Easton lingered at the door. His breath left a faint ‘oh’ of condensation as he stared down the driveway. Nothing made any sense, he decided. It wasn’t like his mother to offer to drive home a friend, any friend.
“Come away from the door,” his father called from the kitchen. “Your Mom will be back soon.”
Easton grudgingly pulled himself away from the slit of glass between the door and the wall. He kicked off his shoes, and hung his jacket in the closet. Hadn’t everything gone okay at dinner? He had thought so. He was polite, Emileigh was interesting, and seemed to impress his parents. She was charming, and sweet and ordered politely.
But his mother. What was with her tonight? He asked himself over and over. She barely touched her food, twirling her pasta mindlessly on her fork, eyes trained on the new girl. When Easton would make a joke, Lillian would change the subject, pressing questions to Emileigh that riled Easton’s insides into knots that made him feel uneasy.
A few times, Easton’s father would touch his mother’s hand gently. With a light squeeze he’d say, “Now Lillian, she’s only been in town a few months, let’s not make her feel like this is an inquisition!” Later, he’d remark, “don’t make the child uncomfortable!” and later still, “Why don’t you check out the dessert bar, Lil? We haven’t tried their new devil’s food cake …”
Cliff Jacobs knew his wife wasn’t simply pressing the girl for her interest in their son. Cliff, pensive and well-versed in the fables of Lillian’s ancestry, was concerned that the stories were about to topple over themselves and spill out onto this child.
Perched on his kitchen bar stool, a spoon in one hand, a tub of Rocky Road in the other, Cliff replayed the evening’s events. His eyes felt heavy, his mind racing with the conversations. He loosened his tie, and set his glasses next to him on the counter top. They were stories, weren’t they? The Elders, the Juniper, the King and the Queen, and the coalition. Fables. Legends passed down from generations. Elaborate tales retold over and over, around Christmas trees and campfires. A leather-bound book, heavier than a family Bible or a tree of heritage. Oledanick was nothing more than a fairy story contrived from years of babbling nonsense told by aging grandparents to wide-eyed children too tired to sleep. Right? That’s what Cliff had told himself from courting Lillian, to marrying her, to watching her deliver a son; a son that reignited her fears of a universe far from their own.
Easton sauntered wearily into the kitchen and sat next to his father. Cliff laid out a spoon and took a deep look at his son. For a few minutes, the boy and his father sat in silence. But as Cliff noted, he was no longer staring down a growing boy. He was looking at the young man he was raising.
Cliff wiped a stain of chocolate from his white collared shirt. He hadn’t even come home to change. He’d received a frantic text from Lillian just as he was leaving work. The day of mediocrity was seared by the words he’d always said were in Lil’s mind … they’ve arrived.
He’d told his secretary to cancel his next day meetings. Suddenly, the potential mortgage brokers, and stagnant chequing account appointments, the borrowers, the investors, they could wait. The bank could wait. Cliff, brief case in hand, cell phone in the other, felt very small in his very large corporate world. Meet us at Gino’s, Lillian’s text had read, they’ve arrived.
Cliff went over his day repeatedly. In his mind, as he took the elevator to the mezzanine. As he beeped open the door of his Rover. His custom was to lay his overcoat safely on the passenger seat, careful of the leather. His briefcase placed on the floor next to him. He would typically take a deep breath, check the rear view and pull out to the road that would lead him home. To their home. The home he’d protected, built, enshrined on logic and far from the yesteryears of Lil’s consistent fears that one day a coalition of mystical creatures would come to reclaim his son. Tonight, he haphazardly threw his belongings in the car and sped off.
For fifteen years, Lillian’s notions had been subdued. They’d cry out in nightmares and terrors, and she’d awake him in a cold sweat, then have to check the baby until he’d finally installed a camera in Easton’s room where Lil could keep a mother’s eye on him. No. Not a mother’s eye. An Oledanick eye. And from the time they’d swaddled that child and brought him home to his own bed, his own crib, Lillian – Cliff swore – slept with that careful eye open, ears perched.
Now, Lillian was somewhere with the child she’d feared the most.
Easton interrupted Cliff’s thoughts. The silence broken, Cliff smiled at his handsome boy. “That was quite a dinner party,” he laughed.
“I’d say,” Easton returned. “Where do you think they are?”
“I’m sure your Mom will be back soon. Emileigh seems a nice enough girl. It was kind of your Mom to give her a lift.”
Easton snorted. “Come on, Dad. When has Mom ever offered to drive someone home?”
Cliff laughed again, “Well, maybe she likes her,” and gave Easton a wink.
Easton licked away the ice cream from the spoon and stared at it thoughtfully. “Dad?”
Cliff stood up, carrying the bowls to the dishwasher, “Yeah?”
“Mom was acting weird tonight.”
“This is the first girl you’ve brought home to meet her,” Cliff replied, carefully stacking the dishes. He opened the freezer and returned the ice cream. He was desperate to give Easton an explanation. Give him a sense of normalcy. “Do you have homework tonight?”
“Dad,” Easton said standing upright. “Something’s off.”
Cliff’s hair seemed whiter. His posture seemed straighter. His face seemed older. Easton approached him at the counter. “Dad. Just tell me what’s going on.”
Cliff turned and gave his son a hard look. They were nearly at eye-level. Easton looked more like his Mother than he’d ever given him credit before. He had his grandmother’s eyes. Green. Wise. Lillian’s eyes. And by all accounts, his namesake’s eyes. Were the stories true, after all?
And suddenly, they were. All of them. Cliff grimaced. Caught off guard, he placed a once-sturdy hand on Easton’s shoulder. “Do you have homework tonight?”