”
“Oh, all this stuff came with the place.” She pulled him through the parlor and the darkened library toward the brightly lit kitchen doorway. “My mothers’ tastes tend to be much more mid-century and eclectic. Danish or modern Italian, sometimes antique Japanese.” She said this as if she knew what she was talking about. She showed him to a chair at the kitchen table because she did know how to play hostess. “Can I offer you a drink?”
He hesitated for a moment, wondered if she knew how to mix a cocktail. It had always been his job to pour his mother a glass of sherry before bed even though she would swear on the family bible that she never touched a drop, and he figured that maybe a drink poured by a child is innocent, it probably doesn’t count as a sin if it’s offered by a child or a priest, and he nodded yes.
A large portion of this chapter has been deleted.
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