Chapter 123:

Interlude: The coffee table

The Y-files [GL]

Ms. Lourdes POVBookmark here

After the ceremony I waited outside for Lisa, we had made plans to get a quick lunch before going back to work, but when she came outside, I knew something was wrong because she had a defeated look on her face.Bookmark here

“I'm sorry Bernie, Claire, and I got invited to the coffee table, and there is no real way for the two of us to refuse,” Lisa said a bit dejected.Bookmark here

It was clear to me she had also been looking forward to spending a little time together.Bookmark here

I gave her a hug, put a few stray strands of her hair straight, and was about to tell her it was fine, since starting tomorrow, we wouldn't have to be secretive about our relationship anymore when we were interrupted by Nicole.Bookmark here

“Oh, dear! You should have said something. I had no idea. You should of course both join us at the coffee table.” How long had she been there? I looked around and luckily, there wasn't anyone else near us.Bookmark here

There wasn't really an excuse I could use in this situation, since it had been clear that my plans were with Lisa to start with, so I accepted the invitation.Bookmark here

Lisa looked strict at me and said. “You know what I said, not a word to Claire. She'd better not find out. We will tell her tomorrow.”Bookmark here

I knew Lisa better than to defy her when she had one of these schemes planned. I was happy that we would spend some time together, but I was mentally preparing myself for another minefield to keep our relationship clear from Claire and Anna. Anna could be really sharp about these things if it wasn't about herself.Bookmark here

Lisa noticed the look on my face, chuckled, and nuzzled her head against my arm. “We'll be fine. I am sure Claire won't suspect a thing. Let's make it a game to see how far we can take it.” She said.Bookmark here

Lisa could really be incorrigible, but of course, I loved that side of her. She would put a thrill into any situation.Bookmark here

We made our way to the coffee table and were invited to sit at a table with all the other girls of the CYA. It had been ages since I sat down with a bunch of girls of their age.Bookmark here

During the meal, Lisa's flirting was quite obvious to me. She even prepared and shared a pistolet with me, while saying “I know that is how you like it.”Bookmark here

I clearly heard Eline whispering to Claire “Is there something going on between your mom and Ms. Lourdes.”Bookmark here

But luckily Claire did not catch on and said “They are childhood friends. They have always been like that.”Bookmark here

I guess we were still safe for the moment, but Eline looked at us with smug eyes that insinuated she knew more than Claire. I had the feeling Anna was also really suspicious, but luckily she kept quiet.Bookmark here

At this rate, it wouldn't be long before everyone knew. Personally, I wouldn't really care if everyone knew. I wanted to tell the world, but on top of Lisa's game, sharing happy news like this at a coffee table would really be disrespectful to the family of the deceased. After all, you don't announce a wedding at a funeral either.Bookmark here

It was clear that Claire was feeling uncomfortable when people were talking about Louisa to her. I knew they hadn't had much real contact, but people were acting like they were the closest childhood friends ever, and some were even probing her for stories.Bookmark here

Luckily they took Claire's uncomfortable silence as her way of grieving, but on the other hand that was fueling the childhood friend gossip and the “they clearly were more than just friends”-gossip even more.Bookmark here

Anna on the other hand seemed to be doing her best to deflect as many of the questions as possible. Well, she really was the cause of those gossips. I was not about to start feeling sorry for her. She should indeed clean up the mess she made, but I did feel a bit sorry for Claire. Well, just a little more girl, and we can finally put a close to the Louisa chapter.Bookmark here

While I was paying attention to the dynamics at the table, Lisa was bold enough to feed me a piece of pistolet with a very sweet marmalade and whispered really silently “I wanted to feed your lips something sweet.” I coughed and Lisa giggled. That was way too obvious. I looked over to Claire, and she seemed to have just happened to look in my direction and asked “Can we have a word in private?”Bookmark here

Lisa looked strict at me. Clearly telling me with her eyes not to spill the beans, but I think they might have been spilled already. I nodded and said, “Of course Claire.” My voice came out a lot more nervous than I anticipated. Claire looked a bit surprised by my nervousness. I saw a couple of the other girls look my way. I felt like they all knew. Lisa had been really obvious. It would be hard not to see it. I got up and walked toward the exit, Claire followed me.Bookmark here

