It is December, and that means you guys can have a snippet of Untold! I asked about on the twitter, and several people expressed the strong desire to see a little more of Mr Rusty Montgomery. So here he is, in all his glory…
“Okay,” said Rusty. “Let me handle this. Trust me, Kami.”
Kami glanced over at him in surprise. He rarely used her real name.
He even more rarely looked both serious and alert, but he looked both now, leaning against the cushions and tilted in her direction, his dark hair ruffled against the pale silk cover of the couch.
“I know what other people think about me,” Rusty told her. “‘That Rusty,’ they say. ‘Charming and handsome,’ they say first, of course—they’re not blind. Then they add, ‘All the ambition and drive of a chocolate sundae.’”
“Rusty, no,” Kami said.
Rusty put out a hand, palm raised, to stop her.
“They’re right. That’s what I am. Why not? Most things come easy to me, most things come lightly. That’s what I come from and how I was made.” He grinned at her. “I was exactly the son my parents wanted: no trouble, no demands. Why demand anything when it was all going to come to me anyway? I had this nursery suite in London, it was pretty great. I miss the scheduled naptimes to this day. And then one day I heard this noise through all the doors, this baby screaming her fool head off, and it was Angela.”
Rusty used the hand he’d lifted to stop Kami speaking and made a small gesture; Kami wasn’t sure what it meant.
“I had been introduced to Angela before, obviously. They brought the baby to me from the hospital, and there was a christening where she wore this big lace meringue dress and looked alarmingly like a two-month-old bride. We were somewhat acquainted, but honestly I was more interested in my toy trucks and my naptime beanbag. Only she just kept yelling, and it was interesting because I thought it was so dumb. I knew she didn’t want anything, because that wasn’t how we were brought up—the nanny would have made sure she had all she wanted, though she wasn’t paid to fuss. I didn’t really get why Angela was doing it, so I went through doors and up stairs until I found her. She was just lying in her crib, because babies are unimaginative like that. And I know people think Angela is pretty now, but none of those people ever saw her as a baby. She was god-awfully hideous. I swear she looked like a bad-tempered mutant tomato, and she was making a sound like a cat being fed into a printer.
“I just couldn’t figure it out, you know? Why she was so angry, when everything was fine. I sort of wanted to go away and pretend it wasn’t happening. But she was unhappy, I could tell that much. She wasn’t ever going to be like me, a content sort of person. She was always going to be raging at the world, and there was only me who would even think about paying attention. So I picked her up and took her back to my rooms and showed her the naptime beanbag, and it was me and Angela from then on. And then Mum and Dad decided to set us up in a house surrounded by all this peaceful pastoral evil, and there was you. You care about a lot of stuff like Angela does, and you don’t even have the basic common decency to pretend you don’t. Only you aren’t angry about how much you care, because you always had someone around to give you all the dumb stuff babies cry for, and your house was—I want to be like that someday, be someone like your dad who can help make something like your house. When I went away to college, it was all fine, everything’s always fine for me, but nothing was important. So I sort of slid out, bringing Claud with me, which was a mistake, but I didn’t know you were going to have the bad taste to date one of my friends. I would never have invited him to stay if I’d known he was going to grow that goatee. It had a whole other personality. Tiny Even More Self-Important Claud.”
“Is there a point to this meander down embarrassing memory lane?” Kami asked.
“Actually,” Rusty said, “yes. I was worried about you, when it came to Claud. I’m worried about Angela with this whole business with Holly. I’m worried about you again, with the voice in your head turning out to be this surly guy. I actually wanted to punch someone. I never actually want to punch people.
“So my point is, things aren’t easy, with Angela and you. I don’t take you two lightly. This is the great exception of my life. I don’t want you to interfere on this. I want you to trust me.”
Looking around at the Montgomerys’ room, Kami could picture the showcase loneliness of the Montgomerys’ nursery. Rusty could not have been more than four when he carried Angela back to his room, recognizing despite the fact nobody had given it to him that what Angela needed was love.
“That was a very touching speech, Rusty,” she told him. “But actually, you haven’t been as convincingly louche and laissez-faire as you appear to believe. I knew all this already. On any day of our lives, I would have trusted you with my life. And I’ll trust you now.”
She sat up straight despite the slippery sofa, and looked him directly in the eye, so he would know she meant it.
But the sleepy look of boundless good humor was already restored to Rusty’s face, and his hooded lids were hiding whatever expression was in his eyes. “Don’t pretend, Cambridge,” he said. “You know my beautiful speech has made you see me in a whole new and even more attractive light. You totally think I’m secretly deep now. And you are right. It is true. I have deeps.”
He slid even lower on the sofa, his eyes falling almost completely closed.
“Maybe,” he added, his voice almost too casual, “this revelation will lead you to make the sensible decision, and go for me.”