Chapter 14 – Sunday July 31st
"Is this a private party, or can anyone come over to play?"
The tension melted away the moment we saw Alex in the doorway. She was holding a paper bag in the crook of one arm, and a bag of ice dangled in the fingers of her other hand.
I laughed, but that was nothing compared to Melanie's squeal as she pushed past me to greet Alex.
"Oh, wow, you made it!" Mel said. "I didn't even realize how lonely the hospital was until everybody started showing up today."
Craig patted Mel's shoulder as he took the bag from Alex and peered inside. "Mmm, rum and piña colada mix."
"And ice," Alex said, handing him the ice.
Annabelle was chattering at me about yard darts. "Mom, you gotta come outside after supper and play this game. It is so scary-cool, you won't even believe it. You really gotta watch out for yourself in this game."
I grinned at her. "I know. I used to play it when I was little."
She gave me such a skeptical look that she almost looked like an adult. "Really, mom? You, playing something instead of staring at the computer?"
"Yeah, yeah," I said. "Go in the kitchen and get the milk, smart-alec."
It was a good thing we'd set up a kid's table. Hell, with ten adults and two kids, we'd barely all fit into the dining room.
Liz must have been thinking right along with me, because she said brightly, "It's a good thing I always make too much food."
Two more folding chairs and four kitchen chairs, and a round of blender drinks later, and we finally sat down to eat.
We didn't talk about anything much at first, just passed salad, pasta, and breadsticks around the table to the comforting soundtrack of utensils tapping against plates, and periodic compliments to Liz about her talent with food.
When we were all sighing the fullness of our bellies, Silas asked, "Well, how's your class going, Elizabeth?"
He had an eyebrow cocked like he knew something the rest of us didn't, but it seemed to escape everyone's notice but mine. The question sounded innocent enough.
"Mostly good," Elizabeth said. "But the homework is killer. It's been a lot of years since I've had to struggle with math homework."
"No doubt," I said. "Pretty sure I wouldn't survive such trauma."
She grinned. "Yeah, that part is actually lame. But the lectures are cool. We're looking at different scientific studies, and picking apart the data disclaimers, and that's really interesting. I'll never just blindly believe the claims of any kind of research ever again."
She was almost sparkling as she talked.
"And… I have other news."
She was practically dancing in her chair, and her grin was so huge it could only be one thing.
Eric rolled his eyes and raised his glass to his lips.
"I'm pregnant!" Liz announced.
Eric choked, and piña colada exploded from his mouth.
We all jumped up to congratulate Liz, and there ensued a few crazy minutes of questions. "When did you find out?...When is the baby due?... Is everything okay?... How many weeks?... Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?... and so on, until one loud angry question shut all the celebratory chatter right down.
"All I want to know is, who the fuck's the father?"
And out the door went Eric, the echo of his voice still ringing in our ears.
It might be cliché, but it would not be an understatement to say there was a moment of stunned silence.
And then Silas started laughing.
Liz sat down, face pale and eyes wide.
No one knew what to say.
And still Silas laughed.
Then Elizabeth sprang from her chair, and the next shock was the crack of her palm against Silas's face.
He grabbed her hand, stopped laughing, and they stared at each other, Elizabeth breathing hard, Silas still with a smile dancing around his lips. The staring contest only lasted a few seconds, but those seconds felt like two lifetimes.
And then Silas flung her hand away. "And you judge me." He kept looking at her, like he could see her every secret. "Way to go, Sister Christian."
I thought she was going to hit him again, but she just fell back against the table and said, "You little fuck. Get. Out. Get out of our mother's house."
Silas got up from the table, let out half a laugh, more like a strangled cough. "Yeah, this getting real on Sundays gig is nice. Real nice."
Then he yanked Jeremy out of his chair, twisted his fingers in Jeremy's hair, and kissed him well and thoroughly before walking out.
"Well," Melanie said. "I don't know what to say."
"I say have another drink," said Alex. "I'll pour."
Jeremy had been staring after Silas, and he turned a slow circle to take in the rest of us. He looked startled, and sad, and finally he shrugged and said, "Sorry. I gotta go after him."
Yeah, I suppose he did.
Our sister had just banned Silas from the family because her own transgressions were exposed.
"Pour me one, Alex," Sam said, and put his arm across my shoulders.
The kids were still at the kids' table, both of them sitting in a sort of permanent cringe. "Do you want to leave?" I asked Sam. "Maybe take Annabelle home?"
He put his lips right to my ear. "Are you kidding? It's just getting interesting around here."
Liz regrouped physically, unbraiding and re-braiding her hair. She took a deep breath and seemed to come back to herself mentally as well. She looked around the table. "Honestly, I don't know what's wrong with Eric. Of course he's the father. Josie – did I see you and Jeremy come in with pie? Shall we serve it?"
"In the fridge," Josie said, and tried on a smile.
"I'll get it," Craig said, obviously seeking escape. "Caleb, come on. I'll cut, you can serve."
Annabelle came to sit on Sam's lap, turned away from me, and I saw her sneak her thumb in her mouth, a throwback to her early school days.
"Everything's okay, 'Belle," I said. "Even grown-ups don't always get along."
She craned her neck around to look at me, and muttered, "I know," around her thumb.
Ah well. Now wasn't the time to make an issue of the thumb.
"Let's clear the table," I said to Josie, and we started ferrying the dirty dishes into the kitchen. When we were as far from Liz as the downstairs would allow, she said, very quietly, "Silas told Jeremy that he's seen Liz out and about with Dean Johnson."
"Well, whatever," I said. "There must be some reason Eric topped off. It doesn't have to mean Liz is having an affair."
But I was thinking yeah, I need to catch up with Silas. Because even when he was asking Liz about school he had that sneaky look about him. It was his classic I-know-something-the-rest-of-you-don't sort of look. And then the way he laughed, like he saw this coming from a long way off.