I watched from the window as Thomas Buckley punched Roderick Nelson in the face. I was shocked.
"What in the world?" I said and my boss, Trenton, came over to see what I was looking at.
He sighed. "Thomas Buckley on the prowl again." He shook his head. "Whoever that poor man is must have said the wrong thing about his wife or little sister."
Megan Buckley and Elvira Buckley grabbed his arms and pulled on him. He shouted into Roderick's face then the young man ran off.
"Is he always that protective?" I asked, going back to polishing the shoes I was working on.
"Yep," he said. "You see, twelve years ago Elvira was attacked." I looked up. His face was sad. "The man who attacked her threatened Megan's life, too. Poor Elvira has a scar on her neck still that she covers with scarves. As for Megan...."
He shook his head sadly.
"Did he hurt her, too?" I whispered.
"Not physically," Trenton said and stretched. "All right, Silas. I think that's enough work for today. It's obvious no one's going to come out in this weather. Don't worry about coming back until the ice melts."
"Okay," I said, a little disappointed.
I liked working; especially with Trenton. He was a funny man and had given me advance to buy the house next to the Buckleys. I had no idea they were my neighbors until I heard Megan's nightmare.
I put my coat on and walked towards home. So that's why Megan had been screaming 'Let her go!' over and over again. I frowned at the street, choosing my steps carefully so I wouldn't slip and fall.
I knew what it was like to have nightmares like that. When I was nine, my parents had been murdered right in front of my eyes. My grandparents raised me but, the minute I had the chance to, I moved out. I wasn't going anywhere particular. I just wanted to get away from those awful memories. But I couldn't. My mind insisted to relive the experience.
I fished my key out of my pocket and nearly dropped it in shock when I heard my name. I looked over and bit my lip. It was Thomas Buckley.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Buckley," I said. "Where are your wife and sister?" He stared and I smiled sheepishly. "I saw you give Roderick a good beating."
He chuckled. "Yeah, I have a bit of a temper." He cleared his throat. "Anyway, I was wondering if you'd like to join us for dinner tonight."
"You're our neighbor," he said. "We'd like to welcome you."
"Even after last night?" I asked.
To my surprise, he was smiling.
"Megan makes a superb beef stew," he said.
I smiled a little. "Okay."
He beamed. "Wonderful! We're watching my brother-in-law's estate while he's on his honeymoon. Five o'clock?"
I nodded. "Five o'clock."
He nodded back and walked back. I opened my door and frowned as I closed it behind me. I looked around my home. It was modest. I had one bedroom but the rest of the layout was much like their house.
On the mantle of my fireplace, I had a painting of my parents. I smiled at it.
"Looks like I'm making friends," I muttered to it.
I stopped by the florist to get two bouquets before heading for the Rivers estate. When I got there, I whistled.
"Nice," I said.
It was huge. It had two stories and was very wide. For some reason, all the windows on the left side were dark whereas the right side was fully lit.
I walked up the gravel walkway, still wondering if this was a good idea. But they seemed like nice people and Megan certainly was beautiful. After our initial meeting, though, I had the distinct impression to not tell her that.
I knocked and a woman answered the door.
"Yes?" she asked.
"Mr. Buckley has invited me for dinner," I said and she stepped to the side.
Thomas was at a door to the left, making sure the door wouldn't open. I cleared my throat and he turned.
"Ah! Mr. McGregor. Please, come in."
"I got these for your wife and sister," I said. "I hope that was okay."
"Of course," he said. "They're waiting for us."
We went into the dining room and both women thanked me as I passed them the bouquets.
"That was very kind of you," Elvira said happily. "I'll go get some vases for these."
"How was your day?" Megan asked as we all sat.
"Slow," I said honestly. "And rather humorous."
"How so?" Elvira asked.
Thomas chuckled. "He saw the lesson I gave Roderick."
Megan made a noise of disgust. "That man is a-"
"Easy, Megan," Thomas said but he was smiling. "We have a guest."
"No, please continue," I said with a smile and Megan laughed.
"Perhaps my brother is right," she said. "It wouldn't be very ladylike."
I scoffed. "Who says you have to be ladylike?"
Megan stared at me and I felt uncomfortable.
"Sorry," I said quickly. "I was just-"
"No need to apologize," she said. "I've just never met someone who agrees with me."
"Oh," I said. "Well.... Is this the beef stew?"
"Yes, it is," Elvira said. "Try it."
I obeyed and my eyes widened.
"Oh, it's awful!" I joked and Megan looked terribly offended.
Thomas caught on, though.
"I warned you my sister was a horrible cook," he said and I winked at Megan.
She flushed. "That was terrible," she said huffily. She took a bite and winced. "Ew. You're right."
We all laughed and fell silent as we finished our meal. I wasn't sure what to say. It had been a long time since anyone had shown interest in being friendly with me. Of course, the last time I was around people it was those in my village.
"Are you alive over there?" Thomas asked suddenly and I blinked.
"Forgive me," I said with a laugh. "I think your sister's stew has poisoned me."
Megan nodded seriously. "Yes. I made sure I slipped some into your stew. You have seen too much, Silas McGregor."
I chuckled. "Did all of you grow up here?" I asked.
"Elvira did," Thomas said. "Megan and I moved here about twelve years ago."
I looked up and dropped my spoon. There was a thin line on Elvira's neck. She gasped and covered it.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" she said. "I forgot!"
"No, no it's okay," I said quickly. "I just-"
"I should have remembered to put on a scarf," she interrupted. "But it got hot and-"
"Elly," Megan said firmly, putting a hand on her arm. "Calm down."
"Sorry," she sighed.
"I didn't mean to stare," I said. "To be honest, I was told a little about what happened."
They all stared at me.
"By whom?" Thomas asked.
"Trenton," I answered. "After I saw you hit Roderick and-"
"Right," Thomas sighed. "Elvira, Megan, why don't you go check on dessert?"
"Yes, Thomas," Megan said sadly.
When they were gone, Thomas turned to me with a grim face.
"I have a few things to tell you, Silas."