My mother got up to answer the door, cradling Maine, and touched at her hair with one hand to set it in proper place before going out of the room. She always had to look proper, no matter what. It was the outside that mattered to her, rarely the inside of a person. I guess that’s why I failed her so much — I wasn’t proper on either side.
I stood back in the swallowing shadows of the big house biting my nails as my mother opened the door. Emily and Frost began to step in and then suddenly stopped when they saw her holding the baby.
“Mom?” Emily asked, her face scrunched in confusion. “Are you babysitting for someone? Whose kid?”
“We’ll talk about it, dear. Please come in. Hello there, Frost.”
Their voices were distant to me, like in a dream. I saw Frost lean in and give my mother a fake kiss on the cheek. Then their voices bloomed and became an uncomfortable gathering upon me.
“Oh, hello Everett,” Frost said when he noticed me lurking as he shed his fancy coat and placed it over one arm. “It’s a surprise seeing you here. We had no idea. Are you planning to stay for the weekend as well?”
“I don’t know,” I said, and I moved forward to shake his perfect hand. His grip was cold, crushing. His cold blue eyes drilled into me. He had a look of winter about him, and so his name fit him perfectly — Frost. Frost Bennington of the Benningtons. Prick.
Then I looked over at my sister, the dear Emily. My older sibling. Intelligent and oh so intelligently cool, cold, frosty like her lover. She acted uncomfortable and brushed wispy blonde hairs out of her face, her evergreen eyes avoiding me.
“Hello Emily,” I said, and I awkwardly hugged her. It was a short-lived embrace that she quickly pulled away from.
“Hello Everett,” she said, her words nervously stumbling out. “It is quite a surprise to see you here. If we knew you were coming… I suppose you could have ridden with us from the city, but I guess neither of us knew.”
“No. I hadn’t planned on it.”
“So,” Frost broke in, “Where’s Edward? I brought him a bottle of some fine brandy.” He held up a surely expensive bottle to show it off.
“I think he went off to his study,” my mother said. “Why don’t you go and say hello? I’d like to speak with Emily in private. Everett, go wash yourself up, you look like you could use a long, hot shower, and I think it would be best if you stayed the night. You can sleep in your old room. There are some clean linens in the closet upstairs. Well, you know where it all is. Go on now.”
Evelyn led Emily to the quiet of the obscene chef’s kitchen in the back of the house. She spoke to the house maiden who was busy polishing glasses with a white cloth. “Eliza, please take this baby into a quiet room and soothe him while we talk.”
The house maiden smiled. Her light brown skin brightened. “Oh, he’s something,” she said as she came closer. She took him into her arms and immediately fell in love.
“Yes, well, don’t get too attached, Eliza. He may not be with us long,” Evelyn said to her like a cold breeze.
“Yes, mam,” Eliza said, the brightness of her face turning to night again. “I will be in the sitting room.”
Evelyn nodded to her and she turned to look out the big windows into the large, perfectly kept yard bleached with winter.
“Mother?” Emily began. “What’s going on? Whose baby is that?”
“Oh, my dear daughter. We have trouble in this house today. I think your brother has totally gone mad. He just showed up with that baby in a pillowcase. He says it belongs to some tramp he met in the city and she up and left. Just took off is what he said and just left the child behind. I just don’t know what to do about Everett anymore. I’m just sick about it. But that child. That poor, innocent child stuck in the middle of all this.” Flustered, she stepped away from the window and frantically started going through cabinets. “And I don’t have anything for a baby to eat…”
“Mother,” Emily said, trying to slow her down and make her pay attention. “Stop and listen to me. I have great concern for Everett. I don’t think he’s well, I mean, mentally.”
A clock on the mantle above an unlit fireplace in another room chimed four times before Evelyn spoke again.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. “Did something happen to him in the city?”
Emily shifted her eyes. “Everett came over to our place, it was back before Christmas. He said you had visited him that same day and he started talking very strangely to me about when we were young and living here in the house. He seemed very confused and troubled.”
