Given the Choice

When Wilom finally woke up in the morning, there was a letter addressed to him on the kitchen table. He flopped onto his bed, pulled the letter out of the envelope and read it.

Mr Tris,

Thank you for coming to see me in person; the visit was much appreciated. I have an old friend who is selling off his mother’s house after she passed away last year, and the family decided that, rather than resort to throwing the family portraits at each other (again), it should be sold, and the possessions inside fought over instead.

I talked to him, and he’s willing to work something out with you and your friends. Multiple incomes preferred for this type of thing, obviously. It has three bedrooms with double beds and one with two singles. Two bathrooms. Rather old, but in very good condition.

I will arrange payment with him, and your friends will make a reimbursement arrangement with me. I am also willing to be on hand to help out in case of inclement family problems from the original owners. My return address is on the envelope; please reply promptly.

I will extend an invitation also for dinner at my house. Your company would be most appreciated.

Yrs.

Mr Treene.

Two bathrooms! Just what sort of house had Mr Treene found?

He reread the ledger details about Mr Treene. Businessman, yes. Born to rich parents, yes. Has operated with members of the group since the beginning of the war, and was good friends with one of the founding members … has so far treated all given into his charge fairly and according to his word.

The last words had been overwritten three times and underlined twice.

Wilom closed the ledger and put it away. An invitation to dinner, hm? Cathlin had asked him to look through the shop on Tuesday, and he didn’t want to go after a busy day. The weekend was too soon. Wednesday, perhaps? Yes, Wednesday might be best.

~

Wilom knocked on the door in the tunnels, Mr Treene’s note in his hand.

Rickart welcomed him in.

“Hello, everyone,” he said. “Sorry I’m a bit late. I trust everyone is well?”

“Yes, thank you,” Aime said, looking up from the clapping game she was playing with Malley. “And you?”

“I’m well,” Wilom sat down next to the door. “I’ve written down all your requests; can I just pass it around so you can tell me if I’ve missed anything?” He gave the paper to Rickart.

Rickart nodded, and passed it to Peggy – the young woman looking for her father – who scanned it and passed it to the couple.

“I also have two items of good news. I may have found a place for you, Peggy,” Wilom said, turning to her.

An odd look crossed her face. Finally, she said, “Where?”

“At the soup kitchen. There’s a group of women who’ll let you stay with them if you’re willing to help out at the kitchen. They’ll be happy for you to work on the side if you need to, and they won’t charge you for food. Is that alright? Sorry, did I say something wrong?”

“Oh, no, of course not. It sounds good. I’d love to take the offer. Sorry, I just … I only gave my full name on the sheet. How did you know people call me Peggy?”

Had she? Hadn’t it said Peggy on her information sheet?

“I, uh, had a friend as a child,” he said. “She shortened her name to Peggy, too. Sorry, I must have said it automatically.” He’d figure out what had happened later, on his own time.

Peggy laughed. “Not at all. Isn’t it funny how that happens?”

“Yeah, odd coincidence. I’ll go and talk to those soup kitchen ladies, then, and pick you up tomorrow?”

“Sure!” Peggy said.  She smiled to herself. “Soup kitchen. Perfect.”

“Good. I also have another house for some of you.”

“Some of us?” Rickart asked.

“Who will go?” Aime asked.

“Well, that’s entirely up to you.” Wilom read them the letter. “I had expected you” he nodded at the couple “to take the offer, and perhaps you three” to Aime and her family “but I’m happy for you to make the decision among yourselves.”

“There’s room for you and your son, too,” Aime said to the father. “According to this letter, the more of us living there, the faster we’ll work off the debt.”

The father nodded. “Well, Tori, what do you think?”

Tori nodded, then nudged his father and grinned. “I bet I can find work faster than you.”

“Hah. I’ll take that bet. Winner chooses dinner.”

“Done! So you know, we’ll be having Ahgetian stew.”

“We won’t be able to move to the country quickly,” the man of the couple said to his partner.

She shrugged. “We’ll get there in the end,” she said. “It’s better than waiting here to be arrested. We’ll take it.”

Wilom smiled. “I’ll send the letters, then. Anybody need me to bring them anything?”

A round of shaking heads. “No,” Rickart said, speaking for the group. “Nothing. Thanks.”

As Wilom left, Peggy grabbed him by the arm. “Can I talk to you for a moment?”

Wilom felt lightheaded for a moment. Was she unhappy? What was she going to ask? How would he explain how he just happened to know his name, if she hadn’t believed his last story?

Peggy closed the door behind her quietly. “How did you get this job?” she asked.

Wilom was so surprised that he was halfway through his response before his mind caught up. “A friend called in a favour. Why?”

Peggy shrugged. “Just wanted to know. Do you need more help?”

“I don’t know. But I can ask if you’re really interested.”

Peggy nodded. “Please,” she said, and went back into the room.

Time to go back to Marc’s house. It had been a long day, and he had the beginning of an awful headache.

Peggy, hm? That settled it. Something strange was going on.

It made sense, he supposed. After all, Vanda had something from the lighthouse keeper. And the ferryman always seemed to know the names of people on the shore, and what to say to them exactly. So many things had turned out not to be as he expected, it wouldn’t surprise him. It only bothered him that the ferryman had never mentioned it at all.

But, as usual, he had never asked. If he was going to go on like that, he might as well fold his arms and stamp his foot for good measure.

 

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  1. Pingback: It’s Not A Drawing, It’s a Floor Plan | Whimsy and Metaphor

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