"Emily?" He asked, more assured now. "That is you, isn't it?"
I nodded weakly; he'd caught me, but how would I explain myself? "Yes Justin."
"Well mah goodness Miss Emily, what are you doing here?" He took a few steps closer, "No, no" he shook his head, "I'm getting ahead of myself. How are you? And what unfortunate soul has brought you back into my company, if I may be so bold in asking?"
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Robert move by the gate. Assessing the fact I was not alone, he started approaching. And just as I was about to answer Jason the man reappeared from the shed, he'd obviously heard Jason's question and was strangely interested in my response.
Had something been wrong on the paperwork? Did he suspect…no. I scolded myself internally. Calming my voice so it did not come out a squeak, I took a deep breath and tried my best hand at being an actress.
"He was my cousin, I'm sorry to say." I replied, bowing my head in seeming sorrow.
Jason cocked his head slightly to the side, "I nevah knew you had a cousin in the North, Emily?"
"I…" The grave man shifted, I took another deep breath, trying my best to disguise it as a sigh, "He was a distant relation. And I'm sorry to say he has no one closer to him left in the world."
I finished with my head still down. Hoping no names had been on the paperwork. Jason was one person I knew could tell from my face if I were lying.
"Well that is unfortunate news." Jason agreed.
Robert was suddenly behind me; keeping in character, were a few steps behind me.
"I'm here myself to pick up William, the damn fool, do you remember meeting him back on our farm?" He asked, absentmindedly signing the paperwork.
The grave man moved to me with papers. I tried to act in the same, nonchalance manner.
I nodded weakly, "Years ago it seems." I signed, collected, and handed the form to Robert. Giving him a waning smile, he quietly squeezed my hand and moved to help the grave man move the casket to the carriage.
"I wonder," Jason, asked, hesitantly, "Is your cousin there the only reason for your visit to this city? I, myself, have just moved, to become a journalist as it were."
I pulled my face into a solemn reverence, not knowing how else to put it. I was shocked, and trying to hold my weak grasp of an act as best I could. Jason was always disarming.
"I've moved as well." I answered simply, "First, with my mother…"
Their was a small pang erupted in my chest. I took another breath and continued.
"And after she passed, I moved in with my Uncle." I finished, daring a quick glance.
His face was bleak, bleaker than when he looked at his brother's coffin, "Your mother passed?" He asked shocked.
I nodded, "Some months ago."
"I'm sorry," he said earnestly, "It's been many months since I've spoken to my own mother I'm afraid."
The grave man returned, "All set miss," he mumbled. Robert stood behind me; I could feel his eyes watching Jason, who could expose us accidentally any moment. Jason didn't notice.
"You mentioned living with an uncle?" He asked innocently.
"Yes," I choked out, as the grave man lifted his head, curious.
I felt Robert tense.
"Jason," I asked, adding sweetness to my voice, "I wonder if you would mind joining us for dinner sometime? You being new to the city it would be a great thing to catch up, us old friends. I'm sure I could furnish much news, if you were willing to listen?"
He smiled, unbecoming of our current surroundings, "Why miss Emily, I'd be delighted!"
"Tomorrow night then," I proposed as he took my hand, kissing it.
"Tomorrah night," He agreed.
The grave man had finished loading his brother onto his carriage with the help of his driver. He smiled, tipping his hat, which was in a style that reminded me of my beloved south. And he climbed into his carriage.
I waved in return and let Robert help me into the carriage, he hadn't relaxed, and I could feel the grave man's eyes on us as we drove off.
"Emily," Robert said coldly, "have you considered your uncle's feelings on the matter of inviting guests to dinner, especially after the news he received…we all received today?"
Panics gripped my chest; I pushed it back, "I'm sorry, I just couldn't think of another way to distract him. I'll devise a way to postpone my offer tomorrow. It was all so unexpected. I haven't seen him for so long, I'm surprised he recognized me."
"Who was he?" Robert asked, softer.
I flinched, "Johnny's friend." I answered quietly.
We drove the rest of the way; first to the University, and then home to Uncle Valentine's in silence.