Francis' fingers close around my arm and turn me around. \n\n"Call me Emily, Francis," I say, gently, "I haven't been Mrs. Eckhart for years."\n\n"Of course! I'm sorry!" he breathes. "I um... I just wanted to say... to //thank you//, Emily, for being here today. I-I know how awkward all of this must be for you, what with Gideon and all, but believe me when I tell you it makes Sylvie //so// happy, and by extension it makes me the happiest man in the world. I've been meaning to say something for ages now, but I just haven't been able to catch you alone..."\n\nHe speaks in a whirlwind, and his enthusiasm threatens to pull in everything in his vicinity. \n\nFrom nothing, I'm in tears, and his eyes glaze the moment mine do -- empathy at its dizziest heights. He beams at me. His tears are pure joy. \n\nMine are not. \n\n[[squeeze Francis' shoulder]]\n[[turn away]]
I push my chair away from the table and head for the door. \n\n"//Wait//," Emily's voice is wound so tight at this point that it nearly snaps as the word leaves her throat. \n\n"I'm going to find her!" I say, impatiently. \n\nI can hear the sound of her chair scraping across the wood as she stands. \n\n"//I'll// go find her," she offers.\n\n"No that's alright, dear. I've got this." I feel a strange anxiety rise in my blood. If what Francis says is true, and Sylvie's overwhelmed, sending her mother after her probably wouldn't do much to comfort her. I'm the one that raised her. I'm the one that knows her best.\n\nBut Emily isn't one to be deterred. \n\n"Gideon, she's probably hiding in the women's room. We can't have you traipsing in there, even if you are the most oblivious man in the world." \n\nThe banquet chuckles at this, and Emily sweeps by me as I return to my seat, like a shamed dog. \n\n"Well, if you can't make the toast to everyone yet, Kid, at least toast your sister?" says Beverly as I sit down. \n\nShe holds out her glass with grandiose flair. \n\n" [[Not now, Bev!]] "\n" [[Cheers.]] "
Out of the corner of my eye, I think I glimpse Gideon's hand twitch toward mine, but it never arrives. The next thing I know, he's rising from the table. \n\n"What are you doing?!" I whisper through my teeth. I want to run, to just get up from my chair and make for the door before he does something completely unbearable again, but I don't. Sylvie keeps me here. That's not a happy thought.\n\nThe rest of the banquet has fallen silent, staring at him: my hapless husband. \n\n"Don't you need your glass, if you're planning to toast us, //Kideon?"// His sister Beverly gives him a hard time. She's laughing -- always so glib. //Of course she's laughing. We're at a wedding. What is //wrong// with you?// \n\n"Where's Sylvie?" he asks, and my focus drifts along with that of the peanut gallery to the head of the table. The seat next to my daughter's groom is vacant. \n\n"Your guess is as good as mine. I went to check on her but she's hiding somewhere. Seems just like her to get cold feet after she's already walked down the isle, doesn't it? My Silly-vie." \n\nFrancis Meyer. It seems like an age since I last set eyes on the boy -- it //has// been an age. He always was a darling thing, full of giggles. As a man he's more composed, but still bursting with optimism. \n\nSylvie can never look at him without smiling. My husband smiles at him. I can't bring myself to smile. All I can seem to feel is pity. \n\nI divorced Gideon 18 years ago.\n\nThe thought comes as a surprise to me; it always does, though I can never seem to piece together why. I know its true. And yet here I am, still calling him my husband...\n \n"For goodness sake, Gideon. Will you //sit down// already?"\n\nThe words fall from my mouth and hit the plate in front of me, leaving an unceremonious echo in their wake. \n\n[[tug on Gideon's pocket]]\n[[take a sip of wine]]\n
My brother's glass hits mine with a sparkly little //clink.// He raises it to his lips but barely takes a sip, I notice. He's been flustered all evening -- he even left the room for some time during the appetizers, when everyone was still wandering around. I thought he had gone to find Sylvie //then//. She's been gone for quite some time. \n\n"I'm sure Clara is just fine. Probably just checking her hair, or perhaps she spilled some wine on her dress." \n\nGideon's eyes lift from his salad to my face, and my heart stops. \n\n//Sylvie//, I think. //Goodness gracious, did I just say Clara? It's been such a long time since I've done that.//\n\nShe's been gone for quite some time. \n\n... Clara, that is. And Sylvie too... but I was thinking of Clara. \n\nMy thoughts -- whomever about -- [[are interrupted by a scream.]]
