Gone Before: part two
“Then when you get up there to visit,” Lawrence said, “you gon have yourself a story to tell.”
Honoré had no answer. He knew what Lawrence hoped to imply…but did not know himself welcome among the Gremots; far less, then, was he likely to gossip with them.
“Mr. Jerome, the table has been cleared.”
Ebrach closed his book. “My trunk is not locked. You will please fetch the oil lamps, and place one at either end. Lawrence!”
He remained where he sat, only amplified his voice; and Lawrence, whose name lent itself to a ringing effect, bunched his upper body in a combative stance. “Will your brother Richard come out to speak?”
The summons could not have escaped Richard’s hearing. He had withdrawn into an open room, and was separated from Ebach by a distance not much greater than his own height. But Lawrence, without taking his eyes from Honoré, backed a step to the bedroom door.
He rapped his knuckles against its frame.
“What’s he want?” Richard said.
Verbena now tucked her wiping rag into her apron band and slipped along the cupboard, her skirts brushing Honoré as he knelt by Ebrach’s trunk. She went to her husband’s chair, taking only his fingertips in hers.
“Richard! I put away some supper for you.”
The younger Richard, conceding as far as the bedroom threshold, stood and watched his parents…stared for a minute at his mother unable to wake his father. He then directed a nod, or a sideways shake of the head, at Lawrence, who moved closer to his brother’s side. Such tacit exchanges Honoré had seen before. Skating almost, along the edge of the rug, cautious that he not stub his foot against an outcropping of furniture―thus to offer the excuse of having made a mess or a noise―Honoré came to the table, arms nearly overloaded. He felt that if Ebrach had not been there, and did not (as by force of personality he could) exert the restraint of authority, the brothers would have crowded him, thrust a boot in front of him, bumped his arm—seized, then, on this provocation of having been touched by Honoré, to beat and kick him. He removed himself from their reach as far as possible, sliding round the table, laying down his burden of lamps and oil can, after which he sat next to Ebrach.
Ebrach said, “Well done. I would have asked you to bring the can in any case. Do you know how to fill such a lamp?”
(2018, Stephanie Foster)