Are You Jealous (second)
Gabriel was startled.
“It isn’t yours,” Eva said.
He made an uncertain finger-flail towards the screen.
“No,” she said. Eva moved to the side of the desk; she placed her hands on the clock. “McFadden,” Eva told him, “wanted to invite you to his gathering. Henderson might have made a mistake. What’s it got to do with you?”
The clock struck four. Through some devil’s bargain, the clock’s chiming mechanism built complications of leitmotif that grew (he could not doubt it) with the passing hours. They waited. Eva’s left eyebrow was raised in defiance. The clock subsided. Gabriel said, “I’m sorry. You say Klaus . . . “
“I don’t know who you mean.”
“Presby . . . McFadden . . . ”
“I hope you feel better soon,” Eva said.
Her mood seemed to brighten. He thought this brightness had a putting-a-stop-to-it-all edge.
“Where should we put it?” She picked up the clock, hugging it against her cashmere, holding it by its gilded columns. “Would you like it in the kitchen?”
“I would. I very much would.”
Gabriel averted his gaze conscientiously from the stranger’s email. Henderson Young meant to sell Eva another clock. He had found one he felt was within her range, suitable for a beginner. You, McFadden, and I. Not that Gabriel kept to any particular schedule, being always free, in effect. But Eva could have lunch in town. She could have lunch with two men and not bother to mention it.
The next email was from Klaus.
Gabe. Our gatherings are quite informal, and as I must consider you a friend . . .
Gabe. He could not tolerate being called Gabe. The name belonged to someone stepped on, imposed upon, called over to run an errand, dismissed when no longer of use. He was sensitive on the point; he felt shortchanged, baptismally. He’d confided this to Eva.
“I’ll remember that,” she’d told him.
He had always found her ways charming. She’d been nestled on the sofa, arms wrapped around a tasselled pillow. Eva squeezed this, lowered her head, looked up at him.
Perhaps, rather than charming, foreboding.
A horrible intimacy it was, to laugh at someone, take confidences and share them as little amusements. He had no proof she’d done that. Presby might easily be a nick-namer.
Gabriel looked at the next email. Emil Reiff’s request for payment. He looked twice. As though it knew, as though it mocked, the clock gave out a brief, twinkling note, as it struck the half-hour.
How could the repairs have cost so much? Reiff had not itemized; he extenuated nothing . . . but he had included a phone number. Gabriel stood. His phone would be in his jacket. His jacket ought to be downstairs. The clock ought to be downstairs. Why had he heard it as clearly as if it were in the room?
He approached the thing with trepidation.
Eva had placed the clock on the island, below the pot rack. A thought crossed Gabriel’s mind. If a bus were to go by and shake the foundation, one of those pots . . . but it would have to be cast iron to do real harm. He tapped up his email, got Reiff’s number.
“I accept a credit card,” Reiff told him. “I accept cash. Also, through McFadden Presby. He will arrange for you.”
“I don’t object to paying . . . ”
“My business is such,” Reiff said firmly, “that I must be paid. I expect to be paid.”
Well, as Gabriel supposed, ending the call, everyone’s business is such, for that matter.
(copyright 2014 Stephanie Foster)