They should not be in her house.
She ought to have kept her distance from these men – from him – from the beginning. She blames the curse of loneliness, of loss. Tells herself her grief took her ability to think clearly. But is it grief she is feeling when he is around? She knows she cannot say so, at least not with any degree of certainty.
In any case, it is too late for regret now. He and his men are here, tossing back liquor at her dining table, warming themselves at her hearth, smoking her husband’s cigars.
The men invite her to their table – her table. She goes reluctantly, more out of a need to keep watch than out of any desire to be near them. He is different when he is around his men. Arrogant and world-beating.
He sits at the head of the table; their leader, their captain. Had taken his seat there as though it had been made for him. As though he does not belong anywhere else. The men laugh loudly, tell stories of adventures they must all already know. Stories she supposes are being relayed for her benefit. And there is something intruiging about these sailors’ yarns, about the world they conjure up. A world of heroes and villains, smoking ships and crumbling castles. Tales that remind her of the war raging on the oceans and across the plains and mountains of Europe, far beyond the edges of this island. The men bring glasses to their lips, blow curls of smoke up towards the house’s aging rafters. Their eyes glow with the stories, with the pride of their accomplishments.
She glances towards the ceiling. She ought to check on the children. With luck, they are fast asleep, blind and deaf to what is taking place around them.
What would they think of her if they knew?
She makes to stand, but he clamps a firm hand over hers, keeping her at the table. “Stay.”
She tries to protest, but her words die in her throat. She knows, instinctively, that this a man who does not accept protests.
Creaks and murmuring drift down the stairs. This time, she stands, sliding her hand out from underneath his before he can stop her. She makes her way towards the staircase. Boyish voices float down from the bedrooms. And then the words that make her run, make her bound those stairs two at a time, called out in a threatening voice, just loud enough for her to hear.
“Come out and meet your maker.”