Come Home to Roost

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Now that I'm ready, I should go check on sick Rodrigo or swing by Tig's to see if she's recovered from yesterday's panic attack. Before that, I have somewhere I really want to be and we sort of made an appointment.


* * *


It takes me a good twenty-five minutes to reach Domenica's house at a normal speed. When I ring, her son opens the door.

"Hi, Nathan," I say. I'm much better at communicating with kids when they're not creeping out on me a three a.m. "Is Domenica home? We were supposed to meet here after I was done with work."

"Yeah, she's on the phone," he says, moving aside to let me through, "in the living room." I'm guessing that room full of antiques we were in last time. I hear her talking from here anyway.

"There's coffee in the kitchen, if you want?" he says. I look down. Nathan is waiting, being the perfect host while telling me 'nuh-uh, no one bothers my mom on the phone'. I try to smile at him. His surprising maturity makes me feel like an awkward teenager.

"Sounds good," I say. "Also, sorry about last night. Did you manage to fall back asleep OK?"

"It was alright." He's not one to make small talk, I see. That leaves me in the shoes of the annoying one, who asks all the embarrassing questions. I accept.

"I guess you just got back from school. Is it fun over there?" I say. I would have hated answering that question years earlier, but here we go. Maybe he's still at an age where this question is fine. I have no idea what his age is, precisely. I'm making a pretty lousy adult impression.

"Hum, we're on vacation right now, but no. It's not that fun," he says. Landmine. Shit! I don't have a single good advice on bullying or being a loner.

"Last week, a lot of the people were getting sick," he says. "My friends, the teachers... They say it's a probably a flu. They just went home healthy and didn't come back the next day." He frowns, worried. "If I just left Mr. Beady at home, I'm sure I could help, but mom doesn't want me to."

Playing nurse with a plush toy? That's adorable. "Nathan, I'm sure you mean well, but the best thing to do when people get sick is to wait 'till they're better. Don't worry, a week seems like a long time but your friends will be OK."

It's not exactly surprising, anyway. Hail and storms in July! Who wouldn't get sick?

There is a sound in the living room. I think Domenica's done with her phone call. I may have showered, but I can't help fiddling with my hair and wondering if my clothes are fine. This is silly, she knows I was wearing the same stuff yesterday. Maybe I really should have gone back to my place first. I was worried she might be waiting. I blush. Stupid.

"I'm gonna go see if she's done, OK?" I say. Nathan nods.

It's time to be brave. I cross the corridor and open the door. Domenica turns towards me and I am ushered in by a hurried hand sign. Without pausing her call, she points a finger upwards and I read 'one minute' on her lips. Still not done, I guess.

It's weird seeing her being all business-like. I have a feeling she very much lives for her job. We're nothing alike, are we? "I know, Petrus," she says, "but are you sure these are the exact readings? We can't have our credibility put in question, I need you to check again. Do ten samples if you have to, as long as the commission gets out of our way... Yeah. Yeah... Not really."

From the looks of it, it's not a talk we need, it's a full body massage. It's been a while since my last job and I'm sore. Now that I think about it, maybe that's why riding the bike felt like I was trying to push a rolling stone uphill with my legs.

"Listen, as long as we can get the readings approved, we're bound to get that on-site inspection clearance. They want to know as much as we do. OK. Please get back to me as soon as you get the news. Thank you. Bye."

Domenica turns towards me and gives me a sorry smile. She grabs my hands to say hello. I can't say I'm against it.

"Sorry, I've been really busy today, possible confirmation of... stuff, I'm a bit under pressure", she says, pulling a face like it's no big deal.

I chuckle. "No kidding!" She's so tense she hasn't sat on the couch yet. "Come here, relax, OK?" I pat the space next to me. I feels good to have someone to care for.

A knock on the door. Nathan opens. "Mom, I wanted to go see Jeremy, can I?"

"As long as you don't play near the road, cariño." He makes a little victory dance and closes the door. He's so independent, I'm almost worried about him. Shouldn't he just be a kid? Be mildly annoying, demanding, impulsive yet too cute to be scolded?

"Did you teach him Spanish?" I ask Domenica. She looks at me like she was thinking about something else entirely. "What? Oh, yes. I mean, no! I don't know a word of Spanish. Cariño is just a nickname my grandma gave me. I stuck with it for Nathan."

"Oh." Did I just make a sort of racist assumption? Argh. Uuh. Please may the ground open beneath my feet.

Domenica sees me making a face and laughs. "Don't worry about it! My family is of Latino American descent and I'm proud of it. You're allowed to ask questions, I know you meant well. I was just... distracted."

"About that phone call?" I say. "You really are into your job, ain't you?"

"Not always," she says, smiling, "but some days are exciting. what about you? Did you get there in time?"

I think about it. "Nope, and no one made a fuss about it. They were weird. I spent my whole day in the part where all the coops are, boy do those chicken leave a mess. You wouldn't believe..." I lost her to her thoughts again. I know she doesn't mean anything by it, but it stings.

"What's going on, Domenica?" I say, worried. "I get that you're busy and all so, do you want me to come back another time when you're more... available?"

She throws a confused look at me. "Oh no! I mean, I'm so sorry, I keep thinking about... It's OK, you're totally right, I need to get out of my working mood. I swear."

"Or we could talk about your job," I say, "in case you need to unwind something."

Domenica stops and thinks hard. She keeps fiddling with my hand as a stress relief. It's sort of funny. "Well, I don't know if you'd be receptive to..." She shakes her head to get rid of her hesitation. She looks at me straight in the eyes, focused and full of hope.

"Do you believe in the supernatural?"


* * *


OK, officially leaving the grounds of rationality now, let's see where that leads us!

Sorry and respect to all the real archaeologists doing a great job out there ;)

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