“Now you are, dear. Who knows where you were five seconds ago.”\n\n“I was rehearsing my toast.” \n\n“Then maybe you could be so chivalrous as to tell the woman behind you whether you'd like the chardonnay or the merlot, so that there's something in your glass when you stand up to say whatever it is you're agonizing over.”\n\n“Whatever I'm //agonizing// over? This is my daughter's wedding! I have to sound like I'm at least partially put together!”\n\n“I'm so glad you're setting reasonable goals for yourself, dear.”\n\n“Emily-”\n\n“Sir?”\n\nThe girl with the wine is still hovering over my shoulder, I realize. \n\n“I'll have the merlot.” \n\n“Maybe you shouldn't have anything,” says Emily, softly enough that it's difficult to hear over the gush of red wine swirling into my glass. \n\n“This is your daughter's wedding too,” I remind her. “The very least you could do is get along with me for the duration of it -- for her sake!” \n\n“For her sake I'm sitting here next to you, and suffering every minute of it! You're off in your own head, as usual, acting like the rest of the room barely exists!” she says. Her throat is tight with tears. \n\n“The room exists! And //you// exist! And I //know// you exist, and //I// exist. And if you're so damn adamant that I keep //existing// for you I will stutter through the entirety of my speech and make a fool of myself in front of Sylvie and Francis and his parents. Is that what you want?” \n\nEmily says nothing. I watch her decrepit fingers fiddle desperately with the pearl bracelet on her wrist; back when I gave her that bracelet, that hand had been pale as the pearls, its veins had barely showed at all.\n\n[[stand up]]\n[[reach for Emily's hand]]
Emily tugs on my pocket. The rest of the table is still waiting for me to do something. I'm still not entirely sure what made me stand up to begin with. \n\n[[swat Emily's hand away]] \n[[search for Sylvie]]
//The platform of Rapport's South Station is beautiful, but hollow without the trains. The trees growing up through the tracks twist and pervert the rust-eaten steel, trying endlessly to take a construct of the past that has fallen into disrepair, and return it to the natural order of things.\n\nWe sit in a rubble of wood and concrete, under the shade of a maple, eating ice cream. Sylvie asks me to read her favorite book for the hundredth time-- //Thomas the Tank Engine//, it's called: some old thing we dug up in her grandfather's attic. \n\nWhen that's done, we sit in silence. \n\n"Did mama leave on a train?" she asks me, suddenly.\n\n"No, sweetheart." \n\n"When will mama come back?"\n\nI sigh, and smooth my fingers through her hair as she blinks at me, fearfully.\n\n"She'll come back when she's ready. Right now she just needs some time to herself."\n\n"But //we// need her here with us!"\n\n"You still have me, and I still have //you//, and she knows that's what matters."//\n\n“That's Gideon for you: always everywhere except where you need him to be. Worse than a stolen credit card...”\n\nMy wife's voice cuts through my memories like a locomotive pulling in to station, whistles shrill.\n\nThe impatience pours off her like steam. \n\n"Gideon!"\n\n“ [[I'm sitting beside you, Emily.]] ”\n\n
My gaze alone is enough to return Beverly's glass to the table. \n\nSome part of me is vaguely aware of Francis dashing out of the room after Emily. I pick up my fork and stab dramatically at the more exotic fronds of my salad. I can't shake the feeling that I should have been the one to search for her. Probably just a father's inability to let his daughter go. //She's married now. I'll have to get used to that...//\n\n"I'm sure Clara is just fine. Probably just checking her hair, or perhaps she spilled some wine on her dress," says Beverly, out of the blue. \n\n//Clara.//\n\nI lift my gaze back to my sister. She's gone pale as a corpse. \n\nA scream echoes from the hallway. Emily.\n\nI can vaguely hear Francis as well, but his panic is drowned out by the ever-shrill intensity of my wife's voice.\n\n[[My stomach drops.]]
