I’m going to start-up again with the kitchen conversation. That’s not a conversation I’m likely to forget any time soon. It started out innocently enough. I asked her what kind of tea she liked. It snowballed from there in to a place I wasn’t intending to go to so quickly. I’ve learned though that things in Blueville never go as you intended. As we were sitting down with tea in the kitchen, Ben’s mom was looking me over.
“Ask. Just go ahead and ask.”
“I didn’t say anything.” She said innocently.
“I can see the question rattling around in your head. Just ask it.”
“Ben’s a dragon.” I nodded and she continued.”What are you?”
To answer her I floated the metal tea kettle over to her and poured water over her leaves. She yelped and I might have smiled, just a little.
“So you’re a telepath?” She said as I poured my own water the same way and set the kettle on the stove again.
“Not exactly. I believe the word is Metalmancer. I can control metal. All forms of metal. That’s also what makes me so good at my job.”
She eyed me. “You’re a mechanic, yes? My son’s letters always talk about your work. He says you’re very good.”
“I am. I enjoy it. The metal talks to me and allows me to see its life. All the lives its touched. I get a special kind of pleasure in being able to fix something someone considers so important to their life.” I waited for her to respond.
She looked at me, thoughtfully. Her head was tilted to the side and a smile was slowly spreading. “You and he are alike in that way, I think. I asked Ben the same question and he responded in much the same form. He really loves what he does, which confuses the hell out of his father. Mo just doesn’t understand why his son would much rather go around cleaning up dog shit than people.”
I laughed. “It’s actually more like dragon, unicorn and flying tentacle parrot shit. At least that’s what he has as patients this week.”
“A unicorn? Really? I’ve always wanted to see one.”
“They exist and they’re quite brainless animals.” I watched her face fall. “I’m sorry. Yes, they’re very pretty. Pretty doesn’t mean smart though. It’s a trade-off.”
“You know, he was always fond of those books about dragons and unicorns. The legends. I’m glad to see he didn’t have to give up his dreams when he moved out here. His father ranted for weeks about how he was ‘burying himself in that godforsaken wilderness.'”
I laughed. “It does seem like that some days. The wilderness part, but we’re happy.”
I trailed off after that and stared off in to space. I knew that dopey smile was on my face and I didn’t bother to stop it.
“You love him.” She said to me.
I smiled. “Yeah. I do. Every greenish-yellow scale.”
“Well that’s not going to make his father happy.”
“I have a hard time living up to what other’s want. He’ll just have to be disappointed in me too. It won’t make Ben any happier, but we’re pretty happy already without him or his approval.” I snorted that last part in to my tea.
I wasn’t expecting his mother to laugh.
“Oh I really do like you. You’ll be good for him.”
“I already am.” I shot back. That got a nod of approval.
“You are. Mo tries his best, but he grew up in the old way. He’s not exactly the most open man.”
“How did you meet?”
“I was in Petra studying the ruins there. I’m an archaeologist. He was,” She paused. “the most striking man I’d ever seen. It was a fabulous five months. He followed me home a month after I left. The man was in shambles, which wasn’t like him at all. He was usually exceptionally well-groomed and fussy with it.”
I snorted in to my tea. “So that’s where Ben gets it from. I wondered.”
She smiled. “Yes. He’s as fussy as his father with his appearance, but when it comes to cleaning up after himself,”
“He can’t.” We said together and then started laughing. Damn it. I really liked her.
“He changed, after we married the following year. It didn’t happen over night, it was more like a slow slide. I knew he’d been talking to his family, the kind of scars the left behind on him have lingered. He kept pushing Ben to be like him and Ben just wasn’t. The night of their big blow up I let him have it after Ben stormed out. I told him flat-out that I’d had enough of his constant pushing Ben to be what he couldn’t be, perfect. I threatened to leave him if he didn’t make it right. He didn’t. Ben doesn’t know that his father and I divorced four years ago.” She stared down at her tea and went silent.
The silence was deafening after she finished. I knew there was a lot she’d left out, but she had said enough. My heart broke for her. I reached over and put my hand over hers, squeezing gently. She smiled at me.
“Will he be coming?”
She shook her head. “I don’t think so. I took vacation from my job at Columbia. I’ll be spending Thanksgiving with you and then going to South America for a couple of weeks to observe a dig. I was hoping you’d have me back for Christmas.”
I smiled. “Ben and I would love to have you back for Christmas. For now though, lets see about your rooms. I’m sure you’re dead on your feet.”
I pushed back from the table and picked up my cup and spoon. I took Mrs Solt’s from her and yelped when I touched her spoon. A rush of memories screamed at me and they were so loud I nearly dropped everything in my hands. I made it to the sink and leaned against it, breath panting.
“Oh honey, what’s wrong?” She said as she got up and came over to help me back to my stool.
“Your memories are very strong when they’re attached to the metal. What you were thinking about when you were playing with the spoon. He hit you.” I was furious with Ben’s father before, now I was beyond anger.
She paled and grabbed my hand. “He can’t know. I stayed for him. To make sure he was safe.”
“I won’t lie to him if he asks me about it. I won’t. We promised each other, but I won’t say anything unless he asks. That’s all I can promise, Mrs. Solt.” I said to her.
She nodded. “Call me Jude and since you’re now keeping family secrets, you’re family so I’m still going to call you Red.”
I laughed. “I like that just fine.”
I was steadier, but still angry. I got up from the stool and led Jude to get her luggage. We walked upstairs together and I showed her to a room that wasn’t too far away from Ben and me. When we walked in she laughed.
“Oh, Ben must have designed this one.”
I smiled. “What makes you say that?”
“It’s just like the one I had in Petra. All the furnishings are nearly exact.” She went poking around in the bottles and then colorful pillows that covered the four-poster bed.
“The house seems to know what we want when we need it. It wouldn’t be surprised though if Ben requested this of the house for you.” I said as I put her bags near the middle eastern style dressers.
“You talk about the house as if it were alive.”
“We seem to think it is, some days. It takes care of us in the ways that it can. We do the rest. It’s a good house, our castle.”
“I thought as I drove up that it looked like something out of a book of tales.”
I smiled. “I thought the same thing when I saw it for the first time. Then when my house, which was next door, combined with his on Halloween; they made a good pair and adjusted the style from a mix of both.”
“I think, that if I lived in this town it would never get boring.”
I laughed. “It’s never boring. Always interesting. You should have been here this summer. The lake beast gave birth in the shallows on one of the beaches. We never knew there was two of them.”
Jude tripped over a rug while I was telling her about Eleanor.
“Lake Beast? I bet Ben had a handle in helping that along.”
“You should have seen him. He came home elated and took me for a dance around the living room while covered in after birth. It was disgusting, but he was so excited.”
Jude wrinkled her nose and made me laugh. I knew how she felt.
“I’ll leave you for the night with that thought. Ben and I are usually down the hall, but for tonight all the occupants of the house, sans you, will be in the dungeon.”
“You sleep down there with them?”
“It’s only one night a month and they sleep better through the change. That nest of your son’s is surprisingly comfortable.” I laughed and made my way to the door. “If you need anything, you know where to find us. Just don’t come down in the morning. They’ll be naked.”
I heard Jude snicker through saying goodnight and let myself out of her room.
I really liked her.