All Bedlam Courses Past (part seventy-eight)
All Bedlam Courses Past
An Object in Motion
“Oh, Mariette will be tickled. Look how pretty!” A quarter of peach damask, a miniature ball-gown’s worth. Mariette’s first lady doll to wear what Clotilde could make of these…
“And so.” She finished her story, Everards edited. “I got a basket of nice bits and pieces. What do you think if I made a little cushion cover?”
“Élucide, will you bring me my calendar?”
Mother’s voice rose, for Ranilde, or only for thoughts given aloud. “I’m expecting this will get tricky, but it may be you can stay until the Wednesday. Are there…” Her hand said a nuisance, a thing in poor taste. “Formalities, I suppose. Times Crownhaven is not open to the public?”
“Well, I don’t know. They say it’s a private place.”
The private place remark was peeve, deploring a person’s knowing anything confidential about Crownhaven. Mother was resigned, in the forbearing way of the unresigned, to that person being her daughter. In fact, they say had been the phrase more telling.
Standing as abruptly as Mother had changed the subject, Élucide jogged the stairs, breathed out irritation, returned with the secretarial query: “What was it you wanted to see Mr. Ebrach about?”
“Nothing! I am always happy to see Mr. Ebrach, but obviously the…the little boy. Does Honoré’s wife correspond at all? Never mind.”
She would catch herself like this, not wanting to be unfair to the cousins. Mother did right by people; it was pride and politics…it was a kind of noblesse. To do right, to be right.
“Because, Luce, they won’t understand what’s expected. I know what you’re about to say…it’s a lazy habit, I own it, having you play go-between. You will have to stay, though, through Wednesday, to sit with Ranilde.”
“She doesn’t, if she doesn’t want to. Why wouldn’t Geneva sit with me?”
Ranilde peeled down her coverlet, yanked at a square of it, losing at once the energy for yanking, but layered into a trap…coverlet, dressing gown, knee pillow, water bottle.
Élucide bent to tug, saying: “Here, do you want to walk upstairs?”
“No. I was just getting up. Stop saying here to me.”
It was upsetting…it no longer seemed trustworthy, her mother’s having her keep to the house past midweek, when she’d come for Sunday dinner in good faith. Owen’s uncle would drive the two of them from town, their arrangement since the stillbirth; these outings going two months now.
(2023, Stephanie Foster)