George was home alone when I returned to the house, reading Popular Mechanics as he sipped coffee at the kitchen table. “Mary Kate’s doing the shopping,” he said when I asked. “How was your lunch?” “Surprising,” I said. “I might have a new job.”
“Wow,” George said. “I thought it was just to catch up with an old friend.”
“It was also that.” I fidgeted with my cane a moment. “Did Mary Kate say anything to you about being angry with me?”
“No,” he answered, closing the magazine. “Is she angry with you?”
“Probably. I said something stupid to her last night.”
“She doesn’t hold grudges,” he said to reassure me, and I had to laugh.
“You didn’t grow up with her,” I said. “Once she waited three years to get her revenge for the time I ate her Halloween candy.”
George burst out laughing. “What did she do?”
“I had this pair of boots that I loved and wore all the time,” I said. “She saved for months to buy a pair exactly the same, but a size smaller. It took me a week to figure out why my favorite boots suddenly no longer fit.”
George was still laughing when I saw Mary Kate pull their sedan into the little garage behind the house. I picked up the umbrella from the stand by the door and told George, “I’m going to help her with the groceries,” and went out to meet her.
She was getting Rosemary out of her booster seat as I came into the garage. “Want me to take the baby or the groceries?” I said.
“Baby,” she said and handed Rosemary over to me. “And if you’ll send Georgie out he can help with the rest.”
“I was hoping to have a minute with you first.” I hitched Rosemary against my chest, and she grabbed my shirt and babbled to me. I grinned at her. “Tell me all about it, Rosie-girl.”
Mary Kate leaned against the car and folded her arms. “We have a minute.”
I inhaled. “I was an ass last night and I’m sorry. Of course you know what it’s like. I’m sorry.”
Mary Kate sighed and shoved a hand through her loose blonde hair. Today she wore peddle-pushers and one of George’s old sweaters for running errands, and with her casual clothes and her hair down, she looked like the girl I remembered from before the war.
She wasn’t that girl anymore, and hadn’t been for a long time. I had to remember that.
“Thank you, Malcolm,” she said quietly and kissed my cheek, and when Rosemary squeaked Mary Kate laughed and kissed hers, too. “Take my baby inside now, please.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said and left the umbrella with Mary Kate, and pulled my jacket over Rosemary’s head to keep her dry as we crossed the garden.
Once the groceries were inside, as we put them away I told Mary Kate and George about meeting Noel Thibodeaux, the tutor position, and Caleb’s situation. I left out the attraction I felt toward Noel, as well as the plans we had made to meet again before he left for New Orleans.
Mary Kate was not pleased I had gone to see Oliver, but her expression grew pensive when I explained about Caleb. “The poor boy,” she said and stooped to kiss Rosemary’s head as the baby played in her high chair. “I’ve no doubt you’ll be good for him — but oh, Mal, Louisiana is so far away.”
“So was Kentucky,” I said.
George said, “No plans to go back to California?”
“None,” I said. “It’s too painful. I just can’t handle the memories.”