BY AL BRUNO III
Saturday November 16th 1996
Isobel was about to say something to him when a sound caught her attention, “Are those wind chimes?”
“Yes.” Sig said, “They're out in the trees by the gazebo.”
“Really? They sound a lot closer.”
“A trick of the acoustics.” Hao explained, “It comes and goes.”
If it was a trick of the acoustics than Isobel thought it was a pretty damn good one, no matter which way she turned her head it sounded like the hollow chiming was just over her shoulder. She had never heard the sound anywhere else in the house, why was it just this room? Were the soft tinkling sounds drifting down through the fireplace somehow?
The table had broken up into side conversations again; Jack and Roxanne flirting, Hao smiling at Warren’s babbling, Zeth and Magwier talking like a pair of conspirators. The only quiet people were on Isobel’s side of the table, Sig and Angie had fallen into a content silence, Galen was drinking another glass of wine and Isobel was wondering to herself what Cheryl would have made of all this.
She would have hated everyone here. Isobel thought, Except for Hao, I think they would have clicked.
I just wish she was here. I wish we… I wish I hadn’t gotten her killed.
The sound of the gun and the wet splash that followed- the way Cheryl had quivered in those dying moments. There wasn’t enough wine in the world to make those memories bearable.
And I left her. I left her alone so I could come out here… and go to a dinner party.
Somehow the peace of Laurel House made it all the worse. Guilt Isobel made her want to live the real life of a fugitive- running, hiding, stealing to live and barely sleeping. Wasn’t that what she deserved?
Bodivar got up and added a new log to the fire. Somehow Isobel felt a little sorry for him, everyone else at the table seemed to have someone to pair off with. Then she felt Galen's eyes on her, the old familiar goosebumps ran across her skin. She teased him, and herself, by returning the glance. “What time is it?” she wondered.
“About one.” Jack said, “Time flies.”
“Does it?” Magwier retorted.
Isobel marveled at Jason Magwier’s ability to bring a conversation to one uncomfortable halt after another. Was that his special power? Jason Magwier slayers of parties and bat mitzvahs? Everyone seemed to be treating him like an unliked but wealthy relative, to be indulged but treated with suspicion. Sig was the only one wearing his contempt on his sleeve.
“I really think you’ve had enough.” Hao kept the wine bottle from Warren’s reach.
“You don’t have any soda so what else am I going to drink?” He tried to reach around her but suddenly got distracted by her cleavage.
Bodivar said, “We do have water.”
“Ech. Plain water?”
“What’s wrong with plain water?” Galen said, “Have our bodies become so acclimatized to chemicals we can’t bear to be without them?”
Sig nodded, “I wouldn’t matter where the water comes from. Everything is polluted now. If there were a way to return this world to a pure state would all die gasping like fish.”
“The world was never pure.” Magwier said.
“Speaking from experience?”
Hao stood, “OK Who wants dessert?”
There were some groans and murmurs of approval, Sig sat up straight in his chair, fork at the ready. Angie giggled at him.
“I think you'll find some ice cream in the freezer.” Jack said
Bodivar added, “And there is a pie by beside the oven. Apple.”
“I'll be doing dishes all week.” Hao said as she grabbed Warren's arm, “Come on you. You're helping.”
“How can I help?”
Once they were gone Jack shook his head, “I have never seen her take such a shine to someone.”
“It isn’t gravity or god that holds the world together.” Magwier said mistily, “We all rotate on the gyre of the heart. How could it be otherwise?”
Zeth raised an eyebrow, “You're not going to start reciting some of your poetry are you? No one is drunk enough for that yet.”
The sound of windchimes reached Isobel’s ears again and she wondered if somehow the sound of their voices was echoing around Laurel House’s empty rooms- like ghosts.
I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there were ghosts here. Spirits of houseguests past.
She caught Galen stealing another glance at her. She was attracted to Galen, she was fascinated by him, but could she trust him? He still hadn’t told her why these Monarch things were after him, what he had done or what he was protecting?
He came back for me. Isobel tried to take comfort in that, He rescued me.
But is that really what he came back for?
“Isobel is it?” Magwier waved in her direction, “Not Lilly, Isobel right?”
“I don't know any Lilly.”
“I apologize. My memories are like shadows, they play tricks.”
Sig stared contemplatively at his fork, “What is taking them so long with that pie?”