Chapter: Kyle and Adriana

Entry: Oct 1, 2007

Why couldn't it have been spaghetti? Everyone loves spaghetti.

Kyle sat at the table and gawked at his plate, wondering exactly what the slug-like blob surrounded by saut├ęd onions could possibly be, until Adriana's mother Constance informed him it was liver and onions, a family favorite. That she did this wearing a distasteful expression, as if explaining proper fecal disposal methods to an anxious chimpanzee, soured Kyle's stomach.

Thankfully Adriana's father seemed in much better spirits, though Kyle occasionally caught a skeptical eye gazing his way.

"So, Kyle," said Sammuel through a good-natured smile, "where did you live before moving out to God's Country?"

Of course. That question Kyle never really know how to answer. Living the life of a nomad thanks to Frank, they'd graced each coast and everywhere in between. "Would you believe me if I said 'everywhere?'" Kyle offered.

Sammuel waved a hand, go on.

"Well," he started, "I moved here from Detroit—" Constance reacted as if slapped, turning her lips down into—if such were possible—a more grim frown than before. Kyle noticed, but decided to nervously continue. "But before that?" He shrugged. "Dad says we started out in a log cabin in Montana, but..." Kyle shook his head. "I only remember after I was five. We've lived in most of the major cities: New York, Chicago, Las Angeles, and Detroit. But every once in a while, Dad 'craved a rest,' and we would move somewhere like Puyallup in Washington, or Brewster in Kansas."

Kyle took a bite of liver and found, surprisingly, that it didn't taste nearly as terrifying as it looked. Kyle swallowed, half wondering why his mother never prepared liver. Dad must hate it.

"Not much else to say, really," he finished. "We're really just passing through, if I know Frank." And I know Frank. Maybe I can finish a school year this time.

Through Kyle's long explanation, Adriana's mother relaxed slightly, and though Kyle could have imagined it: was that a hint of a smile when he implied they'd soon leave? Adriana's father merely chewed thoughtfully, mulling more than just a mouthful of liver.

"I thought about doing that, a long time ago," said Adriana's father after a rough swallow. "Moving around, that is. But that was before I met Constance, here." He reached over and pat his wife's leg. "I'd hate to drag my family around on my wild adventures."

This guy needs to talk to Frank, Kyle mused. But he smiled, feeling more at ease even with Adriana's mother mere feet from his left, projecting a hostile aura. Interloper! said her body-language.

Sammuel cleared his throat. "So do you like it here? I mean"—his arms sailed skyward, hands spread wide—"would you stay if you could?"

Before Kyle could answer, Constance piped-in. "Of course not! We're too boring for a city-boy like you. Not that I could blame you for thinking so," she said haughtily. She sniffed.

Both Adriana and her father spun their heads and regarded her in shock. "Mother!" Adriana protested.

Kyle couldn't help himself. Maybe it was the drama, Adriana's wide-eyed reaction, or how exceedingly wrong Constance was, but Kyle burst into increasingly painful-looking laughter. It didn't happen often, but every once in a while Frank would tell a joke so outrageous or a story so absolutely—and likely unintentionally—hilarious, that Kyle found his cheeks hurt from the constant spasms as his face contorted and giggles gripped his chest. It was a short bout on this occasion, maybe twenty seconds, but Constance's rude remark was so outlandish, it hardly seemed possible.

He sobered slightly upon seeing Constance switch to an indignant, horrified expression. Wiping a tear from his eyes and squeezing an uneven sigh through his abused lungs, he wagged his head. "I'm sorry," he managed before a truncated chuckle percolated past his throat. "You know, you would be right, Mrs. Calloway, if you were talking about Sam or Jason."

Her mouth worked soundlessly, offense muting an eventual—and likely caustic—rebuttal.

Kyle suddenly felt very tired. Once again, he'd have to compress a much longer story framed as light dinner conversation. "There's a hill on the outskirts of town that's on the edge of the road through the mountains," he explained. "It's a perfect ridge over town; the whole place looks like a snow-globe from there. Of everywhere I've lived, that has to be the most beautiful thing I've seen."

"Craig's Hill," Adriana whispered to herself.

"You... you really think so?" Adriana's mother asked after a pregnant pause where nobody dared speak.

He nodded emphatically, chewing a hunk of liver.

After that, Constance maintained a contemplative posture through dinner. Could she really hate a boy who found beauty in their quaint little town?

Dessert, thankfully, was nothing more elaborate than vanilla ice-cream and what Adriana's father described as real maple syrup. Kyle found he enjoyed the concoction more than chocolate—another discovery they'd somehow missed in the Cemtes household.

"Have any pets, Kyle?" asked Sammuel between bites.

Kyle stiffened. Samson. Kyle nearly wet himself the morning he returned from... wherever Sal had taken him, when Samson ambled up the porch steps and huffed a dry bark, licking his hand. Worse, Kyle knew his father had been drinking the awful night they found Samson's ruined body, but Frank was bright and chipper when Kyle came downstairs for breakfast. If anything in his diary were true, that was incontrovertible proof that Tammond Dale and time itself didn't mix.

"I have a dog," mumbled Kyle, hoping Adriana's father wouldn't press the issue. "Saint Bernard." Arms wide to describe Samson's bulk.

"I love big dogs," Sammuel said with a wink. "They're delicious."

Kyle dropped his spoon. Suddenly he felt very exposed; anxious fear—a new topping for his ice-cream—churning in his belly.

The big man cracked a half-smile, reached over and clapped Kyle on the back with a disarming laugh. "You know I'm kidding, Kyle! Let's say we do these dishes so you two can study?" He stood and started grabbing bowls and spoons.

That joke would have been much funnier if Kyle hadn't tearfully mourned over the torn and mutilated corpse of his dog the night before. Back when Sal had been a vague dream, and nights in Tammond Dale meant forgetting the previous day. Was that question just a coincidence?

Kyle numbly roused from the table and half-staggered to the foyer, waiting for Adriana to give him the promised tour, and then they would study. He hoped he'd find some clue for his troubles; dinner and dessert notwithstanding, being in Adriana's house felt hazardous, and he desperately sought to leave very soon.

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