Chapter 27 – The Empty House

Fidele by Jenna Lynn Brown

This chapter contains explicit content.

The following Saturday, Alex Christie brought Samuel to Fidele to play with Caleb. He told Noel as they went over the books in the library — me a few seats away at the study table, making more worksheets for the coming week — “We’re happy to have him over any time. They get along so well, and Caleb is a delight to have in the house.”

“Thank you,” Noel said with a bit of a smile. He inhaled as if he were going to speak, hesitated, then said, “I’ve been meaning to ask you about that. If it wouldn’t be too much of an imposition, would you be willing to take him for the weekend of the eleventh? My current tenant is moving to Baton Rouge and I want to work on the house a bit before the next one moves in.”

“Of course,” said Alex. “We’d be happy to.”

“Thank you.” He wrote down another figure, then said to me, “Malcolm, would you be willing to come with me? I could use an extra set of hands.”

“Sure,” I said, “though I’m not very handy if there are a lot of repairs to be done.”

“It’s nothing too specialized,” Noel said as he wrote. “You’ll be fine.”

I smiled to myself as I returned to my work. Swinging a hammer or fixing drains was not how I had hoped Noel and I would spend a little time alone together, but I would take any opportunity we could get. Noel would be returning to his busy traveling schedule soon, which meant if he was home on Friday or Saturday nights we would take Caleb to the pictures or to visit the 4/4 club. Private time for the two of us would be scarce for a while.

I had no real cause to complain, though. We spent as much time together as we could; we talked and worked together after supper in the library, we went for walks and the occasional drive, we played with Caleb, cooked with Mrs. Bell, commiserated about Emmanuel. We had reached an understanding on New Year’s Day, and while it changed nothing, everything was different. We were … more to each other, and we both knew it. Whatever happened between us next would happen when it was meant to, and I was willing to wait.

At supper that night, Noel interrupted the silence with, “Father, my tenant has finished his contract with us and is moving to Atlanta for his next job. I’d like to spend the weekend of the eleventh doing some repairs on the house, before my next tenant moves in.”

Emmanuel leaned back in his chair and had a sip of wine. He swished it around his mouth for a few seconds before swallowing, then said, “And?”