fiction by killre
A continuation of Mrs. Rebecca [redacted]'s letter to her cousin, dated May 29th:
I'd thought surely I should meet this Mr. Black shortly after the match was over, when Lucille led me to the place where the Kessington club exited the grounds. Silas was there, but he explained he had sent Jupiter back to the players' hotel to ready himself for dinner. It was to be an early meal, as the club was to leave town that very night. Begging our leave to ready himself, Silas left us to our own interests for the better part of an hour.
When I was finally introduced to Jupiter Black, I saw but little evidence of an effort to be anything more than passingly presentable. He had changed his clothes, of course, and his dark brown hair was still damp from washing. It was cut quite short, and stuck out in every direction, like a sunburst. He had not trimmed his beard, which lent to the image. He was tall, thin, square-shouldered, as I'd noted that afternoon. Rather than greet me with "A pleasure to make your acquaintance" or even a simple "Pleased to meet you," he said only "Hello."
At first I thought him merely quiet, shy, but his conduct over dinner soon intruded upon ill-mannered. Very curt, taciturn, he seldom spoke unless asked a direct question. Then he would often stare at his inquisitor several seconds before responding with as few words as could be managed. Silas ordered a bottle of wine, of which Lucille and I shared. Jupiter requested a large glass of milk. When asked if he wanted it now or with his food, he stared at the waiter so long I thought surely he meant to refuse giving answer.
Somehow, I had a strong sense his manner would have gone unremarked by Silas and Lucille but for my presence. After the waiter had gone, Lucille said to me, "Jupiter is very particular about what he eats and drinks - has to stay healthy and ready to pitch." Jupiter himself made no comment.
It occurred to me he may have been bothered by his short appearance in the day's sporting match. I ventured him the query. He turned his head and stared at me most unnervingly. "No," he said, and looked away. There was a finality to his tone, difficult to describe, as if the question were a live thing and he sought to smother it. I thought it best not to set another upon him.
Silas smiled at him and said something like "That's a good attitude to have, Jupe. Forget about today. It happens. Focus on Brownsville."
Lucille orchestrated most of the conversation we had over dinner, surely seeking to put me at ease as much as anything. Several times she tried to draw Jupiter into the discussion. Her efforts were met with a slightly less glacial stoniness, but he never quite melted.
We had almost finished our meal when the maître d'hôtel and a man with broad, muscular shoulders and jet-black hair quickly approached Silas. The broad man bent and whispered to him at length. I saw Silas give Lucille a look full of portent. He interrupted the man to ask "Where?" but the man shrugged and shook his head. Silas frowned and sat silently for three heartbeats, then said "Okay. Get back to the hotel. You and Pete make sure everybody makes the train. Don't wait for me." The man turned to go. Silas glanced around the table, then quickly turned and said "Marsh! Don't wait for Jupe, either. Have the hotel hold his room." He turned to Jupiter and said "Look at me." Jupiter snapped his unsettling gaze to Silas' face. Silas said "Pay the check. Leave a tip. Escort the ladies home. Meet me at the hotel. Got it?" Jupiter nodded once, a short, compact movement, and said "Right." Silas turned to Lucille and said "I'll fill you in later." He rose, threw his serviette onto the table and walked away, stopping briefly to speak with the maître d'hôtel before leaving.
My eyes fell on Lucille, who sensed and met them, but she had no answers to the mute questions she surely found there. She surveyed the table and said "Well..." then she turned and stopped the waiter when he was still five paces away with the words "The bill, please."
Outside, Lucille said "Jupiter, would you please see Rebecca home? I'm going to the hotel to wait for Silas. What's your room number?" He told her. She said good-night to me and departed.
Jupiter and I stood there a moment, neither speaking nor seeking the other's gaze. I asked "Do you mind if we walk? It isn't far." For once, he didn't stare while he pondered the question. Then, uncertainly, he said "Sure."
We walked in silence, each still avoiding the other's eyes. Butterflies chased each other in drunken loops inside my stomach, a sensation I'd not felt in years. Suddenly I realized I'd not been alone with a man, other than James of course, in... oh, too long to count. I was aware of him consciously slowing his long strides so as not to race ahead of me. As we approached the last block, I slowed my own gait, just a bit. We spoke no words until we reached my walkway and I said "This is mine." He stopped and turned to look at the house I had shared with James for so long - a big, empty house now. He looked a long time, but made no comment. I asked "Would you walk me to the door?" He thought it over and said "Sure."
We mounted the steps to the porch and stopped. I asked him if he would like to come in. This time, he answered almost immediately. "Uh, I'm... s'posed to get back to the hotel." I looked down at the threshold, just to be looking somewhere, and said "I don't think you or Silas are leaving tonight, to judge by what he said." I felt my heart beat quickly half a dozen times before he said "Really?" as if he'd not realized the implications of Silas' orders. Then he said "I... should still go back."
I raised my head, but even then my eyes avoided him. I asked "Do you mislike me?" He thought it over and said "No." I took a deep breath and said "If you'll stay a little while, you may have your way with me." He was silent for what seemed a very long time while I listened to the blood pounding my eardrums, then he said "Oh... kay." I unlocked the door and pushed it in. He followed.
I will of course spare you any more details of my fall, dear cousin. I may have acted the wanton then, but I still have some modesty. I know I need not repeat that what I've told you is to be held in the most strict confidence. Surely, I've shocked you. I hope with time you can recover and forgive and be happy for me - because, you see, I'm glad it happened.
[Note: To date, no reciprocal correspondence to Mrs. Rebecca [redacted] has come to light.]