“I can’t believe I thought he was a jerk when we first met,” Zoe said, dabbing at a fresh wave of tears with a tissue. She was sitting in their sparsely furnished living room, in front of the lit fireplace. Not that it was a particularly cold day, but Zoe just couldn’t find any warmth. The lit fireplace helped, if nothing more than to provide the charade of warmth. Family and friends milled about their home. Her sister-in-law, Brianna, acting hostess to their guests, made sure everyone had eaten. She even made Zoe a plate, but so far, eating was the last thing she wanted to do. What Zoe really wanted, besides Erik back, was a good stiff drink. She found it weird her co-worker was busily mixing drinks at Zoe’s home bar. But, she was glad for the help, even so.
“You thought Dad was a jerk,” Patrice said, scooting the food across her own plate. “How so?” She stabbed at a piece of white whatever, cauliflower or something, sniffed it, and then set her fork down again. Looking around at the platters of food Auntie Bree was circulating, she hoped for something sweet. Like a nice huge piece of chocolate cake. Chocolate always made her feel better.
“Well, we had only just met, tentatively at the Lounge in town. He was fun and funny, charming in his own way. I liked him. A lot. But the next day I went to the gym and suddenly there he was standing in front of me, dressed in nothing more than a towel.”
“What?” Patrice started to laugh.
“I didn’t know what to think. He behaved so differently the night before. I wasn’t sure if he was coming on to me, or what he was about. So, I left the gym.”
“And then what?”
“He called me a few days later and asked me out on a date. He said he wanted to start all over with me and would I give him a second chance? I said yes. That evening he joked and asked me to remind him of what my name was again.”
“He didn’t.” Patrice said.
“It was at that moment I knew I loved him,” Zoe covered her nose and mouth with a tissue, trying to curb the sobs. “He had the most amazing blue eyes.”
Ayden was sitting on the other side of his mother, busily scribbling on a note pad, as if he were some kind of journalist. In the back of his mind, he could still hear his father asking him to write up his biography. Toward that end, Erik had made a point of sitting down with his first son, telling him all about his life from his beginning, through his school days, his university exploits and his virtual joyride as a Rock Star. He was so very glad to have had this special time with him, especially now. Tears filled his blue eyes and he couldn’t still his bottom lip, which began to quiver. A few splattered onto his notepad, making the paper warp.
Braylon, sat on the piano bench. Ayden watched as his Aunt Bree put a hand on Braylon’s shoulder while offering him a plate of food. Braylon glanced up at her and just shook his head. Apparently, he wasn’t in the mood to eat, either.
Braylon heard the music filling the house, and went in to watch their father play. “D’you hear that?” Braylon said. Ayden was busy doing his homework and barely looked up.
“Oh, that. Is someone playing Dad’s piano?”
“I don’t know, but I’m sure going to find out. Just so I can report to Dad who’s been touching his work reward.”
‘Braylon, do you always have to be so mean?” Ayden said, but already his brother had left the kitchen. A short time later the piano music stopped with a loud inharmonious thunking of several keys being held down at once. And he could hear Braylon’s sudden hysterical cries. He went to get up, but Patrice all but pushed him out of her way, as she came through the kitchen at that moment. By the time he got there, and he seemed to be moving in slow-motion, she and their mother were already in the livingroom weeping over his father, who lay prone on the floor.
Were he a detective, it seemed to him his father must have slipped off of the piano bench and fallen, on his side, to the floor. Heart-attack? The coroner said it was ‘natural causes’, essentially Erik had died of old age. He was 118 days old, Ayden reflected. He touched his suit pocket, glad to have the recordings his father made. Since Erik had died, sometimes Ayden would listen to these audio snippets, just to hear his voice again. When he got over this awful feeling, he determined he would listen to them for their content and write the biography of Erik, as his father requested. Till then, he would just have to remember to breathe and to help out his mother as best he could.
Patrice was out of school and had gotten a job. He could get a part-time job to help out. If things had been tight when Dad was around, they were about to get tighter, of this he was certain.
At least his father had managed some flooring. Wood for a majority of the house, with carpeting for the sun room, which had become the son room, he shared with his younger brother. The dining room walls were covered and they had a nice new dining table and chairs. That nice bonus check Erik had received just before his demise had helped with that. He was very glad for his father’s sake, that these finishing touches were in place before his ride was up.