Dead fic. I will most likely not finish this. Thank you. Sorry.
AU; 6+3; death--though not of a main character
I was seventeen when my father died. Thinking on it now, it seems that I have trouble remembering him any other way but that pale form in a silk-lined casket, wreathed in flowers and pictures of a man I never knew existed. But there was, despite my lack of recollection, a man younger, healthier . . . and from time to time, I struggle to remember.
It was the last day of school of my junior year and when I got home my mother was already there--home two hours early-- with my brother. He was only my half-brother, and I had spent little time with him since he started school at the university. He was the one who told me. My mother wouldnt come out of her room.
I hadnt even walked in the door when Mirialdo, my brother, came out of it. He was older, taller, and better looking than me. The kind of guy you hope your girlfriend never sees. He looked like our mom in most ways, blonde hair and beautiful face. I look like my father.
Go for a ride with me, he had said. Not even a hello, despite the fact that I hadnt seen him in over five months.
We drove to St. Marys river. We used to swim there when we were kids. Now its a common hangout for drunks and horny teenagers--hardly a fitting setting for the softening of bad news.
The dirt road we traveled down was dry, hazing the slick ebony coat of his car, a dangerous sign this time of year. In the few years prior to that one, summer in Glen, like most of the state, had seen an unprecedented amount of wild fires. Usually, the intolerable heat of the Florida sun was not to be found without the humidity to match. But humidity meant rain, and it just hadnt been raining enough.
As he drove silently, somehow knowing every curve and rut as if he traveled it every day, I looked at him often, marveling at how grown he looked. I had clear memories him, my mother and father and me tromping about on hot August afternoons, splashing in murky waters and building castles out of the odd-smellling mixture of redclay and sand. Even then, like now, he seemed terribly out of place.
Dads dead? I asked without preamble and he looked at me with an odd sort of expression, quiet and reserved enough to still be his own, but with a whisper of compassion that few, I supposed, ever saw. It was almost the same look he had when my mother and father had told us that they were divorcing,
Yeah, he said, and looked back at the road, this morning. She didnt want to pull you out of school.
That made sense. After all, theres nothing for me to do after the fact.
Mom said that you refused to see him in the last few months. That right?
I had heard the question but didnt want to answer and instead watched ditches as we passed, their dry bottoms cracked and pealing from the earth--a second skin. Were it raining the water would run fast, streaked with red and amber and shaping the clay-strewn sand beneath into a sallow ribcage--an endless row of bony carcasses.
She said you wouldn't go to see him.
Hadnt he already said that?
Dont you have a girlfriend yet? The question came from nowhere in particular. I was trying to change the subject, and to my surprise, he let me.
With a sigh and a shrug he gave his answer: No.
Any reason? That earned me a sideways glance.
Are you being a smartass? Curse words always sounded strange coming from him. Mom says youve been smarting off to your teachers, that youre failing one of your classes.
Am I that interesting that Im the only thing that you and mom have to talk about?
No, but shes worried about you, especially now with-
Why dont you have a girlfriend yet? I wasnt really interested but didnt want to hear him finish that sentence.
Why should I? He seemed to be more intent on the road now than ever. His voice dropping its tone by degrees.
A shorter list would be why you shouldnt.
And you think you know what would be on it?
Whats that supposed to mean?
Nothing. I could tell he was agitated. You will go to the viewing, wont you? Its tomorrow night.
Are you going?
Sure. Ill go. At that point, with something somehow settled between us, I finally began to think about the fact that we were still driving. Where are we going anyway? We had just crossed the narrow concrete bridge that crossed the St. Marys and, in answer, he veered off the road, the small St. Christopher pendant that hung from his rearview mirror protesting with a fitful swing, and parked beneath a sprawling oak. He shut off the ignition and said simply: Here.
I didnt ask why. I knew it was as arbitrary a place as any.
What are you gonna do, Trowa? He was watching me with pale blue eyes, head resting on the seat back, hands in his lap. Why did he have to look so much like mom?
About what? I asked, knowing the answer already.
Without answering, he got out of the car, the heat outside forcing its way into the interior. It had been so hot that day.
A moment later he was opening my door for me.
Lets go down and see how dry the river is, he suggested. When I looked up, I couldnt see his face for the sun blazing behind him, and I realized it was a little cooler in the dark of his shadow.
When we got back home, Miris father was there. He was a tall, amiable man--a sometimes philanthropist, a most-times lawyer, ex-little league coach (Zechss team, of course), and always easy to be around. I wondered time and time again why my mother left him for my father.
The door to my mothers room was finally open and Gabriel Peacecraft, Miris father, held my mother as they sat on her bed in the dark, and she cried into his shoulder. Again, the question why . . . why had my mother split with my father if she loved him enough to be this upset? Why did she still seek comfort in a man shed left long ago? Was my mother so fickle? Of course . . .perhaps she and I were more alike than I thought.
Cmon, Miri was saying after hed shut the bedroom door, well make dinner.
I wasnt hungry. I was never hungry back then, but if Miri was making dinner, then I was eager to help. Even then, I was aware of how much I respected him, how I looked up to him .. . and was perhaps, envious. It was not only because he was older and better looking; not just because he still had a father--those were only part of it. It was the road, and how hed remembered every inch of it; the kitchen, at that moment as I found myself amazed at how he remembered the rooms layout after all this time. It was my wonder at how at ease he seemed there, in the home I lived in everyday and yet still felt somewhat alien to. It was the way he knew when to take me for a drive or pull me on a walk, at all the right times--or maybe they were only right because he was there.
