Chapter 19

Shae looked in disbelief as Neva Langley trounced into her sitting room on Thanksgiving Day.  She was followed by Aunt Martha and Beatrice.  The latter gave her an apologetic look.  Shae nodded at her understanding. The former carried the air of a queen as she found a place to sit, demanding to know where her nephew was.

“I’ll have Canton get him.”

Shae also asked Canton to inform everyone that there was a 5th place setting to be put at the table.  He bowed and did her bidding.

“What time is the meal?  I don’t want to be stuck here for an ungodly amount of time,” Aunt Martha complained.

“It will be ready shortly.”

Within a few minutes, Matheson joined them.  The asked him many questions about his trip to New York.  His cousin asked him if he heard many symphonies while there.  (No, he was working.)  His aunt asked him if he had gotten into any trouble while he was there.  (No, he was too busy working.)  Neva had the audacity to ask him why a newlywed husband would deign to leave his wife for six months. (Why would any properly-brought up lady deign to ask such a question?) His wife asked him nothing, and said nothing.

“Pardon me,” Canton interrupted. “The meal is now ready.”

They made their way to the dining room, and were starting to sit down to eat when a knock sounded on the front door.  The Matheson’s looked at each other.

“Surely, he doesn’t have the audacity to show up after yesterday’s debacle,” she whispered to Matheson under her breath.

“Trust me, he does,” he muttered.

Sure enough, John McClure, complete with one ugly specimen of a black eye strode through the door.  Beatrice gasped.  Neva clucked her tongue.  The rest looked on in annoyance. Shae and Matheson for obvious reasons.  Aunt Martha, just because she didn’t like him.  Did she really like anyone, besides Rand?

“Shall I set a place for 6?” Canton asked.

“Yes, please, Canton,” Shae replied.  “Thank you.”

Once it was all set up, they thanked God for their bounty, and began eating.  Neva flirted first with Rand, and then with McClure in order to get a reaction from Rand. Neither worked, so she turned to Beatrice to talk, but found that Beatrice was talking to Shae about music, of all things. She resorted to talking to Aunt Martha, who had little tolerance for Neva’s silly games. Finally bored to distraction, she asked McClure where he got his black eye.

“I bet he got it from a tiny slip of a woman,”  suggested Matheson.

“No!” Neva gasped. “Surely not.”

“Actually, yes,” McClure admitted.

“And,” Matheson added, “I bet that she also beat him on the back with her reticule.”

“Yes,” McClure affirmed, as he put a bite of mashed potatoes in his mouth.

“This is too much!” exclaimed Neva, loudly laughing in Aunt Martha’s ear.

“It certainly is,” commented Aunt Martha, dryly.

“And to finish off her routing of you, I bet that she even pulled your beard!”

“Surely not!” Beatrice interjected, catching on, glancing at Shae.

McClure wiped his mouth with his napkin, then he stroked his beard. He winked at Shae.

“That she did.  That she did.”

It was Shae’s time to interject now.

“Actually, I bet she finished it off with a resounding kick in the shin, wouldn’t you say?”

Shae started giggling when Matheson gave her a side glance. With this John McClure’s boisterous laugh resounded in the dining room.  Soon everyone joined in, except Aunt Martha. She didn’t get the joke.  Neva didn’t either, thinking it to be a wild hare, but she was pretending to.  Besides, it was hard not to laugh when McClure was in a full-out howl, tears running down his cheeks.  One had to be a very dour individual to not be effected by it. 

“Actually she did, but thankfully that kick wasn’t for me.  I quite despise kicks on the shin.  I’d much rather have a good story with my black eye.  With a shin bruise, you can’t show off your trophy.”

And with that all of them, but Aunt Martha, started laughing again.  When the peals of laughter died down, Aunt Martha piped up.

“Really, John.  Your laugh has always been terribly indecent.”

Neva nervously tittered, until Aunt Martha glared at her.  However, if you were trying to look for it, you would have seen her give John McClure a little wink.  He was looking, and he bet that when she was getting ready to lay down in bed that night, she’d have a few private chuckles about the whole thing.  And he was right.

Later on that evening, when Aunt Martha, Beatrice and Neva were engrossed in a game of cards, McClure joined the Mathesons in the study.  He wanted to apologize for his back-handed ways.  They got the results he wanted, but at the expense of his friends’ feelings.

He told them so and they accepted his apology.  They saw his intent in the end was to save their marriage.

“My biggest concern is that you won’t be able to convince anyone of your undying affection for each other,”  McClure said.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell Shae.”

“Who’s fault is that, you lout?” countered his friend, “I warned you that your meager scribbles and lack of attention would destroy your camaraderie.”

Shae looked down at her hands.  Rand saw once again, how foolish he had been.

“I don’t know how to fix it,” he admitted.

McClure rolled his eyes. He got up, and grabbed one of each of their hands.

“We will be at a ball.  Let’s start with that. Pretend you are there and dancing a polka.”

They began to dance.  He threw out few other dances, all of which were difficult to do without music. Finally, called out the waltz.

“Stop,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Can’t you get closer to each other?”

At first, they just stared at McClure, but then they obliged and stepped closer.

