Part 26: link


    “No, Mr. Alator, we don’t need financing, we intend to buy the lot outright. Yes, that’s correct.”
    Arthur taps his pencil on his calendar Monday morning as he listens to the land developer telling him that what he’s doing is very unusual.
    “Unusual, yes, but it’s possible. I have the funds, I assure you.”
    He picks a piece of egg out from under his fingernail. How did that get there? “Excellent. Today, if possible… The largest of the three lots, yes… Four o’clock? That should be fine.”
    “You’ll bring the paperwork here? Great, my wife will appreciate that; she’s still learnin’ her way around some. Pendragon Law, downtown, yes. Oh, before I let you go, are there any builders you can recommend?”
    He jots down the names Alator gives him, deciding he’s going to cross-reference them with Gaius’ recommendations.
    “Thank you. See you at four.”
    Arthur presses the button to hang up the phone, keeping the receiver to his ear as he dials Guinevere.
    She’s very excited, and almost drops the phone.
    “Oh, and he gave me the name of a few builders. I’ll talk to Uncle and see who he recommends, and if any of them match up, we’ll give them a call.”
    “That sounds good. Um…”
    “Yes?”
    “I just had a thought this mornin’. Why don’t you call Mr. Helios, too, and see if he has any recommendations for builders? He wouldn’t recommend someone like Mr. Borden, you can bank on that.”
    Another phone call, Arthur thinks, but he knows she’s right. “I’ll do that. See you at four?”
    “I’ll be there at 3:45,” she says.
    “Even better,” he smiles. “You remember how to get here?”
    “Yes, Arthur, I actually know my way around better than you realize. I don’t stay home all day long on my days off, you know,” she gently chides.
    “Oh, right, sorry,” he chuckles. “All right, darlin’, I’m gonna go talk to Uncle and call Isaac. And then maybe I’ll get around to preparin’ this case I’m supposed to be workin’ on.”
    “Yes, don’t forget to earn your keep, Baby. You don’t need to rush, you know. Don’t neglect your job just ’cause you’re excited about this house.”
    “I won’t. Besides, once we get everything set, I’m puttin’ you in charge.”
    “What?”
    “Yep. Gotta go. See you this afternoon. Love you.”
    “Love you, too.”

xXx

    The one name in common between all three sources was Wagner Homes. Gaius assured Arthur that it was run by a lovely couple that treated people well. Helios informed him that they employ colored and white workers equally and pay them equally and fairly, based on experience and skill, not on skin color.
    He would know, Arthur allowed, once again humbled by his lack of connections in this town. Yet. I’ll get there.
    He knows Guinevere will be happy with a company that treats people with fairness and equality. He’s quite happy about that himself, in fact, and he calls them just before lunch.
    “Wagner Homes, this is Isolde, may I help you?” a rich female voice answers the phone.
    “Hello, Isolde, my name is Arthur Pendragon. My wife and I are interested in building a house, and we’d like to meet with you about making that happen.”
    “That is what we do, Mr. Pendragon,” she says. He can hear the smile in her voice. He smiles himself, remembering that he said much the same thing to Guinevere, never hoping to dream that she’d wind up being his wife three months later.
    “Do you have a lot?” she asks.
    “We will after 4 p.m. today,” he says. He tells her the address. He got the exact house number from Alator.
    “Oh, yes, I know the place. Those are lovely lots. Can’t beat lake view, right?”
    “It’s what sold my wife,” Arthur says.
    “I like your wife already, then,” she answers. “When would you be able to come in?”
    “Well, my wife and I can meet with you today, if you have an opening. Otherwise it might have to wait. She works Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I’m in court Wednesday.”
    He hears her flip through what surely must be an appointment book. “Booked solid today. Will you be done by Friday?”
    “I’m hopin’ to be, but all depends on how the trial goes, unfortunately. Put us down for Friday, and… wait something’s just been handed to me. Oh. My court time has been pushed to eleven. If you can do Wednesday morning first thing, we can be there.”
    “Wednesday at nine will work for us,” she says.
    “All right. If we’re not done by ten, I’ll have to scoot, but Guinevere should be able to take care of everything by that point. That’s my wife, Guinevere.”
    “I gathered that,” Isolde chuckles at him. “Arthur and Guinevere Pendragon, nine a.m. Wednesday,” she says, talking while she writes. “Do you have any ideas about what you’re looking for, Mr. Pendragon? Just so I can pull some drawings.”
    “Something big. At least… four bedrooms. And a three-car garage.”
    “Oh… all right, I’ll see what we can do. Perhaps you’d be interested in a custom home instead of going with one of our models?”
    “Hmm, I like the sound of custom.”
    “I’ll throw a few things together. You threw me with the three-car garage,” she admits, laughing.
    “Sorry about that,” Arthur apologizes. “I can’t wait to see.”
    “Um, can I ask what your price range is?” Isolde asks. “It will just help me with making preliminary plans, you know. Normally I wouldn’t ask until we meet face to face, but you’ve forced the issue.”
    “Ah. Um, the thing with that is, well, we really don’t have a price range,” Arthur says. “And by that I mean that money is no object.”
    “Oh! Well. That should make things easy, then…” she answers, completely thrown.
    “Good. Wednesday morning, then.”
    Arthur hangs up and sighs. I am done making phone calls. Shoot. Got to make one more.
    He rubs his ear and then picks up the phone again to call Gwen.

