For Te

Feb. 24th, 2013 08:04 am
samyazaz: (Samy)
Colette caught my eye. She raised a brow. "What's all that about?"

I shook my head. I didn't know what to say. There was nothing to be said, really. Nothing I cared to. Nothing that wouldn't lead to trouble. "I don't know," I said, my head ducked down as I tried to follow Elodie inside.

Colette braced a hand against the door frame, blocking my passage. I looked up at her reluctantly, knowing what was to come. She just gave me a flat look. I'd seen her give Yves that look any number of times, when he'd done something wrong and was trying to lie to her about it.

"I don't know," I said, my voice rough with honestly. "I don't know what it is. I don't know... why."

Her brows lifted higher, but the corner of her mouth turned up, a small smile of victory and satisfaction. "But you know who."

Not a question. It didn't need to be. I scrubbed at my brow, then ducked under her arm and into the house. "I need tea," I said grimly. "I hope your kettle's on."

"Not yet." She hung it over the fire, then turned back and motioned me to the chair at her table. "You're just going to have to put up with being interrogated while you wait."

I shut my eyes, sighed and shook my head. "Must I? This isn't the morning for it, Colette."

"Oh, you must, certainly." She sat opposite me, and despite the teasing lilt to her words, her expression was as unyielding as I'd ever seen it. She propped her elbows on the table, her chin on her knuckles. "Who sent it, Rene?"

I leaned back in my chair with a sigh that felt as though it stole all the air from my lungs. "It isn't welcome. I don't want it."

"That's not what I asked, is it?" She looked me over with a narrowed, speculative gaze. "Is it the same man who made you so happy, that while back?"

I tightened my jaw. "You don't know what you're talking about."

Her brows lifted as though I'd admitted everything. "And who made you so surly, a few weeks after?"

"Damn it, Colette."

"Watch your language, if you please," she said mildly. "The children might be listening. And I'll take that for a yes."

"He doesn't make me happy. He makes me crazy."

"They do that, don't they?" Her smile softened, turned sympathetic rather than calculating. "What's his name? Why haven't you introduced us?"

Because you already know him. I bit my tongue so hard I tasted blood. "If it were important enough to warrant it, I would have."

"He's sending you gifts, Rene. It sounds serious to me."

I bared my teeth. Whether it was a silent snarl or an agonized grimace, not even I could have said. "It's a bribe. That's all. He thinks he can buy me."

She glanced over to where Elodie sat by her spindle and basket of wool, the package on the floor before her, her hands plucking impatiently at the string that bound it. She gnawed on her lip as she eyed me, and I knew my daughter well enough to know she was calculating how long I might make her wait before we opened it, judging whether or not wheedling was likely to get her what she wanted sooner, or only vex me enough to delay it.

Colette looked back at me, the edges of her smile whetted sharp once more. "Sure," she said lightly. "He sends you gifts, you accept them. I can't imagine why he wouldn't think you could be bought."

"I didn't accept it! I--" I sucked air through my teeth and leaned across the table so I could drop my voice to a fierce whisper, too low to reach across the room to Elodie. "I'd have pitched it into the gutter if I'd known it was there. But Elodie saw it first, before I could do anything, and she's got the bit between her teeth now. You know how she is. She'll think of nothing else until I let her open it and see what's in that damned box."

Colette laughed quietly and ducked her head. Her fingers drummed out a rapid beat against the table's edge. "Oh, Rene. Are you sure you haven't got it wrong? Seems to me he's courting your daughter, not you." She followed my gaze when it flashed immediately back to Elodie. She was on her belly now, her chin on the floor and her face up against the package, prying back one corner of the paper it was wrapped in, trying to peer inside. "And doing a fine job of it, too."

"He's not." The words hissed through my teeth, unexpectedly fierce. "It's just happenstance, is all it was today. He doesn't know."

Colette hesitated, her gaze on me, focused close as though she was waiting for me to finish a sentence she didn't know I'd already ended. When a second moment passed, and another, her brow furrowed. "He doesn't know Elodie?"

I bit on my tongue, on the inside of my cheek. It didn't help. The words came falling out of me all the same. "Doesn't know about her."

Colette sat back abruptly. There was astonishment in her gaze, but also something condemning. "No," she said slowly. "I was wrong. It isn't serious at all."

I drew a breath. She spoke before I could.

"You haven't told him about your daughter?"

I rubbed a hand over my jaw. The muscles there were so tight they ached. "Why should I have? It's none of his concern. I don't want him around."

She crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head, expression tight and unhappy. Behind her, the kettle's rumble turned to an unsteady whistle, but she made no move to take it off the fire, just kept staring at me, full of disapproval.

I slid my chair back and rose to get the kettle, and make the tea. I had work to do, a shop to run. I couldn't wait all day for tea.

"You're a wonder, Rene Daviau, do you know that?" She spat the words out, hard and fast, like it was an accusation, not praise.

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