Rix_Scadeau has sponsored part of the story (Approximately 46%), and so I will post the sponsored part here.
Yes, even though that ends in the middle of a sentence.
The remaining story can be sponsored for $5.45 until Saturday, at which point it rises to normal price. 🙂
There were times when Winter thought his mother had chosen to have him first, to be there for the girls when their father was gone.
It wasn’t a possibility he ever talked about; Mom, who would know, he’d never ask. Other people would either think he was crazy for at least three facets of that thought, and the ones who wouldn’t, well, were either just as close to the situation as he was, or would have reactions to it he wouldn’t find comfortable.
Pre-planned or not, he had been the father figure to his sisters since he was seven years old and now, as an adult with his “daughters” grown up and out of the house, he found the habits hard to put aside. His nature, the way the strands of the world reacted to him, was either created by that situation or exacerbated it, and either way seemed to solidify it.
He walked down the street, using one hand as he went to slowly comb smooth some small tangles in the strands of the world. The traffic unsnarled. The panicked stockbroker calmed. The off-tune singer found the proper notes. Order, in Winter’s world, wasn’t something to be shunned. It was the way things went, the way things ought to be.
He stroked the strands a little more intently as he passed a young mother with two crying children, and then had to shift his focus more clearly into the solid as the older child darted out towards traffic. Handling other people’s children as always a risk, but in this case, there was no choice. He crouched and caught the kid with one arm across the chest, lifting – him? Her? – her up and depositing her facing her nervous mother.
“Woah,” he said, in that jovial tone that seemed to work with girls that size. “Careful, there.” He nodded at the mother cautiously. She was a tangle of stress and emotions, a chaotic stew over-flavored with distress.
She nodded back, an exhausted gesture that barely took him in. “Thank you, sir.” No wedding band on the hand reaching for the child, but a vanishing callus where one had sat. Bags under her eyes. He took a chance, spurred on by the knots twisting in her.
“Winter.” He offered her his hand. “Winter Roundtree.”
He saw the moment she actually noticed him, the raised eyebrow as she took in his appearance: the tailored suit, the hair that might as well be white, the manicured hands. He smiled and gave his pat response. “One-eighth Cherokee on my father’s side.” Which, while it had nothing to do with the name, was both true and gave the appearance of an explanation.
“Aah. Well, thank you, Mr. Roundtree, for grabbing Mila here for me. She knows better than to run out into traffic; I don’t know what got into her.” That last bit was for the child as much as it was for him.
…a name was taking a chance, pulling out his card was tantamount to jumping off a cliff to try to catch a passing boat. But he did it anyway, pulled by a need to not let this boat get away. “One of my co-workers has kids about the same age as yours. She tells me the Ice Capades going on right now is quite good; they have a show Friday and another one Saturday..?” He left the absence of an invitation hanging in the air with the card.
She took the card, glancing curiously at his job title. “Law clerk. Hunh. I’ll give you a call Thursday either way.”
“Pleasure to meet you.” He nodded politely, smiled at the children, and combed a little extra calm into their strands once his back was turned.
He liked the law library. His sisters liked to twit him about it sometimes, and his mother despaired, her oldest child, a law clerk (normal parents might complain about jobs like itinerant painter, but hippies and women like Ernesta Roundtree worried their sons would grow up to be clerks and lawyers), but law was, at its purest, about humanity instilling order upon itself. And at its purest was how Winter worked hard to keep it.
In the library, too, his affinity for order (some said obsession, but those were people who didn’t understand him) fit right in. It was meditative, relaxing, to live in a place where everything was supposed to be smooth, perfect, and level. Whatever his mother might say, Winter found work restful.
He re-shelved another book, leveling its spine with the rest of the row, and was checking his list for his next task when his cell phone chimed softly. The number came up with an unfamiliar name, Marina Kuziemska. He stared at it for a moment; people he didn’t know didn’t often call him. Marina?
The woman with the two children had said she’d call on Thursday. That had been Tuesday, and this was only noon on Wednesday. Living with his sisters, two of whom tangled the universe by their very nature, had taught Winter how to deal with chaos, but his lip still curled a little in frustration before he answered the call.
“This is Winter RoundTree.” It could still be a wrong number.
“Winter? This is Marina Kuziemska. The, ah, the mother of the girl who ran into traffic?” She sounded rushed and nervous, so he took care to make his voice warm as he replied.
“I remember you, Marina.” Although he hadn’t been expecting her call until tomorrow, he had been thinking of her, pondering the tangles around her and how they could be smoothed out.
“Oh, good. I was worried! Well, ah, Henry and Mila and I discussed it, and if the offer’s still open, we’d love your company for the Ice Capades this Friday. The kids could use some fun.”
So could she, from the sounds of it. “Wonderful.” She probably wouldn’t take well to him offering to pick her up. “We could meet at the Metro stop right across the street from the Arena? I can be there at seven oh five.”
“Great! We’ll see you then. And, ah, Mr. Roundtree?” She was back to sounding nervous again; had he distressed her inadvertently?
“Thank you for saving my daughter’s life.”
Oh. Well. That sort of statement required a considered response. He nodded to the phone, knowing she couldn’t see it. “Think nothing of it.”
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