Wilom stayed at home the next morning. He drank his coffee with Marc, and then took up position at the dining room table as Cathlin and Jilli got ready for the day and left. Cathlin was insisting on walking Jilli to school before she ran her errands. Wilom’s shoulders had been tense the entire time, the incriminating lists hidden under innocuous ones, explanation ready just in case he was asked. But he needn’t have worried. Jilli was too concerned with a book she wanted to borrow from the school library, and Cathlin was too concerned with getting her to stop chattering and put on her shoes.
While Jilli ran to get a forgotten exercise book from her bedroom, Cathlin finally turned to Wilom, puffing out a breath and pushing her hair back from her face. “Busy day?” she asked.
“Busy enough,” Wilom said. “I’ve got to get this done before I head into the office, though.”
Cathlin gave him a worried look. “You’ve been having a few late mornings recently. Is everything OK?”
“Hm?” It took Wilom a moment to realise what Cathlin was talking about. He’d entirely forgotten that she thought he had a desk job.
“You said you’d gotten that new project,” Cathlin said. “But it seems like you’re working less and less these days…”
Wilom shook his head. “It’s fine. Things are just … shifting is all. It’ll be back to normal in a week or two, they say.”
Cathlin smiled softly. She was glad that he seemed to be settling in and making the work … work, rather than looking for easy ways out.
“Well, you have a good day, A – Cathlin.”
She frowned. “What?”
“Sorry,” Wilom said. “It’s still early. I got my words mixed up.”
He’d very nearly called her Aunt J.
Jilli came back out with her bag. “I’m ready, Mama!”
“Out the door, then,” Cathlin said. Just before she followed Jilli, she picked up the newspaper on the table, looked it over once, then sighed and pushed it away.
“No. Already read it. Reading it again won’t change what’s in it.”
Despite having the entire house to himself and more than enough work to be getting on with, Wilom found that he just couldn’t focus in the house. He tried to take a walk to clear his head, but soon found he couldn’t move. Half the streets were blocked off to the public, and the other half were teeming with people, all trying to find the best places to watch some sort of procession.
A parade of uniforms was carrying pictures and a casket through the streets. Wilom stopped in the middle of a throng of people to see what exactly was going on.
The pictures were of a middle-aged man in pristine military uniform, a certain number of bars on the pocket probably meaning more to the rest of the crowd than to Wilom.
“What’s this?” he whispered to the person standing next to him.
“Funeral procession for General Orron,” the young man whispered back. “Didn’t you read in the paper?”
Wilom had all but stopped reading the paper, to tell the truth. It seemed almost disrespectful to Cathlin, to read them after she’d pushed them aside so finally. Even Marc didn’t read them where she could see anymore.
“Thanks,” he whispered, and continued to watch the procession.
The casket, closed, borne by eight men and women of a similar age to the General presumably inside, meandered past him. He tried to ignore the emotions of the crowd, as much as that was possible. There were just so many of them. He couldn’t possibly process them all.
“He was a good General,” the young man next to him whispered suddenly, “Perhaps the best we had. They’re doing the last rites later, in a private service. Just the family.”
Wilom nodded, and silently wished the man a smooth journey to the River. Wilom had no idea whether the General had agreed with the war or not, and what he’d done in the fighting, but that didn’t really matter anymore.