He whirled to face me, an expression on his face that I was sure cowed everyone around him, and shoved the candle closer to my face. I managed not to flinch. He growled, “You don’t know anything about it. You don’t know anything.”
“Then tell me. Tell me what’s going on in this house, Emmanuel.”
He scowled at me. He had the same vivid, ocean-colored eyes as Noel and Caleb, but his held none if the mischief of Caleb’s, nor none of Noel’s tenderness. Still, for a moment he looked like he wanted to tell me — instead, he jabbed his finger in my chest and said, “You call me Mr. Thibodeaux,” and stalked back to his room.
I sighed and scrubbed my hand through my hair. I thought about going down to the music room to join Noel after all, and decided against it. I doubted I would be able to comfort him any more than he could comfort me.
On my way back to bed, I stopped at Caleb’s door to make sure he was still sleeping. As I expected, his nightlight was on and Tumnus was curled in the curve of his body. What I did not expect was to see Noel, also asleep, with Caleb in his arms.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up.
I thought, He must have taken the back stairs, even though I knew Noel could not get up here and fall asleep again in the short time since the music stopped.
All this time, I had thought the occasional soft, jazzy piano music had been Noel soothing himself in the night. I had never thought it might be someone else — something else.
I went back to bed, but it was almost dawn before I finally fell asleep again.
Before I took the job, Noel had told me he would need to travel frequently for his; he had not done this throughout September, which I put to his firm allowing him to take bereavement leave while he got Caleb settled.
But in the first week of October, Noel said at supper, “I need to go to Chicago for a few days. I’m leaving Wednesday and I’ll be back Saturday night.”
Emmanuel and Caleb both paused, looking at him — Emmanuel suspiciously, Caleb unhappily — and Emmanuel growled, “You spend a lot of time there, boy.”
“Yes,” Noel said mildly, “our headquarters are there.” He said to me, “I’d like to call on the Talbots while I’m in the city. Do you think that would be all right?”
“I’m sure it would be,” I said, and I have to say that it warmed me a bit — Oliver had never even remembered the names of my siblings, let alone wanted to meet them or get to know them — and I hoped that it would ease Mary Kate’s worries about me, if she got to know Noel better. “I’ll write to Mary Kate tomorrow and tell her to expect you.”