edhi was in the kitchen, working on his lamb, when George arrived, looking tired but oddly relaxed.
Cora kissed him on both cheeks, blushing when she realized she’d fallen back into the French way of behaving.
“Sorry,” she said. “I’ve been spending too much time with the Europeans.”
“That’s great that Juliette’s home safe,” George said. “How’s she doing?”
“It’s weird,” Cora said, leaning in close, tilting her head to where Juliette sat in the corner, deep in conversation with a dark-haired young man. “It’s as if she went for a little stroll in the woods, not ran away and then got shot at by criminals.”
“Did they catch anybody?” George asked, but before Cora had a chance to answer, Medhi called to her from the kitchen.
“Cora, these knives are disgraceful. Why don’t you have a goddamn sharpener in this house?”
Blushing for the second time in as many minutes, Cora excused herself and went into the close little kitchen with Medhi, who was rifling through drawers and muttering in French.
“Don’t yell at me like that in front of a roomful of people!” she hissed. “You’re not my husband anymore, and even if you were, I don’t like to be talked to like that!”
Back in Paris, through the years of their marriage and running the restaurant together, she’d grown accustomed to Medhi’s bark and also grown accustomed to not confronting him, knowing that would only lead to a bigger blowup. But since she’d been back in Arkansas, she’d found herself wishing that she hadn’t let him get away with bullying her, that she’d spoken up for herself more even if that had forced their marriage to the brink. She’d been keeping the peace and look where it had gotten them: Apart and alienated.
“I don’t like to be talked to like that either!” said Medhi, switching into French. “And I’m still your husband and always will be!”
“This isn’t the fucking Middle Ages, you cretin,” she said, back to English again. “And as for the knife, deal with what’s here or let me do the cooking.”
She reeled out into the main room, where everyone had either not heard the altercation in the kitchen, or was pretending they hadn’t. She wished Juliette weren’t all involved with Hugo like that. She’d never trusted the guy, who was wildly in love with Juliette one day, frosty and distant the next. And now that he was here, he and Medhi, she was afraid that somehow they were going to spirit Juliette back to Paris with them and leave her alone. Or persuade her to go too.
George was talking to LaTonya now, Darrell sitting beside them, staring into space as if he’d been hit in the head with a two by four.
Cora put a hand on his shoulder. “Are you okay, honey?” she asked.
He nodded dumbly, and then she noticed that he was staring not into the ether but directly at Juliette and Hugo.
“Don’t worry about that,” she murmured. “He’ll be gone soon and she’ll be here with you.”
I hope, she thought to herself.
“Cora!” Medhi again, standing in the kitchen doorway, hands on his hips.
How had she ever married such a Neanderthal, never mind put up with him all these years? When he’d first arrived, terrified that they’d lost Juliette, they’d pulled together and she’d been able to remember everything she’d always loved about him: his strength, his focus under pressure, his energy and his ability to act where others endlessly debate. She’d allowed herself to admire his broad shoulders, his dark curls, the lips she’d kissed thousands of times. She’d even started to think that maybe, in the flush of finding Juliette, they might all be together again.
But now he’d reverted to his old controlling ways and she just wanted him gone.
“What?” she said, facing him, placing her own hands on her hips.
He pointed the knife toward where she’d just been standing. “Who is that man?”
She was confused. “Darrell?”
“I didn’t say boy, I said man. The one talking to the boy’s mother.”
She looked. “Oh, that’s George. The vet, out from the racetrack. Don’t you remember? He’s the one who brought Jamie home, and who took care of my father.”
“You’re sleeping with him?” said Medhi in French.
Again, Cora felt herself blush, this time as red as the flesh of the lamb.
“No!” she said, in French now too. “Don’t be crazy.”
“I see the way he looks at you. I can smell it on you.”
“You’re being ridiculous, Medhi. It’s not true. And even if it were, who I sleep with isn’t your business anymore.”
“My business!” roared Medhi. “I’ll show you my business.”
And with that, he let the knife clatter to the floor, pulled her into his arms, and right there in front of everyone, he kissed her.
Cook Medhi’s roast lamb.