White Knight(5)

By: CD Reiss


Out on the porch, the sounds of the squeaking bed faded. I took a deep breath. The house was set back on the end of a long drive, hidden from the main road by high hedges and a long garden. Overhead, birds flew south in crooked Vs and Ws. I was alone. Finally.

But the throb between my legs didn’t go away. I was going to have to walk it off.

Heading down the path toward the hedges, I thought about everything except the tempo of the creaking bed. I thought of how we used to have a staff to walk down the drive for the mail, and how, before his route doubled in size, Willy would come all the way down the drive to deliver it, just for the chance to say good morning to my mother. How many people could I hire to repave it? How many children could I feed with that small job?

I’d thought the driveway repair through before, but the money always found something more important to do. I was running out of things to sell, except the house itself. No one could afford to buy it, and those who could didn’t want it. So the Barrington Mansion stayed the Barrington Mansion even though it looked like no more than a big, old confection of a Victorian.

I got to the mailbox, a green-painted cast-iron chest with a bronze slot, just as Willy drove up in the white truck.

“Morning, Miss Barrington!” His seat was on the right, like a boxy, doorless European sportster. He handed me a short pile of mail.

“Morning, Willy. How’s Lara doing?”

“On the mend. It itches under the cast though. She complains like she’s dying of it.”

“That’ll be the last time she jumps off Crone’s Tree.”

“Probably not. You know kids. So what’s happening with that boy from California? Word is he’s been hanging around Miss Harper.”

My body was reminded of the bed creaking. I looked away from Willy in case the feeling was all over my face. “I think he’s all right.”

“How long’s he staying?”

The town was very protective of Harper and me, even though we were adults. My father’s dying wish was that they take care of us, and when folks here agreed, it was a solemn oath.

“Long enough for her to break his heart, I’m sure.”

Willy laughed and waved. He pulled onto the road, and I flipped through my mail as I walked back to the house. A few bills. Marketing junk. An early birthday card for me.

When I got to the white business-sized envelope with my name in dark blue ball point, I stopped. Stood in place. It was an expensive buff paper. The return address was engraved in slate grey.

Him.

I hadn’t heard from him since the night he left me.

Not a word.

And now… today.

All the other envelopes slipped to the ground, abandoned like old lovers.



* * *



Dear Catherine of the Roses,

I will try to keep this letter short in the hope that you even remember me. I’m not used to writing things by hand, but I thought you deserved the effort.

Lance has died. He was an old dog and he had a good life, but now I have to bring him home.

I will be burying him on Wild Horse Hill. The service is set for next Friday.

You aren’t obligated to come, but I would very much like to see you while I’m there.

Christopher





I read it again.



* * *



…you deserved the effort…





* * *



Did I suddenly deserve effort?



* * *



…Lance has died…





* * *



Oh, terrible. Terrible. Such a sweet dog, waiting patiently for us at the base of the tree.



* * *



…next Friday…





* * *



The day after my twenty-ninth birthday. So many years.



* * *



…You aren’t obligated…





* * *



How far down the path had we come to have no obligations?



* * *



...while I’m there…





While he’s here.



* * *



…I’m there...





* * *



He’s coming here.



* * *



…Christopher.





* * *



Christopher.





Chapter 5





CHRIS - present





It was my shop, which meant I could come and go as I pleased. But it was my shop, which meant my absence was noticed.

“You’re not going to Catalina.” Brian sat on the other side of my desk, slouched in the leather-and-chrome chair with an ankle over his knee. He was twelve years older than me, but while I wore suits, he was a Henley-and-jeans guy. He weaponized casual. Nothing showed you were too good for all this shit like sneakers. “You’re not going to Martha’s Vineyard, the house on Lake Como, or the Reykjavik retreat. What am I supposed to think?”