xXx

    “Lunch, Arthur?” Morgana peeks into his office shortly after noon.
    “Sure, you buying?”
    “No, you are. Come on,” she says. He laughs and follows her out.
    “So, to what do I owe the honor of your company?” Arthur asks as they walk a few blocks to a diner they frequent.
    “Haven’t seen much of you since the wedding. You were off half of last week, and I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to you or Gwen since Saturday. And let’s face it, you two were pretty absorbed in each other on Saturday.”
    “Well, it was our wedding day,” Arthur says, shoving her lightly. They enter the diner and find a table.
    “Yes, yes, I know. Did you like my gift?”
    “Which one was yours again?” he asks, knowing perfectly well what it was.
    “The fluffy red towels, including the monogrammed ones for decoration,” she says, rolling her eyes.
    “Oh yeah, those,” Arthur grins. “They’re very nice, actually. Very soft, thank you.”
    They order their usual cheeseburgers, Arthur’s with bacon, Morgana’s with extra cheese.
    “So,” Arthur says, “what was all that between you and Merlin?”
    Morgana leans back in her seat. “I was wondering when you were going to bring that up.”
    “Well?”
    “He’s very sweet. Very talented. I like him a lot.”
    “I sense a ‘but’ coming.”
    “But, we agreed that it wouldn’t work. He doesn’t want to move up here. I don’t want to move down there. Not only that, I kissed him goodbye, and all I could think of was…” she trails off, not sure if she should voice the name to her cousin.
    “Alvarr?” Arthur supplies.
    “You’ve been talking to Gwen!” Morgana exclaims.
    “Maybe I could see it with my own eyes,” Arthur protests.
    “Please,” Morgana snorts. Their food arrives and Arthur digs in immediately. “You are the most clueless man in the free world,” she continues. “When you visited the summer before you went to college, the neighbors’ granddaughter Sharon was practically throwing herself at you all week and you were completely oblivious.”
    “She was? I just thought she was friendly,” he shrugs, his mouth full.
    “Oh, my God, Arthur,” she says, looking at the ceiling. “And Vivian Johanssen? I could hear it over the damn telephone! It’s a good thing Merlin steered her sights to that Andersen fellow so soon after you left or I wouldn’t have been surprised if she would have shown up at the office looking for a job!”
    “All right, all right, you’ve made your point,” Arthur says, holding his hands up in surrender.
    “Honestly, I’m surprised you managed to nab Gwen,” Morgana teases.
    “Well, she wasn’t throwing herself at me. In fact, she was trying to avoid me as much as she could. Romantically speaking.”
    “Ah, so that’s the trick,” Morgana says, chuckling. “Ignore you to get your attention.”
    “Well, that’s not exactly how it went,” Arthur is laughing now, too.
    “I do realize that there was more involved, yes,” Morgana says.
    “You should talk to him,” Arthur says after a bit.
    “Who?”
    “Alvarr, genius.”
    “I talk to him all the time. He’s as clueless as you.”
    “Heh. Try ignoring him, then.”
    “Maybe I should,” she says, dipping a French fry into her ketchup.
    “He might notice the change, if nothing else.”
    “Hmm.”
    “I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed that you and Merlin aren’t going to work,” Arthur admits.
    “I would have killed him eventually,” Morgana says, smirking.
    Arthur laughs again. “Probably.”

