Lily heard Beth’s bracelets click against each other as they slid up and down her forearms when she and Desiree Dramal walked towards her, Thomas McDavid, and Donald. Instinctively Lily looked out through the Cup-n-Saucer’s windows searching for the live oak like she had outside her classroom window, but none was there. Outside the diner lay the flat land in that noiseless gray stillness after spring rain. The March sky appeared a dome of seamless gray. The noise of Beth’s bracelets and her yellow-orange ruined hair clashed with the gray evening. Lily braced herself as Beth’s shadow neared the table first. Desiree Dramal stood to the left of Beth, and slightly behind. Lily felt her chest tighten.

“Hello everyone,” Beth said. “Are some of Covenant’s faculty still meeting? If so, Desiree and I would welcome your hospitality.”

“Good evening,” Donald said. “We were about to leave, but you ladies are welcome to our seats if you like.” Donald slid his metal chair back and stood. Lily felt her chest suddenly release. She had again underestimated Donald.

“I’m sure you all are thrilled to have Ms. Dramal in counseling now. I’ll verify she continues to advise students in the ways they should go,” Beth said undeterred.

“Beth, please tell your sisters and families we said hello,” Thomas McDavid said, rising from his chair. “With Nathan at Covenant, I hope to have them come around more often.”

Beth glowered at the group, seeking for words. Lily rose from her chair, her coffee still hot and undisturbed.

“Excuse me,” Lily said, “I have had enough coffee today. I’m heading home.” Lily rose from her chair. Had one looked at Lily’s eyes, he would have seen Desiree Dramal’s long black slacks reflected there like serpentine coils.

Lily (Part thirty-three)

“We do not have enough time this morning for me to explain the whole of the family’s history, Ms. Rood, but I will try to set forth some stepping stones to help you understand how the path led you, led us both really, here. Okay?” Nathanael said.

“I understand. Go on. I’m listening,” Lily said.

Lily looked through the diner window to her left. The gray color and morning mist were dissipating. She saw her reflection in the Cup-n-Saucer’s window, as Nathanael continued.

“Mom did leave her home as soon as she graduated from high school. She met my father soon thereafter. He and Mom were both intellectuals, and tended to see to the underlying causes of things,” Nathanael said.

“I could tell early on that your sister and your father were bright. But that does not explain the division within your family,” Lily responded.

“Correct. Mom and Dad met, studied law, and went on to make good lives for themselves, and, yes, for me,” Nathanael said, “and my Aunt Ruth was a quiet one. She was like Mom, very smart, but she was not confrontational by nature. She reserved her views on the family’s ways until Aunt Beth’s ways became clear,” Nathanael said.

“Beth’s ways?” Lily asked.

“Beth is the baby, in lots of ways,” Nathanael said. “My grandfather was quite strict as a dad, especially when the three girls were young. My mom and Aunt Ruth left as soon as they could, as eighteen-year-olds, fresh from high school graduation. Admittedly, they may have viewed it as an escape from an overbearing father,” Nathanael said.

“I never knew your grandfather like that,” Lily said. “Plus, this community seemed to adore him.”

“He was changed by, I can say this to you and I think you’ll understand . . . he was changed by God. But that was done by God over time. My grandfather grew humble. But as he did, my Aunt Beth, even as a girl, was hardened. She carved a different path from her sisters. She was prettier than her sisters, at least as a girl. And she used her looks, her quick smile, to advance herself in my grandparents’ evaluations of her, and Aunt Beth grew up as a deceiver and manipulator,” Nathanael said.

“But your mother and your Aunt Ruth are beautiful women,” Lily said.

“They are now,” Nathanael said, “but as girls, I could show you pictures of them during their girlhoods, they were bookish and homely looking. They would admit that to you, even today. And Aunt Beth was beautiful as a girl. Blonde, a beautiful smile, et cetera. She seemed to know she would make her way in the world very differently than her sisters did,” Nathanael said.

Lily looked out through the diner window again to see sun piercing the vanquishing gray. Nathanael watched Lily as she thought.

“Is this too much, Ms. Rood?” he asked.

“No, I was just thinking about it all,” Lily said.

“Perhaps this is enough for this morning. We still have a day of school,” Nathanael said. “Will it be alright if we talk again soon, Ms. Rood? Not as Covenant’s headmaster to a teacher, but just as adults?”

“I would like that,” Lily said.

(To be continued)