A pudgy gray-haired man came out on Monday and took down the kitchen wallpaper. He peeled off the gold-and-avocado floral and patiently pasted up another one, this time in avocado-and-gold.
The only thing that really changed was that there were no cuts and no giant pink jellyfish-blotch on the new stuff.
The wallpaper had been ruined Friday night, and on Saturday morning his mother had cleaned the wine-stains out of the grout on the tile floor. James watched her, on her hands and knees with a scrub brush, making everything okay again, making the whole house smell like Clorox.
"Alcohol abuse," David said, rattling the screen door as he shoved his way in, a lit cigarette in his hand. David hadn't been home the night before, and Mom had given up demanding to know where he'd been; he never told the truth anyway. He took a drag, blew the smoke across his shoulder, through the screen. "I think you've got a problem, young lady," he said, in that deep voice he always used when he made fun of Dad.
Their mom wouldn't answer, so James did. "It was an accident, and ... and no smoking in the house." It didn't matter that he was nine and David seventeen. Rules were rules. David knew better. He shouldn't even be smoking at all.
"But Mom can throw wine bottles and shit? It wasn't an accident, you little goob. It's never a damn accident." Still trailing smoke, he bounded up the stairs to his room. Whatever he meant by that, he couldn't be right. People had accidents. Mom wore high heels with slippery soles and sometimes ... sometimes, when Dad came home really late and Mom was really tired ... it was an accident.
It happened sometimes, but it was always an accident.
"You're still avoiding the question of why," House says, the moment they cross paths in the hall on Monday morning. Wilson thinks of dodging -- he has so much to do -- but House, despite the cane, can body-block with all the skill of a basketball star.
"Care to be specific?" Wilson's confusion is genuine; House wants the why of everything, and his mind skips grooves like a needle on a scratched record.
"You said you didn't know what you were going to do. I'll buy that part; you're clueless enough about your own brain. But after the bottles go flying, you always know why you did it." Always, House says, as if he knows that this has happened more than twice in Wilson's life.
"It's not obvious? I was pissed off."
"You chose to break a chapel window rather than admit that I was right. My guess," House says, smiling like a cop who caught the thief, "is you were too much of a coward."
Oh. That again. "You were wrong. I wasn't afraid of losing you. I ... thought I wanted to. I did want to. I didn't run away."
House's smile is gone, as quickly as a light going out. "How many more things," he asks, "do you really want to break?"
He sails off like a listing ship, leaving Wilson staring at his own reflections in the glass-lined hall. It was an accident, sort of; it always is when Wilson breaks things. He didn't know he would do it, not when he was drunk in that New Orleans bar, not in the church, not when he'd wound up in bed with women other than his wives.
He never knows what he'll do until he does it, and then ... and then there are damages to pay for.
I shouldn't be working here, he thinks. It isn't safe. Everywhere he looks in this place, there are windows.
They tell him it'll be three months before the stained glass studio can replace the window Wilson broke.
"You still never told me why you did it." House leans over the desk, smiling that wicked fishhook smile while Wilson writes out the check. Six grand not spent on paying back his misdiagnosed patient; six grand spent later on something that actually was his own damn fault. That seems fair.
"I ... I didn't mean to. I mean, I meant to break the bottle instead of breaking your head."
"You had hellacious aim for a guy who wasn't aiming."
"I was aiming, in the sense that I was aiming to not hit you. The window was --"
House leans farther forward, close enough so that Wilson can smell hints of coffee and laundry soap and mint toothpaste. "It wasn't an accident."
"Well, it --" Wilson looks up abruptly, wondering -- not for the first time -- whether some kind of telepathy really exists, or whether House simply knows him that well. House, who at twelve years old figured out the answer to a question most kids never ask. Wilson sits there, blinking for a moment; he could swear his office walls are green and gold, with a wine-stain jellyfish floating among the flowers.
"No," he says. "It wasn't." He signs the check and tears it carefully from the checkbook. "It's never a damn accident."