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4.

Paul and I read through the album little by little during those lengthening nights. I deciphered the code while he wrote down and cross-referenced everything by means of small cards in order to try to put events in sequence. He never commented, not even when I passed over certain sections without telling him why. We averaged two or three pages a night, not a great deal, but by October we had covered almost half the album. For some reason it seemed a less arduous task than when Id tried it alone, and we would often sit late into the night remembering the old days of the Lookout Post and the rituals at the Standing Stones, the good days before Tomas. Once or twice I even came close to telling him the truth, but I always stopped just in time.

No. Paul mustnt know.

My mothers album was only one story; one with which he was already partly familiar. But the story behind the albumI looked at him as we sat together, the bottle of Cointreau between us and the copper pot of coffee simmering on the stove behind. Red light from the fire lit his face and outlined his old yellow mustache in flame. He caught me looking at him-seems he does that more and more often nowadays-and smiled.

And it wasnt so much the smile as something behind the smile-a look, a kind of searching, wry look-that made my heart beat faster and my face flush with something more than the heat of the fire. If I told him, I thought suddenly, that look would go from his face. I couldnt tell him. Not ever.


| Five Quarters of the Orange | c



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