A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 8 Excerpt

Kieran Baxter smiled across the table at his wife. Between them, arrayed across Café Idella’s yellow springtime tablecloth were two sets of fine silverware and two white porcelain teacups with saucers and a matching teapot. In the center of the table was a yellow rose in a crystal budvase. When he noticed that she didn’t return his smile, his face began to fall.

“What’s the matter? Is something wrong?”

“No, nothing’s wrong exactly. It’s just that this is such an expense. I could make you tea at home.”

“But I wanted to treat you.” He frowned. “And you should take it easy in your condition.”

“Did you see the prices on the menu by the door?”

“We can afford it.”

“You must think me terribly ungrateful,” she said, looking down.

“Yes I do, but I’ll forgive you this once.”

“Well, if it isn’t the Baxters?” said Aalwijn Finkler, stopping beside their table, picking up the teapot, and filling their cups. “I don’t often see you in my establishments. I was beginning to think that you had something against me.”

“No, of course not,” said Bryony. “It’s just that, well, the price…”

“The lady is frugal,” said Baxter, with a wave.

“There is nothing wrong with that. Mind your pfennigs and your marks will follow. Still, there’s also nothing wrong with treating oneself now and again. You spend your days catering to your husbands needs. Let someone cater to yours, just for today.” The restaurateur turned to Baxter. “Will you leave yourselves in my hands.”

“Of course.”

“Oh, nothing too much!” Bryony called after him, as he turned and stepped quickly toward the back.

“I think you’ll find Mr. Finkler knows his business,” said her husband.

“Does he know our pocketbook?”

“Our pocketbook is just fine. In fact, I think we can afford that new furniture you wanted.”

“Oh, I don’t really want that at all. I was just daydreaming.”

Two waiters arrived with a tray and began setting out small plates, each with its own little pile of sandwiches. The taller of the two described them.

“We have ham with Freedonian mustard on whole grain bread, sharp cheese with mango chutney on tomato bread, cucumber and parsley cream with dill on white bread, and egg mayonnaise with chopped shallots and cress on sourdough bread.”

“Oh my,” said Bryony.

“And here we have freshly baked scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves.” He stopped and topped off their teacups. “Can I bring you anything else?”

“That’s all for now, I think,” said Baxter.

“Well, I suppose I must try something of everything, mustn’t I?” Bryony carefully took the topmost sandwich quarter from each pile.”

“I think you must.” He carefully cut a scone and dressed it before reaching over to place it on her plate.

“This is quite good,” she said, holding a sandwich in one hand and using the other to cover her mouth. “Mind, I think that with Mrs. Finkler’s bread, any such creation would be well-received.”

“It’s no better than your tea. The whole point isn’t that it would be. The point is that you don’t have to make it.”

“I do like the clotted cream. Do you suppose we could find out where they get theirs?”

“I imagine they make it. Maybe they sell it.”

She nodded, stuffing more scone into her mouth.

Baxter leaned back and smiled as he watched her eat. He took a sip of his tea. “So, you said you had something you wanted to talk about?”

She nodded and then swallowed what was in her mouth. “We simply must decide upon a name for our forthcoming addition, but…”

“We have plenty of time. You’re barely showing.”

Bryony’s face flushed and she looked around. “But, I certainly wasn’t planning on having such a conversation in public.”

“Nobody is paying any attention to us, but as I said, we don’t have to worry about that yet.”

“It’s a decision that should ideally have been made before matrimony,” she said. “Certainly before the um… fait accompli.”

“My father was called Rory,” he said. “I was thinking that was a good name for a boy.”

“No. He must be Kieran Junior for a boy.”

“I was never that fond of my Kafiran name.”

“Well it is more dear to me than any other name,” she said fiercely. “I’ll have no other for a boy.”

“Well, hopefully then, it will be a girl.”

“And what name would you pick for our daughter?”

“Bryony Junior?”

“Oh, pooh!” she said. “You’re not at all approaching this with the appropriate gravity.”

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