Squinting in concentration, he tried to pinpoint the latest antagonist to the production. Something was off. Perhaps-
A warm breath tickled his ear before an alto voice softly whispered, "Boo!"
Feeling ridiculous for jumping and, to his private horror, blushing, James turned to face the woman sitting in the theatre seat beside him. "Sylvia! This is quite the surprise. Where are the boys?"
"They will catch up in just a minute, no doubt. I'm afraid they've been squabbling all day; something about the layout of a tree house." She sent him The Look – the one that all women seem to have so well perfected to make a man squirm. "You don't know anything about that, do you James?"
He studied her for a moment, finally relaxing back into his seat at the twinkle in her eye. "Who, me? Now why would you think I would put any schemes into those boys' heads? I'm innocent, of course." With difficulty, he controlled the grin attempting to spread across his face.
Sighing, Sylvia relented. "You really are helpless, James," she said as she poked him in the side.
Once again James found himself jumping, though he tried to cover this time by standing. Heading for the aisle, he waved a hand in the air as he spoke. "Of course I am. It's why I'm so irresistible," he teased!
"Yes, you are," Sylvia quietly agreed. Spinning James turned to stare at her in shock. Did she really just-? No. She would never. I'm just going crazy. Yes, that's it. I've gone insane! Comforted by this thought, James headed for the door, calling behind him. "Let's find those boys of yours, shall we?"
"I'm sorry, truly I am, but I simply can not stay tonight. I promised my husband I would be home by six and it's nearly five thirty now."
"Well," Miss Duval said condescendingly, staring down her nose at Mary, "I suppose everyone has a different set of priorities, no? You know, it was not by putting others before my charity work that I gained the position I'm in now."
No wonder the old hag never married, Mary thought uncharitably. Smiling politely she agreed before rushing for the door. She had made a promise to James, and even if it meant her position in society, she would not break it. He meant too much to her.
"No! Just because you're older doesn't mean you're stupid ideas are better than mine," Peter shouted into George's face.
Lightly shoving Peter away, George responded in a superior tone. "Of course it does Peter. Don't worry, you'll understand one of these days- when you're older." He said that last bit very smugly, looking down at his nails. If only Peter would hush up, he thought, maybe we could get inside and I could show Uncle James my plans for the tree house!
Peter's face flushed bright red and he shoved back, harder. George quickly went from irritated to furious. Shoving Peter back several feet, he screamed at him to back off. What followed was a shoving and shouting war that would lead to disaster.
"Maybe they never made it inside," Sylvia suggested as James opened the door for her. They stepped outside in time to see George shove Peter so hard that he landed on his left side, several feet away on the hard stone walkway. Peter's face lost all color, and Sylvia's, in turn, blanched in shock. Gagging, Peter was positive he would throw up from the pain. His arm lay beside him at an unnatural angle.
"It's okay, Peter. We'll get you to a doctor right away. It'll be better soon, son," James reassured from Peter's side, where he had somehow managed to be mere seconds after the accident occurred.
Sniffing, Peter tried his best not to cry. "It – it hurts really bad, Uncle James!" Sylvia, after giving George a warning look of what was to come, had also rushed to his side. She smoothed his hair away from his forehead as James found material to construct a makeshift sling. "It's okay, darling. Cry if you like."
Sniffing, Peter objected, "I can't cry, Mother. Men don't cry." James paused at this announcement, looking into the boy's eyes. "That's strange, Peter. I rather had the idea that I was a man and I cry, Peter. There's no shame in it. Not when there is something worthy of your tears. And I'm thinking this just might be one of those times."
Mary rushed in the door at ten 'till six, face flushed, but delighted that she had made it on time. Smiling she called out to James, hoping he was already home. As Mary once again called out his name, she heard a noise from the parlor. Turning with a bright, hopeful look, she was quickly hid her disappointment as Sarah came towards her. "Master Barrie is not home yet, Madame. May I assist you?" Rejecting her offer, Mary headed upstairs to freshen up, certain that James would soon arrive.
"You're positive you are all right now, Sylvia? Do you need me to wait for Peter to get out?" James said as he once again paced back across the waiting room of a local doctor's office.
"We'll be fine, James, truly. I'm feeling much better now, and I'm sure Peter will be out soon. You've already handled everything for me! Thank you so much. I'm not so sure I could have handled it without you," she responded in a grateful, if not adoring, tone.
"Of course you could have, and splendidly, no doubt. Well, give my best to Peter then. Goodbye boys!" After a round of hugs, James headed out the door of the doctor's office and down the street. Whistling as he strolled along, the town clock that was behind him quite a ways down the street, chimed out the time - seven 'o clock in the evening. Stopping in his tracks, he felt his stomach tighten into a sickening knot. Spinning he stared at the clock in horror. Only upon hearing the clock strike seven had he remembered his promise to Mary. Taking off at a run, he hurried to hail a cab, not caring that his carriage was waiting back at the theatre, his only concern getting home to Mary.
Across town, Mary was finishing packing enough things to do her for several weeks. As she slipped off her wedding band and laid it on her dresser, her hands shook and her chest heaved for breath as she fell to the floor, sobbing.
Review please! Thanks to H.M. Chandler, Tilts At Windmills, and Angel-of-Ballet!