“Closer still. I want to believe that you want to be near each other.  Shae your face is about alive as that of a dead fish.”

She glared at McClure.  Then Rand pulled her as close as he did that one evening at the ball, nearly a year ago.

“Look at me,” he told her. “Otherwise you’ll get dizzy.”

“Now waltz,” barked McClure.

McClure was so bossy that she wanted to pull his beard again.

“What’s that fierce look for?”

“MCCLURE.”

Her eyes snapped.  He laughed, and it rumbled through her body.  His charisma was getting to her again.

“Stop. Stop. Better, but still not enough,” conceded McClure.

He strolled across the room looking at the pictures on the wall, as they caught their breaths. As he was perusing, he found a small closet built into the wall.

“What’s this here? A wee closet?”

“That’s exactly what it is, McClure,” Matheson replied.

McClure seemed perplexed by something he found in there.

“I say, Shae.  Did you know this was in here?”

He was pointing at the something high on the shelf. Shae went over to see what he was talking about.  Shae tried to see, but she was too short.

“Your wife is too short, to see what I’m seeing, Rand.  Come have a look yourself.”

Matheson sighed, but obliged.  His friend stepped out of the way so he could get a better look.  At about the time he was going to ask what he was supposed to be looking for, McClure pushed him into the closet with Shae and locked the door.

“McCluurrrrrrrre,” he growled.

Shae felt his rumbling through her whole body.  It was a very small closet, which made very close quarters. She was afraid of small spaces, and their situation made her uncomfortable, so she wiggled around, which made her husband uncomfortable.

“Hold still, Shae.”

“Then stop growling.”

“McClure, what are you up to?”

No answer.

“You know he is up to something,” Shae said.  “I can’t say “no good”, because somehow, no matter how hare-brained his ideas seem, his shenanigans end up doing some sort of good. What do you think his purpose is?”

“Can’t you guess, Wife?” he asked, his breath tickling her ear.

“I have some ideas as to why.  Maybe I can unlock the door?”

“It locks from the outside only.”

“Hmm.”

She looked up at him.

“How have you stayed friends with him for so long?”

“He has his good qualities. Plus, he is usually right, even if his methods are a bit unorthodox.”

“A bit?” she huffed. “He’s locked us together in a tiny supply closet in our own home. How did he get the key for this closet anyway?”

“He always has his ways.”

“We’re going to have to get back at him someday for this,” Shae suggested.

“I agree wholeheartedly.  Shake on it?”

Clumsily, they figured out a way to shake hands.  Shae was nestled between his two arms, which were propped on a shelf behind her.

“I can’t believe we were daft enough to fall for the one of the oldest tricks in the book.”

They laughed softly, until they heard the sound of Neva’s voice.

“Where could have they gone?” she asked. 

“I saw them whispering to each other, looking like they wanted some privacy.”

Rand sighed and hung his head. Shae stifled a giggle.

“Surely you don’t believe that they are a love match, Mr. McClure?”

“Don’t you?”

“A man gone away for 6 months, apart from the love of his life?  I don’t believe it.”

“You don’t need believe it, Neva.  It’s none of your business.”

His voice sounded right outside the door. They could hear the scratch of the key in the lock.

“What do we do?” Shae frantically asked Matheson.

He looked at her for a split second, then he mussed his hair. The door lock clicked.  He ran his big hands through her hair, taking out a few pins. She pushed at his chest.

“What did you do that for?” she whispered, rather loudly.

They heard McClure start to chuckle, but cover it up by clearing his throat.

“You just have to accept it,” McClure said to Neva as he went to sit in a chair.

Quick as can be, Rand’s arms went around Shae like vices, one on her waist and the other in her hair.  Then his mouth came down on hers, so warm.  At first she was stiff with shock, then she realized that she rather liked it. She felt safe in his arms.  Plus, he smelled good. She put his arms around his neck, and sighed, melting into him.  Matheson seemed to hold her tighter when he heard it.  It was at that moment that the closet door slowly swung open to reveal the Mr. and Mrs. Matheson in a passionate kiss.

They stopped abruptly at the sound of Neva’s gasp.  She was shocked at the sight of them, and in a deep way, because Rand looked quite satisfied with himself stepping out of the closet, leading Shae bwho followed him looking rather blissful.  True to McClure, when he looked at Neva he looked shocked, but when he looked at the Matheson’s, he smiled and winked. He turned back and forth a couple of times, changing his face appropriately, making Shae giggle.  Luckily, she just seemed to be embarrassed at being caught kissing her husband in a supply closet.

McClure had done it again.  With his preposterous schemes he managed to fix a bad situation.  Neva spent the next week at afternoon teas, telling the community what she had seen in happening in the Matheson’s closet.

As for the Matheson’s, as they were retiring for the night, they climbed the stairs together.

“I’m sorry if I startled you with that kiss in the closet.  As soon as I heard Neva and McClure talking, I knew what he was about. We didn’t have much time.”

“It was shocking at first, much like the kiss under the mistletoe.  But I thought the kiss was actually quite nice.”

And with that she went into her room.  She thought she might have heard Matheson growl “me too”.

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