xXx

    Gwen sits at the kitchen table, phone to her ear, a pencil and a pad of paper in front of her. She is alternately doodling and taking notes.
    “Yes, thank you, Dr. Barrett. I’ll get my transcripts sent over to that address,” she says. She glances at the clock. 3:30. This call is taking longer than I anticipated. “They will? Great. In the meantime, can you send me a brochure or a course catalog so I can see what options I might have? Thank you very much.”
    Gwen stands and starts gathering her purse and keys. “Yes, the transcripts will be under the name Guinevere Thompson. I just got married… Thank you,” she smiles. “All right, I will call them tomorrow and get that set in motion. Thank you for your time. Have a good afternoon,” she says, trying not to hurry off the phone too much. She grabs her coat and flies out the door.
    Arthur’s head lifts at the soft knock at his office door. Guinevere. “Come,” he beckons.
    “Sorry I’m a little late,” Gwen says.
    “Only two minutes,” Arthur says, standing and coming over to her. He takes her coat and hangs it up in a small closet within his office, then pulls her close for a kiss. “Hello,” he purrs. “I’ve missed you.”
    “I missed you, too. We’re ridiculous,” Gwen giggles, kissing him again.
    “Ridiculously in love,” he counters, leaning her backwards in his arms, dipping her and kissing her.
    “Arthur, we’re in your office,” she reminds him.
    “The door’s closed.”
    “And Mr. Alator is gonna to be here in ten minutes.”
    “I could do a lot in nine minutes.”
    “Arthur!”
    He straightens up and reluctantly loosens his grip.
    “I talked to the university this afternoon,” she says. She kisses his cheek and moves to sit in one of the guest chairs in his office.
    “Oh?”
    “Yes, tryin’ to find out what I need to do to get certified to teach here. I need to get my transcripts from Memphis State sent over to UWM and…”
    “So you really do want to go back to teaching?” Arthur interrupts.
    “Well, yes, I told you that.”
    “I know you did, but I guess I wasn’t sure if you were still goin’ to pursue it.”
    “I’d like to. I know I don’t need to work, but I do enjoy teaching,” she says.
    He smiles. “I would never stop you, you know that. The only thing I want is for you to be happy.”
    “Thank you,” Gwen says, smiling at him. “So I’ve gotta get transcripts sent and then someone’ll call me and tell me what courses I need to take. I should be able to work them around my current work schedule. I hope, anyway.”
    “You’ll figure it out. You’re a smart woman.” Arthur’s phone rings, and he reaches for it. “Yes? Okay, would you show him back? Thank you, Elena.” He looks at Gwen. “Ready to buy a big square of dirt?”

