Mine and Silver's truce was uneasy at first. Despite that he was quick to forgive; it didn't make him open up as he had in the beginning. We were content to remain silent around each other, toeing our new boundaries. It felt strange but also comforting to have his presence at the Inn. As I had told my mother, Silver proved to be a hard worker. When he was not in the kitchen, he was out in the dining room, catering to the customers. He kept people entertained easily with jokes and stories.
Often times I would come down to the dining room to see Silver hopping around, crutches abandoned in a corner, playing with children who were staying with their parents at the Inn. Rosa would join with him after finishing chores. I would catch myself leaning on the doorframe, watching them.
I began to notice little things while watching. Rosa had developed a habit of touching her fingers to her bottom lip and smiling shyly when Silver addressed her. Her laugh was different around him, as well. It was lighter. It didn't take me long to realize she was interested in him. It twisted my stomach to think of a romantic relationship between them. I had known Rosa since we were both quite young. It almost felt like Silver was invading my very childhood because of it. Delightful little Rosa, who kissed me behind the rain barrels when we were six years old and promised to be my best friend, was falling for John Silver.
It wasn't jealousy. The only time I had ever looked at her as anything but a sister was when we were twelve. Her hair had been down to her hips then. It swung when she walked in a shining downfall of brown. Since then, her hair had shortened and any amorous feelings had evaporated. I guess on one hand I felt protective of her. Silver's mutiny still hadn't left my mind (how could it?) and it hurt me to think of Rosa's heart being broken.
I suppose my feelings towards Rosa are what spurred me to break the unspoken pact of silence. One afternoon I found Silver in the kitchen, sitting on a chair and peeling potatoes into a large tub of water. I found another knife and came to sit by him. Taking a potato from the pile, I cast him what I thought was a nonchalant glance. We made awkward eye contact which held for a few beats before I cleared my throat.
"Silver," I started slowly, voice creaking as it sometimes does after not speaking for awhile, "I'm curious as to something."
"Mmhm?" His hands kept busy but his eyes stayed trained on me.
I dropped my gaze, concentrating on the vegetable in my hand. "What do you think of Rosa?"
There was no change in the rhythm of his peeling. "In what way, Jim?
"No. For you."
Silver lifted his shoulders once in a brief shrug. "Not sure yet, Jim lad. What do ye think?"
I bristled momentarily. "For you?"
I did not answer him right away. I could not control how one feels about someone else. I could not prevent Rosa from falling in love (or infatuation) nor could I prove that Silver would break it off with her. The one thing I could control was my policy on employee relationships. There had never been a policy before, there was no need. What I had to ask myself was "would it be fair to direct something I really have no business directing?"
"John," I said quietly. He stopped peeling and looked at me, eyes narrowed in gravity. I licked my lips and continued. "Would you care for her?
I put the potato and knife aside. I clutched his forearm in a tight grip. "John, promise me you'll be kind and gentle with her. Please. She's never... you'll be her first for everything."
Silver's expression softened. He smiled in a way I had never seen before. It was not teasing, there was no hidden agenda. It was a simple, true smile. I expected him to say something but he simply turned back to the potatoes. I stood, touched his shoulder once, gently, and left.
My stomach twisted again. I could almost hear the doors of my childhood closing behind me and locking. I had just given permission where Rosa's father should have. It was an extremely mature gesture in my mind. Steering myself away from pettiness, I had cleared the way for something to happen. Hopefully it would end well.
It took a few days, but one evening Rosa came bouncing towards me, face flushed and eyes lively. I pretended to act surprised, but I knew what she was going to say. "Jim!" she shrilled, "Jim, you won't believe it!"
"What?" I asked warmly.
"John came and talked to my father! We're courting!"
"Really?" I said mildly, "Isn't that a bit old-fashioned? Coming to ask your father?"
Rosa shook her head, the beautiful hair I had admired long ago shimmering around her face. "Father was impressed that he had the courtesy to come to him," she giggled suddenly, "Father was a little put off by John's age, but he warmed up to him immediately."
I gave Rosa a tight hug. "Congratulations, Rosa. I'm glad for you."
"Thank you, Jim." She pressed both of her palms against her cheeks. "Oh, I'm all red."
I laughed and sent her off. I let them both go early once all the customers cleared from the dining and commons room. I washed the dishes and cleaned up alone. As I was climbing the stairs to my bedroom, I heard Mother calling me into her office.
"I heard about Silver and Rosa," she said, one eyebrow raised slightly, once I was seated.
I shrugged noncommittally. "Yes, I hope things work out for them."
"It doesn't bother you?" Mother asked quietly, placing her rough hand on mine.
"Why should it?" I asked genuinely. I had come to terms with it the moment Silver had promised me.
"Alright. Well, that's all, dear. You can go to bed if you like."
I stood. "Good night, Mother."