Over the River 5

Amanda’s mother comforted her daughter, as her father thanked Todd, who brushed off all attempts to pay back the favor. “Your family’s continued hospitality is the only reward I need.”

Alec had been a spectator during the incident, and followed the entire family as they returned to the house. The sun had descended below the tree line, and Grammie Alice’s sons, daughters, grandchildren, and in-laws across multiple generations soon gathered their coats and left in their cars. Stella and Alec had already agreed to be in charge of clean-up, and Alec spent close to an hour at the kitchen sink, up to his elbows in suds as he cleaned serving bowls, plates, and silverware too delicate for machine washing.

His hands slick and red from being long enclosed in yellow rubber gloves, Alec finally retreated into the living room. Stella had gone up with her mother to rest, the two women weary from a half day of preparation for that afternoon’s feast. Believing that all the day’s guests had departed, Alec expected to watch the evening football game alone for a while, until his wife came down and announced she was ready to leave.

But he was not alone. Sitting in the room’s largest armchair, the one Stella’s father had deemed his throne, was Todd. His eyes beamed delight at Alec’s entry.

“I didn’t want to leave today, without finishing our conversation.” There was a hint of a challenge in Todd’s voice that unsettled Alec.

“I… if I seemed a little too suspicious this afternoon, it was only because I wanted to make sense of the stories I was hearing about you. What you did for my niece this afternoon, went a long way to dismissing — ”

“Please.” Todd blinked, and waved a hand dismissively. “I took no offense at your questioning. I quite enjoyed it, in fact. Rarely do I meet someone, as perceptive as yourself.”

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