We were going out to dinner.
“The family that dines together stays together.” Jacob spoke softly, but there was no mistaking the steel in his voice.
“You mean in town…” I paused. “Do you think it’s safe after last time?”
I looked around, still half-expecting Blaine to step in and answer me.
My mistake, I shot a quick half-smile at Jacob before settling my gaze down, at my feet. Jacob as Patriarch took some getting used to, and it seemed I wasn’t the only one finding the transition hard. Charmaine stood by Blaine’s old chair, staring out at the night sky, her face as blank as the Harvest moon.
“What’s the point?” She tapped the windowpane, dislodging a flurry of moths.
I watched, transfixed. Something about her gesture reminded me of another woman. The memory though was indistinct, a shadow woman rubbing chalk dust off a blackboard, a lifetime ago.
Charmaine stepped back from the window and any likeness vanished. In the moonlight, I could see her nails, twelve perfect blood red crescents. Where, I wondered, did she get those done? The Rock still shimmered on her ring finger. I could feel its weight pulling her hand down, into the spreading darkness.
Be quiet, I willed, but Charmaine had only just started.
“It’s not like we can eat anything. At least, nothing that’s on the menu.”
“Well, look on it as an aperitif.”
I felt his breath, cold on my neck. A trace of spittle touched my cheek.
He was leaning forward, arms outstretched, as if about to envelope us in a group hug. Stand still, I told myself, suppressing an involuntary shiver. I’m glad I did. A split second later, I realised Jacob was looking for a different sort of support.
His arm draped over the wing of Blaine’s chair, his bum resting on the edge of the console table, he half-sat, half-stood in front of us, and waited.
“Come on. Let’s show them we aren’t the running away kind.” He laughed, but, with the phlegm on his chest, it came out more of a rattle.
“You’re not the running kind.”
Since Blaine’s disappearance, Jacob had given up on exercise. That and a burgeoning midnight snack habit sat badly with his natural tendency to corpulence. Fat isn’t a great look for a self-appointed leader of the Undead, and, tonight, Charmaine was in no mood for pulling her punches.
“Why don’t we get a takeaway?” I suggested, trying to head her off.
This is my entry for the Mumsnet Blogfest Tell us a Story. For me, the opening line suggests layer upon layer of domestic conflict….but also something a bit different going on.