Home > Commonwealth(8)

Commonwealth(8)
Ann Patchett

In one sense only had Fix been right to send him out to find the baby: nobody knew him at this party and it had been easy for him to move through the crowd. It was something Cousins hadn’t realized until now when everyone turned their head in his direction. A woman as trim and tan as a stick stepped right in front of him.

“There she is!” she cried, and leaned in to kiss the yellow curls that feathered the baby’s head, leaving a wine stain of lipstick. “Oh,” she said, disappointed in herself. She used her thumb to try to wipe it up and the baby tightened her features as if she might cry. “I shouldn’t have done that.” She looked at Cousins and smiled at him. “You won’t tell Fix it was me, will you?”

It was an easy promise to make. He’d never seen the tan woman before.

“There’s our girl,” a man said, smiling at the baby as he patted Cousins on the back. Who did they think he was? No one asked him. Dick Spencer was the only person who knew him at all and he was long gone. As he cut a slow path to the kitchen he was stopped and encircled over and over again. Oh, the baby, they said in soft voices. Hey there, pretty girl. The compliments and kind words surrounded him. She was a very good-looking baby, he could see it now that they were in the light. This one looked more like the mother, the fair skin, the wide-set eyes, everybody said so. Just like Beverly. He jostled her up in the crook of his arm. Her eyes would open and then close again, blue beacons checking to see if she was still in his arms. She was as comfortable with him as any of his own children were. He knew how to hold a baby.

“She sure likes you,” a man wearing a gun in a shoulder harness said.

In the kitchen a group of women sat smoking. They tapped their ashes in their cups, signaling they were done. There was nothing left to do but wait for their husbands to tell them it was time to go home. “Hey there, baby,” one of them said, and they all looked up at Cousins.

“Where’s Fix?” he asked.

One of them shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “Do you have to go now? I’ll take her.” She held out her hands.

But Cousins wasn’t about to turn her over to strangers. “I’ll find him,” he said, and backed away.

Cousins felt like he had been walking in a circle around Fix Keating’s house for the last hour, first looking for the baby and then looking for Fix. He found him on the back patio talking to the priest. The priest’s girl was nowhere in sight. There were fewer people outside now, fewer people everywhere. The angle of the light coming through the orange trees had lowered considerably. He saw a single orange high above his head, an orange that had somehow been overlooked in the frenzy to make juice, and he raised up on his toes, the baby balanced in one arm, and picked it.

“Jesus,” Fix said, looking up. “Where have you been?”

“Looking for you,” Cousins said.

“I’ve been right here.”

Cousins nearly made a crack about Fix not bothering to try and find him but then he thought better of it. “You’re not where I left you.”

Fix stood up and took the baby from him without gratitude or ceremony. She issued a small sound of discontent at the transfer, then settled against her father’s chest and went to sleep. Cousins’s arm was weightless now and he didn’t like it. He didn’t like it one bit. Fix looked at the stain on the top of her head. “Did somebody drop her?”

“It’s lipstick.”

“Well,” said the priest, pushing out of his chair. “That’s it for me. We’ve got a spaghetti supper back at the church in half an hour. Everyone’s welcome.”

They said their goodnights, and as Father Joe Mike walked away he grew a tail of parishioners who followed him down the driveway, Saint Patrick marching through Downey. They waved their hands at Fix and called goodnight. It wasn’t night, but neither was it fully day. The party had gone on entirely too long.

Cousins waited another minute, hoping that Beverly would come back for the baby like she’d said, but she didn’t come, and it was hours past time for him to go. “I don’t know her name,” he said.

“Frances.”

“Really?” He looked again at the pretty girl. “You named her for yourself?”

Fix nodded. “Francis got me into a lot of fights when I was a kid. There was no one in the neighborhood who forgot to tell me I had a girl’s name, so I figured, why not name a girl Frances?”

“What if she’d been a boy?” Cousins asked.

“I would have named him Francis,” Fix said, yet again making Cousins feel he had asked a stupid question.

“When the first one was a girl we named her after Kennedy’s daughter. I thought, that’s fine, I’ll wait, but now—” Fix stopped, looking down at his daughter. There had been a miscarriage between the two girls, fairly late. They were lucky to get this second one, that’s what the doctor had said, though there was no point in telling that to the deputy district attorney. “It works out this way.”

“It’s a good name,” Cousins said, but what he thought was, Lucky you didn’t wait.

“What about you?” Fix said. “You’ve got a little Albert at home?”

“My son’s name is Calvin. We call him Cal. And the girls, no. No Albertas.”

“But you’ve got one coming up.”

“In December,” he said. Cousins remembered how it was before Cal was born, how he and Teresa would lie in bed at night saying names to one another in the dark. One name would remind her of a kid who got picked on in grade school, a kid who wore stained shirts and bit his thumbs. Some other name would remind him of a boy he never liked, a bully, but when they got to Cal both of them were happy. It was something like that when they were thinking up names for Holly, too. Maybe they’d spent less time on it, maybe they didn’t talk about it in bed, her head up on his shoulder, his hand on her stomach, but they’d picked it out together. She wasn’t named for anybody, just for herself, because her parents thought it was a beautiful name. And Jeanette? He didn’t even remember talking about a name for Jeanette. He’d been late getting to the hospital just that one time and if memory served he’d gone into the room and Teresa said, This is Jeanette. She would have been Daphne if anyone had asked him about it. They should talk about what they were going to name this new one. It would give them something to talk about.

Recommended
» Allegiant (Divergent #3) read online
» Never Too Far (Rosemary Beach #2) read online
» Eclipse (Twilight #3) read online
» Easy (Contours of the Heart #1) read online
» Unseen Messages read online
» I Am Legend read online
» The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) read online
» Divergent (Divergent #1) read online
» Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies #1) read online
» Breaking Dawn (Twilight #4) read online
» Fallen Too Far (Rosemary Beach #1) read online
» Forever Too Far (Rosemary Beach #3) read online
» Breakable (Contours of the Heart #2) read online
» Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) read online
» Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) read online
» The Darkest Seduction (Lords of the Underwo read online
» Rush Too Far (Rosemary Beach #4) read online
» Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5) read online
» Insurgent (Divergent #2) read online
» New Moon (Twilight #2) read online
» Twilight (Twilight #1) read online