Gideon doesn't even bother to look at me as he casts my hand away. I wince and reach for my wine. //He always has to make such a scene.// \n\nAfter a second he eases his chair backwards and excuses himself from the table altogether.\n\n"//Wait//," I blurt, again out of nowhere. \n\n"I'm going to find her!" he announces as he starts his march to the door. My jaw hurts -- I realize I've been grinding my teeth for the last ten minutes. \n\nThen I'm on my feet as well. \n\n"//I'll// go find her," I say, as gracefully as I can. I even manage a smile.\n\n"No that's alright, dear," he says. "I've got this."\n\nBy now I've made up my mind: I //need// to get out of this miserable room. \n\n"Gideon, she's probably hiding in the women's room. We can't have you traipsing in there, even if you are the most oblivious man in the world." \n\nThe banquet chuckles at this. \n\nGideon reluctantly begins to return to his seat, and I pass him on my way to the door. \n\nI'm already far down the hallway, only two paces from the door to the ladies' room, when I hear the footsteps hurrying behind me. \n\n" [[Mrs. Eckhart...!]] "
"What are you doing?" Emily hisses as I rise. \n\nTruth is I don't really know what I'm doing. \n\nThe rest of the banquet seems to know, though. They've all fallen silent, and are staring at me expectantly. \n\n"Don't you need your glass, if you're planning to toast us, //Kideon?"// My sister Beverly chides me from across the table; no matter how old the two of us get, I'll always be her kid brother. \n\nMy eyes flicker to the head of the table. Francis Meyer, my daughter's groom, gives me a wink. \n\n"Where's Sylvie?" I ask. The seat beside him is conspicuously empty, and there's no sense beginning a toast without the bride.\n\n"Your guess is as good as mine," admits Francis. His voice is slightly crestfallen, but his face has been filled with elation for so much of today that it seems to have trouble switching expressions completely. "I went to check on her but she's hiding somewhere. Seems just like her to get cold feet after she's already walked down the isle, doesn't it? My Silly-vie." \n\nHe chuckles, blushing more than his blushing bride could hope to -- and that's saying a lot. He's not the slightest bit worried, nor should he be. Sylvie is crazy about him, and he about her; any coldness in her feet is destined to be shortlived. I smile. \n\n"For goodness sake, Gideon. Will you //sit down// already?"\n\nEmily tugs on my pocket. The rest of the table is still waiting for me to do something. \n\n[[swat Emily's hand away]]\n[[search for Sylvie]]\n
I M\nI S\nP H\nY X
//somebody's// story, certainly.
By now more people are staring at me than at him. That's how it always works; he does something awkward, but somehow the blame always falls on me. \n\nI reach for my wine and take a large gulp. \n\nAfter a second, Gideon eases his chair backward and excuses himself from the table altogether. \n\n"//Wait//."\n\n"I'm going to find her!" he announces as he starts his march to the door. My jaw hurts -- I realize I've been grinding my teeth for the last ten minutes. \n\nThen I'm on my feet as well. \n\n"//I'll// go find her," I say, as gracefully as I can. I even manage a smile.\n\n"No that's alright, dear," he says. "I've got this."\n\nBy now I've made up my mind: I //need// to get out of this miserable room. \n\n"Gideon, she's probably hiding in the women's room. We can't have you traipsing in there, even if you are the most oblivious man in the world." \n\nThe banquet chuckles at this. \n\nGideon reluctantly begins to return to his seat, and I pass him on my way to the door. \n\nI'm already far down the hallway, only two paces from the door to the ladies' room, when I hear the footsteps hurrying behind me. \n\n" [[Mrs. Eckhart...!]] "
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