Dinner.

I’d announced to my family yesterday that there were leftovers in the fridge.  I told my wife I’d not be watching anything in the basement, thus not turning on the pellet stove.  To all and sundry:  leave daddy the eff alone:  he’s writing.

It’s 2245 now, past an old man’s bed time, but I’ve 3.2k words for today.  MUCH more importantly are the milestones:  I’ve radically changed Chris & Cat’s relationship with a pivotal secondary character, and got Chris baptized.  Hey, when you consider yourself a writer of nominally Catholic stories, things like that matter.

So:  I got the cousins from UCSD to the Hotel del Coronado.  Pre-dinner politics.  It wasn’t until Cat excused herself to the bathroom that I saw that Anton has lost his mother when he was a boy; that allowed me to radically change the dynamic between these three.  This is going to echo through the rest of the novel; probably upping the death-toll, too.

Below the fold is another example of why creative writing sometimes scares me:  as recently as two hours ago, not a single idea of any of this existed anywhere inside my head.  Sometimes it seems for me that prayer is an ‘SDI’ project.

“So, when Cat called you her cousin, that is something of a fiction, is it not?”

She slammed her menu down. Chris moved his right hand to just short of her left.

“Legally, it’s quite true.” Poor man, do you realize what you just did to your argument? “But you are otherwise, completely correct: there is no blood tie between Katarina and myself.”

Anton allowed himself a smile.

“But that, of course, means that there are no issues of consanguinity, were our thoughts for one another to… change.”

“What?” Anton and Cat asked together.

Chris moved his menu so Anton could see where he was pointing.

“The scallops? You recommend those, too?”

“Excuse me!” Cat stood abruptly, but looked around uncertainly. “Where’s the bathrooms?”

“Um.” Anton seemed caught flatfooted, as well. He and Chris stood. “In and right. Ask if you need to, Cat.”

With a nod, she was gone. In the low light, there was no way that he could see what I saw, Chris thought: the hot flush of her face. She was embarrassed or agitated about something. At the expense of his tight surveillance of his surroundings, Chris thought very hard and very fast for just a moment.

She’s falling in love with me. I’ve been stupid.

I thought she hated me; what I am; who I am.

Anton had reseated himself. Belatedly, Chris did as well.

“But you’ve not, it seems.” Anton asked.

“Not… what?” Now it was Chris at a loss.

“Had your thoughts for one another change?” He smiled as he retook control of the conversation. “And, yes, the scallops are very good.”

“Thank you. And no, we’ve not. As of rather recently, my family has become somewhat… reduced.” With Cat gone, he poured the last of his sake. “I must seek to preserve what I have.”

“’Reduced’? What does – ” He stood. “Are you all right, Cat?”

Chris was standing just as she was sitting. Manners were in flux.

“Fine. What’s ‘reduced?’ Better be the prices here!” She said, just a trifle too loud.

“Your cousin,” he said, allowing them the term, “was speaking of his family….”

Chris stared out at the sea. The surf seemed brighter than it should. At the other end of a hemisphere of ocean was his home. A home with no one to return to.

“Chris? May I?”

Mother, for what was I made?

“…quake last week? His mother died, Anton, along with several of his friends, I guess…”

Chris looked to his hands. Not for this; I don’t want to be this.

“Madre de Dios!”

Someone had pulled him to his feet. Chris felt Anton’s arms about him, his cheek first against his left, then right.

“My mother passed to the Lord when I was twelve,” Anton said, his voice rough with emotion. “I know what it’s like! From now on, while we may be rivals, I shall call you my brother!”

Both cheeks, again.

Now the attention of the silent observers of the other tables, Chris bowed very low to Anton.

“Nii-san.”

“Brother,” Cat spoke softly. Never saw this coming, she thought.

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