Devotion

Devotion by Howard Norman Page A

Book: Devotion by Howard Norman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Howard Norman
There was a vast quilt of moonlight-diffused clouds, no stars. “Use ‘Tobias,’ all right?” Toby said.
    â€œWhat?”
    â€œIn your report to the Tecoskys. Naomi said every month you send a report to Izzy and Stefania. Saying how everything is. Saying how the swans are doing. What the tree surgeon did, things like that. So I’m asking, when you tell them about my breaking in, refer to me as Tobias, not Toby. They know me as Tobias.”
    â€œYou fucking idiot.”
    â€œI don’t care if you tell Izzy and Stefania. I’m just asking you to use Tobias.”
    William appeared on the porch. He wore threadbare brown corduroy trousers, a blue work shirt, bedroom slippers. “Since I’ll stay in the car, I’ve got slippers on,” he said. “Let’s go, Toby. I’ll sit in back. You’re my chauffeur. That car has ashtrays in back, doesn’t it?”
    â€œIncluding on the pull-down armrest in the middle.”
    â€œI’m not allowed to smoke. It’ll feel good just sitting there in the company of all those ashtrays, though.”
    â€œI’ve got French cigarettes I bought in London,” Toby said.
    â€œDon’t show them to me.”
    They walked to the Buick. David called from the porch, “Toby, I don’t have to write the Tecoskys—I can telephone them directly. They have telephones over there.”
    William stopped and beckoned David over. When David stood a few steps away, William said, “The crisis is over. We’re going to the moving pictures. The swans are on your watch. I noticed they’re still on the pond.” William slowly crouched into the back seat and shut the door. Toby got in behind the wheel, revved the engine, let the idle even out, mist swirling in the headlight beams. He gunned it in reverse all the way to the road.

Swans in the House
    W HEN THE BUICK’S lights disappeared, David went into the main house to assess the damage. As he passed the kitchen the telephone rang, always a startling thing in an empty house. David stood there through five rings. He felt like the thief. The answering machine recorded Maggie’s voice: “Hey, Pop, it’s me. Where are you? I’m in my apartment. I had a
day.
Things at work are fine, but I went to the doctor this morning. Guess what? My official due date is November nine. I finally couldn’t stand it and had them tell me, so I’m telling you—you’ve got a granddaughter on her way. And no, don’t you tell David, please. When I want to tell him, I will
myself. Call me, okay? I want to know you got this news. It’s not even nine o’clock but I’m going to bed. Me, the night owl. Love you. Bye-bye.”
    David thought,
Never mind the due date—no one told me Maggie was pregnant to begin with!
He went to the guesthouse, circled November 9 on the calendar, sat drinking coffee, thinking back to the night he and Maggie had last slept together, February 10.
    Though it seemed impossible, the fact was, between the accident in London and February 10 of this year, he and Maggie had not met each other’s eyes, let alone had any sort of conversation. Nor
since
February 10, for that matter. From his kitchen window, David occasionally glimpsed her driving up to or away from the estate, or strolling with William to the pond and back. Now and then he’d impulsively telephoned Maggie’s office, and her assistant, Carol Emery, would say, “They’re in France,” or “They’re in New York,” or even “They’re in town,” but he had the distinct feeling she’d been instructed to keep such information to a minimum.
    Early on the morning of February 10, Maggie drove to the estate, stayed late, and while driving back to Halifax she stopped at the all-night diner for a cup of coffee. There was blowing sleet. Maggie had the windshield wipers going. In the parking lot, before turning

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