by H.E. Taylor
|Chapter 68||Table of Contents||Chapter 70|
Engagement, February 1, 2059
As I walked home from the station, it started to snow — a wet, big-flaked snow which seemed entirely appropriate. By the time I got home, I was soaked to the skin and shivering uncontrollably.
Edie took one look at me and said, “Jump into a hot shower. I’ll get dry clothes for you.”
Half an hour later, I was sitting on the couch, bundled up in a comforter, drinking hot toddy and feeling foolish. I started apologizing. “I didn’t plan properly. I should have worn warmer clothes, waterproof clothes.”
“Oh, will you shush,” said Edie. She spoke in a tone of voice I had rarely heard from her.
“Anna darling, will you go to your room and play. Now please.” It wasn’t a question.
Anna reacted to her voice as well. She uncharacteristically complied without any fuss or bother.
Edie brought a kitchen chair into the living room and sat right in front of me. “I want to talk about our living arrangements,” she said.
My heart sank. I didn’t know what was up. In a cautious voice, I said, “Yes.”
“I don’t know if it occurred to you, but with Matt’s money, I could move out and have my own place.”
It had crossed my mind, but I had been preoccupied with Jon’s strange behaviour. I maintained my cautious stance. “Yes?”
“I don’t want to. I want to stay here, with you. I think we should formalize our relationship.”
She reacted to the look of surprise on my face.
“I don’t want to get married. I have no more use for that tradition than you, but we could have a bonding ceremony and celebration.”
I felt like a drowning man. My head was awhirl. I held out my hand and Edie took it.
“I’ve been thinking of you as my sister-in-law.”
“I know. I know and I respect that, but it’s not true. It never was and now…” She fell silent.
She was being protective of my feelings I realized. I finished her phrase. “Now that Matt is dead…”
“My fling with him was just that — a fling. I hadn’t even met you. Matt was always teasing, always testing his limits with women…with all women. I knew what he was like and still…one day I decided to shock him, just to see what he would do. And the bastard knocked me up. Now don’t misunderstand me. I don’t regret a thing. I’m happy Anna exists. But as for Matt and me…” She fell silent.
I didn’t say a word. I was remembering how Adelle had looked at Edie when Matt walked out the day I first met her.
“You know about my family…”
I nodded. I was a little surprised she brought it up. She had never before mentioned her tragic history. The fire that burned her family to death had shocked the entire community. Half the town was at the funeral.
Edie raised her head and her eyes were wet. “Things happen. Some things you can get over. Some you just get through. I got through. All my life I’ve been afraid to let anyone get close to me. Because…” She groped for words. “I suppose I never really got over the death of my family. I’ve always been afraid anyone I cared for would be taken away from me too.”
Edie was so intense, I knew all I had to do was listen.
“But living here with you…” she paused “…I think, maybe…”
I squeezed her hand.
She took a deep breath and composed herself.
“I’ve never been happier — in my whole life — than I have been living here with you … and Anna. I don’t want to lose that.”
“Then stay,” I said. I opened my arms and she leapt onto my lap. We hugged and kissed in tears and laughter. “And we will have a bonding celebration.”
“I’m going to sleep downstairs tonight,” whispered Edie.
“Good.” I buried my face in her neck and breathed in deeply. She smelled wonderful.
“Mommy, when are we going to have supper?” Anna stood in the hallway, watching us.
“Right now. Right after we cook it, sweetheart. Want to help?”
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor
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Last modified December 3, 2013