them bones, part I

by Susie Applegate

“Those bonesbones could be anybody’s, Shaherazade,” I said. “Do you want hot chocolate? Or tea?”
 
     “I want a double shot hazelnut latte, 16 oz. That’s what I told Mama, but she is so sure it’s Uncle Charlie.”
 
     I was about to ask Ezra Sweet what happened to his job in Redmond, but he was already steaming the milk and seemed so fixed on the process that I didn’t want to interrupt him. I heard a woman’s voice behind me strong enough to be clear above the sound of the espresso machine.
 
     “They’re Charlie’s bones. No doubt in my mind.”
 
     Shaherazade and I turned at the same time, like well-trained marionettes. The woman’s face, framed with gray chin-length hair, was vaguely familiar. She sat very straight and there was a stillness about her. She was looking at me with just about the same amount of concentration I was giving her. At some point, I realized I was being rude and felt my face go red. Faith Chastity Applegate’s smile put me at ease. “Please join me, Susie Applegate and Charlie’s niece,” She said. “I would be the woman who caused Charlie’s death. And I know you, Susie, because I’ve seen pictures of you since you were a little mite. I’m your distant cousin, Faith.”
 
     She extended her fine long-boned hand to Shaherazade first. “I am so pleased to meet you, Shaherazade. Forgive me for eavesdropping. Though, I’m not sorry at all.” She shook my hand then and turned her gaze back to my young companion. “I can see that handsomeness runs in the LaFontaine family. He was a beautiful man, you know. And smart and gifted,” her voice caught a little. “He was kind, too and troubled by all the things he’d seen and not just in Europe. He knew the risk he was taking being with me. He took it anyway.”
 
     “Somebody’s got to tell me what is going on here,” Shaherazade said. “Are you telling me that you and my great-great-Uncle Charlie were lovers?”
 
     “Surprized you don’t know, my dear, the way this town carried on. People were good to Rochelle, though. I guess they kind of had to be with her being the Trustee of Germaine and all. They were good up to a point just not deeply enough for her to feel safe.” Faith regarded me for a moment. “Has no one, not even you told Shaherazade about Rochelle and Charlie and me?”
 
     I had been reluctant to say anything. Part of me not sure who would be hurt in the telling and part of me uncertain if I knew enough to get it right. The whole story has a kind of vague, ambiguous nature. There aren’t a great many people willing to talk about it and no one who will talk if they think little ears are big enough to know what they are talking about. These veiled conversations I and my cousins overheard at family gatherings led to wild speculations and I’ve never been sure how much of what I know about Charles Sevigney LaFontaine and cousin Faith is true and how much was born out of our imaginations. There is certainly a lack of information in any official sources. I know, I’ve looked. The Germaine Truth is as silent on the subject as Rachel Carson’s Spring. The one unavoidable fact has always been Rochelle LaFontaine. Faith’s daughter who died a slim three years before I was born and whose death, I am learning, is still resonating all these years later.
 
     “A black man and a white woman. It may be common enough now, but back then it could get a man killed.”

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