“Well, it’s a beautiful thing,” Roman said in a manner suggesting to Cecilia that he’d have hooked his fingers into his overall straps were he a farmer and let out a pleased sigh that he had healthy cows and a fresh morning waiting upon him. “Life moving on. Next phase.”
It was her graduation day from college. Her mother had gone to the car to get the “good camera,” which had pride of place over cell phones for certain occasions.
Cecilia never called this man who’d come into her life after her father died the summer following eighth grade her stepfather. He was always Roman, which she thought fitting. The vague whiff of the conqueror. Or perhaps it wasn’t so vague.
“I need this,” her mother had said. “You don’t understand what it’s like, does to a person. Loneliness.”
That was the end of first semester, freshman year of high school, when Roman had taken root at Christmas. The Roman root.
“Plus, he can help you. Help us,” her mother amended. Cecilia’s mother had never worked. Income wasn’t halved, but rather jettisoned. And Roman had a highly successful contracting business. A town staple. He sponsored a Little League team.
One of his first remarks to Cecilia had been, “Go to one of your friend’s houses for a party, one of your little girl parties, and go out on the deck, and you’re standing on a deck that I built. A Roman deck.”
He seemed to think the words implied some connection between them. Or the start of one. What her mother would have termed a “building block.”
She found it strange that he’d only resort to the third person on the subject of decks and the occasional linai, which she sensed he thought less of as a concept, being too feminine. A deck was a virile, raw-boned lad. A deck was befitting. A deck would move and rise up if it could, but a well-built one didn’t even have the need.
They stood in the denuded dorm room—most everything in a few boxes—with a photo collage of Cecilia’s high school friends resting on the top box.
A magnet had fastened it to the rented mini-fridge that had now gone back to the university. She wondered if Roman had noticed the collage when she used to have it taped to her headboard back home.
“I can do a lot for you, but you have to meet me halfway,” he’d said in the bedroom where she’d read to her father, rather than the other way around, because once he told her she had a remarkable voice for storytelling, so she practiced with him, trying to get even better.
He must have meant it. He wouldn’t have lied to her. That was one of their rules. No lies between them. They’d get over everything and anything else. But no lies. The rule may have been implied with her mother, but it wouldn’t have really mattered. They were such different people.