Vinnie consulted her watch. “Maybe not that late. You’re right.”
“I can leave.”
She dropped onto the sofa. “Not now, you can’t.”
A novice student, male but with a girlish face, stood in the kitchen doorway. It seemed like a safe distance, keeping tabs on Vinnie’s conversation with this hairy, distinctly older man.
“Is that the famous boyfriend?” Quentin asked.
She glanced over her shoulder, then looked back again. “Do you want to meet him?”
“After you change his diapers.”
Vinnie smiled but didn’t laugh. She refused to laugh, crossing her legs, saying, “You don’t normally visit this late. Is there a reason?”
Quentin nodded. “I saw your mother.”
“I was wondering if you’ve seen her yourself.”
Vinnie shook her head. “We haven’t talked. Not for weeks, thank God.”
“All right then,” Quentin said.
She looked at the boyfriend. “Make tea.”
“What kind?” He had a high voice, a bird’s voice.
“The hot kind.”
Quentin was working with what he would say next.
Vinnie looked at him. “You’re growing weirder, Quentin. And I didn't think that was possible.”
The barb made honesty more likely. But not assured, no.
“So why are you here? Why care about my old bitch mother?”
There were a thousand ways to tell what he knew, and as many ways to say nothing.
But then Vinnie laughed at last. She laughed and leaned back, uncrossing her legs. “I know what you’re doing. Right now, you’re hoping that three of us might do something.”
“No,” Quentin said.
Once mentioned, the idea had its own vivid life.
The nameless boyfriend returned, various bags of tea in hand. Looking at the farthest wall, he asked, “What kind do you want?”
“Why aren’t you in the army?” Quentin asked.
“My father,” the boy said. “He was a Hero.”
Quentin pretended to listen, but he was thinking of everything else.
“So what do I do about the tea?” the boy asked.
Vinnie looked back and forth at the two men, smiling, and meanwhile everything had always always always been possible.