Lily pulled into the Cup-n-Saucer parking lot at six o’clock under gray misty sky. Questions hung like damp wreaths in her mind. Why would Nathanael ask to meet with me alone? What will people think when they see us here so early on a weekday? He’s younger than I and . . .
Lily parked, opened her car door, and stepped onto the old blacktop of the Cup-n-Saucer parking lot. A pothole, shaped like a bowl with loose gravel inside the color of the gray sky, seemed to mock her as she walked towards the door. She glimpsed Nathanael darkly through the glass windows—composed.
“Good morning, Ms. Rood. Coffee?” Nathanael asked, standing and pulling out a lime-green formica upholstered chair.
“Yes, thank you,” Lily said. “Am I late?”
“No. I did not sleep much last night,” Nathanael said, “so I am here even before Donald and Thomas,” Nathanael said, laughing.
A waitress appeared. “What’ll you have, hon?”
“Just coffee for her, please,” Nathanael said, looking at Lily. “Right?” he asked. Lily nodded.
“Thank you for coming in this early to meet with me. I thought you were owed some explanations. Perhaps background is the better term,” Nathanael said.
“I’m glad to. I’m a morning person, I suppose. Coffee drinker, too. One of the characteristics I seem to share with Thomas McDavid and Donald, too,” Lily said, trying to ease, but Nathanael was not to be distracted.
“Ms. Rood. Have you wondered why I asked you here?”
“I’d be dishonest if I said I hadn’t,” Lily said.
“Have you thought about what people here might think and say if they saw us together at a diner before school?” Nathanael continued.
“I have. But when you asked me to meet you, I didn’t know what good choice I had. You are the headmaster at Covenant now, right? What was I supposed to do—decline?”
Nathanael conceded her point. “I knew you would have thought of all that. The people that come here, Ms. Rood, have known me, my parents, my whole life, if you will. Even though my mother moved away after high school, this town has a way of sticking to you. Mom left it when still just a kid, but it never left her,” Nathanael said.
“Many books are about that very thing,” Lily said. “I suppose Thomas Wolfe, Philip Roth, and Carson McCullers . . . um, sorry, literary passions don’t fade either, at least for some of us.”
“It’s okay. I told you earlier, English was my favorite subject, too,” Nathanael said. “Anyway, I don’t know if saying my mother was ever a kid is exactly the right term either.”
“How do you mean?” Lily asked.
“Ms. Rood, how much do you know of my family’s history?” Nathanael asked.
“Little, I suppose. Donald—from Beulah—told me a bit about how he and your grandfather, Mr. Aims, used to farm near each other. And he mentioned how your mother, Sarah, was the oldest Aims daughter. She and Ruth, the middle daughter, apparently left here soon after completing high school. They went “to the city”–is the way Donald portrayed it. Is that correct?” Lily asked.
“That’s accurate in what it denotes,” Nathanael said. “But did Donald tell you why Mom and Aunt Ruth left?” Nathanael asked.
“No. He just mentioned that your mom was very bright, and that your grandparents were strict on the girls as they were growing up,” Lily said. “Am I missing something?”
“That, too, is accurate,” Nathanael said, “but my grandparents’ strictness—especially my grandfather’s—was not the only part of our family history that led to why two of them left, with what has happened with Covenant, and with my Beth.”
“Why do I think this is going to take more time than our cup of coffee?” Lily asked.
“Hence my wanting to at least begin to provide you some background, so that you see the whole picture. Beth can be, well, conveniently selective in how she deals with truth and details she may not want revealed,” Nathanael said.
“I’m listening. But is this appropriate—I mean, for me to hear this? Is it, after all, my business?” Lily asked.
“You’re in it now, Ms. Rood. My grandfather brought you here, but Beth has her own web, and not for your good,” Nathanael said.
“Go on,” Lily said.
(To be continued)