Are You Jealous (part two)
He looked at the next email, Emil Reiff’s request for payment. He looked twice. As though it knew, as though it mocked, the clock gave out a brief twinkling note, as it struck the half-hour.
How could the repairs have cost so much? Reiff had not itemized; he extenuated nothing…but he had included a phone number. Gabriel stood. His phone would be in his jacket. His jacket ought to be downstairs. The clock ought to be downstairs. Why had he heard it as clearly as if it were in the room?
He approached the thing with trepidation.
Eva had placed it on the island, below the pot rack. A thought crossed Gabriel’s mind. If a bus were to go by, shake the foundation, one of those pots…but it would have to be cast iron to do real harm. He tapped up his email, got Reiff’s number.
“I accept a credit card,” Reiff told him. “I accept cash. Also, through McFadden Presby. He will arrange for you.”
“I don’t object to paying…”
“My business is such” (said firmly) “that I must be paid. I expect to be paid.”
Well, as Gabriel mused, ending the call, everyone’s business is such, for that matter.
The day was not really sunny; it was not really warm. He felt clammy wearing his jacket. He knew that if he took it off, he would feel chilled. The sun, hazy through low clouds, as though a dim shop light burned overhead, seemed warmer where yellow leaves remained, coldly withdrawn where limbs were bare. He passed three businesses in a row, shuttered and closed, signs advertising their premises available for lease.
Vows and pledges can’t obviate human nature. Passages in life run their course. Eva’s nature was to fix things…to take a shabby thing and make art of it; to take a broken thing and restore its utility. On the other hand, Eva (as in her blithe way she always said), had a short attention span.
“You don’t, you know. You choose to.” Once, he’d said this back to her.
“Oh, that’s it. Thank you, Gabriel.”
Yes, she cast things aside; she moved to new enthusiasms. She was mistaken, he thought, if she believed her work was finished.
And yet…could it be?
Eva had once explained her obsession. As a child, she had coveted this clock. Her eyes turned upwards, she could see the clock…she could not reach it… Not even standing on a chair. Forbidden, the heirloom sat atop the wardrobe. The wardrobe itself was a fortress, a castle keep, crafted from rosewood, its fittings copper. It had hulked in its family corner for an age, veneer burnished to an umbrageous depth. Its drawer pulls had the faces of angels, black, their curls glinting red-brown. She had known and named each, with their small alterations of feature, sketched their verdigris haloes in her spiral-bound book.
Are You Jealous
(2014, Stephanie Foster)