xXx

    Wednesday morning, Gwen’s car gives her some trouble, but it starts and they make it to Wagner Homes at the appointed time.
    Arthur wisely says nothing about the state of Tom’s old car, just offers a silent prayer that she gets home safe in the quickly-deteriorating machine.
    They enter a nicely-appointed office, which boosts their confidence. It’s not some shack or trailer out in a field somewhere. The company is doing well.
    “Mr. and Mrs. Pendragon?” a pretty blonde woman addresses them as they walk in.
    “Yes, you must be Isolde,” Arthur says, extending his hand. She shakes it.
    “I am,” she smiles, then shakes Gwen’s hand.
    “I recognized your voice,” he says. Isolde smiles and leads them through a door.
    “Tristan will be with us momentarily. He’s the one you’ll need to talk to; I’m just the lowly assistant.”
    “Oh, I’m sure he would be lost without you,” Arthur says knowingly, thinking of Hunith and his father.
    “Indeed I would,” a male voice speaks. They turn to see a tall, blonde man, older than Isolde but appearing to be in excellent shape, striding in with a large portfolio under his arm. “Tristan Wagner,” he introduces himself.
    “Arthur Pendragon,” Arthur says. He waits until Tristan unloads onto a table, then shakes the man’s hand. “And yes, before you ask, I am related to ‘that lawyer guy.’”
    Tristan laughs. “Get that a lot, do you?”
    “Only in the month or so we’ve been here,” he says, chuckling as well. “My wife, Guinevere,” Arthur introduces.
    “Gwen,” Gwen corrects automatically, shaking Tristan’s hand.
    “Please, sit. Coffee?”
    “I’d love some,” Arthur says.
    “Mrs. Pendragon?” Isolde asks.
    “No thank you,” Gwen says.
    “Can I get you something different? Tea? Orange juice?”
    “Water would be lovely, thank you. Don’t go to any trouble, now.”
    “Mr. Pendragon, cream, sugar?”
    “Black, thanks.”
    Isolde disappears and Tristan begins speaking. “So, Isolde has told me that you’re looking for something big. Four bedrooms at least, three-car garage, I believe is what she said.”
    “Three?” Gwen asks, looking at Arthur. He grins sheepishly, and she narrows her eyes at him. “You’re gonna buy yourself another Corvette, ain’t you?”
    “I miss it,” he admits. “And if I buy one up here, it’s goin’ to need to stay indoors during the cold weather months. And for that, we need garage space.”
    “We could park one of the other…”
    “Darlin’, what’s the point of havin’ a garage if you can’t put your cars inside it? I’m not spendin’ all this money so one of us can park outside in the winter.”
    Gwen thinks a moment. Damn, he’s got a point. He’s really been thinking about this, too. “Fine, you win. But I want one o’ those garages that’s attached to the house, then, so we don’t have to go out in the weather after parkin’ in the garage to get to the house,” she declares.
    Tristan watches the two of them with a look of knowing amusement on his face. “We can certainly do that, Mrs. Pendragon,” he says. “And three-car garages are a bit unusual, but it’s definitely doable as well. It’ll likely have to be a two-car door and a one-car, or three separate single doors, depending on the design. They don’t make three-car garage doors; they’d be much too wide.”
    Isolde returns with black coffee for Arthur, water for Gwen, and coffee that looks nearly half cream for Tristan. She disappears again, to a desk in the front.
    Tristan first shows them some model designs, explaining how they’d have to customize to meet their needs. There is one that appeals to Gwen, and they set it aside.
    “And I drew these up as well,” Tristan says, showing them some much rougher design plans. “If you were interested in a custom design.”
    “Yes, very much,” Arthur says, leaning in.
    He has two options for them, both lovely, both huge. Five bedrooms. Large kitchen, large living room. One has a two-sided fireplace. Three bathrooms.
    “Oh, I want one of those master bedrooms that has its own bathroom,” Arthur says. “Do either of these have that?” He leans in and studies the floor plans.
    “They both do,” Tristan says, pointing. “Two sinks, one for you, one for her.”
    “I like that,” Gwen says. Arthur gives her a pouty look. “I’m already tired o’ brushin’ my teeth into your whisker trimmings,” she declares.
    They pore over the designs a bit more, and Arthur glances at his watch. “Oh. I need to go; I’m due in court in an hour,” he says, standing. “Guinevere, you pick whatever you want. As long as I have my big garage and my private bathroom, I’m happy. And if you’re happy, I’m overjoyed.”
    “Good luck in court, Baby,” Gwen says, kissing him quickly and shyly when he bends down to her upturned face.
    “I’ll call you later,” he says. “Tristan, she’s in charge,” Arthur nods, grinning.
    “They always are, my friend,” Tristan chuckles, shaking Arthur’s hand. Arthur dashes out the door and they hear him quickly say goodbye to Isolde out front.
    “So, Mrs. Pendragon,” Tristan starts.
    “Gwen, please,” she interrupts him.
    “All right. Gwen, is there one you prefer over the other? Oh, and do you prefer these over the model that you liked?”
    “I do like these better than the model, yes,” Gwen says. “I like the idea, too, of havin’ somethin’ that’s uniquely ours, somethin’ that no one else has.”
    Tristan looks at her a moment. “Where are you two from, anyway? I hear the accent, and I keep getting distracted and forget to ask.”
    “Memphis,” Gwen says. “We’ve been here about a month and a half.”
    “And how long have you been married?”
    “About a week and a half,” she says, smiling. “And yes, before you ask, we moved up here special so we could get married. It ain’t legal down there, you know. Marryin’ outside your race.”
    “You seem like you’ve been together a very long time, the way you act together. If you don’t mind my saying. Isolde and I have been married ten years, so I’m only talking from personal experience,” he says with a smile.
    “We met at the end of August. This year,” Gwen laughs.
    “You’re kidding.”
    “We’ve been through a lot together.”
    “I can imagine,” he says. She doesn’t elaborate, so he forges on with business. “So, do you have a preference?” He points to the plans again. She studies them both, flipping to the front view, then to the interior layouts, scowling in concentration.
    “I like this one,” she finally declares, pointing to the second one, with the two-sided fireplace. “But…”
    “Yes?” he asks.
    She flips back to the front view. “The front needs somethin’. I know you said these were rough drawings, but… You know what I love? I love those Tudor style houses, with the beams…”
    Tristan looks at the drawing. He turns it towards him a moment, studying it, his hand over his mouth, thinking. “You have a good eye, Gwen…” he mutters through his fingers. Then he reaches for a pencil and makes some changes to the front, drawing a few details. He spins the design back to face Gwen.
    She smiles. “Yes. And some stone… there.” She points.
    Tristan furrows his brow and spins the design back. He stares at it. “Do you want a job?” he asks. Gwen just laughs.

