By the time I’d left work, I’d pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to work evenings and weekends to get that stupid mitigation report out. It seemed the plight of my life to pick up the pieces that others left behind in either their haste or incompetence.
I phoned Sebbie before I left. “Can we do dinner tonight? I really need some cheesecake.”
I heard him chuckle. “Sure. Downtown or suburbs?” Ah, the beauty of having a recently-single brother.
“I didn’t drive today, so downtown’s good.”
I heard a rustle of paperwork. He fumbled with the phone, “I can be out of here in a half hour. Meet you at the library? We can go from there.”
Sebastian didn’t work downtown so he always drove. I had the luxury of living about half an hour from my office, which was in the city’s core. This was convenient for two reasons: there was never any parking downtown so walking was cheap and easy; and, I got some decompression time after work. Today I needed it.
By the time I saw Sebastian’s chestnut, curly hair peeking out atop his grey up-turned collar and maroon scarf, I had flipped through every free newspaper and periodical on the library lobby’s rack. I had also warded off three homeless guys and a couple alcoholics looking for change. Too bad I didn’t have that finished mitigation report on hand; I could have used it as a weapon.
“Where to?” Sebastian was wind-blown and rosy, but I knew better. The guy had seen better days. Five months after finding out his second wife was cheating on him, he still had circles under his blue eyes.
“Let’s go to the garlic place.”
Sebastian smiled. Nothing like a brother-sister team, each single, to reek of garlic together. “Hey, before I forget, I have something back in the car to show you.”
“Why didn’t you bring it?”
“It’s not something I should bring to a restaurant.” My eyebrow rose.
That’s Aroma was heavenly. Garlic wafted. I wouldn’t have the luxury of wearing my current set of clothing for a second day; it would be headed straight to the laundry after tonight. But for now, I savoured each garlic encased moment.
“You still at mother’s?” I asked dipping my garlic breadstick in the tomato sauce.
Sebastian nodded. “We struck a deal though. She’s going to build a guest house for me over the garage if I design and contract it.”
I shuttered. Living with mother. I don’t know how he did it. I couldn’t. “Any word on your house?”
“Still on the market. Trisha is setting up another open house this weekend. The market is just shitty right now. Nothing’s moving.”
“So, is living with mother something you’re planning on doing for the long-term, or what?” Unfortunately, I heard the jabbing edge to my voice. I didn’t mean it. I just couldn’t help that I felt he was relinquishing control, and his life, to mother.
“Elise, it’s not that bad. I’m hardly ever home. Besides, it’s saving me a whack of cash especially since the divorce hasn’t gone through yet.”
“Mom’s not charging you rent? That’s weird.”
“She’s being very supportive.” Not possible. But then again, Sebastian was her favourite. “You could try it.”
I didn’t take the barb. “But I thought Theo was taking care of everything.”
“He has. He will. But it will just take time.”
Our older brother Theo was the alpha-male of the family. And a lawyer. It wasn’t that I liked my brother’s soon-to-be-ex-wife, Trisha. I just didn’t like the relish that Theo got from stripping the soul and livelihood of everyone who stood against him in divorce court. Like everyone else in the family, Theo was a high-achiever, very ambitious. However, unlike me, he loved his job. Sometimes he loved it a bit too much.
I finished my cheesecake too quickly. Finishing it all was too quick. Theo paid, as all engineer, big brother-types should and we walked down the icy darkness of downtown to the library. “Just a second,” Sebastian said as he remotely unlocked his Beamer’s doors. “It’s on the front seat.”
He slipped in as I opened the passenger door. Curiousity was gnawing at my brain. I sat down and Sebastian held out to me a ziplock baggie. I took it from him, as he asked, “What is it?”
Even before I held it in my hand, my spidey-senses were tingling. I attribute it to loving what I do (or what I should have been doing), but the argument could be cyclic: I love what I do because I’m good at it, or I’m good at it because I love it. Whatever. What did matter was that before I had it in my hands, I knew in my gut that there was a bone in that baggie. I couldn’t articulate it, but my gut was screaming, “BONE! BONE!” and salivating.
Once the baggie was in my hand, my gut did a backflip as my brain registered. My heart leapt straight into my throat. I swallowed and managed to croak, “Where did you get this?”
“Is it….?” Sebastian’s face had gone from sneaky grin to pale shock. My brother probably thought he was pulling his sister’s leg and handing her some old buffalo bone.
“Yes. Where?” I was reduced to monosyllabic responses.
My brain did a stop-and-start, jarring my thought processes, and making me say the one thing I vowed not to say again, “Take me home. Now.”