A tomato, six potatoes, celery, pasta, herbs, spices, chicken--he stirred here, simmered there, baked and chopped his way through the preparations so deftly that I had to ask about how hed acquired his new skill.
A friend taught me, he replied, obviously not going to give up any more information than that, its not hard, really.
What isnt? Gabriel asked as he entered the kitchen from the direction of my mothers room. She had yet to come out.
Miriald has become a master chef in his absence, I said good-naturedly. It was hard not to be good-natured with Gabriel around.
The older man smiled gently, tasting the pasta that Miriald had just set on the counter, and shared a glance with his son. They always did that--spoke without speaking. It made me feel like I was in another room . . . hell, another state. A second later Miri excused himself and Gabriel began talking.
It was an awkward conversation at best, the one he and I shared. At least, it was awkward for me. He told me that I didnt have to pretend. He promised that he understood--his father had died when he was twelve. He knew how hard it was. My mother was worried.
Why isnt she the one talking to me? I had asked.
His answer was to remind me exactly how much I looked like my father. Then he offered me a hug, his blue eyes staring cooly at me from a fair face so much like his sons. I hugged him.
I began to wonder then, why he was trying to get me to come to terms with something that he assumed was painful for me . . . and then offered to help ease that pain. It made me remember something Id read about mothers who make their children sick so theyll be sure to be needed. But Gabriels not like that. More than likely, its what he felt was best. I didnt tell him otherwise.
Typically, on any other night, an evening in the Barton home is--from what I would hear of other peoples lives and what I know now--unusually quiet. I would get home, mom would get home, dinner, baths, sleep. On occasion she would go out, though she hadnt been doing that as much since my father had fallen ill, and on even rarer occasions, we would watch television together.
That night though . . .
Yes, thank you, Ms. Kennedy, Ill let mother know you called. Miri was fending off yet another well-wisher. The calls had started not long after dinner and Miri had been on the phone for the better part of the evening. Where were all of these people when when my father was gone and not . . . gone?
Yes maam . . . hes doing well . . . I will . . . thank you again. Goodbye, from my vantage point, stretched on the sofa, I saw only his profile in the deep shadow of the kitchen, his form lit more by the red glow of the clock face on the stove than the dim light spilling through the window above the table at which he sat. Still, I could tell by his tone, his posture, that his inhuman patience was finally wearing thin.
You can unplug that if you want, I told him as I watched him rub the creases from his forehead, or just let it ring next time.
Mom might answer it, he replied, rising to whet his surely-dry throat.
Oh yeah . . . mom . . .
I had finally gone in to talk to her after Gabriel had left. Her room had been dark, the drapes pulled tight and only the pale light of the kitchen and hall lit my path. I knew why it was dark. She had one of her headaches. So I didnt sit on the bed and spoke as gently as possible.
Mom? My voice sounded so loud in the quiet of the room and when, at first, she didnt answer, I though she might be asleep.
You know . . . I still loved him . . . her voice, soft and little as it was, surprised me, I do love him . . . She wasnt crying then, though she sounded odd and distant.
I was silent and began to wonder why she was telling me this, why she didnt just say everything was going to be okay and hug me like Gabriel had. More than that, I was beginning to wonder if she even knew that I was in the room.
Did you . . . Trowa?
Did I what? Love my father? Do I love my father? Of course . . . shouldnt I? Isnt that a given . . . for a son to love his father? Idealize him, and, in a way, worship him?
He wanted so badly to see you, you know, she said without letting me answer and with a little more force than I knew was intended. Her voice was getting choked, some days you were all hed ask for.
I love you, Trowa . . . so did he. Nothing now can ever change that. But for all the times that he wasnt a father . . . there were a dozen times that he was. You just werent there to see it.
I remember thinking that I should be angry at her for that, for all but blaming me for the absence of my father in my life. But all that I felt was . . . nothing. It had been that way since dad was first sick. Nothing.
She sighed quietly after long moments of my silence, obviously giving up on my response.
Have you eaten? she asked.
Yes. Miri fixed something. Do you want any?
No . . . Trowa? She asked as I turned to leave.
There was a slight moment of hesitation and then, Turn the hall light out, would you?
You okay? Once again, I was in the dark, a sudden voice startling me into wakefulness. Only this one was not my mothers but her sons.
Sure, I replied to the deeply familiar voice over my shoulder, my pillow muffling the sound. It was not uncommon for us to share a bed. Wed shared the same room, bed and nearly every other necessity of youth for more than two years when I was ten and eleven years old, and off and on throughout the years when holidays had brought in family and sleeping arrangements became cramped. Now, however, it was due to an incredibly uncomfortable--not too mention much too short--sofa and the office space that had once been Miris bedroom. It was nice having him that near me again, having more than the sounds of my own breathing to lull me to sleep. With Mirialdo home, the word home had infinitely more meaning.
Why? I asked a moment later
[ . . . ]
I was seventeen when I saw my fathers corpse, displayed like some altar piece, surrounded by flowers and pictures and other paraphernalia of the deceased or mourned. He didnt look at all like himself. Even in those last days that Id seen him, sallow and sickly and smelling of antibiotics and something that reminded me vaguely of a second hand store--even then hed looked like dad. It was the way his eyes, green and bright like mine even then, seemed to speak when his voice couldnt. Now, even that was gone.
[ . . . ] UNFINISHED