Claire looked a bit dejected. I hoped for Lisa that she didn't take it the wrong way. What was she thinking with all those obvious flirts right in front of Claire? I was thinking of all kinds of strategies to get out of this and keep Lisa's game going, but Claire's face wanted me to come right out with it and have a good heart to heart.Bookmark here

I wanted to say something, but Claire said “Let me talk first, or I will most likely not find the courage again to confess this to you.” While I nodded, to show her I would listen I started to realize this was about something completely different.Bookmark here

Then she started her story. While staring embarrassed at the ground she confessed some grand story about Louisa's diaries and voodoo dolls, and how they had put a lot of effort into undoing a voodoo spell, because they had been scared the effects were real.Bookmark here

Normally, I should have been really angry about this kind of thing. They put in work hours for this madness for crying out loud, not even to speak about what would have happened if Josh and Nicole had noticed. But the relief that came over me, made me start laughing. I had been so worried about being found out and losing Lisa's game, that I completely discounted the idea that this could have been about work.Bookmark here

Claire started to blush. She probably thought I was laughing at her.Bookmark here

“I'm sorry for laughing dear, but really, what an amazing story. Since you put so much effort into that stuff I expect a detailed report from everyone who helped, with an explanation in detail of why you thought this could have been real, and you are bringing in that voodoo book and those diaries for Ms. Odes and Mia. They will take a look at it. Normally I would say this is just a bunch of hocus pocus but after that yuridium episode... You never know.”Bookmark here

“O-of course.” Claire stammered. She had clearly expected me to react angrier.Bookmark here

“You should have done that in the first place. Don't let it happen again. As a team, we should always trust and include everyone .” I preached after that.Bookmark here

Claire nodded. I could see she had really expected that I would chew her out. That didn't sit right with me. So I put my arm around Claire's shoulder, and pressed her against mine, like I did when I cared for her when she was just a little kid, and said “Cheer up, when have I ever been so angry with you, that you should be so scared of me?”Bookmark here

“Never.” She said. I could see she was cheering up. “It's just that I heard you chew out Ms. Odes a couple of times.”Bookmark here

“Ah.” I could see where the worry came from.Bookmark here

“That is different.”Bookmark here

Frank and Claire had always been like family to me. They had been the closest things to having kids that I had ever had and ever will have. Starting tomorrow I would even be their step-mom, and I felt deep down that I had already started to see both of them truly like my own. But thanks to Lisa's game, I could not really say that, could I? “Cath is a special case. She is brilliant, but if I don't keep her in check like that, she might blow up the school.”Bookmark here

Claire looked at me with big eyes.Bookmark here

“I wish I was exaggerating. I think you have already seen enough of her, to know how dangerous she would get if she was left unchecked. She blew up an entire lab at the university where she used to work, you know!”Bookmark here

Claire chuckled at that. I wasn't really trying to be funny, but it seems like I managed to cheer that girl up.Bookmark here

We made our way back inside.Bookmark here

I winked to Lisa to let her know everything was okay, I noticed Claire had done the exact same to Anna at the exact same time.Bookmark here

Although our contact had become more distant during the last years, somehow I could not help but think Claire had picked up quite a few of my own traits over the years, and to be honest that did not feel like a bad thing at all. It even made me feel a little proud. Our little talk today had given me a little more confidence for our family talk tomorrow.Bookmark here

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Belgian TriviaBookmark here

Coffee tableBookmark here

After a funeral, it is custom to invite family and close friends of the deceased to what we call a "coffee table" where everyone gets coffee and pistolets for lunch.Bookmark here

Most of the time, old stories about the deceased are told, and it isn't uncommon that there is a lot of laughter at the table, which is in strong contrast to the solemn service.Bookmark here

In case of a cremation, during this meal, the coffin is burned and put into an urn, so that the ash can be scattered in an official scatter field, or the urn can be placed in an urn gallery at a cemetery. It is illegal for the family to just take the urn home and keep the ashes in Belgium. Unlike at a funeral, the last part of the ceremony is usually done with close family only.Bookmark here

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