xXx

    Arthur wins his case and wins some recognition in the civil rights community. Gwen makes several trips back and forth to the builder’s office, and they finally get the plans nailed down. Tristan even calls the design “The Guinevere” in Gwen’s honor, since she had so much input in the final version. She allowed it only after he promised not to build it for anyone else.
    The week before Christmas, Arthur comes home to find Gwen asleep on the couch, curled up in his Harvard sweatshirt that she has commandeered as her own. He can smell pot roast. He peeks in the oven, and it looks fine, perfect, actually, and he turns the oven off, leaving the roast inside.
    “Guinevere,” he says softly, kissing her temple and brushing a lock of her hair away from her face.
    “Mmm,” she mumbles, scrunching her shoulders.
    “Guinevere, darlin’, wake up,” he says, kissing her again. “I turned off the oven.” I don’t want her to think I’m waking her just so she can finish cooking my dinner.
    She sits bolt upright. “Oh no! The roast!” she exclaims, suddenly wide awake.
    “It’s fine,” he says, sitting beside her now. “I checked it, and it’s not burnt or anything.”
    “I don’t know why I fell asleep… I was just so worn out,” she says.
    “Didn’t sleep well last night?” he asks, wrapping his arm around her.
    “No, I slept fine,” she says, resting her head on his shoulder. “I hope I’m not comin’ down with something.”
    “Me, too. Don’t want to be sick at Christmas,” he says.
    “Definitely not. I’m supposed to sing on Christmas Eve, you know. A solo.”
    “I remember. I’m lookin’ forward to it,” he says, smiling.
    She stands. “You’re probably hungry,” she says.
    “Take your time, I’m fine,” he answers, pulling his tie from his neck.
    “I’m starving,” she says.
    Two days later, just after Arthur leaves for work, Gwen’s breakfast leaves her stomach the way it came in.
    “Dammit, I am gettin’ sick,” she mutters, sitting on the bathroom floor, waiting for another wave. Another wave doesn’t come, and she realizes she feels better. Did I eat something bad? She goes into the kitchen and checks the milk. Doesn’t expire for several more days. I know dinner was fine last night. I’ll call Arthur in a bit when he’s at the office and see how he’s feeling.
    She knows she has to go to Wagner Homes today, and glances at the calendar to confirm the time. Then she stares at the calendar. She stares for a long time. She flips back to November, trying to remember exactly when…
    Gwen counts. She counts again. She counts a third time. Then she goes back to the bathroom and pees, checking.
    Could I be? Already?
    Well, we have been… nearly every night since we were married…
She blushes at the thought.
    She dazedly walks back to the kitchen, picks up the phone, and dials.
    “Hello?”
    “Hi, Aunt Alice, this is Gwen.”
    “Gwen, nice to hear your voice!” Alice exclaims. “But something’s wrong. What’s wrong, dear?”
    Can’t hide anything from her. “Well, nothing’s wrong, exactly. I don’t think. I’m not sure…”
    It’s a blessing, if I am, but it’s still a worry, for several reasons.
    “What is it, dear? You’re scaring me a little now.”
    “Can you recommend a doctor?” Gwen blurts.
    “A doctor! Are you sick?”
    “Not exactly sick. More like… late.”
    “Already?”

Part 28: link