Allison and Jeeves sit on the front porch of the old green house. Already, Allison muses, so much has happened in this spot. So many meet ups, conversations, revelations, decisions.
That’s what houses do, she supposes. They are platforms, stages, for the scenes of our lives.
“My dear,” Jeeves begins. “I owe you an apology.”
“What? No, certainly not,” Allison says. “What could you possibly have done to me?
“I should have explained about Emil right away,” Jeeves says.
“Oh.” The back of Allison’s neck shivers minutely at the mention of his name. She braces herself: he’s an ex-con, he’s an addict, some sort of catastrophic personality trait is about to be revealed.
“No, nothing like that,” Jeeves goes on. The way the older woman seems able to read Allison’s thoughts: it’s spooky, uncomfortable, and yet somehow reassuring. “He’s the son of my cousin. I can never remember if that makes him my second cousin, or first cousin once removed. Do you know?” Allison shakes her head. “Oh well, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that my cousin Ella has not spoken to me for decades. She has very nearly cut Emil out of her life, for his willingness to take care of me.”
“That’s awful,” Allison says. “That must be so hard for him.”
Jeeves gazes at the street, the clouds in the sky, the trees. “It is. Very hard.”
“But I still don’t see why that means you need to apologize to me,” Allison says. “I mean, I’m sorry for the trouble with you and your cousin, and all that. But it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with me and Emil.” There. I’ve said me and Emil, as if we are a thing.
“Well, you see, Emil periodically decides he cannot go on spending time with me. Ella calls, or writes, or his guilt simply builds up. And when it does, he disappears. He’s not very skilled at sharing his emotions. No one in our family ever was. He just disappears. A while later, I will get a text or something, letting me know he’s on his way back. It can be days or weeks or months. I’m used to it, and I no longer worry all that much. But you -”
I will miss him terribly, Allison thinks. Already. After just a few hours in his company.