Book IV, Ch. 2 - A Confusion of Husbands
A strange fear overtook me as Adonin pulled his car up to the grass of our yard. Ours. Mine and Cole's yard. Now 'ours' included Adonin. He freed the keys and bent his head to look past me to the beaten up shack. His eyes traced it, were transfixed by it. I could smell the fruit oils shampoo he used to wash with - citrus with a hint of mint that hung at the edge of my nostrils to tease there.
In the back seat Cole said, "We've planted a tree on a day I had arms."
For one moment Adonin's eyes met mine. They echoed my amusement, but also my weariness for Cole's imagined misfortune. For a moment we were linked by the circumstance of thin humor. Then Adonin was turning away, was sliding from the car, and crossing in front of it. I anticipated he'd turn and come to my door and let me out - imagined the feel of Adonin's hand wrapping over my elbow again. That day-dream died a fast death. Adonin continued on, crossing the grass to consider the new tree.
"Asshole." Cole muttered, and I felt better at once. Then Cole shattered it by saying, "He could have helped me out. He is my brother after all."
I had to bite back, "I'm his wife!" The thought of even saying that I was Adonin's wife made me shudder. One forced-upon marriage did not make me a wife. It made me a thing to be owned. And that was a thought I did not enjoy.
I pushed the car door open and slid the seat forwards. Cole had trouble getting out. "Shoulder here, first." I instructed. "Foot there. Put your butt back and bring your head forwards. . . " It took five tries for Cole to be free of Adonin's car.
The moment Cole stood on his own two feet the fear crept back up on me. What if Adonin wanted to spend the night? Where would he sleep? The floor? I gave a mental head shake at this. There were too many holes in the boards and the walls for the shack's residents to sleep anywhere but huddled under the blankets on the bed. Wouldn't that be simply weird with the three of us - in my head I tired to arrange we three under the blankets. Adonin on one side of me with Cole on the other. Or maybe Adonin wanted to be in the middle. But Cole was armless, and needed the most care . . . Another headshake this time. I had to remind myself Cole was not armless. "Don't be silly." I said to myself.
"I'm not trying to." Cole answered with a dull voice. "My soul's been cut from me Andy. How else am I to feel but guilty? If I was stronger I could have stopped all this, I could have held onto you without . . . " He fell silent.
We watched Adonin watch the rotten shack, the empty coffin-crate just before our door and leaking water from every knot hole, split and crack. The ground beneath it was sodden wet. In some places it shimmered in the sunlight like a shallow drafted pond.
Adonin shoved his hands into his pockets. He returned to his car, his long legs working in a slow and steady gait. Had he been shorter, paler, less bulky with muscles, I could have sworn I was looking at Cole walk towards me. They had the same measured movement that was almost clumsy, the same way of holding their arms, and of doing it all without moving the trunks of their bodies.
As he crossed in front of the car Adonin said, "We won't stay here."
"I can't live with you." I answered. I had a horrid thought of sleeping in Adonin's super comfortable bed under his plush blankets and splendid pillows while Cole shivered through the night on our dumpy, lumpy mattress. I knew myself too well to lie about how the down blankets alone would be enough to seduce me into my new husband's arms. Given a chance Adonin would break his promise to honor the pirate's agreement of a year's patience.
Anger flashed in Adonin's eyes. He stopped on the other side of the engine hood, his face reddening up with temper. "You cannot stay here. You are my wife, you belong in my bed."
I scrambled for an answer. In the stretching silence I heard a tree branch creek. It heralded the low moans of the wind shuttling over and through the windows and the cracks of that damn building. It struck me then. Of course, the shack!
I shook off the fear of the moment, stiffened my back, and said, "You see that building? That is the building I am legally bound to. Remember that decree on your grand-mamma's death?" I had a smug moment at seeing Adonin's lips press thin at the reminder. It spurred me to say, "You are welcome to join Cole and I. Bring a sleeping bag."
"You are my wife, Miranda. Mine!" Adonin slapped a hand over his chest. "No longer may Cole sleep where you sleep. I will not allow it."
"Fine. Take him home. Help him, he is armless."
Adonin spat at this.
I said, "There must be someone here. I am the funeral. I will stay."
Cole, lovely former husband of mine, spoke up. He asked, "Do you even know what it means to be funeral? Andy, it's not -"
Adonin interrupted, "Her name is Miranda. Get used to it, Cole. She has the rights to money now, and is no longer the slovenly shamed one you dragged home on the ferries."
I sucked in my breath. I'd forgotten about my hair. But that was nothing compared to the way Cole's shoulders slumped. Or how he hung his head. Adonin's cut down was an effective gag.
I touched his shoulder. Cole pulled away. "Here, let's get you back into the car." I said, and added, "Front seat, Cole. It'll be easier for you to get out."
"Yes, thank you, Miranda. But I think I can handle it on my own this time." Cole did not look at me. It was a dance maneuver for him, a wiggle of his hips and shoulders and slant of his head until he was in the passenger seat.
Adonin said, "Stay here, Miranda. Do not let anyone in. I will be back at sunrise." Adonin's command came seconds before he was in the car and reached across to fasten Cole's seat belt. A heartbeat later the car started, was turned back onto the road, and drove off.
I stayed. I watched the dusty dun road until my legs began to ache and my stomach rumbled. I felt like a dumb dog waiting for her master to come back. Turning to the shack, walking across the long stretch of bald grassy yard felt a lot like failure. The odd irony of the moment was I'd fought hard for this nothing of a place, this empty place. I fought for Cole.
I stopped at the coffin-crate, reached to touch the side, when I saw again the water within. The worn wood box had been brought to us with chipped ice within. That was days ago. Sometime in these last days, somehow the ice had worked itself smooth. That is, I was no longer looking at a coffin-crate of ice chips. I was looking at a solid block of ice. Suspended in the middle was an antique ribbon of coins complete with frayed edges and a faded print.
All I could say, all that would escape, was a simple, "Huh."