Two days after Christmas found me pacing up and down the vestibule and watching the front drive. Mary Kate had written to me that they planned to leave for Louisiana the day after Christmas, and make the drive at a leisurely pace so they could visit some tourist spots, so I knew not to expect them until late afternoon or sometime in the evening. Still, I began watching for them as soon as Caleb went down for his afternoon nap.
Finally Noel put his hands on my shoulders and said, “Malcolm, stop. You’re making me nervous. They’ll get here soon.”
“I know.” I leaned back against him, and he slid his hands down so he could hold me around my chest. I tipped back my head so my temple touched his cheek. “I gave them directions, but it’s so easy to drive into the bayou before you even realize it if you’re not used to the conditions around here, and it’ll be dark before you know it, and they’ve got the baby with them–“
“What a sweet older brother you are,” Noel murmured and kissed my neck. I inhaled, surprised, and then closed my eyes as warmth washed through me. Emmanuel was out, as had become his habit over the holidays, but even so Noel rarely took risks like this. I welcomed any touch he felt secure enough to give.
We both looked up as we heard a car coming up the drive. It was not the Packard, thankfully, but the Talbot’s sedan. “They’re here!” I grabbed Noel’s hand and we went down the front steps.
As soon as George brought the car to a stop, Mary Kate hopped out and threw her arms around me. I hugged her back as hard as I could. There had been longer absences from each other, of course, but given everything that had happened this year it felt like it had been an age and a half.
Once I let her go, Mary Kate hugged Noel, too. “Hello, friend,” she said, and he chuckled and replied, “Hello, friend.”
George got out of the car as well and we shook hands all around, and there was small talk about the drive and the baby as Mary Kate got Rosemary out of her car-crib in the back seat and George and Noel took their baggage from the trunk.
“When do we meet Himself?” Mary Kate murmured to me as we climbed the front steps.
“Whenever he deigns to appear,” I said. “He’s been spending the day in the city.” Much to the relief of Noel and Caleb — and to me, it must be said.
Mrs. Bell met us in the vestibule. Her expression softened a bit when Noel introduced them, and she said, “Mrs. Talbot, let’s get your things upstairs so you can settle in.”