At the Edge of Summer

At the Edge of Summer by Jessica Brockmole

Book: At the Edge of Summer by Jessica Brockmole Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jessica Brockmole
blotted as though viewed through a rainy lens.
    One painting was done in haunting oils—a thin woman, all angles and edges. She wore a drapey dress, touched with gold where the light hit, and slouched against the armrest of a square throne with arms carved into dragons’ heads, staring challengingly at the painter. She might be a queen, but she was no damsel in distress.
    That queen, she wouldn’t let anyone put her in a corner. She wouldn’t let anyone leave her behind. She wouldn’t be overlooked.
    And, in the middle of this room, this room of books and art and attempted respectability, stood Luc.
    For a moment I didn’t say a word. He stood without a shirt on. His chest was thin and pale. A smooth brown stone, threaded on a thong, nestled beneath his collarbone. Standing shirtless, with head bowed, he looked so private and almost vulnerable. But I saw tacked above his desk that drawing of me, the drawing where I looked more like Mother than myself.
    I stepped over the windowsill. “I thought you were my friend.”
    His head snapped up and his eyes opened wide.
    “I thought you were my friend, but now I can’t even trust you. You saw a painting of my mother in Paris, and yet you never told me. Why?”
    But he didn’t answer my question. “You can’t just…push in like this,” he cried. He picked up his damp white shirt from where he’d dropped it on the floor and yanked it on.
    “Push in?”
    “That’s all you’ve been doing since you arrived. You’ve made me miss tennis matches and weekend studying. You made Stefan Bauer come all the way here and now he’s met you and I’m hearing about it. And then I had a lecture from Maman, as though it were my fault that you held my face like that.”
    None of what he said made sense. I’d been the one dismissed earlier, when he introduced me to Stefan Bauer, but now he was acting as though I’d done wrong merely by being there.
    “Push in?”
I repeated.
    “Into my room, into my life, into my mind, into my—”
    “I haven’t pushed into anything. I was
” Now I was furious, too.
    “I didn’t invite you.”
    “But yet you come almost every weekend. You wrote me letters and brought me fruit under the chestnut tree. You’ve been always here.”
    He angrily buttoned his shirt. “When Maman asks me to come to meet her newest stray, what am I to say?”
    “I see.” I pulled myself back up into the windowsill. “I’m just another of Madame Crépet’s dogs or cats. Somebody else’s castoff. You’re only here to be sure I’m walked and watered, no?”
    “Oh, that’s not what I meant.”
    “It’s what you said,” I shot back. “One more person who doesn’t want the burden of having me around.”
    “Now you’re twisting what I’m saying.”
    “I heard your
say that she didn’t think my place was here.” I swung my legs out of the window. “Don’t worry. I’ll find someone who does. I’ll find someone who cares.”
    I slid down the roof to my own window, only realizing after that Luc hadn’t answered my question about the painting, the whole reason I’d gone looking for him. But what did I expect him to say? Confess that he’d kept things from me? Confess that, all along, my mother had been a train ride away?
    I opened the door to my room. The little brown-eyed maid was in the hallway right outside my door, looking concerned. Clearly, she’d heard the shouting all the way from Luc’s room upstairs. “Please tell Madame that I am feeling unwell tonight. I won’t take any supper, thank you. Tell her I will be going to bed early.”
    The maid left and I pulled my small travel valise from the wardrobe. I filled it quickly, watching the door, afraid she would come back in. I buttoned up my new gray jacket and tucked in my little purse of money. From the valise, I took a yellowed envelope. In the corner was an inked fleur-de-lis. I opened it and, in my coat and hat, read the short note inside, though I could recite it by

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