BY AL BRUNO III
Saturday November 16th 1996
It didn't take Galen long to clear his plate, he ate like a man racing against the clock. Warren was already on his second glass of wine, his entire face was flushed. Isobel noticed how clumsy he was with the fork in his left hand and felt a twinge of guilt. Angie was deep into conversation with Sig, but he seemed to nod and shake his head more than he actually spoke. Roxanne and Jack were trying to look anywhere but at each other.
The wood in the fireplace popped and Isobel found herself looking to the pictures and paintings on the walls again; one was of an older looking woman with long scar beneath her right eye, another was of a pair of twins, one sporting a handlebar moustache, the other a floppy hat, there was a sour looking teenage girl wearing an elaborate looking black dress and then one picture was an entire family standing hand in hand- not a one of them was smiling. Who were these people? Isobel wondered then she asked, “How long do you think we should lay low here?”
Bodivar frowned, “The Monarchs have long memories and a longer reach.”
“You mean we might have to stay here for the rest of our lives?” Warren asked.
Sig shrugged, “There are worse fates.”
Zeth tsked, “I thought your people were warriors.”
“Warriors? Yes. But not fools. Only fools keep fighting when the battle's over.”
“Well at least it’s relaxing here.” Warren mused.
“Relaxing.” Angie nodded, “Yeah, but sometimes I would kill for a little trash TV.”
“I think Jerry Springer might clash with the décor.”
“Oh my God, is he still on the air?”
Warren said, “Yeah, he’s perfect hangover viewing.”
“Television…” Sig said thoughtfully, “Always seemed like so much noise to me. I prefer the kind of stories people tell each other.”
“Speaking of stories…” Magwier said turned to him, “Tell me Warren whatever happened to your friend Tristam?”
The front of Warren's bathrobe hung open and his silk pajamas were spattered with gravy. Warren gave Magwier a wary look, “How about you tell me why you were working at my school as a janitor?”
“I was putting myself through school.”
“Who is this Tristam I keep hearing about?” Angie asked, “A little while before John and I got here he was all over the news.”
Warren frowned, “I'm not sure stories about him are appropriate dinner conversation.”
Roxanne laughed, “Then you obviously have no idea who you're having dinner with.”
Warren shrugged, “All I can say is that he did a lot worse things than what they know about”
“That's it? What are you afraid of saying?”
Hao's voice became a growl, “Roxanne, let him be.”
“It's just...” Warren filled his wineglass again, “It's just none of it makes any sense. He used to beat me up, he used to beat me up a lot but then he killed a dog and all the cool kids started thinking he was crazy and he had to sit at my table with my other friends. We were the less than popular kids.”
He took a drink before continuing, he was talking faster now, “For a goofy fat kid I had a lot of friends- Greg, Rich, Yusuf, Adelphos and Drew. At first we didn't want Tristam hanging around with us but Greg felt sorry for him so we took him in. I guess we made him an honorary nerd or something.”
Roxanne raised her eyebrows, “And now that you're here are you an honorary-”
Bodivar shushed her, “Let him finish.”
“I busted his balls every chance I got.” Warren said, “I was sure that if he got the chance to stab us in the back he'd do it. But when things got… they got bad… he started trying to protect us. We didn't exactly encourage him, well some of us didn't. I was a little into it really- seeing all the precious perfect kids get humiliated, I liked it. Then he took it further, everything went wrong- for him, for all of us-maybe even for the whole world.”
“What do you mean the whole world?” Jack asked.
“I wasn’t there, I didn't see what happened in the end. That last night before he was arrested- even the stars were wrong. A lot of people died, including one of my friends.”
Hao patted his arm comfortingly; he gave her a little smile.
“Warren.” Isobel said, “I never knew any of that.”
Her brother drained his second glass of wine and went to work on his third, “I never really said. You and I never talked much after you moved out.”
“Just as much my fault as yours.”
Hao said to him, “Now maybe you could tell me a story about that cousin Tess of yours. Isobel dropped me a few very interesting hints.”
“Tess? Oh. Yeah she just… developed early.” Warren said.