“Hi, hon. Welcome back. Your friends are in their spot.”
“Thank you,” Lily said.
“Black coffee for you?”
Lily walked towards Donald and Thomas McDavid.
“Ms. Rood, thanks for coming,” Donald said.
“Bonum diem,” Thomas said.
“Afternoon, gentlemen. Am I late?”
“No, Ms. Rood. All is well,” Donald said.
“May I ask then why afternoon coffee?”
“Have you heard from Beth Aims, Lily?” Donald asked.
“No. Why do you ask?” Lily wondered why Donald now used her first name.
“What do you think Beth is up to?” Donald asked.
“Why do you ask me questions I cannot answer, Donald?” Lily remonstrated.
“First you ask me if I’ve heard from Beth, and I tell you no. Then you ask me to speculate what she has been up to. Why do I sense you know the answers already?” Lily continued.
“Ms. Rood, since you came to Covenant, you and I have become—well, friends. Have we not?” Thomas McDavid asked.
“I hope so,” Lily said. “I believe we have, Thomas.”
“But why am I being questioned?” Lily pleaded.
“Because we are your friends, Ms. Rood. And Beth Aims and Desiree Dramal are friends–with each other,” Donald said.
“People like Beth don’t have friends, Donald. They have co-conspirators,” Thomas McDavid said.
Mr. McDavid continued. “Did Iago work alone, Ms. Rood?”
“No,” Lily said with finality.
“Correct,” Thomas McDavid said. “He divided people. He sowed discord. He sowed seeds of mistrust. He thrived on innuendo, did he not?”
“He did,” Lily said. “’I am not what I am,’” Lily quoted from the play. “If Beth is my Iago, Desiree Dramal is my Roderigo?”
Suddenly Donald interrupted. “I am not educated in this stuff, Thomas. What we are suggesting, Ms. Rood, is that Beth Aims has not gone away. She is planted in Covenant’s soil whether we like it or not. And Ms. Dramal is not much different. She’s from our town, too, and has certain connections.”
“Why must everything come back to being from this town? It sounds less like a town than like a cult,” Lily said.
Immediately Lily saw her words wounded Donald. “I’m sorry, Donald. I didn’t mean that—well, not that forcefully. I just meant that…”
“It’s okay, Ms. Rood. I am an old man, a tired old farmer. I have lived here my entire life and I know the people, and they know me. I’m not here to defend this town or make it appear better than what it is. Thomas and I only want you to know what you’re up against. Fred Aims was our friend. And his daughters could not be more different from one another. Beth has always been—driven. But not by the good,” Donald said.
When he finished speaking, he folded his Jergens-scented hands in front of his face as if he were going to pray. But then he looked over at Thomas McDavid and spoke.
“Thomas, I’ve said too much. I’ll let you talk while I drink my coffee.”
The waitress appeared at the table, refilled the men’s cups, and poured Lily’s. Mr. McDavid inhaled deeply, held it, and slowly exhaled. He began to speak, but then looked away from Lily and towards the door.
Desiree Dramal and Beth Aims had entered. They stood at the threshold of the Cup-n-Saucer. They looked over to where Donald, Mr. McDavid, and Lily sat. Beth stared at Lily and smiled, her teeth shiny as swords.
(To be continued)