Raven’s Run 24

She said, “Sit,” and I sat.

She poured wine. At least she did not have to use jelly jars; Will had insisted that we have wine glasses aboard. She ladled up the mole for both of us and recovered a plate of biscuits from where she had been keeping them warm near the stove. She sat down opposite me and in my mind the sound of denim on the transom cushions was like the swish of silk. She had that kind of presence.

After weeks of my own cooking, anything would have tasted good. But Raven’s mole would have tasted fine under any conditions. The biscuits were flaky and golden. I said, “Delicious,” and she said, “Thank you.” Other than that, there was little conversation for several minutes. After a day at the wheel, I ate more like a farmhand than the Count of Châteaubriand.

Our eyes met. She was wise and sad and merry all at once. I could not read her face, but I knew that I would be willing to study a long time to learn how to. I reached across the table and she took my hand. Just a brief grasp and release. A message of reconciliation.

She said, “You haven’t touched your wine.”

“I don’t drink.”

“But the wine . . .”

“Will’s. Not mine. If you look up forward among the crates and suitcases you will find two cases of wine and one of brandy. Will likes to travel prepared.”

“And you don’t drink. At all?”

“Only if I get trapped at a social function where refusing would be a problem. Otherwise, no.”

“You don’t mind . . .” She gestured toward her half empty glass.

“Of course not.” After a moment, I added, “My father was an alcoholic.”

“And that is why you hate it?”

“I don’t hate it. I love it. But I don’t want to end up where he is.”

“Oh.”

We ate in silence. Then I said, “I don’t tell everybody that.”

“No. I don’t suppose you would.”

“Thank you for the wonderful meal.”

“My pleasure, sir.” She managed to curtsey sitting down. Her smile was full of warmth and mischief.

She cleared the table. I released the catches and slipped it back under the transom cushion. She came back with two mugs of coffee and sat beside me.

“Ian,” she said, “you’re an odd one. I don’t quite know what to make of you.”

“I don’t mean to be mysterious.”

“When I was in the water . . .” She had a hard time saying that. The memory was still much with her. “When I was in the water, I managed to get out of my dress. When you found me I was naked, or so close that it doesn’t matter.”

The warmth of her sitting beside me, coupled with her words, were bringing my body alive in ways that would be painful if this conversation stopped short of climax. I said, “Yes.”

“You never made a pass at me.”

“You were unconscious.”

“Don’t joke. I mean later.”

“You were scared to death of me.”

“At first, I was. I didn’t stay scared.” more tomorrow

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