Icarus Transfigured by m. l. teague (page 24)

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shady tree

Chapter Nine, Section Three

The two reemerged on the sidewalk after a few faltering steps. During their absence the early afternoon light had come and gone. Buildings were giving umbrage to longer shadows along Fairfax.

Seeing Emma wounded made Aloysius’ feelings complicated. Some of the paternalism he bore for Brae was now being portioned out to the practically parentless photographer. He doubted Emma was aware of Erica’s involvement with the married man; and, were it true that she too was caught up with him, betrayal loomed in her future on two fronts. His emergence on the scene put him in good position to comfort her, but he could not say from where this comfort would issue. He was not an opportunist by nature, yet found his crosscurrent of attraction and fatherly regard for the young woman dizzying. It was the father in him that wanted to salvage something of her spirits. “Emma is a beautiful name,” he told her.

Her face brightened. “I’m named after Emma Wodehouse. Jane Austen’s heroine.”

Aloysius smiled. “She’s my favorite writer.”

“You’ve read her books?”

“No. I have video box sets of all her novels.”

Emma puzzled, “Why do you like her?”

The man turned it over. “My friend says poets write tragedy, but philosophers write comedy. Austen’s philosophical outlook on life was similar to Aristotle’s: a place for everything and everything in its place. She was even Aristotelian in marrying off young women to older men.”

“So who do you prefer? Emma, or Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice?”

“I love both, equally.”

“Why?”

“Because they both had good relationships with their fathers. That always bodes well for a woman.”

Emma looked off through the windshield with another shade of barely there melancholy. “When I was a little girl, my father always had money to buy me dresses.”

The bittersweet cast to her face prompted the bachelor to make an observation. “I suspect you may also have a little Emma Bovary in you.”

His close study touched her. “Is that another book you haven't read?”

“No. I had to read that one in college.”

She laughed, and turned over a few stones herself. “You know, you haven’t said anything about your art.”

Aloysius demurred. “My art is like a crazy aunt you keep in the attic. You only get to meet her if you agree to meet the folks for Thanksgiving.”

“Does that mean I have to date you to see your art?”

Her broad grin indicated the question was likely rhetorical.

She stayed in this vein. “Do you have a sweetheart?”

Her disarming inquiry made him equally candid. “I’ve made a few attempts at dating in school, but it never worked out. (Not that anything would have worked out in my twenties.)”

“Are you one of those hopelessly misunderstood romantics who writes poems to girls?”

He did not reply.

“Have you written a poem to me?”

Aloysius stared at the passenger window.

The woman’s excitement was not dampened. “I’ve always fancied myself a muse. I can be your muse. You can paint me!”

“You may be of a different mind after meeting the crazy aunt.”

Emma laughed again. “You mentioned your twenties. How old are you?”

“Thirty-six.”

“You look to be my age!” A customary pause followed the declaration, but she quickly observed, “Age isn’t that big a deal. Unless you’re drooling on your shoes.”

The graduate student answered a question that had not been asked: a question posed by her subconscious mind and to which she gave a verbal response. The question being: Does age matter when there is attraction? It was hard to say whether the reply was an assessment of her possible involvement with the professor, or an unwitting betrayal of feeling for him. Aloysius turned again to the window to hide this guilty knowledge.

Emma slowed after turning onto Broadway, pondering. “Would you like to keep me company while I shoot pictures out at the putt-putt golf park?”

Aloysius’ silence always meant acquiescence.

The photographer swung around short of the coffeehouse and sent the car speeding in the opposite direction.

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