An excerpt from Ruth

Ruth - Promise House 1956“May I speak with you for a moment?” James asked Ruth as he collected his hat in the foyer. He held the fedora in front of his stomach by its rim, which made him look surprisingly meek. “In private?”

Ruth hesitated. She had intended to see him to the door, wish him a cordial good evening, and shut the door firmly behind him — as firmly as she’d shut the door six years ago when she’d learned he’d moved away. But here he was, literally hat in hand, his supplicant air leaving her little choice but to acquiesce to his wish.

So he finally planned to apologize for his awful behavior when he was seventeen, did he?

“Let’s talk on the porch,” Ruth said, and opened the door for him.

When James faced her, Ruth realized again how he’d grown into his man’s body, tall and lean, his shoulders and chest filled out, but not overbearingly so. His dragon tattoo flickered in her memory — its tail wrapped around its feet and its mouth open, forked tongue extended. It had been curiously beautiful to her, all in jet black ink, despite her aversion to the mutilation he’d done to himself.

The porch light shone a spotlight on his blond head as he paused, casting everything behind him into a deeper darkness. How unfair that he should shine like a Greek god, she thought.

But of course, the world was full of contradictions. Full of wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.

James remained silent, clearly considering his words carefully. If he was anything like her brother, he would try to find a way to excuse his actions while not taking any blame for them. Unlike her brother, he hadn’t seemed to have rehearsed his speech. Then he said:

“Do you know Simon Calderson well?”