CHAPTER 47: Mess of Eggs
In Which soy sauce and a sexy fox suit prove to be unexpected parts of a balanced breakfast.
Strephon must have gotten some sleep that night, because he woke again to find that morning had already dawned and the smell of eggs and bacon was wafting up from the kitchen downstairs.
"Bother!" he muttered to himself. He had wanted to surprise Cassandra by having breakfast ready for her when she got up. It seemed that she had the same idea.
He magically summoned his shirt and trousers from the dresser. Most days he regarded the morning ritual of dressing as a link to the mortal world and he took his time to savor it, but the process took a devil of a time, especially on the days his lower extremities were stiffer than usual. When he was in a hurry, he cheated. It still took him longer than he liked, and trying to magically tie his cravat and shave at the same time proved less efficient than he hoped, resulting in a nick on his jaw and shaving soap on the ends of his tie. Eventually, though, he succeeded in making himself presentable and he rolled his chair to the lift downstairs.
"There you are!" Cassandra said as he opened the lift gate on the ground floor. "I was wondering if I should wake you."
"I'm afraid I overslept a bit," Strephon apologized. "I see you've been busy already. Is that breakfast I smell?"
"Just a mess of eggs," she said. The word 'mess' was apt. To a finicky gourmand, the plate Cassandra served him might look more like the wreckage of a breakfast than a proper meal with bits of bacon and what looked like leftovers from the previous night's steak and kidney scattered amidst the rubble of eggs like debris. But, as Strephon reminded himself, the true gourmand judges a meal by its taste, not its tidiness. He also remembered that Cassandra called her cooking 'experimental.'
"It started off as an omelet, but I always have trouble flipping them over and it sort of wound up scrambled."
"It smells splendid," Strephon said, taking a bite. He could feel her eyes on him, watching with expectation. "Hm... The soy sauce is an novel touch."
"Do you think? I wasn't sure. I was afraid it might be too much to go with the bacon."
"Not at all," Strephon said, rinsing the sodium from his mouth with a sip of orange juice. "Did you sleep well?"
"Oh, yes," she replied.
Strephon hesitated. Should he press further? "No... peculiar dreams?" he hazarded.
Cassandra set her fork down thoughtfully. "I suppose I did. I dreamed I was back in that computer game, Nowyr 2 Run, Nowyr 2 Hide. Byron’s game. And I was fighting all these monsters. Except... except I wasn't dressed in combat gear like in the game."
A chill struck Strephon. Had they shared dreams again? "Oh, really?" he nudged, half afraid of what she's say.
Cassandra giggled. "I was wearing a sexy fox suit."
"A sexy... fox... suit."
"You know, kind of a tight leotard with cute furry fox ears and a tail and these cute mittens that looked like paws and made it really hard to get my fingers in the trigger guard of my Enfeld L85."
"I see, I see," Strephon interrupted. Apparently they hadn't shared the same dream after all; or at least not completely. "Now I'm going to have difficulty NOT picturing you as a sexy fox," he grumbled.
"No, you're not. If you were really sorry, you would not be giggling."
Cassandra modified her giggle into a mischievous grin. "What was I wearing in *your* dream?" she teased.
There was little use in pretending he hadn't dreamed about her; she would never believe it if he did. "A chiton," he admitted. "That's a type of garment worn in Ancient Greece."
"I know a chiton from a toga. History geek, remember? Besides, when your parents name you 'Cassandra', you learn a little bit about Ancient Greece. Don't tell me, you were King Agamemnon?"
"No... we were in a Shakespearean play. But there were several other things mixed together." She seemed to be thinking again; no doubt cataloging in her mind which Shakespeare plays were set in Greece. "Not all dreams are significant, you know," Strephon added.
"If not all dreams are significant, that suggests that some of them are."
This diverted the conversation into a discussion of dreams in the abstract, which suited Strephon just fine. They spent the rest of Breakfast arguing over Freud. Splendid fellow, Freud. One could always stir up a meaningless discussion over him.
When they had finished their breakfast, Cassandra pushed aside her plate, leaned her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her hands. "So, what's our next step?"
Strephon had been considering that very matter. "To begin with, I am going to church."
He stopped. Cassandra was gaping at him. It occurred to him that he had never thought to enquire after her own religious views. The question seemed presumptuous. And now he had clearly made her uncomfortable. "I beg your pardon. There is no need for you to go if you would prefer not to."
"No, no!" Cassandra said. "It's not that. I just realized that the first time I was here was also a Sunday morning and I must have kept you from church! I'm so sorry; I should have realized!"
"That's quite all right," Strephon assured her. "You did not keep me from anything. I am not, I fear, terribly faithful in my attendance generally. But I do wish to have a few words with Mrs. Palmer, the Vicar's wife, and this seems like a good opportunity to do so. I'd like a little more intelligence regarding the Council before I attend tonight's meeting, and Mrs. Palmer is better connected with the social aspects of our community than I."
Cassandra nodded. "If it's part of our investigation, then I suppose I'd better come along with you."
Now it was Strephon's turn to gape. Yes, it had been his idea for the two of them to share information, but he hadn't really thought of her as becoming a partner in his investigation. Of course, now she was, but somehow the ramifications of this had not quite sunk in.
More importantly, she was suggesting that he, an unmarried gentleman, should escort her, an attractive young lady-friend, to his place of worship. People would draw inferrences. They would talk. Strephon felt the color rise to his cheeks. Was Cassandra not aware of the kind of assumptions people would make, seeing them together? Or was his Victorian sense of propriety simply over-reacting?
He chose his words carefully. "I think I ought to warn you. These are Church People. They are terribly nosy."
"I'm a reporter. I'm nosy too. I'm sure we'll get along fine. Besides, Grandma Simms says I ought to go to church more often."
Strephon strongly suspected that she was telling a taradiddle, but the defiant tilt of her chin suggested that even if her statement was not completely factual, there was enough truth in it that she was prepared to defend it. He therefore reserved his comment.
After a moment's silence, Cassandra added, "More importantly, do you want me to come with you?"
When she put it that way, there was only one way he could answer. "Yes," Strephon sighed.
NEXT: St. Onesimus