“Yes. I did go see him. I had met some friends for brunch.” She sighed. “He was sitting there all alone in that awful apartment. It was so dark. Dirty. Sad really. Very sad. I thought maybe stopping by with a bag of leftovers might cheer him up. I gave him some money, too. But despite the typical grayness of his life when I saw him that day, he seemed fine. Is there something else I should know about?”
“Like I said, when he was at our place. Frost was off doing something important most likely and so we were alone, Everett and I, in the kitchen. Just trying to talk. You know how awkward that can be.”
“What are you trying to tell me?”
“He kissed me.”
Evelyn froze for a moment, and her eyes began to quake with nervous twitches behind her glamorous glasses. “What’s wrong with a brother kissing his own sister?”
“It wasn’t that kind of a kiss, mom,” Emily softly spoke. “He kissed me, you know, a real kiss… He forced himself on me.”
Evelyn stepped back, coughed, and adjusted the same glamorous glasses. “Oh please, Emily! Such talk. You must have completely misread his intentions.”
“No. I didn’t.”
“He must have been drinking then,” Evelyn strongly suggested.
“No, mother. He wasn’t drinking. He knew what he was doing… Or he didn’t. I don’t really know,” she said, hands in the air as she paced the polished floor.
“My God, Emily,” Evelyn moaned. “Why would he do that? What on earth would possess him to do that?” She scoffed in frustration and embarrassment almost. She waved a hand in the air. “I don’t believe it. I refuse to believe such a story.”
“I think he needs a doctor,” Emily stressed to her mother. “A good doctor. A psychiatrist. He may even need to go to a place that specializes in whatever is wrong with him. Frost and I know some people who may be able to help.”
Evelyn bit at her mouth with worry. “This is all too much,” she moaned. “But how are you? He didn’t hurt you, did he?”
“No. He didn’t hurt me at all. I was just shocked, and I pushed him off and told him to never do it again, that it was inappropriate… But then what about this baby now? This definitely proves there is something seriously wrong with him.”
“It’s very odd indeed. I think the child is sickly and I’m not surprised. That fool boy knows nothing about taking care of a baby. And that girl who dumped him, I can just imagine what a piece of work she is. I just don’t understand why Everett can’t find a nice girl. He’s not a bad looking young man, he’s just …”
Emily finished her mother’s sentence, “Incredibly strange.”
“Why don’t you help him out and introduce him to some of your friends? You know plenty of well-educated people. Good, decent people too. He needs to be kept away from common street trash — like that poor child’s mother.”
“I would, mother, but I don’t think Frost would have it. You know how particular he is about everything. And it’s no secret that he doesn’t like Everett.”
“Does he know what happened?”
“Yes. I told him, and he wasn’t happy about it at all. No surprise. He went ballistic. It took everything in me to calm him down enough to even come this weekend… And then pow, Everett is here, unbeknownst to us. I could almost hear Frost’s perfect teeth grinding to dust.”
“Yes, I suppose he would be upset. I can’t blame him. He’s a fine young man, very driven, bred from fine stock, and well positioned to take care of you financially. That’s very important. So even if things go sour between you two, always consider that. And another very important thing is the fact your father is more than fond of him.”
“I find it strange that daddy takes him on like that and then treats Everett like he’s not even his son.”
“Well, your father has always been drawn to highly successful people. I’m afraid Everett has greatly disappointed him.”
“That’s sad,” Emily said. “It shouldn’t be like that. You should love and support your kids no matter who they are and what they do. That’s the way I want to be.”
“You’ll be a fine mother some day,” Evelyn assured her daughter as she gently tapped the back of her hand. “As far as Maine is concerned, I’m going to convince your father to let me keep him here — just for a day or two until we can figure this all out,” she said. “In the meantime, I want us to have a nice family gathering this weekend. Cozy and warm and perfect. Will you help Eliza with dinner?”
“Of course,” Emily said.
“And do you think Frost would mind running Everett over to the store to get some things. For the baby. Diapers and such. I’ll make a list.”
Emily made a face. “Well, he may not like it, but he’ll do it for you.”
Evelyn smiled. “Good. I like it when he does things for me.”
TO BE CONTINUED
The first part of this story can be read HERE.