I crept into the child’s bedroom, ignoring the rest of the guests as they parted ways, too- Mr. Karkroff chatted to them briefly, but even they began to fade away into separate directions, before the door was shut on my view- and finding myself surrounded by pictures of trains and the family pictures in shades of blue and green. It was as if this room had found itself stuck in the beginning of the 2000s, no heed paid to changing moments. However archaic, I still admired the way Carrie had managed to settle into her charge’s décor, the modern woman without a comment.
Ivor was sitting on his bed, with Carrie in a hard-wood chair nearby. A book lay on her lap, a notebook or something, and she was rereading the lines of jet ink lightly, looking up now and then. However, I wasn’t convinced by the position of the book in her hands; spontaneously laid, she had picked it up simply to avoid my eyes. Ivor, on the other hand, was eager to get up and embrace me. Rather pathetically, I patted his back, hoping that would help him understand my comfort towards him and my disability to be comfortable at that moment.
A modern display read 3.15 and I studied it for a minute before slotting myself down onto the bed. Once again, Ivor set about playing with his model vehicles, between Carrie and my feet.
“I wonder about him,” said the lady. Her eyes flickered up form her book, sparkling chestnut in the light, but she focused on the boy, not the girl she was addressing.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah…” She paused nervously. “I hadn’t thought of Elizabeth for years. I…you know.”
“It’s okay.” I bit at a rough cuticle of skin, thinking in silence. Ms. Peterson didn’t mind. “Carrie, what do you mean by that, exactly?”
As my eyes were locked into her expression, finally she could not refuse me by staring down any longer.
“Certainly, he’s good maths, but I fear that there’s more than just an insecurity of language. I don’t like the way he was brought up. I mean, I’m no mother, but I can judge. Josh knew that when he married me. He always knew my lack of utility…”
“What are you saying, Carrie?” I knew, finally, and as I stared at her figure, I scowled, volumes of lyrics pouring through my mind, not the ABBA that I had sung when I had been happy, but the aggressive beats of hate like Paramore.
“I’m not the villain, despite what you’re preaching. Call me a traitor, but I’m just collecting your victims.”
“I’ll stop the whole world from turning into a monster…” sung Carrie, and she brushed a tear away from her face, shaking her head, furious. “You still sing like you used to.”
I swallowed down the bad memories. “Stop getting away from the point.”
“Okay! I can’t have kids! Drugs, rock and roll, and sex destroyed my function. Happy?”
“Sorry… But you know that I see secrets that are enclosed. You’ve hidden enough from me, friend. Look, Ivor won’t be secure around Englishmen for a while.”
“I know. I’m sorry. Still, you understand that I have always seen the world through a different veil?”
“I said so when we first met. My head had cleared and I could see that you were the one to find out why my husband was killed.”
“And I did so,” I whispered. She’d never called him her husband in my company before.
“And I am forever grateful, Aggie. I understand that your mind does not fit the schema of a contemporary person, but I’m asking you now not to make such crude jokes.”
“Once, I believe, our roles were reversed.”
She sighed, her eyes flicking down to Ivor again.
“I just hope that Ivor is not mentally deficient. Elsie looks after him so, and it would be a terrible thing for her to have to bear him all her life.”
This last surprised me.
“You really do need someone to look after, don’t you?” I turned to the boy on the floor, my fingers twitching over the toys, aching once again to re-sort it all whilst I thought.
The boy looked up and I could see sense in his eyes, sharp as razors.
“Carrie…you don’t have to worry. If anything, I’d be wary. Russians, you know.” And I attempted a wink, to show her that I was only teasing.
Carrie’s laugh was the melody I had been waiting for. Even when I had been basking in the rush of adrenalin, I had always been missing one vital something. Only when her friendship revealed itself in the quick, gasping giggle, did I see the fix of a usual routine to calm me. I had found my own way in flying all over the place, but there was nothing better to calm any anxiety than being with friends, caught in that regular pattern. At least: I needed the pattern in irregular Moscow.
“So…” Carrie declared once she had caught her breath. Still, giggles slipped from her lips, and a sense of intoxication grew. “You should enjoy your time here with Ivor, regardless of the language barrier. I remember…when I first came, Ivor had that welcoming eye. Both the children did, in fact. They’re the kindest of souls.”
“You sound like you're making your farewell speech. Aren’t you going to stay?” I remarked, jerking my head back to her again.
“I don’t know if I will remain in this room- I have a lesson to take with Elsie…and then there’ll be dinner. What the arrangements are… You’ll have to talk with Mr. Karkroff about that matter.”
She paused, fiddling with the neatly-sewn collar of her loosely-starched clothes. It was clear that she did the washing and ironing as usual, if she had not more to do throughout the day. Lessons seemed to have no end, even now in the danger, but Caroline was impressive in her supplementation of order.
“For the time-being, however, I’ll stay in the room.”
“It’s a nice place he has here. An…archaic theme here?”
“The décor is one of the reasons I wondered about his…sense. Ivor has lived his life in this immutable. I gathered he wanted nothing more. Once again, I can’t help but blame the mother.”
“Blame them both: father and mother. Father is always away, and it must not be easy for Ivor here in the bright gaze of the public. Here’s the next heir, remember…”
“Could that be a reason to poison him?” Carrie asked with a gasp.
“I was just wondering… No; doesn’t it seem too obvious?”
“Not to me.”
“Hmm.” I eyed Ivor once more. “He’s not such a simple boy, though.”
By now, Ivor had ceased his amusement and his piercing green eyes held my gaze. I smiled and he smiled; we both sat with our eyes placed upon the other, my hands tucked under my legs, his loose by his toys.
“He may have kept his childhood, but the smartest of people also still have theirs. I’m just not one of them.”
“Of course. I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“I know. But, Aggie, what else are we going to talk about in this silence? The loss of the sound of the tours is little recompense for quiet. In my office, it is worse.”
Again, I looked up into her red-etched eyes, though I felt the ice of Ivor’s gaze still inspecting me and my words. There was nothing less than the direct harshness of his stare, even though we had formed some bond; I was still a foreigner who had appeared when the trouble had arrived, and he was a ten-year-old boy trying to rule his country. Now, here was deception at its best; here was an actor, youthful and oh-so fresh off the mark.
And I was making no reference to myself.
I shot Ivor a half-hearted glare before I snapped back to Carrie.
“We’ll just do what the rest of them will be doing. We’ll stay, we’ll chat… I’ll deduce…”
And that, formed from her pristine look, was exactly what we did.