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Friday, April 27, 2018

Hide And Seek

As luck would have it, that very afternoon, Drew entered the library where Jordan had closeted himself, mainly to avoid any of the other occupants of the house. Many of the guests had left earlier that morning, though some still remained and seemed to spill into all the rooms in which he had sought solitude. Clearly, their houseguests had little inclination to things literary, to his enormous relief.

After a brief exchange which might be called ‘catching up’ in any normal family, Jordan wasted no time in raising his dilemma. “The question remains, however, what I would do should I decide to resign my commission. Edward is full of vague promises, but—”

“I would not count on our oldest brother.” Drew interrupted Jordan’s statement with a swiftness that spoke volumes. “We both know the extent to which he would go to avoid meeting his obligations, family be damned.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Jordan responded, thankful that his brother wasted no unnecessary time on platitudes or pretence. “Which still leaves the matter of life after the army. I am quite resigned to the simple truth that I shall have to make my own way. The question remains: what and where?”

Drew drew a breath and fixed his gaze on his glass as if it could somehow provide the answers. His thoughtful expression suggested he had something on his mind, but aside from that, there were no clues as to what that might be. Jordan, long since accustomed to the reality that his brother gave nothing away until he had sifted the facts very carefully, took a slow sip of his brandy and resigned himself to what could be a lengthy wait.

Surprisingly, he had only swirled the amber liquid in his glass a few times before Drew took a breath and cleared his throat. “What are your thoughts on the Cape?” he asked, the apparent deviation from their previous discussion catching Jordan unprepared.

“The Cape?” He set his glass down carefully. “What about it?”

“Have you considered settling there?” The question seemed simple enough. On the surface, Drew’s interest in the answer seemed merely cursory, but Jordan knew better. The family politician was adept at hiding his true feelings, but it was unlikely that he asked out of simple curiosity. There had to be a very good reason behind the seemingly innocuous enquiry. Jordan’s mind raced through various possibilities, discarding them all as unlikely. Still, he couldn’t move beyond the obvious conclusion that his brother had knowledge of something that might make the Cape worth thinking about.

“Not in any definite way,” he hedged, conscious of the lengthening silence and vexed beyond measure at the unreadability of his sibling.

“Well, you might want to change your mind.” Drew made a movement as if to stand, and Jordan knew the moment was all but past. Any aid he might receive from his brother was rapidly sliding beyond his grasp. Inwardly cursing the sense of need that compelled him to speak, he plunged in and hoped his tone did not reflect his sudden desperation.

“What do you know that I don’t? Come, Drew, don’t be vague. I’m an officer, so you can trust me not to blab what I hear in this room. But if you know something worth knowing…”

He let his statement trail into nothing. Somehow, he simply couldn’t bring himself to beg. That was not how they did things in his family. True, they never asked for help, either. He’d learned the stupidity of that particular trait, but still, a man had his pride. Asking was one thing, but the manner of it didn’t have to diminish one in the process. This was the crucial moment. He recognised that as he watched Drew’s carefully blank expression for clues he knew would not be forthcoming.

Jordan held his breath, waiting—hoping—to hear something that would alter the direction of his life.
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