Deleted Scene 4

Meeting the Neighbors

This scene is another casualty of the too-long book. It’s an interlude during Owen and Katie’s visit to his family. Some of the dialogue in parts of this scene ended up being moved to another scene, but I’m leaving that in here so you can see the original context. They’ve just had lunch on the first day of their visit and decide to take Owen’s dog for a walk as a way of letting him calm down after the uncomfortable lunch.

Owen caught my eye and nodded, so I followed him to the foyer to get our coats. “You don’t need a leash?” I asked as we stepped outside.

“I don’t think he’ll get far from me, and if I need a leash, I can have one pretty quickly.”

“Oh yeah. I guess you can. I keep forgetting about that.”

“You do?” He looked pleased, which I found rather odd.

“Yeah, I do. I know you’re powerful wizard guy, but most of the time you don’t act like it, so it’s easy to forget. I guess that’s just me still adjusting to this whole situation. I’m not used to thinking about people being wizards.”

“Actually, I kind of like that. I sometimes wish I could forget what I was.” I had a feeling that had something to do with the weird lunchtime conversation, but I was missing some puzzle pieces.

When we were two houses down the street, he said, “Sorry about the weirdness at lunch. I think I was overreacting earlier when I was so worried about her. Lunch was totally normal for Gloria.”

And I’d just started thinking that he might be right about something being wrong, but I didn’t want to start the panic again. “She’s crazy about you, you know?”

Arawn stepped off the sidewalk and into the street, but Owen got him back on the path with a sharp whistle and a point. I thought for a moment he was going to evade the topic entirely, but after a while he asked, “What makes you think that?”

“It’s the way she looks at you when she thinks no one else is watching. She absolutely adores you. I could see it in her eyes.”

“Huh.” He kicked a rock off the sidewalk and into the gutter, then bent to scratch the dog on the back of the neck. “If that’s the case, then what’s stopping her from showing it when someone is looking?” It was the first time I’d heard any bitterness in his voice when talking about his upbringing.

I kept my suspicions to myself. I didn’t know enough about this family to know for sure that something funny was going on. I’d hate to think what conclusions an outsider might draw from one meal with my family.

The dog brought him a stick, which he tossed a short distance away. Tail wagging furiously, Arawn limped over to retrieve it. Then a gruff voice said, “Shoo! Get off my lawn!” and I did a double take. I’d assumed the little house on the lawn we were passing was a holiday decoration – some kind of Santa’s workshop scene – but now I realized it was an actual house, and the elves around it were really gnomes.

“Sorry about that, Felix,” Owen called.

“No problem. Just wanted to make sure he didn’t step on anything. His eyesight’s not what it was. So, you home with the folks for the holidays?”

“Yes, but just for a couple of days.”

The gnome turned toward the house to yell, “Sada, the Palmer kid’s visiting – you know, Gloria and James’s boy.”

A female gnome who looked very much like the male, but without the pointed beard, stuck her head out the doorway and waved. “You say hello to your parents for me, will you?”

“I will. And merry Christmas to you, too.”

Arawn brought the stick back to Owen, dropping it at his feet. This time Owen tossed it down the sidewalk, away from the nearby lawns. “Interesting neighbors,” I said when we were out of earshot of the little house. I kept my eyes peeled for any other lawn ornaments that could be something else entirely. “It must have been an unusual place to grow up.”

“It was the usual for me. It’s all I knew.”

“Oh, yeah, right.” We walked a little farther down the street. Just like back in the city, he made no move to take my hand or put his arm around me. I wondered if it was because he was trying to keep the Eatons from knowing the exact status of our relationship or if he simply didn’t think to initiate physical contact. From what I’d seen of his family, they weren’t exactly a demonstrative bunch. He probably got more affection from his dog.

Then it struck me that they’d made an interesting choice of breed that didn’t seem to fit such a reserved household. He’d mentioned always having dogs growing up. Had they made sure to make up for their coolness with an extremely affectionate choice of pet? The mystery of this family was becoming almost as intriguing as the mystery of what Phelan Idris was up to.

The next time Owen tossed the stick to his dog, it was back in the direction we’d come from, so we turned and headed back toward the house. Eventually, Arawn quit retrieving the stick and was content to amble along at Owen’s heels. By the time we entered the front gates of the Eaton’s home, I was chilled to the bone. I wasn’t used to spending this much time walking in the snow, and I really wasn’t dressed to be outdoors.

When we entered the house and hung up our coats, we found Gloria and James in the parlor. “Good, you’re just in time for dessert,” Gloria said. There was a tray of mugs full of steaming cocoa on a low table, and I recognized the cookies I’d brought arranged on a china plate. I assumed that meant they’d passed muster with my hostess.

As soon as we’d sat down and each of us had taken a mug and a cookie, I discovered it was my turn to be interrogated by Gloria. She fixed me with a measuring gaze. “So, Katie, as you can well imagine, Owen has told us next to nothing about you other than that you work together and that you’re from out of town. Where were you before you came to New York?”

“I’m from a small town in Texas. I’d lived there all my life, except when I was off at school.”

“And what did you do there?” Her tone wasn’t nearly as sharp with me as it had been with Owen, but I still felt like I’d been hooked to a polygraph machine and this testimony was the only way I might be able to clear my name and avoid life in prison.

“My family owns a farm supply store there, and I worked in the store. I pretty much ran the business affairs from the time I was in high school.”

“Are you planning to stay in New York long?”

“I haven’t been considering it a temporary thing. I love the city. I could see myself settling there.” She nodded like she was happy with the answer, and then I caught her glancing toward Owen. I knew then exactly what was going on. She was a lioness with a cub. Coddling him wouldn’t do him any good in the wild, so she’d be as tough with him as she had to for him to grow up strong and self-sufficient. Meanwhile, she’d defend him to the death against any possible threats, including me. It was funny that, as brilliant as Owen was about so many things, he hadn’t seen this. Then again, she only got that motherly look in her eyes when he wasn’t looking at her.

She eased off on the questioning at that point, and I hoped that meant she didn’t disapprove of me. I had a feeling it would be a while before she decided to go so far as to approve of me.