Café Chocolaté

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Chapter XXXIII

Chapter XXXIII – Ginger Thomas

The café hadn’t been so quiet in what felt like hours. Ginger didn’t even know the time or how long had passed since the explosions or the discovery of Gary Bradshaw’s body. How long since Mary stabbed Eddie. Ginger had no concept of time anymore at all.

Eddie seemed to have gained some color in his face. He no longer resembled a breathing corpse. At least, not so much as he did before. Timothy still remained by his side, but he frowned less than before. Ginger hoped that would be a good sign. Still, it had been a long while since Eddie had opened his eyes, even though he also lay rather more still.

Anna stood from her interview with the cousins. She skirted Kimberly, eventually kneeling near Ginger in silence. Ginger could see evidence of tears, but wouldn’t go so far as to ask why. Timothy gave Anna a look but seemed to come to the same conclusion.

Anna looked as if she wanted to ask something, but the general silence seemed to hold her back. Even Mary Dill leaned back in a chair with a sleepy bearing.

Ginger saw Timothy start and look around the place with a deepening frown. He obviously didn’t like the silence much.

Fabian cleared his throat. He caught Ginger’s eye with a shrug. “We seem to have boiled down to a nice low simmer, haven’t we?”

No one answered him. Ginger didn’t think he much wanted one anyhow.

Mary Dill sat up when Fabian spoke, then sat watching him. The irrational desire to punch the woman’s nose in swept over Ginger. Just her face looks whiny.

Mary turned her staring toward Ginger and the waitress swiftly looked away. It took a few minutes before the woman’s pathetic voice punctured the quiet room.

“You told them why, didn’t you?”

Ginger ignored her, hoping the woman did not mean the question for her. No such luck.

“I know that you heard me. You told them why you disowned Eddie, didn’t you?”

Ginger grit her teeth, but still didn’t look up. “It hardly matters, I think.”

“Just tell her if you did.” Timothy kept his voice quiet but gave her a pleading look. “Perhaps she’ll let it go, if you do.”

Ginger sighed. She had little hope Timothy would be proven correct, but she would try. “Fine. No. It didn’t come up.”

She could have counted down from ten to Mary opening her mouth again. “I think you should tell us why you disowned him then.”

Ginger ground her teeth. “I told you before, Mary Dill, that is none of your business.”

“I don’t trust you.”

The waitress finally looked up. “The feeling is mutual.”

Mary crossed her arms, her lip in a pout. “Then you understand why I want more information!”

“Not really.” Ginger shrugged. “I can’t say that I want to know anything more about you than I already do.”

Mary tapped her foot and Ginger wished anyone else would engage with the woman. “I still think it’s because of his criminal record.”

“Eddie doesn’t have a criminal record! I keep telling you!” Ginger nearly yanked at her ponytail in frustration. “You do not give up, do you!”

“Why should I?” The unmistakable whine just added to Ginger’s fury. “If his own sister wanted to disown him, then-”

Ginger whirled, raising herself up on her knees. “Sometimes, people force you to make decisions that you don’t want to make!” Ginger raised her voice and, frankly, didn’t care at the moment. “They make you choose between them and another person – and the person who gets cut off doesn’t always deserver it!”

She saw Adrian had stood up and Eddie tugged on her arm. Mary though, shook her head. “No one could make you choose to disown your brother, Ginger. Not unless he deserved it somehow.”

“My father did.”

“Ginger… Ginger, stop.”

She ignored Eddie’s remonstrance. “Eddie’s sole crime was surviving his birth. That’s it. So why don’t you leave him alone and mind your own business.

Ginger felt a hand on her shoulder, before she could say anything else. She jumped, before she looked at Timothy.

He dropped his arm. “Back down and leave her be.” His voice almost inaudible, she found it a wonder that she knew what he said.

With a last glance toward Mary Dill, Ginger obeyed. She could feel her hands shaking, along with everything else. Pulling her arm from her brother, she pulled her knees up to her chin, wrapping her arms tightly around them. Dropping her face onto her arms, she shut her eyes. Anna, still beside her but silent, put a tentative hand on her shoulder. Ginger didn’t move.

People should learn to be quiet and mind their own business. The woman had no right to keep nagging about something that affects her in no way, shape or form!

She vaguely heard Adrian talking to Mary. The woman’s voice grew louder. “She’s the one shouting. I asked a question!”

“I think the group, collectively, would enjoy less of your questions.” Fabian’s voice came next.

Ginger raised her head, choking back the sudden desire to cry. I will absolutely not do any such thing. She grit her teeth yet again.

“Ginger, come on.” She did not want to look at her brother. “You have to let it go.”

She finally turned her head in his direction, taking a deep breath. He looked worried.

I shouldn’t be worrying him. Not right now.

“Just let it go. It’s fine – I don’t really care that much.”

“You should! And I care.”

“Ginger.” Here his voice lowered. “I’m lying on the floor of the café with a knife wound in my side. I have no certain hope of a hospital in my future. My chances of seeing tomorrow are slim. What do I care if a melodramatic woman wants to keep accusing me of things I didn’t do?”

It wasn’t only the longest speech Eddie had given since being injured; it might have been the longest she had heard from him in five years. Despite her determination, Ginger could barely see her brother through the tears that threatened to fall down her cheeks.

“I can’t think like that.” She shook her head. “I refuse to think like that. Eddie, you have to be okay, because… You have to. It wasn’t my plan.”

“It rarely is.” He closed his eyes wearily.

Ginger just sat, watching him.

“Are you all right?”

She looked up at Timothy slowly, before raising her chin as his words sank in. “I’m always all right.”

He clearly did not believe her. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” She raised her eyebrows.

“No father should force such a decision on his daughter. Or his son.”

“He shouldn’t, but he did. He was sick. Eddie was young.” She looked up at Timothy, her heart sinking. “I chose because I didn’t want my father to die alone. He hasn’t died at all.” Ginger didn’t finish the half-formed thought in her head, and neither did anyone else.

Adrian Terrence joined them, bending down near Timothy with a sigh. “How is he doing?”

“Eddie is about the same. Maybe a shade stronger.” Timothy shook his head. “He’s doing as well as we could hope.”

Adrian nodded. “I’m still praying we can get him more help soon.”

Ginger watched him narrowly, before deciding to speak again. “I told the truth about why I disowned him. You have to believe me.”

“I didn’t ask.”

“But you will.” Ginger heard Eddie sigh, but she kept on. “So, you have my answer now, instead of later.”

Adrian watched her thoughtfully, until she wanted to slap him into looking elsewhere. He finally decided to speak. “I didn’t quite understand the reason for your father’s enmity. Because Eddie survived his birth – what did that mean?”

“Does it matter?”

“My mother died the week I was born.” Eddie’s voice, rather slow and quiet but determined, started Ginger. “He blamed me. Always did. He put with me until I could legally move out. That’s the long and short of it.”

“I’m sorry.”

“That’s… just how it is.”

What Adrian or anyone else might have answered or asked next, Ginger never knew because at that moment, Mary Dill shrieked. Literally no one knew why, but they all turned.

In the two seconds that followed, Renee screamed and Fabian Smith crashed to the ground.

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